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  1. #1
    Forum Member SFD1012's Avatar
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    Default Are you jus a volunteer?

    Reading through the Participation Requirements thread I see a lot of, "You can't control my off hours" etc... The following is just my opinion but an opinion I think is valid. Once you volunteer to join a volunteer department that is where the volunteer part ends and the work begins. Once you join the department you have a duty to the municipality to make runs when you can and a duty to the members of your department to help them support the departments activities.

    I understand that there are times when you won't be available and that is perfectly fine but there are people out there who won't participate in ANY fundraisers and won't go on ANY calls unless it is a structure fire. It gets old and it affects morale. People join their departments for various reason but the one common thread should be a sense of duty to the community and to their brothers.


  2. #2
    Forum Member ChathamVFD9921's Avatar
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    You have 3 kinds of people in the fire service, kinds that make waves, kinds that stand in the water, and kinds that watch from the beach. It doesn't matter what your other profession's, hobbies or backgrounds are.

    You seem like a wave-maker. I had have alot of similarities at my department as well. The truth ive realized is this, if its a VOLUNTEER department, you cannot control how much time people will put in. Its a simple fact. You start mandating things, and it takes away from the "Volunteer" aspect of it and you lose members, then again, like you and me, you have members who participate fully and take offense to the ones who dont put forth as much effort. Right? Wrong? Every situation is different. My advice to you is to look at it from an outsiders view, not somebody who is balls deep already in politics and opinions. It makes a difference.

  3. #3
    Let's talk fire trucks! BoxAlarm187's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChathamVFD9921 View Post
    The truth ive realized is this, if its a VOLUNTEER department, you cannot control how much time people will put in. Its a simple fact.
    In some departments that might be true, but in others, it's not. We have a 60-member department that answered nearly 700 calls last year. There is a lot of work that goes into the management of a department like that, and sometimes requirements need to be put in place. We don't have an endless supply of turnout gear and radios, nor do we need to carry people who aren't adding to the department in all facets (training, calls, meetings, work details, fund raisers, etc) on the insurance.

    A friend of mine is chief of a volunteer department that has four stations and over 250 members who put in 2500 hours of duty time per week. Do you think he and his assistant chiefs can do that without having some requirements? Absolutely not.

    You start mandating things, and it takes away from the "Volunteer" aspect of it and you lose members, then again, like you and me, you have members who participate fully and take offense to the ones who dont put forth as much effort.
    This is why a good education campaign must be given, informing the members of the benefits of the new requirements. Will some people leave? Perhaps. But you have to examine how much of a hit is that to the department. And did they leave because they have the "I'm just a volunteer" mentality, or did they leave because the requirements were completely out of line?

    Rural volunteer departments and different from suburban and urban volunteer departments, and consequently, their requirements (or lack thereof) should be tailored to meet the best interests of the department and the citizens they serve.
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  4. #4
    Forum Member ChathamVFD9921's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by BoxAlarm187 View Post
    Rural volunteer departments and different from suburban and urban volunteer departments, and consequently, their requirements (or lack thereof) should be tailored to meet the best interests of the department and the citizens they serve.
    You hit the nail on the head.

    To the OP, if these members joined the department, signed their contracts, ect, and arnt in breach of the SOG's, then there's not much you can do. Its part of the "Volunteer" side of firefighting.

  5. #5
    Forum Member SFD1012's Avatar
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    Not really a wave maker. Was just prompted to start a thread to see where everyone stands on this. Just like I stated in my original post I understand people can't every call, training, or department function but there has to be SOGs stating some level of participation expectations. I guess it's just me. I'm an older guy who has spent time in the Boy Scouts, U.S. Army and other organizations where participation is expected and nessacary to be an effective member.
    Like I said, I was stating my own opinion, and you know what they say about opinions.

  6. #6
    Forum Member SFD1012's Avatar
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    Box, Lived in Prince William County for about nine years. The FD there seems to have a great system worked out. Was asked to join at one time but my head was in a diffeerent place when I was younger. Sure could kick myself in the *** now for not taking them up on the offer.

  7. #7
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    Box Alarm has it right. Just like any other strong organization, expectations must be set. I imagine most of us agree that some of the best leaders we have had set expectations early, gave you the tools to meet those expectations, congratulated you when you exceeded them and disciplined (not necessarily punished) you when you did not meet them. An organization is the same way. So many times you get the firefighter who tells his new neighbor "Come on down to the firehouse. It doesnt take much time and we could really use the help." In actuality what should be said is "Come down to the firehouse and see if it will work for you. We require x amount of duty hours and x amount of training. We will be sure you get the training." Those expectations need to be clear up front.

    Once those are set, enforce them. You will lose more good members by not enforcing standards than lose bad members by enforcing them. Also, once the standards are set, if someone can only do the minimum, you cannot look down on them. You dont know what is going on in their life and if they are giving the minimum it might be all they can give! I was one of those for a few years.
    Last edited by Spencer534; 01-03-2012 at 02:39 PM.

  8. #8
    MembersZone Subscriber tree68's Avatar
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    If your expectations are low (or non-existant), so, too, will be your return.

    Low expectations are great for those who just want to wear the jacket - they get the perk without the work.

    Tell 'em they've got to make X% of the calls, training, duty, etc, and they'll either step up or step out. If they step out, odds are they weren't really much of an asset in the first place.

    I love the folks who insist that despite not making meetings, training, etc, they'll be there for the "big ones." They usually don't make them, either.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

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  9. #9
    Forum Member ChathamVFD9921's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tree68 View Post
    I love the folks who insist that despite not making meetings, training, etc, they'll be there for the "big ones." They usually don't make them, either.
    Is this who you want behind you on "the big one" anyways?

  10. #10
    Let's talk fire trucks! BoxAlarm187's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChathamVFD9921 View Post
    Is this who you want behind you on "the big one" anyways?
    No, which is why you create minimums and requirements.
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  11. #11
    Forum Member ChathamVFD9921's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BoxAlarm187 View Post
    No, which is why you create minimums and requirements.
    Like my one thead talks about, my department is going through changed like this now. Were losing and gaining members. For the better? Yea. Difficult? Yea. Does it need to be done? Hell yea!

  12. #12
    Forum Member WVFD705's Avatar
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    Our department does not have minimum participation requirements. If someone wants to join the department that adds value to the department, we want them on the department. We only have a population of about 250 people to draw from (and many of those are retired or still schoolkids), so we only hurt ourselves if we are too selective.

    That said, we can't complain much. Most of our membership is very dedicated.

  13. #13
    Forum Member FyredUp's Avatar
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    To me the guy that says you can't tell me what to do, or set standards for membership, because I am a volunteer needs to be told one thing..."Buh bye, we don't need you."
    Crazy, but that's how it goes
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  14. #14
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    I tell them the last time volunteer mattered was when you volunteered to join and follow our rules.
    "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?

  15. #15
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    Agree with the consensus here that participation requirements should be laid out and explained when people join the department. I like the way our deparments requirements are set up, based on a points system. We also have several manditory training topics that are offered at various times throughout the year.

    One thing to keep in mind though is that with every volunteer orginization there are going to be people who do the minimum and people that do the lions share of the work. Probably 20% of the people will do 80% of the work. That will probably be true with or without minimum participation requirements.

  16. #16
    MembersZone Subscriber voyager9's Avatar
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    Another facet to this is not so much the rules, but how the rules are conveyed. Unlike the typical employer/employee relationship where a person's livelihood is at stake members can more easily walk away from a Volunteer organization.

    Having a leadership that mandates rules/decisions "from on high" or has a "my way or the highway" attitude will drive members away regardless of what the change actually is. It can be more complicated in a volunteer organization and sometimes things have to be handled more diplomatically.

    Where this typically comes up in in a combination department where there is a mix of full-time and volunteer employees. The department leadership needs to be aware that how things are communicated may need to be different for the two groups for them to accept and 'buy in' to the change.
    Last edited by voyager9; 01-04-2012 at 11:16 AM.
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  17. #17
    Forum Member WVFD705's Avatar
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    Attitude of the leadership makes a huge difference. The "help me get this done" and "follow my lead" type of attititude brings out a lot more participation than requirements.

    Minimum requirements get minimum volunteers. Good leadership gets good firefighters.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChathamVFD9921 View Post
    Is this who you want behind you on "the big one" anyways?
    excellent point!

  19. #19
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    FyredUp, you my friend are correct. The ones who say that, need to get on board or go away.
    Standards must be in place, this is why
    NFPA standards tend to be viewed as accepted industry standards. That means that in the event of litigation, these standards are held as the baseline against which to be measured. So an expert witness testifying in a lawsuit against a volunteer, combination or career department for negligence resulting in the loss of life or property would probably cite NFPA 1001, 1500, 1710, 1720 ect.

  20. #20
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    Peak,

    I agree with you that standards need to be in place, but I am not sure how NFPA equates to having internal, organizational standards. Perhaps you could explain a little further?

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