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Volunteer Department in Trouble!!

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  • Volunteer Department in Trouble!!

    I need any help I can get. Our department is volunteer, we have no money from taxes, we do not get paid per run or to attend meetings; it's strictly VOLUNTEER. Now all of the sudden our officers want to make meetings mandatory, out of 24 meetings a year we can only miss 3. We are also being told that training is more important than actually going to fires or wrecks. I was told by one of our officers that he could care less if I showed up to a single incident as long as I was at all the meetings. We serve a small rural area with only about 150-200 families at best. We used to have only 15 firefighters in our department but since these new rules were put into effect we've lost 7. We now only have 8 firefighters on our roster and 3 of those have not showed up to an incident in quite a while. We just set up a board to and part of the reason these fighters left was because our officers were starting to overrule the board just one week after it was established. This just covers some of the problems, we need help and advice. Please we're desperate. My email address is [email protected] to questions....
    I appreciate all of the advice and concern with our problem. You all have made some good points. Our officers used to be selected by the firefighters, now they are supposed to be appointed by the board. Unfortunately our board was just set up 1-2 weeks prior to the posting of this message, about 3-4 weeks from now. The board and the new bylaws were established with little contact to the firefighters or the general public. Basically the officers created the board and the bylaws. We recieve no money to operate from outside sources, our funding comes from fundraisers and grants alone. We cover a 5 mile rural radius, there is no political government in our fire area. All of the other officers who have left the department have done so because of the meetings rule and because the officers were unwilling to listen to proposals. Our board being so young does not know of the powers that they have. A few of our board members have said they don't understand why their is a board, the officers just do what they want anyway. I hope to show them that they have the power to "reign in the officers." We are supposed to have 1 regular business meeting a month and 1 training meeting a month. I don't understand why we have business meetings if we have a board. I think that maybe we could just have a meeting and training session on the same night if nothing else. It's hard when you don't get paid to make it to 2 meetings a month, plus all the calls we go on. The attendance problem was not really an issue before these officers. Sure firefighters didn't come to all the meetings but we had people at the incidents and everyone tried to talk to someone and find out what we did. We run on only about 40 calls a year, this includes wrecks and fires. We don't run an ambulance service we just first respond to the county service.

    [This message has been edited by neohustonr (edited March 03, 2000).]

  • #2
    Could you provide a little more info?
    How are these officers selected?
    Where does your money to operate come from?
    The area you cover is what? Township,village, other.
    How do the local politicions factor into this?


    • #3
      What is the function of your boar? Why can't they rein in the officers. Obviously if half of your force quit there is a problem and someone (presumabley the Boar) should investigate and take corrective action.

      Why did the others leave? Did they raise their concerns to anyone, the chief, the board? Or did they just walk out?

      How many officers do you have? Why 24 meetings a year? It sounds like a lot for a small department covering a small district.


      • #4
        Sounds to me that your officers are the main problem. Leadership starts at the top. Where there problems with attendance prior to the officers becoming dictators? If there were, then some of what they are doing is coming out of frustration. Where do you stand? Are you an officer, or some other ranked member, do you sit on the board? If you sit on the board lay the crap aside and reign in your officers. The easiest way to do this is to put it plain and simple, lay down the law to them. If you are not in a position to do that, then your situation is a little bit more complicated. Nontheless it can be remedied with some patience and effort. When ever I encounter a higher ranking poster boy for the administration that can't tell the difference between his rear end and six wild robins I like to try and make him/her feel like it was their idea. What I mean is that you go to the officers and simply bring up the subject of membership and attendance. Tell them something like "I feel like we need to try a different way to get the membership to attend. It seems like the current policy and how it is enforced is really turning people away from the department." (This part is crucial, remember to never ever become argumenative or bad mouth the current policy. Remember you may be talking to the Hitler wannabe who came up with it.) Suggest some of your ideas at this point. In my own department I have found that taking suggestions on what to train on and then trying to incorperate some of those ideas into your sessions is a great way to bolster participation and attendance. Also make some of the traing into a competition. Break off in teams and go at it on a obstacle course or a search & rescue drill. Most of the time with the guys and gals at my department bragging rights is enough to get them going. If your guys have the basics down pat, then lay off of them for a while and move on to more advanced training. Remember though not to get complacent. Make sure that the basics are incorperated into every drill, just don't concentrate an entire evening meeting on it. I hope this helps, brother. Be safe and good luck! If you need anymore help feel free to e-mail me.

        [email protected]

        My mouth certainly isn't a prayer book, but if I don't know the answer, I can find it!

        JP Childers, Training Coord.
        Lt. Fire fighter/Paramedic
        Cairo, IL FD


        • #5
          I am an officer in a small Volunteer fire company . If you have an officer election that is the time to show these officers the checks and balances of the company.Training is very important and so are responding to the calls,What good is all the training if you don't ever make a call? We have had the same policy as your Dept. but that was changed in our Bylaws,now we have a point system that we are working on that gives curtain points for calls,fundraisers,drills,meetings,etc.if you get a certain amount of points you are allowed some equipment to keep.all though this is not final in the bylaws.I suggest you read your bylaws and see if there are any infractions in these bylaws by your officers,Remember your membership put these people in office so they can take them out.

          If you have any questions E-mail me at [email protected]

          [This message has been edited by Nate Bush (edited February 25, 2000).]


          • #6
            All I can say is WOW!!!
            If you can give a little more info like Sand Creek lynn asked it would be a little easier to understand the whole picture.
            As for your officers they don't sound like they should be officers you train to get knowledge so maybe someday something you were taught may save a life (possibly your own) but why train if you are not going to do the job you are training for.As for the meetings that seems to be alot of meetings to attend for such a small Dept. in a volunteer dept even the loss of one person is a great loss it is hard enough to get people to begin with and to lose 7 members out of 15 how much longer do you think the other 8 members can continue to take the up the slack?
            How many calls does your Dept run a year and do you do ambulance calls also?

            Ridge Fire Dept.


            • #7
              WOW is right, Let me first state that in my case being a chief officer it's my job to ensure that the dept. has the tools, ie training, equipment ect, to do their job. It appears from your post info that you seem to have some officers who suffer from the little man syndrome. Our line officers are appointed by the chiefs and can be removed by the chiefs. As far as mandatory meetings go I cant say as I would agree to that versus manditory training. The calls you go on are won or lose based on the skills learned in training. So to me training is number #1. I feel that you need to set the by-laws and requirements that will best provide for the community. If these by-laws and officers are going to chase people out of the fire dept. then pretty soon you will have no dept. You must remember that your in the buisness for the community. As for your officers, if they were under my command they wouldnt be wearing red hats. You may want to do some bench marking. Go visit some fire dept's and see how their run. Talk to some officers. You are definitly going down the wrong set of tracks, but you found a great place to start on this forum. Being a small dept. I dont know your command structure but a chief, capt. and a lt would more than surfice. The board you speak of could be made up of 2 officers, 2 firefighter elects, and a member at large who is choosen by pick of the hat. This will help stalemates. Well good luck and by all means keep in mind the good of the community. Its what your their for.


              • #8
                Good Grief! I reckon our department is more blessed than we thought! Like ya'll, we are 100% volunteer; however, we don't have the budget problems you talked about.

                Our Chief is appointed by our Town Council, and the officers (2) Captains, (2) Lieutentants, Assistant Chief, and secretary are voted in by the fire fighters.

                We have 20 FFs on the roster, but ya'll know how it is, we only get around 8 or 10 folks to show up at training, meeetings, and fires.

                We meet twice a month for training/business.

                Wish ya'll the best neohustonr!



                • #9
                  It is indeed sad to se your fire department in such condition, which in effect COULD COMPROMISE THE SAFETY OF THE PUBLIC. I can understand the officers concern for safety, however I feel the number of meetings required is arbitrary, inconsiderate of the family needs, and dictatorial. I find it hard to believe there is no politcal entity in the area.

                  As it appears on face (at least to me), it seems to be personal. I will agree however that training is of paramount importance, to the effect that you learn how to handle emergency situations. Remember, you must learn how to crawl, before you learn how to walk. Learning while performing on the incident scene is good, but remember, on the emergency scene, its for keeps. If you make a mistake on an emergency scene, it could be harmful to others.

                  In the State of Georgia, the Firefighters who are volunteer and are paying members of the pension fund ARE REQUIRED to make a minimum of 50% of the calls, and 50% of training sessions.

                  In summary, it may be time to seek a mediator to bring both the officers and board together to settle these differences. If this does not work out, then seek redress with the government, or with the State Firefighters Association (surely there is an association of this kind in your state). You may also request a conference with the county commissioner(s), or even with the State Fire Marshal or equivalent.

                  I hope your department will survive this dictatorship, because this appears to be the reason for the loss of volunteer personnel. I have seen this happen during my lifetime.

                  CS Gosdin


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