Jared Douglas is the Red Oak Fire Rescue Chaplain.
Red Oak Fire Rescue was established in 1949 and since that time, to our knowledge, there has never been an established position for a Fire Department Chaplain. Jared took his oath of office as our Volunteer Chaplain in April, 2010.
Jared serves as Executive Pastor at the First Baptist Church in Red Oak. He also serves as the Police Department's Chaplain.
Jared's functions are to assist firefighters and their families by providing aid, comfort and spiritual support services.
DUTIES OF THE FIRE DEPARTMENT CHAPLAIN
The following is a list of duties that may be incorporated into a chaplaincy program. The list does not include all the responsibilities that a chaplain can undertake.
Two important functions of the fire department chaplain are to help firefighters and their families in times of crisis and to help them with their spiritual needs. Of all the many duties the chaplaincy may entail, these are the principle responsibilities. The chaplain may use different ways to bring about spiritual truths and assistance to an individual family.
However, the most important ministry is to simply be available when called upon. Spiritual need is the greatest of all needs and the chaplain must be able to meet this need. It is also a hard area for many ministers to get a “handle on.” The spiritual witness is more often by action rather than by word. The example set by the chaplain in all phases of life has more bearing on the firefighter than “preaching” about it.
Another important part of these functions is to understand the personal religious needs of the firefighters and to call their own minister to assist as soon as possible, if the family so desires. The chaplain can then assist their minister to understand the functions and the resources available through the fire department. This particular area of the chaplaincy is given intense coverage at all chaplain seminars and conferences.
Assistance in Emergency Situations
Dealing with families when a disabling injury or a death occurs is a primary function of the chaplain. To provide the best service at this type of incident, the chaplain should respond as often as possible to all major fire situations. If an injury to a firefighter occurs, the chaplain should meet the firefighter at the hospital, quickly determine the extent of the injury from the hospital staff, and then notify the family in a manner that will not cause undue panic or grief. At the time of the initial call or contact with the family, a decision should be made as to whether the family will need transportation to the hospital. When the family arrives, the chaplain should have an accurate report concerning the firefighter’s condition.
At fire incidents, the chaplain, if not involved in the actual work of the emergency, should be alert to the needs of the firefighters. The chaplain should be especially mindful that the type of people making emergency responses are easily capable of overexerting themselves to the point of exhaustion. Knowing this, the chaplain can make command officers aware of potentially dangerous situations that need immediate attention and/or medical attention.
At major fire incidents it is often the chaplain who is free to assist in handling unruly or hysterical people. This becomes a needed function at rescues, extrications, situations that draw a sizeable crowd, nursing homes, or incidents where children are involved. The importance of keeping a cool, calm demeanor during these times, along with the ability to explain to the public what is actually taking place, is a service the chaplain can perform.
Comforting the bereaved and offering positive direction to the victim’s family are priorities at these types of incidents. The chaplain can explain the types of assistance available to victims through the Red Cross, the Ladies Auxiliary, or other community service and benevolent organizations. When these interventions are used at the scene of an emergency, the results are generally successful in not only aiding the victims, but also in keeping distraught citizens from interfering with the performance of emergency operations.
Liaison With Hospitals and Clinics
A chaplain should frequently visit local hospitals and medical clinics to build rapport with medical personnel. These visits help the chaplain to receive accurate and helpful reports from the hospital professionals who have confidence in the chaplain with whom they have become acquainted. This information aids the family of the firefighter in understanding what is taking place and to better understand the condition of their family member.
Explaining Insurance and Benefits
The chaplain should be knowledgeable of referrals to insurance and compensatory benefits available to the firefighters and to their families. These benefits come from many different sources such as insurance carried by the fire department, the municipality, the state, and the federal government. Many fire departments have their own relief associations, blood banks, and other benefits to aid their own sick and injured members.
Conducting/Assisting at Funerals
The chaplain can assist a family in funeral arrangements for both active and retired firefighters. They may even officiate at the service or assist the family minister. Assistance frequently is done in the form of organizing the details of the funeral service. Details to be considered include establishing an honor guard, preparing fire department apparatus for the funeral procession, organizing fire department members at the church or funeral home and at the cemetery, determining the location of the funeral, and arranging for procession escorts. The chaplain must develop a good working relationship with local funeral directors to help them understand the special rituals involved in a fire department funeral. Support and consolation for the firefighter’s family and children are responsibilities of the chaplain. The chaplain should always send condolences at the time of death of any member of a fire department and represent the department by offering any assistance needed. This is a responsibility of the fire department chaplain that should never be neglected.
The chaplain may be called upon to perform weddings for fire department personnel.
Wedding etiquette, premarital counseling, and the actual performance of the ceremony are areas of expertise that the chaplain should take special care to develop. The chaplain should make known to department members any preferences held toward the actual wedding ceremony.
The daily pressures of the society in which we live has greatly contributed to the need for competent, caring counsel. It is not recommended that the chaplain should attempt to conduct counseling in all areas. The need for counseling in the areas of marriage, profession, family, substance abuse, delinquency, children, finances, critical incident stress management, and a host of other problem areas can quickly overwhelm an overzealous chaplain. The chaplain should be aware of the basics in these areas, and be knowledgeable of the type of help individuals may need. If the chaplain does not feel qualified, or for some reason is not able to counsel with a firefighter or family member, it is necessary to be able to direct them to a qualified counselor. Counselors may be available through members of an employee assistance program or other resources developed by the chaplain.
A great deal of comfort, spiritual aid, friendship, and solid supportive help can be given to the sick, distraught, and injured through personal contact. Regular visitation at home, in the work place, and in the hospital is an important function of the chaplain. It is an excellent time for the chaplain to represent the administration and let the firefighter know that the department is thinking about him or her and is concerned about his or her welfare.
The chaplain must be available seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. When the chaplain cannot be available, it should be made known and someone else made available to fill in. In order for the chaplain to be available at all times, it is necessary for the fire department headquarters or dispatcher to be able to contact him or her by telephone, pager, or radio at all times. It is advisable for transportation to be made available, either through the furnishing of a vehicle or through a transportation fund to assist in the cost of responding. The expense fund should include all unusual expenses incurred in administering the chaplain’s duties.
Gaining the respect of fire department members is a must for the effectiveness and credibility of the chaplain. It should be noted that respect cannot be demanded, it must be earned by the chaplain as he or she works to develop a relationship with the fire department administration and members. Respect comes as the chaplain demonstrates commitment, dedication, and care for firefighters and their families. The chaplain gains respect by showing respect for members of the department through his or her words and actions. The chaplain earns respect by continuing to participate in fire department activities, emergency and routine, regardless of how hard the going may get.
Attending Functions of the Fire Department
The chaplain may be called upon to represent the fire department at official functions or public meetings to give an invocation, dedicatory prayer, or benediction. Many times the chief and other active members of the department or city administrators are tied up with important meetings or scheduled activities. It may fall to the chaplain to represent these people at social functions, homes, hospitals, before civic groups, or to other fire departments.
It is often the chaplain who carries expressions of sympathy, condolences, or congratulations to firefighters and their families. In today’s fire service it is becoming more and more difficult for the fire chief to make all the required personal contacts with firefighters and their families. This can be a valuable function that the chaplain can perform for the chief to meet the needs of the rank and file department members and communicate messages from the administration.
Communications With Firefighters
Communications with firefighters has been mentioned in different ways throughout this document. Communication in one form or another is the most important service the chaplain provides and is greatly needed by fire service personnel. Personal, direct contact by visiting fire personnel should be built into every chaplaincy program. Visiting fire stations at least once a month on alternating shifts is a good practice in the fire service chaplaincy.
Communications also takes place through telephone calls, sending letters or cards on Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, and other special occasions. Sympathy cards can be sent to those in need, as well as congratulations for marriages, births, promotions, special recognition for valor, etc. A monthly or quarterly prayer breakfast or meeting with interested personnel is an important phase of the chaplaincy. All of the foregoing methods of communication are recommended practices that will build relationships and keep lines of communication open between the chaplain and the firefighters that are served.
A major effort should be made by the chaplain to assist retired firefighters and their families. This can be done by keeping in touch with the leaders of the retired firefighters association and by being alert to notice the needs of retired personnel. Chaplains should be available to minister to the needs of retired personnel as they would for active duty firefighters.
Teaching Training Classes
The teaching of training classes by the fire department chaplain should not be overlooked by department administration. Classes can be taught on the resources and services available through the chaplaincy program, critical incident stress management, family life, chain of command, ethics, and many other areas. Frequently classes on integrity and moral responsibilities are taught by the chaplain. This area of service should be considered from the beginning stages of the chaplaincy program.
The chaplain is often considered the personnel service officer or crisis management coordinator. The coordination of the critical incident response team can fall under the duties of the chaplain. In some departments the chaplain is a representative of the employee assistance program.
The chaplain of the fire department is one of the most vital positions in the fire service. The chaplain is next to the pulse of the department. It is a job that is demanding, confidential, trusting, and needful for the lives of firefighters and their families. The fire department administrator considering a chaplaincy program can rest assured that it is one of the finest and most needed programs that can be started.
Page Last Updated: Aug 14, 2020 (12:33:32)