I'm sure this has come up before in other postings and other forums and I'm going to go hunt some after posing my question but I'm curious to know how combination and volunteer departments keep members active and participating in calls, particularly EMS calls.
I'm in a combination volunteer/career department. We have a paid staff of six full time firefighter/paramedics and two part-time firefighter/paramedics and a volunteer force of up to 120 (we're around 100 or so members now.) Our problem (well, the one I'm focusing on here) is that of the nearly 1400 calls we have a year, about 95 percent of them are EMS and while we have around 15 volunteer EMS providers now, we have a very poor attendence for EMS calls from the volunteer membership.
We've been scratching our heads for months trying to come up with ways to get our EMS people more active, more involved and everything we've tried to spur interest has gone flat. I've seen some VERY active volunteer departments and I'd like to know what they are doing that we're not doing. What's the thing we're missing.
If anyone could offer suggestions on what they do to keep members involved and motivated not just to show up to calls, but to attend drills, meetings, credentialing. Most of what we do now is EMS and while we still get 40 or more members to respond to an active structure fire, we're lucky if we have the paid staff (we are manned 24/7/365) and a chief officer show up to an EMS call.
This is a complicated matter .I try to take calls but have been called off. Paid gets first crack even if they are not on duty. has to do with liability. Some of us are just wanted to teach the new people they want us gone or to just do training.
Being as busy as you are, have you tried looking into the LOSAP? (Length Of Service Award Program)
Another thing you can try is the point system. I know a lot of people hate this and cringe when they hear it, especially if they are volunteer, but it works. If you put a lot of creativity and work into a decent point program and load it up with awards and opportunities that people want, they will start to show up more to get the points. Just an example of ideas from 2 of my past departments; in one, they made up a point system and through past call totals and drill and meetings they derived a % that was fair for members to have to reach in order to be a member in good standing. If you were not a member in good standing you could not attend the department functions such as the summer clam bake, department banquet, or get any assistance with training at the fire academy, you could also not vote on matters of department business. If this continued for more than 2 years your membership status was questioned and you attended a hearing with the board of commissioners.
In the other department they did the same thing, but they also had a special fund established with extra money from the budget. This fund would allow the department to arrange trips to places like Great Adventure or other parks in the area for members and their families. The money was from a special program that the departments in our area receive donations from for the "Good and welfare of the members". You needed to have a special amount of points in order to go to these events. Also, you were required to make a certain amount of points annually to be a member in good standing, any points over this total were used as "point bucks", for every point over you made, the department would give you a dollar, and the money was used to buy personal gear from a couple of EMS and Fire equipment supply catalogues only (no money was actually given, the treasurer kept track of the fund and made the purchase with the captains approval after you picked what you wanted). People went nuts for this alone, they were getting points enough to buy themselves tool kit holsters, stethoscopes, helmet mounted flashlights, field guides and other stuff they could use in the field to keep themselves safe. Membership went through the roof and people joined, re-joined, came back from retirement even.
Just a few ideas, I hope it helps you out.
Good luck --- I am a member of a combination department (20 full-time members with roughly 20 on call members) and we can barely get the off-duty full time members to come back let alone get the on call memebrs to participate and we run roughly the same percentages for call volume. Typically the duty shift of is getting run into the ground and our adminstrative personnel (prevention and fire alarm) are running the second and thrid calls with minimal assistance. In speakign with memebrs we are finding that burnout is a major factor (especially with our department since we have no means of mutual aid as we are on an island) and no matter what we have tried we ar ento getting participation. Up for consideration is the concept of of "on-call" pay for off duty shifts (the previous duty shift is required to be on call for the next 24 hours and then are paid time and a half when they cover a call) but fiscally that is not a good option for our municipality
i know this is an old post but here goes.
the biggest issue facing many volunteers is their full time job, most employers will not release someone to go to a fire or accident scene, It was that way at the factory i just retired from.
2nd is health, health conditions can play a major hand in limiting what you can and cannot do!
and the third is the general attitude of the department, if your department is a hybrid (paid and volunteer)
their is a tendency to segregate the two in equipment, training, and participation in public events.
often the attitudes develop and opinions form that the volunteers are useless, if you were a volunteer and all they allowed you to do is wash the truck or sweep the bays, would you want to stay around?
because of my health conditions i cannot participate in interior fire fighting or extensive physical training.
but in the event of an emergency if needed i would be on the nozzle like a duck on a junebug (pain or no pain) the guys know it but there are many other things i do for the house.
encourage your volunteers that they can help in many ways as well as firefighting, and discourage the practice of putting them in a separate category.
and never forget they are giving you their blood, sweat and tears free of charge.