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  • You've been voted off the island?

    Today, after 1 year of service I was voted off of my volunteer department. This is a department that like so many that is struggling to maintain well trained active members who are dedicated to volunteerism. Think this sounds ridiculous? It gets worse….

    First here’s a little bit about me to set the back ground for the story. Counting the one-year that I spent with this latest department I’ve been a firefighter for just more than 4 years now. I’ve also been in EMS for about a year and a half. For the past 3 years I’ve worked full time as a 9-1-1 dispatcher, mostly working the 3-11 shift on the radio.

    One year ago due to a bump in the road of life I ended up moving to the “big city” from my little rural town. The first thing I did once I got established was to contact the chief of the fire department to see how I could join. I was handed an application and submitted my name to the department for approval as an “Apprentice Firefighter.” This is usually a time in the process where the department accepts new members with no firefighting experience. I, on the other hand have been a trained and seasoned firefighter for just over three years at this point, as well as a newly registered EMT-B. I’m a member of the National Guard and quite active in other community based organizations. I was quickly accepted (by department vote) as an “Apprentice Member.”

    At the same time as I was joining the fire department I was hired in the same city by the city run EMS Service.

    The year went on. I made all of the calls, meetings and drills that I could. I also spent a lot of time on call for the ambulance and on top of it all attended my weekend drills, worked part time as a dispatcher for another agency and worked full time at my primary job. I was as dedicated as I could be to both agencies. I made every meeting, practice and fire drill that my schedule allowed. I even took days off on occasion to be able to make it to training events. On top of all that, because I worked evening and night shift, and only was on call for the ambulance 2 or 3 days a week I was a day-time firefighter. I assure you that I’m not a discipline problem in any way and I’m as well versed in firefighting as anybody that’s been doing it for 4 years can be, if not more so. I was, and still am passionate about giving my time to the community as an emergency responder. The only thing that I can say I didn’t do was make an effort to fit into the social club part of the department. I don’t believe in sitting at the firehouse drinking beer all night and so I never really got too close to all the guys. I came, did the important part, and left.

    Well, this Tuesday night was the meeting that marked one year of service for me on this department. I was unable to attend the meeting because I was, of course, at work on the radio. When I got home I had a voice mail from the chief that he had some bad news. On calling him back I was informed that by majority vote I was not accepted as a full member of the department and that I had to come in the next day to turn in my key, pager and gear. I was in shock. I still am in shock. The reason that I was cited for my dismissal was because of attendance. My record showed that I was just falling under 50% of the meetings and calls. Most of these absences were due to full time work, but they also had a problem with the “amount of time I spend on call for the EMS, instead of the fire department.” Mind you that EMS is a paid gig.

    I’ve been in the volunteer fire service long enough to know that any popular vote regarding any member is just that: A popularity contest. I take it personally that I was voted off. I can tell that the chief feels bad about it, but he’s just the head of the meeting when it comes to it and has no power to reverse the vote of the group. I was asked to re-apply for another year of probation once I can dedicate more time to the fire department… I told him I didn’t know if I would or not. So I pose this question to you. How do you feel about my story? Can we really afford to vote of volunteers?

    Venting in Wisconsin,

    Brad
    Brad A. Ingersoll
    Assistant Chief
    Maple Bluff Fire Department
    Blooming Grove, Burke, Maple Bluff EMS

    Badgerland FOOLS
    EGH-PTB-FTM

  • #2
    We just dropped 3 members from our roles. I will not say they care or don't care about being in the fire service, that is only truly known to them. I will not say they were bad members. They showed up to what they could manage to. But they, and it sounds like you, had an awful lot of things going on in their lives at this time. Family comes first, work comes second, volunteering comes somewhere further down the line. These individuals simply did not have the time available to make their requirements. I have known 2 of them for 10 years and we are still friends. It simply was not the "right" time for them to be a volunteer. At a certain point, missing training becomes a hazard with that firefighter on a scene. That is a hazard that does not need to be there. As for the "social club" part, I won't go into that as I don't know you nor your company. I can tell plain and simple it does not matter in our vote as there are black and white requirements to be a member. Our only vote is whether we give them some slack due to extenuating circumstances. You make it, you stay. You don't, you go. It does not make you a bad person or any different than the rest of the FF's, it has only (in our case) meant you did not have the time available.

    Sorry you're upset, and I can even understand it, but don't blame them. They may be looking out for everyone's safety and best interest.
    "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?

    Comment


    • #3
      100 years of tradition unimpeded by progress

      Brad,

      While I feel there needs to be some reasonable minimum requirements for any new member in a fire company, 50% of calls and meetings is simply not realistic. There are far too many old timers in this business that think it is still 1960, that people go to work a mile from where they live and can leave for calls, that mom stays home and takes care of the kids, that your work day ends at 4:30, etc. These people need to get a clue.

      For the record, I have 21 years in the fire, rescue and EMS service, am a line officer and former executive officer, so I consider myself an "oldtimer".

      My company runs about 400 fire calls a year, we also run the EMS service which has some employees and runs about 1400 calls a year. We do a far amount of training and alot of fund raising. If you attended 50% of these functions, you would likely be the third or fourth most active person in our company. I make maybe a quarter of these functions at most, and am still putting in hundreds of hours per year.

      Any new member needs to run enough calls to get to know the people, to learn policies and procedures, for the officers to evaluate if they are going to work out and to at least start basic training, Essentials or something equal. Unless you are at a company running less than maybe 50 or 100 calls per year, there is no way you need to make that high of a call volume to do that.
      Thomas Anthony, PE
      Structures Specialist PA-TF1 & PA-ST1
      Paramedic / Rescue Tech North Huntington Twp EMS
      The artist formerly known as Captain 10-2

      No, I am not a water rescue technician, but I stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night.

      Comment


      • #4
        Sorry...

        Brad,
        As I read your post, I had a couple of questions come to mind: 1) Does the department have a set of bylaws that states what the minimum attendance is required to be an active member?; 2) Does anywhere in the bylaws mention that "work" is an excused abscence?; 3) Does the bylaws specify exactly what's required for a probationary firefighter during their probationary period?; 4) Are you required to document your attendance by signing a sheet signifying that you were on the call or does the chief or other officer mark it on the run sheet?
        It may be a moot point now, but I was curious. I feel for you and can somewhat understand the "social club" atmosphere. I agree with PATF1engineer, 50% attendance is a very good attendance record. I don't understand why in some departments it becomes a "popularity" type of issue. I can see where you're coming from as I don't attend a lot of the "social" functions that occur after meetings or calls. I prefer to head home to my wife and family after I fulfill my duties as a volunteer firefighter.
        With all the concern we have for retaining members who can respond to day fires, I don't agree with eliminating anyone who is meeting their training and attendance goals. Not knowing your department or its bylaws, I'm kind of limited in my response. I do know that the first department that I was on, you had to make 30% of day fires and 50% of night fires on a quarterly average. This was in the bylaws. You received a copy of the bylaws when you were accepted as a probie firefighter. Did you ever receive a copy of your departments bylaws or S.O.P's? It's hard to meet others expectations when you don't know what they are.
        FFI/EMT-B

        Comment


        • #5
          Let me respond to a couple of the comments:

          Somebody brought up a concern about lack of training attendece being a safety issue. If this was my case I'd agree to the fullest. I'm able to look very objectively at my record and assure you this is not an issue for me. I took many vacation days to attend training days where there was going to be actual training happening. In fact I used a large ammount of vacation to go through MPO class and serveral extrication seminars. Many of the missed meetings were business meetings or training meetings where hose was tested. I'm more than happy to test hose, but it's not an excuse for me to take off work... at least I don't think it is. I did even offer to help on weekends before my regular work days.

          As for the bylaws- They do NOT make any attendence requirement for the apprentice fireman. They only say that the apprentice fireman will serve for one year and be voted on by the membership as to weather they will be accepted as a full member. The 50% is a number they came up with that has to do with Lenght of Service awards the department is trying to get funding for. In this case I could care less about the money that I'd get out of those. The only real requirement I was to meet was that I was supposed to remain in "good standing." Kind of subjective if you ask me. I can assure you that I've never, ever been in "bad standing" with ANYBODY as a person.

          The bylaws DO NOT say anything about work as an excuse. The best I can figure they have made exceptions for work related in the past with other members, apparently not for me though.

          Is this sounding worse and worse to you all yet?
          Brad A. Ingersoll
          Assistant Chief
          Maple Bluff Fire Department
          Blooming Grove, Burke, Maple Bluff EMS

          Badgerland FOOLS
          EGH-PTB-FTM

          Comment


          • #6
            Seems like your dept. had more than enfough manpower. That is funny though, because the nature of the job being a Vol. is just that, VOLUNTEERING. Around here, we hurt for members. You don't get kicked out for those type of things because even the officers can't meet those kind of requirements. What are the attendence records of the others??? What do they do? Live on wellfare? Hell, I am in school, on 2 special FD teams and in the MILITIA and work Full time.

            Hope you have better weather brother, because in my book you are a brother.

            Comment


            • #7
              I can feel your pain.

              Let me tell you about the morons I have to deal with

              Three years ago I was put on inactive status (pull your gear,pager and keys)for not making percentages, need 25% had 23% for the year to date, fell short for 3 months. All my training was up to date and I was qualified as a driver on 2 of 4 trucks. Could it been that I was elected as fire commissioner with my main oppostion being the fire company of which I had served with for 4 years. Mind you I have over 20 years with another department which has open arms for me to run calls with them when I visit.

              The fire company by laws had provision to appeal, which I did, but no response from the fire company, they totally ignored my request to appeal. This goes on for two years until I re-apply for membership of which I am turned down, again no reason in writting. Under the NJ Administration Code, denied membeship in a volunteer fire company is to be made in writting with reason. No but this fire company says they don't need to give reason. To make a long story short I just applied again, this time I was not even given the opportunity of an interview. The ones behind thsi opposition acording to members are the Fire Chief, President, who is not even an active firefighter, his is social status so he can sit upstairs and socialize and the most senior active member who just so happens to be a fire commissioner.

              This is right out of Harry Carter "We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us"
              or let sit around the firehouse and think up ways to run people out that have a different approach to volunteering. Guys I don't want to socialize with you, I want to serve my community. This fire compnay does not spend a dime on fire protection it is paid for by taxes, my taxes.

              I too have been around long enough to know that it is a popularity contest that gets these morons elected.

              The cliffs are to your right, all lemmings get in line and follow your leaders they know where they're going...

              Am I ****ed you bet I am
              Last edited by twentyplus; 06-09-2003, 09:41 AM.

              Comment


              • #8
                membership

                We have similar problems downunder. Difficult to find a Chief and officers who have the time but can relate to others in their community who wish to be volunteers but due to family and work are not able to donate the same amount of time as those above.

                This gets away from the most important part - Does the truck leave with a full crew of trained personel for every call. Day time cover is a problem for most vol stations - even the perm/vol ones are light on.

                I've been a member for almost 30 years and I am now out of work. Finding employment to feed my family is my first priority and I am unable to devote enough time. I try and the officers in my brigade have so dar been sympathetic, Might have a job next week working for a contractor to check hydrants and fire plugs. - a bit ironic.

                Keep your options open and check neighbouring brigades who may be happy to have you.
                Disclaimer
                These views are my own and not of either my brigade or any other organisation.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Survivor sucks anyway!

                  Brad:
                  I have no reason to doubt that you have accurately described your situation. I can tell that this is an emotional time for you, as I am sure that you are left scratching your head. Please let me offer you some thoughts.
                  I get the feeling as you described the amount of time with the EMS group that your fire department is somehow feeling like someone without a date for the prom. You know; short changed or left out.
                  I have seen it at my department. Our ambulance is not tied to the fire department, but collects 25% of our budget and a couple of firefighters are also EMTs for the service. I had made it very clear to all that when there is a vehicle accident, their role is defined as soon as they get on a rig; be it fire truck or ambulance. We had only had a couple of issues over the years where a firefighter got confused with his EMT alter-ego, but they were resolved. However, when the fire department is struggling for funding and the ambulance seems to get everything that they ask for, it creates bad blood and will often times creep in to decisions. This is merely my observation and may not be the case in your case.
                  Our department has always allowed excused absences for missing meetings and training in certain situations. Family obligations and especially where your children's activities are at play is always excused. Family is always first. Sitting at home to watch family television on meeting night is not excused. Work obligations is a no brainer. We have people who work the off shifts at their jobs, which makes them available during the day when we are so short of manpower. We even market the idea to attract new members.
                  With that said, we also allow members to MAKE UP for missed meetings. We require a minimum and they must be met. No exceptions. We do make an extra effort to allow members to make up their hours. If you have a department who will not let you make up your hours, then you don't need them. If they are giving you the opportunity to make up hours and you are not doing it, then they don't need you. I don't say that maliciously. It is the way it is. We all know which job pays the bills, but we also know that we have to be very good at what we do in order to succeed. That includes participating on a volunteer fire department. You train for YOU. For your safety and the safety of your men. Yeah; it's a volunteer fire department, but there are standards that must be met there also. I have had many instructors tell me that fire doesn't know the difference between career and volunteer. When you volunteer, everyone must be clear on expectations. If they aren't being met from both sides, then the relationship will not work.
                  And my last comment involves your chief's involvement in your situation. If you do not have clearly defined standards, then he must be involved. If he believes that his hands are tied, then he is what I would call weak. A chief has a say in EVERY facet of the department. If they don't, then they are not a chief but just a good ole boy. And that's just my opinion. I was a chief. I was far from a good ole boy.
                  Perhaps something was missed in your case. Look at it retrospectively and if there was something that was lost in a translation, re-visit it and maybe, you will be given another opportunity. But you will have to decide if that's what you want at that time.
                  Voting members off in a time when numbers are down is not at all desirable. But standards must be there and they must be met.
                  Lowering the bar is not the answer.
                  I hope that you remain in the fire service. Qualified individuals are also a problem in our service.
                  Good luck to you. You can always PM or email me if you want to talk.
                  CR
                  Last edited by ChiefReason; 06-08-2003, 04:26 PM.
                  Visit www.iacoj.com
                  Remember Bradley Golden (9/25/01)
                  RIP HOF Robert J. Compton(ENG6511)

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    ChiefReason,

                    Are we on the same department? We run things in much the same manner and have encountered similar situations with members recently. To try to prevent what has happened in Brad's case, we perform quarterly reviews with our probationary firefighters. The station officers sit down with the firefighter and discuss performance, attendance, and any other relevant issues. This is a good time for the officers to nip things in the bud and understand the firefighter's situation. It is also a good opportunity for the firefighter to discuss issues they feel important. So far it helps us weed those out that don't want to or are unable to volunteer to that minimum standard you referred to.

                    Communication is the key!

                    Comment

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