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  1. #1
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    Post To combo or not to combo

    My volunteer department covers approx. 35 sq. miles of small town/ rural area, averages about 135 fire calls/ 300 medical calls per year. I've got 28 firefighters, all trained and motivated. 12 of which are EMT certified, and run with the Ambulance service in our town (a seperate Department under the City Govt.). Six additional EMT's operate the ambulance service and do not belong to the Fire Department. I believe this is an unusual situation, but the separation came about years ago with the decision of a former Chief that was not as adept at leadership as maybe he should have been.
    The issue is being raised by the EMS director to consolidate the Departments and hire a person to man the station during the day, essentially to get things started on which ever type of call comes in. I agree with the concept, but our run volume may not justify the expense of a full time person, and I contend that if you hire one person, you'll need three to cover time off, rotations, etc. most of our fire calls during the day are automatic aid for three other volunteer departments, should City taxpayer money pay for a full time dept. for other departments? at what point can I justify going for the expense from the City Government. For the past 51 years our Dept. has been volunteer and maintained self sufficiency in funding. We received an ISO class 5 rating a few years back, and my calculations show a strong possibility of a level 3 on our next inspection. Plenty of factors to take into account.
    I guess what I'm looking for is other dept's experience in where the change was made, how the admin was setup, and any regrets or missed steps. Any takers?
    Chief Frank Rizzio
    Pea Ridge Fire Dept.
    Pea Ridge AR. 72751


  2. #2
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    Lightbulb

    c'mon now...I know someone out there has some thoughts on this.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    I know this is cynical, but by chance does the EMS Director figure he'd be the perfect full-timer?

    Combination departments can (and do) work well. One initial thought is simple -- gotta define if your a volunteer department supplemented by full-time personnel; or a career department supplemented by vollies.

    Hiring one person, "To get things started..." sounds like a slippery slope if it's not entered into with very clear goals in mind.

    So we have a full time person. Well, now we need a couple per-diems to make sure we're covered when the full-timer's off. Then comes the first CPR-in-progress call when the full-timer is left sitting waiting 5 minutes for the second EMT to show up. Now we gotta hire a 2nd full-time person to make sure we always have a crew to get the rig on the road ASAP. And now with two positions to cover, the per-diems don't have the time during the day so we need to hire a third person, so we have a covered ambulance and when we do have three in quarters, the third guy grabs the Engine. But you know, one guy on an engine is pretty unsafe, so we need at least four people on duty, and too make sure we alway's have at least four people on duty, we need to hire five...

    Hiring just one person isn't neccessarily bad, nor the start of the slippery slope. Just gotta watch it. If hiring that person allows your volunteers to committ to (and actually attend!) more training instead of basic station/small equipment/apparatus maintenance, that's a good thing. If the paid guy can help provide training for a cadre of (new) daytime members, that's probably a pretty good thing.

    (Editorial note...continued from last night when I had to leave the office!)

    And as always, respect! While the paid guy could help perform a lot of basic maintenance, it shouldn't be his job to cleanup the messes left by the volunteers. Nor should the volunteers be left feeling feeling they're second fiddle to the paid guy.

    I guess really not an answer, but some random thoughts.

    Matt

  4. #4
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    dalmation, I'm thinking along the same lines. The EMS director doesn't want a full time slot, it's the old EMS vs. smokey BS. I think he wants to retire but doesn't want the Fire Department to neccesarily run the show (enough of that crap). One of my concerns is the quality of people that will be drawn with the amount of money the city will have to offer. My thinking would be a supervisory type of position to oversee activities during low call volumes, but then again you'd need one than two , etc.
    One system that was brought up would be three people, one in house, one on-call in town, and one off, type rotation. But then again you're into the funding issue... lots to think about, I'm sure someone out there can state how they did it.
    Thanks, Frank

  5. #5
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    If what you are currently doing is working, why change? If what you are currently doing is not working then change is needed. As far as the expense, what is your community willing to pay for? I think many times we,(fire departments in general) just automatically think the community should be ready to pay for any service we decide we need to provide. If what you are doing is working but you feel a paid person would greatly improve your service, ask the public what they think. Hold a town meeting, or contact the city council. Get input from the citizens you expect to pay for this what they want. They may be perfectly satisfied with the status quo. If they aren't, then they will let you know they are willing to pay for theimproved service.
    Just my opinion!

  6. #6
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    ^

  7. #7
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    ^
    Chief Frank Rizzio
    Pea Ridge Fire Dept.
    Pea Ridge AR. 72751

  8. #8
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    Let's look at it this way:

    What is the volume of calls (fire and EMS combined) during the day?

    What is the average number of volunteer responders?

    Is there a current or anticipated problem with failure-to-respond? (No one shows up)

    If there is sufficient call volume and there is also a response issue (now or anticipated), what funds are available? Will the community support X number of dollars for a guaranteed daytime response?

    In my small New England town we have had one full time FF/EMT position for over 20 years. In good times, he starts the first piece of apparatus (engine or ambulance) and is met at the scene by numerous volunteers. In tough times, he has done CPR and started exterior fire ops while waiting for help. The town loves having someone there. He has a daily maintenance list and does all the light station and equipment maintenance. He does not clean up after anyone - you bring a muddy piece of gear into the station and try and walk away, he'll break your leg!

    After 20 years it now seems likely that we'll have to add a 2nd position in the next 2 or 3 years. We no longer have a single member who actually works in town. Everyone commutes. There are 3 or 4 shift workers who are staving off the inevitable.

    The most important thing to us is remembering that we are one dept (fire and rescue), we work together. The person in the job must be FF qualified and EMS qualified.

    Good luck

  9. #9
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    Just random thoughts too, ChiefÖ

    Iíve been to the Pea Ridge Battlefield, but donít remember the town. Same area? Anyway, by dropping to a Class 3, will the insurance premium drop for area businesses be enough to cover a tax increase to hire a firefighter or two?

    Dal makes a legitimate point about having an understanding of whether itís a paid department supplemented by volunteers or a volunteer department supplemented by paid positions. This is important to stress to both groups. I worked for a combo department that went from zero paid to eight paid. They took the ambulance from the volunteer ambulance department as a justification for hiring paid personnel. Well, since 90% of what the department did was handled by the on-duty crew, interest with the volunteers dropped. The Chief made little (if any) effort to recruit or retain members, so our volunteer numbers dropped. That, in turn, created a manpower shortage on big incidents. Just donít forget your volunteers.

    Are you thinking that other agencies are going to call you more if you have a full-time person on? I donít think thatís going to be much of a factor. Sounds like they already depend on you with automatic aid agreements for three other departments.

    If nothing else, having a person at the station to keep the vehicles checked out and stocked, do basic maintenance, and give you a guaranteed person on a truck is worth it to me. I would hesitate to send a fire truck out with only one person on it, but that is a local decision. The only thing weíll roll with one is a tanker, and we donít do that very often.
    Bryan Beall
    Silver City, Oklahoma USA

  10. #10
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    Dear Sir, The hiring of carrer personel is a natural progression in the life cycle of a department. I would suggest starting out with permanent part-time personel as a next step. I work for a department in Indiana that just 15 years ago was all volunteer. Now they have 75 full-time 10 part-time and 30 volunteers. Fishers Fire 317-595-3200 for questions.

  11. #11
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    The hiring of carrer personel is a natural progression in the life cycle of a department
    Not in all cases. At least, not in the forseeable future. There are many volunteer departments that are doing quite well and have no need nor intention of having paid members. It may be needed for some, but not all.

  12. #12
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    My opinion is if you are going to hire a full time person, that person should be a working chief level officer. I think if you have someone to set direction and coordinate the department the taxpayers get much more bang for their buck. If you hire a private there is only so much they can do and they have no authority to make decisions. I would think just by writing grants and seek alternative funding a carer chief can cover a portion of their salary.
    Mark

  13. #13
    MembersZone Subscriber ramseycl's Avatar
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    This may not help what you are trying to accomplish but here it is.
    We have a combination paid/volunteer department. They have a total of 16 stations with six of them being staffed. Three of the other stations use volunteers to staff them. They have a monthly sign up and every volunteer has to sign up for so many 24hr hour shifts a month. They have never had a problem with having people at the station, people on the department actually look forward to staying the night at the station.

  14. #14
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    Well it seems that you pose an interesting question and one that every department seems to ultimately face. This is also compounded by the shift in call volume from fire to ems. Two departments that I was involved in used paid-call staff. We never saw a problem in response time so there was never a question of needing to hire full time staff. My present department uses a combination of station and call staff. 99% of the time the station staff is on EMS calls leaving the station unmanned (or relying on a call person to cover, and what kind of message does this send to those on call?). Probabily the single biggest problem that I have is the attitude barrier that it creates in a combined department. The station staff thinks they are officer level (many are but some are not), when in fact that is call staff that not only have more training and experience but often respond to more calls per year than station staff (because they are on a 24/72 hr. rotation).

    As has been suggested, work from the bottom up. What is the problem? What solutions might solve this problem? AND what is my first and second choice solutions? Let's not jump to a solution without proper analysis. After all, would you simply dump water on a fire without sizeup or administer oxygen without patient assessment?

  15. #15
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    Stumbled on this old thread... just checking in... we're still at it full volunteer, have some lean times during the day for EMS calls. A few of the area volunteer dept's have begun posting a calendar, a member signs on to cover a start during an eight hour day during the week.
    I'm thinking along the lines of the same, having one in station ($12/hr), one on call in town($4/hr), and volunteers that get our current $5 per call. No more than 3 days a week per person (keeps them as contract labor vs. full time). So far I've gotten agood response from the people I've talked to, we'll have to see how full the calendar gets...
    Chief Frank Rizzio
    Pea Ridge Fire Dept.
    Pea Ridge AR. 72751

  16. #16
    Forum Member Weruj1's Avatar
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    thanks for the update !
    IACOJ both divisions and PROUD OF IT !
    Pardon me sir.. .....but I believe we are all over here !
    ATTENTION ALL SHOPPERS: Will the dead horse please report to the forums.(thanks Motown)
    RAY WAS HERE 08/28/05
    LETHA' FOREVA' ! 010607
    I'm sorry, I haven't been paying much attention for the last 3 hours.....what were we discussing?
    "but I guarentee you I will FF your arse off" from>
    http://www.firehouse.com/forums/show...60#post1137060post 115

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by FSRIZZIO
    I'm thinking along the lines of the same, having one in station ($12/hr), one on call in town($4/hr), and volunteers that get our current $5 per call. No more than 3 days a week per person (keeps them as contract labor vs. full time). So far I've gotten agood response from the people I've talked to, we'll have to see how full the calendar gets...
    That sounds like a great idea. Keep us posted.
    -------------------
    "The most mediocre man or woman can suddenly seem dynamic, forceful, and decisive if he or she is mean enough." from "Crazy Bosses"
    -----------------------------------------------
    Genius has its limits, but stupidity is boundless.

  18. #18
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    I was reading your original post and amused at how similar our situation seems. I'm glad you posted an update. The plan you are using is one of the ones splashing around in my overloaded grey matter. Please continue to post updates for us!

    Oh, by the way, hello to a fellow Arkie! I left Arkansas this summer to accept a chief's job in Kansas. I spent the last five years down the road from you working part time with Eureka Springs F.D.

    Good luck!

  19. #19
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    Well I'm east of you in Stone County and around here they use a private ambulance company for there EMS and were are all vol for fire.
    I like your idea of stationing people in the station with back up close hand.Thats what was done up in Illinois, were I'm from, for years. The growing suburbs of Chicago couldn't justify full time ff. So they had guys rotate and when they were in station, they would get paid. All others were paid on a call out. They kept enough people in station to man the ambulance, so only called out for MVA and fires.

  20. #20
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    OK, so we're moving down the line here... I've budgeted payroll for '07 to include an EMS (EMT or Medic) /FF in station 0700-1600 during the week, and one on immediate call for the same time frames. Good response from our members, volunteers will supplement the calls (They'll also be eligible for paid day duty). My city council and mayor are online to come across with funding from the general fund to handle the pay. We're exploring ways to get the 1100 residences in the unincorporated area of our district to pay up on the voluntary annual dues. This will help tremendously, as we're only getting about 10% from out there. Everybody wants to see it take off, we've got a hot election season here... Oh, the Joys of being Chief... in July I'll have 20 years on the books, and be eligible for a LOPFI pension. Maybe I'll pull the handle then... surely my wife wouldn't mind. I'll check back as it unfolds.
    Chief Frank Rizzio
    Pea Ridge Fire Dept.
    Pea Ridge AR. 72751

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