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A farewell to volunteer, but not to service - 5/20/2013


By Jason Zigmont

It was more than a decade ago that I started VolunteerFD.org to bring together volunteer fire departments to share best practices and solve shared problems. What started as an idea grew into a network of over 25,000 departments sharing their bylaws, fundraising, grants, SOPs, training, and recruitment and retention programs. 

In this time I have written more than 100 articles, and this will be my last regular article. 

For me, as with many of you, volunteering has been a lifelong passion. My mother jokes that I did my first call about a month before I was born. My father and pregnant mother spent rode out a storm in the firehouse serving food to hundreds were without power or shelter. 

I remember growing up in that firehouse, always wanting to be a firefighter; I couldn’t wait to join the explorers at 14. My father was chief, and there was a time when I wanted to be chief also.

A path of learning
Since my start in the fire service, I have collected just about every certification I could and spent countless hours listening to "dinosaurs" to learn everything I could about firefighting. 

I also earned my paramedic license and spent 8 years in commercial EMS. I thought about being a paid firefighter, but realized that I could make more of an impact teaching others. 

That started me on a path that would end in my earning a Ph.D in adult learning with a dissertation being on how paramedics learn.

As with many volunteers, my path in life has taken me away from the fire service. I continue to serve, but am on a slightly different mission.

'You can have everything in life you want'
I have found my focus and mission in life, which is to improve healthcare through learning. It may be a hefty goal, but as Zig Ziglar said, "You can have everything in life you want if you just help enough other people get what they want."

I have chosen to dedicate my life to the goal of improving healthcare through learning due to the combination of spending too much time with my mother in the hospital and a chance run-in. 

One day I was sitting in the EMS lunchroom when a medic came in all happy and cheery. I asked the medic what happened, and he said, "I've been a medic a year, and I haven't killed anyone yet." 

Maybe I was naïve, but I asked the QI person if this was real, and he said, unfortunately, yes. I then asked, "What percentage of the staff would you allow to work on your own family?" 

I won’t share that answer here, but needless to say it was so low it set me on a path to improve healthcare for my family and yours. 

Luckily I now find myself working for a health system that is truly pioneering and that is just as passionate about improving healthcare as I am. This has taken me more than 600 miles from home and that firehouse I grew up in, but I know it is the right thing to do. 

Continued service
I no longer volunteer as a firefighter, but I continue to serve. I try to help every department and member that contacts me and I continue to try to share the knowledge at VolunteerFD.org and speak at local and national conferences. 

There may come a day when I am back in the volunteer fire service and I will likely start writing again at that time. Until then I leave VolunteerFD.org in the hands of the Praetorian Group and all of the great staff and columnists of the network including FireRescue1 and EMS1. 

I also encourage you all to take up the cause of sharing your best practices and solving problems together. If there is one thing I have learned about the volunteer fire service it is that there is always another volunteer who is looking to help, and that is why there will always be a great tradition and service. 

If there is ever any way I can help you, please do not hesitate to ask. You can always catch me on LinkedIn.


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