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Thread: Seniority

  1. #1
    Detroit Fire
    Firehouse.com 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
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    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
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    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
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    Post

    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,

    FyredUp

  5. #5
    Detroit Fire
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    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
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    Post

    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!!!



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    E-4-A
    IAFF 1176

  7. #7
    Detroit Fire
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    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
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Cool

    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
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    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
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    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!



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    E-4-A
    IAFF 1176

  11. #11
    Detroit Fire
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Talking

    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
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    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
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    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
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    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.

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    I LOVE THIS JOB!

  15. #15
    WalkerFWFD
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    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
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    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.

    SERVE WITH PRIDE!!!!!!

  17. #17
    allhands
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    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
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    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
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Lightbulb

    I BELIEVE THE MOST FAIR APPROACH IS TO INCLUDE THE ENTIRE GAMUT OF COMPONENTS TO MEASURE ONE'S ABILITY TO LEAD. OUR DEPT. PROMOTES INDIVIDUALS BASED ON NINE (9) COMPONENTS. THEY ARE:
    1. WRITTEN EXAM
    2. ORAL INTERVIEW
    3. ASSESSMENT CENTER
    4. DISCIPLINE
    5. COLLEGE CREDIT
    6. CERTIFICATIONS
    7. ATTENDANCE
    8. MILITARY
    9. SENIORITY
    THESE COMPONENTS WERE VOTED ON BY SWORN MEMBERSHIP & CERTIFIED BY THE CIVILIAN FIRE MERIT BOARD. EACH COMPONENT WAS THEN WEIGHED BY MEMBERSHIP COMMENSURATE WITH EACH RANK.

  20. #20
    Detroit Fire
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Cool

    Thanks for all the responses.

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