J.C. Like both Clyde and P.J. I started out as a cadet (local name for explorers) Great programs for teenagers who are curious about the fire service. We only started are program in 2001 and have had good success with it. Out of the 10 cadets we have had in the program (we're a small town), all but 2 are still active on the department as firefighters. We have made the minimum age to join 15. In addition to company drills we have cadet drills a couple times a month, where a officer and/or senior firefighter, go over the basics with the cadets. Hydrants, ladders, radio communications, etc. They are great to have on the fireground, they can take a plug, assist in laddering, and basically any exterior operations. At the local academy, they recently started a junior firefighter 1 program, which is firefighter 1 minus the power tools, and live burn scenarios. Once the cadet turns 18, the can return and in two weekends, they are certified to FF1. This is probible what you had seen at the Orlando academy. If you would like, I will send you a copy of our cadet bylaws.
Stay safe brothers,
J.C., Please help the future of your Fire Dept and do what you can to start up this very valauble program. It has many benefits for the boys and girls as well as the department. I have posted a link below that will help educate you a little more.
I am proof that the explorer program works. At 14 years old I started in my combination dept. as an explorer. Now I currently hold the rank of BC within the career dept.
As Clyde already stated they will get out of it what is put into it by the adult leadership. If it is done right everyone involved will benfit for many. many time over.
I am the Adult Explorer Advisor for our department's Explorer Post. As with everything, there are two sides to the program both good and difficult, never bad.
1st the pros - The program is a great recruitment and retention tool. You will obtain teens ages 14-18 and hopefully role them over into your department within only a few years and you get to take pride in the fact that you trained them.
Training the explorers actually is great training and review for the advisors! We teach both firefighting skills and leadership skills and compete in a regional competition every year (supposed to at least)
We allow our explorers to work shift. 2 explorers each shift, after school hours and weekends. During shift they help with house duties, respond on runs and are allowed to assist on emergency runs as well but are limited to what they are allowed to do. So, you basically have 2 extra pair of hands with you at all times.
and then the cons or the difficult parts...
Our Explorers wear the same patch as we do per the cheif... what they do out of site if in uniform could come back to haunt you. We tell them not to wear therer uniform in public but you never know
You could obtain "turds" as we call them that cause trouble within the explorer post or do as what was mentioned above
Might be a con, might not be, but it takes a lot of time to lead a group like this. I have 15 explorers in my post and we meet the first 3 thursdays of each month from 1800-2100. In addition to that we take our post to fire museums, big city departmets, communications center etc... lots of personal time is sometimes lost but it is so worth it!
I have so much more info. If you have any specific questions send me your email address and I'll give you all I know