1. #1
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    Default What to do with active members that do no meet active member requirements

    I'm not sure which forum would be the best place to ask this, but reading the "Older firefighters and the unfit what to do" thread led me to ask the following question in the Volunteer Forum. Our department is wrestling with this right now.

    Q: If an active member fails to meet our annual requirements for active membership, what do you do with these members? Our bylaws state active members must attend 9 drills (we drill weekly), 3 monthly meetings and take an 8-hour OSHA refresher per year. The members aren't necessarily "older" or "unfit"; they simply don't meet the requirements.

    Some argue that these requirements are easy to make and their gear should be taken and the member moved them from active to associate status for the following year. Some argue to give them a specific amount of time to complete a certain percentage of the requirements. Some argue to loosen the active membership requirements in the bylaws.

    Given the general declining trend in the numbers of volunteers in any organization, it seems there is a balance between keeping your membership numbers higher versus having members that are proficient in both the skills and equipment needed in what we do. If anyone else is going through this, or has gone through this situation, I'd like to know how you handled it.

    Thanks,

    ~Skoj

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    Are the individuals in question being safe/productive on calls? Also, are they meeting your state's basic requirements for their position/certifications?

    If you answered yes to both questions. Consider changing your requirements. Either add in something about making so many % of calls per month, instead of drills. My volunteer department does something like this. You have to make so many meetings/drills every three months, but responding to a call counts for so many drills/meetings. We have this policy because of the farmers on my department who are the core of our weekday response. They never miss anything in the winter or summer, but from March to May and Late August to October they tend to miss meetings/drills and unless our response is limited they don't go to BS calls. What's funny is they all have their radios and cell phones in their tractors. When we get a call they'll call each other up and decide who's going to respond.

    Another option is you could be like the private ambulance company I work part-time for. The company schedules two or three sessions for all mandatory certs. If you miss the sessions, automatic suspension without pay until you complete the course. Usually meaning driving over 100 miles and waiting three weeks for the next class. Obviously since we're talking about VFDs, you can't withhold their pay, but you can remove their ability to respond on calls until they make up the time.

    Ultimately it depends on what works for your area, what your state laws allow, and what you can live with.

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    Follow what your bylaws state. If your bylaws state the requirements, but no consequences of not meeting those requirements....you shouldn't do anything to the members as that may get you to have worse problems.

    And if your bylaws don't state any consequences, change your bylaws.

    Then you have a leg to stand on.
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    The fire service has gone through drastic changes the last five years. FEMA and several other organizations are moving towards weeding out non compliant departments. To keep your department viable by means of your memberships active status is vital. We know that volunteerism is getting more difficult, but remember you will always have members that will be active at first and then slack off. Then you will have even fewer members who continue to stay active. Then again your department will have years with a good size corps of active members and then some not so active years.

    What has to be maintained is that your officers must continue to train for the position that they hold. Even if they have 30 years membership. If he's a chief, captain or training officer he must continue to train for that office.

    I would be careful with declaing a member not active enough and begin reassigning their turnout gear. It must be done in such a way that it is not construed as a penalty or punishment. Whatever steps must be taken must come from a platform of practical logic. Sometimes members need to take a little breather from devoting the amount of time your department seems to be asking.

    Officers do not have a choice. They must stay active and be an officer. Remember, your actually an arm of government. Not some social club.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Skojo View Post
    Q: If an active member fails to meet our annual requirements for active membership, what do you do with these members? Our bylaws state active members must attend 9 drills (we drill weekly), 3 monthly meetings and take an 8-hour OSHA refresher per year. The members aren't necessarily "older" or "unfit"; they simply don't meet the requirements.
    First.. if you pull their gear for not meeting the requirements then how are they expected to meet the requirements next year? Can't attend drills (or run calls) without gear. With us the consequences for not meeting the requirements are that the member does not get voting privileges or yearly stipend/LOSAP contributions. Things that don't limit their ability to perform on the fireground.

    Second, do you have stipulations in your bylaws for 'excused' absences? Not trying to offer excuses but there may be valid reasons for some members to miss events. If your drills or meetings are always on the same night then there may be consistent work/school conflicts.. We allow members to submit in writing any valid conflicts and the member is accountable for a percentage of events they'd be able to attend.

    As Bones said, I would stick to your bylaws.. but I'd be careful about cutting off your nose to spite your face.. you don't want to drive away productive members because of inflexible requirements.
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    Default Thanks for the replies

    We've gone through a major bylaw review, as they haven't been addressed in years. They are 95% current. The last thing we are trying to address included wording that provide consequences for not meeting requirements. We do allow for excused absences for valid reasons.

    KanFireman - I like the idea of counting a % of calls for drills and will bring this up.

    Voyager9 - you bring up a good point - without gear, how can you meet requirements to become active again? This question has also come up.

    In addtion to discussing what to do with folks that don't make active requirements, we're also trying to figure out how to allow/encourage the folks that don't make the active requirements back into active status.

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    We have limits set up for drills, meetings, fundraisers, and calls that sounds similar to yours (very easy to make). If the member does not make at least 4 (yes four) calls a year, they cannot vote on line officers. If they do not make at least 3 meetings a year (that inlcudes committees as well), they cannot vote on business officers or run for a business office. To be elligible to be a line officer, they must make the calls, drills, meetings, and fundraising limits.

    The lowest amount of functions it takes (in any combination) to stay active is 10. We set these so low so that we are not chasing anyone out, but we are still setting some basis to differentiate between active and social. If a member goes to social, they must notify a chief officer that they would like to be active again. Then they are started back to probation and they are expected to show up for as much as possible. This is to get them aquianted with the current way things are done and what we have.

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    We also have participation requirements for membership. If you don't make enough points, you don't vote in the company elections. In addition, if you don't make the minimum you are sent a warning letter and given the opportunity to start showing up. If the lack of participation continues, we drop the members. Keep in mind that being dropped or resiging does not prevent you from coming back, but you better be able to explain why you can now meet the requirements when you couldn't before.

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    We require five meetings, three fundraisers, and OSHA to stay current. The fundraiser part has become a bit dicey as we don't do as many as we used to. It doesn't matter, the same few show up anyhow.

    There is a certain group in the department that feels the bylaws should be "advisory" as opposed to the law of the land. They tend to be the ones who have the most to lose if we enforce the bylaws to the letter.

    We also lack any set penalty for not complying, other than loss of voice at meetings.

    I'd recommend a "probationary" period for anyone not current on their requirements. Give them a year to get back in compliance, or out they go.

    I'd also suggest looking at why they don't make the meetings and drills. We have people in multiple organizations who have to prioritize what they are going to attend - sometimes the FD ends of on the short end of the stick. The same might apply to shift workers, or the aforementioned farmers. If that's the case, you owe them the opportunity to drill when they can attend.

    I think it's been found that loose requirements actually hurt recruitment and retention.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

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    Participation is reviewed every 4 months by the Deputy Chief.

    We require 1 training nights out of 4 per month, which IMO, are too lax, but that's another discussion for another time.

    This can be made up by attending outside classes with equal hours during that period.

    We have no call requirements.

    If you do not make the training requirements for a 4-month period, we send a letter to the member informing them of the requirements. If during the next 4-month period, you do not meet the requirements, we send a second letter advising them that they need to attend training to prevent being removed.

    They are also advised to contact us if there are medical, work or family issues that are causing the issue. In some cases, we will work around the issue as long as they can attend some type of alternative training.

    If during the second 4-month period, they do not make the requirements, they are sent a third letter stating they will be removed if they do not make training requirements during this period.

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    I have said it before, I will say it again....With the exception of certain training mandates,

    When the Volunteer Fire Department starts paying my mortgage, the Volunteer Fire Department may begin telling me what I must attend.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    Quote Originally Posted by FWDbuff View Post
    I have said it before, I will say it again....With the exception of certain training mandates,

    When the Volunteer Fire Department starts paying my mortgage, the Volunteer Fire Department may begin telling me what I must attend.
    Amazing. The world has stopped spinning in it's axis.

    We agree.

    I do beleive in training requirements, but I don't believe in call requirements.

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    Interesting. As a volunteer softball coach, I am committed to attend practices and games. When I volunteered with Boy Scouts, I was committed to attend meetings and events.

    In my vol FD, I sometimes get guys that say "you can't tell me when to be here...I'm volunteer". I remind them, the last thing they volunteered for was to join the Department and follow the rules. Technically, you are correct, we can't tell them what they have to do in their life. But we can (and do) tell them what they have to do to stay an active member of the FD.
    "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?

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    Sorry wrong thread
    Last edited by BSFD9302; 06-21-2010 at 12:05 PM.

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    My department's by-laws are fairly clear on alarm attendance and meeting/drill attendance. We expect a certain percentage of alarms in a year and a certain amount of meetings attended. Pretty loose requirements when you look at the time period given. Everyone is given a set of the by-laws when they fill out an application. That way new applicants can't claim they weren't aware of the "rules" before joining.

    Still we have those who blow off meetings or don't come to any alarms unless its a major cooker. We're lucky enough that we only have maybe 2-3 a year like that, but those 2-3 aren't going to get a member anywhere close to his precentage requirement.

    When we have members not meeting our requirements, an organizational committee, comprised of members of all rank, review each individual on a case-by-case basis. We apply the rules fairly, and in each case that I've seen us act on, we actually go above and beyond in trying to maintain the member rather than be "strictly by the book". We send out letters to the member, reminding them of their committment they made (yes, everyone signs a document prior to joining about this) and just try to put a bug in their ear about improving their status. If they're having a rough time personally, we try to help out where we can. At a second review, several months later, if the problem still exists, then we act on removal as our by-laws allow us.

    Yeah, I've heard the "volunteer" argument before. But I've also heard the, "you volunteered to be here, feel free to volunteer to leave" reply many a times given in response.
    Volunteering is a committment, its a job, a thankless, unpaying one. It takes twice as much time and twice as much energy, because you are not getting paid and yet you still have to work. I always like to use the theory of, "I'm not here for myself, I'm here for my community; when I stop being here for them, I'm no longer a volunteer."

    Ask them if they're having personal issues that may need help like a critical stress debriefing. Work with them, not against them but at the end of the day, enforce your by-laws fairly.

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    This is one of the reasons why bylaw revision needs to be done. We just went through the same thing in our department. The bylaws stated that you needed certain things to remain active, BUT nothing about what was to be done in the event you didn't meet the standards. It got to the point where people were listed on the membership role who nobody in the department had seen to a call, drill or even a FD function for 4-5 years! Some of this has now been addressed but it is an ongoing thing.
    Look at all of the added training that is being added and requirements that insurance companies require. Physicals??? When I first joined the physical was "Can you fog this mirror?" SOPs, HUH, is that some new spill control item...

    The larger problem in the volunteer ranks is membership. If you look at the times when most departments had a LOT of members they were also the times when the FD was considered to be the social club of the area.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WBFD25 View Post
    Still we have those who blow off meetings or don't come to any alarms unless its a major cooker. We're lucky enough that we only have maybe 2-3 a year like that, but those 2-3 aren't going to get a member anywhere close to his precentage requirement.
    Peer pressure is also a useful tool in these situations. I've found that many times if formally come at a member regarding their activity their response is likely "ok.. then I'll be LESS active. See-ya!". This same member, when approached by peers asking where he was is sometimes more likely to improve.

    To do that you need a core group of "unofficial leaders".. the NCO's so to speak who can have those kinds of one-on-one discussions.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skojo View Post
    Q: If an active member fails to meet our annual requirements for active membership, what do you do with these members?
    Show them the door?

    I mean, seriously, what's the point of requirements for active membership if not meeting them results in anything else?
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    The Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.

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    Don't mean to put my 2 cents in as I am barely a probie, but if I may:

    My FD requires that probies go on 30% of calls, 75% of training, company/department meetings, probie drills (every sunday), washing the trucks/cleaning the firehouse, restocking/cleanup after a big call (dry the hoses, refill the bottles), parades, etc...

    As me being a full-time student plus having a part time job, I'll try to manage and get the requirements in. Correct, they don't pay for my car or anything, but at the same time, I want to be a part of the FD, so I have to follow what they ask. 30% of the calls is about 96 calls, as we get around 320-330 a year, mostly just false alarms, CO issues, then a lot of MVA and 7/8 structure fires.

    However, I also believe that if I had 80 out of the 96 calls or missed 3 meetings to get my 75% in, and had, in writing, my work/school schedule and why I missed the calls, and as long as I was productive, did what I was told, and attended all of my FF1 classes, then I should not be penalized.

    If I was in Las Vegas or partying at home and didn't want to go to an MVA or CO alarm, then sure, I should be penalized.

    At the same time, I'm not a slacker, and I just have a lot on my plate. There are plenty of lazy people in the FD, so you really have to size them up and take it on a person-to-person basis.

    Once again, I may not know what I'm talking about, just my opinions.
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    Fire them. There is no fine line. They either meet expectations of they don't.

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    Quote Originally Posted by scfire86ret View Post
    Fire them. There is no fine line. They either meet expectations of they don't.
    So no room for error? Meeting 28% of calls and not 30% is worthy of getting rid of a hard-working FF who has a family to take care of and support and doesn't have all of the time in the world to volunteer when he has a 9-5 job? If I was a chief and had to make that decision, I would certainly reconsider it and just talk about it.

    If it was a paid FD, then sure. But a VFD, no.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnFeinberg View Post
    So no room for error? Meeting 28% of calls and not 30% is worthy of getting rid of a hard-working FF who has a family to take care of and support and doesn't have all of the time in the world to volunteer when he has a 9-5 job? If I was a chief and had to make that decision, I would certainly reconsider it and just talk about it.

    If it was a paid FD, then sure. But a VFD, no.
    Yup. One either wants to be a firefighter or they don't. Minimum standards are just that. If they're not being met, then there is no point in having any standards at all.

    Even reserve LEO's (in CA) have to meet the same requirements as their professional counterparts. If they don't commit the minimum number of required hours per month they are politely excused from their duties and told they can reapply and start the process all over again.

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    Quote Originally Posted by scfire86ret View Post
    Yup. One either wants to be a firefighter or they don't. Minimum standards are just that. If they're not being met, then there is no point in having any standards at all.

    Even reserve LEO's (in CA) have to meet the same requirements as their professional counterparts. If they don't commit the minimum number of required hours per month they are politely excused from their duties and told they can reapply and start the process all over again.
    With volunteer LEO's, I would expect no less. Are LEO's in CA permitted to carry weapons of any kind by the way?

    Anyway, I would not fight my own removal from the volunteer FD if my requirements were not met. If the requirements weren't there, then it would be a lot harder to organize people when they are not coming in for paychecks, only pride. Of course, like I said, there could be an exception for one member if there was a very good excuse, and showed hard work ethic, and missed the requirement by a small amount of calls due to a valid reason.
    Keep my mouth shut and ears open.
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    Sort of an old thread, but the minimum requirements noted in the original post are almost absurdly minimal -- attend 9/52 weekly drills, 3/12 monthly meetings, and 1 8 hour OSHA class. If someone can't do that much, then yes they need to be kicked out.

    However, not all minimum requirements are created equal. They can be raised so high that it just isn't practical to expect people to be able to meet them. However, there isn't any hard or fast rule for deciding the proper balance of necessary training and available volunteer time.

    But, in any such program there does need to be some leeway to allow for people who don't make the minimums to either provide a reasonable justification or to allow them to do extra work to regain their status after failing to meet the minimums for that year.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnFeinberg View Post

    At the same time, I'm not a slacker, and I just have a lot on my plate.
    To me, this is a **** poor excuse. If you don't have the time, you shouldn't have signed up.

    I run 400 hours a month at one of my EMS jobs, 100 hours a month at another. I'm going back to school, so I'll be conservative and say that's another 100 hours a month. On top of that, I have a wife, a daughter, and am in the process of prepping/testing for two full time fire departments. So, added all together, which includes being out of town for my daughter, we'll say that's 650 hours. There's 730 hours in a month. So that leaves me 80 hours a month for fire department. Guess what, I STILL meet all of my meeting/training/call/station duty requirements at TWO POC Departments.

    Fyred works 56 hours a week at one job, and depending on the week just as many there, and he STILL has time for two POC FD's.

    I don't have time is not an excuse. I have a lot on my plate is not an excuse. And the reason that statement set me off is because you're not even a flippin' member of the department yet, and all I've heard you do is whine. You ask a question and then tell everyone they're wrong. Whatever, I'm done.

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