1. #1
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    Default Retained firefighter UK - How does it work in the US?

    Hi all

    I'm a Retained Firefighter in the UK, I'm just wondering how this compares to your volunteer departments in the US.

    To apply to be a retained FF in the UK you need to be at least 17.5 years of age when applying, but must be 18 years old before joining. You must complete written and physical tests, interview and medical. You must live/work within 5 mins of the station and be able to provide either 120, 100, 80, 60 or 40 hours cover a week.

    My service has 5 stations crewed 24/7 (1 with a retained pump), 2 day crew stations (both with retained pumps), and 9 stand alone retained stations, making a total of 12 retained pumps.

    My contract is 60 hours, so I must fulfil those hours each week. We plot our availability on an online system which displays the stations availability.

    We are fully staffed on station with 12 firefighters to crew our 1 appliance, this includes 2 officers (watch commander and crew commander and 6 drivers)

    For our appliance to be available we must have 1 officer (can be the driver), 1 driver, 1 pump operator (can be the driver) and 2 Breathing Appratus wearers, so we can turnout with a crew of 4.
    If we have a crew of 3 we can be mobilised as a small fire crew to any small outside fires.
    Also if we have a crew of 4 but 2 in-experienced BA wearers we can turnout to anything except Building Fires.

    In my service Retained arent trained to attend HazMat incidents due to the ongoing extensive training required to fulfil this role.

    We train for 2 hours a week on station each week.


    Payment;

    We get paid an annual retaining fee, depending on how many hours our contract is. I provide 60hrs so I will get paid around 1,500 per year basic salary just to be available on call. However if one week I provide 100 hours cover my basic pay will stay the same.

    We get paid per turnout, its approx 15 for the first hour and 10 for every hour after that.
    If we arrive at the station and the truck is full we get paid an attendance fee of approx 8.

    Any other duties we do, training courses, training night at the station, maintenance checks this is paid at the hourly rate of 10.
    Last edited by rcs202; 06-10-2014 at 01:17 AM.

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    It varies significantly from place to place.

    As far as training it runs the gamut from little if any formal training before being allowed to respond to calls to Firefighter I or Firefighter II before you can run calls. Continuing training requirements runs from less than once a month to weekly training. Some places require additional specialized training each year, and some don't.

    Most volunteer departments in the US have their volunteers respond from home and do not require duty time at the station. Many require that you live in the district, but some do not, such as my volunteer department that will allow anyone within 9 miles of the closest station to their home become members.

    Some VFDs have their members respond to the station and require a set number of members on the apparatus to respond. Some have the bulk of their members respond directly to the incident with a few drivers going to the station and driving the apparatus. Others have such a limited membership base that each responding member picks up a truck and they may be the only members responding.

    Most VFDs do not get paid. There are some that do and they are generally referred to as paid on call members. There are some volunteer departments that provide a minimal reimbursement system based on attendance to basically cover expenses such as fuel and ruined clothing.

    It's a very diverse system based on the budget of the department, the region, and the culture of the fire service in that area.
    Train to fight the fires you fight.

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    Thanks for your reply. LAFireEducator. Very interesting info

    So how does this work with recruiting members within a 9 mile radius? Are these the memebrs that will respond directly to the incident ground, or are they expected to respond to the station? If so do you have a set time in which you must have your vehicles on the road. Here in the UK from the pagers sounding to the appliances being on the road mobile to the incident is 5 minutes.

    I didnt mention our training requirements. After acceptance into the service we must complete a 2 week initial Retained course, which includes the basics of pumps and ladders.

    We then go onto station and get assessed again on our 'competency to ride', here we must demonstrate we are competent in pitching ladders and operating the pump. We then become a member of the crew.

    Over the next coming 3 years we must complete Breathing Apparatus course, RTC (road traffic collision), Water Awareness and Working at Height.

    After returning from our Breathing Apparatus course we are classed as 'BAX' - Breathing Apparatus in-experienced. We can still enter building fires but not as a team leader. We must have 3 good pieces of evidence of working in building fires, comfort wears at vehicle fires or on large scale exercies, but the way the UK is now with less and less fires this can take many years just to have 3 B.A wears!

    I completed my B.A course in February, and i've still not worn a BA set at an incident yet. Where as the guy who joined 4 months before me has worn BA at 2 building fires and a car fire and he will soon by BA competent and able to act as a team leader.
    Last edited by rcs202; 06-10-2014 at 09:42 PM.

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    BA is part of the Firefighter I curriculum here. Our firefighters come out of the course (about 100 hours right now) with basic firefighting skills (including BA), and hazmat operations (look but don't touch).

    New York is adding some EMS, probably just CPR, to FF1 in the not-to-distant future. Some areas require full-fledged EMT (or higher) along with FF1, etc, to be able to run.

    NY offers (or did) a "mask confidence" course that focuses on BA use exclusively. There is also a firefighter safety and survival course with a similar emphasis.

    My department runs about 100 calls a year, counting EMS (non-transport first response), and getting field wear of BA can be just as rare here. But the FF1 folks get plenty of smoke house and live fire practice in the course.

    Oddly, pump operator is one of the "after" courses for us. The focus for our new people is to get them fighting fire. Usually, our older members end up at the pump. Their interior days are over, but their experience makes them good pump operators.

    Regarding pagers - in general most of our folks will respond to the station. Few keep their PPE with them. Our station officers often respond directly to the scene so they can do a size up and get things organized (or cancel incoming units if they are not needed).

    One type of volunteer LaFE didn't mention was folks who work in a community but live elsewhere. Many times they will volunteer where they work (assuming they can routinely get out of work to respond), as well as where they live. The rules for that vary from state to state. And some areas allow members who live a good distance away (even out-of-state) to be join if they can take in-station duty per whatever requirements the department has.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rcs202 View Post
    Thanks for your reply. LAFireEducator. Very interesting info

    So how does this work with recruiting members within a 9 mile radius? Are these the memebrs that will respond directly to the incident ground, or are they expected to respond to the station? If so do you have a set time in which you must have your vehicles on the road. Here in the UK from the pagers sounding to the appliances being on the road mobile to the incident is 5 minutes.

    There are some communities that have a mandated response time for volunteer departments, such as Prince George County and some of the surrounding counties, but the vast majority do not. In the case of my current volunteer department, each member signs on by radio and those closest to the stations at the time of the call will go for apparatus. The remaining will respond to the scene, with the exception being calls on the interstate or mutual aid responses. In those situations all members (with the exception of the assigned officers) will respond to the station. That system is pretty much the norm in this area as we are fairly rural and all members going to the station is simply not practical.

    Several of my previous VFDs did require station response, and a couple were more rural and some responded to the scene and some went to the station.


    I didnt mention our training requirements. After acceptance into the service we must complete a 2 week initial Retained course, which includes the basics of pumps and ladders.

    Again, a wide variety of scenarios in the US.

    As I said earlier, there are still departments that issue gear, a pager and keys to the station on the first night.

    My current VFD requires 4 weeks of training (1 night per week) before you are issued a radio and can respond. Obviously this is quite minimal.

    We require 50% attendance at weekly trainings.

    My combination department, where I am employed fulltime, requires 10 weeks of weekly (again, one night per week) of training before gear and radios are issued.

    My previous VFD in Vermont required that a new member attend a 60-hour in house class before being able to run calls. Usually 30% either failed the class or didn't complete it. The class required passing a written test and a practical skills test.

    There are states that mandate everything from a 36-hour introductory class to Firefighter I.

    There are departments, especially in the northeast and mid-Atlantic that even though not required by the state require FFI and even Firefighter II, and in some cases EMT-B before running calls.


    We then go onto station and get assessed again on our 'competency to ride', here we must demonstrate we are competent in pitching ladders and operating the pump. We then become a member of the crew.

    Some departments have in-house competency requirements, but most do not. Some require passing a certification test.

    Over the next coming 3 years we must complete Breathing Apparatus course, RTC (road traffic collision), Water Awareness and Working at Height.

    Again, varies widely in this country. Some departments have continuing education, but again, most do not.

    After returning from our Breathing Apparatus course we are classed as 'BAX' - Breathing Apparatus in-experienced. We can still enter building fires but not as a team leader. We must have 3 good pieces of evidence of working in building fires, comfort wears at vehicle fires or on large scale exercies, but the way the UK is now with less and less fires this can take many years just to have 3 B.A wears!

    I completed my B.A course in February, and i've still not worn a BA set at an incident yet. Where as the guy who joined 4 months before me has worn BA at 2 building fires and a car fire and he will soon by BA competent and able to act as a team leader.
    There are departments in this country that take training seriously. There are some that don't. And a lot of them are in the middle.
    Train to fight the fires you fight.

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