Ok this is going to cause an uproar...but I think we ask too much of volunteers.


When I joined back in 1978 we needed at least Fire I in my company which consisted of SCBA training, ladders, hose handling and small tools. We could take other courses, most took Vehicle rescue, hazmat and some officer training courses.


Now I see companies requiring members to have what equals over 100 hours of training within the first year, including monthly in service training.


Now I'm all for training, I used to go to as many fire schools as I could. But then again I was 16 and in high school and had the time. But now we have members who are older (18 at least) and working, have families and responsibilities. Many times I have seen on websites telling people to give an hour a week or whatever time they can. But once they get in they are usually required to get training after training. Once again I'm all for training but how much. Our company has the state hazmat units. Should we require all members to be hazmat certified? Another company has a collapse response unit. Should every member be required to have that training?


Its called volunteer for a reason. I remember being on a call with 7 FFs'. I knew 3 of us were going in. 1 was going to take the hydrant and stay there until the fire was out. 2 were great roof men but don't go inside. 1 was going to talk to the girls across the street. Is that ideal. Most was say not. I say why not. I don't want someone who is not comfortable doing what they don't want to do. I don't want to lose someone because thier forced to so. 


The volunteer fire service is dying. Meadville PA Fire and Rescue #39 just closed down for various reason and the equipment auctioned off. One was lack of members with certified qualifactions. I see engines going out with 3 FF's. that extra guy could be at the hydrant or humping hose or thowing ladders instead of a fully SCBA qualifed FF who would be better inside fighting fire.


I might be wrong and will say so if proven wrong. But the service needs every able body we can get.    

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I am a volly and could not agree more. If you are not 100% in, and that means showing up to training and all the other tasks that need to be done to keep everything current and operational, then I don't want you on the rig with me when it rolls.
Hey, they're consistently complaining, isn't that good enough?

I see no problem. If you want to do the job, then train to do it.
We are in an age of specialization. Only a rare few are expert at all we do. I take that back. No one is an expert in all we do. Sometime after I had served as a fire chief, president of my fire company and a state fire instructor and before I was elevated beyond all that to chaplain, I attended an exceptional seminar on recruiting and retention. I came home inspired and, as usual, my enthusiasm fell on the deaf ears of the Protect-Us-From-Change Zombies. Key to the main point of the seminar was: we must operate like a business. ie: If you need someone to keep the books, you advertise for a book keeper and interview the applicants. The same would hold for firefighters, administrative assistants, EMTs and Paramedics, scene support personnel, tech support, etc., etc. The mutually agreed expectations would all be spelled out in job descriptions (probably in the bye-laws). I'll be in my office, you'll be doing maintenance, you guys will respond to fires (you stay out of my desk and I'll stay off your fireground). Everyone lives up to (and is limited by)the set of expectaions they choose to comply with. If someone choices to take on more job descriptions, they take on the training required in that job description. The work load and commitment are spelled out. One takes on what one is comfortable with or passionate about. Its win/win. The fire company is manned with happy members with a sense of purpose and fulfillment and the public is exposed to the best specialists you can offer. I Thought it was worth sharing. WE ALL HAVE THE DUTY TO ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER. Keep the faith. Pete
Between you and JOhn I agree, with one stipulation, the people that complain about not getting respect from the career guys, are in it to only talk a good game and not step up to the plate when it matters.

To me, I want to train constantly. I love going to fire school and drills. I'm on my training committee this year and I've got some good chances to have drills that are interesting and exciting. I look forward to stepping up and trying to get the spark back in the members of ours that may have lost the spark.
Good luck Mongo, too many departments have lost their spark and its a shame. Im trying to do the same with ours, we have "Drill Night" every monday yet its always maintenance or work nights or truck checks. Im trying to get ONE night a month for actual HANDS ON TRAINING, I mean it is called "Drill Night" we might as well have atleast one drill right?!?!?! LOL
You have to know what your doing if you want to enter an IDLH, bottom line. You put other lives on the line when you enter an IDLH and have no clue and that doesnt set well with me...TRAIN.

Again, good luck on your training schedule Mongo.
I am one of those who quite frankly dreads some drill nights because I know it will turn into a 2 hour bullsh*t session. I want to learn so prior to announcement going out I will email one of the guys and tell him I would like to work on this or that.

I am not here to shoot the sh*t, I am here to work and I hate having my time wasted.
I agree, this past week we spend waiting for our chief engineer to do work on our engine until 11 o'clock. We did sign up for QRS and we had a crew for that but the fire side got nothing.

I can't for the life of me understand how people can sign up for the fire company and not want to be a firefighter. I can only assume that when they signed up people never explained to them that it's not all fun and games, there's training and rules, things to be done, etc. We've got about 30 members that are more or less around... 15 actively active members, but those other 15 are less than active, they are also less knowledgeable and also on the last truck to the fire/accident scene. Not by timing either, by choice. Scared or because they fear they don't know what they're doing, I hope to change that with some new members...
So true! I love BSing with the guys, BUT I don't need to do that when we're supposed to be accomplishing something. BS on your own time, after drill or before.
The only thing I pretty see is simply lack of leadership amongst the rank. If you have a officer that just wears the trumpet and now just sits back....thats probably one of the biggest problems Like I said before its all about Pride in what you do. If you have lack of hands on training night after night this will cause disention amongst the fire fighters and sooner or later they will stop showing up for drills. I have a lot of eager young volunteers and you do have to keep their intrests up always to make sure that they enjoy coming down for drill nights you can only sit there for so long and look at dvds.....time for change and leadership.
I have heard from newbies that this experience will look good on their resumes.
Since the weather is getting nicer I am hoping to talk the guys into wildland training. It seems if we want to train away from the yakers we have to leave out station long before they do and go find a quiet area.
That's a provocative question.

My answer:
And no.

Far as I can tell, a LOT of what you say is right on the money.
I think the key to managing volunteers at anything is to determine what they can do taking into account their physical, psychological and social limitations and optimize those resources by matching the right people with the right job.
Not everybody can do everything.
Some people are great interior FF's but make lousy EMT's and vice versa, for example.

I think the important thing is NOT to assign someone to a task for which they are NOT adequately trained. NO exceptions on that.
It may mean accepting limitations on what kinds of things your company can do, and not hesitate to call for help when you need it.

Firefighting is s TEAM effort and every part of that team is important.
Somebody who brings hot coffee and food out to the crew at a sub-zero fire-scene, is just as much a part of the effort, in my opinion, as the lad on the nozzle.
Every piece contributes to the effectiveness of the whole.
You know, like in basketball, it isn't just the guy who sinks the shot who's important, it's also the guy who gets the pass to him at the right place and time, and the guy who sets the screen, and the guy who called the play, and the guy who set up to get the rebound, just in case.

As far as "able bodies" go, remember that there's a lot of "support" work, like administrative stuff that has to be done, too. Don't over-look "disabled" community members who can contribute in that way. Somebody once said "it takes a whole village to raise a child." I think it takes a whole community to best protect a community.

When you have "hardcore" people with the time, ability and inclination to put extra time/effort into training on their own, I think you groom them for leadership roles. and I think it's smart make a special effort to try to identify, recruit, train and maintain those members.

Also, the more people you have, the more you can "specialize." The fewer people you have the more important it is that they have a wide range of operational abilities.

The days of the volunteer fire service may be numbered. And that may be good -- how many volunteer cops do you know? The challenges we face require ever more knowledge and skill, and there are only 24 hours in a day. Hard to work a full time job and volunteer full-time, too.

I think part of the solution is to put more time, energy and money into PREVENTION.
If every residential structure was fitted with working smoke detectors and a sprinkler system, we'd save a lot of lives without anyone having to risk their own to do it.

Just my opinion, of course.


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