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Fire Department Student Intern Bunk-In Program

Municipality: East Syracuse
County: Onondaga County
Population: Less than 5,000
Type: Village

2017 Local Government Achievement Award WINNER (First Place)

Village Hall: (315) 437-3541

The Student Intern Bunk-In Program is a win-win for everybody. Since 1995, the program supports and assists in the coordination of a bunk-in program for fire service organizations throughout Onondaga County. Onondaga County Community College offers an associate degree program in Fire Protection Technology. Students enrolled in the fire protection program are eligible to apply for internships as bunk-ins with local host fire departments. Having started with six host fire departments, the program currently has 14 for both fire and EMS, including Moyers Corners, Liverpool, North Syracuse and DeWitt.

All bunk-ins must be full-time students in the college curriculum, live outside of Onondaga County and be an active member in good standing in a fire department within New York. Being a bunk-in provides a unique community service opportunity to serve as a volunteer firefighter. In return, the fire department provides living accommodations. Bunk-ins live at the firehouse, attend classes and respond to emergency calls with the host fire department. The fire department gains volunteers who are active and involved and can be available at times when other volunteers cannot, such as daytime and heavy commuting hours. The man-hours they provide are invaluable to volunteer organizations. This program affords the students real-time application of the things that they are learning in the classroom. They handle the equipment, maintain apparatus, interact with the community, work as a team with department members, follow the rules and regulations, and respond to calls.

In 2005, the Village of East Syracuse welcomed its first student intern as a bunk-in to the East Syracuse Volunteer Fire Department. The next year it expanded to two. As of this year, 46 students have bunked in with the department. Eleven have gone on to have a career in emergency services (five with fire departments, one as a 911 dispatcher, one in police services and four with an ambulance service). Seven students have stayed in the area and are East Syracuse Fire Department members. Not only does this program facilitate recruitment and retention, it also keeps the fire department staffed and better able to respond to emergency calls.

Start-up costs for the program were minor. It included purchasing furnishing for the students’ rooms including a bed, dresser and desk. Each fire station is equipped with kitchen and bathroom facilities. While living at the firehouse, bunk-ins also have access to a lounge/living room area. Bunk-ins are provided personal protective gear, just as any volunteer responding to emergencies. The fire department may provide shirts with the department insignia as a duty uniform. All costs were covered by either the fire department corporation or the village fire department budget.