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  • Customer Service

    There have been a lot of talk about customer service in the fire service. Here are my thoughts.

    The world is changing, so is the role and responsibilities of Firefighters/paramedics in it. By adapting to these changes we serve our bosses (the public) better. They pay for the service, not what we'd like them to pay in all cases but they should get what they pay for if not more.

    When you do things that yeah maybe not what you personally believe you should be doing like responding to an elderly persons house to change their batteries in their remote control because they are so arthritic they cant even move their hands you may earn their vote or support when your agency needs a bond issue or when the union is going after the next contract.

    Every little thing we can do to better peoples lives betters ours in the longrun.

    Board up and post fire recovery is another area we need to improve on. Ive seen many firefighters in my 11 years on the job complain about things like using floor runners and tarps and doing things like vacuming. My belief is that we should do everything we can do to help the victims recover. First by safely fighting the fire or responding to their emergency, second by watching out for furniture, not using their home for training, protecting the carpets in and out on a room and contents fire, little things like draping tarps over their belongings or lifting stuff off the floor so it wont get wet or my big pet peeve causing unnecessary structural and water damage because you want to play mach guy. Sorry but thats somebody elses house not yours to destroy.

    I think when we do the little things that are unexpected we make a big difference!!!!

  • #2
    I disagree with you, Nate. Fighting fire, preserving property and saving lives is our job and #1 priority. This comes above all else- even "customer service" and safety.

    Fighting fire & saving lives and property is how we provide "customer service".

    Perhaps the guys that are such supporters of "customer service" would be better suited in a sales position with Nordstrom.

    Vacuuming?? Only if you have your apron and its tied securely- otherwise its much too dangerous.

    [This message has been edited by mamaluke (edited 05-09-2001).]


    • #3
      If you eat right too, you will sh*t regularly.

      Doc DC3


      • #4
        I respectfully disagree with you and here's why?

        Put yourselves in the victims shoes for a minute. Would you want someone coming into your home for say a chimney fire, and after extinguishing it decide to rip open a wall or part of the ceiling where the ifre didnt extend to. How about creating water damage because instead of the 50 gallons it took to put out the fire someone uses 500 gallons and floods their basement turning a thousand dollar loss into 20,000 dollars. You may say insurance will cover it but they dont always get 100% of their claim, often more like 80%. I had a 2 million dollar home go to the ground after an explosion (fully involved upon the call) they filed the claim and got 1.2 million not even enough to cover their existing loan.

        We are required to be citizen or customer service oriented. They pay our way and our salary. This is the biggest difference between departments in one region of the country and the other regions, while me may not have the call volume we do keep busy with public ed and public relations. Youl find when you move up the ladder that it is vital to do customer relations when your going for a bond issue or when you are going for a pay increase. You need the citizens on your side, on the unions side. Every vote counts (unless your from palm beach, then you should learn how to vote).

        The fire service has evolved. We now have ems, hazmat, technical rescue, wildland interface and other responsibilities. We dont just fight fires anymore. Heck now we even go on WMD incidents.

        Customer Service is vital. Its the little things that get remembered.


        • #5
          Does your dept do Laundry too Because some old lady cant walk and function as good as she used to? Maybe they pay your salary but they dont pay mine nor other firefighters in my town..But they do pay taxes to help us buy equipment and I do appreciate that but changing batteries in the TV remote? GET REAL! Maybe smoke detector but TV remote..thats a little ridiculous....just like most of your posts...

          South Amboy, New Jersey
          Explorer Engine 6 So. Amboy Fire Dept & Cadet Morgan FAS


          • #6
            I must say that customer service is not a name that should be used in the fire service. I'm not a grocery store clerk or a a clerk for Lord and Taylor.

            We are here to save lives and protect property to the best of our ability. I accept this regardless of pay, because I love the job and the rewards it offers. Firefighters will never get rich doing this for a living. For as little as most of us are paid you have to love it. If your in it for the money, you're in the wrong job. Although I would not be bitter if they paid me as much as a sports star.

            Your remark about tearing everything up is wrong. We do what needs to be done to prevent a rekindle and more damage. As far as funding goes. If the powers that be decide not to fund the fire department at acceptable levels, than who pays the ultimate price. The public and they should demand more for their buck from the money grubbing politicians.

            Last, your remark about the 2 million dollar house is a HOOT. If I could afford a 2 million dollar house, I sure as hell could afford replacement insurance. I'm not going to feel sorry for rich people who do not have the sense to have enough insurance to cover their losses. You should have picked a better analogy.

            Lord help the fire service if it ever goes the way Nate (the gratest firefighter in the world) wants it to. GEE I'm feeling fuzzy all over! Lets forget fighting fires, saving lives and go kiss the politicians and rich peoples [email protected]

            [This message has been edited by FireLt1951 (edited 05-09-2001).]


            • #7
              After reading up on notes from FDIC taken by my advisor, I believe that customer service is vital, but it takes a back seat when the house is going up.

              Furthermore, doing salvage and overhaul is a customer service, and fire fighters shouldn't complain. Overhaul requires such things as vacuuming and creating water shoots. It's taught in fire schools around the country and is even mentioned in the IFSTA Essencials (imagine that?).

              So, first the first time, I have to agree with Mr. Marshall. It is VERY important. And don't attack me, kujo. I'm just telling it like I've learned.

              Chief R.J. Stine
              XFD Explorer Post #29
              The Yellow Knights


              • #8
                When you do things that yeah maybe not what you personally believe you should be doing like responding to an elderly persons house to change their batteries in their remote control because they are so arthritic they cant even move their hands you may earn their vote or support when your agency needs a bond issue or when the union is going after the next contract.
                If that customer is that bad off then they need a caretaker or an alternative arrangement (like a nursing home).

                I have no problems with spreading the tarps, using runners on minor fires, I personally only use the water that I need (your 50 vs. the 500) etc. I don't believe in causing extra damage. I don't hesitate to open a wall, break a window, drop a ceiling, what ever needed to get at the fire. TIC's are great tools, but the batteries aren't as great as the cameras, and they do die, at the most inopportune times.

                I draw the line at vacuming. There are companies out there in the business of fire restoration. I am not going to partake in an action that will take business away from a business. Saving lives, confining and extinguishing fires, and eliminating the hazards is my business.

                As for the issue of underinsured, well, frankly that is not our problem. We have to accept responsibility for ourselves. My heart goes out to folks who lose everything and then default on the loan due to underinsurance.

                Youl find when you move up the ladder that it is vital to do customer relations when your going for a bond issue or when you are going for a pay increase.
                While I likely won't move too far up the ladder, I do agree with that statement. I have been approached several times off duty by citicens that I have assisted on calls, and every one thanked me for helping. They asked how they can help. Just remember the FD when we have an election, please! Smile. Always smile.

                Let us never, ever forget those of us that have gone before us in the line of duty. Because those brave souls have given all, it is up to us to always keep them alive in our hearts and our memories.



                • #9
                  You have a point here. You may have taken your examples to a bit of an extreme, but then again everyone one on this forum doesn't agree with what you say. All I'm gonna ask here is. Isn't "watching out for furniture, not using their home for training, protecting the carpets in and out on a room and contents fire, little things like draping tarps over their belongings or lifting stuff off the floor so it wont get wet or my big pet peeve causing unnecessary structural and water damage" part of our job discreption of "Protecting property"? I believe it is. Others are just using your examples as a reason to bash. WILL EVERYONE PLEASE GROW UP!
                  I don't agree with alot of things you post here but when I don't agree I'm not gonna follow the "Bash Nate" bandwagon either.
                  To many egos on the forum lately....

                  Running a code is easy.
                  The hard part starts when you bringem back and have a 30-40 min transport


                  • #10
                    whether or not a home costs 2 million 20 million 2,000 dollars it is still someones home regardless. And yes they did have full replacement insurance but theclaim still got paid at 1.2.

                    While they may be inconvenient changing batteries and other things it does make a difference and while yes they may need a caretaker its not our job to judge people.

                    Doing what seems little seems to be remembered by those we serve.


                    • #11
                      The concept of so called "customer service" is nothing new to the fire service. Ours is a helping profession. Firemen have been going above and beyond to help the public/ citizens/ taxpayers for ages, probably since the first bucket brigades.

                      I personally dislike the term "customer service" for these reasons:

                      1. It puts the important, life-saving work that my brothers and I do, and which so many of us have given their lives doing, on a par with Al Bundy selling shoes or the local pimply faced teenager flipping burgers at Mickey D's.

                      2. It is classic P.C. "trend speak". OK, so the Chief in Phoenix made a few bucks selling a book applying this business trend to the fire service, get over it. Like I said, we've been doing it forever. If you ask me he should get out from behind that desk and get some exercise.

                      3. If I think there is a need to hook the ceilings and walls, then hook them we will. How good is your "customer service" when you come back for a rekindle because you were reluctant (or too incompetent) to do your job the first time? Taken to the extreme this can be ridiculous and counter-productive. I don't mind going out to replace an elderly person's smoke detector battery, but calling to have the TV remote battery changed would be another story. Maybe they have nothing better to do with their time in Steamboat Springs, I dont know.

                      The public are not a bunch of helpless morons. They expect us to do our job to the best of our ability and treat them with respect. It's that simple.

                      [This message has been edited by NozzleHog (edited 05-09-2001).]


                      • #12
                        I agree and disagree with certain parts of what you are saying.

                        1st-Leave that region sh** out of the conversation.

                        Yes what you call "customer service" is important. I agree there. However The fire service has always been about being "citizen orientated" That's why we took the oath to protect LIFE and property. Who's lives? The citizens lives. Who's property? You guessed it! The citizens.

                        -However we don't worry about their nice carpet if the whole top floor is on fire...what sense does that make? When we have our priorities met and the resources available then and only then will we worry about "damage control" Because up until then the only thing that is going to cause the most damage is the FIRE. I am having a hard time understanding why you think there are all these fire dept's that are out to break as much stuff as possible.

                        Your comments "...Would you want someone coming into your home for say a chimney fire, and after extinguishing it decide to rip open a wall or part of the ceiling where the fire didn't extend to." shows how little time spent as a fireman learning from your supperiors.

                        Hindsight is 20/20 , If a guy has reason to believe that there is fire behind a wall based on his training and tears it out to find no fire are you going to yell at him? He SHOULD be ensuring that there was no extension to the remainder of the structure, for THAT is the best "customer service" of all...Not requiring a Second visit!

                        And I am not of the opinion that it should be termed so. Because they are not "customers" in that they don't have the choice to buy another product (different FD). They have the services they pay for in taxes. If they don't support a bond issue then it only hurts themselves. And if you can't convince them of the need for better fire equipment perhaps you aren't doing your job and need to focus on your real task of "emergency services" not customer relations. Are we as a fire service too incompetent to demand appropriate funding and be able to explain why? Do we really need to beg for every vote because the chief is too stupid to explain why we need more $$$ for trucks, ect.?

                        There is a different relationship that one has as a fireman and it isn't as the peddler selling the product (Fire protection) to the citizen...It is a "Duty". A business can reserve the right to refuse any customer.
                        We can't...They paid for fire protection and so did their neighbors.

                        Here are some problems:

                        -By staying there and doing the homeowners job you took companies out of service that need to get back to the station and get the truck back into service (switch hose, tarps, clean the saw and tools ect.) So they are properly prepared as best they can for the next fire. And Availability of Companies is improved.

                        -creates liabilities for faulty workmanship you are working out side your scope of employment duty, or training, Much like if you as an EMT performed a Paramedic skill that caused damage.

                        -Creates precedent and demand from citizens that you "provide" this service that "You performed for my neighbor".

                        Did you budget for the Diesel, wear on equip and possible OT for all these extra runs?

                        -Creates a liability if one of your men gets injured or killed performing a job they are neither licensed nor trained for...such as I am not a electrician, plumber, HVAC man, or gutter cleaner among other things.
                        I'd really like you to justify to the city risk manager that FF Brown just fell and busted his butt after falling off a roof performing "customer service" that was unrelated to a Life safety issue.

                        And most of all how about all the other 10,000s of tax paying citizens that didn't pay for you to clean someone's gutters for free. Or fix their wall for nothing. They want you in service for the next fire...quite possibly, their fire.

                        I personally don't care if someone else can't afford xyz service...if isn't life threatening then it isn't in our realm of responsibilities. I especially don't care if a person can get a $2 million house though finds himself under-insured, sounds to me like someone living beyond their means...If I pay for my own insurance why should someone who doesn't pay for insurance get a "free" service. Hell I'll cancel my policy today!

                        If I paid my taxes for you to provide Fire Protection for my house and my family I wouldn't want you fixing Mrs. Jones furnace across town. I wouldn't want you hooked up to a plug pumping Mr. Smiths new pool full of water...causing a delayed response if I need a Fire Engine. (Besides I'll bet the water dept will be irritated with the FD giving away their product for free.) I also don't want you cleaning someone's gutters because not only are you taking away some locals business and livelihood, you have also again delayed your response. But if you do, I'll give you a call every spring do mine as well.

                        If the closest rig is out of service for a legitimate Fire or EMS run then I have no problem because my call came in second. However if you are providing this service that has nothing to do with life safety. Then you are out of line in my opinion.

                        BTW- If those laddies are not able to care for themselves, the responsible thing to do is help them call a relative or social services for help.

                        Once again Mr. Marshall you can't get thru a post with out displaying your arrogance for all to see. Your comment "[You'll] find when you move up the ladder..." is inappropriate.

                        Perhaps if You Mr. Marshall would have spent more time as a fireman you would have realized the ideas of Chiefs don't always work as well in application as they did on the planning board.

                        Two cents from a fireman.


                        [This message has been edited by FRED (edited 05-10-2001).]


                        • #13
                          Man Fred. I don't think it could be put better any other way.

                          I LOVE THIS JOB!


                          • #14
                            Frankly I see a lot of extremes here. I think that there is no doubt that a certain amount of 'customer service' is part of our job, it's called salvage.

                            I see no point in creating unnecessary damage to someone's home because frankly it's unprofessional.

                            We should always do everything necessary to ensure a fire is extinguished even if it means causing damage, but there is a difference between necessary measures and just plain tearing stuff up.

                            We have all seen those people, the ones that love to tear things up for the sake of doing it or simply because they are lazy. They exist everywhere whether the rest of us like it or not.

                            Changing batteries? In many communities the FD's do that for smoke detectors for the elderly. If you have time to change the batteries in the remote while you're there - good for you - there's nothing wrong with that. Should it be part of the job description, no - of course not.

                            Being nice to people when you don't have to can not only be good PR for your department but it can make you feel better about helping someone else out when you didn't have to. I don't think it tarnishes the image of a firefighter to do extras like that, but I would never say it should be a requirement, we are not personal servants either. I'd like to think that people who do stuff like that are doing it because they just plain want to, not because it's become part of their job description.

                            In essence I think you are all right to a degree, I just believe in a gray area here, there is no need for it to be only black or white.

                            Susan Bednar
                            Forsyth Rescue Squad (Captain)
                            Griffith Volunteer FD


                            • #15
                              It's the little things that get remembered.

                              It isnt a job requirement, it doesnt have to happen on every job. Just once in awhile going a little extra for someone who has been less fortunate.

                              I also never said to stay and do full restoration or even part of it. I believe strongly though in removing as much of the stuff we caused and returning our part to as close to normal as we can. If this means getting excessive water out thats what it means, if it means moving some furniture around to protect it thats what it means.

                              It also isnt ourt job nor acceptable to judge someone else lifestyle or living conditions regardless of who they are what theyve done in the past we are supposed to help people. It may be an inconvenience to get called out for an unknown medical and find out the person could barely walk and needed assistance to do simple things that some of us wont be able to do when we get that age. Is it so much to ask for not to [email protected]@@@ and moan about it afterwards because you may very well need the same assistance one day. It doesnt mean taking a whole company out of service, heck your still in service if you get another call.

                              There are too many people in the fire service who think their top priority is getting back to the couch for springer.

                              Heres what a Denver Deputy Chief told me about when they know company level inspections are getting done.

                              "Springer was pre-empted"


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