Just wanted to get some other thoughts and ideas. I was wondering......how do other departments get their members motivated to be involved and want to do things such as get regular training, clean the trucks and station, check the equipment regularly,just do their jobs and reponsibilities, etc? That seems to be one of the major hurdles our dept. cannot overcome right now. Give me some ideas. Thanks.
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11-30-1999, 12:22 AM #1RVFDCaptFirehouse.com Guest
11-30-1999, 09:33 AM #2ChapCaptFirehouse.com Guest
Godd question, we have beent trying to figure it out also. I will try to give you a couple of ideas that helped us.
Get the new guys involved. Have them shadow an officer or senior member of the dept. on alarms, even the boring ones, show them what to look for, what could go wrong and so on.
Drills - We try to keep them relatively brief (about an hour) and hands on. We practice some mundane stuff, but i the guys (also read gals here, don't want to offend anyone and yes we have a handful of very capable and active women)get to start the saws, blow the fake smoke out of the building, raise the ladder and climb to the roof with hand tools they feel involved and practice things they most likely have not done in ages. Also, use recent calls as examples in your discussions, ask for input from those that where there. You will find people love to talk about what they did or what mistake someone else made.
Clean-ups, work details and the like:
We rotate crews every couple of months from piece of apparatus to another. A truck foreman is assigned to each piece to make sure everything gets done. The foreman assigns tasks such as cleaning tools, checking the air packs, straightening out the compartments etc... We rotate the crews so each member becomes familiar with all the equipment on every truck. This has actually helped increase attendance on clean up nights. We also encourage 5 minute drills. Demonstrate a piece of equipment that someone may not be famailiar with or has not used in a long time.
We take membership fairly seriously, people are made aware of what the requirements are when they join. If members fall behind in attendance to alarms, cleanups, drills and such they are put on probation for six months. If they fail to meet requirments the following six months they are asked to resign and come see us again when they have the time. We have found that letting members slide on requirements encourages other members to slack off. We may end up with a few less members, but the ones we have pull their weight for the most part.
Sorry about the long post, hope I helped.
11-30-1999, 01:47 PM #3BlazeDogFirehouse.com Guest
Yes....Good question. We had the same problem also motivating volunteers to do all the functions to properly run a fire department. Training, and responding to calls can be demanding enough on a busy lifestyle today, then throw in station maintenance and equipment checks and all the other duties and functions it takes to run a department, it takes alot of your free time.
I know it sounds greedy, but the only way we got our people really motivated to come and do all the other duties it takes to run a department other than training and emergency calls was start a renumeration for the work they do. Our trustees agreed the time has come to give our volunteers a little renumeration for all there efforts, its not an hourly pay but a small renumeration of $6.50 for every Drill, run, station cleaning duty or equipment maintenance you do. We all get payed in the first week in December for the whole years worth of functions. It sure makes a nice bonus at X-mas time. We have 30 active members and it only cost our township $62,500 in total FD payroll, thats really nothing to pay 30 members to do everything to run our dept., thats the cost of paying two of our police officers 1 yrs. salary to just patrol the streets and not including maintenance. I now it may sound sad that it took some money to motivate our people, but with the way things are so busy today with work and family it made things a little more easy. Dont get me wrong we have a really dedicated department that loves to make the calls, this was something our trustees thought it would work and it helped get things more done, and of course if there going to give us the money who would,nt not take it.
Be Safe !!!
12-23-1999, 08:49 PM #4Mal MillerFirehouse.com Guest
I spent many years with various military volunteer reserve units and with various non profit volunteer organizations. Almost always, a lack of motivation centered around one of two problems. The first was a lack of relevency and the second was a leadership problem. The mission has to be relevant to the life of the volunteer. They must believe in it and must enjoy the work. Keeping training relevant, hands on, and interesting helps. Assigning responsibility and using teams for mundane jobs also helps. Low level leadership becomes critical as the social bond amoung a crew or station group plays a great part in motivation. If you want to discuss this one to one, email me. I am not an expert but have been through this many times. Motivating the 25 to 35 yr old volunteer of today is very different from 20 years ago and many organizations who are not doing it well are dying off or turning grey.
12-24-1999, 01:49 AM #5ProfiremanFirehouse.com Guest
If you ask around you'll find that not only fire departments...but most civic organizations are having similar problems....Jaycees® Exchange Club© etc.... It seems that it's a sign of the times that organizations are on ther verge of folding across the country due to the fact it's no longer passe' to help out, without some sort of reward.. although we all know that firefighting is very rewarding, most vollie dept's in our area have gone to some sort of P.O.C. in order to attract new members.
12-24-1999, 06:30 PM #6SkidzFirehouse.com Guest
Well i will tell you the way my firehouse does it and then you take from it what you want. On a monthly basis we meet at least 7 times. We have 4 training sessions, 2 crew days (Check out days), and a monithly business meeting. So it would end up being around 27 hours a month outside of calls. Our people are told about these commmitments prior to being brought into our house. We preach alot on the dedication of the fire service and how much it means to be committed to what we do. We dont cut corners when we let them know what they have to do. We dont let them cut corners we are not afraid to show them to the door. Just be to the piont with them and let them know things like this. You only want to run calls! Well when was your air pack last checked? Do you trust that the last person did a good check? Can you check it before you get to the house thats on fire? What if you have no air? Did you check the truck? Is there enough air in the air tannk to release the air brakes? Does it go in to pump gear without any problems? Does it pump? Does the chain saw have bar and chain oil? Just remind them that each and every time you or the guy next to you steps on the rig that you could be putting your life at risk. Do they want to deal with the loss of a friend due to lack of responsibility.
just a few rambling
PROUD, PROFESSIONAL, PROGRESSIVE
12-25-1999, 12:51 AM #7SNOWMANFirehouse.com Guest
36" cattle prod with 4 D-cell batteries??
12-25-1999, 12:56 AM #8SkidzFirehouse.com Guest
01-02-2000, 11:54 AM #9M1NFDFirehouse.com Guest
Motivation in a volunteer department is becoming a large issue nationwide. I just recently left a department after 11 years that has gone from 28 active firefighters to 15 in the advent of the last 2 years. There are many reasnons that can be attributed to that. The first being the general demographic of the town. It was a small town approxamately 30 miles North of Boston. What we found was that the town that used to be composed primarily of farmers, carpenters and "townfolk" who were either self employed or grew up in "the country". What the department has found out is that the town is now primarily a bedroom community, with the majority of the people being escapees of the big cities surrounding Boston. These people move to town, and pay taxes, and expect services to be PROVIDED to them. When this department went for it's first paid firefighter, the majority of the responses I saw that that the townsfolk had no Idea we were Volunteer. We found that this poor marketing of our department caused a lot of ill will for the men and women of the department who suddenly felt that they were/had been taken for granted by the residents. I am now serving in the next town over, where the residents are all aware that we are a volunteer company, and that small bit of negitivity doesnt exist here.
The leadership of the department has to be in touch with the issues of the crew as well. In my previous department, we were police dispatched. When 8-10 firefighters hears the PD go out for a smoke investigation without sending the FD, the chief officers have the responsability to thier firefighters to see that issues like that are resolved. People are not going to train for hours and hours to hear the police department do thier jobs. I know first hand that the failure of a chief to stand behind his men, and choose to not rock the boat for not having the backbone; for fear of his own job is another grat way to thiin the ranks on drill night.
Then there is the basic drill night. What I have discovered works best, is if drill night is Thursday, monday the officers meet and acess the needs of the department, accounting for the department's long term training plan and set up the drill. This gives the officers three days to acquire any necissary props for the drill. Drill should be hands on, where there isnt a lot of standing around. One of the best drills I have seen are ones that can be competitive, like divinding the department into engine companies, and timing how long it takes an engine company to dress a hydrant, lay out 300 feet of hose, charge the line, stretch a handline and flow water. A simple drill like this gets everybody competing for better times, and stresses skills like laying lines, dressing hydrants, pulling handlines, and gets the pump operator to flow water from his booster tank, and take in a supply line. How often do you lay lines? Not too often here, in fact the majority of my old pump operators have only laid a line during this drill!
The other good drills are scenarios. Have the truck park up the road, and dispatch them to the fire station(a fireground frequency works well here)for an "incident" that was predetermined by the offivers. The dispatcher should be given a cue card with information on what they will need to know. Get a smoke mnachine, use a flashlight to simulate the fire. Make the crews strech a line into the building. This is a good time to let a senior firefighter be IC, or acting LT. Let someone that doesnt normally drive , drive. Experiment. DO a hazmat scenario drill using a pumper(they make the perfect leaking tanker)make up your own placards.
Just remember 2 things;
Drills are for skill reinforcement, training is for teaching someone how to do something. Never hold training without incorporating a drill, and make it FUN. DOnt just throw ladders, make them climb them, search a room and carry out a dummy(victim). Have people do scenarios for defib bi-annualls, rather than just stand there and tell you the protocol for using them.
If people enjoy what they are doing, and feel that they are contributing during drill night, then they wont mind doing the mundane on an off night or week, as it will build a bond between them
A department that plays well together, works well together
01-04-2000, 10:49 PM #10hellcat609Firehouse.com Guest
I agree with you 100% M1. I am a Vol on 2 departments with one, the largest, having great training and a good team atmosphere. The other, I have been debating on what to do. Its a small department that like yours, has dropped in members due to growth of surrounding cities. We have went from 19 down to 11 firefighters. There is no regular training and the chief tends to push more EMS training than fire. Im not sure if there are 4 people on the department really qualified to go into a burning building. Yet I feel compelled to stay on and try to help out. I dont have the time to give training myself but would gladly help when time permits. To me this has gotten to a dangerous situation yet no one seems concerned since we only have 2 to 4 real structure fires a year.
I believe that to be successful as a volunteer department you have to have Regular training sessions set and make it mandatory that members attend a certain percentage. There are some new people out there that would love all the training we can give them and the chiefs should see to it that the training is done. The more your crews are together the better the department will be.
By the way, my other department conducts weekly training on a regular basis plus some weekday training for the people that work nights.
01-05-2000, 12:46 AM #11pvfr fyrfyterFirehouse.com Guest
how to motivate and retain? there is no simple answer but what i have found to work best is to have positive reinforcement whenever you have the opportunity. also giving small areas of responsibility to all personell will help keep everyone involved with the operation of a volunteer department. remember that we have to be a little crazy to be willing to get up at O-GOD-30 when the alarm sounds while everybody else is mad because the siren sounded. don't push responsibility but ask what people are interested in getting out of being on the dept. some of the answers may suprise you.
02-02-2000, 06:59 PM #12knewburnFirehouse.com Guest
I am associated with our local VFD(Lt./Training Officer)as well as the Cubmaster with our local cub scout group.In order to keep interest up in both volunteer groups you have to keep people interested and involved.They need to know that what they are doing is something worthwhile and that it is greatly appreciated.
02-02-2000, 09:04 PM #13RVFD15Firehouse.com Guest
The RVFD in your name caught my eye and started me reading the letters. I am on a department that has 25 regulars, 5 trainees, and 5 reserves and a waiting list that takes about 5 years to circulate through. We average 10 - 20 personnel for fires and 5 for medicals. The only reason that we can come up with for our great record of member involvement and retention is that we always try to keep everything fun and interesting. Also we try to give our members as many thank-you's and congratulations as we can. As officers we dont leave our members out of a lot of the decision making processes for running our organization as we can. I feel that it helps them feel involved. These are just a few ideas I will look in soon to see what other ideas are posted.
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