1. #1
    Forum Member
    ActionGoose's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    New York (RIGHT COAST)
    Posts
    185

    Lightbulb Shouldn't a volunteer FD look somewhat professional?

    I am a newish member of a medium sized volunteer fire company in NY. We have three engines, a heavy rescue, and an ALS ambulance. The department is in my hometown, and I love it.

    With one small exception.

    In my opinion, a volunteer fire company should look just as professional as a paid department. The fact that we're doing this for other reasons than money shouldn't mean we can look like a bunch of slobs (this refers to the appearance of both the quarters and our members.)

    The main station is constantly unkempt. The floors are filthy, garbage piles up, the kitchen is cluttered, etc. A couple of people are constantly cleaning it, when the majority could care less. There are many things in and around the firehouse that need mending or fixing, maybe a couple hours of work. When I asked an officer why he couldn't call for a work detail for cleanup or repair he said "because no one would show up."

    This problem extends to the appearance of our members. It's quite common to see our members show up at an EMS call in the summer in a cutoff tee shirt and jean shorts, or NASCAR apparel, or any other combination of things. I always wear the workshirt when going on calls, and I even purchased a baseball cap with the patch ironed on the front for the middle of the night when my hair is a mess. When I mentioned this to a fellow fireman, I was told "they can't make you wear that sh*t, it's volunteer." Classy.

    I guess the telling part of this whole deal is what I heard during a water detail. An OFFICER of the company said something to the extent of "as long as it says volunteer above that door, i can just leave right now."

    Does anyone have some suggestions to maybe help portray a little bit more professionalism to the community we serve?

  2. #2
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    virginia
    Posts
    537

    Default

    i grew up in a volunteer firehouse before i went career. i think the best way to approach this from the unoffical leadership side of the fence(firefighter to firefigther) is to set the example. Most people want feel like part of a group. Start wearing your uniform when ever you are at the firehouse. clean up before you sit down to watch tv. wash the truck after every call (if you dont run alot). Pretty soon the other firefighters will start to follow you and do the same. Now granted not everyone will follow you. newer member will look at you as a role model because you are presenting yourself as a person who know what is going on and will likely follow you. since it is a volly department it is hard to say you have to wear your uniform all the time. however if people see you in it they will follow suit.

  3. #3
    Forum Member
    tnff320's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Collierville, TN
    Posts
    152

    Default

    Unfortunately this is the attitude of a lot of volunteers. Do you have weekly meetings? If so, bring up the point during the meeting that yall should clean those nights. It takes what 30 minutes or so to take out the trash, sweep up, and organize a little, at least.
    Knowledge is the difference between KNOWING and GUESSING

    "You guys are good, but you'll never invent anything-it's all been done before."

    FF/EMT-IV (medic in training)

  4. #4
    Forum Member
    FiftyOnePride's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    Upstate NY
    Posts
    471

    Default

    Small steps over a long period of time. Cultural change that seems to be very ingrained with your department will not be rectified easily. Primarily the leadership needs to reflect the desires changes. I would try to start first with getting things cleaned up - as to how to motivate them, that's the hard part - I suppose catching them while they are at the firehouse might work. It might not work but I am unaware of the particulars so it is hard to help you out there.

    Work hard and don't get discouraged - hopefully it will become infectious, perhaps they need a kick in the butt.
    JLS
    MFC
    51 Pride - R.I.P. Sandy
    Alarm 200644004, I won't ever forget.


    Remember you only have 1*.

    IACOJ

  5. #5
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    May 2007
    Posts
    300

    Default

    Sounds like poor leadership has led to complacency. As my chief says: "The only thing you volunteered to do was join. From now on in I tell you what to do and if you dont like it leave. But, I will not have a department full of 'we are volunteers, we dont have to work' firefighters."

  6. #6
    Forum Member
    FiftyOnePride's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    Upstate NY
    Posts
    471

    Default

    Adding about the calls - you might have to go so far as purchasing the gear for them and developing a policy to reflect the need for appropriate attire desired on runs.
    JLS
    MFC
    51 Pride - R.I.P. Sandy
    Alarm 200644004, I won't ever forget.


    Remember you only have 1*.

    IACOJ

  7. #7
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    WA
    Posts
    13

    Cool

    [ "The only thing you volunteered to do was join. From now on in I tell you what to do and if you dont like it leave. But, I will not have a department full of 'we are volunteers, we dont have to work' firefighters."[/QUOTE]

    It sounds like people need to attend a fire accademy where you learn the pride of being a firefighter and loving everything in tip top shape.

  8. #8
    Forum Member
    Bones42's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2001
    Location
    Pt. Beach, NJ
    Posts
    10,700

    Default

    Your fire academy teaches you to love cleaning toilets? love taking out the trash?

    Damn, mine teaches you about fire fighting.



    to the OP, yes, you should start small. Pick 1 area and work on it, whether its building maintenance, proper attire, etc. It sounds like you will need to take baby steps...
    Last edited by Bones42; 02-26-2009 at 10:33 AM.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

  9. #9
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    IL
    Posts
    459

    Default

    Jeesh.. haven't you guys figured it out yet? If you're not paid you don't have to be professional. I thought alecshawn1 taught us this months ago.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Penn Hills, PA, 15235
    Posts
    3

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by S8ER95Z View Post
    Jeesh.. haven't you guys figured it out yet? If you're not paid you don't have to be professional.
    I work for a volunteer company in PA and we see it as we don't care if we are paid or not you should ALWAYS look professional on a call, esspecially an EMS call. I don't know about any one else but when i call an ambulance i expect some one who looks clean and professional to show up at my door. And if your that lazy to not throw some nice looking pants or shirt on when you answer a call at least throw you bunker pants on when you get to the station.

    And i'm not saying the only reason you should look like a pro is for the patient or the person who's house is buning down, you should look good because your proud of the fact that your a firefighter and that you not doing it for money but because you want to do it.

  11. #11
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    long island ny
    Posts
    241

    Default

    Hire a houseman or woman to do the cleaning. As for what to wear to calls, you cant force people. I'm not going to change my clothes to respond. The only real dress code we have is no bathing suits in the summer.

  12. #12
    MembersZone Subscriber
    voyager9's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Southern NJ
    Posts
    2,007

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by rescuedawg View Post
    Hire a houseman or woman to do the cleaning. As for what to wear to calls, you cant force people. I'm not going to change my clothes to respond. The only real dress code we have is no bathing suits in the summer.
    I can kinda/sorta agree. If you're a department that primarily relies on home response then guys are going to respond in whatever they were wearing when the call came in. As you said, don't expect them to change when the bells go off.. or if you do, expect a delayed response. If you're a department with in-house duty crews then they should be in some sort of professional looking uniform. At least FD-issued t-shirt/job shirt. Either way the theory being that PPE will be worn makes some of this a non-issue. if you run EMS runs then there should be BSI requirements.

    When you're going out for PR events then you shoudl also be in uniform. When you're out in the public you don't want to look like bunch of ragamuffins.
    So you call this your free country
    Tell me why it costs so much to live
    -3dd

  13. #13
    Forum Member
    natedog54's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Twin Cities, MN
    Posts
    59

    Default

    The volly department I'm being backgrounded by right now, is extremely proffesional. The only time during my procces, (from the recruitment session, interview / test, and the physical agility test) that I have seen one of the firefighters or officers out of a standard class B uniform, was at the physical agility test.

    It was on a Saturday morning, and fairly informal. These folks take real pride in what they do. In addition to the obvious turnout gear for fire responses, they also have an EMS type jump suit (kinda like a flightsuit) for medical responses. They never respond to a call without being in some sort of uniform. The stations (there are 3) are spotless, the trucks shine, and there is a proffesional work ethic unlike anything I have ever seen.

    I agree with the other posters when they say "start small." Baby steps. You want to turn things around, but don't forget that you work with a bunch of "old salty dogs." Change will not come easily. And, you do need to get the brass behind you on your quest. Good luck!

  14. #14
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    May 2007
    Posts
    300

    Default

    To further clarify, my department has lots of pride but it is well known that we don't mess around and will try our hardest to look respectable. The fact that you volunteer does not change that.

  15. #15
    Forum Member
    DeputyChiefGonzo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2000
    Location
    Somewhere between genius and insanity!
    Posts
    13,586

    Default

    Are you tax supported or get by on donations?

    Either way, poeple want to see where their money is going. If the firehouse looks like a pigsty, it can affect your financial base.

    As far as the "appearance" thing.. how hard is it to keep a FD issued t-shirt in the cab of your POV?
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

  16. #16
    Forum Member
    TNFF319's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Collierville, TN
    Posts
    628

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by RFD21C View Post
    i grew up in a volunteer firehouse before i went career. i think the best way to approach this from the unoffical leadership side of the fence(firefighter to firefigther) is to set the example. Most people want feel like part of a group. Start wearing your uniform when ever you are at the firehouse. clean up before you sit down to watch tv. wash the truck after every call (if you dont run alot). Pretty soon the other firefighters will start to follow you and do the same. Now granted not everyone will follow you. newer member will look at you as a role model because you are presenting yourself as a person who know what is going on and will likely follow you. since it is a volly department it is hard to say you have to wear your uniform all the time. however if people see you in it they will follow suit.
    I hope that works. It doesn't where I've been. I always dress nice to meetings. I have been doing it for 2 1/2 years. People still wear what they want. I wash the rigs. Everyone just stands around and watches. They even point out what I'm doing wrong from their high horse. Volunteers have a bad rep, because they display one. Cut off shirts, spittin skoal everywhere, smoking on medical calls, threatening to walk out the second work is mandated, refusing to train cause it takes up their time...get the picture. I had one guy say if they took away his lights he'd leave in a heartbeat.

    I am not trying to bash vollys. I am one. I just say there is little hope.
    These are things I have seen. They all do not happen at my station.
    Last edited by TNFF319; 02-28-2009 at 12:22 AM.
    FF/Paramedic

  17. #17
    Forum Member
    gamewell35's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Posts
    237

    Default

    I believe RFD21C has the right Idea. Lead by example. At my fire station, several years ago, most volly's wore whatever they happened to have on when responding to fire/EMS calls. I started wearing work shirts, my shield and either jeans or work pants. At first I got some strange looks; but now more and more people are starting to wear work shirts, either jeans or work pants and black boots to calls. Alot of them are starting to look pretty sharp and they are beggining to take a little more pride in how they look around the fire station and at scenes. It takes time, but eventually many of the members will fall into line. As far as the fire station's appearance itself, a majority of the membership pitches in and cleans the station at least once per week and we keep after the membership to keep it as clean as possible in either case, so that doesn't seem to be a problem for us.

  18. #18
    Forum Member
    NFD159's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Northwood, OH
    Posts
    253

    Default

    We are all provided jumpsuits with the City patch on them that can be worn for EMS calls. There are not mandatory to wear if you have on a department t-shirt, New Yorker, or a jacket and some non-ripped jeans or pants (Shorts aren't allowed). I keep the jumpsuit and a t-shirt at the station with my turnout gear. We are not generally allowed to respond to the scene, but if we were I'd just keep a t-shirt or something in my car. Not only does it look more professional to show up at the scene with something with your Department's name on it, most hospitals that we transport to have Security who may question you if your walking around the ER looking like Joe the plumber.

  19. #19

    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Posts
    4

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by TNFF319 View Post
    I hope that works. It doesn't where Ive been. I always dress nice to meetings. I have been doing it for 2 1/2 years. People still wear what the want. I wash the rigs. Everyone just stands around and watches. They even point out what Im doing wrong from their high horse. Volunteers have a bad rep, because they display one. Cut off shirts, spittin skoal every where, smoking on medical calls, threatening to walk out the second work is mandated, refusing to train cause it takes up their time...get the picture. I had one guy say if they took away his lights hed leave in a heartbeat.

    I am not trying to bash vollys. I am one. I just say there is little hope.
    it can be challenging to get them to train or dress appr. however challenge them to do better and teach you the proper ways to do things as for the rest of them especially "mr. lights" he is and will always be part of the t-shirt brigade nothing you can do about those kind just be leary when he's backin you up

  20. #20
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    virginia
    Posts
    537

    Default

    I understand what you are saying. you are always going to have the ones that say if you take my red light i am going to quit or if you make me clean i am just going to go home. You have those in almost every department. In my experience those are the ones that aren't going to be their for you when the chips are down. They are the ones that stand in the front yard breathing. so after the fire they can say "That was a good job i went through three bottles." the problem or i should say challenge for the OP is he is not in policy making position. So the best way in my opinion is for him to inspire them to want to do these things. Praise them and make a big deal about them doing the right things. Try to be a role model. Talk about how it is important to have a professional mindset. Most importantly you cannot lower your standards. Plus you have to keep positive.
    I feel your pain as far as the i have been doing that for 2.5 years and nothing has changed. The important thing is to keep the faith and hold your personal standards high. you have to grab the new guys when they come in and be a mentor for them. you have to grab them before they become infected with the firehouse is a social club mentality
    My pet pev is the guy that points out i missed a spot whilie he is standing their watching. that is where a hey a**hole grab a brush and help! Comes in handy. On the flip side to that you always have to be their to lend a hand when they are doing something before they ask you too.

  21. #21
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Burlington, CT
    Posts
    12

    Default

    In our smaller volunteer department with 4 individual stations, cleanliness is always a concern especially during winter. With budgets and 2 new firehouses in the works, cleanliness is key to portraying to our community that we appreciate all they do for us, as they in turn appreciate the services we provide. As new members come around they are assigned to the "House Committee" which is in charge of weekly chores and cleaning. It is expected though of our members to clean up after themselves and take care of any mess they may encounter.

    As far as the uniform goes, it is hard to enforce a uniform policy in a volunteer organization. One way around this is to provide a shirt or such to ensure that everyone is given the same opportunity and then make is a requirement for calls. When we have a duty crew/or are on call for EMS we wear bdus or dickies and a dept t-shirt or workshirt based on personal preference. If you don't want to utilize a standard type uniform you could put a policy into place requiring minimum attire for certain calls or banning certain items of clothing. Such as no shorts, t-shirts must have sleeves, no tank tops etc. Not only is it a perception and professional issue, it is also a safety and hazard issue.

    Just make sure for first time policies that they are resonable and try to get a base line from your fellow members. We had an issue at a former volunteer ambulance agency when they mandated we wear NFPA turnout style EMS gear on all calls, even in the summer. This wasn't thought highly of, due to the heat/comfort factor, and was not followed and prompted further disobediance towards other uniform policies.

  22. #22
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Location
    Silver City, Oklahoma USA
    Posts
    985

    Default

    I've had the same frustrations at my VFD. We would have a workday, and guys would show up, do mechanical work, leave the tools laying around, throw down the shop rags, leave the spitcups out, etc, etc, etc...couldn't bother to take out the trash, much less clean a toilet. Same after calls: wouldn't wash the trucks (and have you SEEN a grass rig after a grass fire?!), water bottles in the floorboard, can't see out the windows, etc, etc.

    So I quit being upset about what everyone else wasn't doing, and starting spending the first hour of every workday cleaning the station and trucks. It's taken awhile (couple of years), but the new(er) guys just think this is normal.

    I'm not saying it's perfect, and I certainly won't take all the credit, but it's helped.

    As for the uniform thing....responding from home, I take the time to throw on a department tee---takes about 4 seconds. Fire/rescue calls, you should be wearing PPE, so it doesn't matter. On medicals---long pants, no open-toed shoes, department tee, jacket or hat. If you don't have that on, you throw on your turnout pants to ID you as an "official" department member.

    Among other things, it separates us from the other average Joes on the street when on a call.

    Also, I've told my guys "The only thing 'voluntary' about a volunteer fire department is signing up. Everything else is mandatory." Now, you have to be reasonable with what you expect, and let your members know. You can't just randomly issues edicts and expecting them to go with it.

    Expectations must be expressed, and accountability must be maintained.
    Last edited by SilverCity4; 03-01-2009 at 11:24 PM.
    Bryan Beall
    Silver City, Oklahoma USA

  23. #23
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Posts
    54

    Default

    volunteer or paid...everyone should look professional...

  24. #24
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    May 2005
    Posts
    21

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Bones42 View Post
    Your fire academy teaches you to love cleaning toilets? love taking out the trash?

    Damn, mine teaches you about fire fighting.
    .
    yes of course. Cleaning toilets is stupid. But if you don't clean toilets, why cleaning the floor? And why cleaning the floor of the garage, and why cleaning the truck? And why cleaning SCUBA? And one day, on the fire scene, you will get bad SCUBA and be unable to perform your job.
    Cleaning is not the goal. But if every part of the fire service looks like a trashcan , I can't imagine the guy clean the nozzles, repair the truck and so on...

    So, what to do? First, check for the guys who wanted to get a clean room or kitchen. Don't loose your time with the other. Then ask the guys to write a calendar for cleaning. If you have room for sleeping, let those who don't want to clean sleepling together. Change the team. It YOU want to clean and I want to clean, it would be good to be in the same team.

    After a few weeks, you will get the "Clean team" and the "Trash one". The problem will rise quickly in the trask team, and this will be very good: the trash team will clean... or disappear.

    Let us know what is the result.

    Good luck.
    Pierre-Louis (10 years as volunter FF in France. Nice period!)

  25. #25
    Forum Member
    FWDbuff's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Pee-Ayy!
    Posts
    7,428

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by ActionGoose View Post
    When I mentioned this to a fellow fireman, I was told "they can't make you wear that sh*t, it's volunteer." Classy. Many, many of the VFD's in suburban Philadelphia, as well as MUCH of the surrounding Pa/NJ/Delware areas all have strict uniform directives. Duty crews will all have a work uniform on during crew hours. If you respond from home while in street clothes, you WILL wear bunker gear or an issued jumpsuit. All formal activities require class A or B uniforms. Fire Company usually buys everything from footwear (ANSI Z41 or EQUAL) to leather belts to brass on collars.And you know what?? I never, not once have EVER heard of someone NOT wanting to wear a uniform.

    I guess the telling part of this whole deal is what I heard during a water detail. An OFFICER of the company said something to the extent of "as long as it says volunteer above that door, i can just leave right now."
    My answer would have been "Dont let it hit you in the ***."

    You want to be treated as a professional? Then look like one. Remember the movie "Heartbreak Ridge", with Clint Eastwood? The part where he takes over his platoon in the beginning of the movie? Remember his little speech? "You wanna be a Marine, then start by looking like one. Then you'll start acting like one, and pretty gawdamn soon you'll start feeling like one."

    You want to be treated like a terbacky chewin' redneck? Then keep showing up to calls looking like one. Remember, a professional does not have to receive a paycheck to be a professional. And those ones are SOL around here, because 99% of the stations here have outlawed ALL tobacco products inside the stations, including chew!

    Quote Originally Posted by SilverCity4 View Post
    Also, I've told my guys "The only thing 'voluntary' about a volunteer fire department is signing up. Everything else is mandatory." Now, you have to be reasonable with what you expect, and let your members know. You can't just randomly issues edicts and expecting them to go with it.
    Precisely. If I have said it once, I have said it one hundred thousand times- "When the VFD pays my mortgage, the VFD may issue mandated attendance requirements." within reason.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Similar Threads

  1. Be Professional
    By BCLepore in forum Hiring & Employment Discussion
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 05-08-2006, 03:29 PM
  2. Another Professional Gone
    By Celt in forum Wildland Firefighting
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 06-20-2003, 11:59 AM
  3. professional diversity
    By LEWTFL in forum Cultural Diversity
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 03-21-2003, 05:41 AM
  4. Replies: 234
    Last Post: 11-20-2002, 01:14 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts

Log in

Click here to log in or register