Understanding the Experience of Commitment of Volunteer Firefighters: A Transcendental Phenomenological Study

Understanding the Experience of Commitment of Volunteer Firefighters: A Transcendental Phenomenological Study

Author: 
Laurie Klosk-Gazzale
Program of study: 
D.B.A.
Abstract: 
This qualitative transcendental phenomenological study involved interviews with 17 volunteer firefighters with a minimum of five years active experience in the fire service who were members of five fire companies. The purpose of this qualitative transcendental phenomenological study was to develop a deeper understanding of the emotions associated with the personal commitment of rural volunteer firefighters in north central New Jersey who have at least five years’ experience. The problem is that little is known about the feelings that an individual volunteer experiences leading them to take on the unique challenges of multiple roles and constantly changing situations. New knowledge about their lived experiences and long-term commitment is unknown. To determine the experience of shared commitment, answers to the following research questions were sought. R1. How do volunteer firefighters with five or more years of experience identify the essence of their lived commitment to being a volunteer firefighter? R2. What meaning do volunteer firefighters ascribe to their commitment to their firefighting and volunteerism? R3. What are the shared motivational experiences that may exist among firefighters? The study resulted in four themes evolving around commitment and giving back to the community, comradery, altruism, and the reasons that initially brought them to their fire company.
Dedication: 
This dissertation is dedicated to my friend and colleague, Dr. Ethel Vesper, who never lost faith in me and my ability to complete the doctoral program. Ethel’s constant support and encouragement gave me the wherewithal to keep going and complete my doctoral journey.
Acknowledgements: 
I would like to acknowledge my Chair, Dr. Ronald Hutkin, who took me on midprocess and supported me through the proposal acceptance process and the completion of my dissertation. Dr. Ron’s leadership and encouragement were vital to keeping me going when I was frustrated and ready to give up. Your knowledge of the process and advice put me on the correct path. I have a great respect for and appreciation of my committee members Dr. Irene Stein and Dr. Barbara Turner. You stayed with me when I lost nine months due to illness and through my change of dissertation chairs. Without your numerous comments and recommendations on my proposal and dissertation, I would not have completed the process. I would also like to acknowledge Dr. Ken Sherman for his guidance in selecting my research topic and study design. Dr. Sherman guided me through the initial steps of the proposal. I am grateful to Breona Tunge Allen, my academic counselor, for part of this process. Breona, I thank you for your guidance and recommendations. You were there for me even when you were not my official advisor. I want to acknowledge the members of the fire companies who participated in this study. Without them this study would not have been possible. I want to thank my husband, Don, for his understanding of the many hours when I was married to my computer for the past five years and for his proofreading skills and support.