First off, Volunteers need to start getting together. I'd like to see first how many are willing to try and make a difference for us. I'm personally going to see if I can get something started in my county. There are 7 departments in my county, Volunteer or paid-volunteer. I'm going to try and see if I can get each department to nominate one member to form a group to try and bring together a list of what we need and push our county. Then see if we can get surrounding counties on board and take it further. Remember we have a large number of members and our families make a large portion of votes that might help sway some elected officials. One step at a time.
I vote for Volunteers to remain on Depts. Paid Firefighters are stretched thin as it is... Taking away volunteers, could be detrimental not only to the smaller communities who depend on their local fire departments but for the larger one's when man-power is needed. Legislation -- think twice before you change it... your community could be threatened as well...
I agree we need to be careful because I don't want to take away from the paid departments. I just want to protect the volunteers. At our recent Chiefs meeting our local sheriff announced that effective immediately volunteers were no longer to have any leeway and anyone caught over the speed limit even on a life and death medical run would be ticketed. He even wanted the apparatuses to drive the speed limits, as if we don't have enough trouble getting through traffic. The Chiefs stopped the latter but we now have to watch even more closely to the posted limit and stay under it even if everyone else is driving 10-15 over.
There are existing organizations but they are department based and not firefighter based. The needs of a department are not always one in the same with the needs of individual firefighters. However, before we go trying to effect change, we need to make sure that change is in fact what we want.
Think of the twin standards of NFPA 1710 & 1720. From what I have read this was originally going to be one standard. Then some language was brought in that was basically unlivable for the majority of VFD's. The answer was to create a different standard. Now given this environment, it is very hard for any of us to claim that we are the same as career firefighters, except for the paycheck. Every time we lobby for a reduced training requirement or fitness standard we are in fact telling people that we can not meet the original standard. What we need to do is try and work at keeping standards to a single manageable format and not a lesser parallel one. Then it will be much more difficult for anyone to argue against volunteer fire departments or volunteer firefighters, unless we are not meeting our own standards.