The Glendale (AZ) Fire Department strives to provide rapid response to community needs, caring service for everyone, innovative efforts to save life and property, and professional performance at all times. To compliment this mission, the department established the Crisis Response Program (CR) and registered with Fire Corps in March of 2008.
CR volunteers provide assistance, guidance, referral, and grief support to citizens at emergency scenes and during crises or tragedies. Once the team arrives, firefighters and police are able to go back in service and respond to the needs of other citizens, knowing the highly qualified CR team is taking care of affected community members. Members come from a variety of diverse backgrounds and include a housewife and a Dean of Students at a local University. Interns pursuing their bachelor and master degrees from several local universities also volunteer with the unit, along with Emergency Medical Technicians from the local community college.
CR delivers an innovative service that involves immediate crisis intervention to family, victims, and witnesses of a tragic event such as fire, drowning, unexpected death, or crime. The program has been an effective tool for the past five years and the trained volunteers have contributed over 80,047 hours in 2007 alone. The value the CR volunteers have provided to the Glendale Fire Department and the community is estimated at more than $1.5 million, based on the Independent Sector’s estimate that the hourly value of volunteer time is $19.51.
Volunteers are recruited through various mediums, such as the city’s web site and informational brochures. If selected, they receive 90 hours of training from a Regionalized Crisis Intervention Training Team. This training includes: Victimology, Crisis Intervention, Communication Skills, Sudden & Violent Death, Stages of Grief, Death Notification, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, On Scene Safety, Incident Command, NIM’s, Sexual Assault, Infection Control, Mental Health, Suicide, Vulnerable Adults (Abuse & Neglect), Victim & Legal Issues, Child Maltreatment, Children & Trauma, Substance Abuse, Domestic Violence, Stress Management, Diversity, and more.
The program was initiated to increase response reliability for fire and police units. By dispatching the CR volunteers to an incident, the team is able to relieve the emergency response units to go back into service and mitigate the incident when it is appropriate to do so. Previously, once the firefighters extinguished the fire or other emergency, they often had to respond to another call, leaving the family with little information on how to cope with the loss. Now CR volunteers are dispatched to this same response scene and assist the family in crisis intervention, helping with contacting insurance companies, locating shelter, and identifying all immediate needs such as food, water, clothing, and medication.
The CR program recently received funding through the city and will be included in the 2009 budget. In addition, the team has several partnerships within the business community and educational sector, and secures private and corporate donations to support its operating needs.
Lynette Jelinek, Human Services Division Manager of the Glendale Fire Department, stated, “In a career fire department, having paid personnel and volunteers work collaboratively may be challenging. However, the Glendale Fire Department personnel support the volunteers of the CR program and understand that the volunteers are the foundation of the Crisis Response service delivery. Without volunteers, the Crisis Response Unit would not exist. The program is a benefit to the community, the Glendale Fire Department, and nearby cities. The program can provide the necessary guidance to make a difference in someone’s life during a very difficult time.”