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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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?

Not true. Many occupations receive federal support. For example, the feds have been subsidizing local police departments since the Safe Streets Act of 1968. As for the medical profession, people who cannot afford med school have long been able to receive tuition by committing to work in under-served areas for a fixed time after graduation.

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?

"FF wannabes?" Sorry to see you resorting to derision to make your case. NPSC firefighters would be just that, firefighters, trained and ready to serve on engine, ladder and EMS units. I agree that there is a finite amount of money - at the federal, state and local levels. Fire departments continue to lose the battle for those dollars to competing tax-supported services at all three levels. They are more likely to win more of those dollars with a program can that improve fire department efficiency (I. e., reduce costs) and cap pension burdens while maintaining (or achieving) adequate staffing.

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?

A big consequence of fewer fires is that fire departments are losing firefighter positions instead of maintaining or adding them in order to comply with national deployment standards. A program like the NPSC provides two public goods. It allows local governments to achieve or maintain enough firefighters to comply with those standards for less cost, and increases opportunities for their residents to get college educations.

Is MABAS an answer? Both NIST reports concluded that "Responding with additional two- and three-man crews on the 1st alarm was ineffective in performing tasks simultaneously or in a highly coordinated manner, and thus could not be an effective response force." The bottom line is that companies need 4-person or more crews. Automatic mutual aid is great, but does not solve the problem of too few firefighters arriving within the required travel times.

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?

Actually, I answered that question early on. SAFER fund appropriations have steadily dwindled since the program started in 2003. Funding a program that achieves the same goal for less money - and increases opportunities for college educations to boot - is more likely to win funding. The Department of Education funds a lot of programs that have not achieved their goals, to wit college student loan programs. The funds are there.

My experience with elected officials is that they are becoming more skeptical of programs like SAFER. I expect that they would jump at the chance to provide adequate staffing for less cost and lower pension burdens.

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.

Such a program is more likely to win acceptance by officials because it can reduce the cost of government.

Why not increase college opportunities where college is an actual requirement?

The lack of chiefs with college educations has been a detriment. A big reason why chiefs get their butts handed to them in budget hearings is that they lack skills such as advanced quantification that competing department leaders possess. Increasing the number of college-educated firefighters will be an asset to fire departments as those individuals advance through the ranks.

Do you think that being a FF is the only way one can serve their community and thus be entitled to a free education?

Of course not. But I think that there is a better justification for giving residents free college educations because they are volunteering to perform an inherently dangerous job for their cities.

How do you answer the communities without a nearby college with a fire program?

You assume that the only people qualified for the program would be fire science students. Not so. They could choose any area of study. You would be surprised at the number of colleges within commuting distance, even in rural areas. Obviously, such a program won't solve the staffing problems for all fire departments, but could for a majority.

There are already such programs in place, the difference is the student is fronting the cost of education, not the federal government.

Yes, there are similar programs in place, but nearly all of them subsidize the cost of college. Many do it with free housing, and many others pay part or all tuition costs with local or state funding.

NFPA 1710, 1720, and all other numbers are recommendations NOT obligations. Most fire departments in this country, pick and choose which recommendations to follow. Most departments are not financially able to follow each and every one.

The GI Bill only pays a portion of tuition based on the length of service, and colleges and universities don't consider it financial aid, as the money is payed to the veteran, not the school. So most are requiring student loans to pay for education, and the student is reimbursed for part of it, under the bill. It isn't free.

Your whole program idea would hinge on the federal government. A government that cannot pass a single bill unless there are countless riders added, and the wording changed until it is nothing like what was originally written. Of course the federal government is so good at managing finances and money.

No sir, I cannot see the government, or the american people buying into this idea. It might work in a perfect world, but in a perfect world, there would be no need for Fire, EMS, or Law Enforcement.

NFPA 1710, 1720, and all other numbers are recommendations NOT obligations.

True, cities can generally choose to adopt the various safety codes and standards that are out there. My point is that the two standards "set the bar," if you will, for what constitutes effective fire suppression. Per NFPA 1710, Section 1.2.1, "The purpose of this standard is to specify the minimum criteria addressing the effectiveness and efficiency of the career public fire suppression operations, emergency medical service, and special operations delivery in protecting the citizens of the jurisdiction and the occupational safety and health of fire department employees." NFPA 1720 has similar language for volunteer departments.

The IAFF agrees with me, stating that "Many NFPA standards have been enacted into law at the federal, state, provincial and local levels. Some have argued that, because jurisdictions having authority are not required to automatically enact a particular NFPA standard, violation of an NFPA standard does not automatically give rise to a finding of liability against a jurisdiction that has not adopted the standard. Having said that, however, one should be mindful that courts frequently rely upon NFPA standards to determine the “industry standard” for fire protection and safety measures. Judicial reliance on NFPA doctrines is most frequently found in common law negligence claims. To prevail in a common law negligence claim, the plaintiff must show that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff; that the defendant breached this duty of care; and that this breach was the cause of the plaintiff’s injury." (IAFF position paper on NFPA 1717 and 1720)

According to the IAFF, the two standards set the bar for what constitutes effective deployment of firefighters, apparatus and station density, and a reasonable level of safety to firefighters.

The GI Bill only pays a portion of tuition based on the length of service, and colleges and universities don't consider it financial aid, as the money is payed to the veteran, not the school.

My recent reading of the Defense Department college incentive plans showed that not only do the plans pay enough for students to pay all tuition and related expenses at most public colleges and universities, but that is beside the point. As my post on college student firefighters shows, incentives range from free housing to full tuition and expenses, and they attract a lot of people who are willing to work as firefighters and EMT's in order to get through college.

Your whole program idea would hinge on the federal government.

This particular one would involve the federal government. Current incentive programs for college student programs involve local and state governments. Which is the better way? Your choice. My point is that fire departments will continue to see staff reductions and station closings unless fire chiefs adopt staffing models that are more efficient (I. e., less costly). The consequences to life and property safety and firefighter safety are significant. I am just trying to get fire chiefs to adapt to today's realities. With any luck, my proposal - whether it's considered outrageous or not - will stir the fire service to make the necessary adaptions.


 


 Not true. Many occupations receive federal support. For example, the feds have been subsidizing local police departments since the Safe Streets Act of 1968. As for the medical profession, people who cannot afford med school have long been able to receive tuition by committing to work in under-served areas for a fixed time after graduation.

 

Safe Streets Act is not about providing free college tuition as you are proposing. Safe Street deals with wiretaps, gun control, and does provide some federal funding for police training at the FBI's national academy. At the same time the fire service has its own federally funded academy which any FF may attend as well.

 

"FF wannabes?" Sorry to see you resorting to derision to make your case. NPSC firefighters would be just that, firefighters, trained and ready to serve on engine, ladder and EMS units. I agree that there is a finite amount of money - at the federal, state and local levels. Fire departments continue to lose the battle for those dollars to competing tax-supported services at all three levels. They are more likely to win more of those dollars with a program can that improve fire department efficiency (I. e., reduce costs) and cap pension burdens while maintaining (or achieving) adequate staffing.

In order to serve as a FF one would have to have training and qualifications already in place. If one does not have those certs and training in place, then what would you term them as if not a wannabe? Your proposal is relating to career staffing where you don't see on-the-job training, unless the person is hired and going through a dept's fire academy. Even those in an academy are not serving on the floor and responding to calls until they pass the training.

 

A big consequence of fewer fires is that fire departments are losing firefighter positions instead of maintaining or adding them in order to comply with national deployment standards. A program like the NPSC provides two public goods. It allows local governments to achieve or maintain enough firefighters to comply with those standards for less cost, and increases opportunities for their residents to get college educations.

Fewer fires is one aspect of the equation for determining coverages. While there are still places laying off and reducing coverage, at the same time we are seeing hiring increases and leveling off of staffing cuts. Much of this is because those communities cutting are finding out that they can't expect the service levels and still cut. Another factor is the changing demographics changing the need for service stability. We are also seeing the economy improve in places which has also leveled off the cuts. Essentially, communities are finding out that perpetual cuts are not the answer. 

Is MABAS an answer? Both NIST reports concluded that "Responding with additional two- and three-man crews on the 1st alarm was ineffective in performing tasks simultaneously or in a highly coordinated manner, and thus could not be an effective response force." The bottom line is that companies need 4-person or more crews. Automatic mutual aid is great, but does not solve the problem of too few firefighters arriving within the required travel times.

Yes, MABAS is an answer, not the best answer, but an answer nonetheless. The reality is that there will always be a disparity in meeting a staffing standard regardless of any program in place and reality is there needs to be something in place. There are many volunteer departments out there relying upon MABAS and automatic aid as well as many more volunteer depts seeing reduced membership because of changing demographics and increased training demands. The bottom line is you work with the hand you are dealt with , if that means you can't perform all the tasks in the NIST study, then so be it.

 

Actually, I answered that question early on. SAFER fund appropriations have steadily dwindled since the program started in 2003. Funding a program that achieves the same goal for less money - and increases opportunities for college educations to boot - is more likely to win funding. The Department of Education funds a lot of programs that have not achieved their goals, to wit college student loan programs. The funds are there.

No, you didn't answer the question of what gets cut. There is more to the federal dollars than just SAFER. Even if all the money allocated for SAFER is used for your program, you would barely touch the staffing issues you believe your program will solve. That means money needs to come from somewhere to meet this dream of yours, so what else gets cut? You say the funds are there, no, they aren't. Aside from the college tuition which is to be provided, there will also be costs to train those folks to the minimum FF standards of whatever state, just to act as a student FF. Along with that you will have to equip them which is going to take more funding. So again, what else gets cut?

My experience with elected officials is that they are becoming more skeptical of programs like SAFER. I expect that they would jump at the chance to provide adequate staffing for less cost and lower pension burdens.

Again, SAFER is a small aspect of things. My experience with elected officials is that they follow the money and that any federal funded bill is going to have all sorts of riders attached to it. I could easily see that since we are talking students here, that in order for a dept to receive such funding, they should be NFPA compliant in all areas (since afterall you are touting an NFPA staffing standard). Which means that PPE meets current NFPA, rigs, SCBA, and so forth. You are talking a significant budget and if you have seen some of the shape of some of the rigs on depts that seen staffing cuts, the money to meet standards isn't there.

 

Such a program is more likely to win acceptance by officials because it can reduce the cost of government.

Not when you are proposing that union dues are paid for by federal dollars of the student FFs. You are not looking solely at the cost of a college tuition here, but even moreso by looking at additional costs such as dues, equipment, and training.

 

The lack of chiefs with college educations has been a detriment. A big reason why chiefs get their butts handed to them in budget hearings is that they lack skills such as advanced quantification that competing department leaders possess. Increasing the number of college-educated firefighters will be an asset to fire departments as those individuals advance through the ranks.

The fact remains that a college education isn't a widespread necessity to get on a dept. Going back on my question of fairness of the FF who gets hired on without a degree and is very knowledgeable is at a disadvantage over the FF wannabe who gets a free tuition and later hired on the same dept. Why limit this to those students out there yet disregard those already in the profession? If you are looking at using federal dollars, this creates a disparity and unfairness, why wouldn't you think people wouldn't make a stink about that?

 

Of course not. But I think that there is a better justification for giving residents free college educations because they are volunteering to perform an inherently dangerous job for their cities.

OK, you are talking federal funding for such students to perform an "inherently dangerous job" for their cities. You create another example of unfairness and inequality, especially in the realm of ADA. The job of a FF will have certain physical demands that must be met, regardless of the person. So by using federal funding, you create a disparity against those with disability from receiving such a college tuition incentive because they can not physically perform the job. Whereas such a person with a disability could perform a job like engineering, law, medical and so forth. What amkes you think the ACLU, the ADA and so forth wouldn't argue against such a disparity you create?

 

You assume that the only people qualified for the program would be fire science students. Not so. They could choose any area of study. You would be surprised at the number of colleges within commuting distance, even in rural areas. Obviously, such a program won't solve the staffing problems for all fire departments, but could for a majority.

Yet in order to perform the FF duties they have to be trained and certified which means more schooling just to meet the requirements. Then if you insist this is about career depts, there are not a lot of career depts out in the rural areas, so in order for the tuition to be there, you neglect a large portion of the fire service. So again, how is this fair to those in the rural areas and those not interested in being a FF?

 

Yes, there are similar programs in place, but nearly all of them subsidize the cost of college. Many do it with free housing, and many others pay part or all tuition costs with local or state funding.

So what?This is the determination of an individual dept or community, not a federal mandate.

In order to serve as a FF one would have to have training and qualifications already in place. If one does not have those certs and training in place, then what would you term them as if not a wannabe?

John, I have answered that question several times in this discussion. They would be trained and certified before being accepted for duty.

Fewer fires is one aspect of the equation for determining coverages. While there are still places laying off and reducing coverage, at the same time we are seeing hiring increases and leveling off of staffing cuts. Much of this is because those communities cutting are finding out that they can't expect the service levels and still cut. Another factor is the changing demographics changing the need for service stability. We are also seeing the economy improve in places which has also leveled off the cuts. Essentially, communities are finding out that perpetual cuts are not the answer. 

Please document your assertions. I monitor fire department news nationally, and I continue to see cities cutting staff or agreeing to maintain staffing levels in return for salary and pension cuts.

The bottom line is you work with the hand you are dealt with , if that means you can't perform all the tasks in the NIST study, then so be it.

John, that statement makes you sound like a city manager or ICMA consultant. The NIST reports document what many of us in the fire service have been saying for years - that operating with insufficient manpower exposes firefighters to unreasonable levels of risk.

 You say the funds are there, no, they aren't.

That is your opinion, not a fact. Just like the sardine fishermen, you continue to raise all sorts of arguments in order to preserve the status quo while ignoring what is happening. My personal experience on the tailboard taught me that expecting a firefighter to do the work of two or three at a fire is not only wrong, it is immoral. I am proposing on way to provide adequate staffing more efficiently than current methods. You might disagree with the proposal, but I am dumfounded to hear that you would accept deficient staffing in lieu of using college student firefighters to increase company size.

I could easily see that since we are talking students here, that in order for a dept to receive such funding, they should be NFPA compliant in all areas (since afterall you are touting an NFPA staffing standard). Which means that PPE meets current NFPA, rigs, SCBA, and so forth.

Are you implying that fire departments generally do not comply with NFPA standards for PPE, apparatus and SCBA? This certainly has not been my experience. Once again, John, you are throwing up all sorts of scenarios instead of facing the facts. Fire departments need to find more efficient ways to provide adequate staffing for fire response. If you do not like my proposal, suggest another one.

 Not when you are proposing that union dues are paid for by federal dollars of the student FFs. You are not looking solely at the cost of a college tuition here, but even moreso by looking at additional costs such as dues, equipment, and training.

The data that I have collected indicate that on average, fire departments can support two college student firefighters for the cost of one career firefighter. And consider this. Even if they could only support one college student firefighter per career firefighter, they would still cap their pension burdens - and pension burdens are a significant factor in cities wanting to reduce fire department budgets.

Going back on my question of fairness of the FF who gets hired on without a degree and is very knowledgeable is at a disadvantage over the FF wannabe who gets a free tuition and later hired on the same dept.

So now it's a matter of disparity and unfairness. Think about what you are saying here. Given the choice between hiring a person with no experience versus hiring a person who is certified as Firefighter I & II, Hazmat Awareness and EMT, plus four years experience as a full-time firefighter AND has a college degree, which would be the better choice?

The job of a FF will have certain physical demands that must be met, regardless of the person. So by using federal funding, you create a disparity against those with disability from receiving such a college tuition incentive because they can not physically perform the job.

Again the disparity bit. I bet that if I collected all of the arguments that the sardine industry posed over the 30 years refusing to adapt to changing conditions, I would find sundry things that they blamed for their plight. All of the arguments that you have posed do nothing to address the fact that fire departments need to find more efficient ways to adequately staff for fire response.

Then if you insist this is about career depts, there are not a lot of career depts out in the rural areas, so in order for the tuition to be there, you neglect a large portion of the fire service. So again, how is this fair to those in the rural areas and those not interested in being a FF? 

And once again, the "fairness" argument. The fact is that rural fire do not exist in the wilderness. They are where people live, albeit fewer than in urban areas, but many within a reasonable commuting distance to colleges. Also, consider the fact that college student firefighters can now attend college totally on line.

So what?This is the determination of an individual dept or community, not a federal mandate.

I never said that my proposed program would be a federal mandate. Like SAFER grants, it would be up to individual communities to decide if they wanted to augment their career firefighters with NPSC firefighters. Not only that, each community would need to produce its own pool of candidates who, once trained, would serve their community.

From Oldman:

NFPA 1710, 1720, and all other numbers are recommendations NOT obligations. Most fire departments in this country, pick and choose which recommendations to follow. Most departments are not financially able to follow each and every one.

The GI Bill only pays a portion of tuition based on the length of service, and colleges and universities don't consider it financial aid, as the money is payed to the veteran, not the school. So most are requiring student loans to pay for education, and the student is reimbursed for part of it, under the bill. It isn't free.

Your whole program idea would hinge on the federal government. A government that cannot pass a single bill unless there are countless riders added, and the wording changed until it is nothing like what was originally written. Of course the federal government is so good at managing finances and money.

No sir, I cannot see the government, or the american people buying into this idea. It might work in a perfect world, but in a perfect world, there would be no need for Fire, EMS, or Law Enforcement.

Oldman makes some important points and also much of what I'm saying too.

The aspect about departments not complying with NFPA standards isn't about wanton neglect (for the most part) but they can't financially do so. You have many places using outdated PPE because of the cost of new PPE and the NFPA requirement to replace every 10 years. Just to comply to that standard can be a financial struggle. There are many with outdated equipment and rigs because they can't afford to meet the cost of new equipment that meets current NFPA. SCBAs alone are undergoing NFPA changes that will make the cost of new SCBAs higher. So when I say that the likliehood that such a program as yours would have some stipulation that NFPA is met in order to receive federal funding this is what I mean.

GI Bill is also money paid to the veteran for college costs paid to the veteran for their services rendered. While GI Bill can be used while one is actively serving, it is recommended not to be used (and this is from military educational advisors) since it decreases the amount they can be eligible for later on. The difference between the GI Bill and what you are proposing is exactly as Oldman states, money paid out for services rendered and to the vet. Your proposal is to pay for free tuition for student FFs using federal funds. The same sacrifice and comparisons are just not there.

 

The other point Oldman makes is spot on and much of what I have been mentioning. The simple fact this whole program relies upon the federal govt. The reality of govt is that what you may envision would not be the same thing to get passed. You seem to be too caught up in your own proposal to accept the realities of govt and that such funding will rely upon many different factors, specifically reducing coverage elsewhere and subject to many different riders, amendments, and so forth.

 

 

The NIST reports document what many of us in the fire service have been saying for years - that operating with insufficient manpower exposes firefighters to unreasonable levels of risk

 

Exactly, but throwing student FFs out for s free college tuition is not the answer. Unlike the military where one makes a service committment and the GI Bill is a benefit of their service, your proposal is about free education just to be a student FF, which may or may not care about the committment to the fire service. The military also tries to retain personnel when their EAOS is near, yours essentially gives away free money to an education where committment to the fire service could care less. The NIST stuff is about what the fire service has been saying for years, but without having the dedication of personnel to the job, you still have concerns. Every fire dept out there has those members who aren't dedicated to the job and are there for whatever reason. Your proposal can further increase that disparity by giving away a free education, especially if one's field of syudy isn't regarding the fire service.

 

Given the choice between hiring a person with no experience versus hiring a person who is certified as Firefighter I & II, Hazmat Awareness and EMT, plus four years experience as a full-time firefighter AND has a college degree, which would be the better choice?

 

You once again miss the point. I'm talking about the reality that having a college degree is not a requirement for many fire departments. Most will already give a preference to those with a degree, but it is also a degree obtained on one's own, not provided to them by the federal govt. The issue is that a FF can get hired and already be on the dept without a degree. If a degree is preferred to promote, it is on that FF to get the education for promotion, out of their pocket. Whereas your proposal gives an advantage to a new FF who obtained a free education through your program and now is more qualified (educationally) for such a promotion. My point is that if federal dollars are to fund the free education of student FFs, then such funds should also be available to those existing FFs without a degree.

 

Fairness absolutely should be looked at when it comes to federal dollars. Your proposal does not look at this. You are proposing a free education using federal dollars, if you have not looked at how this would adversely impact others then you need to do more homework. You are proposing a federal program, a program that is subject to the outlook and opinions of many different people, backgrounds, economic status, and so forth. To arbitrarily believe that everyone will accept your proposal as the greatest thing is only fooling yourself. When it comes to the federal piggy bank, there are many hands that want to dip in, you are asking for a larger share from that bank for a pipe dream.

 

 

you continue to raise all sorts of arguments in order to preserve the status quo while ignoring what is happening. My personal experience on the tailboard taught me that expecting a firefighter to do the work of two or three at a fire is not only wrong, it is immoral. I am proposing on way to provide adequate staffing more efficiently than current methods. You might disagree with the proposal, but I am dumfounded to hear that you would accept deficient staffing in lieu of using college student firefighters to increase company size

 

My arguments are not about preserving the status quo, but a disagreement with your idea of providing free education with federal dollars. Dollars that affect so many other things out there, many things that would see reductions because of the funding going for student FFs milking off a free education. I prefer personnel on a dept for the long haul, not about a rotation of students every couple years. Once again, if a dept decides to take on students, fine on them, let the students front the education costs, at least you know most of those students want to be a FF, not just soaking up federal dollars while other federal programs get reduced.

I care about the fire service, but not to the point that other people should endure cuts or experience further hardships so we can pump money to free education. I would prefer to see educational costs reduced for all students, even those who choose not to be FFs. I understand there is more to making this country great than just fire dept staffing. I understand there are many beneficial professions out there that people who can not meet FF physical requirements can do, and yet can still directly impact the quality of life on all. I choose not to put FFs on a pedestal as though they are more deserving of a free education over the myriad of other services out there. Your proposal neglects those who are disabled, those who are smart but can't physically be a FF, those FFs who are already on the job but without a degree. When it comes to the use of federal money, I choose to see a greater fairness, not just a free education to arbitrarily inflate FF numbers.

 

 

I don't see any new ground being broken here, so let me go right to the last comment that you made:

When it comes to the use of federal money, I choose to see a greater fairness, not just a free education to arbitrarily inflate FF numbers.

That is not what the concept is about at all. Non-emergency public services have been able to use technological advances to improve efficiency. Manual fire suppression is manpower intensive, so fire departments do not have that option. The only way that they can reduce costs is to cut firefighter positions or reduce firefighter salaries and/or benefits. Augmenting fulltime:permanent positions with full-time:temporary positions can provide more firefighters for less cost. Where the money comes from is not an issue; finding a way to provide the same level of service for less is. I suggested federal funding because the current funding - SAFER grants - is drying up. I don't care if it comes from state or local sources. The goal is to provide enough firefighters to comply with NFPA 1710 and 1720. The numbers needed t do that are far from arbitrary and have been well-documented by the two NIST fireground operation studies.

You may wish for the status quo, but cities are not accepting it. The most recent example is Reno, NV. The city is ready to lay off 35 firefighters unless the rank-and-file agree to work more hours for the same pay. The trend to expect fire departments to become more efficient will continue. Cutting firefighter positions in order to reduce costs is short-sighted, and fire departments must find ways to maintain staffing while cutting costs. I am open to any ideas.

you may call this more pipe dreams but how about departments stop cutting volunteer positions for more "union" positions. ive seen departments with 100 volunteers cut them completely to bring on 3 or 4 full time people but still have to close stations that were traditionally all volunteer stations due to not having the volunteers. When will people realize that there are Millions ( probably not that many but lets go with it) of volunteers out that that lost there "homes" due to these cuts. Ive also seen where these departments that cut their volunteer positions have had to lay off firefighters that they hired due to budget cuts. Why not just go back to having traditional volunteers that are to the same minimum certification levels as the full time staff  and use them to augment? I have a neighboring department that runs full time staff monday thru friday but are still able to maintain full staffing nights and weekends with reserve firefighters that are held to the same standards as their full time firefighters

Zach,

What you are describing is not the same thing the OP proposed. While there are those dedicated volunteers who do meet the certifications and training, they are not as widespread as one may think. I can't speak as to where you are referring of a dept cutting many volunteers only to bring in 3 or 4 fulltimers, but my gut says there is much more to the story. The reason you see volunteers diminishing is because of increased training demands as well as a changing demographic, aging population, longer commutes and so forth. Essentially you tend to see demand for service going up and the volunteer contingent is not able to supply all the calls.

 

What you see is a shift from the all-volunteer dept to a combination dept where you hire on some full timers. The issue is that once you have fulltimers in play now you are subject to federal labor laws and so forth. This leads to some issues that a dept, if they aren't prepared for, may find themselves at some odds too. Essentially there is more to things than what one may see.

 

As for the neighboring dept with fulltimers M-F with reserve FFs at night, I can say our neighboring dept does the same thing. However, everything is not all well and fine with such a set up and the fulltimers and volunteers are looking to unionize. The reason being is for a fulltimer to have a vacation, they are supposed to find their own coverage, this should not be, that is not vacation, that is a trade. The fulltimers, when called in off duty receive a stipend through a seperate check to cover that time utilized. This violates labor laws for overtime. There are issues the volunteers see as well, such as a fair compensation and so forth. Point being is that there are volunteers that are unionizing and more to the bigger picture than what one may see at a distance.

 

In the end there really is no easy answer. There is no magic answer or solution to staffing issues. IMO, it is imperative of chiefs to act like chiefs and be leaders and not managers. It is imperative of them to go to the elected officials and answer as to why staffing is where it is, or why it should be increased. When it comes to concessions from FF's, it can be possible if a chief is willing to talk with their personnel and to work on things together. Unfortunately we see more managers who cater to elected officials and refuse to talk with their personnel.

I agree, Zach. There are no easy answers, and the staffing issue faces volunteer departments as well as career and combination. I think that full-time:temporary firefighters can help all of them. I, too, have seen volunteer departments transitioning to career, only to see clashes between the volunteers and career firefighters. One merit of college student firefighters is that they are managed by the volunteers, so the volunteers do not feel like second-class citizens in their own department.

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