Thread: Clean Slate...

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    Question Clean Slate...

    Suppose you had the chance to start the volunteer side of a combo department. Current situation. 5 paid on duty 24/7 to handle the first call, no EMS Transport, volunteers called for 2nd incident and all major incidents. The initial core will be about 10 folks with 4-12 years of experience, so not all will be green. What are some of the things that you would like to see in place as far as:

    - Voting officers vs chosen from the top down (with minimum req training requirements of course)
    - number/frequency of drills
    - do specialized training? (hazmat, ropes, trench, confined, etc.)
    - SOPs/SOGs governing interaction of paid and volunteer crews. Trying to avoid paid crews not respecting volunteers, and volunteers treating paid crews like maids. These seem to be the most popular dysfunctional threads, among others
    - length of service awards, pension programs, etc

    Yes this is a loaded topic , I may have this opportunity shortly.

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    how are you going to alert the volunteers? minitor pagers? i see they aren't doing transport EMS, what about first response?

    BC79er, no offense, but your "current" situation is just asking for trouble. if you only call the volunteers for major incidents, then you are going to get caught with your pants down when the paid guys are dispatched to a smell of smoke, 5 minutes later, they arrive to find heavy smoke coming from the house two houses down from the caller, and then have to dispatch the volunteers. then 5 minutes later, you have the volunteer engine/ladder responding, and 15 minutes after the initial alarm, you have the first volunteer peice on scene. better to dispatch the voluteers for all FIRE calls.
    - Voting officers vs chosen from the top down (with minimum req training requirements of course)
    - number/frequency of drills
    - do specialized training? (hazmat, ropes, trench, confined, etc.)
    much of this will have to do with your department's set up. do you have a paid or volunteer chief? do you have a paid line officer on 24/7? with 5 guys, I think you should have at least 1 line officer on for the entire shift. and witih your current situation, have the volunteers able to do a shift (non-paid) in the station (in uniform and everything), so they can ride the 1st out engine too.

    I'm a big fan of electing your officers. with only 10 guys, it's kinda hard, but it can be done. and you will know that they entire department supports the officer.

    Training should be done EVERY shift by the paid guys. volunteers should be permitted (and encouraged) to attend every training session that the paid guys do. it can be in house for most of them. department drills should be held on two days, a daytime and a nighttime time. I like the sunday morning/monday night schedule personally. on these days, the training is to be exactly the same, and all volunteers and the on duty paid crew should train together. if you have a training fire, don't let the paid guys be the first in crew, and the vollies be the second. mix up the crews. 1 paid for every 2 vollies, and have a senior vollie be the acting officer. if they don't train together, they won't want to work together on a scene. Do whatever specialized training that would occur in your response area.

    - SOPs/SOGs governing interaction of paid and volunteer crews. Trying to avoid paid crews not respecting volunteers, and volunteers treating paid crews like maids. These seem to be the most popular dysfunctional threads, among others
    I'm a firm believer that paid crews should be doing more "housework" that volunteers, for 2 reasons. The first is 1) they are at the firehouse during their downtime; instead of sitting on the couch watching TV, they should be "doing work that the taxpayers are paying them to do" (I know bad choice of words) and 2) volunteers often come for the call and then after the call is over, leave to continue what they were doing before the call came in. is it fair to have them stay and do a cleanup when there is a guy being paid to be at the firehouse?

    That's not to say that the paid guys should clean up after the vollies. If you make the mess, you clean it up, whether you be a paid guy or a volly.

    - length of service awards, pension programs, etc
    always good to have.

    I've been on the volunteer side of a combo department. this was after being on an all volly department for 4 years. and quite honestly, the combo department wasn't all that great, because there was a division between paid and volunteer guys. they were treated differently. they did their own seperate thing. it wasn't a "fun" place to be, in my opinion.

    in my opinion, the only way to run a successful combo department (and I have yet to see one that I like) is to treat everyone the same, both paid and volunteer. there is one fridge, that has food for anyone. and when food is ordered, or dinner is made, both paid and volunteers sit at the same table. both paid and volunteers get a uniform allowance (if you do that). gear is identical. training oppertunities are the same. department drills are done together. the paid guys do have additional responsibilities (trainng officer, equipment officer, EMT officer, maintnance officer, etc), but both sides ride the same engine, both follow the same chain of command, and both are there to do the same job.

    oh, and one thing that i really didn't like about my old department. have a volunteer Lt hold a higher rank than a career firefighter. a paid Lt can outrank a volunteer Lt, but a volunteer captain outranks a paid Lt. there is nothing more disheartening for a volunteer than learning that a volunteer officer isn't in charge of a paid firefighter just because he isn't paid.
    If my basic HazMat training has taught me nothing else, it's that if you see a glowing green monkey running away from something, follow that monkey!

    FF/EMT/DBP

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    The chief is paid, and there is a shift officer out of the 5 paid personnel. We will be doing EMS first response. Volunteers will get paged out for the 2nd concurrent call regardless of nature (EMS, Auto alarm, etc). Smells of smoke will be dispatched as all personnel. Right now since there's only the 5 paid guys, auto mutual aid is on big time. Reported fires will still have mutual aid, just not as much since the volunteer crew will be coming in.

    The paid guys are all employed elsewhere full time, so technically they are part timer since they only can work 1 24hr shift per week to avoid overtime to keep costs down.

    I agree completely about the officer ranks. That was one of my problems with the current department's (soon to be ex-) setup. I am a Captain, but during the day I had no rank whatsoever. Even some of the paid guys said that they wouldn't listen to the chief or asst chief on a fireground, even though those are the guys that sign paychecks. The lack of respect is unbelievable.

    As far as regular fire training, I plan on having it done with the crew that's on. Everyone has to work together on the fireground, so why not. The chief wants the paid guys to be involved, but not doing all of the training. Of the 10 of us most are already certified instructors, so that's not a problem.

    Thanks for the input. Glad someone finally chimed in after so many views.

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    Originally posted by BC79er
    I agree completely about the officer ranks. That was one of my problems with the current department's (soon to be ex-) setup. I am a Captain, but during the day I had no rank whatsoever. Even some of the paid guys said that they wouldn't listen to the chief or asst chief on a fireground, even though those are the guys that sign paychecks. The lack of respect is unbelievable.
    are you serious? the fire service is a paramilitary organization. the chief says jump on a fire scene, you should be asking how high. are you a paid captain or a volunteer captain? why do you not have a rank during the day? if the paid guys are on 24 hours a day, what changes between the day and night? if anything, i would assume the chief would be around during the daytime to ensure the rules were followed, and you to have no rank at night (not that that would be right either). if they say they won't listen to a chief officers on the fireground, then I would say fire them. i'm sure you can find others to fill their spots. there is a chain of command for a reason. if they can't follow the rules, fire them and replace them with firefighters who will.

    good luck with your task.
    If my basic HazMat training has taught me nothing else, it's that if you see a glowing green monkey running away from something, follow that monkey!

    FF/EMT/DBP

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    The current department only has paid crew on from 6a to 6p. So again, primary response is them when they're on, and only if they call for volunteers are we (i'm vollie capt) allowed to show up. Emphasis on allowed. The paid guys run the place during the day and the chief is afraid to say anything because he thinks that if he jumps in they'll black ball the department with the other union guys and we'll have no coverage. Only thing is, we're the highest paying part time dept in the area. There's a line out the door. But that's neither here nor there.

    The dept with the 24/7 crews is the future dept. No volunteers yet because the dept is only 2 years old, made from a part of an unincorporated area that used to be covered by a different department, now a taxing district, etc, etc. Long story. Anywho, the real station is still being built so they're in a pole barn right now with no room to house a lot of gear, no room for training, just a trailer serving as a bunk room. Good sized trailer, but a temp building nonetheless. So no room to really get volunteers going. In January is when the chief wants to have the ball rolling already so I'm working on the paperwork end of it now, laying out the SOPs/SOGs and whatnot so at least the backbone is already in place before recruits start turning in applications.

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    My Dept. is a Combined Dept. Paid/Vol.
    Our SOP's state that the newest Firefighter from the Career side of the Dept. has rank over the highest ranking member of the Vol. Dept.
    while on a scene. And beleive it or not in the four years ive been with the dept. has a "nasty situation" came from it.

    Our Vol. Dept. is primarly Home Response and can respond to any run that our trucks respond on other than mutual aid responses, unless
    we are specifically paged out for response,(never has happened).
    We can respond to anything that we are able to due in regards of our certifications.

    Our dept. requires 10 hours mandatory station time a month, so we are
    on station to maintain our hours every month. And the policies are as such in regards to Policing the Station.
    All Volunteers are to assist in any detail/chore that is asked of them by the Station Officer. We (the Volunteers) take pride in our
    relationship with the Paid side. and when we find out about a volunteer that doesnt want to do station chores while on station.
    we take care of the incident as quickly as possible.

    not all of the Career guys respect us or like us, but the majority of the Career guys and the Volunteers work together without any problems.

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    Ok I'll put my 2 cents in on this one. The department I currently work for is composite. I started out as a volunteer and I'm now a career member in the union. Not to start a paid vs. Vollie fight, could I offer the following piece of advice. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES LET THE CITY COUNCIL(OR WHAT EVER YOUR TOWN/COUNNTY MIGHT HAVE) DRIVE A WEDGE BETWEEN THE UNION AND THE VOLUNTEERS! The problem we have is everytime we try to nogoitate our contract with the city, is that they threaten to lay off paid guys and replace us with volunteers. This odviously causes friction between the 2 groups. Your best bet in keeping good relations between paid and volunteer staff is to have the volunteers back the paid staff. If the union guys do not see the volunteers as a threat they will get along with the volunteers better. Last time during negotations 30 or so volunteers from our # 2 station (an all volunteer station) told the city they would turn in thier pagers if one paid guy was laid off. This obviously made the city rethink thier position on laying off career personal. Fortunatly no jobs where lost , and the paid guys appreciate what the volunteers did. By backing the paid guys the volunteers are not seen as a threat and relations between the 2 groups are fairly good. This might not be the case if the volunteers opted not to support the career staff.

    A proud member of the IAFF.

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    At my old department, the relations between paid and volunteers was great. Trainings were done with which ever shift was on duty at the time. Volunteers could show up at any of the three stations at any time to hang out. If a call came in and a volunteer was present at the station the paid guys would take him. We would have dinner together, watch t.v on off times, and even help out with station duties if need be. All calls were paged out except for bee calls. I hear that the department has increased to 4 stations with a 5th one coming up pretty soon.

    I am enjoying my new department though. It is a very small town so I get to see most of the volunteers on a daily basis. It is a combination department. We get assistance from paid guys when ever we need it in our trainings.

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