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What's is going on with volly departments losing support of the public?

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  • #16
    Not looking for a fight. But how did the fire service get where it is? I find it amazing that a department should have to throw barbecues and parties and turn out for every town event and explain what they do and why they do it and how much it costs and basically kiss every *** in sight for the privilege of working for free. Not to mention the risks involved.

    Do the librarians do it? Parks department? Teachers? Cops? Water and sewer? Highway? Sanitation? None of them have to put on a dog and pony show to justify THEIR existence or funding or salaries. Or do they? Maybe I'm wrong. Is fire and emergency response an essential service? Or is it so much fluff?

    Maybe what the public needs enlightening about is what will happen if you fold up the tent and leave. What will a salaried department cost them?

    Comment


    • #17
      Originally posted by captnjak View Post
      Not looking for a fight. But how did the fire service get where it is? I find it amazing that a department should have to throw barbecues and parties and turn out for every town event and explain what they do and why they do it and how much it costs and basically kiss every *** in sight for the privilege of working for free. Not to mention the risks involved.

      Captnjak, there is a difference so huge between Urban fire departments and rural fire departments that maybe you just don't get it. We have allowed ourselves to be suckered into fund raising, and yes, even justifying our existence. You may not do the fund raising but don't you fight for staffing almost every year?

      Do the librarians do it? Parks department? Teachers? Cops? Water and sewer? Highway? Sanitation? None of them have to put on a dog and pony show to justify THEIR existence or funding or salaries. Or do they? Maybe I'm wrong. Is fire and emergency response an essential service? Or is it so much fluff?

      Library in my town does. None of the rest. believe me I have used that argument for years and it ALWAYS falls on deaf ears.

      Maybe what the public needs enlightening about is what will happen if you fold up the tent and leave. What will a salaried department cost them?

      Oh, it almost happened here. We were an inch away from being dissolved and taken over by a neighboring fire department. The buy in cost was 5 years of our budget, and then paying the annual fee based on tax evaluation, but they didn't take into account the replacing a piece of apparatus every 5 years so that nothing was over 20 years old. I explained that their single no vote would mean nothing and every 5 years they would be kicking in somewhere between $50 and $100K. Their great savings idea didn't look so good then.
      Most often lack of support is brought on by an exclusive club atmosphere, non-involvement with the community, an entitlement attitude, and failing to make politicians and citizens understand what we do and what our needs are.
      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

      Comment


      • #18
        Originally posted by arctyler View Post
        our current station which will cost roughly 600,000 but chances are that is going to get voted down, which if it does we are really going to be SOL
        Part of the problem I see is this prevailing sentiment. Why will you be SOL? If the town doesn't have adequate resources, won't it be them that are SOL? Just to address the issue the way you have furthers the idea that they are buying things and funding YOU. They are supposed to be funding a department that takes care of them, so you need to shift the process to show them what they'll be missing if not for proper funding. I love the City Councilors when they say, "We just bought you a fire truck two years ago". BS! You bought yourself a new firetruck that you've asked us to utilize when you have an emergency becuase you don't have the time or training to use it yourselves.

        You cannot obtain funding telling them what you need, you need to show them what they need for you to provide them with adequate services.

        Comment


        • #19
          Originally posted by WVFD705 View Post
          Asking for money and getting it voted on without putting forth significant efforts to educate the public will get you beat EVERY SINGLE TIME! You and your department have to go around making your needs known, and get public support built up long before it ever gets to a vote.

          You say you are a rural department. Define what you mean when you tell us "rural". When I think of a rural department, a $600,000 figure is completely out of the question, much less a $2-3 million project. And if you are having one fundraiser a year, that isn't conveying to the public that you have a lot of needs.

          First thing I would suggest is to visit with members of the community and see what they think of your department. Just ask, but keep in mind how you phrase your questioning will determine if you get the response you need or not. Ask things like "In general, what do you think of the fire department?" "What do you like about the fire department?" "What do you think could be improved at the fire department?"

          Our department had decent community support, but when started putting out more efforts to engage the community in person or via social media, it helped our cause a lot. People weren't seeing a lot of the work we were doing or the training we were doing until we started posting it on Facebook. Now everybody can see in a few clicks what we are doing and where the money is being spent. Not saying this has cured all our problems because it hasn't and won't, but if you aren't winning the PR battle, you aren't winning any battles.
          You are definitely right, I believe we do have to reach out to the community some more, we do do the whole facebook thing, including our training and pictures at our incident. Also by a rural department I mean we get roughly 120 calls a year, that's fire, MVA's, rescues, etc. We don't run EMS, our neighboring EMS probably gets twice that. We do however cover a large stretch of a main road almost 8 miles or so, which usually gives us quite a few surprises being a high speed road. We have had days where we volunteered for 3 days straight of rotating shifts on a tanker rollover, while actually being curious if we were going to make it home those days. And it was shortly after that our building got voted down so I guess these landmark calls don't mean anything anymore.

          Regarding the building that's looking like the bare minimum we need to meet our needs, 600,000 to cover a 80x80 building added on to the back of our building with drive through bays. Then the plan is to tear down a few pieces of our old building, some which were built in the 40s, so the concrete slabs has definitely settled a considerable amount.
          Last edited by arctyler; 02-26-2016, 12:00 AM.

          Comment


          • #20
            Originally posted by RFDACM02 View Post
            Part of the problem I see is this prevailing sentiment. Why will you be SOL? If the town doesn't have adequate resources, won't it be them that are SOL? Just to address the issue the way you have furthers the idea that they are buying things and funding YOU. They are supposed to be funding a department that takes care of them, so you need to shift the process to show them what they'll be missing if not for proper funding. I love the City Councilors when they say, "We just bought you a fire truck two years ago". BS! You bought yourself a new firetruck that you've asked us to utilize when you have an emergency becuase you don't have the time or training to use it yourselves.

            You cannot obtain funding telling them what you need, you need to show them what they need for you to provide them with adequate services.
            We are the ones suffering more than them though, we will still respond, it is our safety though, and only a matter of time someone will get pinched between 2 trucks and ends up getting seriously injured or killed. Our engine has pushed in the wall behind the bay several times now also so you can guess how tight it is.

            Comment


            • #21
              There are some good suggestions posted. Use of social media is a big help with the younger residents. We found that encouraging members of the department to open the bay doors when they were at the department and answer questions from the residents when someone decided to stop and have a look. Voters will have an easier time in voting for a project when they actually see the condition of the building and equipment. You annual budget and expenditures should be available upon request for the public to see. I know many departments feel that the budget is none of the public's business as the department is a private organization. The public perceives the fire department as a public/government organization. The volly department I started with over 50 years ago is currently in a dispute with the township supervisors over funding because the department refuses to open it's books. They contend that the department's finances are none of the township or public's business and the township should provide the funding requested by the department. Needless to say, the department's public support has dropped considerably.

              Comment


              • #22
                We run 2 chicken bbq'sa fall and a spring gun show, a spring and a fall turkey party, built a food booth at the county fair, sell gun raffle tickets, sell $2 tickets with a different prize every raffle, and recently added another party where we raffle guns and cash.

                Are you actively pursuing grants? The have been a huge boost to us. Air Packs, PPE, Washer / Dryer, Tanker, training, addressing project, etc. We are getting money any way we can. The community sees it (because we tell them through facebook, website, and a yearly direct mailer). When they see that we are working our butts off, they help. We also explain where all of the money goes and why we need more.

                If you only count the non-EMS calls, we are running about 60-80 a year. If the brush truck is a POS - get rid of it and tell the community why you did and how you are going to have to address the mission that it previously filled. A second truck and a van seems excessive. Why not have the truck sitting there with the items seasonally needed (brush fires when they are more apt to happen) and the other items stored neatly so that if they are needed, they can either be placed in the department truck or a member's truck to get to the scene.

                We used to have to stack trucks as well. We found that the one up front is the one that is the most dependable, not the one that has the greatest potential to be needed. Sucks when the house is on fire, but the rescue won't start so everything is stuck in the hall until you can get it pulled out of the way.........been there.

                It can be done, it will just require effort and buy in from everyone in the department. Another thought; have you had a meeting between the president, chief, and you main detractors? It may be that they do not have accurate information on your finances and equipment conditions. They should be the first you try to educate.

                Comment


                • #23
                  Are most volunteer departments run/funded "separately" from the townships/municipalities that they serve, in the US? Or does it simply depend on the bylaws, etc. of that area?

                  While my department is funded 100% through the Township, we still are active in the community, and have a great relationship with Council.
                  Two departments, twice the fun...

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    My FD is funded by town. But each fire company owns their firehouse. Our fund raising goes towards the firehouse, not the trucks/equipment.

                    We do community activities because we are part of the community.
                    "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


                    • #25
                      Originally posted by MikeG344 View Post
                      Are most volunteer departments run/funded "separately" from the townships/municipalities that they serve, in the US? Or does it simply depend on the bylaws, etc. of that area?

                      While my department is funded 100% through the Township, we still are active in the community, and have a great relationship with Council.
                      We are independently incorporated, and are responsible for the lion's share of our own funding. As part of our mutual aid agreement with the county, the county gives us a budget that generally covers basic operating expenses (fuel, tires, etc.). The apparatus, buildings, PPE, and nearly everything else we have is from fundraisers and grants.

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        Here are a few comments and questions that I would like to add:

                        1. Each community is unique. You will have to ponder a lot of questions on why community support may be lacking. What another community does, may not work for yours.

                        2. What is your tax base? Has a major employer left town and your residents are un or underemployed at this time? They have to tighten their personal belt, if this happens. Remember the Affordable Care Act (ACA)? This has caused health insurance premiums to increase. People have to divert part of their income to this cost.

                        3. Do you have another fire department nearby? Some people think too many fire departments in an area is duplication. They may not understand that local fire stations generally mean faster response times. You may have to consider sharing resources, with another local fire department, for specialized equipment (hazmat, etc.). If you already do, you should make this known and how it saves taxpayers their money.

                        4. What perception does the local population have of your department? Ask them. We have a local community, where the local fire dept. had/have a lot of parties. The local state legislator, who also lives in that community, told me that fire dept. has a lot of drunks. Sort of hard to get state funding through the legislature, when the "Partyville Fire Department" spoils the reputation of the hardworking (and sober) firefighters around the state.

                        5. What is the total tax levy, for your community? If a major tax increase was recently enacted (new school, street reconstruction, water plant construction, etc.), then the taxpayers may be taxed out for the time being.

                        6. Do you send out appeal letters? If so, do what we do. Offer to send a previous year's financial statement, if they request it. Be sure to label any reserves, for what they are for. If you have money in an account for a new fire pumper, label it "future fire pumper purchase fund". If you are open to financial transparency, then you look more honest.

                        7. As for new members, are you a bedroom community? If most of your employed residents travel out of the community to work, they would not be around during the work hours to respond. Consider part-time firefighters for day-time response. Also, if local employers are reluctant to let workers leave for fire calls, during working hours, this may prevent volunteers for joining.

                        8. ISO Rating. If you need to make an essential purchase, that will help retain or lower the ISO rating, let the city council and community know. If they see a perceived savings in fire insurance premiums, then they may see fire protection as an investment, too.

                        9. Do a door to door campaign of some sort. Distributing smoke alarms, fire safety literature, etc.. Having a firefighter at the door step, allows the residents to see that you care. If grandma has a smoke detector installed, she will tell everyone. If small children get fire safety items, they tell everyone. Public relations at the finest.

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          25 members. 7 apparatus. 120 calls a year including a highway that is most likely not locals.

                          Look at that information from a non-firefighter point of view. You want them to fund work on your firehouse...justify to them what you have. I can almost guarantee you there are residents who believe you have too much stuff for your call volume.
                          "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


                          • #28
                            Originally posted by MikeG344 View Post
                            Are most volunteer departments run/funded "separately" from the townships/municipalities that they serve, in the US? Or does it simply depend on the bylaws, etc. of that area?

                            While my department is funded 100% through the Township, we still are active in the community, and have a great relationship with Council.
                            There are any number of funding models.

                            Some VFDs are formed through a fire district, which gives them a dedicated tax base, generally collected by the town or county.

                            Others may raise all of their funds.

                            Some may raise part with the town or county kicking in a portion.

                            My previous VFD in Vermont was actually a non-profit corporation that contracted with the town in 5-year cycles.

                            And some may get their full budget directly from the town or county through town or county taxes.
                            Train to fight the fires you fight.

                            Comment


                            • #29
                              Originally posted by LaFireEducator View Post
                              There are any number of funding models.

                              Some VFDs are formed through a fire district, which gives them a dedicated tax base, generally collected by the town or county.

                              Others may raise all of their funds.

                              Some may raise part with the town or county kicking in a portion.

                              My previous VFD in Vermont was actually a non-profit corporation that contracted with the town in 5-year cycles.

                              And some may get their full budget directly from the town or county through town or county taxes.
                              Makes sense, I kinda figured that it varied depending on the department. I asked as it seemed that the self funding model is very prevalent.


                              FWIW, I know we're pretty lucky with the councils we've had.

                              We had worked with the previous council to replace our SCBA's, cylinders, compressor and a second-line front mount pumper that was our main tanker fill site truck with a new mini-pump. We got those things(plus individual masks for us).

                              Then one of our tankers developed something terminal. Obviously unforeseen, but the then-new council was supportive, and we got a new pumper/tanker.

                              All in all, it was a big year equipment-wise for us, and a lot of money spent.

                              We do some fund raising for the association which helps with things public money doesn't cover in the department and charity things.
                              Two departments, twice the fun...

                              Comment

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