Hello everyone i need some help on how to handle are chief we are a all volunteer dept with a Board of Directors and we are a LLC organization and the chief is so worried about liability with the dept if something happen at a fire or around the station he preaches this over and over i was wondering who would be ready liable if something did go wrong.We have a good group of volunteer but he is making alot of volunteer unhappy with all of this.
Fire3520, I will agree with your chief that liability is a big concern in the fire service. However, that does not excuse him from constantly dwelling on it and impacting the moral of the department and making the members think every move they make opens the department to a lawsuit. I am an assistant chief of a volunteer department and I am sure I share many of the same concerns as your chief does. As a chief, it is his responsibility to work with the members and the board to limit the liability as much as possible. This is done in a variety of ways - training, maintaining equipment, SOP's or SOG's and of course a properly insured fire department.
The chief and the fire department can be held responsible for negligent actions. Laws vary from state to state and I am not a lawyer so I can't recite specific laws. Think about from a common sense standpoint. We have a policy that states each driver must re-qualify on each piece of appartus they drive every six months. What would happen if a driver did not requalify for a period of six months and then got in an accident? Who is liable? My guess would be the chief and the department. Why? Because there is a policy in place and it was not adhered to. However, that does not mean that the department is going to pay millions of dollars in a settlement and the chief is going to lose his house. There are a number of mitigating circumstances. What was the cause of the accident? It very well may be that it had nothing to do with the drivers knowledge and ability to operate the apparatus, but I think you see where I am going with this.
Let's look at another scenario. The chief sends a rookie or poorly trained firefighter into a working house fire and he (or she) gets seriously injured or killed. Think of all the possibilities with this scenario. This is why many departments have SOP's and SOG's that deal with many aspects of the departments functions such as responding, driver qualifications, training requirements, use of equipment and so on.
Lastly, what is the background of your chief? Is he a long standing and experienced member with all the necessary training? Based upon your post it sounds as if your chief is a nervous and maybe over his head. This may or may not be attributed to his level of training and experience.
OK, I have rattled on long enough. Bottom line - the chief has a right be concerned and the reponsibility to limit liability as much as possible but not terrorize the department with his worries.
Walk a mile in his shoes
Unfortunately in our litigating society anyone who is in charge of any organization is "in the hot seat." I was Chief of my dept for three years and it was always in the back of my mind any time that our rigs rolled on a call. You can be sued at any time for just about anything. Even if you are found not responsible, the time cost and energy of defending your self can be very draining.
All that being said, a Chief needs to make his dept members aware of their responsiblity without dwelling upon the subject and beating a dead horse. Up to date records of training, SOG's,record keeping,etc are the tools we use to defend our members in times of question. When we put on the white helmet and bugles of rank,then that responsibility goes with the office. (and not just a few extra grey hairs too!!! :D ).