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Thread: Biggest challenges in your volunteer department

  1. #1
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    Default Biggest challenges in your volunteer department

    Good evening,

    We've been discussing some of the current issues facing the fire service the last few days and several common challenges for volunteer FDs includes the trypical: recruitment and retention, leadership, budgeting, staffing, training.

    I wanted to see what the top two or three challenges that your volunteer departments are facing. Any details would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you!
    Peter

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    I honestly think that our biggest problem is a lack of actual fire calls. We run a lot of EMS, and even a good amount of MVA. But the calls where you actually respond to and actual structure fire a very few. And those that we do suppression rather than hauling water is even fewer. An average for us would be 3-7 time a year that a firefighter would put on an air pack and actually fight a fire. And that is if they are available and can respond to every one.

    With an essentials / basics / FFI class at over 150 hours, there is a lot of investment of time with few chances to use that training. It makes it very hard to sell our members on the training, let alone get new ones through the door with this. If they are interested in the medical side of things, yes, they have more opportunity to use the skills, but again we are over 160 hours (6 months) of training just to get the EMT.

    We have talked extensively about this in our officer meetings and we have tried a lot of different things, but it is really hard to get that interest to take that amount of training with people having jobs, families, and other commitments.

    Oh, and money. We don't have any, and things are very expensive. We have a fire tax that covers utilities and insurance and that is all. Everything else we have to earn ourselves.

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    1. M
    2. O
    3. N
    4. E
    5. Y

    But seriously...

    Money really is a big issue. Other than our public funding and grants, we still do an annual fundraiser at our local festival. The festival is not 38 people eating hot dogs to celebrate the first robin of spring. It is monstrous. We typically have 30,000-plus come to the city (just south of our district) for two full days of activities, many of which involve our kids--spelling bees, pageants, sports events, and their own fundraising booths for teams, churches, scouts, etc. So it's tougher each year to staff our fire department's booth for 16 hours a day. But we rake in nearly $5,000, so it's too good to quit and too hard to stay.

    Run numbers are part of the equation as well. We're around 160 for the year as of today, so just over three calls per week. If more of those were meaningful calls--extrications, structure fires, major medical--it would be easier to maintain interest. But like everybody, we have quite a few AFA's and silly EMS calls (often to the same place repeatedly).

    Our economy figures in as well. We have a number of guys we have lost partly or completely due to out-of-town work commitments, like gas & oil companies, trucking, and coal mining. This beats us up in both retention and recruitment.

    I can't forget the paperwork. State training requirements for both the department and individual are actually much easier than they once were, both for fire and EMS. In fact, I did my EMT recert application online last week and got a copy of my new card via email instantly. A copy also went to the department where I occasionally work as an EMT.

    But NFIRS is still a monster, and we're required to stay current on it to keep state funding. And now the state is requiring all kinds of info about our revenues, expenditures, and board members. It's brand new and we're all up to our ears in confusion. I'm hoping it's easier now that we're set up, but I know many departments here that are out of compliance and hardly know what to do.

    Here's the short version of what would make our lives easier.

    1. Another $15,000 per year without doing fundraisers
    2. Another ten volunteers
    3. About 20 fewer BS calls per year
    4. A full-time county coordinator to help all our 13 departments do required paperwork.
    Last edited by EastKyFF; 12-18-2014 at 02:59 PM.
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    Money isn't really a problem for us locally - with the formation of a town-wide fire district some years ago came the reality that all of our firefighting needs would be paid for. If we fund-raise, it's for the "bells and whistles."

    HuntPA nailed it (and EastKYFF reinforces it), saying something I've likewise been saying for years - we don't run enough workers. Plenty of EMS calls and automatic alarms, but not many workers (and that includes any call where there's actual work to be done - including MVA's). It's really a mixed blessing - it's great we aren't burning anything up frequently, but it also means that the new recruit who joined for the action isn't seeing any. And that lack of action provides an excuse for the lazier members to forego any training except what's absolutely required.

    I've long said that if we caught a worker a week, we'd be a completely different organization. As it is, we're on track for around 150 calls this year, with about 40% EMS and a lot of the others "cancelled enroute." If we've had 5 working fires, I'd be amazed.

    Our chief recently revamped our mutual aid so we're running calls into a neighboring department's first-due. We're both in the same fire district, so it makes a certain amount of sense, but the impetus to get out of bed at oh-dark-thirty for an automatic fire alarm drops precipitously when you know you'll get turned around just a few miles out of the station, if you roll at all. So you end up with two or three people responding to the station while the rest wait to see if it'll actually amount to anything.

    Over the years this all has resulted in many fire departments being social clubs that occasionally fought fires. And those social members aren't going to train, as I mentioned before. In fact, you probably won't see them on the scene of a working fire.

    We have departments around the county that used to carry 80-100 members on their rolls. But it occurred to me not long ago that of those 80-100 members, there might have been 20-25 who were truly "firefighters." Many of the others either wouldn't show up on scenes, or if they did, had little to offer. Those same departments today roster 20-25 members...

    The amount of training being required is also a problem. Our FF1 just got bumped over 100 hours, and basic EMT just jumped to over a semester's worth of evenings. On top of that, in today's service economy, many of the young folks we'd like to see join simply can't do so because the training is chiefly in the evenings and they often work jobs in the evening.

    Add to that the fact that we have very limited opportunities to turn that FF1 into a paycheck, short of moving completely out of the area.

    Where money does come into play is in the training. The state funds the instructors, but the county only get so many hours per year of instructor time. That limits us to two FF1's, maybe a FF2, hazmat refreshers, and maybe a few other courses. And the lack of availability of alternate times for courses like FF1 inhibits our ability run daytime or weekend-only courses that could perhaps be taken by those night-shift workers.

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    In my department the problem is professionalism. In my humble opinion ALL Emergency Workers should act like professionals but our firefighters say "we're just volunteers" as a excuse to avoid doing things like training or checking the trucks daily. Also the upper management in our department is super screwy, especially on the EMS side. Most of that can be traced to a kinda flim-flam establishing of the department which I think is a issue with many VFDs, many being kinda cobbled together organizational-wise.

    Of course money is also a issue of course but so far we've managed to make things work with what we have.

    Low fire call volume keeps our guys out of practice and too excitable too.

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    TIME.

    All the other posters have hit the nail on the head - training, admin, station, equipment & vehicle maintenance, meetings, prevention, etc., etc., etc.. Time.

    It's really that simple.

    Time.
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 12-19-2014 at 09:28 AM.

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    I don't disagree that time can sometimes be an issue. BUT, I believe more than anything time is an excuse from people that don't want to do something but don't want to explain why they don't want to do it. If you want it bad enough you will find the time to make it happen.

    Seriously, my last 2 years as a career firefighter, where I was working a 56 hour work week, I was a member in good standing of 2 volunteer fire departments and was teaching for the tech college. While my kids were young they played hockey which meant plenty of travel and I still kept up my trainings and meetings.

    I still believe that primary causes for decline in membership in volunteer fire departments hinges on poor leadership of the department and poor or no support from the governing body. The firefighters can only do so much to maintain good morale, good skill levels, and good equipment if they have no support from above.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    TIME.

    All the other posters have hit the nail on the head - training, admin, station, equipment & vehicle maintenance, meetings, prevention, etc., etc., etc.. Time.

    It's really that simple.

    Time.
    I agree. Time is our biggest issue. Our equipment is in good shape, we are getting new gear on a regular schedule, we keep each of our 4 main trucks for 20 years replacing 1 of them every 5 years. We do not have to fight with our Town to get stuff, they work very well with us for the most part.

    Our biggest hurdle is time. Finding enough time when guys can meet to train. Finding enough time when guys can make it to fire schools. Finding time for a guy to put in 140+ hours of basic fire school before he's allowed to do much of anything. Finding the time to fit in firehouse needs/wants along with all the rest of life's needs/wants.
    "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?

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    Money is not our problem. Have plenty. Spending it wisely has always been a concern. Apparatus is also not a problem, again we have been lucky spending other peoples tax dollars getting grants for some new stuff. What we need to understand, learn and do is that yes they did invent heavy apparatus mechanics and spare parts. Every apparatus does NOT have to be brand new. Used is fine thank you.

    The biggest concerns we have out here in SW OR USA are the usual suspects. Recruiting, training and the big one ... retaining the good people once they get recruited with that difficult expensive, intensive 200 hour OR state requirement. Quite a big bite to chew off and swallow for a small mountain valley with about 18,000 people. The State and Fed requirements kill us. ISO Class 4 in town with plugs.

    HB of CJ (old coot) retarded FF, PM, RN. Now just retarded.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HBofCJ View Post
    Money is not our problem. Have plenty. Spending it wisely has always been a concern. Apparatus is also not a problem, again we have been lucky spending other peoples tax dollars getting grants for some new stuff. What we need to understand, learn and do is that yes they did invent heavy apparatus mechanics and spare parts. Every apparatus does NOT have to be brand new. Used is fine thank you.

    Money IS a problem here and we struggle to maintain our budget every year at POC FD #1. We have a long history of buying used apparatus and with very few exceptions we were buying something that looked nice but was being disposed of because it had been a maintenance pain in he azz for the FD selling it. That is hard to discover when you are looking to purchase a used piece of apparatus. My advice is if you plan to buy used have at least have the purchase price in your budget for unexpected repairs.

    The biggest concerns we have out here in SW OR USA are the usual suspects. Recruiting, training and the big one ... retaining the good people once they get recruited with that difficult expensive, intensive 200 hour OR state requirement. Quite a big bite to chew off and swallow for a small mountain valley with about 18,000 people. The State and Fed requirements kill us. ISO Class 4 in town with plugs.

    18,000 residents? I wish. We have around 720 residents and 250 of those are residents of the nursing home in town.

    HB of CJ (old coot) retarded FF, PM, RN. Now just retarded.
    Like you HB of CJ I am a retired career firefighter, but still keeping my hand in firefighting. I am a paid on call firefighter with 2 FDs, a paid on premise with another, and still teaching fire training at the tech college. Too young to sit in a rocker!!
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    While many blame the fact that we don't have many working structure fires as a cause of lack of interest or an excuse to not do training, I see it from a different point of view.
    The fact that many unsafe balloon framed buildings have burned down and been replaced with modern safer construction buildings is a good thing.
    Also stronger codes enforcement has made them less likely to become fire traps that kill civilians and firefighters.


    The reality in many departments is: like it or not, WE are EMS services that on rare occasions need to actually run the red trucks out to respond to fires. Ems is as much as 80% of the call volume in many departments and the average smoke eating gorilla doesn't want anything to do with being a good quality prehospital medical care provider.
    No where near the adrenaline rush in helping grandma with a hip fracture as there is with grandma setting the stove on fire.

    Fire departments decided to do EMS as a means of justifying their continued funding and manning levels, when the fire call volume began to drop off. EMS is also a funding stream revenue generator for fire departments. The fact that many grumble because EMS is the majority of the calls , should be justification to spend more time training for providing quality medical care and spending money to field additional ambulances in the fleet.
    Stop running EMS calls with million $ tower ladders and start being proactive.
    We were visiting a fairly large city in NE last month ,& as we were sitting at a traffic light heard the sirens and airhorns screaming. down the hill came a tower ladder and screamed up the street. As we made our way down the street we observed the one paramedic climb off the truck and the other three crew just standing in the street. The kicker::: the ambulance was already on scene with the PT loaded and on the way into the back of the ambulance. Medic looked at the ambo crew ,got back in the big red truck and they pulled away after blocking the main street. Pretending to run EMS so their call volume looks good in the stat sheet.
    Last edited by islandfire03; 12-19-2014 at 11:33 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by islandfire03 View Post
    While many blame the fact that we don't have many working structure fires as a cause of lack of interest or an excuse to not do training, I see it from a different point of view.
    The fact that many unsafe balloon framed buildings have burned down and been replaced with modern safer construction buildings is a good thing.
    Also stronger codes enforcement has made them less likely to become fire traps that kill civilians and firefighters.


    The reality in many departments is: like it or not, WE are EMS services that on rare occasions need to actually run the red trucks out to respond to fires. Ems is as much as 80% of the call volume in many departments and the average smoke eating gorilla doesn't want anything to do with being a good quality prehospital medical care provider.
    No where near the adrenaline rush in helping grandma with a hip fracture as there is with grandma setting the stove on fire.

    Fire departments decided to do EMS as a means of justifying their continued funding and manning levels, when the fire call volume began to drop off. EMS is also a funding stream revenue generator for fire departments. The fact that many grumble because EMS is the majority of the calls , should be justification to spend more time training for providing quality medical care and spending money to field additional ambulances in the fleet.
    Stop running EMS calls with million $ tower ladders and start being proactive.
    We were visiting a fairly large city in NE last month ,& as we were sitting at a traffic light heard the sirens and airhorns screaming. down the hill came a tower ladder and screamed up the street. As we made our way down the street we observed the one paramedic climb off the truck and the other three crew just standing in the street. The kicker::: the ambulance was already on scene with the PT loaded and on the way into the back of the ambulance. Medic looked at the ambo crew ,got back in the big red truck and they pulled away after blocking the main street. Pretending to run EMS so their call volume looks good in the stat sheet.
    We ran EMS on my former career FD. We had ALS Ambulances staffed with paramedics. We also ran paramedic engines and trucks when staffing allowed. Every other firefighter was an EMT. Every time there was an ALS call an engine or truck responded and we went to work. We did vitals, blood sugars, setup IV bags, and most of the heavy lifting. We did not stand around. Many times we beat the ambulance in to a call and had the vitals and what ever other interventions we could do started before the meds arrived.

    The one part of your post that simply did not hold true in my city was the revenue stream from EMS responses. The fire department never saw a penny of it earmarked for its budget. Every penny of EMS revenues went right into the city's general fund. So while it may pay back to the FD where you are, the assumption that it does everywhere couldn't be more wrong.
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    Specifically regarding purchase of good used apparatus, the key that was not properly defined is the knowledge to know a diamond vs a chunk of coal. Out here in SW OR USA, (about 43N, 123W, or there abouts) we are very lucky in that there is some remaining forest logging industry remaining. This means lots of logging trucks run up and down and through our district.

    This also means that a great majority of our volunteers also have experience both in driving such stuff, plus the necessity of also having good heavy truck mechanic skills. This saves us. As an example, most all of our volunteers can easily drive a 13 speed Roadranger water tender because they already have been doing so for years. Quite a difference form most areas.

    Yep, we have bought some lemons. We made mistakes buying used apparatus. But only rarely. We know what to look for, (not so much me anymore ... I am now too old) but the old guys know what they are doing. Why spend $200 K for a new engine when we can buy, rebuild and deploy FOUR, (4) good USED Type Ones for about the same amount of citizen's tax money.

    But ... we are drifting away from this. Used to be, going down to the shops and helping fabricate another water tender was considered fun and a honor. We built well. The NEW used stuff always had some $things$ wrong with it ... that was usually why it was for sale to begin with. Again ... competent mechanics, fabricators and good new parts corrected the problems.

    Nowadays we tend more and more just to use the various $grants$ to buy new. Seems the newer generation of Voters, Paid Chiefs and elected unpaid Board Directors appear content just to throw tax dollar money at things and buy new. Can you believe it? Automatic transmissions and cab air conditioning? Wow! All good, but a major change from the way it used to be.

    Just me. HB of CJ (old coot) (retarded FF, PM, RN)

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    It seems I'm the odd man out on this as I've had more working fires on my POC dept. than I've had on my fulltime dept. We don't really have money problems, and I had 3 times as many fire CE's to renew my state fire cert. as I did from my fulltime job. The one constant is finding volunteers. A few get PO'd because things don't run the way they want them too, they don't realize the dept. is not there for them. And it's hard to get the Yuppies interested in serving.

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    Lots of skilled welders and fabricators out there building tankers over the years, no doubt. But tankers are wrecked more often and with more fatalities than other apparatus, so there's always some lawyer ready to hang you if the rig is not NFPA-compliant. That's likely a big reason why your department is preferring rigs built by manufacturers as opposed to locally.
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    Here are our major problems:

    1. Politicians. They want to control the fire dept., but when something goes wrong, then its the firefighters fault.

    2. Money. Our county always wants the money to go through them, so the full-time officials and employees (911, emergency management, etc.), get to skim off the money. The volunteers need to do fundraisers to make ends meet.

    We have a new sheriff, coming to office, so things may change. The outgoing public safety trash of a sheriff, gave a capital "T" to tryanny.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FIRE117 View Post
    Here are our major problems:

    1. Politicians. They want to control the fire dept., but when something goes wrong, then its the firefighters fault.

    2. Money. Our county always wants the money to go through them, so the full-time officials and employees (911, emergency management, etc.), get to skim off the money. The volunteers need to do fundraisers to make ends meet.

    We have a new sheriff, coming to office, so things may change. The outgoing public safety trash of a sheriff, gave a capital "T" to tryanny.
    yep ----------

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    More clarifications. EastKyFF raises a good point and thank you. Funny that out here the stuff that gets rolled and totaled is the nearly brand new Factory Type 1 where the volunteer driver probably, (never did find out as it was "hushed up") had a good case of "red light fever" or "lead foot" and the "double clutcher leg twitch dance" and obviously had no idea that he was exceeding, (duhh, again) the safe envelope of the apparatus's performance capabilities.

    In short he was going way too fast. Never should have been driving that Type 1. A failure to adequately train the young man. Kinda maybe my fault. I was asked to help train, but I turned them down. Perhaps a mistake on my part. We never did get to download the chip regarding the road speed when the apparatus left the highway. Strange about that. Too little time and too many hoops to jump through to become a volunteer FF in SW Oregon USA.

    The rolled and wrecked newer Type 1 also may have had some issues with the tank baffling. Strange how it was all hushed up. The insurance settlement was secret. By comparison, most if not all of our home built stuff met or exceeded any known recommendations at that time. We tended to overpower, brake, baffle, frame and build. Our experience with "secret negotiations" legal proceedings is that it usually involved factory built stuff. The training has been fixed.

    So ... to try to answer the first valid question ... probably it is time. Time to get good potential volunteers together. The time that must be spent training up and the inservice training. Time to meet all the fairly new State and Federal training requirements. The lack of slack given to good prospects. Long hair and beards come to mind. Women. This is SW OR USA and our personal liberties are still very important to us. Too many strings attached to get good people.

    HB of CJ (old coot) (ex FF, PM, RN) now retarded In short our small volunteer fire protection district has become Federalized. No longer ours. Sad.

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    Change.

    Going from where our officers other then Chief and Asst. Chief are in their position til the either retire or choose to step down to being on 2 year terms where they get voted on. The mentality that we have done this for 20 years so why change is an issue

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    I am a member of a combination department, my first combination department in my 20+ year career as a volunteer firefighter. My biggest concern coming in was all the horror stories I have heard over the years about the paid -vs- volunteer debate. I must say we don't have any of that here, and I am happy about that.

    The biggest problem we have in our department is that we are RUN more like a paid department in that we are not a respond from home department. We have 12 hour shifts that we sign up for and are at the station for our shift. We also have monthly requirements as to how many shifts per month you have to do in order to stay in good standing. We were having a lot of problems getting enough people to sign up to cover all the shifts for the month. What our board of directors did was they set up a stipend program, and they looked into it and made sure it was something that could be legally done. It added additional shifts in order to be eligible for the stipend, but if you are able to meet the requirements, then you get a monthly stipend. That certainly changed the participation in our department.

    The biggest problems facing our department as with every other department I have been with is getting people to come to training, communication, and keeping up with the equipment. It is tough to keep people interested in the everyday operations of the fire service, BUT, you quickly find out who truly loves the fire service and who is just there for the "big one"

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    On our department manpower actually isn't a problem. We have guys you can always count on to make it and of course the guys that only show up to structure fires. Many hang out at the firehouse very often and are ready to go out on a run if one were to come through. However, our 2 problems are the following-

    First and foremost is the lack of ANY call. We don't run EMS and we are a very very small town department. We don't even get MVAs. Most of our jobs are mutual aid to surrounding towns. So there's not that much experience. If I had to guess we run less than 100 calls a year. The problem with that is that even if you've been on the department for 5 years how much experience do you truly have running so little calls? We're never really first due as all our big jobs are mutual aid so we lack the leadership qualities.

    Second, again we are a very small town so budget is a problem. We don't really go "needing" things in a beyond unsafe way, but there are things that we don't have that shouldn't even be an option. Turnout gear is so so terribly passed down that in some cases it isn't even fully compliant with safety standards. New guys don't get pagers let alone each guy having a radio at a fire scene. It's barely enough to get by without being in trouble. Instead of leadership fighting for these things they just deal with it. A big gripe for me is that not every member has a radio. Only the officers have them. I can't comprehend how you can let a firefighter go into a burning building without a radio. If you have a structure collapse how can you call a mayday? How can you let other firefighters know where you are?

    I don't want to sound like a complainer and I know budgets are a huge issue countrywide, but let's just say that compared to all the departments around us whether they are career or volunteer we have "special circumstances".

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    Daytime staffing is a weak point for us.

    Money, money, money.

    Need stronger leadership at some outlying districts, and the culture change that would come with such a man.

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    This is a good thread - it's interesting to see some of the very same (and very different) challenges that different volunteer agencies are facing.

    #1 for us: Time. Between 500-600 calls a year, monthly training, monthly business meetings, monthly apparatus checks, bi-monthly officers meetings, and duty crew time, it can be a stretch for even those who have very understanding families (hi!). We've established methods that not every member needs to be at every function, but it's still a lot to do 12 months a year, and doesn't include the members who are attending local, state, and regional training classes or conventions.

    #2 for us: Manpower. We're not struggling, but it would sure be nice to have about 15-20 more members. We have some of our older members that are transitioning into more engineer/support roles and although we've brought some younger members in, we could use some more. We're excited to be making some significant changes on our administrative side in 2015, so we're looking forward to some new recruitment and retention initiatives.

    We're very lucky that money hasn't been an issue for us for decades, we're 95% funded by local government. This includes fuel, insurance, worker's comp, apparatus purchases, turnout gear, station maintenance, etc. About the only thing we have to purchase on our own is uniforms. This is a definite stress relief for us.
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    Since this thread was started by Magazine Staff, An honest evaluation and some comments by a broad swath of different types of communities is a necessary element in providing a look at things affecting Volunteer Departments. My community has seen some large changes in the make-up and population served by the volunteers. I feel right at home with some of The "Old Coots" who have already weighed-in on the topic, and offer these comments with nearly 50 years of experience in positions ranging from "Grunt" to "D.C." on the alarm side, and Chairman of the Board to State Instructor on the support side.
    As I see it presently, the shift in demographics and education has squeezed both the tax base and the caliber of firefighter candidates. If it were not for families passing down the interest in the department, the Volunteer aspect of the organization would have long since ceased to exist. Young people grow up here now, fully expecting to move away, so there is little thought to joining a group that requires a commitment of time and a dedication to serving the community. This was NOT the case 50 or even 30 years ago. The community was based upon a heavy manufacturing economic model, and the education was geared to producing graduates with a heavy background in mathematics and science. We needed people who could understand the technical steps and controls used in our industries, and be able to step up to becoming foremen and managers, machinists, chemists through in-house training by the companies. Our High School graduates are now exposed to more "Touchy-Feeley" sorts of subjects, doing multiplication, division, squares and roots are foreign concepts unless they have a calculator or smart phone. If they precieve a problem, the first inclination is to pick up the phone and call MOM or somebody for a quick answer. Self reliance and thinking on your feet are lost arts. This lament continues as the population shrinks, and the good paying jobs evaporate only to condense in some foreign place. We are loosing our knowledge base and depth of understanding, and so the caliber of individuals available and willing to volunteer has also changed. The shrinking population and wealth reduction is slowly forcing a re-evaluation of apparatus and equipment, even while a deteriorating business area is demanding a heavier response due to failing maintenance programs in the commercial and industrial parts of the city. The 2010 census shows a population of 12,000, down from nearly 18,000 in the 1970's. At that time the daily influx from outside the city was estimated at nearly 8,000 coming in to work. So we were essentially protecting a day-time population is excess of 25,000. Our industries were mostly locally owned, with the owners depending upon the fire department to protect their homes and businesses. With the down-turn in manufacturing (Planned by the Federal Government - but that is another rant) most industries were purchased by outside firms and milked for their knowledge and processes. Gradually the practice of releasing firefighters from work to answer fire calls, while their plant pay continued, was stopped. Where day-time response of 50 firefighters was the norm, it is now down to 15 if we are lucky, with many being aged 50 to 75 years. This mornings trip was to supply cover for an alternate Landing Zone for the local hospital, as two birds were scheduled at the same time. We had 16 manning two engines and a heavy rescue. The reserve at the station was 5 drivers and zero firefighters. Addressing the funding aspect.. We are currently 3 years behind in replacing an engine, partially because of the high cost of an aerial ($ 800,000 +) in 2007, because of reduced revenue stream, and partially due to poor planning by the city manager in the early 2000's through borrowing. We are presently trying to get these loans paid down and getting back on track with our sinking fund of saving before buying. A committee has been formed and specifications are being written for an early 2016 delivery. This will replace a 1979 Mack - 1500. We are fortunate that we have a separate "Fire Protection" tax to fund this equipment, and it can not be used in the general fund. Training of new firefighters continues to be a struggle, with the Pa. State Fire Academy and the State Fire Commissioner NOT doing us any favors. When asked in public the Commissioner states that there are NO STATE REQUIREMENTS for taking the 166 hrs of basic fire training, nor the 16 hrs of IST, or 32 hrs of First Aid. What is left unsaid is the requirement to have completed all this training, or you can't go on to ANY OTHER state sponsored training. This means that If I were to conduct in-house training and send the students to the Pro-Board for testing, they could theoretically be qualified as FF-1 but NOT be permitted to attend additional state training. (Aerial apparatus, Truck Co. Ops., Pump I & II, etc) Several years ago we opened up the minimum age to 18 from 21, and this brought in some High School students. It also created additional training and expenses that did not pay off for our department. The really sharp ones who learned from the training (at that time 188 hrs) went off to college and then (after we carried them for 4 years) left for employment out of the area. Most have continued by joining other fire companies in their new homes, but we did not benefit from most of this directly. While discussing training, the caliber of firefighters that attend advanced training seem to have a much more difficult time with physics and math. Pump I & II and Rural Fireground Water Movement classes attempt to teach some theory, so that when things do not happen just like the training, the operators can think through the problem and solve it quickly. I have noticed that there is much more difficulty on the part of students in understanding how the physics affects the operation. With practice they can go through the motions, but when things don't follow due to some fluke or intentional introduction of problem(s) they do not seem to be able to think things through. As an example, on a shed fire (fully involved upon arrival with no exposures) the decision was made to nurse from the tanker (TENDER) using two 3" hard sleeves. The new operator (first time on the attack engine) started out fine with tank water and made the transition to the nurse, but upon trying to refill the apparatus tank, he opened the tank fill a little too much, thus cavitating the pump. Instead of associating his last act (opening the tank fill) with the problem, he immediately tried to compensate by turning up the rpm, to no avail. While thus throttled up and an "experienced" operator standing over his shoulder, the tank over flowed. He immediately shut the tank fill causing an over pressure in the attack lines. Fortunately both P.C. lines had experienced nozzlemen and automatic nozzles, and they immediately bumped back on the bales. This operator has been exposed to this on numerous occasions since I have been training him for over a year, and every "public service" using the tanker shuttle and an engine he has been asked to operate the pump. Maybe it was the heat of the moment, but I use this as an illustration of trainees NOT thinking on their feet. Demonstrating or intentionally causing cavitation (like flopping a plastic bag over the strainer in a drop pond) is a routine training scenario. We made some 8 trips to a city baseball field where a new sod infield was installed. On many of these trips, I had choked back on the gate valve at the tanker and intentionally caused cavitation, so it isn't like he was never exposed to the problem. When asked how to recognize cavitation, he instantly repeated... If you throttle up and the pressure does not follow the RPM, check for cavitation and / or restriction in the suction side. Better Shut-Up, Bill at this point it is just becoming a rant!
    HBofCJ likes this.

  25. #25
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    Kuh Shise,

    I agree that critical thinking is lacking in many of our younger firefighters. Too much spoon feeding of information and not enough problem solving used in school anymore. I had a group of students on the training ground one day and I said we need 200 feet of 2 1/2 inch hose, they stood there and stared at me. I said it comes in 50 foot rolls, they still stared. In exasperation I finally said we need 4 rolls of 2 1/2. They simply couldn't put it together in their mind.

    We will be faced with more and more of this with the "new wave" style of education and the electronic age youth of today. Machines do the thinking and if the machine goes down so does the youth of today.
    Last edited by FyredUp; 12-26-2014 at 09:37 PM.
    Crazy, but that's how it goes
    Millions of people living as foes
    Maybe it's not too late
    To learn how to love, and forget how to hate

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