The Monett Kiwanis Club heard details about the Explorers program at the Monett Fire Department during a recent club meeting.
Shane Anderson, training officer with the fire department and supervisor for the Explorers Post, said the Monett City Council authorized creation of the Explorers in 2009. The post currently has 14 active members and is one of the largest of the 10 fire explorers organizations in southwest Missouri. The largest state organization is in St. Louis.
The program has two main objectives, Anderson son said:
* To expose young men and women to fire and emergency medical careers through a work site-based program;
* To provide a positive influence on Monett area teens by instilling a sense of civic pride, self-confidence, a desire to serve others, respect for authority and through the teaching of leadership and reasoning skills.
"We have very special kids involved," Anderson said. "Our major objective is not to make future firemen but to make good citizens and instill pride in their community."
The program targets boys and girls ages 14 through 18. One can stay involved through age 21, Anderson said. Participants must apply and go before a board of adults and other already in the program to be accepted.
New explorers begin with an orientation session. A special meeting is held with parents to fully inform them about explorers.
Participants are required to buy their own uniforms and badges. The badges alone cost $250. The firefighting bunker gear used is hand-me-downs from active firemen in the department.
The city has no liability insurance for the explorers. Participants must pay $10 a year for insurance through the Boy Scouts of America.
Explorers undertake rookie firefighting training, including the fire safety course required for professionals by the state of Missouri. Anderson said safety is constantly stressed in the program. Participants learn search and rescue techniques, CPR training and basic life support comparable to classes taken by doctors and nurses.
Classes are taught by highly qualified instructors. One class taken in the Rogersville area required explorers to hike a mile into the woods, treat and prepare a victim for evacuation in a simulated scenario. Explorers take a course on extracting victims from vehicle crashes, rappelling, including carrying out a victim upside down, and participating in a live burn exercise involving a trailer.
Anderson said explorers are trained to use firefighting apparatus. Their training session involved working off a 105-foot tower, higher than anything available in Monett. Explorers learn how to react in car and house fires, what to do and how to extinguish them.
Explorers have provided practical help in major fire situations. Anderson said they help move hose during the January 2009 fire at McDonald's in Monett. On that occasion, they experienced some of the rigors of the business, including finding their boots frozen to the ground if they stayed still too long.
After the May 22, 2011 tornado in Joplin, explorers had a service day cleaning one of the fire stations in that city while the firemen stayed active in the field. The Joplin fire chief inspected their work and talked with them at the end of the day.
Explorers who finish classes get a ribbon. The first graduation ceremony was held during the 2011 festivities marking July 4 in Monett. Once explorers have officially graduated, Anderson said they can ride on the city trucks to actual fires.
"I wanted kids to be excited about the program," Anderson said. "We make it purposefully exciting."
As an outreach to other young people, Anderson said the group talk to other teens at the Den youth center. On one occasion, they held a contest to show which explorer could put on their fire equipment the fastest. The effort was a big hit.
Anderson said the financial commitment can deter participation. Participants have to make an initial $75 payment for uniforms. The post also holds its own fundraisers. Donations to help teens become involved can be made to the city of Monett.
More information on the fire service exploring is available at exploring.learningforlife.org on the Internet.
Anderson was introduced by program chairman Jon Suit. Brad Hanson, Kiwanis vice president, presided at the meeting.
The Monett Kiwanis Club meets at noon on Tuesdays for a meal and a program, usually at Happy House restaurant.