Career fire departments need more firefighters in order to comply with NFPA 1710. With the military cutting its forces, fewer individuals will be able to enlist for the GI Bill benefits. Why not create a "GI Bill" for non-GI's? For serving their local fire departments to augment career staffs, they would receive free college educations.

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For more details, e. g., program administration, funding sources, union concerns, etc., see my post, "Firefighting as a national public service?" at www.fdexcellence.com.

I disagree with this. I disagree because it really doesn't address the crux of the issue of having increased staff. All it really does is create an "internship" program that is constantly revolving members, it lacks consistency.

 

If student FF's are there to augment staffing while going to school, then what is the purpose of the fire dept that is thus becoming a training facility? It is one thing to have interns from schools that have completed the necessary certs and they intern on career depts where they do a semester internship, to supplement what they learned, but not necessarily as the answer to staffing. What happens when the student graduates? Most likely they will look for employment elsewhere because the community isn't increasing their staffing levels, just taking on more students.

 

So for those depts that are augmented, where is the real benefit? Sure their staffing increases to NFPA standard, but at what experience level? If these are student, there will be a disparity in training levels and certifications necessary, thus limiting what those personnel are going to be able to do. Just because the numbers may be there, the experience level is not. Experience is a significant factor in the fire service and you start to miss out on this with constantly changing personnel.

 

Then there is the aspect of a "GI Bill" for non GI's. Is this really a problem? There is a reason there is a GI Bill as an incentive for the sacrifices that one makes when they enlist in the military. The fire service is not near the level of the military to justify some federal type of scholorship for those looking to get a free/reduced education to become a career FF. There really is a disparity when comparing the GI Bill to that of a glorified internship.

 

Speaking from personal experience, I served in the Navy out of high school as a Damage Controlman (Navy FF). After I got out, I used my GI Bill to attend school for my AS in Fire Science, I happened to intern with a volunteer dept during the course of my education, that intern program happened to be a live in program. It worked out well and there were many volunteer depts that offered this. The difference being was that the standards to be a volunteer and a career FF typically differ. Yet, while I used my GI Bill, I was also one of the oldest students in my class. The reality is there is so much more that I learned while in the service that helps me out on any given day as a FF. Having been in the military and having worked my way through the volunteer dept and into a career, I do not see this proposal being an incentive, other than to the cheapskate communities.

 

As for union membership, the link mentions that those students would be union members while they are with a dept that is union. Really? Talk about some pipe dreams here. If they are union members, who is paying their dues? In fact who is paying these personnel as firefighters? Where is their income coming from? If that dues money is coming from the proposal and comes out of SAFER, why wouldn't the SAFER money just be used as it already is intended now? Hiring FFs, not students. What about those FFs in a Right to Work state? How would they be union members if they choose not to? If they are union members, then they would fall under a contract, why should the union open a contract to cover such temporary students? What incentive is there to the union for them to be members? If these folks are there on a temporary basis, then why would I want to subject the regular members to possibly reduced benefits because of students? Quite frankly, you would be hard pressed to make a case that this benefits a union.

 

The reality is that there are intern programs in place already. There are live in programs in place already. Such a proposal doesn't really solve the issue of staffing because my concern is to have personnel trained and qualified to do the job when they hit the floor. I do not want to be a training facility and constantly starting over every couple years as students move on, just as they start knowing the job. I want to have a recruit go through the testing process and the recruit academy where they learn to do things the way the dept does them, not what the school may say and so forth.

 

I have no problem with those depts that see a benefit in such training programs, nor those that choose to house students, etc. I disagree with this to be some sort of national program which undermines the real use that a SAFER grant was intended for. I do not see the same pipe dreams of this curing a staffing disparity because while you may have the numbers, the experience levels are not there. If I am on a dept that is training such personnel, I want them there for the long haul, to grow and evolve with this dept, not to train them and see them go elsewhere. I would rather see money spent to hire actual certified and trained FFs to the career ranks and not some sort of feel good program.

 

After all the fire service isn't hurting because of a lack of students receiving the GI Bill, there are plenty of students out there in fire programs. All this proposal does is hurt the intent of bolstering staffing and that is with robbing money from such a program like SAFER (which has seen many cuts) and depleting it to put student FFs on depts. I disagree with this.

Let me start my reply by addressing the need for an alternative to the current staffing model. As I point out in my post titled "Making your case for firefighters," we can now document the need for 4-person engines and 5-6-persone ladders. But instead of getting more firefighters, fire departments continue to lose positions. The rationale for staff reductions (albeit a false one) is that fire suppression accounts for a small fraction of firefighters' time.

The NPSC program is a variation of what hundreds of fire departments are already doing. I described those programs in an article that I wrote for Fire Chief Magazine a couple of years ago. After the magazine ceased publication, I posted it on my blog site at www.fdexcellence.com, and is titled "College student firefighters."

An NPSC program would not dump untrained firefighters upon fire departments, any more than the military sends recruits to battle without going through basic training. With few exceptions, the fire departments described in the "College student ... " post send candidates to area community and Vo-tech colleges, accepting those who have Firefighter I & II, Hazmat recognition, EMT certificates and pass the department's physical agility test. The only difference between that and a NPSC program would be that the fed's pay for the training instead of the fire departments.

I referred to the proposed program as a GI Bill for non-GI's in order for people to more easily grasp the concept. The program would not replace the GI Bill, but rather would create an alternative method of serving the public and receive a free college education for it.

As to the "real benefit" to fire departments, let's look at what is happening. As I noted earlier, instead of adding or maintaining positions, fire departments are being forced to reduce staff and close stations. That is the point of a post that I wrote titled "What do firefighters and sardines have in common?" Just like the US sardine collapsed when sardines disappeared, fire are facing increased risk as firefighter positions continue to disappear. A fire department in the Chicago area recently lost positions after a consultant claimed that it handled mostly EMS calls and was thus overstaffed. The Kansas City, MO, fire department has 4-person companies but is cutting two companies because FEMA rejected its request for another SAFER grant to maintain them. Their problems may increase if residents turn down an impending vote to extend the current sales tax increase that pays for the 100 positions created a few years ago to staff the rest of its companies at the 4-person level. An editorial writer for the Kansas City Star has been dismissive of the need, so I would not be surprised if the paper comes out against continuing the sales tax increase.

As for the potential disparity in training and experience between NPSC and career firefighters, each fire department would determine how many NPSC positions it wanted and how it would use them. My post titled "Firefighting as a national public service?" notes how those numbers and duties would vary, depending upon each communities fire risk profile. I anticipate that communities with low-risk profiles would use more of them, while communities with high-risk profiles would use fewer or none for fire operations, although they could assign them to EMS positions.

Speaking as a former IAFF member, what union would not want to increase its membership? There is no need totally revamp contracts. Current contracts cover firefighter and EMS positions regardless of the time served. The NPSC would pay for everything (including union dues) beyond PPE.

I would not worry about such a program robbing money from SAFER because it is dying on its own accord. The funding has annually dwindled since the grant's inception, and more cities are actually refusing the grants despite the relaxed requirements. The reason? They do not want to pay for the additional firefighters when the grant expires. I mentioned their misguided rationale at the top.

I have been a strong proponent of increased staffing since early in my career, but have been frustrated as a firefighter and chief by the unwillingness of communities to support that need. My idea for an NPSC program is one way to improve community fire safety (not to mention firefighter safety) for the many communities that do not have high fire risk profiles. I should also mention that the program would also apply to many volunteer departments, but I'll defer that discuss until later.

Several components that don't mesh here:

 we can now document the need for 4-person engines and 5-6-persone ladders. But instead of getting more firefighters, fire departments continue to lose positions. The rationale for staff reductions (albeit a false one) is that fire suppression accounts for a small fraction of firefighters' time.

We have been able to document this for some time, the issue still lies within the purse strings that govern the depts. What you are suggesting is to further diminish such funding sources which fire depts depend upon, such as FEMA, SAFER, etc to fund this pipe dream of yours. Why should depts see a reduction in equipment and personnel, and even experience because funding is now channelled to giving away money to those who essentially already want to be on the job. Again, we are not seeing a decrease in those wanting to do the job, why create this program that takes away funding to provide schooling?

 

The NPSC program is a variation of what hundreds of fire departments are already doing. I described those programs in an article that I wrote for Fire Chief Magazine a couple of years ago.

 

Exactly, there really are many depts that are doing this, many of which tend to be volunteer or combination depts which have seen a reduction in volunteer or POC members to make responses etc. Such programs are a good "stop gap" to fill the voids. Yet, the disparity still exists when those student FFs are at school and calls occur. Sure there are a few college type of programs that further utilize personnel, but again these programs exist, what is the statistics for those depts that do such a program have seen an increase in career personnel as opposed to just rotating students?

 

An NPSC program would not dump untrained firefighters upon fire departments, any more than the military sends recruits to battle without going through basic training. With few exceptions, the fire departments described in the "College student ... " post send candidates to area community and Vo-tech colleges, accepting those who have Firefighter I & II, Hazmat recognition, EMT certificates and pass the department's physical agility test. The only difference between that and a NPSC program would be that the fed's pay for the training instead of the fire departments.

 

Have you ever served in the military? There is more to training than just boot camp before one is considered ready to be assigned to a unit. Even when they get there there is a lot of training and so forth to do. Yet at the same time, when a new recruit reaches their permanent (let me repeat that, permanent) duty station, they are expected to be there for the long haul of their enlistment duration. Such duty stations are not receiving and further training new recruits, just to have them leave in a couple years and repeat the process, all the while some elected official touts this as a great way to keep troops. It just doesn't happen.

 So again, if the feds pay for the training, how does that not rob Peter to pay Paul? Why would funding to train FFs for free be better than the ability of a dept to hire permanent FFs or fund for equipment upgrades and so forth?

Besides, why should federal dollars be spent for someone to go to school when most times the student is the one flipping the bill? Why should a dept send someone to school if they don't have the person as a permanent member? The students in these programs now are already paying for their education, why should a free education be given if they are already willing to pay? These students do not obligate themselves to their country like one going into the military does. You can easily have some 18 y/o right out of HS and get federal funding for free education to do a job they may have wanted to do anyway. At least a veteran using their GI Bill has earned that money.

 

As to the "real benefit" to fire departments, let's look at what is happening. As I noted earlier, instead of adding or maintaining positions, fire departments are being forced to reduce staff and close stations

 

All this program would do is create a band aid for a hemorrhage. The reality is there is more to the picture than just federal funds, much of what depts seeing reductions experience is a political climate hell bent on believing that others should "feel the pain". Such places have seen hits to the economy and so forth and throwing student FFs is not the way to answer the issue. The problem needs to be fixed at the source, not just some feel good answer.

 

As for the potential disparity in training and experience between NPSC and career firefighters, each fire department would determine how many NPSC positions it wanted and how it would use them.

 

It doesn't matter, because there will always be a disparity between training and experience when you are utilizing students. There just is no possible way to increase the experience level as the older FFs move on if you aren't bringing in FFs for the long haul. If you just keep rotating FF students, you lengthen that gap.

 

Speaking as a former IAFF member, what union would not want to increase its membership? There is no need totally revamp contracts. Current contracts cover firefighter and EMS positions regardless of the time served. The NPSC would pay for everything (including union dues) beyond PPE

 

So this program would pay for union dues huh? Again, if the IAFF is pushing harder for such funding like SAFER etc for depts, all this does is hurt those depts that could really use such funds because it is going back to pay for some kids college. It doesn't solve the problem. No need to revamp contracts? How much time have you spent in the IAFF and how involved were you in your local? How much time did you spend on the bargaining committee or E-Board? If the dept decides to bring on such student FFs this absolutely will affect current contracts because it represents a change to wages, hours and working conditions. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. There are so many aspects that this program would entail that most definately will affect contracts.

 

I would not worry about such a program robbing money from SAFER because it is dying on its own accord. The funding has annually dwindled since the grant's inception

 

SAFER is just an example of federal funding in which you state funds for this program can come from. If SAFER is dying on its own accord, then such a program like this would definately kill it. Yet, even so, where are these federal dollars going to be coming from to fund this pipe dream of yours? Please explain to the taxpayer that having student FFs (with very limited experience and limited certs) are good for the community to meet some numbers? How is this better to have roating FFs with varying degrees of knowledge coming in every couple years as opposed to ones with a community involvement and there for the long haul.

 

Please explain where this funding is going to come from when you have a significant contingent of elected officials hell bent on further reducing government and reducing taxes. What other federal programs get cut to fund this dream? Infrastructure? Social Security? Military? National Security? What about all those other programs and lobbyist out there fighting for federal dollars, what do you tell them? This is more important? To pay for the college tuition so you can numerically meet NFPA? Why should funding go just to FFs? Why should only some wanna be FFs tuition get paid for via a federal grant? What about engineering students wanting to work to improve infrastructure? What about doctors and nurses needed to meet the increasing healthcare demand from the aging Baby Boomer population? What about those looking to go into the law enforcement field?

 

Point being is there are many entities vieing for the same federal funds, and each and every can make the same case of importance to their idea. Why should FFs be deemed more important?

 

I have been a strong proponent of increased staffing since early in my career, but have been frustrated as a firefighter and chief by the unwillingness of communities to support that need.

 

You and every other firefighter, the fact is though that times have changed and dollars diminished. Instead of respect for the profession, FFs (especially career) have been demonized by the anti-union folks and the people bound and determined that since they suffer everyone needs to feel the pain. This mindset has infected many elected officials, not to mention entities like ALEC and ICMA who go against the importance of staffing and so forth. The fire service hasn't helped much either because as problem solvers, we still get the job done, albeit, not always the best way, but we get things done.

 

I would love for nothing more than to see increased staffing. However, I want that staffing to be there for the long haul, people who see this job as a career and not just a means for education to go elsewhere while we see another new batch of students and find ourselves back at square one on a continual basis. I want to have a FF who learns the district, learns the jobs, learns the uniqueness, learns the community, and is there to evolve with the community and the changes that occur. This does not happen with rotating student FFs.

 

I should also mention that the program would also apply to many volunteer departments

 

There are already many volunteer depts that have some form of intern program. The dept benefits by having a contigent of student FFs that can be ready to respond to help bridge the gap between a dwindling volunteer roster with increasingly sporadic responses, and to hire on career personnel. The training requirements for a volunteer/POC dept tend to be more lenient than a career dept thus enabling such students to be able to be utilized sooner on a volunteer/POC or smaller combo dept, than on a career dept.

 

There are ways of using student FFs can work, but it goes by a case by case basis. There are many things a dept can offer such students without having to have some type of national program in place. In many of these depts that offer internships, it is very limited the times that those positions can't be filled because of the number of people going to school for firefighting. Utilizing federal funds only diminishes the amount to be used elsewhere and doesn't address the issue of increasing career personnel.

 

Have you heard the term, "perception is reality?" Because structure fires now account for the smallest number of fire department responses, people equate  that with needing fewer firefighters - which you and I disagree with. But fire departments have to deal with new "reality," and they are consistently failing to convince people otherwise. The message from policy makers and residents is "We don't need all those firefighters standing around when most of what they do is EMS response."

Sadly, this false "reality" appears to be a key reason why SAFER funding continues to decrease. On top of that, two analyses of the SAFER program by an anti-union organization claim that the SAFER grants have not improved safety. (I can't recall the name but have the reports and can send them to you.) The reports relied upon aggregated data to reach those conclusions. I am confident that an analysis of actual fire incidents would refute their claims, but no one has done so.

By the way, the SAFER grants are themselves "stop-gap" measures and not intended to be permanent solutions.

Yes, I did serve in the military. I was a USMC battalion scout and then in recon during my four-year enlistment.

Speaking to the "experience" factor, my research indicates that around one half of college student firefighters will pursue fire service careers, so they provide a solid source of qualified and experienced candidates for career positions. Those who do not will pursue careers in the areas that they trained for, such as engineering, medicine and more.

As for the "disparity" issue, I say that fire departments are better off with four-firefighter companies of a career officer, a career apparatus operator, a career firefighter and a NPSC firefighter instead of the status quo of 2- and 3-person companies. I had noted in my prior reply and in my blog posts that cities with high fire risk profiles would use fewer NPSC firefighters - and perhaps none at all. But most communities do not meet such a profile and have even fewer fire runs than high-risk communities -thus making it even more difficult to argue for more staffing. I think that we would be more successful in convincing legislators of a program that improves fire safety while increasing college opportunities for residents, as opposed to SAFER grants which in reality are like putting band-aids on hemorrhages.

You questioned my experience in my IAFF Local. I served as the VP and was for responsible for leading our negotiating committee at contract negotiations. All of the questions that you raise can be answered to the satisfaction of management and labor. Enough said?

I know that I have not spoken to all of your objections, such as NPSC firefighters being absent from duty to attend classes. There are a variety of ways to deal with these details. For example, one fie department pays off-duty student firefighters to fill in when an on-duty student firefighter is absent for class. The bottom line is that viable answers exist for this and sundry other issues, as evidenced by the hundreds of fire departments that now use college student firefighters.

The simple fact remains that there is a limited pool of money for all things for this country. What you neglected to answer is what makes firefighters more important to recieve such federal funding for students as opposed to any other myriad of issues out there vying for those same dollars? In fact there is a recent report about the lack of air traffic controllers and the number of hours existing air traffic controllers are working. These are people with a direct link to life safety and responsible for more lives any given day than most firefighters. So because of a reduction in funds we see such examples, yet you want to believe that it is more important to give free tuition for student FFs.

What else do you give up to create this pipe dream? The money is finite, something has to give to push forth such a program, what makes FFs so special in the big picture?

I also see this program as detrimental to the fire service, especially in regards to established fire depts. What makes you think the politicians wouldn't say we can reduce staffing, paying the costs for those FFs when we can receive federal funding to replace those FFs at no cost? How does that bode into your plans? If one dept is staffing at 4 man pumps and 3 man trucks and 2 man ambulances (where an ambo marries up with a truck company) they already meet those NFPA standards. If their neighboring dept runs 3 man pumps and 2 man trucks, bean counters and politicians will ask why pay the extra cost for adequate staffing, when they can lay off and thus implement this program.

If you don't think the politicians and bean counters won't jump at an opportunity to reduce staffing costs while numerically meeting staffing, think again. Then what? What about supply and demand? What you are doing is establishing a significant supply with federal funds for FFs, while we will continue to see bean counters look at cost reductions, and eventually you will have so many FF students, yet less long term career positions. All that for what? To use federal dollars to increase FFs, meanwhile reducing the amount of funds available for training, equipment, technology and so forth.

Have you heard the term, "perception is reality?" Because structure fires now account for the smallest number of fire department responses, people equate that with needing fewer firefighters

 

Have you heard that reality is reality? The funding is finite and in order to do this program it means funding is reduced elsewhere, so what is reduced?

 

Sadly, this false "reality" appears to be a key reason why SAFER funding continues to decrease. On top of that, two analyses of the SAFER program by an anti-union organization claim that the SAFER grants have not improved safety

 

SAFER funding has declined because there are many elected officials in Washington that believe in even lesser government and to reduce govt funding. So pray tell, what makes you think that those same folks will look at your program as being a necessary expense?

 

By the way, the SAFER grants are themselves "stop-gap" measures and not intended to be permanent solutions

 

Quite the contrary, it was intended to bring back laid off FFs and to help increase staffing to meet demands. Problem is like any federal funded program the fingers got in the way of the actual intent. The grant has been and still is to help bridge the funding gap for those communities that need it. Once again the sticky fingered politicians rather put forth funding elsewhere than to look at funding firefighters.

A few other points, continued from previous post above ^^

 

Yes, I did serve in the military. I was a USMC battalion scout and then in recon during my four-year enlistment

 

Did you forget that once a recruit made it to their permanent duty station that they didn’t move on after a couple years? That is what you are asking for here, that depts take on students that will be moving on every couple years as opposed to bolstering their permanent numbers.

 

Speaking to the "experience" factor, my research indicates that around one half of college student firefighters will pursue fire service careers, so they provide a solid source of qualified and experienced candidates for career positions. Those who do not will pursue careers in the areas that they trained for, such as engineering, medicine and more

 

Again, then why front federal funding for these students. What stops someone from looking at a free education to meet many degree requirements for something else and save on loans and educational costs? Why should I see reduced costs to programs so some kid can get a free education to move on?

 

You questioned my experience in my IAFF Local. I served as the VP and was for responsible for leading our negotiating committee at contract negotiations. All of the questions that you raise can be answered to the satisfaction of management and labor. Enough said?

 

Perhaps you forgot some of the realities of bargaining as well. The fact remains that you don’t really have an idea of how this will affect a union to arbitrarily say that the union dues will be paid for by the grant. You also fail to realize this will impact contracts just on the basis of wages, hours, and working conditions.

I had noted in my prior reply and in my blog posts that cities with high fire risk profiles would use fewer NPSC firefighters - and perhaps none at all. But most communities do not meet such a profile and have even fewer fire runs than high-risk communities -thus making it even more difficult to argue for more staffing

The same fact remains that those cities also use federal funds which would see a decrease in such funds so that that money goes to your program. For example take a larger fire dept with a FEMA USAR team, such as FDNY, LA, etc. Why should those programs and funding decrease because federal funds are being used on your program? Do you think they will sit idly by?

 

I think that we would be more successful in convincing legislators of a program that improves fire safety while increasing college opportunities for residents, as opposed to SAFER grants which in reality are like putting band-aids on hemorrhages.

 

Glad you think you would be successful, but you still haven't answered the question of what makes FFs so important to see a free education? What else do you deem less important when it comes to funding? How do you tell these legislators in districts that will see a reduced funding for their fire services that this improves safety? How do you tell that to those legislators who see outdated equipment, rigs in disrepair, have failing infrastructure and so forth, that it is more important to give a free ride to some FFs students? How do you convince such legislators that see such real issues that some upscale bedroom community that chooses not to adequately fund staffing of their depts are more deserving of such funds? Besides, one can be a student in such a bedroom community and be lucky to see a working fire during their tenure.

 

Whereas with SAFER, the intent is to be a permenent solution. The issue with many such places that see issues is that those communities looked for federal dollars and chose to spend foolishly and neglected to fund for those FF positions. What makes you think that your program won't be met with similar opportunities to obtain federal dollars? You think you will be more successful in convincing legislators, well good for you, good luck, because you haven't even come close to convincing me and I can guarantee there will be people in bigger positions than me, that will be much tougher on such a program.

 

I know that I have not spoken to all of your objections, such as NPSC firefighters being absent from duty to attend classes. There are a variety of ways to deal with these details. For example, one fie department pays off-duty student firefighters to fill in when an on-duty student firefighter is absent for class.

 

Why should a fire dept be paying for students who are getting a free educational pass? So now you are saying these are not students, that these are employees of the fire dept? How do you think this wouldn't be a union contractual issue?

 

The bottom line is that viable answers exist for this and sundry other issues, as evidenced by the hundreds of fire departments that now use college student firefighters.

 

There are many depts that have an internship program, I came from one, yet I still do not see that throwing federal dollars is going to make things better. These depts that have such programs have their own rules and stipulations in place, but I would guarantee none of these programs are using federal dollars to have such interns. These students are fronting their own educational costs. Nothing is stopping a dept to establish such an intern program, but we don't need to be throwing federal dollars for a free education, while we rob Peter to pay for pipedreams.

 

What you neglected to answer is what makes firefighters more important to recieve such federal funding for students as opposed to any other myriad of issues out there vying for those same dollars?

If fire departments can deploy enough firefighters from enough stations to comply with NFPA 1710, the current staffing model is very effective. But because fire suppression is manpower-intensive, it is very inefficient. Advances in technology have enabled private businesses and public services to reduce operating costs, and the general public has come to expect all public services to "do more with less." Take the mundane service of waste removal. Up to two years ago, it required 3-person crew, a driver and two people to dump the cans. The new automated trucks have a 1-person crew, the driver. Firefighting remains manpower-intensive and will remain so. Since personnel costs account for 90 percent or more of fire department budgets, there are only two ways to increase efficiency. The first is to cut personnel, which more cities are doing. The second is to reduce firefighter salaries and benefits, which is also happening. I deplore both. With few exceptions, fire departments need more firefighters, not less. Firefighters provide a vital service that is inherently dangerous and deserve decent wages and pensions.

The NPSC program would increase efficiency by supplying firefighters without increasing salary and pension costs. That would allow cities to pay their career personnel the wages and pensions they deserve.

What else do you give up to create this pipe dream? The money is finite, something has to give to push forth such a program, what makes FFs so special in the big picture?

The answer is simple. Back when I started riding the tailboard, fire departments only handled fire calls. In the 1980's, we chiefs began pushing for fire departments to take on EMS roles ranging from first responders to ambulance services. The reason? We saw EMS as a value-added service that would increase public acceptance of staffing levels. A NPSC program would provide firefighters at less cost and college educations for more residents. Now that's a value-added program.

 If their neighboring dept runs 3 man pumps and 2 man trucks, bean counters and politicians will ask why pay the extra cost for adequate staffing, when they can lay off and thus implement this program.

That is a valid concern. The goal should be to add NPSC firefighters without affecting the status of current firefighters. I do not see an NPSC program becoming a reality without the support of organized labor. If there is not a "no layoff" clause, the program would simply be a non-starter.

What you are doing is establishing a significant supply with federal funds for FFs, while we will continue to see bean counters look at cost reductions, and eventually you will have so many FF students, yet less long term career positions.

Would there be such pressure? Yes. I alluded to that in my mention of the Kansas City Star editorial writer who opined that the addition of 100 firefighters to meet NFPA 1710 was an unnecessary expense. But fire chiefs can now justify staffing with valid science. They can also justify a ratio of NPSC firefighters to career firefighters by their fire risk profile. In short, low-risk communities can use more NPSC firefighters, moderate-risk communities fewer, and high-risk communities even fewer or none.

One determining factor of the ratio would be the requirement for advanced technical training and experience. The NPSC firefighters would have basic training to perform firefighter tasks on engine and ladder companies. They would not be capable to act as company officers, apparatus operators or be on technical rescue crews. That establishes a line between them and career firefighters in communities of all risk levels. The bottom line is that a specific number of career firefighters are needed to provide an effective level of fire safety.

SAFER funding has declined because there are many elected officials in Washington that believe in even lesser government and to reduce govt funding.

I disagree. Yes, such individuals in Congress exist. But when it comes to their states and districts, they are more than willing to sponsor legislation that benefits them. A NPSC program improves fire safety while reducing fire department costs, and provides college educations for their constituents at the same time.

Quite the contrary, it (SAFER grant funding) was intended to bring back laid off FFs and to help increase staffing to meet demands.

True, but only on a temporary basis. The program assumes that communities recognize the need for a specific number of firefighters and stations and will support that level of service when they recover from the recession. The recession is over and that is not happening, which is the point of my post, "What do firefighters and sardines have in common?"

One more thing, John. You stated that Whereas with SAFER, the intent is to be a permenent (sic) solution. Please supply documentation that this is factual.

You still fail to provide adequate reasoning as to what makes FF students more deserving of a free education over a myriad of any other jobs out there. You still haven't answered what other areas get cut to promote this program. You seem to be so caught up in your own idea that you neglect to see the realities that are faced everyday. The simple fact is that federal dollars are finite and there is many different agencies, professions, lobbies and so forth out there vying for those dollars. You seem to believe that everything will all be hunky dory, but yet you haven't even touched on the realities of a finite money.

 

So for you to promote this program, I ask again, what makes FFs so special that they should receive a free education? Stop looking at things from a fire sided perspective. What makes it more important for a FF to receive a federally funded education as opposed to any other profession that relates to govt type of work in one way or another?

 

When I asked about where the money comes from and that the money is finite, this is your response:

The answer is simple. Back when I started riding the tailboard, fire departments only handled fire calls. In the 1980's, we chiefs began pushing for fire departments to take on EMS roles ranging from first responders to ambulance services. The reason? We saw EMS as a value-added service that would increase public acceptance of staffing levels. A NPSC program would provide firefighters at less cost and college educations for more residents. Now that's a value-added program

 

All I see here is political posturing and evasion of the question. You never once addressed the fact that the money is finite nor have you said what should be cut or neglected to fund this program. Yapping about the evolution of EMS doesn't answer the question. EMS made sense for the fire service to take on because of how stations are placed and so forth, EMS is also a revenue generator which helps deflect the cost of the service. This program doesn't add to revenue, but instead diminishes it because of where the funding is coming from.

 

That is a valid concern. The goal should be to add NPSC firefighters without affecting the status of current firefighters. I do not see an NPSC program becoming a reality without the support of organized labor. If there is not a "no layoff" clause, the program would simply be a non-starter

 

Goals and realities don't always mesh and in such a case like this, your optimism seems to cloud the realities. Given the recent history and seeing the same type of mindset on the political scale, it is hard to believe that this won't affect the status of current FFs. If you don't see this program as becoming a reality without support of organized labor, then you can put the idea to rest now. How do you expect the IAFF to fight for firefighters and look at the same pool of funding your program is going to want to take from? The IAFF is there to look out for the existing members now and this program can adversly impact existing members. You didn't answer the question about the disparity between a Right to Work state and a Fair Share state. You only response thus far in that realm is that the funding for students would also pay union dues. How does one pay dues if they aren't actually hired on by the dept?

 

They can also justify a ratio of NPSC firefighters to career firefighters by their fire risk profile. In short, low-risk communities can use more NPSC firefighters, moderate-risk communities fewer, and high-risk communities even fewer or none.

 

And yet when the funding affects at all levels, why should a higher risk community see reductions for a low risk community? Even moreso, how do you justify it when you have a bedroom community that is affluent and able to afford better staffing, choosing not to out of greed? What you also seem to forget is that plays a significant part in the risk anaylsis out there. If the community chooses their level of service and has the ability and means to increase staffing, but they choose not to, then that is their decision. Yet, I would guarantee you, these would be the first type of places clamouring for federal dollars.

 

Yes, such individuals in Congress exist. But when it comes to their states and districts, they are more than willing to sponsor legislation that benefits them. A NPSC program improves fire safety while reducing fire department costs, and provides college educations for their constituents at the same time.

 

Sure they'll sponsor legislation that supports them, now find support from those legislators who will see their districts hurt because of this. Again, how do you justify reducing funding in a high risk area so that the affluent bedroom community can get more funding because they choose not to have adequate staffing? How do you tell these same legislators that it is more important that a FF student receives a free education while neglecting the myriad of other professions that could benefit from a free education. Why is it more important to have a FF's education paid for than a police science student? A medical student? A nursing student? An engineering student? and so on???

 

True, but only on a temporary basis. The program assumes that communities recognize the need for a specific number of firefighters and stations and will support that level of service when they recover from the recession. The recession is over and that is not happening, which is the point of my post, "What do firefighters and sardines have in common?"

 

The intent of SAFER was to keep staffing or return staffing to communities to help ride out the recession. It was to be a permanent solution with diminishing funding, to help those communities over the course of several years. The reality was that the ball was dropped and issues ensued, funding formulas changed, requirements to the program were changed and so forth. Those who have received SAFER  and now are facing issues are the same communities that didn't start looking at the funding for the FFs on a permanent basis, but instead squandered the money.

 

You say the recession is over. Yet, even basic economics teaches us that a recovery period can easily dip back into a recession, which we have seen over the years. The other factor is where is the recession over? Sure some communities have rebounded, yet many still struggle. One can't confuse Wall St with a returning economy because you aren't really seeing the same reflection on Main St. As for documentation about SAFER, sorry but I didn't keep original copies of the proposal before SAFER went forth into law. The reality is that SAFER was changed multiple times from original intent to morph into what we see. The original intent didn't address volunteer depts, but after work in committees and changes made, volunteers were included. Which just goes to show you that when it comes to such a federal type of law, what your intent may be, doesn't necessarily become the final result.

 

 

So for you to promote this program, I ask again, what makes FFs so special that they should receive a free education? Stop looking at things from a fire sided perspective. What makes it more important for a FF to receive a federally funded education as opposed to any other profession that relates to govt type of work in one way or another?

It is not that the firefighting profession is somehow "special." The simple fact is that an NPSC program would make fire departments more efficient without losing effectiveness. The hundreds of existing college student firefighter programs are evidence that the incentive of a free or subsidized college education can supply qualified firefighters for less money.

The simple fact is that federal dollars are finite and there is many different agencies, professions, lobbies and so forth out there vying for those dollars.

Such a program has a leg up over others because it delivers two benefits that permanently improve conditions. The current federal program, FEMA's SAFER grants, pays for firefighters for a limited time. Then the grant recipients must bear the cost. The key reason why cities lay off the SAFER-supported firefighters or refuse to accept the grant is unwillingness to increase fire department budgets and pension burdens. With actual fire incidents now being the exception to the rule in fire department responses, policy makers are more willing to ignore the risks of reduced manual suppression. On average, the NPSC can provide two firefighters for the cost of one, and not increase the pension burden. I see this as a much bigger incentive to supply adequate staffing than trying to pursue the status quo.

Goals and realities don't always mesh and in such a case like this, your optimism seems to cloud the realities.

Who is the optimist and who is the realist here? You insist on maintaining the status quo, while evidence of its failure continues to mount. I am proposing a method of decreasing the cost of fire protection while maintaining effective levels of manual suppression.

Would it be nice if cities accepted current staffing models to maintain effective fire suppression capability? Yes, but the world of fire risk has changed. Just like efficiencies in sardine fishing led to the industry's collapse, our successes in getting stronger building and fire codes, better review of fire safety plans and more effective fire code enforcement continue to reduce the frequency of fire incidents and their impact. That was the point of my post, What do firefighters and sardines have in common?" at www.fdexcellence.com.

Pushing the sardine industry metaphor further, one could say that we are the victims of own success. Now we need to adjust how we staff fire departments lest we continue to lose firefighter positions. The sardine industry refused, instead insisting that the sardine population would somehow recover. Unlike sardine fishermen, fire departments are not going to disappear. However, maintaining the status quo will result in a deficient number of firefighters, apparatus and stations. That is a disservice to the public, and also to firefighters.

The IAFF is there to look out for the existing members now and this program can adversly impact existing members.

It would only impact existing members if cities laid off career personnel. I am confident that we have enough labor-friendly support in the Congress to ensure a "no layoff" clause in the enabling legislation. NPSC firefighters would be union members, so the net numbers of union members would remain the same.

You didn't answer the question about the disparity between a Right to Work state and a Fair Share state.

If a city in a right-to-work state decides to bargain with its firefighters' union, I could see a clause in the NPSC program that would pay the dues for all NPSC members, whether they chose to participate in their union or not.

How does one pay dues if they aren't actually hired on by the dept?

They are hired by the department, but as full-time temporary instead of full-time permanent employees.

And yet when the funding affects at all levels, why should a higher risk community see reductions for a low risk community?

I'm not sure what you are getting at here, John. High risk communities would have lower ratios of NPSC:career firefighters. To the extent  that they provide advanced technical services, e. g., hazmat abatement, technical rescue, etc., only career firefighters would staff those units. The reason is that they must achieve and maintain advanced levels of technical training. NPSC firefighter training would be limited to that involving engine, ladder and EMS companies that do not perform advanced technical tasks.

Even moreso, how do you justify it when you have a bedroom community that is affluent and able to afford better staffing, choosing not to out of greed? What you also seem to forget is that plays a significant part in the risk anaylsis out there. If the community chooses their level of service and has the ability and means to increase staffing, but they choose not to, then that is their decision. Yet, I would guarantee you, these would be the first type of places clamouring for federal dollars.

The short answer is that any community could apply for NPSC firefighters and/or EMT's in order to comply with NFPA 1710 or 1720. I has nothing to do will ability to pay. A limiting factor for each community would be the ability to supply qualified NPSC candidates from its residents. I haven't addressed this before, but each community would be responsible for creating interest in the program and providing college-eligible high school graduates who are also capable of passing the fire department physical ability exam and getting certified as Firefighter I & II, Hazmat Awareness and EMT.

Cities that conduct high school fire cadet programs that train the cadets to those certification levels and pass physical ability tests would receive priority over other cities because they show a commitment to maintaining viable programs.

Sure they'll sponsor legislation that supports them, now find support from those legislators who will see their districts hurt because of this.

The proposed program is one of those where there is "something for everyone," be it and all-urban Congressional district, suburban, ex-urban and rural.

 Why is it more important to have a FF's education paid for than a police science student? A medical student? A nursing student? An engineering student? and so on???

As I noted earlier, it isn't. But this program can increase college opportunities while making fire suppression more affordable.

You may think that the desire to free up tax dollars going to fire departments so that cities can devote more dollars to quality-of-life improvements indicates selfish policy makers. They understand that such improvements are far more likely to attract and retain residents than 4-person fire companies. The proposed NPSC is a way to help cities achieve both.

Those who have received SAFER  and now are facing issues are the same communities that didn't start looking at the funding for the FFs on a permanent basis, but instead squandered the money.

This is your opinion, but I disagree with it.

 You say the recession is over. Yet, even basic economics teaches us that a recovery period can easily dip back into a recession, which we have seen over the years. The other factor is where is the recession over?

The NPSC would not be a temporary fix for cities suffering from recessionary forces, but rather a permanent way to comply with national fire deployment standards in a  more affordable way and increase residents' college opportunities at the same time.

 

It is not that the firefighting profession is somehow "special." The simple fact is that an NPSC program would make fire departments more efficient without losing effectiveness. The hundreds of existing college student firefighter programs are evidence that the incentive of a free or subsidized college education can supply qualified firefighters for less money

You are making FFs more "special" by proposing free education to promote your plan, what you haven't answered is why should the federal govt fund FFs over any other myriad of professions? Why not medical? Law Enforcement? Engineering? and so forth? That is what you are failing to realize here, there is a finite amount of money and you are choosing to spend it college education for wannabe FFs. So again, why should FF wannabes be looked upon as more deserving of such education over other professions?

 

With actual fire incidents now being the exception to the rule in fire department responses, policy makers are more willing to ignore the risks of reduced manual suppression

 

Yes, fires are down, so once again, why should we spend federal funding for FF wannabe students? What about the fact there are answers already in place like MABAS and so forth? Why should federal spending on other programs be reduced to give FF wannabes a free education?

 

Who is the optimist and who is the realist here? You insist on maintaining the status quo, while evidence of its failure continues to mount. I am proposing a method of decreasing the cost of fire protection while maintaining effective levels of manual suppression

 

I would say I'm the realist. I am not insisting on maintaining the status quo, but instead realize that there is more to things to spend federal dollars on than FF wannabe students. Where as you are having difficulty viewing the fact there is a finite amount of money with many other entities that would be clamouring for it. You can't even answer the simple question of what gets cut to fund this pipe dream of yours? If you can't answer that here, what makes you think some elected official asking the same question will take you seriously?

 

The proposed program is one of those where there is "something for everyone," be it and all-urban Congressional district, suburban, ex-urban and rural.

 

Along with that, how do you think you will sway those elected officials representing the rural areas where they have predominantly all volunteer fire departments? How do you convince them that the fire service and free college tuition for wannabe FF students is more important than farm subsidies, agricultural advances, infrastructre and so forth?

 

I am confident that we have enough labor-friendly support in the Congress to ensure a "no layoff" clause in the enabling legislation. NPSC firefighters would be union members, so the net numbers of union members would remain the same.

 

Now you truly show you are living a fantasy if you believe there are enough labor friendly support in Congress for this. Congress couldn't even pass a National Collective Bargaining bill about 5 years ago, and that was a labor friendly congress. Now with so many TEA Party officials and anti-union elected officials now, you are dreaming if you believe there are enough labor friendly officials to pass this.

 

In fact answer the simple question to such a representative. You stated that the union dues for these student FFs would be paid for by the program. Please explain then, to an anti-union elected official, why should federal dollars be spent to a union that (in their words) will just spend the money towards the Democrats? Afterall the money spent on the student isn't being earned by them as income. Whereas my union dues come out of what I net after taxes and money that I earned doing my job.

 

If a city in a right-to-work state decides to bargain with its firefighters' union, I could see a clause in the NPSC program that would pay the dues for all NPSC members, whether they chose to participate in their union or not

 

See last point above.

 

I'm not sure what you are getting at here, John. High risk communities would have lower ratios of NPSC:career firefighters. To the extent  that they provide advanced technical services, e. g., hazmat abatement, technical rescue, etc., only career firefighters would staff those units.

 

I'm getting at the simple fact that money to send wannabe FFsto college comes from a finite pool of money. It is that same pool of money that departments like LA, FDNY, etc also use to fund training programs and the like such as the FEMA USAR teams. If more federal dollars are being spent to the FF students, then there is less available for other federally funded things.

 

As I noted earlier, it isn't. But this program can increase college opportunities while making fire suppression more affordable.

 

So what? Once again you are prioritizing FFs. What makes fire suppression more important than healthcare? Infrastructure? Security? and so on? Why should we spend federal money on a college education for a FF when many depts require nothing more than to be 18, a HS Diploma or GED, and a driver's license? Whereas it takes a doctor, engineer, nurse, etc years of schooling to meet the job requirements. Why spend money on a FFs education? Why not increase college opportunities where college is an actual requirement? Why should we spend money to have more FFs when we have an aging Baby Boomer population and will see increased demands for healthcare. Why should federal dollars fund a wannabe FF over a wannabe doctor?

 

The NPSC would not be a temporary fix for cities suffering from recessionary forces, but rather a permanent way to comply with national fire deployment standards in a  more affordable way and increase residents' college opportunities at the same time.

 

Once again, so what? Do you think that being a FF is the only way one can serve their community and thus be entitled to a free education? In fact FF is one finite portion of service work. Wouldn't I, a taxpayer, see more bang for the buck if such a program was funded to doctors, engineers, and so on, where there is a greater impact on the community at large than just firefighting?

 

A limiting factor for each community would be the ability to supply qualified NPSC candidates from its residents. I haven't addressed this before, but each community would be responsible for creating interest in the program and providing college-eligible high school graduates who are also capable of passing the fire department physical ability exam and getting certified as Firefighter I & II, Hazmat Awareness and EMT.

 

How do you answer the communities without a nearby college with a fire program?Going back to the rural community where you may not see a school with a fire program within a couple hundred miles, why should they see their tax funding reduced so other communities can gain? Again, how do you answer to the importance of such a program when many communites don't require a college education for FF, but train within their own academies? Why is a college education more important for a FF wannabe student?

 

In fact, why is a wannabes education more important than an existing FF? If a FF has been hired without a college degree and a degree is favored for promotion, why shouldn't they be able to partake in the program? Going back to the higher risk cities and so forth, they may not have a need for such student FFs, but they would have personnel adversely affected if they weren't offered the same opportunity. For example say you have a bigger city FF, gets hired on without a degree, is very knowledgeable and hard working, but needs a degree for promotion. Then the dept hires some kid who received a free education through this program and is now more qualified for promotion over the other FF. Where is the fairness in that?

 

Unlike sardine fishermen, fire departments are not going to disappear. However, maintaining the status quo will result in a deficient number of firefighters, apparatus and stations. That is a disservice to the public, and also to firefighters.

 

While I understand what you are trying to do, I believe your optimism has outweighed the realities. You can't or refuse to answer the questions I have posed over and over. There is so much more to this that you aren't accounting for and the simple fact is you want to give a free education to wannabe FFs using a finite amount of money which affects so many other things.

 

There are already such programs in place, the difference is the student is fronting the cost of education, not the federal government. There is nothing stopping any individual fire dept to look for such an intern program which does not cost the dept, the community, nor govt any money. You seem to forget that simple fact, and the myriad of facts that federal funding impacts.

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