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Even with some of the disadvantages that can arise from alternative work schedules, they attract sworn individuals used to the traditional fire department 24-hour work schedule. The change to a 40-hour week from shift hours may drastically impact a person's family life. It is difficult for many to leave the shift schedule and still meet many of their family obligations.
The best staffing and recruitment options lie with the ability to understand what services the department must provide and what skills the existing personnel have to provide those services. In many cases, it is best to use a combination of each of the options in building your fire prevention bureau. Sworn personnel can bring the skill set of understanding the operations of the fire department and certain civilian personnel may be able to complement the division with his or her formal education or specialized fire prevention technical skills.
As fire prevention bureaus continue to evolve in to one of the most complex technical service of the fire department, it is critical to be able to have the best person for the job based on his or her ability, not their sworn or civilian status. In order to recruit and retain great fire prevention employees, fire departments must look beyond traditional 40-hour work weeks and focus on human resource programs found in the private sector.
Contributions to this column were made by Fire Marshal Jerry Howell of the Lombard, IL, Fire Department and Assistant State Fire Marshal Tonya Hoover of the State of California.
BRETT LACEY is the fire marshal for the Colorado Springs, CO, Fire Department. He is a professional engineer and certified safety professional and has served on various technical committees. Lacey has over 27 years experience in the fire service in both a professional and volunteer capacity as a nationally registered paramedic, firefighter and fire protection engineer. PAUL VALENTINE is fire marshal for the Mount Prospect, IL, Fire Department. He has a bachelor of science degree in fire protection and safety engineering technology from Oklahoma State University and a master of science degree in management and organizational behavior from Benedictine University. Valentine is a graduate of the National Fire Academy's Executive Fire Officer Program and has served on many International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) committees and is a member of the IFSTA Executive Board. He is also a principal committee member of the NFPA 1037 Fire Marshal Professional Qualification Standard. Lacey and Valentine are co-authors of the textbook Fire Prevention Applications, published by Fire Protection Publications. Their previous article "Fire Prevention: It's Not Just for One Week a Year" was published in the November 2007 issue.