This has been a topic of conversation in my Firehouse as of late-- volunteer officers. The question I have is, do you have them? What are the parameters of their rank? Do they merely supervise the volunteers, or do they supervise full time personnel as well?
In the past, we have had volunteer officers that outranked the full timers. One of which even made the rank of Deputy Chief with the Department. Then the problems started: he made some poor decisions, treated all the personnel horribly, and about got several people killed. Needless to say this left a bad taste in our mouths, as well as those of our city council. Therefore, it was decided that a volunteer would never outrank a member of the fulltime staff again. I'm just curious as to your experiences with this, and what your opinion on this matter is.
We have several members of our volunteer staff that have started seeking other opportunities because they feel as though they're working for nothing. Considering my Department only has 3, maybe 4 volunteers that respond on a regular basis, losing them would be catastrophic. They're the only reason we ever get a second rig out the door. Please feel free to let the comments flow, as I'm really interested to know how your departments handle this. Thanks for reading!
The situation of which you speak is a very difficult one.
I have not been on a combination department but have witnessed several transitions around the area.
In each case, without exception, the volunteers all eventually left. I'm sure their reasons were varied, but the reason I hear about the most is mistreatment by the paid guys.
I'm sure every department is different.
The saddest case I can recall was a case in which the new chief of a combination department decided the best way to make his department entirely paid was to eliminate the volunteers by making them miserable. He changed the SOP's so the vollies couldn't do much. They weren't even allowed to drive the apparatus anymore.
Anyway, we're all volunteer here and all is well. I wish you guys the very best in smoothing out the dynamics of your department's interactions.
I will start by disclaiming that I am not part of nor was a member of a combination dept, so I can notspeak on personal experience. However, the question comes as to how the dept is set up and the breakdown of the dept and how officers are appointed. I will say I put absolutely NO stock ino an elected officer, I personally do not believe in such a system. So if in your dept officers are elected, then I see no problem with such a rule of officers being over volunteers only. Although I doubt that may be the case.
If officers are appointed by the chief or by a commission with he chief's recommendation, then their rank should be respected, even by the full time guys. When it comes down to "supervision" it depends upon the application. On the fire ground is one thing, because mostly that is where the officer position is earned. When it comes to station work etc, then let the full time guys do their thing in their daily duties, afterall, they are the ones who are there on a fulltime basis. Having a volunteer officer tell FT guys to cut the grass, wash the rigs, etc, etc is overstepping if they are not working in the same capacity. Essentially when it comes down to station work, a volunteershoud be seeking insight from the fulltimers.......again, don't know many depts that have volunteer officers hanging around a station.
When it does come down to the fireground, an office should have the capability to perform their job and as such shouldn't matter if career or volunteer. It is also imperative for a firefighter to know their job and to be able to size up and evaluate to help the officer out. So if the officer given an order that could be questionable, it is up to the FF to confirm, or even suggest a better alternative. Afterll, you are a team and have the backs of each other. In the military, you don't see guys letting the officer make all the calls without providing input when needed. It also doesn't matter if that officer is a reservist.
A good officer, Chief or Company Commander, is a good officer. Volunteer or paid. If those responsible for promoting/appointing officers don't take their positions seriously you end up with poor performers. Poor performers end up getting themselves and/or their men injured or killed. My feeling is that if you have a good officer, paid or volunteer, you let him do his/her job. Were I a paid professional I would have no problem working for and respecting a volunteer commander.
Our Combination department is Set up that all of us Volunteers are assigned to Specific Apparatus, each of our 2 engine and our 1 truck have a Captain and Lt. which are both Volunteers and elected by there Volunteer Firefighter Crew. Our paid staff which is a total of 5 includes our Chief and Asst. Chief and the other 3 career the rank of Captain, and on the fire are the Ops, Safety, Entry officers, the Volunteer Officers are in charge of managing their Rigs.
I was a volunteer Lt when we became a combination dept. The first hires worked 6am to 6pm and the volunters saw them as their cleanup people and day workers. We shut that down by keeping our volunteer work nights from 6 to 9pm and made it a policy that nobody would be misused. (in florida) there is a state standard for paid and volunteer firefighters and a single state standard for officers and we agreed that that standard will be maintained along with mutual respect.
(in my department) volunteers officers had to meet the same standards that paid officers did BUT that was not the case countywide. In fairness i have to sat that i worked with alot of volunteer officers that didnt have the educational standards but did the job just as well because posession of a piece of paper does not mean that you are good to go, in some cases it means that you "just passed the class".
As a volunteer i maintained the standards required for a paid fire officer and only once did i encounter a situation at a mutual aid call where a group of paid men refused to work under a volunteer officer. i calmly gave them a choice that they could work with me or take a writeup for insubordination...they called my bluff and after my chief spoke with their chief, we did the job and nothing else was said.
Afterwards there was some discussion about the "ability and competence" of a volunteer "supervising" paid men and after some discussion the real reason was the paid guys being pissed that they had to accept a guy that met every standard for an officer (except for getting a paycheck) but they had to accept that I and some other MET THE STANDARD and that was that because the standard makes no distinction between getting vs. not getting a paycheck...and that became the rub
if the volunteers meet the standard, will the department/paid members accept volunteer officers?
I see volunteers disapearing all over the place and i think we are loosing a good reasource...(just my opinion)
Russ, I totally agree with what you are saying. I have no problem working under a volunteer officer, so long as they are competent enough to do the job the right way without endangering our people. The reason that volunteers are disappearing, is simply because they're not utilized and treated in the right manner. I've seen many paid guys that had a big hang up with training volunteers and didn't even want them around...UNTIL it comes time for a day off and they need their shift filled.
The biggest problem with all this that I see is that most of us are or have been volunteers at some point. I was a volunteer for quite a few years before I found a full time job. I hate it that people forget where they came from. Myself, I'm a big supporter of volunteer firefighters, because that's my heritage. That's how I came up in the Fire Service. I think to myself 'Where would I be if people hadn't taken their time out to help me?" and I think more people need to ask themselves that question.
I would have no problem with a vollie officer in a combination department. That being said I would expect him to have the same knowledge skills and abilities as his career counterparts. If this is the case then he holds the rank of an officer period and all personnel carer or volunteer need to respect the rank.
Our county has volunteer chiefs and one volunteer who is a paid County Deputy Fire Chief who was appointed by the County Fire Chief to be the go between for both sides of the county fire service.
The volunteer chief can be a fire ground commander for both career and volunteer if a career chief is not on scene. The volunteer chief also has control of their station or stations depending on what happens in them, but a volunteer chief has to take commands from the County Fire Chief.
Voulunteer line officers can be Sgt and up, while career line officers are LT and up.