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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Jackson: We have more manpower now than we did five years ago. We are a combination department with one staffed engine 24 hours a day that has a minimum staffing level of two, with one officer, two firefighters and an intern firefighter assigned. Our first-out engine is oftentimes understaffed with our minimum staffing of two. Our volunteer engine/quint companies are regularly staffed with four to five people each after 6 P.M. on weekdays and on weekends. Our first-out staffing is oftentimes inadequate for an initial attack and staffing of subsequent companies is often inadequate during daytime hours on weekdays. Our numbers in the evenings are usually adequate. Our volunteer staff numbers have been steadily increasing over the last year, helping our apparatus staffing.

Turno: Yes. I am at full staff for my department and feel I have adequate staffing. We are constantly looking at ways to improve our service delivery and put more personnel on the scene in a timely manner.

PROCEDURES
Do you have written standard operating guidelines (SOGs) and standard operating procedures (SOPs)?

Borry:

Devonshire: Yes, after about a two-year effort of taking a good hard look at what we had and bringing it up to where it needs to be, we now have a manual of both policies and procedures. Our manual covers a lot of area. After all the work and effort, we also know that there are areas that are not addressed and we will be looking at them as well as revisiting what we have for effectiveness and to make sure that we are staying current. We made it a requirement of the manual that we will revisit them on a regular basis to ensure that they stay current.

Jackson: We have written standard operating procedures that address most department activities and responses. We are in the process of updating our procedures to better address the specific needs of volunteer and career members.

Turno: Yes. We review each procedure at least on a biannual basis and require that before any new policy, procedure or equipment is put into place we have had training and communicated it to our members. On an annual basis, each member is required to review our policy and procedure manual and sign a form stating so.

BENEFITS
Do your personnel receive clothing allowances, incentives or retirement benefits? If they receive other benefits, please describe them.

Borry:

Devonshire: We offer all of our members and their families free tickets to our annual banquet. The only requirement is that they meet a minimum amount of participation in calls and fundraisers. Not a big incentive, but it is a great time of fellowship and brotherhood. That can go a long way.

Jackson: Our volunteer members receive a nominal pay incentive of $3 per call or training activity along with issued uniforms and department apparel. Additionally, our volunteer members are provided with a length-of-service incentive program. The program involves a general contribution to an investment account that the city makes annually and a point system where volunteers start earning points after two years for longevity, response, training, certification level and involvement. When a volunteer has 15 years of service, they can draw their portion of the fund, based on points.

Turno: We provide our members with uniforms each year or as necessary. Currently, we have retirement benefits, but no incentives.

OFFICER TRAINING
What types of training do you provide your junior officers so they can be prepared to be the fire chief in the future?

Borry:

Devonshire: We try to have them take the position of incident commander at smaller-scale calls and shadow them so that they can be guided through a live incident by a senior officer. We send them through incident command training. While we do not run a large volume of calls annually, we try to get them as much first-hand experience as we can. My long-term goal is to have each officer know each other’s job so that when the time comes, the change is seamless. This is not always easy to accomplish in a smaller department due to time restraints, but we do the best we can.

Jackson: We have partnered with our local community college to try to encourage and provide incentives for our members to pursue a fire service degree through the local community college. Additionally, our department coordinates and provides resources to send our members to state-sponsored training sessions, regional fire schools and county-wide sponsored training courses. We are currently working to revise our promotional process and volunteer rank structure to foster personal and professional development through defined promotional processes and attainable goals for volunteer members.