When disaster strikes, you can be part of the solution...

What did George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and Samuel Adams have in common? Those famous people from the history of our country not only participated actively in politics, but they also dedicated their time to work as volunteer firefighters.

Being a volunteer firefighter is more than putting out fires; it is about dealing with emergency medical incidents, terrorist events, natural disasters, hazardous materials, water rescue emergencies, high angle emergencies and confined space, among other things.

Although there is no national average record of the amount of time they serve in their communities, their work helps to alleviate the day-to-day burden on the fire departments. They fulfill commitments as operational responses (often on short notice), training, fundraising, vehicle and station maintenance, and various administrative tasks.

Approximately 12 million Florida citizens rely on volunteer firefighters to protect their communities. Did you know that more than 70% of those responding to emergencies in Florida are volunteers?

To keep people safe, more than 315 departments throughout the state use volunteers to maintain their operations. As the population grows and the volume of calls grows, departments depend more than ever on volunteer firefighters.

However, many local departments are struggling to meet staffing needs. In 2011, the number of volunteer firefighters reached the lowest level in the United States. Although there has been a slight increase, it has not been sufficient to meet the constant volume of calls, which has tripled in the last 30 years largely due to the increase in emergency medical calls.

The work of those volunteers deserves to be recognized because they spend their free time after work to provide service which in most cases is not remunerated. Some units provide stipends or reimburse certain expenses, but this is not a common practice because of the limited resources that many fire departments have.

Although governments and local departments set different selection criteria, some general requirements are to be at least 18 years old, to have a valid driver's license, to be healthy and fit to complete basic training on fire and emergency medical services, to live near the fire department and to have no criminal record.

If you are interested in becoming one of the 6,000 emergency volunteers in Florida fill out an application and join the team today! Please visit  www.volunteerfireghter.org.

Interesting data:

• Benjamin Franklin was the man who established the first voluntary fire brigade in Philadelphia in 1736.
• Volunteers comprise 70% of firefighters in the United States. Of the estimated 1,149,300 firefighters throughout the country, 808,150 are volunteers.
• In 2010 there were more than 30,000 fire departments.
• The state with the most fire departments is Pennsylvania with 1,800.
• The state with the most volunteer departments isNebraska with 93.
• Of the total of 29,980 fire departments in the country, 19,915 are all volunteers.
• The time donated by volunteer firefighters saves the country an estimated $139.8 billion per year.
• The cost savings provided by volunteer firefighters is tremendous.

Haz clic para leer en Español: Bomberos voluntarios alivian cargas cada día

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Go Latinos Magazine is a free monthly publication that reaches South Florida’s residents in Miami-Dade County, dedicated to family themes in a variety of topics. Every month and during the year, we publish stories that promote local education, wellness, sports, healthy eating, finances, home ownership, fitness, local events and more.

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