Dedicated to Volunteer Service

Thursday, 08 December 2011

By Hayley Mathis, Hernando Today

They are ready for emergency calls at all hours of the day. They give up weekends and holidays in order to better serve the community.

The volunteers with the Hernando County Fire Corps may not receive the same status as local firefighters, but it's hard not to recognize the program's dedication to helping the public.

The fire corps' achievements in fire and emergency services were most recently honored in November when volunteers received the 2011 Fire Corps Award of Excellence from the International Fire Service Training Association and Fire Protection Publications.

The group of 29 consists of former firefighters and fire department chiefs, nurses and other emergency management personnel who provide a variety of services to all county fire rescue units as well as the Hernando County Sheriff's Office and Emergency Management staff.

Within the past year, volunteers completed more than 4,000 hours of service at large community events, including the annual Hurricane Expo, Hernando County Fair, Brooksville Raid and the Southeast Coast Recreational Motor Coach Rally, where volunteers provided first aid, performed free blood pressure screenings and educated more than 2,000 students with the Fire Safety House program.

Commander Charlie Kerrigan, 65, attributes the group's success to the dedication and teamwork of its members.

"I've had a lot of wonderful volunteers that put in a lot of time," he said. "We're successful because of the people that belong to our group."

The fire corps, which began in 2008, was created by the Hernando County Fire Rescue Department as an expansion to its first responder program.

Operating under the direction of the fire department, the fire corps runs in a similar fashion with rankings like commanders, deputy commanders and public relations and logistical officers.

Responsibilities include performing clerical duties, conducting fire safety education, providing onsite rehabilitation services and supporting emergency personnel during hurricanes and other natural or manmade events.

Each member must complete a 40-hour training course that covers topics such as CPR, automated external defibrillator, patient assessment and carrying techniques, blood pressure, scene management and other first aid practices.

Another eight-hour course follows, which teaches the proper techniques for safely operating county vehicles.

A caller deployment system allows volunteers to receive emergency calls on their cell phones in order to quickly respond to an emergency scene with a rehab truck containing water, generators, fans and medical equipment to assist firefighters, police officers or other emergency responders.

Steve Katz, 66, said the fire corps meets once a month to practice drills and scenarios as well as come up with programs to offer the community such as CPR training and first responder courses.

"The reason I do this is I feel that I have to give something back to the community and getting recognized for doing so is rewarding," he said.

Bob Santoro, 65, said he hopes the recognition will encourage younger community members to join the group, which mostly consists of men in the mid- to late-60s.

"Lots of times people haven't heard of us so the recognition is a good recruiting tool," he said.

For more information, call (352) 428-7387, 442-2391 or visit www.hcfirecorps.org.

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