It’s a sound that is familiar to anyone who has spent summer in a small town bach: the wail of the fire siren calling local volunteers to an emergency.
And while there’s no siren this time, Fire and Emergency New Zealand is calling out and thanking employers who support volunteer firefighters across the country.
Many small towns, and some not so small towns, around New Zealand, rely on the dedication of their volunteers to respond to their communities’ calls for help. From fires and car accidents, to giving CPR, Fire and Emergency volunteers are at the front line, responding to emergencies when the sirens and pagers go off.
Fire and Emergency’s 12,000 volunteers couldn’t do what they do for their communities without the support of their employers and workmates. Their bosses allow them to leave work to respond to an incident or let them come in a bit later when they’ve been out late saving lives or property. Workmates pick up any work left to be done when their volunteer colleague needs to down tools and respond to an emergency.
Many volunteers are self-employed and then it is their staff and families who step in when the sirens and pagers call.
Pete Dacy works as a beekeeper at Marsh’s Honey and volunteers with both the Millers Flat and Lawrence Volunteer Fire Brigades in Otago.
"I really enjoy being a part of the community I've made my home. When I moved here, I was welcomed by everyone and made to feel like I belonged, and that fuelled my desire to help look after the area and its people," Dacy says.
However, he says it is the support of his employers that allow him to serve his community.
Dacy works for Russ and Trudie Marsh who run Marsh’s Honey – an award-winning artisan honey business, which was established by Russ’s family in the small rural town of Ettrick in 1934.
They've given Dacy their full support allowing him to respond to local incidents without having to worry about it causing issues at work.
"It comforts me that we have people like Pete in the community who are ready to help out should something happen, and that's really important to us," Russ Marsh says.
Marsh’s Honey pay Dacy for the time he misses and give him the flexibility to start later in the day if he’s been out at an incident all night.
''We support Pete as a member of our local Fire Brigades to help save lives and support locals when property and livelihoods may be at risk. To us that's way more important than sticking to our day-to-day work routine," Russ Marsh says.
"And, as well as being open to supporting the work of volunteers, the bonus is caring for the community and its people, which makes good sense," Marsh says.
"Just as we are supportive to Pete and what he does for our communities, we hope those who may have been helped by him, may support us too."
Fire and Emergency has introduced a new 'Proud Employer' mark to make the support given to volunteers by their employers more visible. Employers and self-employed volunteers can place the new mark in their shop window, office, work vehicle, online or anywhere around their business to show they are doing their part for their community by employing and supporting members of volunteer brigades.
By celebrating and showcasing the work of their self-employed volunteers and employers who have volunteer firefighters on their staff, Fire and Emergency also hopes to encourage more self-employed people to volunteer, and more employers to support their staff to become volunteer firefighters.
Fire and Emergency says it wants New Zealanders to know employers, and self-employed volunteers, are an essential part of the Fire and Emergency support crew, and the 'Proud Employer' mark is a way to formally recognise and thank them for their contribution.
This article was created for Fire and Emergency NZ