The Annville-Cleona Fire Department is getting help from Lebanon Valley College students in the school’s Digital Communications program with media presentation and community outreach.

After a merger last year, the department is trying to get the word out that all kinds of volunteers are needed to support the company.

Students have helped by creating media assets for the department.

“They’ve been really understanding about the fire department,” said Ryan Flynn, who originally reached out to the school. Flynn, who moved to Annville a couple of years ago, has his own digital marketing business, and also took the opportunity to train to become a volunteer firefighter locally. He has been running calls for about a year.

“We’ve got a local college right in our backyard,” he told LebTown. “I was thinking – how can we bring (the department and the college) together?”

Flynn gave a set of students a tour of the fire company headquarters, initially, after visiting a class. That, he said, led into more interaction as students got familiar with fire department volunteers who, Flynn pointed out, are a wide variety of ages and have diverse backgrounds.

Students from Lebanon Valley College’s Digital Communications program listen to volunteer firefighter Ryan Flynn during a tour of the Annville-Cleona Fire Department. Flynn reached out to LVC’s Digital Communications program to establish the pro bono partnership with LVC students, who now produce marketing material for the department. (Provided photo)

LVC’s Digital Communications Program

A part of the college’s Digital Communications department’s program around marketing collaborations has been around for six years, according to Professor Jeff Ritchie, the department chair.

It’s a student-run initiative, he said, noting that students have done pro bono work for 15 nonprofits. Recently, the fire department, through Flynn, approached him about the project.

“I told them, we can help out,” Ritchie said, noting that the partnership with the fire company syncs with what students have done in the past.

Spreading the community message

Mary Pettice is a professor in the same LVC department.

About 25 students in her classes have participated in helping to promote the fire department, she said.

“They’ve had a hard time,” Pettice said, of the volunteer fire department, citing the merger, and of local volunteer fire departments in general. “We’re investigating a few ways to get the word out.”

Read More: Fire companies announce merger

Part of the effort, she added, involves letting people know that many different kinds of skill sets are needed in the volunteer department.

“It’s not just about fighting fires,” Pettice said, noting that the department also needs volunteers who can do things like social media and bookkeeping.

Students began their digital media work, she said, by creating infographics with statistics from several months of fire department activity, showing things like medical assist calls, wellness checks and auto accident responses, as well as active fire responses.

“I had no idea … of all of what they’re trained to do,” she said of department volunteers.

Example graphic created by students in LVC’s Digital Communications program for the Annville-Cleona Fire Department. Click here to see the full graphic.

Students also created videos to try to get more engagement in the community for the fire department, and some of the new videos feature interviews with firefighters.

“They’re basically appealing to the audience, saying, here’s our community, we care about it,” she said. “You can become more connected.”

Student input

“It has been a great opportunity getting to work with the Annville-Cleona Fire Department for our Storytelling for Digital Media class,” said Alyssa Werner, an LVC student who has been involved in the project. “Through this opportunity I have been able to learn a lot about the history of the Annville-Cleona Fire Department as well as what it looks like to be a volunteer with their department.”

Werner said it has been interesting getting to talk to some of the current volunteers, and being able to create content such as infographics and videos.

“Being able to work with an organization has been a cool experience and it has taught me valuable information I can implement in my future career,” Werner said. “With the Annville-Cleona Fire Department specifically, it makes me excited to think that our projects may be able to help recruit volunteers at the fire department, especially since these first responders are living selflessly for the community.”

Training for fire assistance

Flynn, who did the work to get cleared to run with the fire department on calls, talked to LebTown about the process.

“It’s been a great thing,” Flynn said of his time with the department. “You learn a ton.”

Flynn took many of his classes locally at the Lebanon County Fire School, although he pointed out that volunteers can also get training through HACC, or other places in neighboring counties.

“You can do as much or as little as you want,” he said, noting that he has his exterior clearance, but is still working on training for interior firefighting. Classes available locally, he said, cover things like vehicle rescue, pump engine driving, and helicopter rescue.

With a vibrant base of local volunteers including college students, Flynn said, the joint department is well positioned after the merger.

Look for more as LVC student work comes out explaining local firefighting to the community.

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