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    Default Will the Volunteer FD survive?

    Hi all - I'm doing a graduate research paper on "will the VFD survive?" and I'm needed reasons of why it might or might not. So far, I have covered the financial and the recruiting/retaining members. Looking for about 2-3 more. Any help is appreciated.

    Thanks!

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    Some thoughts from an area newspaper:

    http://www.uticaod.com/police_fire/x...r-firefighters

    Might give you some ideas.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

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    Amount of needed training hours rising.
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    The glory days of the redneck [substitute:"here, hold my beer and watch this sh**"] vfd are near a close....

    It takes more training just to keep up with the changing fire environment.

    It takes a physically fit body....40 year plus and still smokin' mostly won't cut the fast pace rigors of the modern fire ground.

    It takes drive, will, and initiative.....something the 40 year old plus guy might have but something greatly lacking in today's "what have ya done for me now" youth. The "if ya aint payin me I aint doin it" attitude just won't fly in a volunteer setting.

    It takes the desire to help a neighbor in need without compensation for your efforts...As a society, we are drifting away from true neighborly behaviour and into the realm of online networking.

    It takes a higher degree of technical understanding to grasp this changing fire environment that many older FFs in the VFDs no longer have time or desire to commit to.

    Unfortunately, we are drifting towards the realm of downsizing and consolidation to a point that it will be more cost effective to pay a couple very well trained FF/EMTs at a central point in a county than to fund equipment for multiple VFDs in closer proximity to the action taking place.

    Hey, we are doing it to ourselves. In some cases we don't train, we don't act professionally in front of the public eye, we don't keep our equipment up....ect, ect...

    Whether you are paid career, combination, or straight up VFD in any form or fashion, the fire still treats us the same.

    When the public sees a less than professional approach to emergency services, especially when another, more professionally acting service is in close proximity to compare against, they are gonna ask for bang for the buck.

    No, these statements do not cover all VFDs, but they do cover in bits and peices a fair share of VFDs.

    Paid career services can be held accountable far more easily than VFDs.

    If you don't do the job, you lose it.

    In this drought of volunteerism, there may not be many out there to replace the ones that don't do the job. People respond when pay is on the line. They tend to just get mad when it is not.
    Last edited by Fireeaterbob; 07-16-2011 at 04:00 PM.
    A coward stands by and watches wrongs committed without saying a word...Any opinions expressed are purely my own and not necessarily reflective of the views of my former departments

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    The biggest threat to the VFD model is modern society and the changing demographics.

    Few people work and live in the same community. The ability to respond during the day are severely impacted to the point where it has become impractical.

    Compounding this dilemma is that those who have a job aren't going to jeopardize it by running out the door to answer a fire call while they are working.
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    Well i think alot of it depends on your area, where i live the only thing we have is volunteer depts. We know someone has to do it, so we do. I am certified and serious about my department, the rest of my fellow brothers are too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by scfire86 View Post
    The biggest threat to the VFD model is modern society and the changing demographics.

    Few people work and live in the same community. The ability to respond during the day are severely impacted to the point where it has become impractical.

    Compounding this dilemma is that those who have a job aren't going to jeopardize it by running out the door to answer a fire call while they are working.
    Some of the suburban areas around here have moved to composite stations for just this reason - career staffed 9-5, volunteer after hours. Allows the best of both worlds in that the municipality saves some money with volunteers, but there is always adequate fire coverage.

    The added bonus of a combination station is it keeps the redneck-flavor somewhat at bay given that the career members demand professionalism from the volunteers, so it never becomes a darts club with a firefighting adjunct....

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    Quote Originally Posted by 105 View Post
    ...so it never becomes a darts club with a firefighting adjunct....
    No "becomes" about it - many small town departments, with no "pro's" for miles around to emulate, haven't moved away from the social-club-that-fights-fires paradigm. It can be a powerful political base to displace.

    Scfire86 has it almost exactly correct - especially in that in some cases it's not just that people don't want to jeopardize their job by leaving for a fire call. In days of old there were enough employees to cover if the firefighter did leave, and that's not so much the case any more. Many parts of a company are one deep these days, and if that one employee leaves, there's a problem.

    Too, most local employers supported the work of the fire department and were more than willing to let an employee go. Some would even close up shop if necessary.

    The corporate wonks five states away don't really care. It's not their house, or even their community.
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    Thanks everyone! Great ideas!

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    I think we've all hit right on target. It is a complex problem..
    A coward stands by and watches wrongs committed without saying a word...Any opinions expressed are purely my own and not necessarily reflective of the views of my former departments

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    I think what you will see is a change in departments based on the changing demographics of our society. For area's that do have a tax base to support a paid or combo department, they will, in general, move that way. For many area's, paid fire service just is not an option.

    So:
    If that tax base is there to support it, most areas will move to combo or paid FD.
    - Ensures manpower available (if done well)
    - Allows for training in ever evolving FD roles (tech rescue, water rescue, trench rescue, ropes, etc etc etc)
    - Allows for theoretically shorter response times and the ability to be more aggressive in tactics. This is a benefit for life safety and property conservation.

    If the tax base does not allow for a paid FF or even a combo department, you will likely still have a functional VFD. This is a choice of something (VFD) or nothing (no FD).
    - Manpower is an issue now and will continue to be
    - Training is an issue now and will only get worse
    - Capabilities MUST be measured differently. You will likely see more defensive jobs due to lack of training, manpower and lengthened response times.

    Don't get me wrong - I am a volunteer now. I am just willing to say the truth - in general, having paid staffing is better for a community that having 'paged' volunteers. There are exceptions to this of course but in general its true. That said, you also have to look at call volume as well. With limited resources, you must invest them wisely and sometimes a fully paid FD just isn't worth the cost for a community given call volume. The comunity has to decide on that one.

    I guess you could say this really boils down to money in most cases. What can you afford, what do you want to afford and then go with that.

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    I guess my 2 POC FDs must be anomalies.

    POC FD#1 is considering limiting membership numbers for the first time in its history because we are getting more members than we can handle. We do not have the room or the PPE to add more at this point.

    POC FD #2 has a waiting list and has had for many years. My son has been waiting for months to get on here.


    I find the training issue to be an interesting one. Some only require that state minimum and then inhouse training only. Others have set Firefighter 1 or Firefighter 2 as a minimum. Some require FADO certification to be able to drive some require the entry level FADO course.

    To me though the most telling thing is how many of the newer, younger, firefighters are going above and beyond their FDs requirements and getting certifications for their own knowledge and benefit. Many are taking weekend classes and seminars at their own expense. Yes some are looking to go career, but not all. The vast majority are serving their communities and have no desire to go anywhere past that.

    I can assure anyone here that both of my POC FDs are aggressive, interior attack, and search and rescue, fire departments. We ask for no exceptions in expectations because we are POC FFs.
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    hopefully not.

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    Duel income families-
    With both mothers and fathers working now a days the time avaliable for volunteering has decreased. Yes in many families (mine included growing up) the local volunteer fire department is a family thing and was passed down through the family. However the brand new man or woman that has no connection to the fire department is limited by this. With the demands of child care and the demands of two careers in the family the time to volunteer is limited.

    Gone are the days where dad wakes up and goes down to the local factory, mill, store, farm, etc. At 5 o'clock he comes home to his wife in an apron and dinner on the table. After dinner he goes to the monday night (meeting, training, work detail, etc.) at the local VFD.


    Add in the increases demands of being a firefighter. When my dad started as a volunteer in the early 70's. It was here is your pager 3/4 boots, coat, helmet. When this pager goes off go to the station. When I started in the late 90's it was here is your gear. When the tones go off you can go on the call and watch until you get your firefighter 1. In 2011 (i still work for the department part time) Welcome to the department you can hang out at the station however you cannot run calls until you get your firefighter 1. Before you start firefighter 1 you need to get you pshyical, fit tested for a mask.


    This is not to say that volunteer fire departments will not survive in the future. However with any "bussiness or industry" it has to adapt and change to meet the challenges of the future.

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    Fyred, I respectfully say, "You are probably in the minority."

    I applaud the spirit and go-get-ted-ness your youth are showing... It is pleasing to see proper training in the volunteer communities.

    But, judging by my region, it is spotty at best unless it is POC, combination POC, or flat out career FDs. No dollar, no do. Straight up volunteer organizations are not thriving well here in the midwest.

    In particular, the statewide economic drive to be both efficient and lean in government and spending has led to a yearly slashing (substitute blood letting) of the budgets by the State Board of Accounts.

    The net result?

    Aged equipment, tighter training budgets, and more economic strain at home to the point that people take jobs instead of volunteering.

    (I freely admit there are areas and departments that have staffing overages...but by and large, it seems the trend is the other direction.)
    Last edited by Fireeaterbob; 07-14-2011 at 03:23 PM.
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    Fireeaterbob,

    I teach for the tech college in Madison so I get out quite a bit to see how volunteer and POC FDs are doing in my region. I think the entire region, or a good chunk of it, is an anomaly if what you say is true throughout the rest of the nation.

    I teach mostly in suburban, rural, and to be really honest some VERY rural areas, and I can honestly say it seems that a good portion of those serving want more training and more knowledge than is locally required. I get many classes where I start out with the entry level FF class, get called back to teach FF1 and occassionally FF2. Driver operator course both the entry level and certified are quite popular. Some move on to Officer, Instructor, Inspector, Haz Mat, Tech Rescue, and Wildland Fire cert classes.

    I should probably be far more appreciative of what we have here, but to me it just is the way the fire service has always been.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FyredUp View Post
    Fireeaterbob,

    I teach for the tech college in Madison so I get out quite a bit to see how volunteer and POC FDs are doing in my region. I think the entire region, or a good chunk of it, is an anomaly if what you say is true throughout the rest of the nation.

    I teach mostly in suburban, rural, and to be really honest some VERY rural areas, and I can honestly say it seems that a good portion of those serving want more training and more knowledge than is locally required. I get many classes where I start out with the entry level FF class, get called back to teach FF1 and occassionally FF2. Driver operator course both the entry level and certified are quite popular. Some move on to Officer, Instructor, Inspector, Haz Mat, Tech Rescue, and Wildland Fire cert classes.

    I should probably be far more appreciative of what we have here, but to me it just is the way the fire service has always been.
    Your anomoly far outweighs some other parts of the country, where they feel that they can pick and choose from the basics because they feel that that is all their personnel need to know. It's like looking at the fire service sundae, then being told you can't have any of the ice cream the whipped cream, sprinkles (jimmies here in the New England area ), nuts or the cherry on top, but you can lick whatever is left in the dish...
    ‎"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

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    The volunteer fire deptment has evolved from a bunch of guys with buckets sometimes kicking and screaming but evolving.
    Many departments are setting standards, goals and requirements. The good old boy firefighter is slowly becoming a thing of the past. A little indicator of this is how many firehalls have you seen with a beer fridge in it.
    The tolerance the public once had for the volunteers has diminished.That is a very large driving force which is having a very positive effect on many departments. The people who showed up for the beer and backslapping about saving that last foundation are being replaced by people who want to be firefighters not loser scum.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fireeaterbob View Post
    .

    But, judging by my region, it is spotty at best unless it is POC, combination POC, or flat out career FDs. No dollar, no do. Straight up volunteer organizations are not thriving well here in the midwest.
    I'll agree it's not the majority, but there is a department south of us, strictly volunteer, that seems to be doing well. They run 2 or 3 a day most days, and last I heard they are still adding members.

    And, I'll say it again, I don't believe that to be the majority, but it's still happening.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fireeaterbob View Post
    The glory days of the redneck vfd are near a close....

    It takes more training just to keep up with the changing fire environment.

    It takes a physically fit body....40 year plus and still smokin' mostly won't cut the fast pace rigors of the modern fire ground.

    It takes drive, will, and initiative.....something the 40 year old plus guy might have but something greatly lacking in today's "what have ya done for me now" youth. The "if ya aint payin me I aint doin it" attitude just won't fly in a volunteer setting.

    It takes the desire to help a neighbor in need without compensation for your efforts...As a society, we are drifting away from true neighborly behaviour and into the realm of online networking.

    It takes a higher degree of technical understanding to grasp this changing fire environment that many older FFs in the VFDs no longer have time or desire to commit to.

    Unfortunately, we are drifting towards the realm of downsizing and consolidation to a point that it will be more cost effective to pay a couple very well trained FF/EMTs at a central point in a county than to fund equipment for multiple VFDs in closer proximity to the action taking place.

    Hey, we are doing it to ourselves. In some cases we don't train, we don't act professionally in front of the public eye, we don't keep our equipment up....ect, ect...

    Whether you are paid career, combination, or straight up VFD in any form or fashion, the fire still treats us the same.

    When the public sees a less than professional approach to emergency services, especially when another, more professionally acting service is in close proximity to compare against, they are gonna ask for bang for the buck.

    No, these statements do not cover all VFDs, but they do cover in bits and peices a fair share of VFDs.

    Paid career services can be held accountable far more easily than VFDs.

    If you don't do the job, you lose it.

    In this drought of volunteerism, there may not be many out there to replace the ones that don't do the job. People respond when pay is on the line. They tend to just get mad when it is not.
    One of the best and most accurate explanations that I've read. Many states, like Mass., encourage training but look the other way until something serious happens. Some depts. are time bombs just waiting for someone to get hurt and then the finger pointing will start.
    Ed

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    fireeaterbob,

    I have bit my tongue for a few days now and I can't any longer. I find your comment highly insulting and mostly without merit.

    The glory days of the redneck vfd are near a close....
    First off I hate that damn word redneck. If people would research the meaning of it they wouldn't call themselves a redneck, or throw it out so casually.

    If you are insinuating that volunteer fire departments are hick, backward, organizations I invite you to come to my area. Not all in my area are super FDs but there aren't many I would say are too far off the curve.

    If I am misunderstanding what you are saying I apologize. But either way, that word is always going to invoke a negative response from me.
    Last edited by FyredUp; 07-15-2011 at 01:49 PM.
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    I don't see volunteers sticking around my around in the future. for the simple fact of growth in population. We simply can not keep up w/ the demand. If anything I see combo fire depts being made out of the 100% volunteer depts. It's already happening before our eyes...some just aren't willing to accept these facts yet. The shame of it is that the paid crews they do have are run by volunteers & the inconsistency is outragious. You never know how your boss will be next year....everyone wants to run it differently. It's a pain in the rear IMHO
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    Quote Originally Posted by FyredUp View Post
    fireeaterbob,

    I have bit my tongue for a few days now and I can't any longer. I find your comment highly insulting and mostly without merit.



    First off I hate that damn word redneck. If people would research the meaning of it they wouldn't call themselves a redneck, or throw it out so casually.

    If you are insinuating that volunteer fire departments are hick, backward, organizations I invite you to come to my area. Not all in my area are super FDs but there aren't many I would say are too far off the curve.

    If I am misubderstanding what you are saying I apologize. But either way, that word is always going to invoke a negative response from me.
    I got the impression he was specifically talking about the "hold ma beer and watch me put out this fire, y'all" style vollie stations that tragically do exist from place to place rather than all volunteer stations everywhere.

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    In my area I don't see true volunteer departments going away. Simply, the area cannot support paid personnel. While there are many ways that we are trying to be pulled with jobs, families, and everything else, the cost of a tax increase to support paid personnel will keep the VFD going. It will take more and more departments to muster enough people to do the job, but they cannot be replaced.

    The attitude of the people around here is also better towards volunteering than many areas that I have been. It is not what it used to be, but it is still enough to keep the departments going.

    If you took the combined tax revenue given to our department, and the next three to our west, you would have a whopping $35,000.00 a year budget for paid personnel. Add in the two departments to our west and that figure skyrockets to $65,000.00 a year. That is almost enough for 1 paid person with nothing left for any equipment or utilities.

    I am sure that our situation is not unique. I would be willing to bet that close to half of the land area in the Commonwealth has the same situation.

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    [QUOTE=FyredUp;
    First off I hate that damn word redneck. If people would research the meaning of it they wouldn't call themselves a redneck, or throw it out so casual[/QUOTE]

    Off topic completely-

    Didn't the term "redneck" come into modern culture in the 1930's in reference to the un-unionized miners that marched and fought the big mining companies for the right to unionize? This came from the fact that all of them wore a red bandannas tied around their neck to identify themselves. They were viewed as heros of the working man at the time.

    Before that the term refered to southern sharecropers that would get sun burned on the back of their necks. The term was used to describe someone as a hard working man.


    That is just what i remembered from a show on the history channel and confirmed with a quick google search.

    What am i missing on the offensive part? Not that I am trying to debate you on this or anything. I am just trying to hear you thoughts on it.

    And no I do not refer to myself as a redneck

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