Lara: Please describe what your community service project entailed.
Ashley: I volunteer at the Cabin John Park Volunteer Fire Department in Bethesda, MD. I volunteer as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) only but students can also volunteer as both a firefighter and EMT. As a volunteer EMT, I get to ride on the ambulance and assist with patient care on calls (Fire and EMT members have the option of riding on both the ambulance and the fire engine or truck). When I'm not riding, I am always learning, doing drills, or just hanging out with the many other members at the station.

Lara: What was most rewarding for you?
Ashley: The most rewarding part of my community service is being able to help people. It is such an amazing feeling at the end of every call to know that we helped to save someone's life, or even just to make them feel a little bit better. I would not trade this feeling and experience for anything.

Lara: What was the most challenging aspect of your community service?
Ashley: The most challenging aspect of my community service is probably the actual calls. Each call brings a new wave of adrenaline and a different set of circumstances. Trying to tailor all of ones knowledge and actions so that one can best help the patient in their specific situation is the most difficult. No situation is the same and you have to learn how to adjust quickly. Luckily this is also the most exciting part of being a volunteer at the fire station which keeps me eager to go back.

Lara: What lessons did you learn as a result of your community service?
Ashley: I have learned so many lessons from being a volunteer at Cabin John. I guess the biggest and most widely applicable lesson I've learned is how to communicate with people. As a member of the ambulance crew, our primary duty of caring for patients involves a lot of talking; thus, good communication skills are vital. In addition to this I have learned so much about emergency medicine both through the drills and members at the station and classes that the station pays for us to take. As a result of all that I have learned, I am now a Maryland State Certified Emergency Medical Technician after less than a year of being a member of the station.

Lara: Would you recommend it to others? If so, why? If not, why not?
Ashley: Of course I would recommend volunteering at Cabin John to others!  Not only are the EMT and fire aspects amazing, but also the people. I have met so many great people both volunteer and career members as well as those we help. The fire station is like a family, everyone knows and looks out for one another. Another cool thing is that even as a high school student volunteer you do the same things as the paid career firefighters and EMTs. It is one of the best experiences I've had and I could not imagine my life without it. It is a joy to go in to the station every week!  

Lara: What kinds of skills did you have to learn before becoming an EMT?
Ashley: After I joined the station I took a number of classes in order to become an EMT. I took online courses such as incident management through FEMA as well as a CPR certification class. The main class that I had to take to gain my certification was an EMT-B class offered at the Public Safety Training Academy during the summer. In this class I learned about basic medicine and patient care. As a part of the class, we also got to visit one of the state rescue helicopters, which was really cool, and shadow a nurse or doctor in the Emergency Room at one of the local hospitals. I chose to do my hospital rotation at Suburban Hospital, which specializes in trauma, and was able to help out and watch as the Emergency Room doctors dealt with a victim of a motorcycle accident who had just been brought in. Everything I've had to do in order to become an EMT has been so exciting; not only have I learned a lot but I also I had fun and was interested while doing it.

Lara: Can you please describe one of your specific experiences with a patient on the ambulance which was challenging for you?
Ashley: One of the most challenging and memorable experiences I've had with a patient was when I got to perform CPR. I was riding the medic unit, which is staffed by EMT-paramedics who have more extensive knowledge of medicine and patient care, when we got the call. When we arrived at the scene there was a woman in cardiac arrest and one of the medics began performing CPR and asked me to help by doing the chest compressions while another member of the crew gave the patient breaths. At this time, I was still in training to become an EMT and was amazed that they wanted me to help. Once we got back into the ambulance with the patient, the medic asked me to do both the compressions and breaths so he could start putting in IV's and administering various medications. When we got to the hospital, I stood on the rail of the cot performing CPR while the medics rolled the cot in. I was so nervous at first but by the end of the call I felt like a pro. It was a truly amazing experience.

Fire and Rescue teams saving a burning building
Emergency Medical Technician, Ashley Riley
Are you Interested in becoming a member of Cabin John Park Volunteer Fire Department?

There are three
categories of membership:

  • Firefighting
  • Emergency Medical Technician
  • Administrative/auxillary (non emergencyservices)


The commitment to serve as a volunteer firefighter and or EMT with the Cabin John Park Fire Department is a serious decision and should be made only if you have the time and interest to devote your full attention to the duty required of you. Once you understand what is involved, and realize the many benefits of volunteering, we hope you will find that you are able to make the commitment we need. In volunteering, you will directly contribute to the safety of the community and its citizens in the area serving West Potomac and Cabin John. You will find that participation as a volunteer
firefighter or EMT with the Cabin John Park Fire Department will be a rewarding experience.