1176 Old York Road
Abington, PA 19001
2019 Recruitment and
Abington Township Fire
1176 Old York Road
Abington, PA 19001
Reflecting on A.T.F.D.'s Continuing Recruitment
& Retention Success
Because the Abington Township Fire Department (A.T.F.D.) is a 100% volunteer
organization, recruitment and retention of members are essential and integral parts of
everything we do.
Through a combination of ongoing community outreach activities, public relations
efforts, firefighter training, and other initiatives, the A.T.F.D. has added 95 new members
since Jan. 1, 2013. This includes seven new members added between Jan. 1 and May
31st of this year, bringing our current active roster to 222.
Every new and existing volunteer is a valued member of this department, and A.T.F.D.
invests in each of them. We hold cutting-edge skill and safety training sessions that
prepare our members for any situation on an emergency scene while increasing their
confidence. At no cost to our volunteers, we provide a comprehensive annual
firefighter physicals program based on NFPA Guideline 1582 that assures firefighters and
their families that each volunteer is physically fit for duty. Fire Engineering magazine
published an article on our physical and wellness program in December 2017.
We know our firefighters cannot do what they do
without the support of their families, so we
embrace and support their children, spouses,
and parents in many ways.
At the A.T.F.D., we push ourselves and each other Volunteer firefighter Bob North’s blood pressure is
to continuously improve, and accomplishments checked during his recent physical.
such as our recent Commission on Fire
Accreditation International (CFAI) re-
accreditation and the creation of our new
strategic plan make members proud to be part
Our approach to attracting and retaining volunteers was featured in a story in the
August 2015 issue of Fire Engineering: "Targeted Recruitment Strategy Yields a Strong,
In this era of shrinking membership in volunteer fire departments, our retention goal is to
keep our membership stable, and we have done so. In fall of 2012, A.T.F.D. had 190
members. We now have a full roster of 222 active members.
Retention Program Components:
The A.T.F.D. uses a variety of means and methods
to reach prospective members.
We have an aggressive public relations and
marketing campaign through which our
community events and training sessions are
detailed in press releases and photos sent to the
local press, and we have enjoyed much
coverage in publications potential recruits read.
NAACP Unity Day We have an extremely active Facebook page
that also showcases our events and training,
giving our growing network of contacts - and their
contacts - a glimpse of the excitement and
reward of the volunteer life.
The A.T.F.D. has a recent video featuring current volunteers as they respond to scenes,
train together, and share their personal stories of the fulfillment, excitement,
camaraderie, and pride that A.T.F.D. membership brings.
We inserted a new recruitment brochure into Abington Township's 2019 calendar,
which was mailed to every township residence.
Our latest recruitment tool is a project unlike any we’ve taken on before. We have told
the story of A.T.F.D. and the huge benefits it offers to both Abington residents and
volunteers in a three-minute animated film, “Answering the Call for Abington.”
In-person conversation remains an important way to reach new volunteers, and current
A.T.F.D. volunteers talk to prospective volunteers of all ages by actively participating in
many community activities throughout the year.
Service Learning Day at Abington Senior High One of the best ways in which we are able to
School reach young people has been through our
partnership with Abington Senior High School.
Through our connections with the Junior
Firefighters’ Club advisor and other high
school personnel, we participate in events
designed to both educate young people and
attract them to the fire service.
Events include Student Government Day, in
which high school students visit our fire training
facility as part of an overall tour of township
departments; Service Learning Day, where
high school students interested in volunteering
come to our training facility to experience
what it is like to be a firefighter; and a mock
crash which is held prior to the prom each
year to drive home the sometimes serious
consequences of poor decisions.
Students Learn About the Danger of Impaired &
Distracted Driving Through the Mock Crash
We reach out to residents of all ages by participating in our community’s 24-Hour Relay
Challenge, NAACP Unity Day, Scout Day, and the Pre-National Night Out Block Party.
At each of these events, we present displays and/or activities to engage and inform
participants. We also reach out to residents and potential volunteers via their mailboxes
with our newsletter, ATFD Responding.
During Fire Prevention Week in October, we visit schools and hold open houses at each
of our five fire companies. These events educate the public about fire prevention,
introduce residents to our firefighters, and through live demonstrations, showcase the
many ways in which the firefighters serve our community.
We know a potential member of the A.T.F.D. Scout Day at A.T.F.D.
volunteer family might not attend community
events, so we launched our “Talk the Talk”
campaign to teach current members how to
engage friends, neighbors, or even the person
behind them in line at the grocery store about
volunteering. This campaign obviously helps us
find new volunteers. Just as important,
empowering current members to participate in
one of the most significant aspects of running a
successful volunteer fire department helps our
We show our members how important they
are to this organization by consistently
soliciting their input and involving them in
department-wide efforts. In addition, we
demonstrate our concern for our members’
wellness by requiring their participation in our
NFPA 1582 compliant firefighter physical
A.T.F.D.’s 2018 Firefighter I Class
Regular member surveys determine the effectiveness of the training programs we
organize for them, and the information gathered is used to improve or enhance what
we offer. Member feedback is similarly central to our firefighter safety program.
Even members who loves the fire service can’t fully
participate without the support of their families. Volunteers
and potential volunteers in their late 20s and 30s have
often finished their education and have settled into a
career and community, and this geographic stability
makes them potential long-term members. However, they
are also getting married and having children, which are
life events that can lead a volunteer to give up firefighting,
especially if their non-firefighting spouse or significant other
has concerns about the volunteer fire service. To address
this situation, we created a brochure, A Guide for New
Members and Their Families: What to Expect, offering
spouses and significant others of volunteers advice on how
to manage the unpredictability and other unique stressors
the volunteer life brings.
Volunteers are more likely to remain committed
and active when they know their contributions are
appreciated. To make sure township officials and
the general public understand these contributions,
we showcased them in a special brochure. The
brochure educates readers on all that our
volunteers do even beyond fighting fires, from
rescue operations to fire prevention and safety
education. It highlights our extensive training and
professionalism and illustrates how our volunteer
team saves taxpayers millions of dollars each year.
While recruitment is the primary goal of our
animated film, “Answering the Call for Abington
Township,” it is also a tremendous source of pride
for current members to see their stations,
apparatus, and turn-out gear realistically depicted
Making efforts to involve and engage our members has been crucial to ensure they
feel valued and want to remain members for a long time.
Measuring Our Success:
A.T.F.D. is proud to have added 95 new
members and counting since January 2013. We
are proud to maintain a stable, active
membership of 222 that allows us to remain a
100% volunteer fire department, as we have
been since our founding more than 100 years
But these statistics are not the only means by
which we judge our success. We also look to our
members’ willingness to visit schools, participate
in community events, and simply talk to other
township residents about what the A.T.F.D. does.
Despite ever-growing demands on their time, our
volunteers logged nearly 28,000 hours of
volunteer community service in 2018, including
hours spent in emergency response, training, and
community education and outreach. This
despite the ever-growing demands for time that
all of us face.
All five A.T.F.D. fire companies hold an annual open house during fire prevention week
Our township is a better place for everyone to live, learn, and work in because of our
members’ efforts. And this generosity of time and spirit demonstrates that our
volunteers not only value the department they belong to but have realized the crucial
role they play in its survival.
Answering the Call for Abington
Township Fire Department
New A.T.F.D. Animated Short is a Visually Captivating Tool to Attract New Volunteers
Education and outreach have always been the first steps in Abington Township Fire
Department’s volunteer recruitment efforts. But in today’s world, with so much
competing for prospective members’ attention, a captivating medium is nearly as
important as the message. A.T.F.D. now has an animated short video, “Answering the
Call for Abington Township,” that beautifully illustrates the five member fire
companies’ ongoing need for volunteers and shows viewers how they can help fill
The animation begins with a peaceful nighttime
scene that is soon disrupted by the spark of a
residential fire. Then a neighbor elsewhere in
Abington Township hurries awake at the sound of a
bedside radio and rushes to help. Richly animated
versions of familiar sights come to life as the
Abington, McKinley, Weldon, Edge Hill, and Roslyn
fire houses come to life and their volunteers rush to
The video stresses that A.T.F.D. is a 100-percent
volunteer department and that more volunteers are
needed now. It shows that training and gear are
provided so that anyone with a desire to help can
be a volunteer firefighter or take on another
emergency or non-emergency role within an
A.T.F.D. fire company. It discusses the benefits to
each member: A sense of accomplishment and
pride, the ongoing challenge and opportunity to
learn, and friendships that last a lifetime.
Other important messages include our professional
standards of fire service, the tens of thousands of
volunteer service hours our members provide
annually, and the tremendous cost savings to tax
payers that our all-volunteer department provides.
While recruitment is the primary goal of the video, it
is also a valuable tool for educating the elected
officials who control the majority of our funding and
Please enjoy “Answering the Call for Abington Township” by clicking HERE!
Values and Vision
The Abington Township Fire Department is a
dedicated team of volunteer firefighters
comprised of five individual fire companies unified
as one department with a mission to
provide excellent fire, rescue, fire prevention and
public education services to ensure the health,
safety and welfare of the
We value teamwork and will
provide professional services by
five individual fire companies
working together as a unified
We value competence and will
demonstrate to our community that
adequate resources are available
and utilized effectively.
We value respect to our fellow firefighters and the
community by compassionately caring for their
We value commitment to
excellence that demonstrates
itself through consistent
professionalism, pride, and a
Our Fire Stations
Internationally Recognized Public Safety Organization Reaffirms
Abington Township Fire Department’s Excellence
The Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) reaffirmed Abington
Township Fire Department’s place among a select group of highly accomplished
emergency service providers by voting on March 12, 2019, to re-accredit the 100
percent volunteer department.
Both the original Abington Township Fire Department (A.T.F.D.) 2014 accreditation and
the recent re-accreditation confirm the high level of fire service excellence the
township’s five fire companies and 220+ volunteers provide to those who live, work,
learn, or visit in Abington Township. Both times, the A.T.F.D. met over 300 performance
indicators, core competencies, and criteria in areas including fire suppression, fire
training, strategic planning, fire prevention education programs, finances, physical
and human resources, and firefighter safety and health.
The sense of pride that comes with this achievement helps A.T.F.D. retain volunteers
and recruit new ones. No fire department can earn this distinction without a strong
commitment to both the community it serves and its membership. The criteria met
demonstrate A.T.F.D.’s determination to provide exceptional, professional fire services
while protecting the health and well-being of members and fostering their continued
development as firefighters.
CFAI accreditation is a rare achievement. The A.T.F.D. is Pennsylvania’s only all-
volunteer fire department to achieve this honor. In fact, the achievement is rare even
among paid fire departments: Only 10 percent of the U.S. population is protected by
a CFAI-accredited agency.
To be accredited and re-accredited, A.T.F.D. was required to provide CFAI with
extensive proof of performance. This included detailed analyses of many types of risk
throughout the township, a measure of the minimum A.T.F.D. response to various types
of emergencies, and a strategic plan for the fire department’s future.
After reviewing the documents, the CFAI sent a Peer Assessment Team to Abington to
verify and validate the printed information. Following a five-day site visit, the Peer
Assessment Team recommended that CFAI confirm accreditation status for the
A.T.F.D. Fire department representatives attended a hearing before the Commission,
which voted to accept the Peer Assessment Team’s recommendation and re-
accredit the A.T.F.D.
Additionally, the self-evaluation involved in the accreditation process helps the
A.T.F.D. learn more about its strengths and the areas where room for improvement
remains. During the site visit, the Peer Assessment Team also identifies opportunities for
improvement, and in order to maintain accreditation, the A.T.F.D. must submit annual
compliance reports explaining how the team’s recommendations are being met in a
fiscally responsible way.
Abington Community Taskforce Honors ATFD with
Citizens That Care Recognition Award
The Abington Community Taskforce, a coalition of diverse organizations working
together to enhance the effectiveness of programs and services for youth and their
families in order to ensure a safe and caring community, this year gave its Citizens
That Care Recognition Award to the Abington Township Fire Department.
ATFD was honored in recognition of its “extraordinary and dedicated
service to Abington Township and its youth.”
Willow Grove NAACP Honors Abington Township
Abington Township Fire Department was among the honorees at the Willow Grove
NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet, held in October 2015. The theme of the banquet
was “Together We Become One.”
“This year’s banquet will honor organizations that are addressing concerns and
conditions in our community while also improving the quality of life and providing
an invaluable service through mostly volunteers,” Dr. Jana Mallis, Willow Grove
NAACP Banquet Chairman, wrote in a letter to
Along with the fire department, Willow Grove NAACP honored The Women’s
Center of Montgomery County, Abington Police Athletic League, New Life Church,
Abington Youth Aid Panel, and C.A.P.T.
ATFD is deeply honored to have its contributions to the community recognized by
an organization as prestigious as the Willow Grove NAACP.
Abington Senior High
Abington Township Fire Department’s Relationship with
Abington Senior High School a Plus for Recruitment &
Recruitment and retention are key goals for any volunteer fire department – but
coming up with new ways to bring in new members and then keep them
is not always easy. One way in which the Abington Township Fire Department (ATFD)
has been able to do this is through a successful ongoing partnership with Abington
Senior High School.
Through the ATFD’s relationship with the high school, it has been able to develop and
maintain a presence in the lives of the community’s young people. The department
has been afforded access to the student community through its involvement in a
number of school-wide events. Having such access has been critical to recruitment
But the relationship between the ATFD and the high school did not develop overnight.
Rather, it was something that evolved over a period of about five years. The constants
have been having the right people come together at the right places and times.
How It Began
The ATFD first began working with Abington Senior High School students in 2002 when a
junior volunteer firefighter decided to start a Volunteer Firefighters Club at the school
as part of his senior project. High school teacher Gary Wiley, a volunteer firefighter for
a neighboring community, was approached to be the adviser to this fledgling club.
The ATFD became involved when the club decided to begin providing fire prevention
and safety lessons to elementary schools. To ensure that club members were providing
accurate information to younger students, ATFD personnel accompanied the students
on their outings. In addition, the ATFD provided input when the club became involved
in two high profile projects – updating the school’s emergency plan and creating
emergency kits that could be used in the event of a disaster at the school.
The ATFD’s participation in school events came next. One of the first events
the ATFD collaborated with the Volunteer Firefighters Club on was the
coordination of a mock vehicle crash, which takes place annually the week
prior to the senior prom to illustrate the potential consequences of careless
driving. Two other events followed, including Student Involvement Day, which
is a chance for students to learn about the many clubs and extra-curricular
activities available at the high school; and the 24-Hour Relay Challenge,
which is a community event with an anti-drug and anti-alcohol message. At
both events, the ATFD sets up “hands-on” activities for visitors to engage in,
such as using a fire hose to knock a tennis ball off a traffic cone, and dressing
up in firefighting gear to navigate through a dark, smoke-filled tent.
“One success led to another,” said David Schramm, Fire Services
Administrator for the ATFD. “Because there was an awareness about our
department, it was just a natural evolution to become more involved as we
“These activities allow students to see what their peers can do as junior firefighters. In
addition, young firefighters get the chance to share what they know with their peers,”
said Mr. Wiley. “The kids become the teachers.”
One other program that has grown out of the ATFD’s relationship with the
high school is Service Learning Day. This annual event is held in the spring and
is organized by Abington Senior High School Service Learning Facilitator Mary
During this event, students can sign up to spend a day with a non-profit organization,
community group, or other agency that benefits the community. Those who opt to
learn more about the ATFD spend a day at the department’s training facility where
they get to put on firefighting gear, operate hoses in a “cold” smoke-filled
environment, and learn about the process of becoming a volunteer.
“For the kids who are curious, it gives them an opportunity to explore without
committing,” said Ms. Rodgers. “They don’t have to walk into the fire station
alone and introduce themselves. It’s completely un-intimidating.”
The first year the ATFD invited students out there was a huge turn-out. For safety
reasons, the number of students was later limited to 30.
“Of the 30 who visit, usually one or two wind up deciding to become
volunteers,” said Jeffrey Glynn, ATFD Community Service Specialist.
The ATFD also follows up with those who attend Service Learning Day to
assess their interest in joining their local fire company. The fire department
plans to gather feedback from students in future years by asking them to fill
out the new Customer Satisfaction Survey brochures.
Why It Works
Several factors have contributed to the ATFD’s success. Having the right
people come together has been one of the most important.
As the Volunteer Firefighters Club adviser, Mr. Wiley said that his job is made much
easier by the fact that there is someone designated within the ATFD to handle
requests or questions – Mr. Glynn, who serves as a liaison between the school district
and the ATFD’s five fire companies.
“We’ve been involved for so many years that we know all the players and can,
therefore, help direct the school district when it comes to resources – whether it’s
finding the right person to talk to about a project or arranging for one of the
companies to come out and participate in an event,” said Mr. Glynn.
Similarly, when the ATFD wants to explore ways in which it can reach out to students,
the department can rely on Mr. Wiley and Ms. Rodgers for guidance and support.
“We have become more than speakers that kids see once a year to learn about fire
safety or volunteering for the fire department,” said Mr. Schramm. “The secret to this
whole thing has been having staff members who are committed to having programs
on site and who have the ability to interact with students on a daily basis.”
Another plus is that Mr. Wiley is a volunteer firefighter as well as an instructor who
students respect and admire.
“To have a teacher on board who is behind the group, who’s fully invested is
awesome,” said Ms. Rodgers.
Along with Mr. Wiley, the ATFD members who have served as student mentors have
done so in a spirit of partnership, treating the young people as equals and giving
them a sense of ownership over the projects they were involved in.
“When students are looked at as partners, it changes everything,” Ms. Rodgers said.
Several high-profile projects allowed the students to feel they were doing something
important for the school and community. The following projects resulted in changes in
the students’ environment and community and were also key to raising interest in the
group and in the ATFD:
• Improving the school’s emergency plan
• Creating emergency kits
• Developing refrigerator magnets listing emergency numbers
“They felt it was worth it to stay after school if they were walking out of a club
meeting with a sense of accomplishment,” said Mr. Wiley. “It’s about more than
fire safety. It’s about looking at the community and its needs and what we can
do to make it a safer place to live.”
The high-profile projects also helped heighten the club’s visibility among
students and demonstrated that the club was not just about fighting fires. Ms.
Rodgers noted that after the projects were completed, the Volunteer Firefighters
Club became a “program of attraction” as other students saw what the club
was able to accomplish. Those who might not have otherwise been interested in
the club began to see it in a different light.
“The kids gained a certain respectability and were affirmed as part of the team
here,” said Ms. Rodgers. “They crossed the line from being just students and
became part of the (disaster preparedness or emergency action) team with
adults and were treated professionally.”
Another ingredient to the success of the partnership has been the group’s ability
to keep goals manageable. Ms. Rodgers pointed out that when the Volunteer
Firefighters Club helped determine what would go in the emergency kits at the
school, it was a project that was relatively simple to complete.
“The adults helped set the goals and then the students organized activities to
help reach those goals,” she said. “You have to keep students engaged. You
can’t just talk about what you want to do – you have to have action.”
“Once the goals are reached, a sense of momentum is established, and that’s
why it’s important to keep going,” added Mr. Wiley. “You can’t let too much time
go by without a specific goal or objective, or students start to lose interest.”
The combination of dedicated adults, motivated students and public events that
heightened awareness of the club and the ATFD have made the relationship
between the fire department and the high school a mutually beneficial one that
will hopefully last for years to come.
“Both Mr. Wiley and Ms. Rodgers are familiar with the operation of the school and
have opportunities to interact with students. They serve as resources to students
who are looking for more information,” said Mr. Schramm. “People with their
experience, knowledge, and enthusiasm are critical to the foundation upon
which a successful partnership can be built.”
A Mock Crash Teaches Real Lessons to Abington
Senior High School Students
ATFD firefighters and other first responders
worked with Abington Senior High School
students and teachers in June to simulate
the very real dangers of driving while
distracted or under the influence of drugs
or alcohol. The event is timed to raise
awareness before prom.
The “victims” of this accident were acting.
No cars wrecked on campus that day.
The injuries and blood were the result of
acting and makeup. But this was as close
to the real thing as anyone wanted to
Service Learning Day
Abington Township Fire Department (ATFD) Teaches Students
the Importance of Firefighting, Volunteerism Through
ATFD’s Annual Service Learning Day allowed Abington Senior High School students to
see what it is like to be a first responder.
The Abington Township Fire Department (ATFD) gives Abington Senior High School
students the opportunity to play the role of a volunteer firefighter through insightful and
informative demonstrations during its annual Service Learning Day program. The most
recent Service Learning Day was held June 3, 2016.
The event is aimed at teaching students the importance of community involvement. It
also provides a chance for the ATFD to recruit young people who will help continue the
legacy of the five volunteer fire companies that comprise the ATFD (Abington,
McKinley, Weldon, Edge Hill and Roslyn).
The students who visited the ATFD’s training facility this year learned what the five
volunteer fire companies do for the community. They had the opportunity to use fire
extinguishers to put out controlled fires. Students suited up with helmets, boots, jackets
and other firefighting gear before heading into the department’s training facility that
was filled with non-toxic smoke.
Abington Senior High School teacher Chris O’Donnell said Service Learning Day is a
chance for students to get out of the classroom and into the community to complete
hands-on activities that they can apply in the real world. As an ATFD volunteer, students
will learn important skills, including discipline, teamwork and determination.
“Sometimes, there is the feeling that ‘I’m just a high school student, what can I do?,’
and then you see kids who say, ‘I am a high school student, look what I am doing.’
Those are the students who are making a difference right here in Abington,” O’Donnell
Year after year, students always report that Service Learning Day gives them a better
understanding of what firefighters do to protect those in need. Some learn something
about themselves as well.
ATFD Community Service Specialist Jeffrey Glynn explained that the goal of Service
Learning Day is to demonstrate to students the role of volunteers and how they can get
involved with the ATFD.
“If we are able to spark the interest of a few students and encourage them to
volunteer, we have been successful,” Glynn added.
Service Learning Day
Student Government Day
Abington Senior High School’s Student Government
Day Brings Seniors to ATFD Training Center
Abington Senior High School students visited the Abington Township Fire Department
(ATFD) Training Facility on the annual Student Government Day tour in May.
Roslyn Fire Company firefighter and fire instructor Jeff Glynn talked to the visitors, all
seniors, about the history and operations of ATFD and its five fire companies. Glynn
then invited them to climb through the Special Operations Training Prop that allows
firefighters to practice rescues from confined or collapsed spaces. McKinley Fire
Company Chief Chris Bors and Firefighter Rick Gerhard showed them specialized
fire apparatus, tools, and gear. And Abington Fire Company Firefighter Robert
Woodard walked them through the live-fire burn building – a concrete structure that
allows firefighters to practice fire-suppression techniques. At the final stop on the
tour, Abington Township Fire Marshal Ken Clark described for the students the highly
technical tools on the Montgomery County Special Service HazMat truck and the
various functions this equipment provides.
Student Government Day is designed to show students studying government how
various departments of their township function by seeing facilities first hand and
talking to the people who work there. At the ATFD, some students were surprised to
learn that fire and rescue service in their township is provided by 220 volunteers.
Woodard, the Abington Fire Company firefighter, joined the fire department when
he was sixteen. The ATFD has a junior firefighter program that allows teens to get
involved and prepare for a full membership at age eighteen. Now twenty-six, and a
fifth-generation firefighter, Woodard shared two hopes for Student Government Day
just before the students arrived.
He definitely got his first hope – that any students who didn’t realize ATFD was an all-
volunteer operation would leave knowing, “Every time someone calls 911,
firefighters leave their jobs, leave their families, leave whatever they are doing to
answer that call for help,” he said.
Woodard may have also realized his second wish that one or more of the students
would be inspired to volunteer
Student Government Day
Fire Training Facility’s Role
in Recruitment and
Daytime Fire Training
Program to Recruit and
Daytime Training Program Helps Montgomery County
Volunteer Fire Departments Recruit and Retain Members
A major hurdle to recruiting new members to volunteer fire departments is the time
commitment that is expected of those who join. Between requirements for training,
responses to incidents, and attending meetings, today’s firefighters must commit a
significant portion of their free time to serving their companies.
For volunteer firefighters who work second or third shifts, meeting these obligations
can be tremendously difficult since many training events take place during the day
or on weekends. The scheduling conflicts are sometimes enough to force a member
to leave or not even consider joining their local fire company.
Every volunteer fire company looking to retain and recruit members should give
serious consideration to a daytime training program. In the mid-90s the Abington
Township Fire Department (ATFD), in conjunction with three other area fire
departments (Cheltenham, Rockledge, and Jenkintown), began offering a daytime
training program for members. What started out as a loosely organized way to meet
the needs of members, has grown into a more formal program that utilizes instructors
from county agencies to teach members everything from basic firefighting skills such
as search and rescue, ropes and knots, ladders, ventilation, and ending with a live-
fire structural burn class.
The number of participants has grown as well, showing that there is a real need for
the program. In 2018, 150 members participated in the daytime training programs,
which are held once a month at varying locations.
Opening the programs up to more than just one company was a way to cut on costs
and ensure there would be enough firefighters present to conduct a class. In
addition, it enabled companies to have personnel available to respond to daytime
calls while some of the members were involved in training.
“The thing that really makes it work is that on our own, we have limited resources,”
said Bill McCann, who is captain of the Glenside Fire Company in the Cheltenham
Township Fire Department. “You can do more with more people. A lot of us had
training requirements and programs that weren’t available to people who worked
nights. This fills the need.”
Aside from making it easier for second and third-shift workers to complete training,
the daytime program has resulted in numerous other benefits for the involved
One of those benefits is firefighters from different departments get to know one
another, which makes it easier when they respond to an incident that involves
responders from several different municipalities.
At training sessions, members share their experiences and are able to learn from one
another. Jennifer Felton of Glenside Fire Company said she began taking the classes
because she worked third-shift at a local hospital. The classes taught her that
firefighters did a lot more than fight fires, which spurred her desire to learn. “It’s an
excellent way to get more training, meet more people, and realize how much the
different departments do,” she said.
“It helps a lot on the fire ground,” said Mr. McCann. “You know the people and
become aware of their abilities and limitations.”
Another benefit to the shared daytime programs is that firefighters are exposed to
outside instructors, rather than just being taught by existing company members.
“Different instructors make it more interesting,” said Mr. McCann.
With this many benefits, it might make sense for your company or department to team
up with neighboring agencies to create a daytime program. If you decide to move
forward, please keep the following tips in mind:
Establish a Committed Team of Leaders
Bill Foxall, a Rockledge Fire Company member who helped form the existing daytime
program, said it’s important to have a committed group of people leading the
“You have to have a designated committee,” he said.
These people should be in charge of monitoring training requirements and
researching available programs and instructors and then organizing a schedule to
determine which topics are covered, where classes should take place, and when
sessions should be held. In addition, this same committee would be responsible for
bringing information back to its home fire company to share information with
members, generate interest, and publicize training sessions.
Mr. McCann agreed, saying that leadership needs to be there to organize the
program and keep it going. “You have to have leadership that will organize and
coordinate between departments,” he said. “You need to have relationships.”
Encourage Interest by Engaging Members
Members are more likely to attend training sessions on subjects they want to learn
about, so be sure to solicit feedback from members on the types of classes to hold.
“We always ask, ‘What do our members want?’” said Mr. Foxall. “What do the
members think will be the most beneficial training?”
“Offering the same classes over and over will grow old quickly,” added Mr. McCann.
The ATFD and participating fire departments began holding an organizational
meeting in December each year to discuss members’ training needs and which
topics would be most relevant for the coming year’s schedule. For the 2011 year,
topics such as the Rapid Intervention Team, forcible entry, pump operations, carbon
monoxide detector responses, and annual refresher training on hazmat operations,
and first aid/CPR are included on the schedule.
“You have to keep (the topics) fresh,” said Mr. McCann.
Finding engaging instructors is also important. Through the ATFD’s relationship with
Bucks County Community College’s Department of Public Safety Training and
Certification, the four fire departments have been able to engage knowledgeable
teachers for the daytime training sessions. Community Service Specialist Jeffrey
Glynn, who currently works for the ATFD but was once the fire training coordinator at
Bucks County, got to know a lot of certified instructors and took on the role of finding
the right people to teach classes for the daytime program.
The instructors are often current or retired career firefighters from city departments or
federal agencies who can offer a different perspective and share their real life, on-
the- job experiences.
“We teach by the book, but there are certain circumstances where an instructor who
has been through a particular scenario, can shed new light on it,” said Mr. Glynn.
In addition to working with Bucks County Community College, the four departments
are also working with the Montgomery County Fire Academy to bring some new
instructors into the mix and keep things interesting for the members. Tom Garrity,
Director of the Montgomery County (PA) Fire Academy, is working with the group to
help fire companies with drill maintenance. He sees daytime training programs as
important to recruitment and retention efforts.
“It allows firefighters to maintain their skills and learn new skills,” he said. “Plus it brings
them together at the station where they can develop as a team and get to know
each other better.”
In addition to making sure that training topics reflect member needs, it is important to
engage members by asking them for input and suggestions after training sessions are
over. Find out if the date and time of the classes you’re planning on works best for the
majority. Be flexible.
“For some volunteers, the daytime training is the only chance they have to fulfill
training requirements,” said Mr. Glynn. “We have had people tell us they are glad
they were able to make these sessions because they can’t attend at night.”
This flexibility can mean the difference between potentially losing quality volunteers
and keeping them on board as viable, involved members who will contribute to
your organization. The ATFD has found that its commitment to daytime training has
not been wasted – members are able to maintain their rigorous training
requirements while also balancing the demands of work and family, and they
appreciate being able to do so. This, in turn, contributes to the overall success of
the organization, as members know they are valued and respected, and are
therefore more willing to give their time and energy to the fire department and the
citizens of their respective municipalities.
Structural Collapse and
Abington Township Volunteer Firefighters Train for
a Changing Township, Changing World
Addition to ATFD Training Facility Helps Prepare Volunteers for
Complex Rescue Situations
A building collapses with people inside. Or a contractor is injured or becomes seriously
ill while working on utilities beneath the street. It takes a special set of skills to rescue the
victims of such circumstances, and Abington Township Fire Department volunteers are
now learning and practicing them in a special structure recently added to their training
From the outside, the new red metal structure, called a multi-purpose Special
Operations Training Prop, looks like a cross between a trailer and a shipping container.
However, the inside was designed and built specifically to allow the members of ATFD’s
five fire companies to practice skills vitally important to rescuing people from any
confined space. This includes both confined spaces that would be created within a
structure that collapsed due to an explosion or fire and confined spaces that already
exist, such as underground tanks, manholes, and tunnels.
The Prop allows firefighters to safely practice navigating through the chaotic
arrangement of misplaced floors and walls created when a building collapses to find
and rescue someone, said Abington Fire Company Chief Michael Jones. In real-life
situations, firefighters may use these skills to save a resident, worker, or fellow firefighter
who became trapped while on duty.
“Training at the Prop, you actually walk through these situations and get a sense of the
mental, physical, and environmental barriers you are likely to encounter,” said Weldon
Fire Company Firefighter Steve Hahn. “It’s dark, hot and confined in there. You use the
equipment you would use if it was an actual emergency, and you get comfortable
with it and the environment.”
Hahn said the Prop allows him and other firefighters to solve problems and make
adjustments in the way they respond in a safe environment. Firefighters also have a
chance to brainstorm the best approaches together, and to try them all out, safely.
“Without the Prop, it was extremely difficult to replicate that experience,” Jones said.
In another part of the Prop, volunteer firefighters make their way around and over
obstacles in a dark, smoke-filled room while wearing Self-Contained Breathing
Apparatus (SCBA), replicating the conditions in a fire.
“In a fire, you have zero visibility,” Jones explained. “You have to learn that you
don’t rely on what you’re seeing, but what you are hearing and feeling in front of
you. Training in the Prop helps you build confidence in your ability to do this, and in
the tools that help you, such as your SCBA.”
In total, volunteer firefighters from ATFD’s five fire companies - Abington, McKinley,
Weldon, Edge Hill, and Roslyn - spend more than 7,000 hours a year training for an
ever-growing list of situations they may face as first responders. The great majority of
this training takes place at ATFD’s own training facility, built in 1958 and updated
over the years to allow training in a list of skills that has evolved along with the
township’s needs and the circumstances of an ever-changing world.
ATFD leaders analyze data to track changes in township land use and trends in the
types of emergency situations to which the departments have responded. They
also pay attention to broader state and national trends, good and bad, that could
influence the types of skills ATFD volunteers may need. All of this shapes the training
courses ATFD offers at its state-of-the art training facility, and steered the
department toward this year’s purchase of the Special Operations Training Prop,
and determined the Prop’s design.
“We can’t replicate all aspects of every situation that a firefighter may one day
encounter, but our facility certainly provides many features that allow us to meet
our training goals in a safe, simulated environment,” explained ATFD Fire Training
Coordinator Larry W. Siefken. “Learning these skills in these simulated circumstances
boosts our firefighters’ confidence that they can handle the same circumstances in
a real-life situation,” he said.
“You are challenging yourself mentally and physically in training so that you can
make a difference in a real life event,” Hahn said.
ATFD’s commitment to training played a significant part in its achieving accredited
status from the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) last year.
Abington is the only volunteer fire department in Pennsylvania that has this
prestigious designation, which indicates excellence in fire training, firefighter safety,
fire suppression, strategic planning, fire prevention education programs, finances,
physical, and human resources.
Please see TV coverage here:
Structural Burn Session Live Burn
Trench Rescue Awareness Training