1. #1
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    Default Background check on new personnel

    Past experience has taught our department a cruel lesson on how you take on new members on a volunteer fire department. Two seperate firefighters have proven to be clepto-maniacs and habitual liars. However, past recruitment and hiring actions of the chief have not been corrected in our volunteer departments hiring/firing practices - that is about to change now that I am in charge of the verbal interview of the candidates wanting to join our ranks. We do require applicants to fill out a 5 page application and under go a 90 day probationary period.

    Now I have a few questions:
    1. Do you have local law enforcement authorities check for an NCIC criminal history and other databases ?

    2. Do you interview the applicants present and past employeers?

    3. Do you check the applicants driving record?

    4. Do you contact personal references in a cascade methodology ( keep asking for other references as you interview those that were originally submitted by the applicant - this will take you to the real truth about the individual the further away you get from the original list of reference supplied by the applicant ).

    Any other items that you include in you new hiring of individuals that our department should consider?

    thanx

  2. #2
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    Unfortunately we often learn by our mistakes; the shame is when we do nothing to correct the lessons learned.

    We had a similar situation many years ago. When I was appointed Fire Chief, I and the other officers formed an application committee and revamped the system. It took some fine tuning and over time proved to be very affective in recruiting and maintaining good auxiliary members. This is a combination department with 17 full time staff and 30-40 auxiliary members (volunteers). I have since taken another job and no longer with that department but maintain contact with them and the system is still in place and working. The departmetn that I am currently with has a system in place but we are fine tuning it.

    To answer your questions; yes, we conducted an extensive background check. We felt to keep continuity we needed to treat everyone equally, career and auxiliary. Because OSHA standards vary between career and volunteers, we choose to follow the career guidelines for simplicity. It's difficult to operate with two seperate standards.

    So why not carry this over into the recruiting of new members.

    We created five status positions; applicant, candidate, probationary, rookie and member.

    As the applicant, We conducted an extensive background check to include driving and criminal history checks. Talked to references and interviewed the applicant just as we did our career firefighters.

    The individual was then placed in a candidate status and befre they were placed on the roster, attnended meetings or training, he/she had to attend our 80 hr candidate school (some may call it an orientation). This training covered department policy and procedures, basic fire service terminology, apparatus and equipment familiarization, some fire training and etc...

    This accomplished several things; first you get a feel of what the individual is like... attitude, performance, desires etc... We found that this generally showed who really wanted to become a member and who just had red light syndrom. Second, when they were able to begin attending training at the academy they had a basic understanding. They also had a general understanting of what was expected of them as a member of the department. After they completed the candidate school they are placed on probation for 6 months during which time they had training requirements to meet in order to move to Rookie status. During this period the probationary member could be terminated for any number of reasons.

    Upon the successful completion of the probationary status, the individual was placed on Rookie status where they continued training. We required all members to be certified firefighters by the state. The length of time as a rookie was generally based on the individuals progress but generally lasted up to a minimum of two years. As a Rookie the individual could basically function as a full member but could not perform interior operations without an accompanying member. Basically it operated like the "big Brother" type program.

    In order to become a member the rookie would have to be recommended by an officer. The application committee would review the accomplisments of the individual and either approve or denie the request for full membership status.

    This program worked very well in maintaining good and reliable members.

  3. #3
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    Lightbulb YES!

    You really owe it to your community to run these checks. These people will be in people's homes, they will be trusting your department with their lives.

    1&3. We ask law enforcement to do a criminal and driving history on every candidate. We also run every member's record every 3 years after they become a member(This is a new addition to our rules this year on the advice of our insurance company).

    2. No we do not interview employers unless it's another emergency service organization.

    4. No we do not ask references for other references. We do however contact Chief Officers of any other emergency services department they have been with. I think this is the most relevant information you can get. Rarely do people put down references that say anything other than that they walk on water - other department Chiefs may be more honest.

    We have gotten tight about driving records as of late - you can't afford to have someone with multiple accidents or tickets(within the last 3 years, not 10 years ago or something)driving emergency apparatus - it's a liability.

    The guidelines are reasonable - and they don't affect normal people that might get a ticket once in a while or have an accident. They affect the repeat offenders - which is the whole idea.

    We also have a probationary status that lasts anywhere from 6 months to a year depending on the individual and their performance. During that time they can be dismissed for any reason. This gives us the ability to really get to know someone before they become a regular member.

    We've all learned the hard way at some point, these checks and processes give me more peace of mind. If something happens, at least I'll know we did our best to avoid the problem.
    Susan Lounsbury
    Winston-Salem Rescue Squad
    Griffith Volunteer FD

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    This past year New York State passed a law requiring criminal background checks of all applicants to the Volunteer fire service. This is to weed out pyromaniacs and other undesirables and is handled by the Sheriff's Dept. Last year we dismissed four members from our Company due to theft, arson, and assault. These background checks will only reveal a problem if the applicant has a criminal history, though. The other methods you list must also be followed up on as well to be more thourough. This is one of the reasons I am so upset about our Commissioners attempt to sieze our Company voice in it's own membership, as discussed in my post, Company rights.
    God, Guns,& Guts Made America Free!

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    It should definitely be mandatory to run criminal background checks on any new applicant to fire departments.. or any state/county official for that matter... most states even run extensive background checks on garbage collectors nowadays.. well it's understandable because they do have access to people junk, and that junk may contain some very personal information.. anyway, firefighters are no exception, the job is to keep people safe, but first we need to make sure that the people are safe from the individuals assigned to do so..


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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by EOD TECH View Post
    1. Do you have local law enforcement authorities check for an NCIC criminal history and other databases ?
    Yes, been doing this for 10+ years. This includes VCIN (Virginia), NCIC (national), and sexual offender databases for every state that keeps a database.

    2. Do you interview the applicants present and past employeers?
    No.

    3. Do you check the applicants driving record?
    Yes, applicant must turn in a copy of his/her driving record when they turn in thier application. Furthermore, 25% of the membership is randomly selected each year to be checked by the insurance company.

    4. Do you contact personal references in a cascade methodology
    Not unless the references are giving us some sketchy or questionable information.

    Any other items that you include in you new hiring of individuals that our department should consider?
    We have our applicants meet with the Board of Directors before the membership sees them. The BOD will explain the history, purpose, and expectations of the department to the applicant, and in turn answer any questions that the applicant has. The BOD will then recommend (or not) the applicant to the department members. Once voted in, the member in on 6 months probation with the option to extend to 12 months as needed.

    HTH...
    Career Fire Captain
    Volunteer Chief Officer


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    Just a thought, my state allows you to obtain your own criminal background check, and DMV records, for a potential employer for a cost.
    You might check with your state police and see if that is an option, if so require it of all new applicants. Not only do you get your background check, but you also save any potential cost of it. Also you might check with your insurance company and see if they are able to get your DMV checks for you.

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    You should also do a credit check on the applicant as part of the background check.
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
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    It would be interesting to hear the results of the changes EOD planned on implementing 7 years ago when he started this thread. But he hasn't been active since 2007, so we'll have to wait and see if he shows up now that the thread has been reactivated.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by EOD TECH View Post
    Past experience has taught our department a cruel lesson on how you take on new members on a volunteer fire department. Two seperate firefighters have proven to be clepto-maniacs and habitual liars. However, past recruitment and hiring actions of the chief have not been corrected in our volunteer departments hiring/firing practices - that is about to change now that I am in charge of the verbal interview of the candidates wanting to join our ranks. We do require applicants to fill out a 5 page application and under go a 90 day probationary period.

    Now I have a few questions:
    1. Do you have local law enforcement authorities check for an NCIC criminal history and other databases ?

    We submit those checks ourselves thru the State. Checking both local, state and national history

    2. Do you interview the applicants present and past employeers?

    Yes

    3. Do you check the applicants driving record?

    Yes, we require a 10 year history

    4. Do you contact personal references in a cascade methodology ( keep asking for other references as you interview those that were originally submitted by the applicant - this will take you to the real truth about the individual the further away you get from the original list of reference supplied by the applicant ).

    Only if something starts looking fishy, but has paid off in a few cases

    Any other items that you include in you new hiring of individuals that our department should consider?

    Our probationary period is a minimum of 6 months for those with verifiable prior fire department experience, a minimum of 12 months for all others.
    Max probation time is 18 months.

    During this time they are required to obtain all required training and gives us a chance to evaluate them, (Skills, character, etc.)


    We also do a interview with a panel of 5.
    thanx
    See responses above in bold
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    I know we have the county conduct background checks on the volunteers, not sure if they do it for the career staff but I would presume so.

    Wish they would do a check on the driving records because I really question the ability of some to drive an emergency apparatus. It's not a racecar and just because the volunteer organization owns it doesn't mean the career staffing can treat it like a POS.

    I don't think they check employer history. If they did my current employer would probably tell them "you don't have the necessary security clearance."

    I would recommend the background and driving check simply because of the potential liability. Employer history that might depend on whether or not the potential canidate was in the fire service somewhere else.

    There is no verbal interview for the volunteers you basically fill out the application, if it clears the background check and you pass the physical they usually vote you in. But it is a good idea to have a verbal interview sometimes you learn more about a person that way then what is on paper.

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