With the goal of modernizing the training process for volunteer firefighters, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John Armato, Vince Mazzeo and Carol Murphy to allow for some training courses for volunteer firefighter certification to be taken online was approved Thursday by the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee.
“In my 49 years as a volunteer firefighter, I’ve seen the landscape change dramatically,” said Armato (D-Atlantic). “Many members are retiring, and volunteer classes are shrinking. It’s time to come up with new ideas to make the extensive 187-hour training process more convenient and accessible to engage the next generation of volunteer firefighters.”
The bill (A-5275) would permit certain firefighter training courses to be taken online, with the exception of any practical courses such as lessons on search and rescue, turnout gear, sprinklers and standpipes, ladders and mask confidence, among others. Tests for all courses, whether online or in a classroom, must be taken in person.
“Colleges and universities offer students the option of completing some of their coursework online. A similar alternative should be available to volunteer firefighters-in-training,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “Just like college students, trainees would have the freedom to study on their own time without traveling to a class. It opens doors for people with hectic work or family schedules to complete some of training when it works best for them.”
“Volunteer firefighters are a tremendous asset to their communities,” said Murphy (D-Burlington). “However, the lengthy training process to become certified may discourage people who are interested from signing up. Anything we can do to make the process more accessible may encourage aspiring firefighters to take the crucial first step.”
The bill now heads to the Speaker for further consideration.