1. #1
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    Default "Old Boys Club"- How Do I Change Their Minds?

    Our volunteer fire department is just 20 years old. We get a variety of calls in our area, about 100 a year and that number is growing! Our leadership and methods are outdated by as many years as our dept's age, if not more! Our fire dept has become more of a social club then a modern fire dept. There is no training, no safety (ie taging in and out), and no disipline. The morale is good, but thats because most of the 'cliques' are busy scheduling their next golf tornament, or whatever, at the dept expense. We are fortunate to have a large tax base to draw resources from, but do not use it for proper equiptment or training. The problem is the 'The Old Boys Club'. Have any of you ever heard of this club? They are resistent to change. One of these days we will be called upon to perform a high angle resq. or a confined space resq. and we will end up standing around until mutual aid shows up or worse, someone (firefighter or civie) gets killed! Anybody that has any ideas or experience that might help some of us younger guys in the dept show the older 'Club' that change has to come before it's to late, I'd love to hears from you. Thanks in advance. OTTIS.

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    Hello Ottis. Interesting problem, and one I'm sure is familiar to many. Have you or any of the other 'young' guys tried talking to the chief? If this is not possible, then you might have a situation here. When all else fails, the fire dept gets called. Nowadays, more then ever before, I feel that a fire/rescue service must be prepared to the best of their ability to assist the public in time of need. Perhaps, if you and your buddies that want to advance, got together and discussed some sort of a stratagey that you could approach the chief, or other senior officer with, and do it tactfully, might that help? If what you say is true about no training and no safety, then you do have a problem. If nothing is getting done in the dept, then maybe an annoymous letter to a govn't office might be a possible last resort. Sounds like a betrayal of trust, but it may be YOUR family that someday req's the services of an untrained, unsafe dept. Stay Safe.

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    Hi again Ottis. Please keep me posted on how you make out with this little problem of yours. I'm very interested. I'll also ask around some old buddies for more info. Pat
    PS- I'm from Canada too!!

    [ 07-29-2001: Message edited by: PEI Pat ]

    [ 08-01-2001: Message edited by: PEI Pat ]

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    Ottis,
    it is the age old problem of fearing change by the older members. i believe that the key to improving your department is to make the old timers think that any new idea is their idea. in my department this is what we did and gradually brought about changes. in the last ten years, many of the old timers would not know our department from the changes made. we went from surround and drown to making interior attacks and making great saves. We are now up with the times and not 10 or 20 years behind. if you can succede by this method, there is one thing that you must guard against and that is when you get older you do not want to become afraid of the unkown and that is change. i have been in my department over 25 years and i find myself working hard to accept new ideas and methods of training.

    thanks for letting me spout off. Larry

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    Is fire all the old people and start over an option? Kidding...
    I hope I realize I'm an oldtimer before anyone else does so I can change ahead of time.
    Most of it may boil down to being initially only responsible for fire protection. Then as years went by more and more duties were added. More change, more stuff to learn. It's a tough pill to swallow sometimes for older members that they don't know everything...
    ...if you put the handline in the right spot, you won't have to jump out the window...
    -Andy "Nozzles", SQ18, 9-11-01

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    First- beat your head agianst the wall(this will make you feel better for awhile)

    Second- get some other people to agree with the issues that need to be changed(power in #'s)

    Third- Get facts,data anything to support your position

    last- Pull up a chair(you will be there for awhile)

    To all of us who have been there and are still there we know how you feel. The things you want will slowly change over a long period of time, DO NOT GIVE UP Sometimes i still try the headbeating thing becouse you feel like you are surrounded by some people who wished they still rode beaver tails and wore rubber coats. Fact is in todays world you must keep up with the ever changing tools and techniques used, That doesn't mean you need them all at once, but keep plugging away you will get there.
    Firefighter/NREMT-P/Public Safety Diver
    May we ride into the darkness only to return as safe as we started!!

  7. #7
    OLE
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    OTTIS,
    Need to be patient (although it's probably running out), and see the chief. If the chief is a "good old boy", then you probably need to visit with someone(s) on the fireboard or city council. I'm a volunteer and understand that fire is fire and that we need to treat it the same as if we were full time paid professionals and that the same fire burns in the small towns as it does in the big cities. Sometimes they can relate to it when you bring up their families and a lot of "what if" statements. Then they get the picture and begin to understand (maybe) that the country club may be a better organization to get into.
    Hell, if all else fails, get as much schooling in and run for chief!!!!
    It's a tough and touchy subject. BUT it needs to be addressed. Good luck and let us know what you decided!!!

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    That's a hard Question!!!!!

    Normaly it takes some type of loss...
    Bad fire your Dept. is not ready for and hopefully nobody gets hurt...

    But You have to do everything possable to prevent them...

    A. Talk to the chief, But before you ask a question, you MUST have the ans.

    B. Training is a MUST
    All good teachers do. Make it fun to Learn and not burn...after the drill go out and have a couple of beers and still BS obout next golf game...Maybee LOL about Drill... they Don't know it, but there learning...

    C. DO NOT BEAT UP FIREFIGHTERS
    If is hot, cold, snowing, or raining ect. Drill inside, Video tapes, preplan ect.
    and if your going over hydrant hook up SOP's they don't need full bunker gear with SCBA'S
    "I have seen this done and not funny at all"

    D. Try to get some new blood into the FD..the good old boys will act difeerent when company is coming over...

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    Pick your battles. We let the older guys run the kitchen, run the radio while we are at calls, take care of our old antique truck, do some building work, make some building and grounds decisions, etc. It keeps them busy and makes them feel useful. A lot of times their hesitation to change is due to confusion or lack of information about new technology. Example - they thought the thermal imaging camera was a waste until we let them use it to see what it can do. We have one old guy on our department that makes us crazy..we learned to only discuss certain things with him, and that since he is not active, the fire ground, trucks, etc. are not for him to worry about. He usually goes along with the vote of the majority since he knows that things have changed a lot over the years and that he doesn't have the info to back up his ideas. It will get better with time...you just have to watch how you go about making the change. Take care and good luck.
    Never forget those who went before and sacrified to make us better and stronger as a fire service and a nation. 09-11-01 forever etched in time and our memories. God Speed Boys!

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    Thanks for the responses so far troops! It is greatly appreciated. I'm formally a full time federal firefighter (Navy). With over 10 years in. I got out to take over the family business and join up the local volly dept. I have to tell ya'll that the leadership problem starts at the top. Yes, the chief is a good ol' boy, and has about as much leadership skill as a bag of frozen veggies! The reason that he is chief, so says one of my shy younger allies, is that he was voted in BECAUSE he DIDN'T have a backbone!! This way the social 'cliques' can do as they please.
    Our dept. is actually a private fire company with a board of directors made up from the different communities we serve. I dunno, maybe thats the best route to talk to the directors...but in a small town like ours...word gets around. AAhh. You can imagine the frustration huh? Anyways, thanks again to all who have responded, and those who still might. O.P

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    OLE
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    You're right there, about small towns and everything. If ya say something and it gets out, you might as well quit because they will probably chew you up and spit you out!
    I think if you maybe just did your own thing, go to as many classes as you can, get your certifications (instructor included) and just sit back and watch the good old boys make the mistakes should be the way to go....FOR NOW!

    BUT - as soon as they start asking for help on the scene or in the station because YOU have the schooling and knowledge and "have seen that situation before", that's when you gain respect and become a leader and leave the good old boys behind.

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    Have a little patience. Our Vol. Dept. used to be the same way several years ago. It took getting some new and younger blood in the Dept. to slowly start to make a change. I start as a raw vol. proby, and made my way to ***'t Chief in 7 years. We train harder than we ever did and taht has both a down side and an upside to it. The downside is we have fewer members at meetings and training sessions, but most of the one who attend are the one who actually fight fire and perform many other duties. The "Old Boy's" just don't like to train it seems like. If there isn't a card game or something going on they just don't show up. We've also implemented a requirement that you must have at least 12 hours of training to remain on the dept. This got rid of a lot of them. It makes us a little short handed, but I wouldn't want them on a scene with those who train. To me they're just another civilian onlooker at a fire scene. Good luck and hang in there. It will take a little time, but everyone will come out all for the better.

    "Just remember. No matter where you go. There you are!"

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    It's a hard job but you can do it if you stick with it. People get comfortable and they want to stay that way. We have people in the department that don't want to try new fundraisers, training, etc., but you have to. Nothing stays the same in this business. You have to learn to stay on top. We still have old timers that think a booster line is all you need on a house fire. One members ask him why there were so many chimneys left standing from the booster line times. He shut up after that. Take all the classes you can and get you instructors cert. and start to work on them. That about all you can do. Just keep at it. When I first got in the department the pump panel pressure never went over 100PSI. With 200' of 1 3/4" line you can calc the nozzle pressure. When I started working on the older pump ops they said "You'll kill the man on the nozzle and blow my pump up!" but I kept after them and sent them to pump school and they learned.
    "Illegitimis non carborundum."

    - Gen. Joseph Stilwell
    (Lat., "Don't let the *~#%&S grind you down.")

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    "A little Revolution now and again never hurt anyone." - Sean Connery, Hunt For the Red October.

    Believe me Ottis, every fire department has either done this, is doing this, or will have to do this soon.

    There comes a time when members of a department need to decieded whether they are there for the social club, or there to do the job that the sign on the building says.

    Make sure you have a good strong core of guys that agree with you. If your going to do this, you will need to count on them for support.

    Two years ago, we did the same thing you are looking at. Now, we are a respected department that no longer holds the lights for our mutial aid departments while they work. Right now, we are helping a few other departments in the area do the same thing. Knowledge is power, and we have learned a lot. Share the wealth, everyone benifits. If you have any questions, ideas, or problems, make sure to ask. I wish I had have known about FH.com when we were going through it.

    You are one of the chosen to lead your department forward. Good Luck.

    [ 08-03-2001: Message edited by: firefighter26 ]
    "No one ever called the Fire Department for doing something smart..."

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    Do to the directors, council, commisheners, try the $ route seems the spend alot will they like pay out alot in insurance costs, will peoples fire protection insurance go up. Are all OHSA and NIOSH regs met. Thats not being a snitch or a rat it looking out for the best interests of the town people and the dept.

    A mutinty may be alittle extreame

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    Hey Ottis, this problem is not by any means new to the ff world. One of the best things that our dept. does every year is have our AGM (annual general meeting) at this meeting there is no rank structure within the walls of the room, and everything and anything that is said there is kept within those walls, no exceptions. If you have anything to say whether it be kudos or bitches, you have the oportunity to say it. You have to remember that you will confront the people to which you have a problem so if you don't want to hear the answer, don't ask the question! After the AGM we (the officer core) get together and have a retreat. At this retreat we discuss the things brought up at the AGM and work together to resolve any problems that may have arisen. At the retreat we also bring in a motivational speaker for half the day, there are a number of excellent speakers that are of the paramilitary or fire related in their presentations. We have found these speakers to be very benificial to helping us to move forward as a dept. because they come in with no bias or preconceived opinions of our dept.I see in your profile that you do not have an E address, feel free to email me for more info about this subject.

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    OTTIS well I have been there thats How I have the position I have now. Two things happened for me.First I took lots of training, attended a number of seminars and have read countless articles about our firefighting world, that gained respect among the good ol boys. After that I moved into the training officers position, which has the chiefs ear suggesting how we should train. After that I moved into a chiefs position and a bunch of $#it changed after that. No more alchol consumption in the fire station, soon after no more alcohol in the fire station, if you want a beer go up the street and buy it when we are done.The training hours went up and the number of good old boys went down. Also at the meetings where the good old boys thought they had power to run things they ended up getting shot down for stupid remarks and lost the respect they had within the dept.
    The better educated your firefighters are about the buisiness they do the more out of touch those good old boys will definatly look. I dont hardly see any of them now, not that I need to. Take charge yourself or get some allies and pressure them into the way it should be.

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    Hiya Ottis. Seems like some bang on responses eh? I like the take it slow approach and pick your battles...slowly start to move up the dept food chain. Once the 'Wind of Change' starts to blow, it's kinda hard to stop it..look what happened in Russia..!! Regards..Pat

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    Thanks again for the responses everybody. There are a couple of us sitting here now discussing them!!

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