Five years ago, then-new faculty member Rudi Kauffman was looking for a way to get involved with emergency response when he moved to Bluffton. Ironically, his new neighbor across the street was Jon Kinn, a firefighter and now the Bluffton Fire Department chief (as well as a 1997 Bluffton graduate). Soon after moving into his new home and talking with Jon, Rudi started volunteering as a firefighter.
The assistant professor of restorative justice had found a way to get more involved with the community that would allow him to draw from his experiences and bring them into the classroom. "It was a way to get involved that was compatible with school and that makes sense with the students," he says.
It was also easy to balance with his teaching schedule. Since Rudi is a volunteer, he doesn't have a set schedule as a firefighter. The fire department relies less on him during the academic year and more so during the summer, he adds.
To become a volunteer firefighter, he had to go through multiple training sessions. They included self-contained breathing apparatus training and tactics and strategy training. Both are universal sessions that all firefighters have to attend.
Rudi also went through standard operating procedures training, which is unique to each individual fire department. And training never stops, either, as he is required to have one to three hours of it per week.
He typically responds to calls that are relatively routine, consisting primarily of minor accidents and fires. Once in a while, though, he is called to something more major.
He remembers one call in particular when a home was engulfed in flames. When it was clear that the house would be lost in the fire, firefighters' priority turned to preserving property. With the homeowners' direction, clothing, photo albums and even the couple's wedding rings were recovered, he recalls.
The volunteer work provides exercise and, Rudi notes, an adrenaline rush. But helping others, he says, is what he enjoys most about it.