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  • #16
    Every local newspaper comment forum has the double I's (Internet Idiots) who have to make comments on every FD related story to use that forum to call for going to a volunteer FD...

    The problems with those who constantly call for career FDs to be disbanded and go to volunteer is the fact that the very people who advocate it will not step up to the plate to do it.. the usual excuses...

    "I have a business to run"
    "I work enough as it is"
    "It will take up too much of my time"
    "I can't take time away from my kids"
    "I'm too old/young/not strong enough/too smart to do that kind of work"
    "it's too dangerous..."
    "what... no beer?"
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

    Comment


    • #17
      Originally posted by MemphisE34a View Post
      Not in places where public safety is taken seriously.

      Do these cities you reference solicit volunteers for the road department, the City Attorney, office staff, etc.? Wonder why they don't? And these are all jobs where the chances of getting hurt or injured at work are nearly nill.
      Disagree.

      The road department has projects every day. The city staff has a continual workload. So does the library and the parks department. Simply does not compare to the periodic elevated manpower needs of a fire department.

      The bread and butter call for the fire department in a small city does not require a staff generally beyond 3 or 4. EMS calls. Minor MVAs. Trash fires. Vehicle fires. Gas leaks. Gasoline spills. Minor structural incidents like alarm trips, smoke investigations and food on the stove fires.

      And while there are daily tasks that need to be done such as fire prevention, vehicle, tool and station maintainence, pre-plan updates as well as hydrant, pump and hose testing, they all can be easily handled by that 3-4 firefighter crew.

      How often does a small or medium sized community have a working structure fire? Once a month? Once very other month? How about a major MVA, a major brush fire or any other major incident?

      The fact is that a small career force backed up by a well trained call, volunteer or reserve force is more than adequate for a small or medium sized (under 30K), and is a cost effective way to deliver fire and rescue services.

      To compare the FD to most other city departments with a consistent workload, especially those requiring professional administrative and technical skills is simply silly.

      We cover about 17K plus the national Guard facility, which has a daytime population of additional 2K with 3 career personnel. We cover the same population with one paid member from 5PM-7AM, and it works pretty well for us because we keep our volunteers trained, motivated and responding.

      And by the way, just about all the communities that I have been in do use volunteers in the day to day operation of their libraries, parks departments and even some city/town administrative departments.
      Train to fight the fires you fight.

      Comment


      • #18
        The difference is, if no volunteers show up to the library on Wednesday evening, people don't die.
        Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

        Comment


        • #19
          Originally posted by MBarnes View Post
          If they are compensated then they are not volunteers, just cheap paid staff. That is a problem.
          Negative.

          There is nothing wrong with compensating volunteers for thier time.

          The compensation can take the form of a point system for runs and training. As an example we use a points system where each point is worth $3.50 - A structure fire is 5 points, weekly training is 4, a multi-company fire is 3, a single company fire is 2 and EMS calls are worth 1. Special and out-of-department training is awarded based on length. It costs us about 35K per year, and it keeps the troops quite motivated.

          A certification like EMT, Firefighter I, Firefighter II and Driver/Operator are worth 20 points. Certiciations that tale less than 50 hours such as Instructor I/II, Officer I/II and the like are worth 10.

          We also have a LOSAP program which becomes active at the 10-year point. A firefighter receives $350 per year and an officer receives $500 per year. The initial cost was about $9K but the yearly cost id less than $4K.

          There are also many forms of non-cash compensation including shirts, mugs and other items for reaching certain goals. Participation is often used as a part of the decision making process when it comes to out of town training and conferences.

          Some departments provide a family trip once a year. many sponsor bowling and golf teams. Many, including ours, uses family social events such as picnics and holiday parties to keep members interested.

          It's call motivation, and it's a critical part of keeping the team rolling.
          Train to fight the fires you fight.

          Comment


          • #20
            Originally posted by nmfire View Post
            The difference is, if no volunteers show up to the library on Wednesday evening, people don't die.
            And if no volunteers show up, you have an issue, and yes, you have a problem which requires paid staff.

            And in some cases, that is the solution required.

            However, many on these forums see paid staff as the only way and only answer to deliver fire services. I would suspect that they would oppose a volunteer or reserve program at their department, and honestly, be quite nasty to those who volunteer and would be very uncooperative when asked (or ordered) to participate in training them.

            That environment would certainly doom any program to failure even before it would have a chance to succeed.

            I have witnessed viable volunteer elements in a combo department driven out by such attitudes. I have then witnessed the career chiefs, officers and/or members that took great effort in driving out the volunteers complain about the lack of manpower and use that lack of manpower as reasons for justifying the hiring of additional paid staff. The fact is, in many more communities than you would suspect, there are a pool of volunteers that would volunteer if they were given not only the respect of the career element, but the same opportunities for training, participation, responsibility and promotion. I can say that because I know of combo departments where that is the case.

            The fact is, there are thousands of VFDs that show up with an adequate force on most calls, and thousands more who recognize that they need some level of assistance, and utilize automatic mutual aid, which is nothing more than a multi-station response within a career department, to obtain the proper staffing.

            There are also likely many more combo departments that operate every day with a minimal crew to handle daily operations, and rely on volunteers to provide staffing for larger and multiple incidents.

            Some of these departments provide no incentives. Some of them provide minimal incentives. And some of them may use a few more incentives. The fact is, incentives work when in comes to recruiting and retaining volunteers, and they provide fire protection in a cost-efficient manner.

            If you have VFDs in your area that don't get a response there is a reason. And while in some cases, there are legitimate demographic causes, in many, if not most others, the reasons are far deeper than that, and there are solutions that could be implemented.

            In some cases, we are the problem.
            Train to fight the fires you fight.

            Comment


            • #21
              Originally posted by LaFireEducator View Post
              Disagree.

              The road department has projects every day. The city staff has a continual workload. So does the library and the parks department. Simply does not compare to the periodic elevated manpower needs of a fire department.

              The bread and butter call for the fire department in a small city does not require a staff generally beyond 3 or 4. EMS calls. Minor MVAs. Trash fires. Vehicle fires. Gas leaks. Gasoline spills. Minor structural incidents like alarm trips, smoke investigations and food on the stove fires.

              And while there are daily tasks that need to be done such as fire prevention, vehicle, tool and station maintainence, pre-plan updates as well as hydrant, pump and hose testing, they all can be easily handled by that 3-4 firefighter crew.

              How often does a small or medium sized community have a working structure fire? Once a month? Once very other month? How about a major MVA, a major brush fire or any other major incident?

              The fact is that a small career force backed up by a well trained call, volunteer or reserve force is more than adequate for a small or medium sized (under 30K), and is a cost effective way to deliver fire and rescue services.
              Now when you say "backed up", what exactly does that mean? Are you talking about a manpower pool that gets called out to assist with larger incidents, a manpower pool that provides additional on-duty, in-station staffing, both or something else?


              To compare the FD to most other city departments with a consistent workload, especially those requiring professional administrative and technical skills is simply silly.
              No, it's really not "simply silly", you just aren't looking at it from the same viewpoint.

              Each department has a job to do and each hires workers to perform those jobs. With the current financial issues everybody is looking for a way to "save" money. The amount of "work" to be done hasn't necessarily decreased. If it has, it's more than likely tied into not having sufficient money for that project rather than the project not needing/wanting to be done.

              So, if the work still needs to be done and revenue is down, then obviously their needs to be a reduction in the cost of the work. Either the material costs or the labor costs have to be reduced in order to achieve the same level of work output.

              If you can't achieve sufficient savings in material costs, then obviously you have to layoff workers and/or make cuts in their compensation. Laying workers off obviously means less ability to produce the same level of work output. The call for volunteers to augment the career personnel clearly shows that people are recognizing that there is work that still needs to be performed even though a reduction of the workforce is occurring.

              Unless, every single department citywide is actively pursuing the use of volunteers as a genuine part of the workforce (i.e. direct substitution for a career worker), the introduction of volunteers into a career fire department in this kind of situation is disingenuous.

              Comment


              • #22
                Now when you say "backed up", what exactly does that mean? Are you talking about a manpower pool that gets called out to assist with larger incidents, a manpower pool that provides additional on-duty, in-station staffing, both or something else?

                Legitimate question.

                I have seen volunteers in combo departments used as daily supplemental personnel on first out rigs, home response supplementing first-out rigs on certain calls, home response supplementing first out crews on all calls and as special call personnel supplementing the first-out crew on major or multiple incidents. Much of it depends on the in-house staffing, district size, training levels of the volunteers and how the department chooses to uses them.

                In our case, our volunteers ride out from the station and respond from home to all incidents. Our volunteers are trained to drive all apparatus (if they choose) and are certified at the same (or higher) firefighting and haz-mat levels than or career staff, if they choose to be. That is how the majority of the combo departments operate in this area.

                A few have them only respond on all fires, and one or two just on structure fires or multiple incidents.

                Unless, every single department citywide is actively pursuing the use of volunteers as a genuine part of the workforce (i.e. direct substitution for a career worker), the introduction of volunteers into a career fire department in this kind of situation is disingenuous.

                I agree with some of your points. However, my point is that you can't take a citizen off the street who wants to volunteer, and plug him into an administrative position in the city's finance office or an plans review position in the city engineer's office. Most of the admin jobs within the government require a specific level of specific training to accomplish.

                The fact is, a firefighting support position such as rehab, setting up lighting, repacking hose or other support tasks requires a minimum of training that can be quickly accomplished and frees up interior firefighters.

                Drivers/pump operators, tanker drivers and exterior firefighting personnel responsible for setting up ladders, setting up PPV fans and supporting interior operations can be taught in a slightly longer period of time.

                Obviously training interior personnel requires even longer, but they do not require a college degree or specialized higher-education training. The simple fact is many of the other city jobs we are discussing do. And the simple fact remains that there is a tradition of citizens being volunteer firefighters, and there is not a tradition of citizens being volunteer plans reviewers, as an example, though such a thing is not uncommon in very small communities.

                Again, there are volunteers, including ex-teachers in the schools. Volunteers running recreation programs and maintaining fields. Volunteers in the libraries. And yes, some communities do have volunteers in the Principal offices.
                Train to fight the fires you fight.

                Comment


                • #23
                  Originally posted by LaFireEducator View Post
                  However, many on these forums see paid staff as the only way and only answer to deliver fire services. I would suspect that they would oppose a volunteer or reserve program at their department, and honestly, be quite nasty to those who volunteer and would be very uncooperative when asked (or ordered) to participate in training them.
                  I don't believe that "paid staff" is the only way to provide fire services. I've seen and participated in some VFDs that were able to provide top notch services.

                  However, I've also seen many more VFDs that were somewhat inconsistent in the delivery of their services in terms of response time, manpower, training levels, competence, etc. In pretty much all of those situations, a career staff would provide a better option for delivery of fire services if "cost" was not an issue.

                  I am opposed to a "volunteer or reserve program" in my department, not because I'm anti-volunteer, but because we simply don't need it. We are a small city career department with limited on-duty staffing. We can handle about 90-95% of our calls with our on-duty staffing. When we have a larger scale incident, we callback our off-duty personnel which is essentially the same thing as having a "reserve/on-call" roster. It may cost a little more, but is much better operationally since there won't be the "problems" that can occur with someone who doesn't work regularly.

                  If our callbacks aren't sufficient for the incident, then we utilize the VFDs that surround our city and they are all more than willing to answer the call for assistance. So, this would be essentially the same as having our own "volunteer" component, however it would come at no cost to us. No additional gear to buy, no training to provide, no insurance cost to cover them, etc.

                  So pretty much the only thing that our own "volunteers" would enhance is the initial on scene staffing level at 5-10% of our incidents. Considering that we have some legitimate equipment needs to address (both replacement and acquisition wise) and are not making much progress getting those funded, any money to be spent on a volunteer component would be better spent at this time on our equipment needs.

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Originally posted by LaFireEducator View Post
                    Now when you say "backed up", what exactly does that mean? Are you talking about a manpower pool that gets called out to assist with larger incidents, a manpower pool that provides additional on-duty, in-station staffing, both or something else?

                    Legitimate question.

                    I have seen volunteers in combo departments used as daily supplemental personnel on first out rigs, home response supplementing first-out rigs on certain calls, home response supplementing first out crews on all calls and as special call personnel supplementing the first-out crew on major or multiple incidents. Much of it depends on the in-house staffing, district size, training levels of the volunteers and how the department chooses to uses them.

                    In our case, our volunteers ride out from the station and respond from home to all incidents. Our volunteers are trained to drive all apparatus (if they choose) and are certified at the same (or higher) firefighting and haz-mat levels than or career staff, if they choose to be. That is how the majority of the combo departments operate in this area.

                    A few have them only respond on all fires, and one or two just on structure fires or multiple incidents.
                    I wasn't asking what you've seen or what your department is doing. I asked what you specifically were envisioning with your statement.

                    Additionally, based on the context of your statement, I'm assuming that we are talking about a career department with volunteers and not a volunteer department with some paid staffing.

                    Unless, every single department citywide is actively pursuing the use of volunteers as a genuine part of the workforce (i.e. direct substitution for a career worker), the introduction of volunteers into a career fire department in this kind of situation is disingenuous.

                    I agree with some of your points. However, my point is that you can't take a citizen off the street who wants to volunteer, and plug him into an administrative position in the city's finance office or an plans review position in the city engineer's office.
                    You are partially correct in this. Obviously a person must be qualified/trained for whatever position they will fulfill as a volunteer. I'm not discussing the type of scenerio that you bring up any more than I would advocate for taking a citizen off the street and plug him into a Chief's or Company Officer position in the FD. However, it is possible that you could find someone with an accounting or small business background that has the necessary training/experience to fill that position. Probably more likely than finding someone in the community with experience as a Fire Chief.

                    Most of the admin jobs within the government require a specific level of specific training to accomplish.
                    All firefighting jobs "require a specific level of specific training to accomplish".

                    The fact is, a firefighting support position such as rehab, setting up lighting, repacking hose or other support tasks requires a minimum of training that can be quickly accomplished and frees up interior firefighters.

                    Drivers/pump operators, tanker drivers and exterior firefighting personnel responsible for setting up ladders, setting up PPV fans and supporting interior operations can be taught in a slightly longer period of time.
                    I'm not discussing "support" positions for volunteering. I'm discussing "full-service firefighters" which is what you will find in a career fire department.

                    Obviously training interior personnel requires even longer, but they do not require a college degree or specialized higher-education training. The simple fact is many of the other city jobs we are discussing do.
                    You may be discussing the city jobs that need some form of higher education, however I'm not. I'm discussing city jobs in general and more specifically, it doesn't take much training to train somebody to cut grass, pick up garbage, shovel sidewalks, answer telephones, file paperwork, etc.

                    And the simple fact remains that there is a tradition of citizens being volunteer firefighters, and there is not a tradition of citizens being volunteer plans reviewers, as an example, though such a thing is not uncommon in very small communities.
                    Maybe in some cities. However, in my city (and many others), as an example, we have a tradition of citizens being paid firefighters.

                    Again, there are volunteers, including ex-teachers in the schools. Volunteers running recreation programs and maintaining fields. Volunteers in the libraries. And yes, some communities do have volunteers in the Principal offices.
                    You're mixing the issue again. We're discussing municipal jobs. Most of what you cite are not municipal jobs, at least in my area. The school district and libraries are separate entities from local government. Recreation programs and field maintenance are not necessarily functions of local government. So they are not good examples to use for comparison on this topic.

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      Additionally, based on the context of your statement, I'm assuming that we are talking about a career department with volunteers and not a volunteer department with some paid staffing.

                      Could be either way.

                      We are a primarily volunteer department with some career staffing. The addition of one more person per shift in a couple of months will, unfortunately, tips the scales a little more towards career.

                      The neighboring "city", which has less population than us and does 1/3 the runs volume, is primarily career with volunteers responding only to possible or reported structure and multiple or major incidents.

                      I'm not discussing "support" positions for volunteering. I'm discussing "full-service firefighters" which is what you will find in a career fire department.


                      Support and exterior firefighting positions free up the3 full-service firefighters for interior work, in a worse case scenario. Certainly down the line, I would expect some of the volunteers to be qualified as interior firefighters, but in the short-term, the new volunteers could be trained to support interior operations while receiving further training.

                      Given the fact that a city cannot support the current staff of full-time firefighters and has to make cuts, which is a better scenario - 6 full-timers on their own or 6 full-timers with 8 or 9 exterior personnel (some of them working towards interior) and drivers supporting them?

                      I am opposed to a "volunteer or reserve program" in my department, not because I'm anti-volunteer, but because we simply don't need it. We are a small city career department with limited on-duty staffing. We can handle about 90-95% of our calls with our on-duty staffing. When we have a larger scale incident, we callback our off-duty personnel which is essentially the same thing as having a "reserve/on-call" roster. It may cost a little more, but is much better operationally since there won't be the "problems" that can occur with someone who doesn't work regularly.

                      You are better off than some. There are small career departments that may be facing being reduced to a handful, if that, per shift, without the outside volunteer resources to call. These are the departments that would probably benefit most from the development of a volunteer call or reserve force.

                      The fact is there are small career departments that like yours, can handle most incidents with your on-duty force. The issue of callbacks v. internal volunteers could be debated for days without a conclusion.

                      All firefighting jobs "require a specific level of specific training to accomplish".


                      Don't disagree, but it's the level of training that could be debated.

                      You're mixing the issue again. We're discussing municipal jobs. Most of what you cite are not municipal jobs, at least in my area. The school district and libraries are separate entities from local government. Recreation programs and field maintenance are not necessarily functions of local government. So they are not good examples to use for comparison on this topic.

                      May be regional.

                      Here, and in the north where i was from the schools were run by the government. Same with the libraries as well as parks and rec. In fact parks and rec usually fell under the Department of Public Works.
                      Train to fight the fires you fight.

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        Originally posted by LaFireEducator View Post
                        Additionally, based on the context of your statement, I'm assuming that we are talking about a career department with volunteers and not a volunteer department with some paid staffing.

                        Could be either way.
                        No, not for the sake of this discussion. There IS a difference between the two.


                        I'm not discussing "support" positions for volunteering. I'm discussing "full-service firefighters" which is what you will find in a career fire department.


                        Support and exterior firefighting positions free up the3 full-service firefighters for interior work, in a worse case scenario. Certainly down the line, I would expect some of the volunteers to be qualified as interior firefighters, but in the short-term, the new volunteers could be trained to support interior operations while receiving further training.

                        Given the fact that a city cannot support the current staff of full-time firefighters and has to make cuts, which is a better scenario - 6 full-timers on their own or 6 full-timers with 8 or 9 exterior personnel (some of them working towards interior) and drivers supporting them?
                        I'd have to see who the "8 or 9 exterior personnel" are.

                        I am opposed to a "volunteer or reserve program" in my department, not because I'm anti-volunteer, but because we simply don't need it. We are a small city career department with limited on-duty staffing. We can handle about 90-95% of our calls with our on-duty staffing. When we have a larger scale incident, we callback our off-duty personnel which is essentially the same thing as having a "reserve/on-call" roster. It may cost a little more, but is much better operationally since there won't be the "problems" that can occur with someone who doesn't work regularly.

                        You are better off than some. There are small career departments that may be facing being reduced to a handful, if that, per shift, without the outside volunteer resources to call. These are the departments that would probably benefit most from the development of a volunteer call or reserve force.
                        Maybe they could, but I think you may find that finding sufficient personnel to volunteer to be a problem.

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          Originally posted by FireMedic049 View Post
                          No, not for the sake of this discussion. There IS a difference between the two.



                          I'd have to see who the "8 or 9 exterior personnel" are.



                          Maybe they could, but I think you may find that finding sufficient personnel to volunteer to be a problem.
                          For some departments having support personnel makes all the difference in the world.

                          It looks like this dept in MO might need to find some good volunteers to make up the staffing gap.
                          Get the first line into operation.

                          Comment


                          • #28
                            No, not for the sake of this discussion. There IS a difference between the two.

                            It sounds like this department would still be run and managed by the career staff. Would it be a bad thing if the volunteer staff, over time, took over the management of the department, and the career staff? Probably not. Certainly depending on the community, that shift could take place.

                            We are just about the last combo department in our area to be run by a volunteer chief, and it still works fairly well. We have a Deputy Chief who manages the day-to-day operation, but the Chief still sets policy, develops goals and objectives, and handles major disciplinary issues, including issues with the career staff.

                            Maybe they could, but I think you may find that finding sufficient personnel to volunteer to be a problem.

                            Maybe.

                            Maybe not.

                            Develop a well-coordinated recruiting program Give them a reasonable a flexible training plan. Implement a set of incentives. Make them feel like a part of the department. Let the volunteers know that once the program matures there will be leadership positions available to them within the department. And make it clear to the career staff that this is now the direction the department is taking and being on-board is not an option.

                            Assuming the demographics exist to provide a manpower pool, I'm willing to be it would work in most communities.
                            Last edited by LaFireEducator; 08-08-2010, 04:50 PM.
                            Train to fight the fires you fight.

                            Comment


                            • #29
                              Originally posted by LaFireEducator View Post
                              Sounds like what is happening here, where as more career members are hired, the roles of the volunteers are diminished, and because of that, fewer of them volunteer.

                              There are several combo departments here where the career staff is openly rude, and in a couple of cases hostile, to their volunteer force, and management does nothing about it. In at least one case, the Chief openly states that he wants to get rid of all his volunteers even though he currently has only 5 men a shift covering almost 2 square miles from 8 stations.

                              Bottom line, I still contend that if a volunteer is compensated, to a limited extent, given the same training opportunities as the career staff, respected, and utilized as a first-line member of the team, a combo department can flourish and retain a solid group of volunteers.
                              Or maybe modern life, with active children and two working parents doesn't leave a lot of time for volunteering. But Im sure its only the big bad paid guy, but you'd know since deep in the bayou Louisiana represents America.

                              Even if the career guys are hostile, often its the fault of the top level administration that is volunteer and/or pro-volunteer and may cut the vollies too much slack or treat the paid guys like crap. You're right though, its always the evil paid guys.

                              For most small and medium sized communities a strong call force is no longer an option. The funds simply do not exist to operate a department without such a force.
                              what?!?

                              Comment


                              • #30
                                I have said this once and I will say it again. I am a proponent of volunteering, as I am both a career and volunteer firefighter. However, cutting paid positions and adding volunteers to make up the difference is a step in the wrong direction. Size of response area and call volume do no matter.
                                Career Firefighter
                                Volunteer Captain

                                -Professional in Either Role-

                                Originally posted by Rescue101
                                I don't mind fire rolling over my head. I just don't like it rolling UNDER my a**.

                                Comment

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