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Is it Ethical to Mandate Volunteerism?

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  • Is it Ethical to Mandate Volunteerism?

    I've been thinking about this for awhile. I LOVE the volunteer service, as I love serving my community and helping people in need.

    My department is a combination department in a couple of different ways. We have EMS integrated into our department (EMS calls are about 90% of our calls epr year), and we have paid EMS First Responders, however all of the firefighters are volunteer.

    At night there is obviously a hinderance of turn-out (this mostly pertains to EMS calls), so my department has mandated that certain members MUST respond overnight from 2200-0500 for any EMS call that comes out. We call these "Squad Nights". Please accept my apology if this is common knowledge already.

    Generally a person assigned to these nights have been in the department under 5 years. There are three slots per night, every night, and they are all filled (Driver, EMT, Aids Person).

    I can understand mandating a certain amount of calls per year, and a certain amount of trainings, but mandating a certain time-frame in which certain members MUST respond?

    Take into account a lot of people work the normal hours of about 9am-5pm, so it's understandable as to why people don't respond. And don't get me wrong, I've done a lot for overnights. When I wasn't working full-time and worked part-time at night I would do many, many overnight calls.

    There's an obvious hierarchy of responsiblities:
    1.) Family and Friends
    2.) Work
    3.) Volunteering

    My question to you, the Firehouse community, is: Do you believe it's ethical to mandate VOLUNTEER work?

  • #2
    In my old department, we had the same thing you call Squad Nights (except we called them EMS Duty Nights). However, we didn't tell people you have to go on X night and you go on Y night. We let people pick their night at the begining of each year. So Bob signs up for Monday nights, Joe signs up for Tuesday nights, etc. We never had to forcefully assign it to people, they volunteered. We strongly encouraged and sometimes slightly guilted people into doing it that were being lazy.

    Ironically, the problem was often too many people going to the call.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    • #3
      This question practically answers itself.

      If one is being mandated, they aren't volunteering.
      They told me if I voted for Hillary Clinton the president would be emotional, impulsive, and unpredictable. They were right. I voted for Hillary Clinton and got a president that is emotional, impulsive, and unpredictable.

      I'm not saying you're stupid. I'm saying you have bad luck when it comes to thinking.

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      • #4
        It's a moot question.

        If it's mandated, it isn't "volunteerism."
        "Nemo Plus Voluptatis Quam Nos Habant"
        sigpic
        The Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.

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        • #5
          Scfire, interesting response..

          Volunteerism means different things in different places. To some mindsets, you volunteer your service to an organization but are inheirently subject to the rules of that organization.

          In a broad sense, the entire Volunteer Fire Service is that way in most states. You volunteer to a department but you are required by state law to be trained to a certain level of competency (Usually FF I or above).

          Gone are the days of pick and choose training. Farmer Bob must meet certain standards or he will not stay in the fire service.

          It comes down to the ever increasing level of service we provide. To reach that level, some organizations have to require or mandate participation. Other departments have to reign in the dogs and limit participation.

          If you knew this was part of the agreement to be a part of this organization, then give it your all and go on.

          If you do not agree with the policy then as my Dad once said to me," If you don't like what's cookin', go eat somewhere else 'cause the menu is not changin'."

          The real question for your organization is can the level of service be maintained without mandated participation?
          A coward stands by and watches wrongs committed without saying a word...Any opinions expressed are purely my own and not necessarily reflective of the views of my former departments

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          • #6
            Originally posted by DeputyMarshal View Post
            It's a moot question.

            If it's mandated, it isn't "volunteerism."
            I don't know if I agree... at least with the blanket statement. Just because its volunteer-based does not mean the organization cannot make mandates on its members. Just because they're volunteer the organization cannot mandate training? Enforcement of SOG's? Duty Crew participation?

            Now, in this specific case I think it may be a poorly implemented system to assign an individual to a certain shift (what he called Squad Nights) with no input or flexibility from the member. That just seems like a drive people away.. at the same time I have no problem with an organization that had a requirement for a certain number of duty/squad hours per week. Maybe that's just because that's how my organization works.

            When we join we are assigned to a duty crew night (based on need, and individual availability). Once that assignment is made we are responsible for making sure there is coverage. If I have to call out it is my responsibility to make sure there that enough of the other guys will be there, or find someone from another night to swap with.

            We used to also weekend duty crews where people could sign up for shifts and any vacancies were randomly assigned from the other members (possibly without buy in). This was done enough ahead of time that if there was a conflict a member could find someone to swap shifts with.
            So you call this your free country
            Tell me why it costs so much to live
            -3dd

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            • #7
              Originally posted by voyager9 View Post
              I don't know if I agree... at least with the blanket statement. Just because its volunteer-based does not mean the organization cannot make mandates on its members.
              I think the nature of the general heading bothered me more than the particulars. What bothers me about them is the insinuation that only the n00bs are stuck with "mandatory" shift coverage. It seems to me that, if there are hours that need to be staffed, they should be shared by all -- not just the "new guys."
              "Nemo Plus Voluptatis Quam Nos Habant"
              sigpic
              The Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.

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              • #8
                Seems like a practical way to ensure minimum staffing in departments where you can't count on general call-outs getting enough people to the scene. It is also reasonable to expect those who have volunteered to join the department to put in a minimum level of service and there are endless ways that this has been done.

                I would hope that they are flexible about shift assignments though.

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                • #9
                  Both departments that I have been on have duty crew requirements. My first department assigned everyone to a crew and the 11 hour overnight duty for that crew rotated days. People who work nights were allowed to do their duty on Saturdays, and other special arrangements could be made to accommodate schedules. My current department expects everyone to do an evening or day duty once a week, but the specific day is left up to the person and can vary from week to week.

                  I don't see a problem with this arrangement, you know when you volunteer that this is part of the deal. As someone mentioned, no different than training requirements, or fund raising requirements.

                  I agree with Deputy though, I might have a problem if only the new guys were expected to stand duties.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Eng34FF View Post
                    I agree with Deputy though, I might have a problem if only the new guys were expected to stand duties.
                    Agreed, assignments should be spread across the entire membership.. at a minimum it allows the new guys to get to know, and learn from, some of the old goats.

                    One of the advantages of duty crews (specifically in house crews) is that it spreads the load across all members. Instead of having the 4-closest members running 90% of the calls until they burn out.. then the next 4, then next 4..etc.
                    So you call this your free country
                    Tell me why it costs so much to live
                    -3dd

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                    • #11
                      Although I believe that trainings and a certain amount of calls per year are mandated - I find that sufficient since trainings are a liability - personnel must be sufficiently trained to do their job safely and correctly. As for points - you should have to do a certain amount of calls to show that you're indefinitely active. My department mandated that members answer at LEAST 152 calls per year. This number actually isn't too bad, as we get any points for overlapping calls, and points for calls we miss during active trainings.

                      However, I don't like the idea of mandating overnight responses. Any time that your're forced to respond during your personal time is unethical. We're volunteering our SPARE time as it is. I believe that these squad nights do push new recruits away, and have even made probationary members quit as they have our department's probationary training twice a week, plus their mandated points, PLUS mandated additional trainings, and then squad nights all on top of that. For doing a free service, that's a lot of time to throw in, especially when they may be working a full-time job and/or going to school simulateneously.

                      As I stated before, we also have PAID personnel on-site 24/7. I don't see the need to make volunteers go out overnight for a call if two of them can immediately take the ambulance, and have police help as well (they respond to all of our calls as well). If additional manpower is needed or a second alarm comes in, then by all means page it out and see if any VOLUNTEER members VOLUNTARILY respond.

                      This is just my take on it. I find it competely unethical. I am all for helping my community. But when it hinders my personal life (people need sleep for work the next day, seeing family, ect.) I find it simply unethical.

                      And the worst part of these squad nights is that it's all of the newer people doing it. The more seasoned members aren't required to do these overnight calls, so the burden has immediately piled up onto the newer guys. It SHOULD be blanketed among all of the members. Yes, there are more seasoned members in the department that do volunteer to do run calls overnight when they're not mandated to, and I am thankful for these members. But simply putting such a burden on newcomers potentially pushes people looking to join away.

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                      • #12
                        You volunteered to join. In doing so, you agreed to follow the rules of the department. Ya, its that simple.

                        Oh, you can also volunteer to quit.
                        "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Bones42 View Post
                          You volunteered to join. In doing so, you agreed to follow the rules of the department. Ya, its that simple.

                          Oh, you can also volunteer to quit.
                          Yep, that is always an easy answer. You don't like it quit. What about departments that don't have waiting lists of new people to fill those slots of people that quit? Or those struggling to maintain an adequate roster at all?

                          I do agree that if you join you agree to follow the rules. But it is a volunteer fire department and rigidly setting schedules and expecting people to always be there for their Tuesday night is ludicrous. The EMS service that covers our area is a POC service, they post the schedule online and members sign up to fill the slots. The minimum number of hours a month you have to cover is 24, but you can sign up for as many hours as you wish to finish filling out the schedule. I believe you would have some people working far more than their minimum under this system and some barely making their minimum. But at least it allows some choice of when you would cover, assuming you got to the schedule early enough.
                          Crazy, but that's how it goes
                          Millions of people living as foes
                          Maybe it's not too late
                          To learn how to love, and forget how to hate

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Bones42 View Post
                            You volunteered to join. In doing so, you agreed to follow the rules of the department. Ya, its that simple.

                            Oh, you can also volunteer to quit.

                            Yes, I VOLUNTEERED to join to help my community. I VOLUNTEERED my time, and committed to getting through the Fire Academy, running over the minimum calls, making my trainings, and having time to socialize with my fellows brothers (and sisters).

                            However, one thing I didn't know when joining was that there was mandatory overnight squad nights. I gave up a lot for the department as it is. I've given in a lot of my time towards the department. Towards the beginning of me joining I was working a job, was going to school full-time, and was expecting to have a daughter. But rather than not joining, I still went through with it, got through my department's initial probationary training, went through Fire Fighter I classes and hands-on, and made (and make) adequate points. I even ran an array of Alpha priority calls (meaning no lights or sirens - essentially just a transport), which was at least an hour or more on average. I did overnight calls when I had time and worked part-time at night.

                            I do a lot for my department. I've helped with a large amount of fundraisers, helped MPOs check over and wash their rigs, helped transport member's family members (we didn't get a point for this), helped clear the older member's driveways in the winter, and so on.

                            As long as I am still capable of doing such duties, I am not ready to "quit" from my fire department, despite a lot of political turmoil and unethical practices (well, unethical in my mind). I've retained priceless information and training from the fire department, but I still believe that these "squad nights" shouldn't be mandated - especially since a majority of the calls we get are simple Alpha or low-level priority calls that the paid personnel can handle themselves.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by chem1cal View Post
                              Yes, I VOLUNTEERED to join to help my community. I VOLUNTEERED my time, and committed to getting through the Fire Academy, running over the minimum calls, making my trainings, and having time to socialize with my fellows brothers (and sisters).

                              However, one thing I didn't know when joining was that there was mandatory overnight squad nights. I gave up a lot for the department as it is. I've given in a lot of my time towards the department. Towards the beginning of me joining I was working a job, was going to school full-time, and was expecting to have a daughter. But rather than not joining, I still went through with it, got through my department's initial probationary training, went through Fire Fighter I classes and hands-on, and made (and make) adequate points. I even ran an array of Alpha priority calls (meaning no lights or sirens - essentially just a transport), which was at least an hour or more on average. I did overnight calls when I had time and worked part-time at night.

                              I do a lot for my department. I've helped with a large amount of fundraisers, helped MPOs check over and wash their rigs, helped transport member's family members (we didn't get a point for this), helped clear the older member's driveways in the winter, and so on.

                              As long as I am still capable of doing such duties, I am not ready to "quit" from my fire department, despite a lot of political turmoil and unethical practices (well, unethical in my mind). I've retained priceless information and training from the fire department, but I still believe that these "squad nights" shouldn't be mandated - especially since a majority of the calls we get are simple Alpha or low-level priority calls that the paid personnel can handle themselves.

                              Well, it looks like you have 2 choices. The first as mentioned earlier is to "volunteer" to quit. The second is to stick it out, put in your time, and gain the experience/training necessary to become an officer or other leader in the department.

                              Your question was whether it was "ethical" to require squad nights. The answer you have generally seen is that yes it is ethical. The other part is if it is the wise way to do business. As mentioned, there are probably better ways of ensuring coverage without being so rigid.

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