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  1. #1
    Danny Beebe
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Default Small Volunteer Fire Departments

    Hi. My name is Danny Beebe and I am a chief of a small Arkansas dept. in the Ozark Mountains of my state. I would like to talk to other firefighters of small vol. depts.

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  2. #2
    Rob
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    Hi,
    I am a Lt./Emergency Medical Responder, in charge of department operations, give me a topic.


  3. #3
    Jay
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    Hi Danny, Rob-
    Topic?? How's about your feelings on good training ideas for fire? EMS? Our dept is getting pretty 'dry' for ideas. E-mail is fine too. <jdeppe@ci.madison.wi.us> Thanks!!

  4. #4
    Fire207
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    Default

    Hi Danny, I'm from a small vol. dept. also. We currently have 28 members and average around 300 runs per year. Over half those runs are assist medic runs. I'm a catain and responsible for investigations.

  5. #5
    Spfd32
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    Pick a topic I'm with a small department in upstate New York. 33 members.

  6. #6
    Ken Apel
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    Hi Danny- I'm chief of the Henderson fire department just up the road from you. Just got my ISO class 5 and am real proud.No water system, all with tankers.

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  7. #7
    HOUSE OF BLUES
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    Default

    Hi, how are you doing - I am the fire chief for a residential/buisness borough in Pennsylvania - we have a population of 3200 and provide coverage to 1.5 sq mile municipality. We average about 175 calls per year with 25% of the calls being vehicle accidents, with this 55% of our responses are in our borough and the other 45% of our responses are assisting mutual aid companies. Our fire loss for 1998 was 364,000.00 which is the most in our borough for approximatley 6 years. Just thought that I could has some input to small area firefighting.

  8. #8
    Rob
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    Jay, for our department, doing some mutual aid training with other departments really brightened the guys up. We did a tanker-shuttle drill and spent an entire Saturday with three other departments. I think our guys thought it was great to work with these other agencies and their equipment.
    We also head into the Calgary fire department smoke tower at least once a year to do different life fire training and next Tuesday we're burning cars for training all night. (The cars were donated to us.)

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    [This message has been edited by Rob (edited 01-30-99).]

  9. #9
    BCFD761
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    HELLO EVERYONE, I AM ASST. FIRE CHIEF OF A SMALL DEPT, MY QUESTION FOR YOU IS THIS, WE HAVE ABOUT 30-35 MEMBERS, BUT ONLY ABOUT 10-12 ARE DEDICATED TO MAKING THE DEPT. BETTER, NOT TO MENTION THERESELES. I WOULD REALLY LIKE TO SPARK A FIRE UNDER ALL OUR MEMBERS, IF YOU HAVE ANY IDEAS PLEASE LET ME KNOW, ANYTHING WILL BE WELL APPRECIATED.

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    DAVE
    ASST. FIRE CHIEF
    BUCK CREEK TWP. FIRE DEPT
    MT. COMFORT IN.



  10. #10
    BCFD761
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Default

    HELLO EVERYONE, I AM ASST. FIRE CHIEF OF A SMALL DEPT, MY QUESTION FOR YOU IS THIS, WE HAVE ABOUT 30-35 MEMBERS, BUT ONLY ABOUT 10-12 ARE DEDICATED TO MAKING THE DEPT. BETTER, NOT TO MENTION THERESELES. I WOULD REALLY LIKE TO SPARK A FIRE UNDER ALL OUR MEMBERS, IF YOU HAVE ANY IDEAS PLEASE LET ME KNOW, ANYTHING WILL BE WELL APPRECIATED.

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    DAVE
    ASST. FIRE CHIEF
    BUCK CREEK TWP. FIRE DEPT
    MT. COMFORT IN.



  11. #11
    Spfd32
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    Default

    BCFD61, I'm an Asst Chief of a dept in northern NY with the same problems as you. I've been doing this for around twenty years, and have found this anywhere I went. I was in the AF for 9 years and saw it in every dept. You have IMO three groups in a volunteer dept. The first is the group that is there to help their community and neighbors, the dept is just an extenstion of their family, trying to whats best for the family. The second is the group the joined to help their community as long as they recieve credit or rewards for it, and will help if its for the benefit. The third group jion just to say look at me i'm a firefighter, see i have gear, pager, and blue light, this group shows up at all major incidents, or high profile functions stand around and do nothing.

  12. #12
    percell holland jr
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Default

    I also have the same problem with fireman not participating as they should. I am chief of a volunteer dept. in North Carolina with 30 members. I have been in the for service for over 20 years and it has always been this way. This year I am posting a monthly report that indicates the number of fires that each member responds to . I am also posting the monthly report on training hours. I am hoping that the guilt and pride factor will motivate some of the group to try and participate more. In the past I have talked one on one to some fireman and it works with some and some it does not. I also try to give a special project to some for motivational reasons. These projects may be a chairman of a fundraiser, chairman of a family supper , participating on the equipment committee or anything such as this, Some firemen think that they are not appreciated by the group and with these special projects I hope to change that feeling. We are all brothers in the fire service and anything that you can do to make unproductive firemen wanted may help mold that group together.

  13. #13
    Rob
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    Our department has the same problems as well.
    This year we are also posting participation numbers of our members. And after one month, you can really see who the doers on the dept are.
    Hopefully, we can shame the others to start participating more.


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  14. #14
    dc45b
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    Hi, I am the Senior Assistatn Chief of the Marlboro Vol. Fire Dept. in MD. I have two stations running about 1500 calls each. My new thing in the past six months are people sitting in the front seat that know nothing. I have been lesson on tactics and officer responsbility to every member I feel is lacking behind. This a boost morale because everyone wants to look good on a call. I also give them praise after each call but do some refining. I have also place some of these people with some responiblity. I make the make them understand there is no quitters here. Your job is for a year.Everyone is full of pride a team work. You can see it on the scene. Even the person laying the supply line make sure there part is done correctly. I guess they have found what team work is. As a manager you h ave find the strong and weak links in each member and to use it to you needs. Be safe

  15. #15
    iwood51
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    Default

    Mike, I agree with your statement on finding the strengths and weaknesses of members and utilizing them to your benefit. I have guys that range from slackers (won't do anything unless directly asked) to guys that you have to beat back with a stick! If you have someone that doesn't want to do anything but drive, let him, as long as his training is kept up. Utilize the firefighters' everyday professions to you benefit, an electrician for shutting down power, an alarm guy for those annoying automatic alarm, when you let these guys shine in front of the other members, it really boosts their confidence and the general morale.

  16. #16
    Phil4601
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    Default

    Dave,
    Your problem is not unique. I was Chief of a small volunteer fire company in Western, PA for 12 years, until this year. Keeping interest in the day to day functions of a volunteer fire company is not an easy task. Sure many of the members were active for response to emergency incidents, but not at meetings, fund rasiers, or other public service functions. I will think more about this subjuct and either e-mail you or place another posting.

    Phil

  17. #17
    chiefnfd
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    Hi Danny,
    I am also a chief of a small volunteer department in Canada. I don't know about you but one of my major problems is recruiting and retaining volunteers in a small rural community. Most people including myself work away from the village making daytime responses a bit of a nightmare. Any ideas on these questions would be a great help. Regards Raymond Godfrey

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    Regards, Raymond Godfrey

  18. #18
    Ken Apel
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    Default

    To all-- This is a problem that has been around my entire career in the fire service.(46 yrs).Every department goes up and down as far as membership is concerned. the answer for one department is almost alwas different than another department. We have to keep trying until we find one that works for us. You may feel that you are hitting a wall but this is what leadership is all about. I became chief of my first department in 1966 and not a month has gone by since that I haven't thought about it. Take all the suggestions you can and work with them. some will be gold and others will flop.Don't give up, keep trying and you will find an answer

  19. #19
    eng4
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    Default

    The key is to cut the crap.

    If you want 3 hours of a guys time to drill, then start on time making it challenging, no standing around, just practical stuff. The vollys time is important. If it isn't important don't do it. So much of a volly's time i spent encouraging one or two egos with an officer's title in a social club mode. Veryone does not need tobe paged out for a tree fire, certain members have more time thanothers so ask the guys who want to run all calls to identify themselves and those that don't the same, page by interest. Why does the 10 year guy have tosit through a basic airpack class every 6 months? In 5 minutes he can prove competency and be off or onto another subject. Departmetns with popularity elections often run like clubs not professional organizations. The days of do it cause I told you so are over. If that is how you operate them I can assure you you've got guys making a hobby out of working against you and your administration. Look at all the dumb things we do to make it hard to be a volunteer, ever rig is different, we don't even standardize pumps, every compartment sports something different. How often do youask for opinions and really listen. Are you running the joint off the cuff or is there a 6 month 1 year, 2 year 5 year plan? What do you offer the guy with lots of time and energy other than critism. The number one and two rule in many departments are 1. there is one person in every organization whoknows what is going on and he must be removed and 2. there is never enough time to do something right but there is always time to do it over.

    Offer's say guys must wear there gear but they don't. Officwr's ay mask up and they don't. Officer's promote unqualified to new tasks and change the rules at will, so it is no surprise the active find another place for their free time. It is high time to look into the organization and be honest and fair. It seems every departmetn has 30 to 40 members, only some of which are really active. No matter how many calls are run that is the comfort factor. Does it make any sense?

    Pulling hose in a parking lot is nonsense, it needs to be pulled through cars around buildings, over things. Sitting in a room sayiny you do this and I'll do that and you do this and then going out and drilling is nonsense. Guys need to learn to act from the jump seat. Officer's need to recieve, mimic and assign tasks from the cab. If you haven't solved water supply today would be a goo day to get it handled. If you worry about day time, weekend, or holiday staffing today would be a good day to do something constructive about that too. How often are your guys in smoke, how often do they get a chance to cut cars apart? Do you send guys to the roof? If so how often do they get a chance to practice cutting roofs? Not talk about it but really do it. Get out of the book and get out with the tools. If you don't know find someone who does. Firefighters hate to be BS'd by officers or the unknowing. How many things on your rig could be preconnected so we on't have to learn how to build it or build it the the day of the call? Jaws, lights, cords, portapowers, long attack lines, air bags, etc. Do you have assignment cards for each seat or do you make assignment up off the seat of the pants? Air planes don't even take off without going through a check list. Do you have a step by step guide for each type of fire? If it is important it is important enoughto write down. "I didn't know I was suppose to bring a tool in." "Everyone knows the backup brings the tools>" "Let me borrow your light" Why didn't you bring one in"? When was the last time you threw salvage covers, did ladder rescue, practiced shuttles, relays, drafting...not stand around and watch one ortwo guys do it but every single person get involved...not sit back and talk about the game or criticize the doers? How often do you give the test before the class? "Hey come over here and start the saw." Do you still offer the highest possible fire insurance rates for your public? What are you doing about it? What kinds of fire ground problems you having? Are you doing anything about it? Did you remember to turn your flood lights last call? Did anyone give a sizeup or just say onscene. Are the guys turning their pass devices on? IS the first in officer arriving gioing in to see whats up and coming out to report to the crews. How does that fit in with 2 in 2 out? Is anyone doing accountabiliy at every fire? When was the last time you asked the guys what they really need? Do you have lists? Are you getting what they need or what you want?

    The week link in most organizations is the sincere guys at the top who are sincerely wrong and standing on everyone elses fingers.

  20. #20
    Scott Clark
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    Default

    Go Engine 4! I read your comments four times and can honestly say I don't think you left anything out. I hope you feel better? To everyone else, this person is right. We have so many issues clouding our vision and at the rate things are going the volunteer fire service will be extincted long before we have created any solutions or solved any problems. Let me see if I can help some of you out. First a quick resume to prove what I'm going to be saying is backed by knowledge and experience. I have 25 years fire/EMS experience, educated at Empire State College and the NYS Fire Academy, a Career Firefighter/Medic/MTO, Past Deputy Chief and Acting Chief and Past Assistant Chief for two seperate Fire Departments, and I do consulting and training for my own business. Ok, some thoughts and ideas. First, conduct an internal review with your department. Survey them about their expectations of your organization. See if they have any solutions to your problems. You won't know if you don't ask. If a member does come up with a possible solution then let them lead the way to the answer. Second, keep an open mind policy. I know what your thinking. "I do have an open mind". But do you really? The sad thing about volunteer fire departments is that it can be a dictatorship if your not careful. So now that you evaluated your department, evaluate yourselves. This is not easy, but it is crucial to your survival. Being honest about yourself and your organization can be a scarey road for some to travel. I'm telling you, take it. For your training dilemma's, you probably have mutual-aid department's in your area, so swap ideas and Instructor's. You defintely need new ideas and you need new Instructors. I teach professionally and the firefighters at my station tell me they really like the training programs I have created. But I know I get tired of listening to me so imagine they do too. So Every forth drill I have a guest speaker come in and from them I get fresh ideas for future programs. The US fire service is a huge operation and has many resources, ie;the NFA, NFPA, IAAI, ISFSI, NVFC and your local fire academy's. These places are just begging to be used, so use them. Training is the best weapon we have, so don't pass it off. I leave you with one final piece of advice, "stop talking and complaining and set some quick goals and get out there and initiate them before it becomes to late to change anything". Don't be afraid to email me for further help or ideas because paid or volunteer we are all in this together.

  21. #21
    fire
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Default

    And when the chief is a dictator what do you suggest?

  22. #22
    Scott Clark
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    To Fire: The first question is, is your chief paid or volunteer? If their paid you need to be careful. Bucking the system can sometimes get you in trouble. (Been there done that!) The next question is, if the chief is paid and everyone else is unhappy are they approachable about problems? If not, I'm sure they have a boss somewhere and there is power in numbers! If the chief is volunteer remember you can effect a change every 365 days. This method should be your last resort. I believe if your a volunteer chief you should be held accountable for your actions while leading your department. We are all held accountable under Gods eyes, why not the fire service? Again there is power in numbers. Challenge them about there techniques and attitude's, but do it with respect. There still your chief. We all need to be set in our tracks once in awhile! The other thing you should consider about a dictator type chief is, is it really them being a dictator or is it you just not liking their method of leadership? How you can determine this is? By conducting your own little survey from off this question. Is this chief "Grandstanding" or are they devloping programs to better enhance your fire department so the public will ultimately benefit from their actions? Remember we are suppose to be "customer service providers and public protection specialist". I hope I answered your question? Good luck!

    [This message has been edited by Scott Clark (edited 02-08-99).]

  23. #23
    Fireman237
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    Default

    I agree with most of everyones comments. We in the fire service need to step out of the dark ages and realize what we need to do to encourage participation, not discourage. We to many times tell people either do it my way or we dont need you here. Well let me tell you i have seen that done and the member says so long *******.. I am in a VOLUNTEER organiztion which means i am VOLUNTEERING my time to this organization. There are times i pass up extra work to make trainings, pass up family time to make meetings and so on. We all know that the dedicated are the ones who normally get blamed for everything. Miss one work detail or training and BAM, the questions start, where were you at? Then the guy that makes one detail and one call all year never has anything said to them. Dont hurt there feelings we NEED them, yea like i need a boil on my ***. We have to learn to live with these people though. We need to learn that everyone puts a certain amount of time in and that time should be appreciated. Instead of belittling someone for missing something ask them if they would like to go over it with you or if they have any questions. We need to be Fathers and Mothers and Priests and Phycologists to most of our members today. If we want to recruit we must realize that we will get a wide variety of people from many backgrounds. We must learn how to teach these people to function as a whole on the fireground and in the Hall itself. Not all people that want to join a firehall know how it works. Get into the community and tell them what you do. Tell them that if you dont like climbing ladders we have people that do that or if you dont want to fight fires help us with the everyday business of the firehouse. Above all we must be people friendly in this day and age.....

    Dennis Hickman
    Fireman
    Port Vue VFD

  24. #24
    Tanker
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    Default

    Danny
    I am sure if you read all of these carefully you will find the answer you are looking for.
    I have been in the fire service lets say a long time. There is an honest opinion in everyone of these statements. We had a dictator type Chief at the department I am presently with. Very nice guy his family started the rural departments in my area. He thought he should have it his way He kept the two sttions he was responceable for to approx 14 members. He controlled the majority vote and he stayed in as chief. But the District Chiefs did not like it and to make a long story short he was ousted. The first thing that happened was all of his people left and walked out except for 3 or 4 of us. Who did this benefit, No one. The tax payers needed their protection. So with this Fire Board still not liking our stations. We few reoganized and with in 10 days we had approx 40 fifrefighters on the rooster. Several of them were ex members that had left under the dictator type Chief. Others that came on board were Paid members from the local city department. This was two years ago that this happened. We presently have 35 strong members, with the majority of them very active in all area, calls,training, meetings, etc. We solved the Dictator type to a professionally run department, with two stations we have one Chief, 2 Asst Chiefs 4 Captains. These members hold officers meetings and their vote on any matter can over ride the Chief. And believe me they voice their oppinions. We know have another Captains slot just created that is the Training officer. This person is qualified to train thru the State, With his expertice and our other experinced members our training program is going real good. We allow a little compatition between our volunteers and members of the local paid department. It is good for morale when the volunteers are called to assist the city and there are move volunteers then paid. This has been an uphill battle. During the dictator (had been with the paid department) Chiefs time the City never called the volunteers because there was NO training, Bad feelings etc.. The volunteer Chief and the City Chief get along well now. We have proven ourselves. We still have to fight the fire board for updated equipment. But we should have them to the 20th century by the time the 21st gets here. One of biggest alia has been the local press. They work with us and it helps keep the taxpayers aware of what their money is doing. Several positive things have come out of this, one is we now have a waiting list for people wanting to join the department. Thanks for your time.


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  25. #25
    BCFD761
    Firehouse.com Guest

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    WELL THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO POSTED, I WILL TAKE IT ALL INTO CONSIDERATION. I DO LIKE THE IDEA OF POSTING MONTHLY SUMMARYS.

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