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Families of volunteers

Welcome to the family!

Being a family member of a Fire and Emergency volunteer can mean some adjustments for you and your family. Volunteers and their families play a central role in communities across the country supporting local fire and emergency services.

Without people like your volunteer, we couldn’t offer fire and emergency services across the whole of New Zealand and more people would lose their homes, or even their lives, every day.

Being part of the Fire and Emergency family will connect you to a New Zealand-wide network of volunteers and their families, all of whom have similar experiences and share your pride in your volunteer’s community contribution.

What to expect

Your Fire and Emergency New Zealand volunteer will be expected to (depending upon their chosen role):

  • respond to three to four call-outs a week (on average), stepping into potentially dangerous situations to help others
  • attend regular training
  • race out the door at a moment’s notice when someone needs them
  • put in a few extra hours each week to learn the skills they’ll need to stay safe and save lives
  • form strong bonds with the other members of their brigade so they can make a great team that works together to keep people and the community safe.

Your volunteer will be fully trained to handle the various situations in which they’ll find themselves. But that doesn’t mean they won’t find it physically challenging, even exhausting.

Our volunteer firefighters and operational support will  be wearing heavy gear, often dragging hoses, responding to medical emergencies and vehicle crashes, all while under huge pressure to save lives and property – and they’ll often be doing it without enough sleep. This requires a great deal of physical and mental stamina.

This means, they’ll often need to catch up. They might need an extra nap here and there, or they might head to bed early if they’ve had a call out the night before. They might also be more tired and irritable than usual – try not to take it personally.

In addition to the physical challenges, some situations can put extra pressure on your volunteer. Some emergency call-outs involve extraordinarily difficult circumstances, particularly when severe injury or loss of life is involved. And because it’s your volunteer’s job to support your local community, they may find themselves attending a call-out that involves someone they know.

How you can support your volunteer

Everyone’s different, and may need to be supported in different ways. Some volunteers will come home and share the details of what they’ve been doing, including things they’ve found stressful or traumatic, while others might bottle it up.

You’re not expected to play the role of a counsellor. The best thing you can do, in the first instance, is listen if they want to talk and acknowledge their feelings.

There won’t be anything you can say to ‘put things right’ if a call out hasn’t had a positive outcome, but you can remind your volunteer that they did everything possible – and that everyone in the community appreciates their efforts.

Connect with other families

No one understands what it’s like to have a Fire and Emergency New Zealand volunteer in the family as well as other families who are in the same situation. Because of this, many people enjoy spending time with other volunteer families.

There are lots of ways to connect with other volunteer families – here are just a few of the most common:

  • Attend or organise a monthly BBQ or potluck.
  • Celebrate birthdays together.
  • Organise a Christmas party for the kids.
  • Attend or arrange a training night for new families, where they can meet the brigade and have a look around the station.
  • Start a Facebook page to connect with other partners and organise family events.