Recently, our chief began accepting requests from citizens for a fire engine to visit children's birthday parties. The rank and file have mixed emotions on the matter. Certainly, no one is opposed to talking with these kids about fire safety. However, some members feel "pimped out" when they take the engine to someone's house for a birthday party. One guy says that he feels more like the birthday clown than a civil servant.
I did a quick search online and found departments doing an assortment of things for birthdays. Some take rigs to the parties. Some departments host parties at the station. Others encourage station tours be a part of a party, but that the cake & ice cream be consumed at home. The Fairfield, Ohio FD is willing to bring a pumper to your party and give the birthday child a ride.
What are your feelings on the matter? What is the policy in your department? Is there a line between public education and birthday party entertainment? When do you cross it?
View Poll Results: How do you handle birthday parties?
- 20. You may not vote on this poll
Offer station tour only.
Host birthday party at station.
Take in-service rig & crew to party.
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Thread: Birthday Parties
11-23-2003, 12:48 PM #1
11-23-2003, 01:24 PM #2
This is a very touchy subject with me....
During the summer, a Cub Scout den had requested a station tour on a Sunday afternoon. My group was working, and I said that it would not be a problem... When I asked how many Cub Scouts would be coming, the answer was 6 and a few "adult leaders"...
What the person on the other end of the phone call did not tell me that it was a birthday party for one of the Cubs, and they also invited other friends and relatives along with the members of the den.
When they arrived, they had cake, ice cream and presents for the "birthday boy". I was expecting 6 "cubbies" and a few adult leaders, not 20+ people.
The mother of the birthday boy approached me to use the classroom for cake and ice cream, and that she "promised" the kids that we would give them a ride in the fire truck. I told her that we would give them a tour of the station, but they could not hold their party at the firehouse, nor would we give them rides, citing liability issues.
They were not happy.... but if you let one person do it, then they all want to do it."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."
Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY
11-23-2003, 02:53 PM #3
I don't like the idea of it too much myself. The fire service is not a "novelty item"... we are not "party favors".
I think that on a "random" basis it is fine that some birthday kid may stop in for a visit.. no problem. But to have people schedule us to go to parties... or host parties... no way.
Heck, I like NASCAR... do you think Rusty Wallace will come to my little girls party? NOT!
Gonzo, I think you did the right thing 100%. It does not take long for the word to spread and you probably would have been overun by birthday kids and parents all expecting a ride. How about the nerve of that woman to "promise" her kids a ride... and then she was upset that it didn't happen! Don't make promises you can't keep lady! That just erks the crap out of me....http://www.sanantoniofire.org
We lucky few, ... we band of brothers
11-23-2003, 04:29 PM #4
We host b-day parties at the station. we give them a tour and show them the trucks. The party is never inside the station house, it is always outside. It's good PR and is also educational for the kids and adults. They see what FF look like when our gear is on, and we give them some safety and fire prevention tips (they get a little coloring book that has fire safety info and fun games in it). Gonzo is right though, rides are not allowed ever, but I can't recall a time when any kid or adult asked or even thought we'd take them for a ride. They have asked to slide the pole of course, but that is also a definite NO. We make sure that there aren't more than a certain number (forgot the exact #) of kids and adults. They also must say how long they're going to be at the station. We havn't ever had any problems. We don't get very many b'day party requests though.
11-23-2003, 05:29 PM #5
I totally agree with Gonzo. Who the heck did she think she was by making promises like that. People like that make me mad.
Anyway, we had the same exact thing happen here. I received a call from a father who wanted a tour of the station for his son and son's b-day party. He said a total of about 5 kids and 4-5 parents, group of 10, maybe 11. We set a date and time. They showed up 2 hours early,(I was at the station doing paperwork) with a group of about 20-25!!
They had trays of food, presents and baloons and crap with them too. I said they can leave all that stuff in the car because there was no place to have a party here. The father was really upset. I said I was not prepared for such a big group but would do the tour anyway but having the party at the station would be out of the question. He reluctatly agreed and we began the tour.
When we were almost done, the father put his 7 year old kid in the officer's seat of an engine and took pictures and stuff. He then said ok, we're ready. I looked and he and his kid were in the officer's seat, the crew area was full of kids, some with seatbelts on and some without. I asked what they were ready for, and he said for the ride. At no time did we ever mention a ride! Now he assumes I will take him for a ride!! UGH!! I then took him aside and explained to him our conversation did not include a fire truck ride. I further explained the policy on non-employees riding in trucks. He got all upset and made a big deal. He grabbed his kid and the rest of the party and left. He made such a scene that his wife appologized for him. I find out a few days later how he called the Chief to tell him what a ***** I was and what a horse$hit department we run. The Chief talked to him and after an hour and a half, the guy was calm and appologized for his behavior.
My feeling is, yes we will do a station tour only! We need the exact number of people in the tour and will only take a max of 25 people at a time. There will be no place for a party or no rides as well.
Keep your head down and your powder dry.
Altoona Fire Rescue
11-23-2003, 06:23 PM #6
some people, huh?
I have to agree some of the folks you guys have had to deal with have been, well, I'll be kind and call them inconsiderate. The FD I belong to regularly lets outside groups use the upstairs rooms in the station for meetings, classes, etc. We have actually had a couple birthday parties in the station, but they were members kids. Fortunately we have a building behind the fire station we rent out for pretty much anything people want to use it for and I know there have been several kids parties there. And I'm sure as with everyone else, we never deny anyone a tour of the station. As far as rides on the trucks go, not a chance. We always tell them about the "NO NON-FD PERSONNEL RIDE THE TRUCKS" rule. It's a department SOP. Occassionally we run in to people with entitlement issues that ask about kids in the trucks at parades. We explain that that truck is out of service so the kids can ride, if it's in the station, it's in service so no go. I actually talked to one gentleman who was so insistant on getting his kid a ride in a fire truck that he asked if we could take a truck out of service so the kid could get a ride. My reply was "Sir, how would you like it if YOU had to wait longer than necessary for help because we had a truck out of service for a birthday party?" He got awful quiet and dropped the whole ride thing. I don't know that we've ever had anyone from the general public ask to use the station for a kids party, but I doubt it'd be a problem.Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult.
Anything found in my posts is soley my opinion and not representative of any other individual or entity.
You know that thing inside your helmet? Use it wisely and you'll be just fine.
11-24-2003, 02:09 AM #7
As long as the party falls within our primary response area we will take an appliance to them. Usually the tanker as there is less chance it will be called away than the pumper. We'll take it down there, meet up with the parents at the end of the street, grab the cake, turn the lights and bells on and deliver it to the birthday boy/girl. Then we give everyone a quick crawl over the appliance, show 'em through all the lockers, give 'em the "What's the emergency number to call?" routine and ping back off down the street. Usually all done within 30 minutes.
I usually don't have any problems doing it, I don't feel "used" too much. Anyway, we usually get a 50 or 100 dollar donation out of it. Not bad for half an hours work.
As for riding the truck, you just have to make sure that people understand the rules.... so they don't promise kids things that can't happen. Put up a list or something in the watchroom for people taking calls to read out to members of the public when organising visits or parties. Even if they don't ask about it, most people will expect it. It's better to say "Oh an by the way, it'll just be a station visit next week, we can't let kids ride the trucks because of blah blah blah" on the phone then to have to rip a screaming kid out of a firetruck he wants to go for a ride in....
It's also a good idea to inform people that the truck will be in-service the entire time and that it can be called away at any moment. It may seem obvious, but it's amazing how many people don't realise this fact. And if they're comming to your station, advise them before hand that if the bells start ringing the tour/party is over and they're going home. Most of the time we don't have enough people to leave one behind to "Babysit".
11-24-2003, 02:39 AM #8
We rent out our Firehouse as a fundraiser..We make some nice $$ off of it but its only open to Firefighters & Family members do to the size and capacity of the room. We've had a few kids parties there we usually just let them crawl around on the truck for a little bit give them a tour of the truck explain what the equipment is for etc..etc.. but as for giving rides definatley is a NO!.. Long time ago we used to give rides in the bucket on our snorkel during fire prevention tours but that stopped due to insurance and liability...Cant do those things anymore especially with the people who are sue happy...Andrew
11-24-2003, 10:10 AM #9
- Join Date
- May 1999
- Engine 74
We do not do birthday parties. The administration's idea is that we are not a sideshow. Curiously, however, we do go to block parties and spend about 15 minutes showing the kiddies the truck. We are, however, in service, and have had to leave to take a call.
I guess there are more voters at block parties than birthday parties.
As for doing parties in the stations - we don't have the facilities. We show anyone who stops in around the place, but in the small outlying station I work at that takes about 5 minutes.E-4-A
11-24-2003, 12:09 PM #10
- Join Date
- Dec 2002
- So Berwick, Me
We seem to be recieving these calls more and more often these days. We've tried having them at the station, but the pitfalls of that have already been discussed here. Generally when we get a request, we offer to bring a truck to them, then you can have full control over 1 truck, not a station, apparatus and equipment. We have absolutly no problem in filling these requests. Our members are more than willing to come out for them. We DO however make sure to cover all the bases with the adults when they call... no suprises, and everyone stays happy.
11-24-2003, 06:40 PM #11
Birthday's???? What about Bachelor Parties???
My department actually has a good time with allowing parties, however, it does not affect the guys in-service times. The party is scheduled ahead of time, and the itinerary is laid out prior to any agreement. The kids receive a station tour, get a 10 minute lecture of fire safety, watch a fire safety video, then we activate a smoke alarm and the kids climb out a window....after that they eat cake and ice cream with the firefighters. (No present opening)
A career or volunteer firefighter is assigned to the party as not to affect response. If there is a call while the party is going on, the crew responds, and the assigned person stays behind. We host approximately two parties a month.
I'm not into the big PR, pub ed thing.......but this is a win-win situation. The kids have a blast, parents get pictures of the kids on fire engines and feel good about their department (read YES votes,
), firefighters get ice cream, and there is always one or two hot moms.
FGIACOJ.... "Carpe Elkhartem"
(Seize the Nozzle)
"Victorious warriors win first,
and then go to war,
while defeated warriors go to war first,
and then seek to win."
11-24-2003, 08:29 PM #12
Luckily enough we dont have to do this..........we had a person on whose boss also happened to be on conucil and had him breing out a truck to his kids birthday .........neeldess to say there was some serious disciplianry action against him. We do offer station tours to anyone or group. The only time we offer rides is during the Haloween parade for the high school cheerleaders on the ladder truck, a few years ago we stopped until the city attorney drew up waivers of liability to be signed by the parents.......and of course if a run comes in they have to get off ........ thank goodness we dont have to put up with some of the stuff previously posted...........oh yes .there is a rich little village that does schedule these, they take the engine over to the house and the kids party on !IACOJ both divisions and PROUD OF IT !
Pardon me sir.. .....but I believe we are all over here !
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11-24-2003, 10:20 PM #13
- Join Date
- Oct 2002
B-day parties......Hmm. We did them for a while, went out to the location and did the fire safety talk, no rides on the rigs though. It was too much of an uncontrolled situation, so we don't go out to them anymore. We will have a tour in the house for a birthday party, but not the party part. My station has a park right out back, where the adults can have the party before/after the tour. Block parties are sort of another matter. We will go to them, and different crews do diffferent things at them. Some officers will do the (monotone voice) "standard public education tour and safety talk" while I now prefer a somewhat less structured interaction with the public when my crew goes out to them. We let the kids see the truck(s), squirt the booster hose, we pass out helmets, talk with the parents, who sometimes seem to get a little more knowledge out of us then the kids do. It's more relaxed, and the older kids who aren't interested are not held hostage waiting for our presentation to end. The people often ask us to eat, have a soda, that kind of thing, and I think it's a huge benefit to us overall. It's tough to do the tour thing when the kids are all different ages. We catch them all in school anyway when it's more structured and they are all the same age group. Of course, and it always seems to happen, we get one or 2 little ones with a ton of questions, who want to see everything, and we are happy to oblige. It's almost like you can pick out the future firefighters in the group. We try and make an impression, because those are the ones who really remember. Hell, I can remember my trip to the firehouse when I was in Kindergarten. Know why? Because I knew even then that I wanted to be a fireman. That and my Pop's friends (he was in the job) made it interesting. Of course, we stay in service by radio, and the first thing we do when we get there is to explain what to do if we have to leave in a hurry. We stay until the interest fades away, usually anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour. Some guys hate them, but I sort of enjoy it, one of our more pleasurable details.Leroy140 (yes, THAT Leroy)
Fairfield, CT, Local 1426
11-24-2003, 11:28 PM #14
- Join Date
- May 2000
- Memphis, TN
Our station is currently one of those rooms for rent, and people do rent them occasionally. I do remember trying to be quiet as I made out a report and backbriefed other firefighters while there was a wedding going on behind the watch desk..
We make it very clear to the persons renting the station not to allow children into the apparatus bay unless accompanied by a department member. Usually the renters are friends or family of a member so they can get away with it.
At other times, we just lock the doors to the apparatus floor to prevent them from being opened from the inside, while providing two other exits away from the apparatus floor. We do not need to access the day room and office area to answer alarms at the current moment, just to file away reports.
We're changing the policy with addition of bunk rooms to fill up the empty space.
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