1. #1
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    Default Combination Department, Career Perspective

    Hey guys, I'm looking to trade some info and ideas about working with volunteers, and some of the common problems that are associated with doing so. Please don't misunderstand, I am not here to complain or say that volunteers have no business working along side career personell. If that's your opinion that's great...let's hear why, maybe you have some valid points. Maybe to get the ball rolling here...Does anyone experience problems with division of responsibilites around the engine house? Everyone's gunghoe on the fire ground but what about when it comes to station duties who's responsibility is it? What about truck checks? Just a couple things to get started on. In my opinion all of the above are everyone's responsibilty. A firefighter is a firefighter is a firefighter!

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    I work for a combo department. I started there many years ago when it was all volunteer. We have a four man crew at our station one, one station with a resisdent program (the other stations are set for this but can't find the people to fill the spots), and the other four stations are un-manned. The paid staff does a weekly truck check on the unmanned stations every Friday, the last week of the month we spend a day at each station doing a end on the month on the trucks and a detailed cleaning of the station.

    Our volunteers that are trained drivers will pick up trucks from these stations and respond them to calls. They are responable for making sure the truck is returned to service when they return it to the station. On large calls everyone goes back to station one puts the trucks back in service.

    Our volunteers respond to the scene and it is very possible they will be with attack one or be using the jaws on car wrecks. They have training every Tuesday night and the on-duty crew trains with them. The other two crews will have the same training on Wed and Thurs. All of our volunteers have to complete a 6 month training before they are allowed to run calls and they are encouraged to get their FF 1 and 2 and EMT (both paid for by the dept).

    We don't seem to have a whole lot of problems with our volunteers.

    We have 2 paid departments and 6 volunteer departments that we work with on auto-aid and see very few problems with them either.

    Hope this helps.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FireResQ24 View Post
    Hey guys, I'm looking to trade some info and ideas about working with volunteers, and some of the common problems that are associated with doing so. Please don't misunderstand, I am not here to complain or say that volunteers have no business working along side career personell. If that's your opinion that's great...let's hear why, maybe you have some valid points. Maybe to get the ball rolling here...Does anyone experience problems with division of responsibilites around the engine house? Everyone's gunghoe on the fire ground but what about when it comes to station duties who's responsibility is it? What about truck checks? Just a couple things to get started on. In my opinion all of the above are everyone's responsibilty. A firefighter is a firefighter is a firefighter!
    The division of responsibilities around the firehouse should be determined by your SOPs and job descriptions, not opinions or intramural debates.

    It is common where I am from for largely-volunteer combo departments to make a heavy dose of station duties the primary job of their paid staff. Many departments have maybe one or two paid firefighters, and they are often referred to as "station guys".

    The thinking, I suppose, is this: Given this relatively small amount of money (whatever they're paying you), how can the public receive the greatest benefit?

    Many times, the best thing that a single paid firefighter can due to improve public safety in his town is to make volunteering more possible for more people, by taking a heavy maintenance load.

    I expect this is not what you wanted/expected to hear.

    A different calculus, of course, applies on large departments with many paid staff.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FireResQ24 View Post
    Hey guys, I'm looking to trade some info and ideas about working with volunteers, and some of the common problems that are associated with doing so. Please don't misunderstand, I am not here to complain or say that volunteers have no business working along side career personell. If that's your opinion that's great...let's hear why, maybe you have some valid points. Maybe to get the ball rolling here...Does anyone experience problems with division of responsibilites around the engine house? Everyone's gunghoe on the fire ground but what about when it comes to station duties who's responsibility is it? What about truck checks? Just a couple things to get started on. In my opinion all of the above are everyone's responsibilty. A firefighter is a firefighter is a firefighter!
    I work for a combination department with 4 personnel on 24/7 and an additional 2 personnel M-F 8a-4p. We have to take care of everything at the station including ALL truck maintenance etc. Saturdays we go do station checks at outlying (all volunteer) stations. The most we might get out of our volunteers is to help reload hose after a fire, then it's up to us to clean it all... go figure.

    The biggest problem with us is that the department doesn't want to do any testing to make any of the full-time personnel officers. Paid crews all hold the rank of "Firefighter" regardless of your role on the truck. All of our officers are volunteers that may or may not show up and most don't like the full-time crew because they don't make the "first-out" truck anymore. You can usually count on them going to structure fires, outside of that you never know if or when one will show up to "assume" command.

    There's lots of things that could be worked out better here but overall it's alright... (as long as the volunteer officers don't show up! lol)

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    I haven't witnessed this personally, but I've heard of incidents of freelancing on the fireground by volunteers. You know, searching by yourself and not telling anyone, venting without consulting interior crews or the IC, etc. When you need to call a mayday, and no one knew you were inside, you can wreck the whole program, and put additional lives in danger to rescue you. Again, I haven't personally witnessed a volly doing a poor job, these are just incidents that I've heard of from the rumor mill.

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    a word of advice that i wish we had done is have two friges and food storage areas. one career and one volly. I could not tell you how many fights and bad feelings were caused by food issues. Sounds stupid and trivial but it is the little things that add up over time to cause big issues.

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    Quote Originally Posted by edpmedic View Post
    I haven't witnessed this personally, but I've heard of incidents of freelancing on the fireground by volunteers. You know, searching by yourself and not telling anyone, venting without consulting interior crews or the IC, etc. When you need to call a mayday, and no one knew you were inside, you can wreck the whole program, and put additional lives in danger to rescue you. Again, I haven't personally witnessed a volly doing a poor job, these are just incidents that I've heard of from the rumor mill.
    What a hack.

    I've heard, not witnessed, mind you, but heard that career firefighters (properly called "paid maids") sleep all day, complain constantly about heir absurdly generous compensation packages, retire at 32 on the taxpayer's dime, and are generally worthless. Oh, and I heard whole STRIKE TEAMS of paid firefighters have been known to freelance in California.

    See how silly that is? What exactly do you think your post contributed to the discussion?

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    Quote Originally Posted by rural457 View Post
    I work for a combination department with 4 personnel on 24/7 and an additional 2 personnel M-F 8a-4p. We have to take care of everything at the station including ALL truck maintenance etc. Saturdays we go do station checks at outlying (all volunteer) stations. The most we might get out of our volunteers is to help reload hose after a fire, then it's up to us to clean it all... go figure.
    What you describe isn't uncommon. Many communities decide to hire their first paid firefighter precisely to handle these sorts of tasks. A couple of firefighters on a shift may not directly contribute a whole lot to fire supression, but if the maintenance work they perform allows 30 people to volunteer who would not be able to give the time to maintenance, than those paid firefighters have made a great contribution.

    The only way I see that paid firefighters in that position have anything to gripe about is if the rules changed after they were hired.

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    NewHampshireFF,

    There is no problem with that, I have no problem with doing that stuff. It's just amazing how the volunteers attitudes towards you change. I started as a volunteer and still had the respect to clean what I used and not bail out as soon as we got back to the station.

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    Having the volunteers stay and help put the truck back in service is nothing more than the administration say you will come back and help put the truck back in service. I know someone is going to say that if they are forced to do that they are going to quit. If that is the case then they are in the fire service for the wrong reason. It takes an hour at most to return a truck to service. They are times when a volunteer gets out of it because he/she needs to be at work or the truck was for the most part returned to service on the scene and very little has to be done at the station other than washing in thucks. Just my two cents.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rural457 View Post
    NewHampshireFF,

    There is no problem with that, I have no problem with doing that stuff. It's just amazing how the volunteers attitudes towards you change. I started as a volunteer and still had the respect to clean what I used and not bail out as soon as we got back to the station.
    Again, it is not "bailing" if you leave work for the people who have been hired to do it.

    If by allowing volunteers to "bail", you make volunteering possible for a half-dozen volunteers, you have done far more to contribute to the safety of your city than you will through your own fire supression efforts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NewHampshireFF View Post
    The division of responsibilities around the firehouse should be determined by your SOPs and job descriptions, not opinions or intramural debates.

    It is common where I am from for largely-volunteer combo departments to make a heavy dose of station duties the primary job of their paid staff. Many departments have maybe one or two paid firefighters, and they are often referred to as "station guys".

    The thinking, I suppose, is this: Given this relatively small amount of money (whatever they're paying you), how can the public receive the greatest benefit?

    Many times, the best thing that a single paid firefighter can due to improve public safety in his town is to make volunteering more possible for more people, by taking a heavy maintenance load.

    I expect this is not what you wanted/expected to hear.

    A different calculus, of course, applies on large departments with many paid staff.

    My thoughts on that were more on when a volunteer pulls a duty shift at the firehouse they are there to be part of the crew. I'm paid (not much but that's not the point haha) and I expect a volunteer to pull their weight around the station when they are there. If the paid staff is out doing truck checks they probably shouldn't (my opinion) be sitting inside reading the paper or playing on the computer...not because I want them to help but there really is no better way to learn a truck than to go through and check it. I look at a volunteer as a FIREFIGHTER, different from me ONLY in that I get paid to do it, not just as man power at a fire scene to lug hose around, anyone can do that. Now on the same token, when we have volunteers stay the night I think they should help with station duties, but I won't ever ask them to do more than me or do the less than glamorous jobs (clean the bathrooms, ect.) but there is no reason for you to watch me mop.

    Just my thoughts, that's how I was and still am where I volunteer.

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    I work for a combo department in east central Georgia. We have roughly 130 paid personnel running out of 16 engine companies, 2 truck companies, 1 rescue and 2 battalion chiefs. We run 2 man engines and ladders.

    We keep in good standing 80 or so volunteers on a regular basis. They are split into two groups: certified suppression firefighters and non-certified support firefighters. Certified firefighters run out of Engine Co. 1, where they can either ride the engine or truck. Non-certified firefighters run out of Engine Co. 4 on the engine.

    Normally, the volunteers are extra staffing on the trucks. However, we do have a few that have been here long enough to know how we do things and we know them. They are allowed to work in the place of a career firefighter in the event the shift needs to be covered.

    Our volunteers know how we do things on the fireground, and they act just as the career guys do. Report to IC, recieve orders, etc. Freelancing is not a big issue for us, career or paid.

    Volunteers and career salary employees(not on weekly hourly schedule) can also respond from home when off duty. The same rules apply in this situation when comming on scene.

    That is how we operate and it works great for us. A good majority of our career firefighters started as volunteers, including myself.
    Career Firefighter
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    -Professional in Either Role-

    Quote Originally Posted by Rescue101 View Post
    I don't mind fire rolling over my head. I just don't like it rolling UNDER my a**.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FireResQ24 View Post
    My thoughts on that were more on when a volunteer pulls a duty shift at the firehouse they are there to be part of the crew. I'm paid (not much but that's not the point haha) and I expect a volunteer to pull their weight around the station when they are there. If the paid staff is out doing truck checks they probably shouldn't (my opinion) be sitting inside reading the paper or playing on the computer...not because I want them to help but there really is no better way to learn a truck than to go through and check it. I look at a volunteer as a FIREFIGHTER, different from me ONLY in that I get paid to do it, not just as man power at a fire scene to lug hose around, anyone can do that. Now on the same token, when we have volunteers stay the night I think they should help with station duties, but I won't ever ask them to do more than me or do the less than glamorous jobs (clean the bathrooms, ect.) but there is no reason for you to watch me mop.

    Just my thoughts, that's how I was and still am where I volunteer.
    Certainly, if they are pulling duty shifts they should be doing everything required on that shift. I guess I was thinking more of the "it only takes an hour to get a truck back in service" argument above.

    But if you're spending the night, you should be sharing the work, absolutely.

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    If I was a paid guy in a combo dept. I'd want it to be done by the paid guys. When I come in for the start of my shift, it'll be me on that truck, so I should be checking it when I come in. If I'm checking the truck at the start of the shift, why should I make some volly come in and duplicate my work? Defeats the purpose of having me there.



    If you want to do weekly, monthly, checks as part of a paid/volly drill time, then it should be a shared duty.

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    Nameless, don't think of it as someone coming and doing the work again after you've already done it, but more of having someone working along side you. I am paid and to me it's almost offensive if I'm outside working, checking trucks and making sure that the equipment is in safe working order while someone just sits inside and reads the paper or plays on the internet. Truck checks are a great way to learn your gear inside and out, and become so familiar with it that you can operate it (flawlessly and without thinking) at 2 A.M. when things are going bad. Don't get me wrong paid firefighters aren't the only ones capable of doing this and not all can. I often pose this question to a new volunteer: "Why do you think that we have a volunteer program, is it to fulfill the needs of the district or to fulfill your desire to be a firefighter?"

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    I didn't think you'd have volunteers there 24/7. Seems like you guys would do equipment checks in the morning (assuming thats when you have shift change), if the volunteers aren't there then they shouldn't have to come and re-do it later. But if there are duty crews or whatever, it should be a shared duty.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NewHampshireFF View Post
    What a hack.

    I've heard, not witnessed, mind you, but heard that career firefighters (properly called "paid maids") sleep all day, complain constantly about heir absurdly generous compensation packages, retire at 32 on the taxpayer's dime, and are generally worthless. Oh, and I heard whole STRIKE TEAMS of paid firefighters have been known to freelance in California.

    See how silly that is? What exactly do you think your post contributed to the discussion?
    I asked where these rumors came from, and I was told there were documented incidents from NIOSH close call reports citing these incidents.

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    What i was meaning by the "only takes an hour" was that the volunteers come back to the station a help return the trucks to service after a fire call. I had posted earlier that we (paid staff) do all the truck checks at shift change and that the unmanned station are checked on Friday.

    We have some of our volunteers that will work to cover an open shift. When that happens they are paid and do the work of a paid person.

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    Quote Originally Posted by edpmedic View Post
    I asked where these rumors came from, and I was told there were documented incidents from NIOSH close call reports citing these incidents.
    And you don't think their are NIOSH reports of career firefighters doing the same thing (although not, of course, from NIOSH "Close Calls" reports, since there is no such thing)? Christ, man, are you that dumb?

    Not to mention that the question was about working with volunteers AT THE FIREHOUSE, not on the fireground.
    Last edited by NewHampshireFF; 05-06-2009 at 10:41 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rm1524 View Post
    What i was meaning by the "only takes an hour" was that the volunteers come back to the station a help return the trucks to service after a fire call. I had posted earlier that we (paid staff) do all the truck checks at shift change and that the unmanned station are checked on Friday.

    We have some of our volunteers that will work to cover an open shift. When that happens they are paid and do the work of a paid person.
    Right, I understand that. And what I am saying is that many largely-volunteer combo departments hire paid staff specifically to ensure that volunteers don't have to do that, ot other maintenance work.

    If paying someone to do that sort of work makes it possible for more people to volunteer, than there is a real multiplier effect on the expenditure of those funds.

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    I work career for a combo department, 7 career firefighters and a 32 hour a week chief.

    We work 10s and 14s with 2 men per shift. We do all station duties, morning truck checks, and are the only personnel allowed to operate apparatus. While our official rank is Engineer, we are also equal to captain in the department's hierarchy. On the call company's rolls we have 1 Deputy, 1 assistant, 4 captains 4 lieutenants and about 10 interior firefighters with several support volunteers.

    From my perspective, whether you are paid, volunteer or call, we all share the same responsibilities and working together we can take care of things a lot faster and easier. In our SOGs it states that the call officers are responsible to help the chief with the budget, assist us on business and safety inspections, supervise a set amount of subordinates and keep track of their training and numerous other things... yet training had to be taken over by one of the career men. The officers do not keep their training records updated for themselves or their subordinates nor do they help at all when it comes to finding information for the chief. I know from experience that we have officers who do not know the equipment on the trucks, and in fact this was getting so bad that a few years ago someone felt obligated to blemish our apparatus with labels on each compartment.

    In the end I respect our call members only because I wish to keep the peace between us and them, we should be one team, but how can you call it a team when they cannot perform the basic duties of their job?

    In the end I suppose this all falls upon the chief for not enforcing the SOGs and job descriptions, but still I wish people would take pride in what they do and do it well, rather than falling back on the asinine opinion of "You get paid to do that, so I don't need to"
    Engineer, Local 3038

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    Primarily volunteer combo department with 7 stations covering about 200 square miles. 1200-1300 runs per year. 80% EMS.

    1 station staffed w/ 4 daytime and 1 5 PM-7AM w/ supplemental volunteer ride-out staffing. 6 stations all-volunteer response.

    5 paid personnel. 3 shift firefighters. 1 Deputy Chief (M-F daytime) 1 Public Education/Training Coordinator (M-F daytime).

    55 volunteer firefighting personnel. 10-12 support personnel. 10 dispatchers. 6-10 juniors.

    The majority of our volunteers have an EMS ranging from first responder to 9 paramedics.

    Paid members understand that they are there to support the volunteer operation. They are responsible for most of the truck and equipment maintainence, station maintainence and rating related testing. That being said, we often have 4-10 volunteers at our Central (staffed) station riding out at any time. If they are at the station there is any expectation that they will participate in any cleaning, maintainence, testing or training task that is going on at the time.

    Our Chief and Asst. Chief (3rd in command) are volunteers. All of our captains with the exception of 1 are volunteers. Our paid staff fully understands that the highest ranking officer is in charge and 90% at night, that is a volunteer.

    We also use volunteers to give us a 4th paid man 7 days a week during the day. We also have a Saturday and Sunday part-time position to cover the Deputy Chief's slot weekend.

    In addition, 3 of our volunteer stations have mobile homes next to the stations housing 2 volunteers each. They get free board for 45 hours of scheduled duty time a week. All 6 also count as full-time paid firefighters on our rating because they are scheduled. We are planning to add a trailer to a 4th station late this year.

    All volunteers who want to work the part-time daytime slot must have an EMS cert, be a driver and be interior qualified.

    The members who want to live in the trailers must meet the same criteria.

    The system works very well. We have been able to keep the number of volunteers way up and have no plans to hire despite having the funding available to do so.

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