Guidelines & Best Practices in Youth Fire Service Program Now Available

The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) Volunteer & Combination Officers Section’s Silver Ribbon Report, Opening New Doors: Guidelines and Best Practices for a Successful Youth Fire Service Program, is now available for download. The fifth in the series of Ribbon Reports, Opening New Doors is a comprehensive best-practices document on mentoring youth in the fire and emergency service. Fire departments may access and download the document free of charge at or (Volunteer and Combination section).

“This document is the first to cover the topic of youth programs so definitively. Not only is it timely, but it is long overdue,” said Chief Jeff Johnson, IAFC president and chairman of the board.

Opening New Doors balances nonprescriptive model practices and recommended guidelines with a core emphasis on the need to understand and adhere to current local and state laws—which vary widely—as well as with federal regulations.

“Most departments are eager to engage young people who want to be of service, but we recognized there was no national-level guidance on how to effectively form and operate a youth program,” said Chief Tim Wall, VCOS chair. “Our goal was to take a proactive approach in order to reduce the risk of litigation, serious injuries and even death, which can be a reality when youth are engaged without a structured program in place.”

Opening New Doors helps fire departments avoid potential pitfalls and provides a step-by-step guide for initiating a youth program. For those with a program in place, the document offers an opportunity to review the national-level guidance to ensure all critical elements are covered. The report provides recommended practices and sample documents, along with an overview of administrative, legal, recruitment/retention and marketing, safety, and education and training issues.

Opening New Doors is the first in the acclaimed series of Ribbon Reports whose application is not limited to volunteer and combination departments.

“All fire service leaders want to find young people who are drawn to public and community service and provide them with an experience that is rewarding, educational, and fun in a safe environment,” said Johnson. “If we can do this, we can hope that the door will stay open and they will walk through it into a volunteer membership or a career in the fire-EMS service when they are of age.”

Also available on IAFC TV, is an interview with the Silver Ribbon Report authors recorded when the document was previewed at the 2009 VCOS Symposium in the Sun. The interview can be downloaded at (Upcoming and Archived Events) Symposium in the Sun.

About the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC)
The IAFC represents the leadership of more than 1.2 million firefighters and emergency responders. IAFC members are the world’s leading experts in firefighting, emergency medical services, terrorism response, hazardous materials spills, natural disasters, search and rescue, and public safety legislation. Since 1873, the IAFC has provided a forum for its members to exchange ideas and uncover the latest products and services available to first responders.

About the IAFC Volunteer and Combination Officers Section (VCOS)
VCOS provides chief officers who manage volunteer and combination departments within the fire/rescue/EMS delivery system with information, education, services, and representation to enhance their professionalism and capabilities.

International Association of Fire Chiefs
4025 Fair Ridge Drive, Fairfax, VA 22033

Ann Davison, CAE, Strategic Information Manager

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Comment by Tiger Schmittendorf on February 22, 2010 at 11:11am
This is a great document and great news for fire department youth programs.

I've featured this info at and plan to e-mail the link to 2,000 firefighters in our county at

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