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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Turno: We have a mentor program, training guidelines and annual reviews to help ensure each member is ready for the next level. I believe that each member should be trained to the next level of management so when the time comes, they are ready and don’t have to learn when they get there. I try to get as many members involved with as much of the organization as I can. There is no better training than experience.
If you had the power to change one thing about the volunteer fire service, what would it be?
Devonshire: Better municipal support. My biggest challenge is funding. If I look at the financial support offered by the residents and the municipalities that we serve, the view is bleak. When I am forced to give up a month each year and set aside training to prepare for our one of our main fundraisers, I have to wonder where our priorities are.
We, the volunteer fire service, are asked to perform to the same level as our brothers and sisters in paid departments, expected to place ourselves in harm’s way, risk life and limb, take time away from our families to attend training, conferences and seminars and yet we continue to be underfunded and must raise our own funding just to pay the electric bill at the firehouse. As long as we continue to set training aside to do fundraisers, we will continue to annually bury over 100 of our own. It never ceases to amaze me that we can pull off a fundraiser like a breakfast with the precision of a military drill team and yet we continue to get tripped up on the simple day-to-day operations at an emergency scene.
We utilize a professional mailing service to do our annual fund drive. We have never seen, nor do I expect ever will see, a 100% return from the citizens we serve.
A good friend of mine uses the term “fair, firm and consistent” many times for a wide variety of subjects. Nothing I could say would be a truer statement than “all I am asking for is to be treated fairly, firmly and consistently with the rest of the emergency services that we stand side by side with during any given emergency event.” I could almost certainly guarantee any municipal official that I can provide you with a better service to the people of our community if I could concentrate on three things: training, planning and execution.
Jackson: If I could, I would break the barriers between volunteer and career personnel. One problem that I see is a strong effort to push the two together and pretend that volunteer and career personnel are exactly the same and should be held to the exact same standards. Volunteers and career personnel are not the same and there is absolutely no shame in that! People who volunteer their time to us and their communities should be given more opportunities with different standards that are designed to meet their needs. A different set of standards does not mean that volunteers could not achieve the same certifications, appreciation and training as career members. Different standards would simply allow them to accomplish these things in a system that is designed for them on a time-table that fits their schedule.
I would start to reach out to volunteers by changing the training structure for the volunteer fire service to allow volunteers to obtain certifications and training in a system designed to be modular. Currently, training standards, courses, and certifications are designed to cater better to career personnel than volunteers. As we raise the bar for professionalism in our industry, we cannot leave volunteer members behind. We need to continue to strive for higher standards and better training, while accepting that training takes time and we need to adjust to meet the complex schedules and needs of our volunteers.
Training for advancement and higher levels of certification may have to be more modular and spread over longer time periods to allow our hard working volunteers to meet these standards over time. By spreading some of this training out and dividing training objectives into smaller modules, our volunteers could continually advance, stay motivated and achieve higher levels of training and certification over a period of time.