Just a firefighter who happens to be a volunteer
Firefighter first, Volunteer second
I think we have a naming problem in the Volunteer Fire Service. I am a proud volunteer. I think that it is important to recognize exactly what volunteers are doing, but I think the problem is that for many the volunteer aspect becomes the focus of being a volunteer Firefighter.
Now I know it's important to recognize that men and women are giving up time with their families for no monetary compensation and that these people are volunteering to serve the community and at times risking their lives. I just don't think that the focus needs to be on being a volunteer.
I believe we need to shift the focus of the Firefighters in the Volunteer fire service from being a volunteer first and firefighter second to being a firefighter first and a volunteer second.
Let's face it, when we pull up on scene people don't want to hear "I'm a Montgomery County volunteer and I'm here to help" They want to hear "I'm a firefighter/First Responder and I'm here to help". Later when things have calmed down if it comes up they may be astounded to find out all these guys and gals running around fighting fires or cutting them or their relatives from a vehicle after an accident are volunteers but FIRST they want you to be a firefighter.
I know as well as any how hard it can be to leave the house for duty night whent he kids really want to hang out with Dad or the wife would like for you to take the family out to a movie. I know how much it can suck to attend 60 to 90 hours of training in a month after working 40 hours per week and still doing your best to see your kids. I also firmly believe that since I volunteered to be a firefighter I owe it to myself, my community and my family to be the best and most proficient firefighter I can be. I know from the other side after a recent accident involving my family how important the volunteer fire service can be. (thanks again to all of you who responded on March 8th)
My community has invested a lot of money to equip and train me, I owe it to them to do my best to utilize that training and equipment to protect their life, family and property. My family has given me such support, my kids literally at times cheering me on as I leave the house when the tones drop and proudly introducing me to their friends "this is my dad, he's a firefighter" (notice even my own kids don't introduce me as a volunteer, just a firefighter.) I owe it to them to be the best and most knowledgeable firefighter I can be to help keep me and my fellow firefighters as safe as possible as we work an accident or fire scene or provide care to a patient.
Many times I've heard from other firefighters "I'm just a volunteer" or from members of the community and even my own reliatives I've been asked "Have you ever thought about trying to become a real firefighter?" Both of these attitudes are hurtful and damaging to the volunteer fire service. Firefighters who put being a volunteer first are going to be less motivated to train, to take the job seriously and to be there when needed. This is one of the reasons that some members of our community don't look at us a "Real Firefighters" They believe that what we provide is somehow diminished becuase we are "Just a volunteer".
This is an attitude and an outlook which I attempt to correct in everyone who expresses them to me. I believe a slight change in wording in how we refer to ourselves can help in some small way in accomplishing this,
I believe we should reverse the order of the words in our title. Let's move away from being volunteers first and firefighters second to being firefighters first and volunteers second. Instead of Volunteer firefighters, let's be Firefighter Volunteers.
Thanks for taking the time to read my rant, please feel free to add your own below.
Proud Firefighter Volunteer