1. #1
    Mike Praetz
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Question German FF call for help, for a better understanding

    Hello my name is Mike Praetz,
    Im deputy Chief of the volunteer Fire Department City of Niebull, Germany. In our small Department in an rural area we are 60 FF. We have 3 vehicle which you would call engines (I think) a ladder truck (100 feet), and a vehicle for technical rescue (a rescue truck?).
    Im a new member in the Firehouse community and I like it. I have read the topics with great interest and have already learned many things. I also read IFSTA "Essentials of fire fighting" and Normans "Officers Handbook of tactics", nice books with many interesting points, I think. But some topics are difficult to understand for me with the view of a German FF because it looks to me that there are many differences between the training and organization of US and German Fire Departments. I read some thing about FF I and FF II course and I read about officers with different ranks but I not understand it really. So I call for help for a better understanding. Please give me some information to the work and organization of US Fire Dept. and to the following points:

    - How can somebody become a member of a volunteer Department in US?
    - What happens after that. What training does the new member become or need before he can go to the scene. How many hours are the course and where they are (Department or Academy)?
    - When I read the topics it sound to me that everybody in the Department has fixed position (FF only work on a truck or an engine for some years)? And the truckie have to do rescue and ventilation work and only the FF on the engine went for fire fighting in the building?
    - Do US FF on engine or trucks do no technical rescue, e.g. extrication in vehicle accident or some thing like this? Is this only the job for a Rescue-company?
    - Is every FF also a certified EMT?
    - Please tell me some thing about the rank of the officers. You have captains, lieutenants, chiefs and so on. Which are their task on the scene. Who tell in which order what to do?
    -Are there great differences in Organization between career and volunteer Departments?
    -What think the career about the vollies? Have you equal rights and reputation?

    I know, many questions, but I hope your answers will help me to better understand your work and your tactics.

    Thanks Mike.

  2. #2
    Firehouse.com Guest


    You ask some good questions, but there are not any easy answers. Every fire department, volunteer or paid, will answer your questions differently, so any answers you get will be for them only. I have volunteered for a fire department in Texas, and am now in Montana working with US Forest Service wildland firefighters and Volunteering with Frenchtown RFD.
    1) For the most part, with a general shortage of volunteers in the US (at least that is what I hear and experience), you simply apply to the local FD, some will test you, some will not.
    2) Most of the departments I know about will require a minimum amount of training before you are allowed to act in the capacity of a firefighter, but we allow new people to respond once they have a familiarization course for new members, One of the best teachers is experience.
    3) Rural volunteers do not seem to have fixed positions on a particular truck, you perform whatever task is assigned by command on your arrival, according to your experience and training level.
    4) Depends on your area, here we do it all.
    5) Not all FF are EMTs, we try to get as many as want to be certified.
    6) Again, rank depends on Department, in our District, Capt and Lt are station responsibilities, Chief and Battalion Chiefs are our primary on-scene command people, but the first person that arrives on an uncontrolled scene can call command; as more arrive the Chiefs have the option of assuming command, or allowing this person to continue.
    7) In most cases I would say there are usually great differences about everything between volunteer and paid departments, but they would be hard to describe in a short message. Usually we assume paid people to be better trained, but I know for a fact that some volunteer departments have better training than some paid departments.
    8) The paid people in my department (only 6) are the greatest, and make great efforts to let the volunteers know that their primary job is to make sure the volunteers can do theirs, but I think this is rare as I am aware of many combination departments that are exactly the opposite.

  3. #3
    Bob Snyder
    Firehouse.com Guest


    ddavis is correct...you will get very different answers from many different people on these questions. I can only offer information on the way things work in my Fire Company (and the answers are very similar for other companies nearby):

    1) Anyone, age 21 or older, can apply for membership. Generally, they will be subjected to a general check of references and must be voted into membership at a regular business meeting of the fire company. If "elected", they become members with "senior" status. People ages 14 to 20, they can apply for "junior" status, which must be approved by the chief officers only. Junior members are restricted in what they may do on and off the fireground, depending on age. No junior member may vote on company business, hold office, or be appointed driver/operator. Junior members aged 18 to 20 can do almost anything else, while those that are younger are progressively more restricted.

    2) All members 18 years of age and older are expected to complete the Essentials (Mod I) course, which is an 88-hour combined classroom and hands-on course offered through the county community college (it is based on the IFSTA Essentials book). Also, everyone is expected to participate in in-house training, which can range from simple rope & knots to live burn drills and incident simulations involving multiple fire companies.

    3) Ideally, units are specialized and their personnel perform their pre-designated functions. In practice, staffing can be somewhat random at times, so crews need to be prepared to do whatever job they are asked to do by the officer in charge.

    4) It depends on how the units are setup. in general, all companies in my area can perform "engine company operations", but we tend to each have our specialties beyond that. My company "specializes" in aerial operations, and we have mutual aid agreements with companies that "specialize" in rescue, tanker operations, brush/wildfire operations, etc. We cross-train with each other in many cases, so that if, for example, we are short on manpower, we can pull people from our mutual aid rescue or tanker companies to help with the truck work.

    5) No. In my area, fire and EMS are completely separate.

    6) Ranks, from top to bottom, are: Chief, Deputy Chief, Assistant Chief, Captain, Lieutenant. Some companies have ranks below Lieutenant, such as Seargent or Chief Engineer, but we do not. Exact command structure depends upon the territory and which company has primary jurisdiction in that territory. In general, the highest ranking officer of the company in its home territory assumes incident command. That officer then assigns other officers, either from his/her company or from mutual aid companies, to specific task commands (such as interior, roof, water supply, safety, etc.), based on skill and availability.

    7) and 8) Please, please, please don't open up the career/volunteer issue. If you've been reading these forums for very long, you would know that this issue gets very heated, very personal, and very ugly, and has gotten people kicked out of the forums forever by the Webteam on more than one occasion. Suffice it to say that these are two very different worlds, which get along very well in some places and very badly in others, and just leave it at that.

  4. #4
    Fireman Ry
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Hello Mike and welcome. Maybe I can give you some insight of things in the US.

    In my department, anyone can walk in and fill out an application to join the deapertment. Their name is read off at the first meeting after the application is handed in. The membership committee will the interview the applicant. The committee's recommendation is given at the second meeting where the applicant is either accepted or denied. If the applicant is accepted, he/she will be placed on a 6-month probationary period. While he/she is on probation, they will only be allowed to help the driver establish a water supply and get things off of the trucks for the senior guys. During the probationary period, the new member will take Firefighter I, which is about 104 hours long. After he/she has completed Firefighter I, he/she will be tested by the Captain on the use of our SCBA. If the Captain is satisfied, he/she will be "pack qualified" which means they can do interior work.

    My department goes by what we call riding assignments. The primary responsibility for the Engine crew would be force entry, fire suppression and maybe search and rescue. The Ladder crew's reponsibility is forced entry, ventilation, search and rescue, securing utilities, salvage and overhaul, etc.

    My department has a heavy rescue truck which would handle vehicle extrications, confined spaces, trench rescues, industrial rescues, etc. Our ladder truck would also be due on industrial rescus and structural collapses.

    Not all of our members are certified EMTs. EMT certification is up to the member if he/she wants to obtain that.

    My department goes by a chain of command. The Chief is in charge of the department and is in charge of giving out assignments on the fireground. Then we have a Deputy Chief, he/she will assist the Chief. We then have 2 Battalion Chiefs, one for each substation. They will assist the Chief and/or Deputy Chief. Then we have three Captains, one for each station. They are responsible for the operations of the stations. Below the Captians, we have Lieutants. Each one of them are responsible for the upkeep of their assigned apparatus. Each officer will assist the higher ups.

    For the most part, career and volunteers are the same.

    I hope this helps you.

    Ryan B.
    Stay Safe
    Warminster Fire Department
    Station 90
    Bucks County

  5. #5
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Hello Mike,

    now just to confuse you completely, I will give you the South Australian principle on our volunteer fire service, the Country Fire Service. In case you want to reply to me, you can do so in German, I am originally Austrian. auegc001@students.unisa.edu.au

    1) You become a Firefighter by just simply turning up on training night at any station. You have to be between 11 and 16 to be a cadet (not alowed to fight fires) and above 18 to be a firefighter.
    2) First the new recruit had to pass a 20 hour LEVEL 1 training course. Then he/she is allowed to go out to fight fires. This course is done on Brigade level. Level 2 is done on a group level (A group consists of ~5 brigades). Level 3 is done at a training academy.
    Apart from that we offer courses in Chainsaw, Compressed Air Breathing Apparatus (CABA), HAZMAT, First Aid, Officer A +B, Road Crash Rescue, Incident Controll System, and all forms of instructor courses.
    3)All FF can do all jobs. There are no fixed positions. But only CABA operator can use their equipment, only HAZMAT crews are allowed to perform HAZMAT duties etc. Drivers are FF too, but they normally operate the pumps.
    4) The Country fire Service performs all jobs from fighting fires to vehicle extraction etc. The only difference is that normally, in a group, every brigade does one specific job. (ie. our brigade is a HAZMAT and Firefighting brigade, another is Vehicle rescue and Firefighting, another is vertical rescue and firefighting etc.). We all perform duties such as search and rescue too.
    5)All FF only hold a senior first aid permit. No EMS. This would be a job for the paramedics from the state ambulance service.
    6)Ranks in our brigade: Captain, 4 Lieutenants, 4 Senior Firefighters, ~30 Firefighters.
    7) There is a big division between carrer and voluntary. They are seperate agencies and don't have anything to do with each other. One is called the South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service (SA MFS) and we are the South Australian Country Fire Service (SA CFS).
    Captain: Oversees the whole situation and gives orders to Lietenants. 1 Lieutenant in charge of each truck. Senior Firefighters work with Firefighters to ensure evrything goes smoothly.
    8)Over here there is a bit of dispute between the MFS and the CFS...some like us some don't. We do almost the same training and they sometimes use our training facilities. They get paid, we don't. In Australia, the South Australian Cuontry Fire Service is held in very high regards. We have founght fires in other states and in Indonesia. We are known to have a lower budget than other states, but we do our work to 101% precision. The people in South Australia hold the volunteers in high regard too and it is always a welcome sight to see us at Public Relations events.

    If you or anyone else has any questions, email me.



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