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  1. #1
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    Question Going from a Volunteer to a Career Dept.

    Based on the size of our response area and call volume, our department needs to make the switch from volunteer to paid. I would like some feedback on the entire process to make the switch. I invite the good, bad, and ugly aspects. If we're going to do it, we want to do it right. Thanks!
    "I do not preach of the brotherhood of Man, I live it as a Firefighter". - unknown

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    HVFD - Home of Snorkel 8


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    Forum Member MIKEYLIKESIT's Avatar
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    It dosent have to be ugly. There needs to be clear communication with everyone involved. The potential pitfalls include volunteer members who may resent someone being paid fot what they volunteer to do. newly paid members may suddenly take on an sir of "superiority" over volunteer members. These all can be resolved with mutual respect and clear guidelines. The transition may get bumpy but everyone needs to remember who comes first...The citizens you protect.
    IAFF-IACOJ PROUD

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    Default Suggestion

    If your company is all volunteer consider a "Duty Crew" program...Institute a core of individuals to be on duty at the station for shifts of 6-8-10-12 or even 24 if needed and consider compensation. The First Volunteer Department I belonged to in the late eighties began a "Sleep-In" Program which was 4 members consisting of an officer, driver and 2 firefighters from 11pm to 7am we were paid $25.00 per night we stayed there. We had 3 stations so staffing 12 people at night wasn't easy at first but it caught on - After the discovery that this was working out we made the move to have daytime crews on Saturday and Sundays from 7am to 3pm and 3pm to 11pm {Normal Career Staff didn't work Weekends or Holidays} for this we received an hourly rate of $10.00. This department is now an all career department only because the demand required it - Large Call volume was the main reason -

    Another Ave. to pursue would be the hiring of Part Time Employees {Non-Members of the Volunteer Co. to avoid conflicts} to staff the critical times - Eventually it may lead to full time positions - I work on the Fulltime Career Staff of a New Castle County, Delaware Volunteer Company - There are 5 of us - we staff mainly the EMS Unit but Fire Apparatus Staffing/Driving are among our duties....It works and the Volunteers are happy because they don't get stuck on the ambulance

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    Forum Member Smoke20286's Avatar
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    I fail to understand what the relative merits of either of the proposals you raised. If as the poster says they want to do it right, why not just make the switch to a fully paid Dept with full time personel?
    A'int No Rocket Scientist's in The Firehall

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    Thumbs up

    Originally posted by Smoke20286
    I fail to understand what the relative merits of either of the proposals you raised. If as the poster says they want to do it right, why not just make the switch to a fully paid Dept with full time personel?
    That's the whole idea. I am really asking for advice and guidance to make a case to the city and county governments. Right now, the county is our primary source of revenue and as for the city, we get less that 1% of from the annual budget.

    I guess I'm trying to ease the city up to the idea of a career level by trying to go combination first, but if it's just easier to go fully paid, then I am all for that.
    "I do not preach of the brotherhood of Man, I live it as a Firefighter". - unknown

    Lt. Dana E. Spade
    HVFD - Home of Snorkel 8

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    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    Well, I can only speak from the taxpayers side as I am still in a volunteer area. What is the problem with call volume? Are there not enough members showing up on calls? If you are able to get full crews out on a lot of calls, then you would have a hard time getting me to fund a paid department. If you are unable to answer calls, that's another problem. What kind of staffing are you looking for or able to do as vols? I have 2 stations and get 5-7 guys each station within 4 minutes...to get equal staffing with full paid members would run me quite a few tens of thousands of dollars more than my current vol crew. Where's that money to come from and why?

    I think your best bet would be to look at it from the taxpayer side and give them the best value for their money. Best of luck.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    Well DanaSpade, in all reality, the method of transition really depends on a few different factors. To start with, exactly how big of a response area does your dept cover? How many residents do you serve? Does your dept operate suppresion only, or do you provide EMS care? If so, at the BLS or ALS level? Does your county currently provide Fire Rescue protection that extends to your area? And so on, and so on..

    I'm sure most here can agree with me that each dept that has made the transition from Vol to Career had a different situation. There's no predicting what the most successful route will be, but like others stated here, you have to give constant consideration to your citizens, your firefighters, and your dept's operating budget.

    If you have a small response zone with a smaller amount of citizens, the maybe consider either paying your volunteers per call initially and see how that works out. A little change in the norm for your firefighters might be enough incentive to respond to calls more frequently. If you're experiencing a heavier call load, try staffing with a few people at your peak hours. If responding to EMS calls is your dept's primary concern, try staffing an ambulance only for a while. And of course, if you have a regularly mixed, heavy call load, and your budget looks good enough to do it, then go for the gold and begin staffing your station with 24 hour shifts.

    Some of your volunteers will love the idea of going paid. Others will absoultely hate it. But they'll deal, once they realize that what you do is in the best interest of your community.

    Hope this helps some. Good luck.

    - Josh
    IAFF - Fire/EMS

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    Originally posted by Smoke20286
    I fail to understand what the relative merits of either of the proposals you raised. If as the poster says they want to do it right, why not just make the switch to a fully paid Dept with full time personel?
    You don't simply just make a jump from a volunteer service to a full career department. - That process takes time, research, planning, and above all the almighty $$$$$$. By easing into the process such as I discussed you may have seen where I was going. Alot of Volunteer Departments have difficulty with change {I know I belong to one and work for another one} - There are Legalities, Funds, Personnel, Equipment umong other things to deal with.....Making a switch isn't as easy as it sounds

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    Forum Member MIKEYLIKESIT's Avatar
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    IF your community can afford it, full-time firefighters should be considered before part-time. Taxpayer schmaxpayer, if you are going to staff your department with duty crews, your best bet is to do it the right way. Decent pay and benefits will insure you get quality people protecting your community. Sorry Bones, but sometimes the best "value" dosent give you the best service.
    IAFF-IACOJ PROUD

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    "The bitterness of poor emergency response times will remain long after the sweetness of lower personnel costs"
    ‎"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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    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    IF your community can afford it
    IF is a big word. Does anyone know of a paid department that is actually fully staffed and not facing cuts? By fully staffed, I mean 4-5 guys on each engine and/or truck?

    and MikeyLikesIt, I'll agree with your statements.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    Forum Member Smoke20286's Avatar
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    I know lots of them, many Depts went through the cycle of cut backs in the 80's, now their own legal dept is telling them they need to put more money into their fire depts to increase staffing levels and buy new equipment. Why? Because of the one word they fear more then any other: Liability
    A'int No Rocket Scientist's in The Firehall

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    That day hasn't come in the U.S. yet, Smoke. What buys votes gets the money and most places the fire department doesn't buy votes. Maybe it'll happen some day.

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    Originally posted by Bones42
    IF is a big word. Does anyone know of a paid department that is actually fully staffed and not facing cuts? By fully staffed, I mean 4-5 guys on each engine and/or truck?

    and MikeyLikesIt, I'll agree with your statements.
    So far so good for us. 2 years ago they reduced our engine companies located with ladder companies from 5 to 4. Our ladder companies still run with 5 and our single engine companies still run with 5. Hopefully with the economy doing great again it wont be a concern. Everything can change on a whim though. Stay safe

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    The process sucks. I've seen it first hand twice now.

    Some folks made good points.

    1. Keep the volunteers active. Don't push them aside, perhaps even have a true promotion process for the volunteer officers. What a concept!! Make them obtain the same credentials as the pd Officers.

    2. Don't let the paid side become better than or worse than the Volunteers.

    3. Don't let the Vol Officers boss around the paid guys on the firehouse level. Maybe some ***'t Chiefs, but not Lts and Capts for sure.

    4. Recognize a paid firefighter is different from a volunteer and embrace those differences.

    Good luck....

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    Bones said:
    If you are able to get full crews out on a lot of calls, then you would have a hard time getting me to fund a paid department.
    WHAT????????????? Full crews should be going out on EVERY DAMN CALL! That is what we promised the taxpayers,that is what we should deliver.

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    3. Don't let the Vol Officers boss around the paid guys on the firehouse level.
    So a 20 year Volunteer Captain is supposed to ride the Bucket and let a 2 year career Fireman ride OIC so that "The volunteer officer isn't bossing around the paid guys?" You live in a dream world. Unless there is a higher ranking official (I don't care if you are career or volunteer, rank is rank. A fireman should never outrank and officer over career/vollie status) Trust me, the Private in the Full-time Marines is going to Salute and Listen to the Captain in the Marine Reserve, if you see where I am going. Train equal, promote equal and have an integrated chain of command. I frequently ride OIC over career Firefighters, and if they decide not to listen to me because I am a Volunteer, they will walk back.
    Proud Right-Wing Extremist since 1992

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  18. #18
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    Parrothead, my full crew is 7 on the truck. But if only 5 were on it, that's acceptable to me.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    Bones - My bad.I read it that you were saying as long as you get a crew out MOST of the time.I thought you were saying that you don't get out sometimes.I agree,5 on a rig is doable.Hell,we run 4 on the Engine/4 on a Truck and 7 on the Rescue.(we send 3 Engines/2 Trucks /Rescue and a District Chief on reported structure fires,total of 28)

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    TillerMan25 I would have agreed with you 3 years ago. But I know a combination department where a young volunteer Capitan was throwing his rank around on the career staff, he couldn't pass the entrance exam, and took his frustration out on them.

    The job where I currently work, only about 55% of the people take the entrance exam pass it. After seven years you can take the Lieutenant's test. Only about 20% of those will pass that. I don't know what percentage of Lieutenants will pass the Capitan's test, but you will see, only the best will rise. Unfortunately, I'm stuck at fire fighter rank.

    So now, how can you justify giving that volley Capitan command over career guys? I couldn't. It changed my mind.

    Some places have minimum training standards for officers. I'd like to think that in its self would work too, but, we have a fire fighter here with a Bachelor's degree and every certificate you can find under the sun, Pro Board, IFSAC, and wants to go on to their Master's degree. This person last year failed the Lieutenant's test again. So that to me proves it alone, is not good enough.

    I hate to think some people can move up in rank because they won a popularity contest. I've been a volunteer, I know how it can work.

    I believe a combination of minimum standards, and competitive testing is the only way to go. Don't have two different systems, and mix them up. It will only be trouble.
    Be kind to fire fighters. Please don't let your dogs use fire hydrants.

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