I happen to be off from work for the weekend and it looks as if this weekend will be a beautiful one here on Hilton Head Island. But this isn’t an advertisement for my neighborhood; this is a welcome to the hundred-plus candidates for employment with Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue who have converged at our Headquarters and next door at the Fire & Rescue Training Center for the next phase of our hiring process.
A while back I posted an invitation to anyone who would listen about coming to work here. I don’t know for sure what impact I had on the numbers, but we had hundreds of applications submitted. From there we provided access to written testing locations around the country, because we sincerely are interested in obtaining the best candidates available. Of those who passed the test, invitations were offered to take a firefighter candidate physical fitness assessment and oral interviews, which are being conducted this weekend. The next steps in the process involve the ranking of candidates on a list from which we draw to fill openings for roughly the next 18 months.
Even there the fun doesn’t stop. When we have an opening, we have to justify the need to fill that opening, which in this economy, sometimes is tougher because of our need to remain fiscally responsible to the citizens of the Island. But with an overwhelming desire to maintain our reputation as a world-class resort destination as well as an excellent community in which to live, public safety is responsibly maintained.
There are a few more steps along the way and when we hire you, there are a lot of expectations placed on you in the first year between requirements for National Registry and South Carolina EMT certifications, IFSAC Firefighter 1 and 2, and HAZMAT Operations certifications, and a whole host of others. Not to mention you are expected to be able to work as part of a team, be customer service oriented, and maintain your ability to do the job through physical fitness and mental preparedness.
It’s not a job for everyone and sometimes we lose a few along the way when they wash out. It’s not necessarily a reflection on their ability to do the job, but more so that we have very high expectations of our employees and it just isn’t for everyone.
The overall compensation package is good though, and we have innovative benefits like zero-interest computer loans, tuition reimbursement for degree-seeking individuals, and incentives for obtaining certain educational benchmarks like HAZMAT Technician or BCLS Instructor certifications. We have state-of-the-art fire apparatus and ambulances, having recently replaced the entire fleet, and opportunities for participation in special operations programs, as we host (in partnership with Bluffton Township Fire District) a state-designated regional HAZMAT Response Team as well as a regional US&R response team.
I wish I could be up there to welcome you and to tell you good luck, but I plan on enjoying the weekend with my family at home. We may walk from our home to the beach, or go for a bike ride on the miles of activity trails across the entire Island, or take part in one of the weekend festivals that go on frequently at Shelter Cove Park. This is a tremendous place to work and to live. Good luck and hopefully, if you want to work with us, we can find a way to work together.