Can I really be a firefighter? What are the requirements?
Yes! We’re ordinary people, just like you. Most of us have regular full-time jobs and families. Members are only restricted by their physical abilities, comfort level, and training experience. Anyone who lives in Lower Merion or within one mile of any of the seven stations is encouraged to become a member.
You must be 18 years of age to perform interior fire operations. Some fire companies have volunteer opportunities for those as young as 14. You are welcome to begin the membership process before reaching minimum age requirements.
Staffing levels are lowest during the weekday. Those with flexible work schedules, students, and others available to run calls during these hours are strongly encouraged to apply. We have many veterans serving, and anyone with military experience is also encouraged to become a member.
How does the volunteer system work? What is the time commitment?
While many aspects of firefighting have changed over the past 125 years, the basics of the volunteer system have not. When an emergency is dispatched, volunteers leave their homes or places of work, proceed to their station, and bring their gear and needed equipment to the emergency scene. Today, pagers and smartphones have replaced alarm bells as a means of alerting volunteers, but the concept is the same.
For many decades, LMFD has very successfully operated a mostly-volunteer “combination” system. The department is staffed by over 90% volunteers, while a small number of paid personnel help ensure operational readiness and a quick response. At each Lower Merion station, there are two paid firefighters on duty during the weekday and one at all other times. All other firefighters are volunteers and generally respond from home, work, or wherever they happen to be at the time.
There is no specific time requirement or “on-call” system. Volunteers respond to as many calls and training drills as they are able. Policies vary by station, but generally members are expected to respond to at least 20% of their station’s calls each year. Volunteers are occasionally asked to help man the station during special events or severe weather to ensure a speedy and adequate response. Volunteers also participate in many community functions such as holiday parades and fire safety events.
Each station holds one regular weeknight training session. New firefighters are also encouraged to attend classes at the Montgomery County Fire Academy and achieve national Firefighter I certification as soon as possible. The training program is offered in several flexible iterations, including night- and weekend- only classes.
Do you really do this for free?! Are there any other benefits?
Volunteers do not receive any monetary compensation, but all equipment, training, and education is paid for. Active members are covered under worker’s compensation and life insurance policies. In addition, members receive LMFD clothing and gear, a Township parking permit, and attend various social events hosted by the fire company.
More importantly, however, are the intangible benefits. The 125 year old tradition of volunteerism in Lower Merion is a testament to how rewarding an experience firefighting can be. Members take pride in serving their community, learning life-saving skills, and dedication to the traditions of the American fire service. The camaraderie of the fire service is a tight-knit bond rarely experienced elsewhere.
I’m already an EMT or Paramedic, or looking to become one. Should I join a fire company? Who provides ambulance services?
Yes! Even though the fire companies do not operate EMS units, we strongly encourage those with EMT or Paramedic certifications to become firefighters. Many of our current firefighters also carry EMS certifications, and these skills have proven useful on numerous fire calls. Generally speaking the fire companies do not respond to medical calls, but we are occasionally requested to assist EMS in manpower-intensive situations.
Medical services in Lower Merion Township are provided by Narberth Ambulance, another mostly-volunteer organization. Many members of Narberth Ambulance are also Lower Merion firefighters, and we enjoy a close and cooperative relationship with that organization. We encourage anyone looking to volunteer as an EMT or Paramedic to visit their website and get in contact.
Where do I sign up? What is the process to join?
Please submit your information here. A member of the Recruitment Committee will get back to you shortly. Each fire company has its own bylaws and procedures for new members, but generally speaking the process consists of an interview, background check, and thorough physical examination.
This often takes a few months to complete – don’t get discouraged! We can’t wait to have you on board, but the process is intentionally thorough. Even the newest members immediately become a representative of their Fire Company, the Township, and the fire service as a whole. We need to make sure everyone is physically capable, of good character, and worthy of the title, “firefighter.”
I’m not able to be a firefighter, but I’d still like to help. What can I do?
There are a number of other ways you can participate. Fire companies also need non-active members to help with fundraising, administrative, and support functions.
Just as the fire companies rely on volunteer staffing, they also rely on voluntary contributions to operate .While the Township assists fire companies with some personnel expenses, the fire companies rely mostly on donations from the community. Please consider making a donation to your local fire company.
We could not function without the support of our families and communities. If a member of your family is interested in becoming a firefighter, do your best do support them!