The following is a brief overview of the initial training process for EMT-only volunteers. All training classes are held on nights and weekends, in recognition of the fact that our volunteers have many other commitments in addition to volunteering.
Volunteer In-Station Initiation Training (VISIT) – This is an in-station orientation program (taught by each volunteer department) to familiarize new members with the volunteer department and its fire station, equipment and procedures. Duration: variable – 7 to 30 days. (While each station has its own procedure for VISIT, the course usually involves between 8–12 hours of instruction.)
Level I – Also known as Initial Emergency Response Training, Level 1 is taught at the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department Training Academy, centrally located in the Fair Oaks area. The course gives new members an introduction to the world of emergency services and details the operations of the FCFRD as a whole. Volunteers will also learn basic emergency provider skills such as CPR, Hazardous Materials Awareness, and the use of a fire extinguisher. Such initial training enables new volunteers to ride as an observer on ambulances and fire engines. Duration: 30 days. (Evening classes are one night each week plus occasional classes on Saturday or Sunday mornings. 40 hours of total instruction.)
Physical Exam – A thorough physical will be conducted at the Fairfax County Occupational Health and Safety Center. This exam tests provisional volunteers’ ability to handle the stresses of being an emergency services provider. A passing physical is required in order to continue volunteer training and participate as an operational volunteer.
EMT-B Class – This is a Virginia EMT-B (basic) certification course meeting national standards laid out by the U.S. Department of Transportation. This course provides the knowledge and skills needed to provide basic life support (BLS) care and to function independently in a medical emergency. Students learn how to take vital signs, properly stabilize patients, deliver babies, and treat traumatic injuries or life-threatening medical emergencies in a pre-hospital setting. Duration: 3 months. (Classes at the Fire and Rescue Academy on Tuesday and Thursday nights and Sunday mornings. 120 hours of total instruction.)
Emergency Vehicle Operators Course (EVOC) – EVOC teaches volunteers the fundamentals of emergency vehicle operations, including applicable laws and safety procedures. This qualification is required before being allowed to drive apparatus in emergency conditions. Duration: 1 month. (2 nights of evening classes, followed by in-station driving practice and a final driving test. 12 hours of total classroom instruction and testing.)
The training schedule above outlines the basic process for becoming a volunteer EMS provider in Fairfax County. The process is extremely rewarding, but requires commitment and dedication over the course of months and years. To become a competent provider, volunteers must also spend time riding on EMS units during emergencies and continuously practicing and enhancing their skills.
After completing the basic training process, volunteers may also elect to attend advanced training to become a paramedic, unit or command officer, or an ambulance driver. These programs allow experienced volunteers to enhance their skills and assume more responsibility during emergencies, but are also very selective, demanding and time-consuming. Those volunteers who have chosen to pursue these opportunities reflect the skill, commitment, and professionalism of Fairfax County’s fire and rescue volunteers.