Based upon some recent discussions in the "fire" world, here are a few thoughts regarding volunteer FD's, one that is appropriately, near and dear to so many firefighters and their communities.
In so many areas of the USA, sadly, it seems that volunteer fire companies are giving up. In some areas that may be what is best for the community. After all, there are probably a few dysfunctional volunteer fire companies out there. How would a volunteer fire company "know" that it is dysfunctional? Well, believe it or not, one CLUE might be if that fire company is having predictable and historic trouble providing good emergency service!
Yeah. I know to some of you it seems strange, but there are some fire companies that see no problem with not being able to get a crew of trained firefighters on the road for a call in a few minutes. Tones go off, and off, and off, and yet sometimes the response is nonexistent. Sadly, many fire companies have FORGOTTEN what they were formed for and why they exist. Other clues that a fire company might be dysfunctional are little to no training, and little to no participation in that training and other fire company details. Actually, let's take a look at this from another style of writing.
YOU MIGHT BE A DYSFUNCTIONAL FIRE COMPANY IF...
- There is little to no training for ALL responding members, including officers.
- There is poor or no rapid turnout for a fire or rescue calls. What is a good turnout or a fast turnout? Well, put yourself or a loved one in the position of the person who just dialed 9-1-1 for your FD. How fast do you want trained and qualified help to arrive?
- Safety is a low priority as seen at the firehouse and on the scene.
- 25 percent of your members do 80 percent of the work.
- Written and enforced operating procedures are few and far between.
- The members responding on calls are unable to physically function at calls.
- You have to call members at home and "begg'm" to come down in order to get a quorum for a meeting.
- You have a social event and few members show up.
- Your neighboring fire companies don't invite you to their calls.
- The leadership feels fundraising is more important than training.
- Members are subjectively disciplined for silly nonsense type stuff but when someone really screws up, nothing happens.
- Officers aren't courageous enough to do their jobs by leading, without worrying about who likes them.
- Members aren't interested enough to do their jobs by participating.
- Screaming at a scene (or in the firehouse) is not from the victim, but from a fire officer.
- A clique or a dictatorial "family" gene pool dictates how your fire company operates.
- Voting is controlled by members who never respond to calls or participate actively.
- Being drunk and responding isn't really worth worrying about.
- There is no "formal" and lead attempt to maintain positive relations with career personnel (and vice-versa).
- Elections are personality based vs. qualification based.
- E.M.S. to some stands for "Eat More Snacks" and getting trained EMS on the road quickly is an organizational afterthought.
- The last statement you ever hear at your firehouse is "let's do what's best for the community."
- Gossip is the best way to find out what's going on in your fire company.
So what is the answer for becoming or maintaining a FUNCTIONAL VOLUNTEER FIRE COMPANY?
Well, it starts both at the TOP and at the BOTTOM. The members first must decide if they truly want to keep existing. How do you do that? ASK THEM! Sometimes you may be better off shutting down or coming up with a more effective means of providing service than to keep "pretending" to be a fire company. I mean, if members just don't care and are not participating, why exist? Don't give me that "tradition" and "pride" stuff cause it isn't there....otherwise they would be there! On the other hand, let's assume the members and leaders DO want to keep the fire company alive and well. Where do you go from there?