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  • Personal vs profesional.

    I post this hear because its my impression that the issue I seem to have from time to time is relative to volunteer dept.

    As a volunteer dept we can never really bet on any one set of guys working together. Ive been on the dept for 2 years and in that time ive worked hard to increase my training and qualifications outside of normal in house training. (first responder, FF2 cert etc)

    In that time there seems to be a change in attitude toward me both positively and ...less so. Officers that are relatively new to the dept, seem to understand that the additional training and skills ive acquired are an asset and work to make use of them on each scene. Others (mostly those that were on long before me) seem to have developed a less than enthusiastic response as ive continued to grow and add skills.

    Im 33 YO mechanical engineer that turned hobby farmer/FF as the opportunity was afforded to me. In short, im not some "kid". My previous 10 years of professional experience has taught me much in terms of leadership, and at the same time, "towing the line" set forth by others.

    My point, Im struggling with the reality of being called on to take lead on certain parts of one call while on a separate yet similar call (under direction of a different officer) being being relegated to lesser duties while a different member performs the duties i had done in the past. The issue i have is not in taken direction from others, but the seemingly constant shift in (for lack of better word) "pecking order". (again within the ranks of us reg titled FF's not officers)

    As i said when i started, i think its a volunteer dept thing as our job duties arnt specifically spelled out and therefore it seems to create a certain amount of friction in our team work in the constant shift of responsibility depending on who is on what call.

    Anyone with some similar experience have any words of wisdom?


    Additional "thinking out loud" questions.

    How do you effectively deal with the "attitudes" that develop (toward you) as the relative new comer grows and surpasses the previous "long term" members that chose not to move forward in their learning/training/certifications. in short... Resentment that develops because you did what they couldn't and or never did.

  • #2
    Enthusiasm is always suspect.

    Keep on doing what you're doing. Eventually the dinosaurs will be out of the picture.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

    Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.

    Comment


    • #3
      I have a similar background and also did a lot of training early and happened to move up in the officer ranks quickly.

      The best advice I can give is to keep in mind that no matter how much training you have you still only have 2 years of experience. Keep listening and spend as much time training with the old-timers as you can. Part of what you are experiencing is common in the volunteer system. When you don't work with the same people all of the time, they don't always know what you are capable of. A lot of trust is required of the people you work with and you can only get that by spending time with the different people and training or responding with them. Give it time.

      Comment


      • #4
        I also admire your enthusiasm, but I am going to throw in a warning. This comes from years of experience with situations similar to yours and your senior members may have seen this also.

        Enthusiastic members who aggressively pursue training and certifications and want to do it all, especially those from professional and business backgrounds, very often become frustrated with what they perceive the senior membership is not actively making the changes the enthusiastic member feels is needed.

        Very often what happens is this enthusiastic member will begin to rebel in certain ways. Even try to set up separate divisions or separate meetings with other members who will be sympathetic to their frustrations. Sometimes doing the bare minimums like being absent from meetings to the point of repercussions.

        Whatever you feel your gripe is with the senior members, your still inexpereinced with many of these situations and you should follow the rules the way it is laid out. If change is to happen, it must be come naturally or from outside influences such as new codes and compliancies.

        This is just a friendly warning is all. There have been many like you before and a typical syndrome is you want to do everything. To us that is a red flag. A pattern that others have done before and ended up hurting the department later on.

        Just continue on as you are now. When you get 12-15 years in you will really be in a position to effect change and know by then what is practical change that will not hurt in the long haul.

        Comment


        • #5
          I have a similar story with even more of a twist thrown in...

          I am 21 years old, a couple of years out of my fire academy, and moved to a very rural area about 1 year ago. I immediately joined up with the volunteer dept. in the town and ate up the first 3-5 months of training. After the 5 month mark I was approached by our chief who asked me if I would pick up some of the slack running in the officer ranks. I was very much baffled and frankly a little worried that a guy who was (and is still) so green in the fire service was going to take part in an officer role with this department, but the chief assured me that the dept. "needs a young face they can relate with and learn more from" since i had so much academy training compared to the local guys who barely make it into town except when they need groceries.

          It's been a total of about 1 year now with the dept and I can only say that I'm no where near close to being called a equal with some of the officer's who has decades of experience when put side to side with me, but on an opposite note, I have IC'd a bunch of incidents from structure fire to ocean rescue to landing choppers for medivac-ing a couple of really torn up people. And while under the microscope of not only the whole department but also the community, I've realized that when put in the hot seat, everybody is waiting to see how you deal with the situation and have your back when it simmers down. On top of all that, I now am working as a seasonal with Cal Fire and learning even more stuff as the actual rookie now that I am taking back and helping train my guys with.

          As the young kid of the group I have to deal with a lot of the more seasoned people on the dept not quite being behind me at the start of say a drill or weekend trainings, but at the end I am usually able to have them going home fairly happy with my work. What I have found is that if you can take the lead when sh*t hits the fan and able to keep the calm head when under the gun, I have at least been able to get everybody to work together to achieve the common goal.

          So here's to constantly learning and improving ones-self and never getting complacent in our job.

          Comment


          • #6
            First, it may seem as though some tasks on the fire scene are menial and I and others feel that way from time to time as well. But everything done on scene is important. That statement you made makes me suspect about you having a "superiority" attitude. You may not but that is how it came out.

            Next, do not hold it against someone for assigning another firefighter to the task that you want to do that may be a little more skilled. Hey they may even have heard you have the knowledge. They may know you have and have seen you use the knowledge. But they also probably know the other person has the experience. It happens and don't feel bad. I remember when I had been on for about two years. My Chief needed some questions answered about what was going on and he had looked right through me and asked a just turned 18 yo what was going on. The kid had just graduated from being a junior. But you know what, he also had six more years experience than I, because he had been there since he was 10.

            Relax, you will gain the confidence and get to know everyone.

            Comment


            • #7
              Here are some thoughts from my perspective.

              First a little background. I grew up in the department (almost literally). I started helping by picking up trash at bingo when I was 5. At 8 I was attending drills and hanging around a lot. I did all of this as my dad has been either chief, or an assistant since I was born. Flash forward to when I turned 18 and "officially" joined. I made it a point to attend as many department trainings as possible, as well as outside training.

              Back to the post. What I have found is that when officers in the volunteer organization are looking for people to perform tasks, they immediately go for the people that they have seen successfully perform the task before, whether this was at a drill or on scene. The other thing that you will find is that in the volunteer world, around here at least, certificates mean very little. If you can stay awake through at least half of the class and sign in, you are more than likely going to get the certificate. Personally, if I haven't seen you do it, I don't assume that you can.

              This is how I was treated coming up through, and it is now how I view others. I treat others this way because I have seen too many people that are EMT's forget how to secure a person to a back board, FF1 put the fly of the ladder towards the building, and people with "years" of service in other departments not know how to operate a pump. (Best I can think of is a guy that joined our department as a past chief of another. He went to a trailer fire where the bathroom in the back of the trailer was involved in a room and contents. He got on the front porch without SCBA or charged line, opened the door, got blown off the porch from the backdraft, and ended up going to the hospital.)

              That is why a lot of us in the volunteer ranks take the stance of "until you show me, I don't know you can do it". This is nothing against you individually. The best way to remedy this is to
              - Train with as many of your fellow members as possible.
              - Happily do what you are asked (every job truely is important even if just to see what your attitude is like)
              - Do not flaunt your certificates
              - Get as much experience as you can
              - Remember why you are there. Hopefully, you are there to help your community and give back as your circumstances allow.
              - Offer you professional abilities to the department. As a mechanical engineer you should be able to take a role in the business side of the department and make a positive impact. Again, you need to associate with as many people as possible.

              I wish you the best of luck and the most of patience as you work your way into volunteering.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Schmism View Post
                .

                My point, Im struggling with the reality of being called on to take lead on certain parts of one call while on a separate yet similar call (under direction of a different officer) being being relegated to lesser duties while a different member performs the duties i had done in the past. The issue i have is not in taken direction from others, but the seemingly constant shift in (for lack of better word) "pecking order". (again within the ranks of us reg titled FF's not officers)

                .
                All of the previous responses are excellent and well stated.

                I will add that there shouldn't be a "pecking order" at incidents or drills. If something needs to be done then someone qualified should do it regardless of who or what it is. If you are qualified to be the nozzleman, great. If you are qualified to wash, roll and load hose or refill air bottles then guess what, that's what you may be called upon to do.

                While 'slaying the dragon' or cutting holes in walls\roofs etc may be exciting, it's also very dangerous. Personally I have no problem assuming a RIT\RIC role and doing the less glamourous fireground tasks.
                My wise and profound comments and opinions are mine alone and are in no way associated with any other individual or group.

                Comment


                • #9
                  People work with whom they are comfortable with.

                  Let me give you 2 current differing examples.

                  I had almost 22 years in the fire service in POC and volunteer departments in MA, NY and VT before moving to LA and joining a primarily volunteer combo department almost 8 years ago. For the first few years, I was viewed with reservations because of my "yankee" ways, as well as the fact that the core membership, including most of the officers, had come up through the ranks together starting as juniors, and were a very tight group.

                  Because of that, firefighters with more time on the department but with less time in the fire service and less training were given fireground supervisory assignments or administrative, training or other tasks. It wasn't that they didn't trust me, but they were simply more comfortable with the folks that they knew longer.

                  As time went on, I was accepted, and some of my crazy yankee ideas and techniques were also adopted and utilzed. I was also given supervisory and administrative tasks commensurate with my overall experience and training and was promoted to Senior Firefighter in 2005. Senior Firefighter has fireground and admin duties similiar to that of a LT.

                  Two years ago I was hired full-time at age 49 to manage the public education program and coordinate the training program working with the Deputy Chief. While from time to time I still get very strange looks when I suggest attacking a problem in a crazy yankee way, by and large I have been accepted in a very different type of firefighting culture. It simply took time for the close knit group to become comfortable with an outsider (especially a yankee outsider).

                  A few months ago I joined a neighboring rural all-volunteer department after delivering several courses at thier station and in thier parish. Last week, the Chief talked to me about assuming an officer's position after only 3 months of membership there. I asked him how the members would take to that. He felt that there may be few that may have an issue with it, but by and large, most would accept it because of the experience and training I bring to the table.

                  At calls, even though I hold the rank of firefighter, the Chief, as well as several other officers have been assigning me supervisory and command roles ahead of firefighters with far more time on that department than I have. They have told me they are comfortable that with my experience even though I have only been on the department 3 months, Even though I have the training and background to fill those roles far better than the members with more time on that department than myself, I have been very careful to simply lay in the background, and not attempt to insert myself into fireground supervisory roles. I have only done so when requested and not taken it upon myself to override any longer serving members.

                  When I came on, the Chief asked me to assist the young kid handling training. I have been working with him but I have also been very careful to allow him to assume the lead on all trainings, I wouldonly step in now and then to provide a little additional information after he had completed his speel.

                  Last week, the Chief talked to me about assuming an officer's position after only 3 months of membership there. I asked him how the members would take to that. He felt that there may be few that may have an issue with it, but by and large, most would accept it because of the experience and training I bring to the table.

                  I'm sure there will be issues, and I am still considering the offer, but he told me that he feels, along with the officers, very comfortable in me slipping into the command structure with such little time in the department.
                  Last edited by LaFireEducator; 07-15-2010, 03:41 PM.
                  Train to fight the fires you fight.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Learn how to stand in the yard and throw water and not go inside the structure. After the fire, go back to the fire hall and have a few beers with the fellows!
                    Stay Safe and Well Out There....

                    Always remembering 9-11-2001 and 343+ Brothers

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by LaFireEducator View Post
                      People work with whom they are comfortable with.

                      Let me give you 2 current differing examples.

                      I had almost 22 years in the fire service in POC and volunteer departments in MA, NY and VT before moving to LA and joining a primarily volunteer combo department almost 8 years ago. For the first few years, I was viewed with reservations because of my "yankee" ways, as well as the fact that the core membership, including most of the officers, had come up through the ranks together starting as juniors, and were a very tight group.

                      Because of that, firefighters with more time on the department but with less time in the fire service and less training were given fireground supervisory assignments or administrative, training or other tasks. It wasn't that they didn't trust me, but they were simply more comfortable with the folks that they knew longer.

                      As time went on, I was accepted, and some of my crazy yankee ideas and techniques were also adopted and utilzed. I was also given supervisory and administrative tasks commensurate with my overall experience and training and was promoted to Senior Firefighter in 2005. Senior Firefighter has fireground and admin duties similiar to that of a LT.

                      Two years ago I was hired full-time at age 49 to manage the public education program and coordinate the training program working with the Deputy Chief. While from time to time I still get very strange looks when I suggest attacking a problem in a crazy yankee way, by and large I have been accepted in a very different type of firefighting culture. It simply took time for the close knit group to become comfortable with an outsider (especially a yankee outsider).

                      A few months ago I joined a neighboring rural all-volunteer department after delivering several courses at thier station and in thier parish. Last week, the Chief talked to me about assuming an officer's position after only 3 months of membership there. I asked him how the members would take to that. He felt that there may be few that may have an issue with it, but by and large, most would accept it because of the experience and training I bring to the table.

                      At calls, even though I hold the rank of firefighter, the Chief, as well as several other officers have been assigning me supervisory and command roles ahead of firefighters with far more time on that department than I have. They have told me they are comfortable that with my experience even though I have only been on the department 3 months, Even though I have the training and background to fill those roles far better than the members with more time on that department than myself, I have been very careful to simply lay in the background, and not attempt to insert myself into fireground supervisory roles. I have only done so when requested and not taken it upon myself to override any longer serving members.

                      When I came on, the Chief asked me to assist the young kid handling training. I have been working with him but I have also been very careful to allow him to assume the lead on all trainings, I wouldonly step in now and then to provide a little additional information after he had completed his speel.

                      Last week, the Chief talked to me about assuming an officer's position after only 3 months of membership there. I asked him how the members would take to that. He felt that there may be few that may have an issue with it, but by and large, most would accept it because of the experience and training I bring to the table.

                      I'm sure there will be issues, and I am still considering the offer, but he told me that he feels, along with the officers, very comfortable in me slipping into the command structure with such little time in the department.
                      Hey LA ED. Since you are a transplant to Louisiana, have you experienced any difficulty with the 'coonass' dialect when conversing on the radio?

                      When I would meet a barge on the Texas inter-coastal waterway and radio them to ask which side they wanted to pass on, very often the reply on the radio would be in this cajun dialect voice that I could not understand. Many times I would just end up having to ask how many whistles they wanted just so we could avoid a collision. There are a lot of coonass captains on the water. I would imagine there would be more using radios in the fire service.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by jam24u View Post
                        Hey LA ED. Since you are a transplant to Louisiana, have you experienced any difficulty with the 'coonass' dialect when conversing on the radio?

                        When I would meet a barge on the Texas inter-coastal waterway and radio them to ask which side they wanted to pass on, very often the reply on the radio would be in this cajun dialect voice that I could not understand. Many times I would just end up having to ask how many whistles they wanted just so we could avoid a collision. There are a lot of coonass captains on the water. I would imagine there would be more using radios in the fire service.
                        More than you would know.
                        Train to fight the fires you fight.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          My Experience

                          I had a similar experience a little while ago..... At the time that I was going through my deal I was a Career Engineer and was asked to function as a mentor to the FFs, D/Os, CO and Chiefs of some of our local Departments.

                          The 1st things I did was learn their way and ask lots of questions. Questions directed to understand how, why and when they did certain things. My intention was to find out what they tried, what failed and what was gonna happen next. I Found out that there was a lot of thoughts into parts and not too much thoughts into other areas.

                          Using our State Fire Marshal's training, I suggested what the training requirements and certifications were for each level and presented them to the Chiefs. They agreed with the recommendation and still have them in place.

                          The next thing I did was establish a Mentor Program for each rank. Future Leaders (based on their life skills, training, capabilities and performance) were matched-up with folks that complement their personalities and are strong in the area(s) that they're weak in.....

                          While doing this, I earned quite a good reputation and was asked to perform trainings and talk to the other VFD Chiefs to try and get everybody "on the same page," which much to my surprise actually happened.....

                          At the time that this was going on I was maybe on the Department (3) months, but had 11 or 12 very busy Fire Service years on the Job. It would have been easier for my family and I for me to say "no thanks" but there was a real need for somebody to come along and make this happen (it's the old "freshen the gene pool" thought process). I looked at this as an opportunity to learn, grow and develop my future Leadership Skills.

                          This experience is part of what helped me promote to Captain (Career) before the age of 35. Trust me, when I say that I can truly understand what you're going through. When I promoted, I was looked at as the "New Guy in Town" and there was an expectation that I was going to make a bunch of changes, but instead I did the same thing. By doing this, my Elder Captains respected me more because instead of forcing "my way" I went to them individually and asked what they expected of me, where they/we wanted the Department to go (as COs) and what were some of their biggest challenges. They all knew that I was solid on calls since I'd been running Crews and Calls on and off since 99 or so. My motivation was not to make myself look good but to not disappoint my Elders.

                          As far as the "tude" that you get from some of the Elders in your Department, my suggestion would be to go to them and use them as a learning tool. Ask them what they expect, what they've learned on the Job (real-life experience beats that book stuff any day), where they want to see the Department go and take notes. When you see an opportunity to help direct the Department in the perceived "correct way" then seize the moment and help or make it happen. Ask them to mentor you while they're commanding a scene, it'll show them that you respect them and also help them feel comfortable with your skills, knowledge and experiences. Exactly what the tudes may stem from I can suspect but won't really comment on but I know that it can be overcome.

                          So in short, don't sweat it you'll earn their respect as long as you stay humble. Accept the responsibility that you feasibly can and look at it as a compliment. I hope this helps.....
                          "Be LOUD, Be PROUD..... It just might save your can someday when goin' through an intersection!!!!!"

                          Life on the Truck (Quint) is good.....

                          Eat til you're sleepy..... Sleep til you're hungry..... And repeat.....

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            One of the things that has been very helpful in my experience is to establish an organizational culture where, as people develop basic skills, they are given the opportunity to use and expand those skills. By clearly (and frequently) communicating this approach - no one is surprised if/when they don't get assigned "their" job on any given incident.

                            The organization will come to expect the rotation of duties and when sr. people are asked to mentor the more junior people it often helps both individuals and the organization.

                            What you ultimately end up with is an organization filled with skilled members who can interchangeably fill almost any task. Sometimes that means getting the menial work. Sometimes it is good for sr. people to work in a role where they can step back and observe the dynamics. You may learn interesting and valuable things about your own organization!

                            While things are never perfect and issues come up, it certainly works most of the time. This approach does require a conscious and deliberate effort by officers to make it happen.

                            Note - this doesn't mean ignoring safety or compromising the ultimate objective - no one should be doing something they are not qualified to do, but nothing beats getting experience on real incidents.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Officer

                              The type of person that is needed to be an officer, is a person that will do the right thing.
                              I think that they see your potential and want to give you a chance to show your leadership.

                              The worst person in the fire service is those that think they know everything. Those that are more humble and take the time to train and become better educated on the fire service are those that will suceeed.

                              Good luck in your endeavors!

                              Comment

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