Georgetown County Emergency Services, in partnership with the City of Georgetown, graduated eight new firefighters from its first ever Firefighter Recruit School this spring.
Normally, agencies send firefighter recruits for to the S.C. Fire Academy for necessary training, which comes at a cost of anywhere from $800 to $1,000 per recruit, plus travel and lodging expenses. Additionally, due to high demand it can be difficult to secure a seat in the classes, creating a delay in getting new firefighters trained and on the job.
“Fire departments everywhere are dealing with extreme manpower deficits due to a number of factors,” said Brandon Ellis, Georgetown County’s Director of Emergency Services. While searching for solutions last summer, the idea of starting a local recruit school to train new firefighters in-house was brought up as one component to addressing the issue.
Training officers from both of the county’s fire departments and the City of Georgetown worked together to create a local training program in coordination with the regional State Fire Academy liaison. The program developed not only met, but exceeded state standards and can be achieved at a huge cost savings.
“Plus they get to train with the men and women they’re going to be working with every day,” Ellis said.
The first batch of recruits began the nine-week program in January, covering all elements of the duties, responsibilities and challenges that go with the job. Following graduation, they transitioned to a five-week Emergency Medical Technician course before going to work as full-fledged staff.
“It’s very difficult to go out and recruit ready-made firefighters that are already professionally trained and ready,” Ellis said. “I’s say the Recruit School program has been a huge success so far and we are going to continue to bring folks in and invest in our community. That’s one of the goals of this program, is to invest in our community and to invest in the individuals we have in Georgetown County, giving them the opportunity and the training they need for a career that is both rewarding and sustainable.
Plans are to host a second Firefighter Recruit School this summer. Departments are already lining up new recruits who are interested in going through the training program and beginning a career with one of the county’s two departments or the City of Georgetown Fire Department.
“This program is a great example of coordination and collaboration between departments and agencies,” Ellis said. “It show the value of coming together and working as one. When we show up on a fire scene, no one cares what’s on the back of the jacket; they just care about having their emergency handled. We take pride in being a small, tight-knit community and working together. If we can train together and we can work together, we can deliver a better product for residents whenever an emergency happens, and that’s what we’re striving for.
Anyone interested in signing up for the next recruit school should call (843) 545-3213. The full graduation ceremony for the first Recruit School is available to view at Youtube.com/GtCountySC.