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Regionalize Vollies and Then Some

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  • Regionalize Vollies and Then Some

    Monmouth County, NJ is developing too rapidly for the volunteer emergency services to keep up with the staffing, training and response times required for adequate public protection. Some volly houses should be consolidated and staffed with volly duty crews, while other should be decommishioned and districts placed under career primary care. I have my opinions of which, but first I want to see if there is any interest in educated volly and career dialogue.

  • #2
    Wow, you're looking for an "educated" volly / career discussion and you come in with things like:
    "Some volly houses should be consolidated and staffed with volly duty crews, while other should be decommishioned and districts placed under career primary care"

    Just my opinion, but I don't think you're choosing the best route to start off this type of conversation. You're looking at ****ing off a lot of people with that type of approach.

    Now to answer the question, consolidation definitely has it's merits, but everything has it's goods and bads. We need to weigh out those goods and bads for each area and determine the best plan of action -- the same way we fight fires. With the exception of 'putting the wet stuff on the red stuff' we don't fight all fires the same so maybe we should consider not blanketing a county with "Mass Consolidation" plan that might be great for one part of the county but suck for another.

    There are places it may work. In my area for example, there is a neighboring town that has to come through ours to get to a small sliver of theirs even though it is literaly less than a mile from our station. Some of these logistical problems may be relieved with regionalization and also some of the absurd redundancy in apparatus may be relieved.

    Response time is a whole nother issue that has, in previous posts, caused some controversy so I a going to chicken out and stay away from it. The only one thing I will say is it is better to know that it may take 3 minutes longer for someone to get there, but they are definitely coming vs. a dept going to 2nd or 3rd request for manpower and still having trouble getting out the door.

    Just my thoughts. Hope they make a little sense.....


    • #3
      Radfire. the only thing I don't agree with you on is that this is a Monmouth County thing. This is a New Jersey problem. Morris County is as blatant an example of the mismanagement of the fire service as any place I have seen.

      Regionaizing vol depts. is far more than a response time issue. There are many, many management issues that can be dealt with through the regionalization concept.

      I own a home in Morris County. I pay at least $7000.00 in property taxes per year ( I wonder why people can't afford to volunteer anymore). My town has a surplus of fire apparatus that is mind -boggling. As a fire fighter, it is painful to know that the department could have spent their money more efficiently to gain resources they still don't have. As a tax payer, it infuriates me that my tax dollars are thrown out the window unnecessarily. The apparatus purchasing guidleines in Morris County are: Buy something bigger than the next town and buy the latest technology, whether we have researched and tested it or not.

      What problems can be solved. First of all, manpower. What good is a first alarm assignment that is limited to one town, when all they are ever going to get during the day is 4 guys? If this first alarm assignment was strategically planned, and included apparatus from the closest stations, the response time and manpower available would improve. I was a volly for a short time in a town where we were directed by the Chief to call all the apparatus from our town before we went to mutual aid. Well, one of the districts was 13 miles away and the mutual aid was 1/2 mile from the fire. Tell me this direction makes sense. Yet nonsense like this happens every day. Remember, the person with the fire does not care what color the fire trucks are or what name is on the side of them.

      Another problem that would be solved is purchasing. Purchasing equipment in bulk, for several departments will save money and will result in standardization.

      Procedures would be standardized. That way, every department would be singing off the same sheet of music.

      Communications would be centralized and standardized. Every unit would have the same frequencies and would be able to communicate with every other unit. Also, the dispatching centers would necessarily be placed under the FD instead of the PD where it is now.

      This is just a start. There are two ways for this to happen. Be a visionary and work on this problem now, or wait until it is too late and be dragged kicking and screaming into the merger. One way is good. One way is bad. You pick.


      • #4
        I'll chime in from South Jersey on this. How do you guys see the individual towns giving up on home rule and going with regionalized or shared service? I know North Hudson did it, but still hear of a number of problems (real or not). I agree things have to change, one thing that always suprised me about north jersey was how the town borders seemed to be concrete barriers. Our automatic aid is much more liberal down here, countywide dispatch which has been in place about 30 years has helped that tremendously.


        • #5
          Halligan, you are right. NJ is the home rule capital of the world. South Jersey has got better mutual aid plans and organizational plans than anywhere in North Jersey, especially Burlington, Camden and Ocean. I can tell you that the big difference is that those counties have strong, organized County Fire Marshal's and County Fire Coordinators. Any attempt in Morris County to utilize a County Fire anything is met with disdain.

          This movement will not start in the fire department's themselves. It will start when the public and the governing bodies get sick and tired and hearing about 2-3 calls to turn out an ambulance or an engine and paying $400,000 for a custom pumper when a commercial pumper for half the price will do the same job.


          • #6
            There are good points already coming up and stated with good intent.
            Regarding the fact that I may **** some people off.......I can't help but ask the questions that need asking. I already have made enemies in the volls because question the need for an $850,000 100' tower ladder with a reward facing camera for backing up and gold leafing and chrome out the wazzoo when the tallest structure is two stories. I was told that it was because the membership was getting too old and could ride the bucket up. I'm not kidding!
            Another example was when I asked a former member why he switched to a neighboring towns engine comany. He answered that when he wanted to have more active drills with line stretching, ladder raising or for the cademy to teach learn something in house that the elder membership put an end to it. He had finally had enough so he went somewhere else.
            Other towns are experiences response time growth due to the older members running newer members into the ground. Other times it's just apathy due to no "work" that diminishes younger response.
            Mutual aid seemed to be to me to be driven by politics. Whoever the chief liked during the year of his term the company goes with, then next year new chief, new mutual aid outfit. It doesn't matter that we may need this piece or that piece, but who they wanted to invite to their fire.
            I feel that there should be a county-wide emergency services master plan. The county has a master plan for road upgrades and population growths. Why can't there be one for progessive regional consolidation of emergency services?
            I feel we need the liberal mutual-aid and established county-wide dispatch that Halligan stated. It's what I feel is the keystone of a good management system....communication and cooperation.
            We also need an accountable and managed system of purchasing, recruitment, retention and training. Accountable to the taxpayers...our customers...providing the most for the cost as George stated.
            Keep the discussion strong, because the problem isn't just Monmouth, but the whole state and the answers are coming out right here. I only chose Monmouth, because it's where I am.


            • #7
              You know as I think about it some more, this is really a statewide problem. I, like George, have my ties to Morris County and I have to say we are horrible with the "Mines better than yours" "I can top that" attitude.

              We have people buying towers to replace straight sticks only to find out the tower doesn't fit in certain neighborhoods so now they have purchased a new stick as well. We have people asking for aerials in towns that are maybe 2 - 3 square miles even though all 4 towns that border them already have at least 1 aerial if not more. There is absolutely no shared services in any aspect of the fire service.

              I came back to NJ from Virginia where they use the county system for many stations. It is proof that a system does work if it is planned properly by people who have a clue. It can't be planned solely by Politicians or solely by the Fire Service. If you can form a committee that is made up to find a nice balance between FD, Govt. and Citizen, and you come in with an open mind, I think we could make it work.

              There are things that would definitely be good for us. George makes an excellent point about purchasing equipment. As most anyone knows, when you buy in bulk, you generally save. If we could form county wide organizations that could leverage their size for things such as gear, radios, pagers, etc. I think we could be a lot better off. Not to mention the money we could probably make by selling some off some of the redundant equipment.


              • #8
                I'll take a chance and stick my 2 cents in from Western New York. I think the previous comments have almost all hit the nail right on the head, it's not just a Jersey problem. I belong to a small volunteer dept that is finding attracting/retaining members to be increasingly difficult. I think just about everyone in my county is pretty much in the same boat.

                The points made regarding pricey apparatus purchased just to 'keep up with the Joneses', exotic equipment when it's available from your neighboring mutual aid company(s), new turnout gear every year with maybe 6 structure fires, are absolutely right on. We're our own worst enemy.

                My company has downsized from 5 trucks down to 3, not only for budgetary reasons, but how can you justify the expense, onboard equipment, fuel, insurance, etc involved in having a hall full of expensive equipment that you can't consistently staff with proper crews? The average age of our active membership is 42!

                I'm certain that County-wide or regional departments are coming whether we like it or not. The volunteer service is finding it increasingly difficult to provide consistent manpower to meet the growing demands of many urban or suburban areas. The additional training, certification, and specialization requirements don't make the task any easier (I'm all for training/getting smarter by the way).

                We cheer (usually) our local governments when they talk consolidation of services, economies of scale, etc. The Fire Service will not be far behind. There will be a lot of screaming and hollering along the way, but I think the handwriting is already on the wall. I Love being a Volunteer Firefighter (15 yrs) and I would hate to see my own Company become part of a larger, consolidated dept, but unless things change, consolidation and probably combination paid/volunteer companies will be in the future for a town near me!


                • #9
                  Can anyone tell me how much it might cost a town to bond itself for an apparatus? Is it like a mortgage or a car loan? The cost must accumulate expontentially.


                  • #10
                    All of you guys have it right. There has even been studies that some counties in NJ have 1/3 the population and 1/10 of the size of NYC. Yet there is twice as many apparatus. North Hudson has merged into one, but they have a lot of problems. Only because politition where just looking at the money saving aspects and not the saftey of the firefighters and the general population. There are some towns that should merge. FFTRAINER, I think I know where you work. I work in the town next door. I think that the 3 M's should merge. Well at least share services. I think it could be done with hireing a few for people.


                    [This message has been edited by Kyle Wickman (edited 01-18-2001).]

                    [This message has been edited by Kyle Wickman (edited 01-18-2001).]


                    • #11
                      I'm looking into Morris County as well as others, before I say anything in reference to possible progress. In regards to Monmouth County, there is approximately 115 companies here with approximately enough equipment to protect New York's five boroughs 1 1/2 times. I have to find the apparatus handbook of the county to verify this, so I may be a little off.
                      I know of one town, a single mile square, with eight companies. Some of these outfits have thirteen to sixteen pieces of equipment including one with a hovercraft supposedly. I feel it's a bit extravagant, but that, as well as this whole message is only my opinion.


                      • #12
                        Hello from Camden County! To me regionalization only seems like common sense. We would be stronger and better. Yes Camden County has some of the best mutual aid plans in the state but even there the politics of companies feuding can compromise the firefighters safety and the publics as well. But with regionalization hopefully that will end those situations. With regionalization we would be able to stand up to people the politicians better and be able to help ourselves out better because if we aren't the initiators of this then it will be forced down upon us and we wont like that.

                        The statements above are my own opinions

                        FF Greg Grudzinski
                        Oaklyn Fire Dept.
                        Station 18-3


                        • #13
                          I know a firefighter who actual put together a mock county fire department for monmouth, also with ems and fire prevention. It was a combo dept career controlled (all chief's are career), but the vollie lt's and capt's had the same power as the career officers. It was broken down into 5 Divisions with 30 career companies and 30 volunteer throughout monmouth county. As you can see most stations as we know would be gone. It made alot of sense, but we all know the vol fire service won't do it unless a law mandates it!!! These two complete seperate visions of the fire service is why we don't get funding or are respected by the politicians. Career needs and Volunteer needs are in the same ball park, playing the same game, but are on different teams. Unless this service unites and presses all our issues like the cops do, law enforcement and fema will get 90% of all $$$ and we will continue to get crap. Even ems has there act together better than us!


                          • #14
                            John, George

                            John you and I know first hand about consolidation. The meeting we had was not very productive if you supported consolidation. It really comes down to one thing, volunteers do not want to give up anything.

                            I bet if you research it that you would find that #1 there are not that many volunteers that ACTUALLY pay taxes because they are young enough to be living home and #2 they rent so they do not see the tax first hand.

                            I believe some where down the line we will consolidate to a degree. I think therw will need to be a process in that direction and it could not or should not happen overnight.

                            John I agree, our mutual aid works well and contributes to better ISO ratings. However there are still personalities and ego to deal with on the fireground. Combined drills should be continued if not for anything else down here for scheduling and cost purposes at CCFA.

                            I think (it may be too progresive for these parts that mutual aid districts should meet jointly an "association/co-op" if you will to discuss fire operations, training, volume purchases of equipment and building supplies, insurance and utilities.

                            Do what I did, I got elected fire commissioner and I try to have a say in the way my taxes are spent. I probably pay the most property/fire/school taxes out of the entire board and volunteer fire company.

                            The views and opinions expressed herin are my personal views and opinions and not those of any organization, department I may belong to or represent


                            • #15
                              It is clear that the begining argument came from a paid Firefighter who is anti-volunteer. I bet you began as a volunteer before you became career. Most of us did too. I still volunteer in my hometown and am proud to do it. How soon we forget where we came from huh? Did you ever stop and think that you are lucky you have your job? In Monmouth County especially. You are the only fully paid fire dept in the county, (with the exception of Military Bases) if I am not mistaken. True, Asbury may at one time have needed a fully paid department when the town was booming. Let's not kid ourselves here,
                              you respond to just as many calls as all the
                              volunteer departments do. And in some cases, even less. Most of the calls for service now in Asbury are EMS calls. Which probably warrants a full time EMS, but not fire.
                              Every other town can effectively fight fires on a full time basis with volunteers, why can't Asbury? All I'm saying is, don't throw stones! Be glad you are gainfully employed.
                              Leave the vollies alone. I can recall more than once that they helped you out.


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