National Volunteer Week: Kirsty
National Volunteer Week: Kirsty
Our COVID-19 lockdown last year gave Wellington Free Ambulance Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Kirsty the opportunity to reflect on life.
“I came to the realisation I tend to live a very 'comfortable' lifestyle and decided 2020 was going to be the year I began to start stepping outside my comfort zone and change things up a bit.”
Her decision to volunteer at her local fire brigade in Wainuiomata stemmed from a desire to help her community, the same reason she wanted to become a paramedic.
“Becoming a volunteer firefighter was definitely stepping outside of my comfort zone, but it also allows me to further serve my community, in a different way.”
Both of Kirsty’s roles complement one another especially being able to apply her medical and clinical skills to her role as a firefighter.
“Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) co-respond to a lot of medical trauma calls, such as cardiac arrests, motor vehicle crashes and rescue jobs, and they are often first on scene. It’s great that I'm able to apply my work skills and knowledge to callouts like these prior to ambulance arrival.”
The breadth of new skills she has learnt has been extensive. “I’ve learnt how to fight and suppress different types of fires, donning and wearing breathing apparatus, new lifting/patient extrication techniques, different search and rescue techniques and motor vehicle extrication.”
“As a firefighter I've been able to learn greater hazard and risk awareness which I can apply when approaching scenes in my ambulance work too.”
Both of Kirsty’s roles are similar in that, every day is different. It’s one of the things she loves about working as an EMT, as there are always new learning opportunties in such a supportive environment. “I’m always being challenged to learn more or find ways to adapt to the challenges of the job under pressure.”
The role of a firefighter too is so varied, it isn't all just about firefighting, says Kirsty. “We go to a huge variety of callouts, and no two callouts are the same.”
“One callout could be investigating smoke in the area, the next could be a fully involved structure fire, the next could be a child locked in a car and having to break into that car without damaging it to extricate the child. “
Kirsty’s firefighter training was once a week for 6-8 months beginning with simple hose running drills, then ladder skills and working at heights, knots and lines, fire suppression techniques, search and rescue and using breathing apparatus.
“We were sent to the National Training Centre in Rotorua for a week-long course, consolidating all of the skills learned during our training period to then be signed off as an Operational Firefighter. It was challenging, the days were long but I had an absolute blast and came out of it with some great new friends”
Kirsty says the training doesn't stop there and she continues training once a week.
One of the biggest challenges adapting to her new volunteer role was fitting this in around existing work and family commitments.
“Volunteering is rewarding but it is a really big commitment and adjusting to training commitments, having to change plans and leave family to attend a callout was quite a big adjustment,” says Kirsty.
“It's awesome though, I've been welcomed into the Wainuiomata Brigade as if I'm a member of their massive fire brigade family.”
“My brigade has a watch system, where we do one week on-call and three weeks off. I am also able to respond to calls during the 'normal work week' when I'm on my days off from Wellington Free.”
Kirsty says the best thing about volunteering is not only the great feeling of being able to help people in vulnerable situations, but also it feels like she’s gained 40+ new family members.
“If people are wanting to do something to help their communities but aren't really sure how, then volunteering is a great way to go - it feels good to get involved and to be able to give back to your people.”
Fancy joining Kirsty as a volunteer? If you’re interested in volunteering with Wellington Free Ambulance you can find more on our volunteer page.
If you’re keen to help your community, we would love to hear from you.