1. #1
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    Question Hey Chief What your biggest Challenge?

    My question is for Volunteer department Chief’s and or officers; What are your biggest challenges in running a your department? Do you have any legal challenges? A great deal of responsibility is place on the Chief, What is your biggest challenge?

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    Recruitment and retention.
    Managing the time requirements to fulfill the necessary training for people who have limited time to give.
    TW
    Essex Junction Fire Dept.
    Vermont

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    I'm not the chief, but I can see what his biggest problem is:
    People.

    This guy wants to be on, but can't pass any test.

    This other guy has been on for years, but his health has deteriorated, and he can't get into his turnouts any more.

    Next guy wants to do everything himself - Drive, run the pump, handle the nozzle, supervise overhaul....

    Another member is always "sniping" at everyone, as if he knows all the answers - too bad he does not understand the questions.

    Trying to keep this department going with all these different personalities is so bad, the Chief does budget work to relax!

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    The biggest problem for chiefs, especially in small departments is administration. They have to deal with people problems, budget problems, hose testing requirements, ladder testing requirements, fire reports for NFIRS, fit testing, OSHA requirements, dealing with the politics of the community, and the list goes on. He or she is also expected to be in command at all fires even tho a Lt could handle a car fire.

    This is why many departments are deciding to hire a full time chief to assure that the paper work and personnel issues are done right and in a timely manner. And did I mention applying for grants?

    Stay Safe,

    Pete
    Pete Sinclair
    Hartford, MI
    IACOJ (Retired Division)

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    Sleuth -- If I didn't see the Arizona in your location, I would think you were one of my members. Those personality descriptions covers the majority of my guys.. at least the difficult ones.

    The recruitment and retention point made earlier is huge concern because without members you have NOTHING. That being said, I think that a huge challenge for today's officers is complacency.

    I am a member of 2 departments and know a lot of people in other departments through mutual aid, etc and we all seem to have a common theme. We are all saddled with the narrow thinking of "That won't happen here, we're not busy enough" or "what do we need all of this equipment for the old stuff worked fine" or the ever popular "but we've always done it THIS way"

    In my travels, I have found this thinking has run rampant. Maybe not in entire memberships but in a handful(usually the older guys) and while they are not the opinion of the entire membership, their thinking affects others by making them afraid to do the right thing out of fear of the tormenting they would get from the good old boys club.

    There are people who just don't get it in life, unfortunately they were book smart enough to pass fire school, but have the common sense of a flea. From time to time, some of my guys tell us (the chief and his officers) that we are too uptight and worry too much, but in the end it will be are undies up the flagpole blowing in the wind when their complacent attitude gets someone hurt or god forbid killed.

    Does that sound at all like a challege some of you face daily?

    Stay Safe!

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    FF Trainer, Inertia of the members is everywhere. I just took a hydraulics class, and when I mention what I had learned to the Chief Engineer, he started in with "we don't have time to calculate friction loss in the line, the guys need water!" [Not withstanding that we have not used anything beyond our preconnects in 3 years.]
    It's going to be a long haul.

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    Sleuth, I was about to say the same thing to you that Trainer did. Thought you were from my place.........

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    Glad someone asked this question....There are probably as many answers as there are departments out there, but I can share my experience (limited though it may be, as I have only been chief for a little over a year...)

    I agree that recruitment and retention are always an issue in the volunteer fire service, but I wouldn't list that as our top problem. We always seem to maintain an adequate number of members for a department our size. Of course a few more never hurts, but I don't see this as a critical issue to us.

    Funding is likewise not a big issue for us. Again, you could always use a little more, but we have enough for our needs. Maybe not all of our WANTS, but our NEEDS are covered. I'm very grateful that we have a steady income from property taxes and don't have to devote our time to fundraising.

    I would have to say that our biggest challenge is getting the members to understand that there's more to running a fire department than just showing up for calls. I do understand that everyone has a life, family commitments, job commitments, etc.. But I wish I could make them see that the fire department is a serious commitment too. They don't see the liability and the responsibility that the chief takes upon his shoulders. If one of these guys gets hurt on a scene because of his lack of training, the lawyers aren't going to ask, "Firefighter _________, why did you choose not to attend the training that was offered?". No, they'll ask, "Chief, why wasn't this man trained?".

    Now I know what everyone is thinking, make the training mandatory to maintain your membership. There are a thousand good reasons for doing this. Our bylaws do specify a minimum percentage of drills attended to maintain membership. But in the real world it's hard to do, when the guy is one of your few shiftworkers or local workers who is available on weekdays, and he shows up for all the big calls. You hate to cut him loose because you know he's there when you need him. So you make allowances. Not necessarily the right thing to do, I know, and if there were a dozen more beating down the door to take his place he'd probably be cut, but that's not the case.

    I guess if I had to sum it up in a word, the word would be "commitment"...or lack thereof. We don't really need more members, just for more of the members to take pride in their job and want to do the best they can....to come to training or work details even when it's not "convenient", because they believe in what we are trying to accomplish.

    I think things are getting better. We have a few new members who are still gung-ho and eager to learn, eager to help. Hopefully we can harness that enthusiasm and maybe in a few years it will become the norm.

    Thanks for letting me vent. This thread just got me to thinking about where we are and where we're headed, and what I can do to help us get there. I can see now why our last two chiefs both stepped down after only 2 years in office. It's a thankless position and sometimes you feel like you're the only one who gives a damn what happens to the department. Firehouse.com is very therapeutic for me....coming here reminds me that there are lots of brothers out there who DO care, and are commited to the job. I hope I can find a way to light that fire in my own department.

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    Originally posted by dmleblanc

    I guess if I had to sum it up in a word, the word would be "commitment"...or lack thereof. We don't really need more members, just for more of the members to take pride in their job and want to do the best they can....to come to training or work details even when it's not "convenient", because they believe in what we are trying to accomplish.
    I agree with that statement. Just the other day I was having a talk with the younger members. (18-25) (I'm 40) When I was there age I went to every training possible. Some of us even took an off college course for fire science for a few years. (LSUE) It makes me aggravated that they act like they know everything at training and when you get to the real thing they seem to have forgotten everything. All of them aren't like this but some are. We've had some join and the night they were accepted for probation they are normally told they can stick around and observe training that night. Well a few times it happened to be a night we were doing a live burn in the burn trailer. After they observed that we never saw them again. I always wondered just what they thought they were going to be doing. LOL

    It seems to me that 1 out of every 5 that joins seems to be committed to learning as much as they can. It's weeding them out that's the problem. We just cleaned house at the beginning of the year of about 10 members that we hadn't seen in months. Then a few were put on probabtion to straighten up or get out. As of now we are down to about 20 members. Also we are in our 2nd week of becoming a combo department with 2 paid FF's on duty.


    BTW I'm not the Chief. I've just been around as long as him.

    Mark

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