Volunteers Aid Goodyear Fire Department Efficiency

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Help with paperwork keeps firefighters available in the field

By Jackee Coe, The Republic / azcentral.com

The Goodyear Fire Department's volunteers have enabled the staff to be more efficient and spend more time working in the field.
The 11 volunteers' work ranges from administrative duties to support services, doing school and public education, organizing and helping at community events, helping residents install child-safety seats and doing CPR training. One also dresses up as Sparky, the department's mascot, for gatherings.
Fire Department Community Education coordinator Tanja Tanner said the volunteers handle many of the tasks that must be done that staff members often don't have time to do.
"Even with administrative work, it's just the busy work that we just kind of set to the side that's needed. But if you don't have someone to fulfill that, it just doesn't get done," Tanner said. "So they have just been (an) amazing godsend to have someone come in and help you with the paperwork."
The volunteers who work with Tanner to teach students in schools and do public education have helped her reach more people, she said.
"The ones who are teaching in the schools are seeing just thousands of children, and if we didn't have them, there would be only so many schools that I'd be able to go to," Tanner said. "Our staffing levels without them, we would not be able to reach all the children in the schools (or) the community at large."
The department started the Fire Corps volunteer program, part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Citizen Corps program, two years ago as a way for employees who had been laid off due to budget cuts to continue working in the department.
More volunteers have joined since then, but the program hasn't expanded as much as Tanner originally had hoped because coordinating them all is a lot more responsibility than she's able to handle on top of her other duties.
She has been looking for a volunteer to coordinate those who can take on the additional duties and help expand the program. The city has posted the position on its website.
Tanner said volunteers have put in about 4,000 combined hours since the program started, which has saved the city almost $79,000 in volunteer hours.
Battalion Chief Jeff Shiple has three volunteers who work with him in the support-services division. He said because of budget cuts before the volunteers joined, it sometimes was difficult to get everything done, but now with the volunteers' help, they have more time to focus on field work.
"You plug away at it, you do the best you can do with what you have, and we were functional," Shiple said, but "our efficiency has become much greater with (volunteers) helping us."
Adela Ramirez, 31, of Buckeye, has been volunteering in support services since October. She does various administrative tasks, including completing work orders and sales invoices, creating spreadsheets to better track spending and answering phones.
She said she enjoys volunteering and is gaining important skills for future jobs. She feels like she is helping the staff do their jobs better by handling the more menial tasks that sometimes can overwhelm them.
"You know, can you update this, can you copy this, can you fax this, and it's just a lot of little stuff that they may not be able to get to because they're out in the field, they're working," Ramirez said. "They're supporting our firefighters, they're doing the job that I can't do, but I can do a lot of the administrative support that helps them to get their main job done."
Shiple said it's "a true blessing" having Ramirez and the other volunteers. 

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