The Boy Scouts of America has brought its Exploring program to Fredericktown with a new partnership with the Fredericktown Fire Department.
The Exploring program allows young men and women ages 16 to 20 to explore future careers as a way to help them make more informed decisions and to determine if a particular career path is right for them.
"The Fredericktown Fire Department has worked tirelessly with BSA leaders in Fredericktown and the Ozark Trailblazers district to build a program that offers youth a unique perspective on firefighting and emergency services," explained Ozark Trailblazers District Executive Adam Hinds. "Participants get to experience firsthand what it's like to be a firefighter and can expect to be trained in all aspects of firefighting in a safe and controlled environment."
Hinds said the purpose of this particular Exploring program is to offer teenagers in Fredericktown and Madison County a glimpse of a professional career as a firefighter or EMS responder.
"Our emergency responders keep us safe," Hinds said. "Offering youth a glimpse into their world gives participants and the community a better understanding of what our heroes do for us on a daily basis."
Hinds said participants will be better equipped to fill a crucial and often-unrecognized role within the community.
"Our department takes pride in being a proactive member of our community," Fredericktown Fire Department Firefighter Daytona Brown said. "By starting this program we hope to introduce the explorers to the fire service in a controlled environment where they will learn about the job. And, if they decide it could be their career choice, we can help them get on the right path and the right education to starting a career in the fire service."
Brown said the explorers will begin in the classroom learning about the job and having some hands-on training.
"Once the explorers have completed the initial training, they will be utilized in what we call the 'cold zone' of an incident to assist firefighters in their duties," Brown said. "Some duties that could be expected are assisting with setup and manning of rehab areas; acquiring tools off of the apparatus for firefighters and fire officers; assisting in making hydrant or hose connections; setup and maintaining tool staging area; and other jobs outside of the 'hot zone.'"
Brown said recruits will learn about the fire service, but also about teamwork, integrity, communication, physical fitness, dedication, mechanical aptitude, tolerance and self-sacrifice.
"These skills will prepare explorers for not only a career in the fire service, but any career and will help them become, and stay, productive members of society," Brown said. "While we can't say that the fire service is a 'safe' profession, it has come a long way in a short time."
Brown said explorers will go through training just as the firefighters do and will be required to keep up with the training and follow policies and procedures which are in place to help keep them safe.
"Safety is always our top priority in the BSA and the fire department," Hinds said. "All of our training is in a controlled environment. The BSA has outlined rules in the 'Guide to Safe Scouting' for all of our units to follow including Exploring Posts."
Brown said all explorers will be under the direct supervision of the senior fire officer or safety officer on every scene and they will not be performing fire suppression.
"The explorers will be issued protective gear similar to what firefighters wear," Brown said. "Safety vests, ear and eye protection, gloves and protective outer wear including steel toe footwear will be required by all explorers on all scenes."
Brown said when choosing recruits Fredericktown Fire Department is looking for willingness to learn, good attitudes and the ability to perform the duties of the job.
Recruits must also have a valid drivers license and be in good standing at school with passing grades to apply.
"This year marks the 70th anniversary of the BSA's Exploring Program," Hinds said. "At the moment, we have 11 other fire and EMS posts within the Greater St. Louis Area Council and we are working to add more."
Hinds said BSA is constantly looking for areas of need and the opportunity to serve the community.
"The Exploring Program is just one way in which we are doing that," Hinds said. "This is a way for the fire department to connect with the community, educate youth about fire safety and instill life-long skills which may lead to future career opportunities."
Hinds said there is opportunity for similar programs to be developed within other communities and organizations with the most common Exploring Programs being with law enforcement, fire and EMS, medical and specialized trade fields.
"There is also the availability for schools to start exploring clubs which could lead them into partnering with community organizations to develop new Exploring posts in various fields," Hinds said. "We are extremely excited to form this partnership and look forward to serving the fire department, the youth and the community through the Exploring Program as well as other current and future programs."