1. #1
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    Default Combination dept switching to all paid houses and vollie houses

    Hey all,

    My combination dept is looking into moving from paid guys at all of our stations and vollies helping staff at all of our stations to a new setup with paid guys at the busiest stations and vollies only at a single slower station for their required shifts per month. After the vollies do their required shifts per month they can then go and pull duties at any of the stations that they like.

    A) Do any of you have this type of setup and does it work for you?

    B) Is there any advice that you could offer to help us make the transition?

    C) Are there any cons that we should watch out for and try to take care of early?

    Let me know if anything is unclear and I will try to explain further. Thanks in advance.
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    I think it might help to know more detail about the current situation and the proposed situation. Like the number of stations, what the current paid/volunteer staffing at each station is, what the staffing at each station will be?

    Do the volunteers only pull shifts or do they also do home response for calls?

    Is there a particular issue that is trying to be addressed with this change?

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    I'd be concerned about this being the first step in an attempt to cut positions. I don't know your numbers, so I made up my own for the purpose of this discussion.

    Taking the number of on duty Firefighters you have now, and moving them from 6 stations to 3 is going to give the bean counters the opportunity to claim you are overstaffed under this new model.

    Are there promotable positions that are going to be lost as a result? If each of your 6 stations has one officer on duty each day, are you going to able to keep all 6 on duty at 3 stations? Again, the bean counters are going to be watching.

    I may be a cynic, but I think your agency is looking to cut costs(people)with this move.

    Good luck, and watch your six.

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    [QUOTE=sfd1992;1289826]I'd be concerned about this being the first step in an attempt to cut positions. I don't know your numbers, so I made up my own for the purpose of this discussion.

    Taking the number of on duty Firefighters you have now, and moving them from 6 stations to 3 is going to give the bean counters the opportunity to claim you are overstaffed under this new model.

    Are there promotable positions that are going to be lost as a result? If each of your 6 stations has one officer on duty each day, are you going to able to keep all 6 on duty at 3 stations? Again, the bean counters are going to be watching.

    I may be a cynic, but I think your agency is looking to cut costs(people)with this move. [QUOTE]


    Nothing wrong with cutting positions, if that is the case, if the volunteers can pull the load. In the end it will save the taxpayers money.

    We are a combo department with 6 houses. 5 are volunteer response and 1 is staffed with career members, however, volunteers are encouraged to ride out there and they also respond there to pick up apparatus our limited pad staff (2 at night/5 during the day) do not roll.

    4 of our 5 volunteer stations have a mobile home where 1-2 members live for free in exchange for 45 hours of duty time per week.

    We have no ride-out requirements for volunteers. The vast majority of volunteer response is from home either direct to the scene or to stations to pick up apparatus.

    In our department it's very clear that the career staff is there to support the volunteer response, not the other way around. It works very well for us.

    Without a little more info on your structure, it's difficult to give you any advice on issues and pitfalls.
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    Nothing wrong with cutting positions, if that is the case, if the volunteers can pull the load. In the end it will save the taxpayers money.

    We are a combo department with 6 houses. 5 are volunteer response and 1 is staffed with career members, however, volunteers are encouraged to ride out there and they also respond there to pick up apparatus our limited pad staff (2 at night/5 during the day) do not roll.

    4 of our 5 volunteer stations have a mobile home where 1-2 members live for free in exchange for 45 hours of duty time per week.

    We have no ride-out requirements for volunteers. The vast majority of volunteer response is from home either direct to the scene or to stations to pick up apparatus.

    In our department it's very clear that the career staff is there to support the volunteer response, not the other way around. It works very well for us.

    Without a little more info on your structure, it's difficult to give you any advice on issues and pitfalls.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post

    I hate paid firefighters, even though I are one.

    Paid = mercenary = bad.

    Replacing paid mercenaries with volunteers = good

    Blah, blah, blah.


    Your post was so predictable that anyone who's been on here more than a week could have written it for you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    Nothing wrong with cutting positions, if that is the case, if the volunteers can pull the load. In the end it will save the taxpayers money.
    Yep, nothing wrong with taking jobs away from a bunch of gainfully employed people is it? Jobs are so easy to come by these days, why would anyone care if their positions were given away to volunteers? You're pathetic and a disgrace to the fire service, both career and volunteer.

    Anyway, back to the OP, has management given a reason that they'd prefer to move to this type of system?
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    Are the paid members working under a collective bargaining agreement? If so, that agreement will have to be adhered to.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BoxAlarm187 View Post
    Yep, nothing wrong with taking jobs away from a bunch of gainfully employed people is it? Jobs are so easy to come by these days, why would anyone care if their positions were given away to volunteers? You're pathetic and a disgrace to the fire service, both career and volunteer.

    Anyway, back to the OP, has management given a reason that they'd prefer to move to this type of system?

    The job of the fire service is to provide fire protection.

    The taxpayers prefer that it be provided at the lowest cost possible.

    In this case it seems like they are simply realigning the locations of the paid staff.

    If volunteers can provide that fire protection, there is nothing disgraceful about replacing career members with volunteer personnel. That has nothing to do with "hating career members" but simply providing the lowest cost service to the taxpayers while still providing effective fire protection.

    If the volunteers are capable of doing that, it's a better deal for the taxpayers, and that in the long run, is the job of the fire service.
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 08-19-2011 at 10:16 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by BoxAlarm187 View Post
    Yep, nothing wrong with taking jobs away from a bunch of gainfully employed people is it? Jobs are so easy to come by these days, why would anyone care if their positions were given away to volunteers? You're pathetic and a disgrace to the fire service, both career and volunteer.

    Anyway, back to the OP, has management given a reason that they'd prefer to move to this type of system?
    It is not the responsibility of the Town to provide jobs for the FD members. It is the responsibility of the town to provide the best services the town can afford.

    Does it suck for the people that may lose their job? Absolutely.
    Does it suck for the people that can't afford to live in the town anymore to pay for those jobs? Absolutely.

    Somehow, a compromise has to be reached. It really is that simple.
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    /LAFireEducator post filter ON
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

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    Thumbs up Ok.................

    Now that the Predictable BS cloud has passed, (I hope) we can move on........ To the O.P. - Baltimore County, Maryland has just such a system, and has operated that way since the late 1800s. They have somewhere around 25-30 paid stations and about the same number of Volunteer houses.... It seems to work great for them, and they have the least amount of Career vs Volunteer BS of any combination system that I've ever heard of. Here in Prince Georges County, we are also a Combination system, but with the more conventional system of Career and Volunteer mixed in the same house. PG's Current breakdown on staffing is 5 Totally Volunteer, 3 Totally Paid, 14 with Career Crew on Daywork/Weekdays only with all Volunteers Nights/Weekends/Holidays, and 24 with Career Crews on Shiftwork with Volunteers. One Difference here is that 3 of the all Volunteer stations are among the County's busiest, each running 10 calls per day or better....... Another point is that responding from home is practically dead here, due to our call volume and our requirement that Apparatus MUST be on the road in one minute of dispatch. If you want to run a call, you have to be in the station when the tones drop. Members do come from home to cover the station when the crew that has responded from the station gets tied up with a working incident.......
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    The job of the fire service is to provide fire protection.

    The taxpayers prefer that it be provided at the lowest cost possible.

    In this case it seems like they are simply realigning the locations of the paid staff.

    If volunteers can provide that fire protection, there is nothing disgraceful about replacing career members with volunteer personnel. That has nothing to do with "hating career members" but simply providing the lowest cost service to the taxpayers while still providing effective fire protection.

    If the volunteers are capable of doing that, it's a better deal for the taxpayers.
    Quote Originally Posted by Bones42 View Post
    It is not the responsibility of the Town to provide jobs for the FD members. It is the responsibility of the town to provide the best services the town can afford.

    Does it suck for the people that may lose their job? Absolutely.
    Does it suck for the people that can't afford to live in the town anymore to pay for those jobs? Absolutely.

    Somehow, a compromise has to be reached. It really is that simple.
    i guess were you two are at it doesent matter about timely responses or the fact that as@#holes like you both just keep letting cities cut us by the nuts you should be ashamed and hang up your helmets they cut companies in my city and firefighter injuries are up along with fire deaths i dont understand how you can even be on the job and have that train of thought im just glad your far far away from my station

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    Quote Originally Posted by hwoods View Post
    Now that the Predictable BS cloud has passed, (I hope) we can move on........ To the O.P. - Baltimore County, Maryland has just such a system, and has operated that way since the late 1800s. They have somewhere around 25-30 paid stations and about the same number of Volunteer houses.... It seems to work great for them, and they have the least amount of Career vs Volunteer BS of any combination system that I've ever heard of. Here in Prince Georges County, we are also a Combination system, but with the more conventional system of Career and Volunteer mixed in the same house. PG's Current breakdown on staffing is 5 Totally Volunteer, 3 Totally Paid, 14 with Career Crew on Daywork/Weekdays only with all Volunteers Nights/Weekends/Holidays, and 24 with Career Crews on Shiftwork with Volunteers. One Difference here is that 3 of the all Volunteer stations are among the County's busiest, each running 10 calls per day or better....... Another point is that responding from home is practically dead here, due to our call volume and our requirement that Apparatus MUST be on the road in one minute of dispatch. If you want to run a call, you have to be in the station when the tones drop. Members do come from home to cover the station when the crew that has responded from the station gets tied up with a working incident.......
    Do those companies covered by home response volunteers become eligable for multuiple alarm response?
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    Quote Originally Posted by philly10 View Post
    i guess were you two are at it doesent matter about timely responses or the fact that as@#holes like you both just keep letting cities cut us by the nuts you should be ashamed and hang up your helmets they cut companies in my city and firefighter injuries are up along with fire deaths i dont understand how you can even be on the job and have that train of thought im just glad your far far away from my station
    Neither Bones nor I beleive that companies should be cut in urban areas as there are no volunteers replacing that manpower.

    I am talking about departments that have access to volunteers in the community that can be used to repalce the career manpower.

    As far as timely response, there is no doubt that career members can get out of the door faster unless there are volunteer duty crews in the stations. I guess it's in my mind a question of cost as to how much those couple of minutes are worth.

    Also, it's quite common that you will have more manpower in scene in primarily volunteer combo systems as compared to primarily career combo systems. It's the case in this area at least.

    It was also the case in my past department where we could put far more manpower on-scene, especially with AMA, than either neighboring all-career departments.
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    Post More details... sorry about that.

    Quote Originally Posted by FireMedic049 View Post
    I think it might help to know more detail about the current situation and the proposed situation.
    Whoa! Sorry guys. I had a feeling that more info was necessary, but was in a rush and just whipped this together. Let's start over because without that missing info I think the answers got off track.

    First thing that I should say is that no positions are being cut, nor is that anyone's intentions (as far as I know). Also no promoted officer's positions will be affected either.

    We are a rather small dept comprised of 3 stations being supported by roughly 24 paid guys and roughly 40+ vollies. The paid guys work out of all 3 stations currently, off a 48/96 schedule, and put in service 3 engines (2 on an engine) and a ALS box.

    The vollies are required to pull 48 hrs/month and currently pull where they are needed (if a paid guy is out sick, vacation or just another body on a rig). Sometimes depending on which vollies are pulling and how many extra bodies they will have for the shift the Capts will move around some of the paid guys to get a 2nd medic in service. Vollies of course can work more than the required 48 hrs/month and will also respond to pages when a big job comes in (mass cas, working fire, bad weather, etc.).

    What the chief is wanting is to do is move from this current setup to a setup where instead of 2 paid guys staffing station 3 (our slowest station by far) he would move those 6 guys (over 3 shifts) down to station 2 to put the other medic in service full time. The paid guys would only be pulling out of stat. 1 & 2 and staffing 2 engines and 2 boxes. Then vollies would only pull out of station 3 and would "own" that station. They would be required to pull their first 48 hrs at station 3 (across 40+ guys this should cover all shifts to keep that station in service for the month), but after the required 48hrs/mo could work at any of the other stations too, and still respond to pages.

    Their main goals in moving to this new setup:

    1) Get the 2nd medic in service full time
    2) Have the vollies take on more responsibility (Some of us take the position seriously, while others just like to say they are a FF) and step up to the challenge of owning and responding to a district.

    We are having a meeting this weekend in which we will be discussing this proposed plan (it might be happening regardless, but I will find out more this weekend), and I just wanted to hear what everyone's thoughts and concerns may be so that I can bring them up at the meeting and we can address them before they become a problem. I figured it would help to throw it out to the masses and get several experienced eyes on it instead of just our depts.

    Oh, also this would be a gradual transition over the next 8-9? months and wouldn't be the old setup one day and the next day the new setup. They have a proposed plan to get to this slowly.

    Hope this is a better picture of what exactly is happening than I painted before. Thanks again for the replies.

    Stay safe.
    Last edited by yjbrody; 08-19-2011 at 11:01 AM. Reason: More details.
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    Quote Originally Posted by yjbrody View Post
    Hey all,

    My combination dept is looking into moving from paid guys at all of our stations and vollies helping staff at all of our stations to a new setup with paid guys at the busiest stations and vollies only at a single slower station for their required shifts per month. After the vollies do their required shifts per month they can then go and pull duties at any of the stations that they like.

    A) Do any of you have this type of setup and does it work for you?

    B) Is there any advice that you could offer to help us make the transition?

    C) Are there any cons that we should watch out for and try to take care of early?

    Let me know if anything is unclear and I will try to explain further. Thanks in advance.
    I guess my questions are related to staffing hours. What are the career shifts in the old setup and how do they compare with the new proposal? Same with volunteer shifts.

    If you're going from career staff doing 12-hour day shifts at two firehouses to 2 12-hour shifts at a single house then there will be some negotiating for shift differential..etc. Luckily, or hopefully, the total number of firefighters stays the same.

    Same on the volunteer side. If they were being asked to staff a 12-hour night shift at both stations and now they have to cover a single station 24-hours a day there might be problems with daytime response.

    Also, what's the difference in call volume between the busy and slow house? Moral may take a hit for the volunteers if in-station crews are required but there is a very low call volume. "Why am I wasting my time being here for 12 hours? We only get 1 call a week"-for example.

    Finally, how does this move affect training? Do the volunteer and career staff train together now? Will they still even if at separate stations?

    Overall my concerns would be:
    -- Shift changes/differential and number of career staff
    -- Daytime coverage for "Volunteer" house.
    -- Call volume and moral at volunteer house.
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    Quote Originally Posted by yjbrody View Post
    We are a rather small dept comprised of 3 stations being supported by roughly 24 paid guys and roughly 40+ vollies. The paid guys work out of all 3 stations currently, off a 48/96 schedule, and put in service 3 engines (2 on an engine) and a ALS box.

    The vollies are required to pull 48 hrs/month and currently pull where they are needed (if a paid guy is out sick, vacation or just another body on a rig). Sometimes depending on which vollies are pulling and how many extra bodies they will have for the shift the Capts will move around some of the paid guys to get a 2nd medic in service. Vollies of course can work more than the required 48 hrs/month and will also respond to pages when a big job comes in (mass cas, working fire, bad weather, etc.).
    Some other questions based on the new info. Unfortunately I have more questions then answers.. but hopefully it gives you something to think about and work through when discussing this plan within your department.

    How are the volunteers currently trained? It sounds like station-3 had 2 paid guys on all the time.. were these the Driver/Officer and were supplemented by volunteer firefighters when available? If the two paid guys leave do the volunteers have the training and experience to be Drivers/Officers?

    Were the paid staff assigned to run the training for the volunteers? Who does it now that the volunteers are all at a different station?

    The other stations also run with 2 paid guys all the time. How much do they rely on filling the back of the truck with volunteer firefighters? If the volunteers are all pulled to station 3 (for their 48-hour requirements) how will the crews at station 1 and 2 adjust?

    Still a concern is daytime response out of station 3. Understood that the volunteers need to put in 48-hours a month (12-hours a week) but can they commit to shifts during the day?

    It sounds like in the current system the career and volunteer staff is very comingled.. they fill in for each other, run the same shifts on the same engines. This (maybe) leads to good camaraderie between the two groups. Splitting the two into separate stations may reduce this. That may result in more drama or "us vs them" mentalities.
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    Quote Originally Posted by voyager9 View Post

    Overall my concerns would be:
    -- Shift changes/differential and number of career staff
    -- Daytime coverage for "Volunteer" house.
    -- Call volume and moral at volunteer house.
    Thx for the reply. I think we were typing at the same time.

    I provided more details above and don't think that your first concern applies, but the other two are legit concerns that I haven't thought about and will be bringing them to our meeting. I know that a lot of our volunteer guys work of course, but don't know when they typically work (day shifts, evening shifts, weekend, weekday). Thx for the reply.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    Do those companies covered by home response volunteers become eligable for multuiple alarm response?

    Absolutely...... And/or anything else that comes along.........
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    I can definatly see the advantages of the plan in reagrds to a 2nd ambulance being staffed, and there is defiantly some value in having a"volunteer house" as well.

    However, if your career and volunteer staff are working well together, there is a danger of splitting them into seperate camps if you seperate them by stations. I'm not saying that there will be problems, but the level of the ability to function as a team may be affected.
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    Quote Originally Posted by voyager9 View Post
    Some other questions based on the new info. Unfortunately I have more questions then answers.. but hopefully it gives you something to think about and work through when discussing this plan within your department.

    How are the volunteers currently trained? It sounds like station-3 had 2 paid guys on all the time.. were these the Driver/Officer and were supplemented by volunteer firefighters when available? If the two paid guys leave do the volunteers have the training and experience to be Drivers/Officers?

    Great question. Yes, these were Driver/Officer positions. Most vollies are trained as drivers/operators and have to take and pass a class. This is done yearly? or every other year. Experience is another matter though. During the transition time they are proposing that the 3 current station capts work with the vollies at station 3 to bring them up to speed and provide a safety net to them while they get ready for taking over the district themselves.

    Were the paid staff assigned to run the training for the volunteers? Who does it now that the volunteers are all at a different station?

    We have "mandatory" monthly volunteer training provided by the paid guys. We have a FT training officer that oversees this. We also have on-shift training with the paid guys that we participate in if we happen to be pulling during when they are training.

    The other stations also run with 2 paid guys all the time. How much do they rely on filling the back of the truck with volunteer firefighters? If the volunteers are all pulled to station 3 (for their 48-hour requirements) how will the crews at station 1 and 2 adjust?

    Another good question. I think they are used to running the rig with just 2 of them (we've just recently had an influx of vollies coming into our dept) and the 2 on an engine staffing has been like this for a while, but will bring this up at the meeting since they will have less vollies ridding backwards with them during their shifts.

    Still a concern is daytime response out of station 3. Understood that the volunteers need to put in 48-hours a month (12-hours a week) but can they commit to shifts during the day?

    Most of the vollies will be at the meeting this weekend so I will specifically address this concern. It could be a real and consistent problem.

    It sounds like in the current system the career and volunteer staff is very comingled.. they fill in for each other, run the same shifts on the same engines. This (maybe) leads to good camaraderie between the two groups. Splitting the two into separate stations may reduce this. That may result in more drama or "us vs them" mentalities.

    Yes, it currently is a bit of a mixed up bunch and I think this is one of my biggest concerns too. I like that I come in and have the chance to work with all sorts of different partners and apparatus, but this will eliminate that. It makes me a better partner and firefighter in my opinion. Also, we have been getting better with alleviating the us vs them mentality over the 5 years that I have been with the dept, but I could easily see us slipping backwards if we stop pulling with each other. There are shift trainings where all 3 stations get together to train, but I don't know if it will be enough to keep up the camaraderie.
    Thanks again. This is all great info to have addressed during the meeting.
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    Quote Originally Posted by hwoods View Post
    Now that the Predictable BS cloud has passed, (I hope) we can move on........ To the O.P. - Baltimore County, Maryland has just such a system, and has operated that way since the late 1800s. They have somewhere around 25-30 paid stations and about the same number of Volunteer houses.... It seems to work great for them, and they have the least amount of Career vs Volunteer BS of any combination system that I've ever heard of. Here in Prince Georges County, we are also a Combination system, but with the more conventional system of Career and Volunteer mixed in the same house. PG's Current breakdown on staffing is 5 Totally Volunteer, 3 Totally Paid, 14 with Career Crew on Daywork/Weekdays only with all Volunteers Nights/Weekends/Holidays, and 24 with Career Crews on Shiftwork with Volunteers. One Difference here is that 3 of the all Volunteer stations are among the County's busiest, each running 10 calls per day or better....... Another point is that responding from home is practically dead here, due to our call volume and our requirement that Apparatus MUST be on the road in one minute of dispatch. If you want to run a call, you have to be in the station when the tones drop. Members do come from home to cover the station when the crew that has responded from the station gets tied up with a working incident.......
    Thx for the reply. I was hoping that I would find a few other depts that work this system too. I will see if I can find some more info on Baltimore Co's system.

    I'm not sure if I completely understand your system, but you mentioned that your dept is the more conventional system with some paid and vollies mixed. If your dept moved to this system what would be your biggest concerns or hurdles? The proposed vollie only station would unfortunately be very slow. 3-5 calls/week? maybe with half of those being BS.

    Thx for the reply.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    However, if your career and volunteer staff are working well together, there is a danger of splitting them into seperate camps if you seperate them by stations. I'm not saying that there will be problems, but the level of the ability to function as a team may be affected.
    Yes, this is one of my main concerns too. We've been heading in the right direction the past few years and I don't want to slip backwards.
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    Quote Originally Posted by yjbrody View Post
    Thx for the reply. I was hoping that I would find a few other depts that work this system too. I will see if I can find some more info on Baltimore Co's system.

    I'm not sure if I completely understand your system, but you mentioned that your dept is the more conventional system with some paid and vollies mixed. If your dept moved to this system what would be your biggest concerns or hurdles? The proposed vollie only station would unfortunately be very slow. 3-5 calls/week? maybe with half of those being BS.

    Thx for the reply.
    To me, that call volume would be a major issue from a number of standpoints.

    Problem 1 is simply the lack of experience. They need to be able to ride out at the busier stations.

    Problem 2 is the morale issue of being "relegated" to a slow station. It could have some pretty devestating effects on morale and may have a major impact on the value and importance of the volunteers.

    From that standpoint, I have reservations.

    I could never imagine the volunteers not being allowed to ride-out or spend time at our Central Station with our career staff. It would have significant operational impacts on our department.

    I have seen the impacts of similiar policies in several of the combo departments in this area that have recently expanded their career staffing due either to run volume, or simply an influx of money provided by recent gas exploration. It many cases, the volunteers have become unofficially unwelcome at the "career stations" and thier volunteer morale and volunteer response has been significantly impacted.

    Be careful where you tread brother.
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 08-19-2011 at 12:40 PM.
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