I know i'm gonna open a can of worms (or a can of whoop ass) on myself but i wish to pose a question and i hope to avoid the usual responses and get some direction on a topic that is incendary. Without saying exactly where its going on because i see it happening everywhere, i would like to hear opinions as to why the volunteer fire service is dying or being put out of service in some areas of the US. Where i'm at in florida (some) volunteer departments are being forced out of existance for legitimate and non legitimate reasons and i wonder how volunteer departments in this situation are handeling it?

As a former volunteer association president i am well aware of the reasons people join but i when i got a resignation i asked for a sitdown to find out why they were leaving and the majority revolved around their work responsibilities (due to downsizing and having more work to do) and the member not having enough time with their family.

In one case when a member used "wanting more family time" i looked at their individual responses vs. the type and amount of calls he actually went on (7 years worth) and saw that this particular person had a tendancy to only respond to the "good calls" and not the BS ones. I called him on it and discovered that the truth was that he was having a personality conflict with some members and decided that quitting was easier. I asked why didnt you just try to work it out and discovered that the conflict was that since we were a combination department he felt that there was a paid vs. volunteer atmosphere and the volunteers were being excluded or viewed as second class members

The way we were structured back then the paid force was supplemented with volunteers and as a paid FF i will say it was nice pulling up with 4 or 5 on a single engine or truck and it worked out real well but we did have a few that took the "i'm a volunteer and i'm not doing that" stance when it came to the less glamerous portions of the fire department and after a claraification session they made their choice BUT on the paid side anamosity grew because some were able to get away with the "they allways make me sweep and mop the floor...while they wash and wax the truck" or "they make me wash the truck while they cook the dinner that we all eat together"-(but they would forget that we would never ask the night vollie to pay into the meal we just threw him or her in)

I guess i'm just wondering if the paid fire service is really that invested in the demise of the volunteer service. i spent the majority of my carrear as a paid FF-EMT and i never felt threatened by the vollies because i started out as a vollie (and in retirement, i'm back with them) but i am disturbed by what i am seeing in the fire service that i love so much.

Again i'm not looking to start the volunteer vs. paid war, i am looking for what i can do to help preserve the volunteer service because i believe both can exist as long as there is an atmsophere of MUTUAL RESPECT

 

(this is one "add discusion" i hope i wont regret)

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I know i'm gonna open a can of worms (or a can of whoop ass) on myself but i wish to pose a question and i hope to avoid the usual responses and get some direction on a topic that is incendary. Without saying exactly where its going on because i see it happening everywhere, i would like to hear opinions as to why the volunteer fire service is dying or being put out of service in some areas of the US. Where i'm at in florida (some) volunteer departments are being forced out of existance for legitimate and non legitimate reasons and i wonder how volunteer departments in this situation are handeling it?

The volunteer fire service is dying because people have other priorities than serving their communities.  When volunteer fire departments time after time after time after time can't get anyone to respond or barely enough people to get an engine out the door they have sealed their own fate.

Now before anyone labels me as an anti-volly/paid on call career firefighter let's get our facts straight.  YES, I am a career firefighter and I have been for 22 years, BUT I am also a paid on call firefighter with 2 fire departments out in the sticks where I live.  So you can leave your paint the paid guy as hating vollies brush in the bucket because it doesn't apply to me.

As a former volunteer association president i am well aware of the reasons people join but i when i got a resignation i asked for a sitdown to find out why they were leaving and the majority revolved around their work responsibilities (due to downsizing and having more work to do) and the member not having enough time with their family.

I laugh at this excuse because most often I think it is feeble and the truth is they simply don't want to put forth the time or effort to be active and maintain their training.  How can I say that?  Easy.  At one point I was working 5 jobs, including my full time fire department job, and I always made time for drill and meetings, unless I was on shift at the career house.  Now life has calmed down and I am working only 2 jobs, but I am active on the 2 POC FDs where I am training officer.  People will find time for the things they really want t do and make excuses not to do the things they don't.   

In one case when a member used "wanting more family time" i looked at their individual responses vs. the type and amount of calls he actually went on (7 years worth) and saw that this particular person had a tendancy to only respond to the "good calls" and not the BS ones. I called him on it and discovered that the truth was that he was having a personality conflict with some members and decided that quitting was easier. I asked why didnt you just try to work it out and discovered that the conflict was that since we were a combination department he felt that there was a paid vs. volunteer atmosphere and the volunteers were being excluded or viewed as second class members

The fact that you do exit interviews is AWESOME!  I wish more volly/POC FDs would do that.  One of my POC FDs had a couple members quit over the course of 6 months and all the command staff had to say was "Okay and goodbye", another officer quit and joined a neighboring department after years of conflict between other officers, and personailty conflicts, and other than a couple of us that asked hm to stay he was just told good luck...so we lost a veteran lieutenant over stupid nonsense. 

The way we were structured back then the paid force was supplemented with volunteers and as a paid FF i will say it was nice pulling up with 4 or 5 on a single engine or truck and it worked out real well but we did have a few that took the "i'm a volunteer and i'm not doing that" stance when it came to the less glamerous portions of the fire department and after a claraification session they made their choice BUT on the paid side anamosity grew because some were able to get away with the "they allways make me sweep and mop the floor...while they wash and wax the truck" or "they make me wash the truck while they cook the dinner that we all eat together"-(but they would forget that we would never ask the night vollie to pay into the meal we just threw him or her in)

 

Clear and concise rules of what each group is responsible for and how failures to follow those rules will be dealt with can end a lot of these stupid conflicts.  Personally the best answer is duty crews of volunteers that come in and do the EXACT same station duties as the paid crews do.  The vollies are not asked to do anything that the career guys don't do and vice versa.  Prima donnas are BAD, BAD, BAD, for the fire service in these situations.  All firefighters shoud be expected to be equal and if that is the case no one is above cleaning the toilets or washing the truck or doing a firehouse tour.

I guess i'm just wondering if the paid fire service is really that invested in the demise of the volunteer service. i spent the majority of my carrear as a paid FF-EMT and i never felt threatened by the vollies because i started out as a vollie (and in retirement, i'm back with them) but i am disturbed by what i am seeing in the fire service that i love so much.

Would some career firefighters be happy if vollies faded away?  Sure.  But  know vollies that go out of their way to make derogatory comments about paid firefighters.  Firefighters should be smart enough and mature enough to understand there is strength in numbers and those numbers include vollies and career.  It is really that simple.

Again i'm not looking to start the volunteer vs. paid war, i am looking for what i can do to help preserve the volunteer service because i believe both can exist as long as there is an atmsophere of MUTUAL RESPECT

Rules for conduct, rules for standards of training, and officers with the guts to enforce the rules so conflict is nipped in the bud...those are the steps to keeping the vollies active and both sides if not happy, at least successfully co-existing.

(this is one "add discusion" i hope i wont regret)

Don; what is your opinion on the IAFF's policy of kicking 2 hatters out of the union claiming that it errodes their ability to be an effective collective barging unit?

i ask not to bash the paid but i do see it as an infringement on what somebody does on their time off. and the question is somewhat connected to my origional post

I know some other possible trends that would show a deline in the volunteer service.

The all male club type volunteer dept or the dept that turn down members because they don't meet the depts makeup of members.                                                              Volunteer depts that won't provide EMS in their response area because there is a EMS provider service outside their area.

Bad media news reports which puts a vol dept in a bad light and affects others.

Depts that don't sell themself's (Go out and recruit) to the public, do safety shows or public events.

Lack of money by the states or counties to provide enough training, space and locations for classes for the number of dept members that need them. Also the problem of members dropping out of classes and the classes are canceled because of the number of students left. 

 

what is your opinion on the IAFF's policy of kicking 2 hatters out of the union claiming that it errodes their ability to be an effective collective barging unit?

 

While this is addressed to Don, I can weigh in here to try and give you a better understanding. Given the wording of the question, it does seem you have a preconcieved notion here and not looking at all the details at hand. Doing a quick internet search, it seems the topic in which you are referring is stemming from Alexandria, VA and Prince Georges County FD,s......both of which are larger combination depts. (I believe) The issue is also not as widespread as you make this sound to be.

 

Foremost, the IAFF could care less about two hatters on those volly depts that are predominently volunteer and outside the FFs primary jurisdiction. So basically someone like Don here that works as a career, union FF, and vollies for 2 different rural depts, is not an issue. We also have a few two hatters on my dept that there really is no issues. The "stipulation" in which the IAFF addresses is the aspect of two hatters who work as a career FF and then work as a volunteer in a place where there is already other IAFF members working.....such as PGC and Alexandria.

 

Another aspect that MUST be accounted for is called Local Autonomy and is something you didn't account for with your questioning. Local Autonomy simple states that IAFF individual locals have control over their locals regardless of the IAFFs position. For example, take politics. Say the IAFF endorses candidates at the federal level, the individual local can choose to endorse who they want regardless of the IAFF position. This also means the IAFF doesn't interfere with a local's position unless an issue is addressed and a hearing becomes involved.....and that is what we have here.

 

The reason that this is an issue is because a LOCAL has addressed the issue of some of their members (or another local's members) about the issue of IAFF members volunteering in another IAFF dept, thus essentially taking a position from the potential of a fulltimer. In regards to the Collectively BArgaining aspect, this is a hinderence for one local looking to bargain wages, hours, and working conditions, when an easy retort is "why do we need to give you that when your own union members have no problem filling vacancies"....or similar. It does infringe on being a more effective bargaining unit because those outside IAFF members serving as volunteers are NOT part of that other local's bargaining unit.

 

 

------------------------------------------

 

Another similar, yet significant situation, is what occurred in Baltimore City either last year or earlier this year, with fires on the edge of the city. The city was looking at, and later did, cut several companies as a cost savings measure. There were three companies that were on the chopping block and all three of them played a significant factor on a large scale fire on the edge of the city. This was a multi-alarm fire and Mutual Aid was called in to assist. When MABAS companies (several volunteer) arrived, there were several off duty members of Baltimore City that showed up as members of the volunteer companies.

 

This is a significant issue, because the primary dept was looking to cut companies and you had members of that dept that showed up for another dept. So when looking at things from a staffing aspect and job layoffs, it is difficult to address concerns of the importance of keeping the companies and to stave off layoffs, when the city can just say cuts don't matter because you have off duty members showing up as volunteers only.

This issue is further complicated by the ABUSE of MABAS, where we see more and more communities looking at a reliance on MABAS to justify cuts inside their own community. Basically relying upon outside communities and outside taxpayers to use their services for free. This in turn DOES impact volunteers because again call volume increases, community services are being utilized outside more often, and you get many of the same original issues as mentioned already affecting volunteers.

 

 

 

i ask not to bash the paid but i do see it as an infringement on what somebody does on their time off. and the question is somewhat connected to my origional post

 

So while this is a long response, it is only a small tidbit of the larger picture overall. The issue again isn't about infringing on what someone does on their off time, the issue is how those actions impact other members adversely. Yes, layoffs and cutting staffing where it was before, only to have a further reliance on outside resources where members are volunteering DOES have an adverse impact on other members.

 

Again, this isn't about those fulltimers who work in the city, but live in a community with a volunteer dept and subsequently choose to volunteer with it. That isn't the issue at all. The issue comes in when you have members from one fulltime unit, volunteering in another fulltime unit, which does affect other members. The issue again is not with the IAFF, but with the individual locals who have filed charges against such members. The IAFF aspect thus becomes about a "court system" to hear the case and make determination if such members should or should not have membership taken from them. Basically the IAFF is NOT going around wondering who two hats etc, however, if local units address the issue, the IAFF becomes involved.


Your original post is in regards to the demise of the volunteer fire service and the perceived issues you see between fulltimers and volunteers. THIS particular issue of the IAFF essentially is NOT about volunteers.....but as those already union, fulltime members who are impacting other already union, fulltime members.

I have gone round and round with some other Union firefighters about this and the excuses to me are absolute BS. 

You might get hurt as a volly...what if you fall off the roof you are doing for your side job?

What about the resumptive cancer bill...what about that cigarette in your mouth?

If you get hurt vollying you will cost the city money for sick time...what if you get hurt on your side job?  Are you telling me you won't take sick time and expect to be paid?

You undermine bargaining...to me this might be the most legitimate reason, but it has never come into play at my career FD.

 

My belief is when I am off duty it is none of the admin's or the Union's job what I do as long as it is legal.


I agree with John in that I would not volunteer back to my career FD, I would not volunteer to a combo department with Union firefighters, AND I definitely would NOT respond back into the career FDs area that I worked for while with my volly FD.  My 2 volly FDs are 100 miles away from where I work.  There are no fully career FDs in our entire county and the closest combo FD is 12 miles from one of my FDs and 17 miles from the other.

John, good comments. I agree with your pointed remarks. All of the issues you mentioned are indeed prevailing factors in the decline of volunteer departments across this nation. Leadership and ultimately the communities must decide, What is best for the ones to be protected and continue to see that it is taken care of. Well said John.

Can I be positive here?!  I recently joined a rural PA fire company as a volunteer FF.  I'm only there on the weekends (I work and live during the week out of state).  I understand it to be my responsibility to take training seriously (in FF1 and I try to make it to the drills) and to contribute wherever and however I can.  I have reached out and asked for help from the paid guys supplementing there and have been extremely grateful for their help.  And I respond to calls when I'm out there.  It's a privilege to participate that I think many people (like myself previously) have no idea how to get involved.  It's probably more difficult to manage personality issues in a declining organization, but that's the beauty of growth!  Believe me, there are plenty of us wanting to do something more with our lives, and the fire service can benefit from that!

 

The "stipulation" in which the IAFF addresses is the aspect of two hatters who work as a career FF and then work as a volunteer in a place where there is already other IAFF members working.....such as PGC and Alexandria.

John, I have a question about this, if you or Don would like to help out great;

My father-in-law is a paid firefighter with a city department.  He has a hunting trailer on land 3 hours away from his city, with no other paid departments in the county, and the nearest paid department is 35 minutes away.  He wanted to volunteer for the department where his hunting property is and was told that he could not be a member of two departments.  The volunteer department has no career staff and no affiliation with IAFF and is 35 minutes away from the nearest career department, which is a combo department with a full time crew M-F 6a-6p and paid-per-callers nights and weekends.  His Union told him he couldnt volunteer with a department while working as a career firefighter.  Is this because of what Don stated below? (Doesnt want him to get injured as a volunteer and claim his sick time and other paid time from his career job?)

Thanks is advance.

Moose

Moose,

The first thing would be what your father-in-law's contract stipulates. The IAFF does not dictate individual contracts nor regulate what stipulations that should be included. The aspect of full timers also volunteering is as much of an issue with management and municipalities as it can be perceived as a union hesitation.

What I mean is that management of the employer can also incorporate stipulations that prevent members from volunteering. In WI, Madison Fire Dept was one of those that prevented members from volunteering elsewhere, this was a management stipulation, not union. Such regulation was relaxed that members could volunteer elsewhere, but their management stipulated that if one wanted to volunteer, they had to live within the city limits.


Much of the reasons Don mentioned, with getting injured elsewhere, etc affects the city or municipality moreso than a union and as such, the aspect of members volunteering can be frowned upon by management. For example, consider a FF getting hurt at another dept, the city is out that FF and most likely OT ensues, etc. Sure one could get hurt playing sports, hobbies, etc. There are also issues like Heart and Lung presumptives etc, that the city or employer is one the hook for if an employees is injured elsewhere.

So while it is easy to point fingers at the unions as being an opposing force for fulltimers to volunteer, many times management has a say in things, because most likely, they would endure the lion's share of employees being injured elsewhere, etc.


So going back to the question, it again depends upon what the contract says. The union may be telling your FIL this info, and there could be stipulations within the contract, but those stipulations could be bargained by management as well. It is tough to say what each contract contains or addresses, but both sides have to agree for a contract to exist. So I would think there may be more to things than what your FIL is saying here, or more that he isn't seeing, but again the employer can also be making such stipulations as well. I would say this is something he would have to look in his contract about.

There are solutions. We as a service just have to be willing to look beyond the doors of the fire station and the way that we have always approached membership.

 

1. Recognize that recruiting is hard work, and a speciality. Recruiting isn't just something that you do in a hurry - it requires identifying your departments strengths, identifying who in your community is likely yo volunteer and just as importantly, why they will volunteer, developing a message for those incorporating the reasons they are likely to volunteer and delivering the messages to those target audiences in multiple ways and multiple places.

 

Yes, it is more than throwing a few signs and posters up.

 

It requires a knowledge of marketing and motivation. It requires sending a member or two to college level courses on the subjects and utilizing the same marketing principles that are used to sell soap, hamburgers or any other product, because that is what the volunteer fire service is - a product.

 

2. Recognize that people in this economy have value. Recognize the wide variety of ways that ways that people want to be rewarded.That may include slight reimbursement, family activities, coffe mugs now and then or simply recognition on aboard in the station for going above and beyond. The fact is the volunteer fire service needs to understand that folks need some type of motivation and they need to be rewarded... and that doesn't always mean money.

 

3. Recognize that we are in compettion for volunteers with a number of other entitiies. Develop a sense of who we are and implement that sense. Market who we are.

 

4. have a plan forr when members walk into the door. Let them know what the process is, and what they will be doing to progress through the process. Be honest about the time committment. Don't waste their time. Don't waste their time. And don't waste thier time.

 

5. Not every firefighter has to be a rifleman. Allow for exterior firefighters. Allow for drivers only. Allow for fireground and non-fireground support members. Allow for folks to help out in thier area of expertise even if they want nothing to do with fire including prevention, fund raising, apparatus maiantainece, RECRUITING, admin, etc etc etc.

Something that maybe a problem, Personel having to stop volunteering because of medical problems. A member of my dept could be told he can not be operational because he has had seizures or blacked out at times. Once I know of on a incident and just recently while driving home and wrecking his vehilce and other vehilces.

He has said if he can't ride or drive in the fire company he will just leave. I have told him there are things he could do as a adiministrative member but he has it in his head if he can't ride, drive or be a officer forget it.

I know other people have had other medical problems, diabestes affected another member of our dept until he lost his leg but he helped with fund raising until his death and they were a year younger myself.

I know a few that have let obesity take over their life and has made them stop riding and I have know them when they were medium in size.

I know it is good to have county safety officers or even good volunteer officers in our county checking to be sure their members are in some sort of good health and not becoming a prossible  incident for the dept.

I would think having a regular doctor's checkup and checkups as you age and having a exercise program  should be a must  even for volunteers to keep them around for years to come. 

5. Not every firefighter has to be a rifleman. Allow for exterior firefighters. Allow for drivers only. Allow for fireground and non-fireground support members. Allow for folks to help out in thier area of expertise even if they want nothing to do with fire including prevention, fund raising, apparatus maiantainece, RECRUITING, admin, etc etc etc.

 

Yes and no. The aspect of utilizing people for prevention, fund raising, non-FZG support etc is one thing and may have a place.

 

The aspect of creating exterior only and so forth is not something as practical. This issue has been hashed over already in other threads. While I understand your stance and propensity of encouraging an exterior only approach and so forth, you are also speaking in terms that you are familiar with. You are also speaking in terms that doesn't account for the minimum qualifications out there. Quite basically, I don't understand the minimum requirements for volunteer FFs in LA, but I do know the minimum standards for WI and that entails being SCBA and entry level, interior qualified. That is a state standard and what you are essentially advocating is a dept to create their own standards, regardless of what the state dictates.

In the "goal" of this thread and the OP not to create this into a C vs V debate, I'll try to prevent this from going the way you are alluding to with exterior and interior, especially when it comes to the minimum standards as addressed by the state. I understand a need for drivers, exterior operations and so forth, but such a topic can....and has been....its own debate in itself.

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