Thread: Seniority

  1. #1
    Detroit Fire Guest

    Lightbulb Seniority

    I was just wondering if any big city depts. still use the seniority system. If so what do you think about it. We have it here in Detroit for as long as there has been a fire dept here. It has served us great. I know all the pros and cons. just a short response.

  2. #2
    Mary Ellen Guest


    The seniority system is fine for aging cheese or wine. For selecting leaders it's probably the single worse system in the world. It assumes that every single person you ever hired is 100% identical and has interchangable skills.

  3. #3
    Detroit Fire Guest


    What size Dept. are you from? I can see how seniorty might be good for a smaller dept. But i am interested in the point of info from big cith depts.

  4. #4
    FyredUp Guest


    What does the size of the department have to do with this question?

    Seniority in my FD adds points to promotional exams. Why seniority automatically makes the assumption you are better baffles me. If the testing process is position relevant and you pass, seniority shouldn't matter.

    Take care and stay safe,


  5. #5
    Detroit Fire Guest


    My point referring to a big city How do you keep it fair.Here in Detroit it would be next to impossible. A test to see if you should be a boss. The city here is so corrupt how would that be fair.If somebody knows somebody on the board of interviewers (hey give that guy a better score or the written test We just had 12 Police officers accused of cheating on a written promotional exam. They by the way don't use the seniority system.) Who knows how many of them are out there that have cheated in the past. I came from a city that had testing and an interview process for promotions and everybody that took the test had a buddy on the board and the best qualified person stayed the same position as the few passing members went to a higher position. Yes the seniority system does promote bad bosses,it also promotes good ones also and all those bosses have had the past 15 years of experience to fall back on.
    My question still is how would a big city dept keep it fair? Is there a Dept that still uses the Seniority system?

  6. #6
    Ed Shanks Guest


    Interesting question. There are flaws in all the systems out there. A promotional exam based solely upon who scored the best on a written test gives you leaders who may be book-smart but lacking in common sense.

    When you enter humans into the testing process there's always the chance that someone will get an unfair advantage, either because he knows one of the judges or because the chief really wants his "adopted son" to be promoted and mentions this wish to the judges. The human factor also is unfair to overweight candidates, or those who don't speak as eloquently as others, or who in some other way are 'different.'

    A promotion based upon votes or support from fellow firefighters becomes a popularity contest.

    I don't know what the ideal answer is. We always used a written test only. We got some good officers and some bad ones. The last test the chief wanted to railroad a two-part test down our throats, with part written and part 'subjective.' They gave the test, and, to make a long story short, a lawsuit has been filed. We're waiting on the court date - it's some time away.

    But to answer the original post - if you pass the test, you get extra points based on your seniority. That and vacation picks is about all seniority is good for any more!

    We're not big (30 firefighters in 3 stations, covering 3 shifts, protecting 50,000 residents and daytime populations of over 100,000!) and we're just a township, not a city. The fun never stops!!!

    IAFF 1176

  7. #7
    Detroit Fire Guest


    Thanks for the reply Engine 4 I am not kicking the promotional system that everybody uses weather be by testing or whatever. I just get tired of hearing people kick the seniority system over and over again with remarks like fine wine and cheese i am just looking for a little info if you guys don't use our system thats fine. Our city has been trying to get rid of it forever but thanks to Our Union 344 they have been able to stop the administration who have been promoted because of being friends with the right people and now look at the state of our fire dept.

  8. #8
    4iron Guest


    I've always wondered how opinions change with time.Most anti-seniority opinions come from younger/less experienced people.We have just tested for all our ranks:FFRParamedic-EO,EO-LT,LT-Capt.,We have a new younger Chief who flew up the ladder(so to speak).The seniority points have now changed per our new Chief(interesting).Now the higher the testing position,the less the seniority points given.In other words,the Chief&Chief Officers have more power to choose Captains vs.EO's(equipment operators,who also serve as Acting Officers).
    I'm sure we all can look within our Dept.'s and find a person who can 'write a good test',but have poor organizational skills and less than average fire ground skills.Good fire ground officers in my opinion,need years of field experience,NOT JUST be able to study and write a good test with 5 years on the job! What's the answer?If someone comes up with a FAIR answer let us know.Seniority is important and should not be forgotten.After all,if you had 20 years on the job,should a 5 year Tech.College kid get promoted because his study habits are better than your?

  9. #9
    gunnyv Guest


    I work for a career dept in the Detroit area. Seniority promotions seem to have taken hold around here the last few years. My dept has them, and yes there are some people who probably shouldn't have been promoted. However, the testing always seems to be so rigged or subjective in the other depts that test that I'm starting to understand the benefits of seniority. Before we had seniority the guys who got there by testing were even worse! The chiefs' drinking buddies got promoted. Unless you are the size of LA or NY, the personalities are too well known throughout the dept.

  10. #10
    Ed Shanks Guest


    Detroit Fire writes:

    I am not kicking the promotional system that
    everybody uses weather be by testing or whatever. I just get tired of hearing
    people kick the seniority system over and over again with remarks like fine
    wine and cheese i am just looking for a little info

    Don't worry about it, bro - I took no offense. I hope nobody took any at what I wrote. I was just pointing out a few of the flaws in some of the systems.

    I think seniority ought to count for more than it does, because when you have inexperienced people leading, everyone's in trouble. All the book scenarios in the world won't put stress on you like a good worker, especially in the winter, when the hoses freeze to the street and you have to dig at your coat buckles so you can get your coat off and stand it in the corner to melt. (BT,DT!)

    If you ain't been through it, you can't imagine it!

    And that's my two cents' worth!

    IAFF 1176

  11. #11
    Detroit Fire Guest


    Hey there no offense taken I appreciate all the response here any body want to add anything go right ahead. Does anybody but Detroit still use seniority?

  12. #12
    dr inferno Guest


    The time with an organization does not make you a good leader, but time gains experience, and fireground experience is invaluable when the heat is on so to speak.I'm a believer in combining them both. And when the tests are in and the marks are equal the tie breaker should go to the senior man, hell he put in his time so that should count for something!! If a department is progressive in nature they could start the grooming of their future leaders before they are needed in an active role so that the transition is even smoother.

  13. #13
    FireLt1951 Guest


    Seniority is a touchy subject with some.Usually it is someone who feels that because they can pass a test with 3-5 years on is capable of commanding a fireground.I disagree wholeheartedly.I was an instructor for 16 years and taught on the state,county,local and college level.I saw many systems that had poor officers.You will have them in any system.Most were capable of doing the book work but could not place this into action on the fireground.I found that most people with a lot of experience in firefighting made better officers overall.Experience is and always will be the best teacher.I have always started training people for a leadership role right from the start.This is the key to making a good officer.I would rather have a poor officer with a lot of experience than a poor officer with little experience.A study done by L-344 in 1987 showed that Detroit had one of the best records in the country as related to deaths and injuries of firefighters.Any department I have ever studied showed without a doubt that the younger and less experienced officers made poorer decisions,leading to higher injury and death rates among the department.I have seen most systems at work and seniority is by far the preferable method.Just so you know that I'm not talking out my rearend,in most other departments I would be much higher than Lt. but I believe in this system and will stand by it.I have an A.S. in Fire Science,a B.A. in Public Administration with a specialty in Fire,Fire Officer I,II and III.I was also an instructor for 16 years.Seniority is a good system and its benefits are excellent.If I were to ever leave Detroit and decide to command a department somewhere I would push for a seniority system because of its benefits.Here in Detroit your chiefs evaluate you and promotion is not a give me,you can be denied.It has happened and will happen again.But I do believe in the system and will defend it.

  14. #14
    Gill Guest


    I used to work at a department where the seniority system was not used. There were people promoted there that shouldn't have been officers. I now work for a department that uses the seniority system to promote. It too has some officers who shouldn't have been promoted. But like others have said, I'd rather have the more experienced poor leader than the less experienced poor leader. A written exam alone, I feel is a poor assessment of how good an officer one will make.

    I'm assuming Detroit is similar to my department in reference to promotions. The rank isn't just handed to the next man in line. All eligible members must test. And if they fail the test, they don't promote until they past the next test given.

    I like others prefer the seniority system. I have more respect for my officers because I know they put their time in and at one time were where I am now.


  15. #15
    WalkerFWFD Guest


    I have always found it interesting that standards and training for new Firefighters are so high when we first begin our important careers, but as "Officers" the training seems to slow or in most cases end. Instead of tearing down Officers that have already been promoted (under any system, fair or unfair), we should be coming up with ways of learning to excel and mentor each other. Leadership training and coaching skills don't come naturally to everyone, just like running into a burning building- sometimes you need someone to help you along and teach you the way. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies when we continue to work against each other rather than with each other.

  16. #16
    Lt.Todd Guest


    I remember when the senior man ruled the house! However in Atlanta we use the test method for Lt's and Captains. After that its a matter of politics not abilities.

    I believe the seniority system only holds water for certain people. 20 years on the job does not always make a good leader out of you, at times the senior guys are worse on a fire scene then a fresh rookie.I think it should be a combination of seniority,test, and oral exam. This way you ensure that the best people in most cases become the leaders for the future.


  17. #17
    allhands Guest


    Funny that this topic comes up at this time. In my dept (250 people) protecting a mid sized city in the northeast, we have been faced with alot of retirements lately, namely all the deputy chiefs and several senior officers.The reasons don't matter but what the chief was faced with was the Lt. list. Out of the top 10 on the list, only 5 had 10 years or more on the job. The rest had anywhere from 4 to 7. I think that the chief made the right call in skipping the more junior members. We don't have fires like we used to, although we have twice as many runs (EMS). To promote someone who has experienced 7-10 fires in 4 years would do no good to anyone. Test scores evaluate committment to study habits, but can't replace experience. I was promoted off this list and in my 10 years I only caught 60-70 jobs, but i settled down and knew my territory after 5 years and had the chance to fill in as senior man in charge when my lt was on vacation. This was invaluable experience. Seniority should count as much as score in my opinion. I know alot of people on the job with 5 or 6 years in that can recite text books word for word but cant find a street address 2 blocks away without a map book.We cant help if we don't get there.Just my 2 cents worth. Stay safe my Brothers.

  18. #18
    Smoke286 Guest


    We do Detroit, but our Dept only has 200 members and management is trying like hell to get away from it. They recently implemented a 3 year university correspondance course. but once you pass it, you still go on the list by seniority. I'ts better than the alternative

  19. #19
    indyfire106 Guest



  20. #20
    Detroit Fire Guest


    Thanks for all the responses.

  21. #21
    Weavers20018 Guest


    I gotta say that I like the way Indianapolis considers its promotional applicants. Looks like they reward those members who go the extra mile in terms of training and previous experience.

    In our department (650+ ff's and about 150? medics) we utilize written scores almost exclusively at the junior officer levels. Chief officer promotional exams consist of 50% written and 50% assessment center scores. All promotional applicants are awarded seniority points based on time in grade to a maximum of 7 points. I suppose the most anyone can score on a promotional exam here is 107, although I don't think anyone has ever done it.

  22. #22
    Nate Marshall Guest


    Usually its the guys who get passed over for promotions who bitch. The so called Gen x firefighters are better educated, better conditioned and are able to adapt to changes.

    Most senior firefighters timewise just want to sit on the couch and watch springer and oprah. Most of the firefighters who have heart attacks and other ailments are the ones who have done this and are in very poor shape and have done stupid things in thier career that todays better officers and firefighters wont do.

  23. #23
    FP&LS Guy Guest


    Gee Nate, you're just spreading smiles all through the boards, aren't you.

    Most of the senior men I know who are bitching and sitting around are burnt out fighting the same battles all the new guys are gung ho about. The new guys just haven't been around long enough to have their ----s handed to them by the Chief, the City Council, the Union, and/or their brothers/sisters. Everyone wants to be cutting edge when they first get on, but the guy that had to scratch and claw his way through the mire of department politics to get an Associates degree, while working a second job and spending time with his family, will not have much sympathy for a "wet-behind-the-ears" probie who has a BS degree bought and paid for by his mommy and daddy while he was partying in the dorm every weekend.

    Does any individual firefighter feel that he is such a gift to his department that 10, 50, or 100 others couldn't walk in the door and fill his shoes? Are you such a prize that everyone from the Chief on down should line up and kiss your shoes every day when you walk in the door?

    I don't say this to make you shut up and stand in the corner. What works is to learn what can be learned from the people in your fire station. They have created the department culture. If you see the need to change it, and you got a pair big enough to pull it off, put your brilliance to good use instead of whining to the boards. Leading by example without rubbing peoples noses in it, coaching people in new techniques a step at a time, maintain your own level of proficiency and knowledge so that others can see the benefits of your techniques.

    Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day .... and if they had a half decent fire department, it wouldn't have burned down either.

    [This message has been edited by FP&LS Guy (edited 04-27-2001).]

  24. #24
    Nate Marshall Guest


    My intemtions were to educate some people stuck in their ways that there are significant numbers of people who have gotten ahead through education and other ways.

    I also earned my degrees the hard way, off duty and it took 5 years as compared to 2 like its supposed to. What you learn with a degre is taught by those that learned the hardway. Taking classes taught by Denvers chiefs and many senior officers allowed me to gain insight that once I was in the field I would notice the importance of safety and tactics even more. People sometimes think that education is bad, I think it gives those that take it seriously a small advantage.

  25. #25
    FireLt1951 Guest


    Originally posted by Nate Marshall:
    My intemtions were to educate some people stuck in their ways that there are significant numbers of people who have gotten ahead through education and other ways.

    I also earned my degrees the hard way, off duty and it took 5 years as compared to 2 like its supposed to. What you learn with a degre is taught by those that learned the hardway. Taking classes taught by Denvers chiefs and many senior officers allowed me to gain insight that once I was in the field I would notice the importance of safety and tactics even more. People sometimes think that education is bad, I think it gives those that take it seriously a small advantage.
    Nate grow up, I guess I'm one of those individuals your talking about. Personally I think your full of it. Kiss some As# along with your degrees and you'll go far.

    If you think that after 28 years I'm one of those let me clue you in.

    A.S. Fire science, B.A. Public Administration specialty Fire, Fire Service Instructor 16 years, trained in RIT, Haz-Mat & Haz-Mat instruction, Shipboard Firefighting, Fire Officer I,II and III.

    Over 7000 hours fire service on structures, not to include rescue, MVA, Haz-Mat and other operations carried out in this department.

    I'm just an old guy who still believes in the aggressive traditions of the fire service. Save lives and protect and save property. Thats our job now and forever.

    I guess safety and tactics are a new phenomenon in the fire service, I don't
    think so.

    [This message has been edited by FireLt1951 (edited 04-28-2001).]

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts

Log in

Click here to log in or register