IRR to offer firefighter emphasis

Union's IRR students, already trained to respond to natural disasters, can now learn to respond to fires as well.

This fall, international rescue and relief (IRR) majors at Union College will be able to declare a new emphasis as part of the unique degree program. The existing paramedic emphasis will be renamed the public safety emphasis, and a firefighter training program will be added.

Students can now become certified firefighters as part of their IRR degree—both the paramedic and firefighting programs fall under the public safety emphasis. Union won't need to add any classes because the paramedic and firefighting programs have the same curriculum during the first three years. Students can then earn certification through classes at Southeast Community College in Lincoln during their final year in the program.

Rick Young, new director of the IRR program, is excited about what the new emphasis will bring to both the program and Union College. “My objective is to create career opportunities for students,” he said, noting a strong job market for firefighters in the U.S. “It’s a great resume tool to be able to say you’ve already been through the training. I’m really excited to see what [job opportunities] this brings for our graduates.”

While a four-year degree is often not required to be a firefighter, most cities require degrees for promotion to higher levels, such as fire chief. Young expects the addition of the firefighting emphasis will help add students to the IRR program at Union who are looking to further their careers. 

The curriculum will be in the bulletin starting in the 2012-2013 school year, though students will be able to declare the emphasis starting this fall.

About international rescue and relief

Union College’s International Rescue and Relief degree program is designed for adventurous students who want to serve around the world through disaster and humanitarian relief. All certified as emergency medical technicians, each student must also complete training in wilderness survival, search and rescue, swift water rescue, high angle rescue and other emergency preparedness skills. Each student also spends a semester in Nicaragua learning jungle survival and working with a medical team to bring health care to isolated villages and towns.

This specialized training, combined with general education coursework, gives graduates a unique degree with an emphasis in one of four areas: public safety (paramedic or fire fighter), project development, pre-professional and pre-physician assistant. Teams of IRR students and instructors have responded to a number of natural disasters, most recently in Birmingham, Ala., after April's devastating tornado outbreak and in Haiti immediately following the January 2010 earthquake.