Volunteer Leadership Roundtable

Volunteer fire-rescue leaders share their views on funding, staffing, training, health and safety, and other key topics.


Firehouse® Magazine is proud to present our first “Volunteer Leadership Roundtable,” featuring the views of a cross-section of leaders from the volunteer fire-rescue service. These are people who have stepped forward to take on demanding roles and responsibilities at a challenging time for...


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TRAINING
In your opinion, what type of training does your department need? What are your department’s vital training issues?

Borry:

Devonshire: Basics! What more can be said? My company was into confined-space rescue for several years and it was getting harder and harder to get people to commit to train and be good at all the tasks associated with a specialty. We took a good, hard look at our situation and the number of responses that we ran that utilized a confined-space rescue team, and the numbers were not there. A simple risk assessment of a high-risk/low-frequency task was proof enough that we made a course change and got out of the confined-space business and let the companies that really jumped into this do what they are good at. Our county now has a collapse team that specializes in collapse, confined-space and trench rescue. We went back to basics and train hard in those areas – simple tasks like hoseline advancement, auto extrication and the other day-to-day routine calls that we take for granted.

Jackson: Our organization has a variety of training needs. The biggest needs that we have are to provide a variety of training to our personnel with different levels of experience. We have a need to expand our regular drills to provide company officer and leadership training to potential officer candidates, while providing effective drills and training for less-experienced members. We need additional accessible training that provides volunteers an opportunity to reach goals toward fire service instructor and officer functions. As a fairly new volunteer organization, it is difficult to provide resources and instructors to accomplish different tasks for groups that need different training. Additionally, our department and departments around us need to organize and come together for mutual aid training. With the limited resources each department has, we rely heavily on mutual aid at fire incidents. We have been unable to establish common drill times other than occasional disaster drills. Unfortunately, we are not as prepared as we should be to operate together effectively at more routine incidents.

Turno: I would like for the department to have more time and resources for practical hands-on training. Some of the vital issues are taking advantage of new technology to provide good-quality and practical training to enhance classroom and field exercises. Another vital issue is the cooperation and teamwork between the public and private sectors. We need to form partnerships and take advantage of the strengths each can bring to the table. I have been involved with a local technical college that is looking into building an emergency services training facility. This facility will be for industrial and emergency service organizations to use.

RESPONSE TIME
Has your response time been increasing? If so, why?

Borry:

Devonshire: Over the last four years our times have generally stayed the same. My hardest time of the day is 7 to 8 A.M., at shift change, when my day-shift guys have left for work and my night-shift guys are not home yet.

Jackson: Our response times have stayed consistent over the past few years. Like most combination or volunteer organizations, we have difficulties getting volunteer companies staffed during daytime hours.

Turno: Currently, our response time has remained the same.

AUTOMATIC AID
Do you have automatic aid agreements with neighboring departments? Do they work?

Borry:

Devonshire: We do not have written automatic aid agreements. Each department sets up its response requirements and we all respond as dispatched for mutual aid requests. This has been the practice for many years and I would say it appears to work for our situation.

Jackson: We have a county-wide mutual aid plan that includes all fire organizations in the county. Unfortunately, the current system must be initiated by the first-due agency. When the system is initiated, pre-determined responses are initiated for working fire and additional alarm requests. Additionally, we are part of a maritime fire safety consortium for response to ship fire emergencies along the Columbia River.