Is Your VFD Functional...or Dis?

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.


One great way to "set the new tone" for your fire company is to have an outside "friend of your fire company" come in and facilitate a PLANNING SESSION. Maybe even someone from far away who doesn't know who the players are, and therefore can think with a clear and non-prejudiced mind. After all, you will need a "road map" for this new trip and someone needs to be good at helping get that done. In that session, members (with ground rules) can identify what they want to do and what the future holds for THE COMMUNITY THEY PROTECT. Remember, THAT is why your fire company exists.

What may be some of the issues that are creating problems and stress in your fire company? These may be a few.

MERGERS:

In some cases, the members of your fire company may need to look at the big picture of what is BEST for the community such as merging small volunteer companies into larger volunteer companies. Have you ever visited some communities where there are more fire companies than fire hydrants in the town? I know, not in your area, but "somewhere else" that might be a problem. Of course, there are many areas where having numerous fire companies is working just fine but in others, the waste is obvious. Perhaps a merger that recognizes and honors the past but focuses on the future is the best way to go. Generally, change isn't easy but what is BEST for the community is the goal, and if that can be accomplished with a focus on what is good for the members as well, then you have a success.

Are bigger and related type fire company mergers always better? Of course not. Each community is different. But if the membership numbers and related staffing in three or four fire companies, for example, protecting the same area is an ongoing problem, the members probably need to look at some possible solutions in a merger.

Of course, merging of the fire companies may not be the answer. Maybe the answer is segregation of services. For example, in a community maybe two of the fire companies become ENGINE EXPERTS, another fire company becomes THE RESCUE Company and the other becomes THE TRUCK. Everyone still has some independence but the focus is not on "everyone doing everything," which we know does not work. The narrowing of focus by a specific fire company may be a great way to pave the future and actually simplify areas such as training, funding and coordination.

And about EMS. In some VFD's, EMS is literally "killen'n em" and the citizens too! While it is commendable that a VFD wants to provide EMS, it really MUST if that's the plan. Otherwise it may be time to look at alternative means of providing the service. Look at it from the standpoint of it being YOU who needs EMS. Can you count on your fire company to arrive fast 24/7 when you are having trouble breathing? If not it's time to re-evaluate what's best for those who dial 911.

FUNDING:

Local and State Governments need to help FUND volunteer fire companies so they don't have to spend precious time raising funds and worrying about dollars. As we have asked before, when was the last time you saw the COPS raising funds? How about the road department employees? Yeah, that's what I thought. Local communities need to be able to form FIRE TAX DISTRICTS and allow those in the community to pay a fair fee for the services they decide upon. It is enough to ask people to provide volunteer services; it is a joke that those same folks have to raise the funds in order to do it. Some will say "our fundraisers are moral builders" and that may be true, in some few and rare areas. But in most fire companies, it can be a major morale buster.

..And while we are on the subject of funding..

State and local elected officials also need to understand that until (volunteer AND career) fire companies have the equipment, staffing, training and leadership to safely and successfully handle a grocery store fire, a house fire, an apartment fire, a barn fire or a serious auto accident, WE PROBABLY CANNOT HANDLE A WMD OR A TERRORIST EVENT. So instead of providing funding so every cop has a hazmat suit, every FD has a decon trailer and every fire officer can learn how to identify white powder, maybe they could divert those funds so we can handle the BASIC stuff first. Are WMD's and Terrorism a problem? ABSOLUTELY. But there is NO WAY ON EARTH any FD will be able to handle that until they can handle the more predictable events. Whoever told you that we are the "we can handle every emergency department" was wrong. We need basic funding to handle the basic runs. Why do we need the funding? Quite honestly, it is an inappropriate challenge to get today's volunteer members motivated to raise funds while also expecting them to be properly trained and prepared to provide fire and rescue services.