Hello My name is Brett and I have been a volunteer firefighter for 7 years now. I need some help from you all. I am writing a paper about how volunteers are always talked down to in the community about how they are either too late in their eyes or don't have enough manpower. If you all will, could you give me a brief paragraph about how your community feels about the volunteers in your aria it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for takeing your time and helping me out on this one i greatly appreciate it.

Thank you,

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Comment by Shipper on November 1, 2008 at 11:58am
I know here in this small town our dept is looked up to, when im walking up town people thank me for what I do . Im also a emt-b our squad isn't with the fire dept so thats another thing they thank me for . It makes me feel good to have some one come up and say " hey thanks for taking care of my mom or you did a good job saving that house ". We have a levy coming up this Nov and we really need it for equpt. and traing etc. and its should be no problem getting it passed . I know it's hard for us to get to a scene fast because of where he have to go alot of times, but all in all we as vol. do a GREAT job out there. BE SAFE !!!!
Comment by Tony P on October 31, 2008 at 8:00am
"volunteers are always talked down to in the community about how they are either too late in their eyes or don't have enough manpower"

No, doesn't happen with us. As with Jenny's FD, if we're late turning out another Brigade will be paged. But with all structure fires being on automatic support (at least two Brigades mobilised) someone will be there pretty quickly. As for manpower? Never heard any comments about that - we usually have 3+ during the day and 6 at night for the Pumper.

Changing the public view of your FD is up to you. All of you. Art mentioned some things you must do. I'll add contacting the local paper and getting them working with you. You don't have to be busy with major structure fires. Most incidents you attend have some local interest, see if the paper would like you to give them a weekly/monthly breakdown of calls attended? Maybe a short description of incidents, with photos. Of course make sure you only give information that isn't 'private', and that won't embarrass enybody. Photos should never show vehicle number plates, or injured people - things like that.
Comment by Jenny Holderby on October 30, 2008 at 3:25am
I really don't know that there is a negative attitude toward the FD in our community. If our response time is delayed or we don't have enough man power we rely on Mutual Aid from surrounding departments. If no one answers from our station with in 3 minutes we are re-alerted then 911 dispatches the next closest FD. Our average response time is 6 mins. We have a decent ISO rating for a rural area. We are working hard to improve that. We do a good job and act professionally. Most people respect and appreciate what we do. Occassionally there will be a negative comment from someone who isn't educated on our department. We educate them, tactfully. We have a very good fire prevention program. We install smoke detectors & provide reflective address signs for a small fee. We assist the township in cleaning streets or flushing ditches or painting street signs. We try to be active in the community.

There was a complaint of a vehicle running lights & siren driving erratically but that was handled by the Chief. There was one home owner who was very upset that at 10:00 am it took 15-20 mins before a fire truck reached his home for a dryer fire which ended up being a room & contents by the time the truck arrived. After he learned that the truck driver who was responding was involved in an MVA before he got to the station and 911 thought the truck was enroute and didn't alert the next dept, he wasn't nearly as upset about it.

At the last structure fire we were called to most people in the neighborhood didn't realize we were there. We don't use sirens in residential areas @ night unless they are necessary. We made an excellent save on this particular incident containing the fire to the room of origin with a quick response & sound fire fighting practices. Those who were out were impressed with the job we did. Again at a recent hazmat incident, we did our job skillfully & professionally. Folks in the community were grateful & gave us positive feedback & support.

If there is a negative opinion of the fire department, then the fire department or members of the department are not doing their job in some aspect.

I am looking forward to reading the responses you get.

Comment by Art "ChiefReason" Goodrich on October 29, 2008 at 3:21pm
The fire department establishes its own public persona. They determine how the public will perceive them. If the department isn't out in the community showing them that they are serious about training and protecting the community from natural disasters, then don't expect glowing reviews from the public.
A good gauge of public perception and support is with fundraisers. There isn't a better barometer out there than having a public event at the fire station that is well attended by your community members.
If the only time that they see you is when there is a call, then I would suspect that your best effort won't be good enough. People like to know the people that are going to help them out in their time of need; especially if you are involved with their very personal emergency.
What's too late? 5, 10, 30 minutes? How quickly can you get your trucks off of the apron and at the scene? If you get there and are short manpower anyway, then yeah; it's a write off and get ready for the criticism. Citizens don't want to wait 20 minutes for a crew that is short, only to watch their lives collapse into the basement. Does "saved another foundation" ring a bell.
Most of the public won't be critical of their fire department, unless you give them reason to.
We have a tremendous amount of respect between our fire department and community where I live. But it wasn't always that way and we work everyday to make sure that we are all on the same glide path. We have found out that you can't treat it as a typical "volunteer" effort. You have to train like you fight and fight like you train.
If you want their support, money and respect, then you will have to work for it. And then give some back by doing stuff for the kids. Go to the schools, have a party and tour at the fire station and become a force in your community.
Tiger Schmittendorf has written articles on the subject. Google him and get his stuff.

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