1. #1
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    Question Two-hatters. Opinions?

    I'm a member of two separate volunteer departments, aka a two-hatter. I'm wondering who else here runs with multiple agencies and what, if any, issues or grief you've gotten from Chief officers regarding it?

    *edited to add* I'll also take opinions from Chief officers on the issue, specifically why you support or oppose the idea, and what issues, if any, you've had.
    Last edited by WhiteLite; 12-05-2011 at 03:16 AM. Reason: added

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    Our department used to not allow members to run with another department, moved to allowing it to happen and then went back to disallowing it. 99% of our members are local and we feel that if they are volunteering at a station, it should be ours. We went away from that for a while because we lowered our standards in the hopes of getting new people, but it didnt work out for us.

  3. #3
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    A couple of thoughts...

    First, the definition of a two-hatter in the fire service is generally a career member that also volunteers, not a person that volunteers at two different stations.

    That being said, I've done what you're describing twice. I've been a member at Fire Department "A" for almost 18 years now (since January 1994). From 1998-2000, I was also a member at Fire Department "B". I wanted to join "B" since it was far busier than my rural home fire station, it was only 5 minutes from where I worked, and they had a truck company - something that "A" didn't afford. I pulled one duty night per week, which I purposefully scheduled on the same night as the meetings and training so I could attend those as well. There was little problem between either of my departments with it. "A" saw that I was still available 6 days a week, and "B" saw that I was doing my mandatory 8 hours a week.

    In 2008, I joined department "C," where I was active for a year. "C" was an hour from my house, but I knew a lot of the guys there, taught classes in the area for quite some time, and they really wanted someone that wouldn't need to be trained to come up and run, especially during the day. I spent about a year there until some life changes made it impractical to continue. This time, department "A" wasn't quite as understanding as they had been before. I was serving as a company officer at the time, and they felt that my dedication should be there. I was only doing about 30 hours per month at "C", and about three times that at "A," but it really didn't matter to them. No hard feelings on either side, just a difference of opinion.

    As a previous chief officer, and with a chance of being chief again this upcoming year, I personally don't have a problem with it. In fact, we have a member that also volunteers in PG County, MD (a 3-hour trip from us). He lets us know ahead of time when he's going to PG, and he spends 3-4 days at a time up there and then comes home for another 2-3 weeks. He's extremely dedicated to our department, helps with training, and is one of our go-to guys. I personally feel that if the member are meeting our department standards for training, calls, and meeting attendance, it's not our business to tell him how to spend the rest of his time.
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    Like Box Alarm stated, I normally think of a two-hatter as someone who is paid in one department and volunteers in another.

    As for volunteering at two different departments, in general I don't see a problem as long as you can meet the requirements of both departments. On the plus side, it allows someone to get more experience, especially if their home department runs a low volume. If they are able to bring that experience and training back to the other department and pass it along to others, that is a plus.

    On the down side, splitting your time between 2 departments may detract from your ability to support both departments. There can also be problems if you keep coming back to the other department saying that department b does it this way and department a should too.

    I don't think that officers in a volunteer department should volunteer with another department.

    Just as a side note, our county does not allow someone to be a member of 2 departments in the county (medic unit and dive team excepted). We can't prevent someone from volunteering outside of the county though.

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    I've never belonged to more then one department at a time so I can't speak from personal experience but here are some thoughts.

    I think it is more important to look at WHY members would try to run with another department..

    Sometimes, as with Box above, it's because the other department is busier or provides better/different opportunities. This could be a good thing for the home department since those members will go train/learn and hopefully bring that experience back.

    Unfortunately sometimes members will go run someplace else as a means to get away from the home department. For operational or personal reasons the member may be upset and is looking someplace else. This could be a bad thing in that the home department is probably going to loose that member and more importantly they may not be the only one that has that issue.

    TL,DR: Look at why the member is "two hatting". If their morale is good and they're meeting the home department's requirements then it's probably a great idea. If not then you may want to try to look into the underlying causes.
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    I currently work full-time for one department and volunteer for a neighboring smaller slower department.

    In addition to working FT with department 1, I also am expected to be at weekly training after-hours and respond to significant incidents off-hours as a volunteer.

    The reason I joined the other department was that I wanted a challenge. My VFD is much smaller and slower, and represents a significant challenge in terms of training and fireground operations that my larger combo department no longer presents. I enjoy working with the less experienced personnel and teaching them.

    It's pretty common with here for a fulltime members tio work for one department or volunteer or work part-time for another.

    The only problem that I have is that both departments training nights are the same night, so I have to balance both requirements, which on occasion, causes some issues with my full-time gig.
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    Years back I was also a member of a volunteer fire department for several years along as being a career fireman as well.

    I achieved the rank of Lieutenant, and was one of the training officers. I never said, "This is the way we do it at the Career FD." I used that knowledge to help the guys in the volley dept to master their job better.

    Too many guys may have tried to run the volley dept as they were use to in the career job. It usually doesn't work that way with a volunteer member as it does with a guy who job is dependent on what they know and working the job on shifts with other guys.

    Even in the career house, one learns quickly on which guy(s) to hang with and which not to.
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    I'm both full time and volunteer, no problems there. I could see how it could be an advantage to both depts' if a volunteer is a member of both under certain conditions. On rural depts, if a member is close to the boundries of the depts, there's an obvious advantage. If it were in an area that's more suburban like some of the east coast states, it might not be good unless a guy commits different days to the different depts. Volunteers are getting harder to find so I'd say in most cases, it would be better for the two depts' to work out some kind of arrangement that would benefit them both.

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    I was a Volly Chief and had a person on another department.

    It was real simple. I don't care.

    I don't care what they do, how they train, what they require of your time... etc.

    I only care about OUR department. What we do, what we train, what we require..etc.

    You think you can swing both, good for you. If you can't, we'll take your gear back. Simple.

    The ONLY exception was our "part time firefighter". These are folks who work during the day in town but live in another jurisdiction. We had a bunch of rules, but made some exceptions to the requirements if you could show that they were met in another way with your home department.
    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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    Well when I first saw the thread, I thought two hatter as in career and volunteer. Where I'm at it all depends on the particular station and their requirements for membership. Personally I don't care or mind as long as the member comes around and helps us out.

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    I have to admit that it seems like some folks feel that oncea person joins your volunteer department you pretty much own them. Where does that come from? Seems likea crappy way to show your appreciation for thier service.

    As long as I meet my obligations to my dept what business is it of theirs if I also volunteer with another organization be it a FD, red cross or the boy scouts? My wife might like to offer an opinion but thats another thread. ;-)

    With all that said I think there its a law, at least in new york that prohibits a person from belonging to two fire departments as a volunteer. You can respond with more than one through mutual agreement but you can't be a voting member of more than one. I don't know the details but there was some talk of it recently when we were re-doing or bylaws.

    Just my $.02
    Last edited by King Hugh; 12-06-2011 at 01:29 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by King Hugh View Post
    With all that said I think there its a law, at least in new york that prohibits a person from belonging to two fire departments as a volunteer. You can respond with more than one through mutual agreement but you can't be a voting member of more than one. I don't know the details but there was some talk of it recently when we were re-doing or bylaws.
    I had heard about a "law" in NJ saying that a person could not belong to more than one Relief Association. Typically if you're a member of a fire company you're also a member of the Relief through that company and their by-laws may be written to require that. Some Fire Companies have used that to keep members from volunteering with other departments.
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    I guess I am a 3 hatter. I am a career firefighter in the suburbs of Milwaukee, and a POC FF on 2 FDs about 100 miles away where I live.

    Why 3 FDs? They all have different dynamics and I enjoy that. I get no grief from either POC FD Chief because I meet my requirements for meetings and trainings. I make all the runs I can for both FDs. These departments are mutual aid partners and I have made it clear I will respond with who ever pages first. On a side note I am training officer for both of there FDs and I am trying in many operations to train them the same for easier interface at mutual aid incidents.

    Neither of my POC FDs interfere with my career FD. Both chiefs know I will not respond if I have to go to work. My career FD has no policy against volunteering.
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    I'm a former one white hatter, now a one black hatter.
    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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    Default Some good reasons....

    First, I will say I am on two departments but only for Paid Perdiem EMS work. I only do volly shifts for my town.

    Our department does not allow it because in the past, members would wait for the mutual aid tone to go out for one of the neighboring towns that PAY for fire fighters and not respond for their own town. That was somewhat common.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mcdonl View Post
    First, I will say I am on two departments but only for Paid Perdiem EMS work. I only do volly shifts for my town.

    Our department does not allow it because in the past, members would wait for the mutual aid tone to go out for one of the neighboring towns that PAY for fire fighters and not respond for their own town. That was somewhat common.
    I have made it clear to both POC FDs that who ever pages first, gets me first. Both Chiefs are cool with that. One does pay by the hour and the other a flat fee per call. But to be brutally honest that has NEVER weighed into my decision of which one I am responding with. AND yes, they do mutual aid each other.
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    Although I'm not a two-hatter in the fire service, I am a member of two other organizations that have somewhat similar purposes and every now and again participate in the same sort of events and this sometimes can cause conflicts. If something comes up I go with whoever calls first.

    I have thought about joining an all vol department on the border of the city where I am a POC vol in a combination department. Doing so would provide more opportunities to get actual fire experience as they have a lot of older homes that seem to burn more often than the mostly new construction in my city.

    However, the main reason that I haven't is that the all-vol department requires no more than the state minimum of training for its vols which isn't much (while the combo dept requires at least FF1 of its vols). Most of the firefighters are very young adults and even though I haven't been a firefighter long and still have a lot to learn, I would be one of the most well trained and experienced in the entire department. So, I just wouldn't feel as safe working with them.

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    I spent many years working for one FD while volunteering for another. No conflicts, gained experience at a faster rate. I live in the volly dept's area and my career FD is 30 miles away. Both chiefs were supportive. At one point i was working part-time shifts for a third FD as well.

    As CaptOldTimer said, dont try to impose one on the other. Causes baaad juju.

    There are many Firefighters in this area that are members of two or more departments, my son is one of them, no one seems to mind. Matter of fact, a couple departments seem to encourage it.

    I no longer volunteer with FD's, other than to occasionally help with training. My volunteer interests now lay elsewhere. As my Fire Service friends say, I've gone to the dark side.

    Steve
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    On Golden City we have three firefighters that also serve on other fire departments including my self. We have kinda a unusually situation. We have a small town of 4,000 surrounded by 4 rural fire departments all of which are volunteer. The town in questions is paid per call and so has a limited roster. So we all allow people from this small town to join our rural departments. Becuase they live kinda in the middle between several of the rural departments its easy for firefighter to run with more then one fire department. They just drive in which ever direction the fire is. We do have some rules like they have to pick a "home" departments and respond to that departments calls first. Also some of the departments have cash reimbursements for some training and you can onlt recieve that from your home department.
    I think if done right it works well. We get alot of cross training on mutal aid fire departments equipment and personal.

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    I do know a very successful 3-hatter...he's a FF with one of the best city depts in the country, he's Asst. Chief of a combo paid/volunteer dept, and he's a Captain with another small local dept (dunno if he's paid or unpaid.) That man is ALWAYS in motion--don't know when he ever sleeps!

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    I figured there would be more two/three hatters than this. I'm only a two.

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