Hello all. As most of you already know, 2 crisis situations are hitting the volunteer fire service in PA. The first is a decrease in the number of dedicated people willing to volunteer and second is a lack of funding and difficulty raising money. Lets use this as a forum to share any information we can, to benefit PA volunteer departments.
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Thread: Pennsylvania Volunteer Chief
01-04-1999, 04:00 PM #1CallihanFirehouse.com Guest
Pennsylvania Volunteer Chief
01-09-1999, 01:55 PM #2BrianFirehouse.com Guest
Dear Mr. Callihan
That's a great thought, Hopefully you will expand beyond just Pa.. We are a company about 1 1/2hrs. south of you in Maryland and we can see the trend you are speaking of in our county and all the surrouinding counties in Md. Pa. and WV.. Apparently this is a topic that the fire service leaders should address nationally.
01-11-1999, 11:35 AM #3Jason the nozzlemanFirehouse.com Guest
Dear Mr. Callihan,
Hello my name is Jason Sigafoos, and I am a volunteer firefighter in eastern Pennsylvania and I am 18 years old. I read your topic story and can fully agree on your point of view, as the same problems also occur here with our company and surrounding companies with both problems that you stated. However I don't understand why this occurs. I have been a volunteer for almost three years now and I love it,but the lack of volunteers is substansially low and even for some of the ones that do volunteer,they would just rather respond to calls and cut short on the fund raising end,being lazy when it comes time to work for the money. I think that this is a serious problem in the fire service today and hope that maybe your topic will enlighten some of those who we are speaking of, and also maybe bring some new volunteers into the service.
01-11-1999, 02:01 PM #4Pat NadeauFirehouse.com Guest
Dear Mr. Callihan,
I am in volved with search and rescue more than I am with the fire dept. at this time and we also have seen this trend. One method that we tried to get volunteers was we went into the local high schools and did active recruiting. You would be surprised at the response we recieved, 15 new members. All of which are very active. Try this and see how it works.
East Penn Mountaineers Search and Rescue
01-13-1999, 11:03 AM #5Chief90Firehouse.com Guest
As a career fire chief of an all volunteer department I too recognize the trend not only in southeastern PA but across the nation. One concept that might prove to be part of salvation for volunteer departments is regionalization. Here in the York, PA area the police departments from different municipalities regionalize to form cooperative departments. The benefit from buying power, sharing manpower, and provide better services especially in areas with previously limited police presence. Could this not work for us? Our department is on the fringes of that concept like many others in this part of the country. The township is protected by five separate volunteer companies, one from within the township and four from boroughs nearby. They've collectively formed as the Department of Fire and Rescue and we're working to standardize operations within the township. At present the four boro companies retain their individuality within their own boro but we're working toward recognition as a single department within the township. We're not really regionalized yet except there is one Chief of Department (paid. Instead of one single company to protect 26 sq miles we have five with 28 pieces of apparatus, 32 officers and 100 firefighters.
Any thoughts out there on this concept and how to proceed?
Chief of Department Paul E. Reichenbach
01-13-1999, 01:14 PM #6CallihanFirehouse.com Guest
Yes, we have been talking about "Merging" around here also. Our department is outside of Johnstown, PA. Most Townships and Boros only have one department. Ours has two but the township is large and My district is 10 miles from the other half of the township. Our merger would be with the neighboring boro. The only problem is the loss of identity that one of us would face. We dont want to lose our name and neither do they. We are a wealthy department and they are on the brink of bankruptcy. Any ideas or past experiences.
01-13-1999, 03:47 PM #7PhredFirehouse.com Guest
Re: Desire to merge or combine. Ohio allows the creation of 'Joint Fire Districts' when two or more seperate local governments (such as a Township and a Village or two townships) wish to create one common fire department. The original seperate departments are disolved and re-organized as a stand-alone governmental agency that has its own Board of Trustees. Funds can be obtained through taxes approved by the voters of the combined district and these funds are controlled by the Fire District Trustees, not the individual local governments. As for the naming problem, Ohio requires a new name for the District, which I believe cannot include the names of the original, seperate departments or communities. A similar arrangement for you Pa. folks might already exisit. You could always name the district and continue using you original names as Station or Company designators. Good luck!
01-14-1999, 04:11 AM #8CYetterFirehouse.com Guest
The thought of merging two or more companies will undoubtedly cause ruffled feathers. Looking back, it was only a hundred or so years in the past that fire depts would fight it out amongst the different companies to see who would get to put out the fire. Now jump forward that 100 years. Times are hopefully good, no more fighting on scene, and the job is getting done. Thinking about the financial situation though, money is tight all around. Aha, let's merge. This can be done as long as the JOB is thought of first and the, "my dept is better than your dept," attitude second.
Remember it is better to fight against the dragon as 2, then it is to get cut done as 1 at a time
01-14-1999, 07:21 AM #9rich kulbackiFirehouse.com Guest
Our Dept requires anyone who wants to be an active member to complete the 88 hr state ff 1 training. We have had 3 people complete this training in 98 but many walk away because the don't have that kind of time. Are we being to demanding?
01-14-1999, 03:58 PM #10Danny BeebeFirehouse.com Guest
Dear Chief, the problem that you talk about is also a common problem in the south. I think that we need to conduct a massive PR campaign to highlight the good that VOLUNTEER firefighters do across this nation.
I think that if major industry was contact that they may be willing to help oay for mthis campaign. Also we have to present an image as volunteers that would encourage young men and women to want to join. The job before us is a large one but one that must be undertaken. Danny Beebe
01-14-1999, 09:19 PM #11CYetterFirehouse.com Guest
Mr. Beebe, makes a good point about a PR campaign, and how it could be financed. Yet, I remember back a couple of years ago when there was a large volunteer confrence put on by the US Goverment, in Philladelphia, Pa.
One of the firefighting magazines had written an article about it and commented on the fact that the volunteer fire service was not invited to participate in the confrence. The question was asked, why not? The confrence official stated that they did not understand what we do, and our training requirements. (so much for FEMA and their help, i.e. the USFA)
So if this PR campaign is going to fly, we need to let people know what we do. Get the community active and the rosters will increase.
01-14-1999, 09:51 PM #12RobFirehouse.com Guest
The big problem we see in recruiting new members is that the people who live within our response area move here from Calgary. They all seem to have the attitude that the service should just be given to them for the taxes they pay.
01-15-1999, 11:53 AM #13P BishopFirehouse.com Guest
Very interesting discussion going on here. The problem is going on nation wide. We are in Idaho. We have people want to be a volunter firemen or women. They apply and get started, when the topic of the training comes up, they start backing up.
It seems in this day and age people don't get involved like they did in years past. This also is true in your community service clubs like Lions, and Optimists.
01-19-1999, 09:23 AM #14CallihanFirehouse.com Guest
Training can propose a major problem in keeping members. HACC, Harrisburg Community College just took our 88 hour basic class and divided it into a few parts. Outside structutes, for hitting hydrants, ladders and such is 32 hour. After that you can take interior for the remaining hours. These are separate classes so you dont have to lose 5 straight weekends.
Just heard from some fire chiefs at our last meeting about going into the high schools to aggressively recruit members. They say it has worked for them.
01-21-1999, 03:35 PM #15Bob FoustFirehouse.com Guest
I am Second Assistant Chief of a volunteer dept. in Mercer Co. PA. The population of our borough is a little over 1,000 people. We are fortunate to have a membership of 48....35 of which are considered "active".
Our secret??? Well it's a combination of factors...some of which can be emulated while others cannot.
1.Family - Many of our members have a family connection to other
members. If you miss your shift of bingo, you not only answer to your crew members... you answer to family.
2.Benefits - If a member in good standing needs to wash his car on a cold day, why not allow the member to pull the brush unit out of the bay for car washing.
- How about offering free computer,photocopying and
and internet service to the members.
- Sign out use of specified equipment(snow blower, non-fire service ladders,
gym equipment,mechanic's tools,etc.).
3. Image - Not to offend anyone, but a firehouse that has a host of vehicles parked around it sporting blue lights that are longer than the roof is wide, and decals of Calvin urinating on a campfire in the back window.....well, let's just
say that firehouse leaves an
undesirable image to prospective
members. MAKE YOUR ORGANIZATION'S IMAGE APPEALING TO COMMUNITY MEMBERS!
4. Junior Firefighter program -
Three of our line officers started in our jr. program. It's
a great way to bring enthusiasm into your dept.
Robert B. Foust
2nd Asst. Chief
02-05-1999, 11:10 PM #16Scott ClarkFirehouse.com Guest
Interesting indeed! Hi Chief, you've got a good forum going here. I need to ask you and everyone else that reads this, could be the problem is much closer than we realize? Have we examined our leadership methods or our own attitudes with our personnel. I firmly believe our organizations are only a reflection of our departments administrations. This doesn't necessarily mean today's leaders this could have been yesterday's leaders. I say this because I have been a victim of (PPMP's) Poor Personnel Management Programs. Yesterday's leaders never properly taught those of us today how to lead our departments in to the future. I know this sounds deep, but I have surveyed several volunteer fire departments in NY, PA, MD & NC and have found that they all have the same problems. I know personally I have had to spend a lot of my own time and money to get myself educated to run a fire department "the right way". So maybe the problems of volunteers not responding is that they need a little personal "TLC" and having us spend a little less time worrying about budgets and equipment. Not to say they are not important, but how important are they without the personnel to us them? They need our support and guidance, because as far as I'm concerned a volunteer officer is only a firefighter or EMS provider that has been given permission by their organization to be a leader. So let's lead, but do it with conviction and passion. If you agree or disagree email me and let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org
[This message has been edited by Scott Clark (edited 02-05-99).]
02-24-1999, 01:23 AM #17andyS5Firehouse.com Guest
New members is a problem in my area also as for the fund raising we have a BBQ and a county wide Firefighters Ball every year they don't pay all the bills but they help.
02-24-1999, 10:28 PM #18cmillerFirehouse.com Guest
Hey Chief! Hot topic. I am a Captain and President an a rural vol. company in Centre County, PA. Our local newspaper has been printing entire sections in the Sunday paper concerning this subject. You are not alone. We have a jr. fireman program and also require the 88 hr. essentials course. The rookies stick around for a while but only a few stay for good. The problem we have is that like most other volunteer companies is that we spend more and more time raising money. The new recruits have the wrong impression of the volunteer service. The days of just hanging out at the 'house are over. There is too much to do and not enough time to do it. I know what they feel. I joined as a junior at the age of 16, and 13 years later I'm still going. It seems as if out of 30 or 40 active members its always the same 10 or 12 that show up to work, (until the pager goes off).
03-06-1999, 12:01 PM #19jpmFirehouse.com Guest
i have some ideas on getting new members to the firehouse.more important retaining the ones you have.first check the real estate listings of sold homes in your district send these people letters welcoming them to the nieghborhood. explain to them what to do in case of an emergency and welcome them to join.have a package ready of what you require and your benifits i.e. awards program, training.second hold a tag sale during your fire prevention week sell food and have a new member station sign up.when was the last time you asked an active member what he or she needed i.e. a new pair of gloves,boots,flashlight.ask the active members what is wrong they will tell you.insted of buying the chief that new chevy suv buy a nice four door pickup and equip it.buy your active members some sort of station wear .to look profeshionial is to be profeshionial.i whole heartedly agree with opening the firehouse up to any member to do what he wants i.e. washing car changing oil ect.have rules but inforce them across the board equally.alway stay low train hard and keep the faith brothers and sisters god has a place for us.
03-08-1999, 12:05 AM #20BChewFirehouse.com Guest
Chief Callihan and the other members of the forum,
I have been reading the posts with much interest. I am the Chief of my department (Bucks County Rescue Squad) my situation is a little bit different (as we are primary EMS, not fire suppression), we have seperate fire and EMS departments in this area. But, having been a vol. firefighter and officer for serveral years and then moving to EMS, I have be able to initate a new approch towards working together with the two services (7 departments - 2 EMS, 5 Fire).
First, on the subject of mergers - the VFD I was last associated with had a very succesful merger of two smaller departments. However, the big problems with mergers, as I see it there are too many officers that do not want to give up their white hats (everybody stills wants to be in charge). My solution and apporach, don't merge, take over - only the strongest and most costomer oreineted departments will survie. Departments that are unable (or more like unwilling) to change to the new needs of the community (including budget changes) will fall to the side and close down. How many departments now report to a muncipal board or pannel on budgets and activities, this is a upcoming change for many areas.
Second, recruiting. I found the best way to recurite, is to keep changing (refer to point 1) as my department developes new programs (or finds new areas to expand into) we atract new members. Some, of these new members are from other departments that see us as survives and want to jump on board.
Third, funding. Since my start as a Chief Officer I have gone out and meet the business persons in my local, then target them for special projects. Find out what the owner or president of a compnay believes in (or hobbies) and then play that angle. Also, with the changing idea - the community leaders like funding the departments that are always showing improvement. (I know this newxt statement will sound bad, but its true) when you can show a community leader that your department can do the job of another department, better than they can, their funding becomes your funding - survival of the strongest.
I hope I do not offend anyone with these comments, it is just that these things are working for us.
One more thing with funding, community support does great, if the public sees you all the time (weather its on a call or special event, or going to the supermarket for grocercies) they are more willing to give money, because you look busy.
Bruce Chew, Chief
Bucks County Rescue Squad
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