They will not be decked out in hazmat suits and working to decontaminate several victims of a chemical spill. But young people in this year’s Junior Fire Cadet Programme will, nevertheless, receive instruction in lighter, but still dangerous stuff, like responding to household incidents involving chemicals and the environment.

This five-week summer holiday training by the Barbados Fire Service prepares 12-to-15-year-old students to be first responders in their homes and communities that are impacted by natural and man-made disasters, thus occasioning emergency situations.

??Designed to instill character, confidence, self-esteem and self-discipline, the sessions are free and will be conducted Monday through Friday, lasting from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Entry into the programme is by registration form and a follow-up interview.?? Forms are available at all fire stations between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, and must be returned by June 18.

And the Fire Service is urging parents and guardians not to only enter their children but also commit them to the full course.????

Up to two dozen youths will be working at Arch Hall Fire Station in this 10th course that is offering intensive sessions in class time followed by some practical and on-the-job training from July 12.?? They will be exposed to safety training drills for fire, basic first aid fire safety, environmental and hazard material awareness, the use of fire-fighting equipment and conflict resolution.?? Water safety, road tennis and tours comprise the outdoor activities that complement the in-house topics.

The students should value the experience as an opportunity to explore challenging scenarios in real time; understanding the dangers associated with chemical products by mixing them for use as cleaning agents in the home; paying attention to labelling and the impact of chemicals on the environment, and becoming resource persons in the community in indentifying hazards.

It is really about working as one team too, since the Fire Service is bringing together children from various schools and asking these students to gel in five weeks.

For the participants, the programme, particularly sessions on conflict resolution and the group project, will reinforce that teamwork and communication are key in effectively responding to the needs of others.??

The organisers described the Junior Fire Cadet Programme as "a training curriculum that should not be interpreted as a leisure or casual vacation experience".?? The aim is to provide good work habits and build positive attitudes among all participants.?? Anything less is unacceptable in the Barbados Fire Service.

By exposing these junior fire cadets to the organisational structure of the Fire Service, the skills of firefighters and the rules employees must follow to achieve success, it is hoped that they will have a better idea where they fit into today’s world with their future goals.

And with a decade of turning out trained youth with a wider skills base at the community level, the Junior Fire Cadet Programme is certainly proving to be an invaluable asset to the Barbadian society.??

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