1. #1
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    Default The diminishment of volunteerism

    I am writing a paper for a college class on the diminishment of volunteerism in the nation. If anyone would know of any articles or anything that would be useful to me please let me know. All help is appreciated!

    Thanks,

    Matt Williams

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    Cool Here's a Start........................

    Change your Direction! Study after Study after Study has shown that almost half of all americans WILL volunteer to do something, somewhere, sometime. Why not do a study on how to take that information and use it to advantage to bring as many of those people as possible into the Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service? People who claim that they can't get Volunteers for their organization are just not doing the right things to attract Volunteers. When I joined our VFD in 1958, we had 42 members, now we have 109. People have to stop with the "Volunteerism is Dying" attitude, it's not.
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    Default Re: Here's a Start........................

    Originally posted by hwoods
    People have to stop with the "Volunteerism is Dying" attitude, it's not.
    Amen to that!

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    Matt,

    The decline in American Volunteerism is most likely linked to the amount of training needed to be a FF or EMT now. I'm 26 and finishing FF-I in a few more weeks. Luckily I am single, work a steady government job 8-4, and go to school from 730-1030pm three nights a week for 150 hours total (here in NJ). Some of the guys in my company never even went to academy becasue it wasn't there 30-35 years ago! Or even when some of them went it was a few weekends at mutual aid houses where they would learn certain tactics.

    The time commitment is incredible and I doubt anyone who might WANT to volunteer but has a family could not dedicate this kind of time. In other words if you are not 18-25ish and do not have prior FF training you have your work cut out for you if firefighting is something you really want.

    I would love to get my EMT-B so I could be a first responder but I would have to come to grips if going for another 16 week course 3 nights a week is worth it.

    Jeff
    Piscataway Fire Dist #2
    Possumtown V.F.C.

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    There are many volunteer fire departments that in fact have not experienced a shortage,but have seen thier numbers maintain steady or increase in recent years. Before moving to Louisiana, the department I was on in Vermont actually had to start limiting the number of new people we were getting because of the per firefighter equipment costs. The department to the north of us has had a waiting list for several years and many of the departments in the region were experiencing spikes in thier membership. While the department I am on here in Louisiana does not have a waiting list we are seeing a new face or two wanting to join every week... and even though 50% of those faces will drop out within a year, we are still maintaining a fairly respectable membership numbers.
    Personnally I think if volunteer firefighters are managed in a professional and progressive way, most will stay for the long haul. The biggest problem is training. Personnally I don't beleive that FireFighter1 should be required in most departments, simply because many of those skills may not be needed for that response area, however I do feel that adequate training for the hazards THEY WILL LIKELY FACE in thier normal response areas must be given and refreshed often. If this is done efficaintly, its my belief that volunteers can be effectivly retained and recruited. Another trend that we are seeing in progressive volunteer departments that will assist in retaining personnel is the use of "special/administrative members" to perform public education, fundraising, public relations and administrative support functions. If other departments can develop programs such as this, I beleive this will also assist in retaining members by freeing firefighters up from some of the "business" functions they now need to perform. If the volunteer fire service is open to new ideas and concepts, and is willing to change with the times, I believe that not only will it survive, but in fact it will thrive.

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    Thumbs up The Gentleman Has Spoken........

    The Gentleman from Louisiana is right on the money. As an Instructor, one of my complaints in the past has been that courses are too rigidly structured. In this area we are beginning to see courses broken into modules so that a course can be built on local needs. For instance, a VFD that is 30 miles from a Municipal water system, and never uses hydrants, shouldn't need a 3 hour segment on that subject. On the other hand, Urban/Suburban VFDs with an extensive Water System (like us) don't need to spend time on Tanker Operations. Rescue Training is the same, in that while the Beach Boys need Surf Rescue, the Mountain Climbers don't, they need more High Angle rope stuff. You get my Drift, Modular construction of Fire and Rescue courses are the way to go. A side benefit will be making the student's life a bit easier, which may help keep him/her interested.
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    with respect to Hwoods, I must disgagree.

    most department are having trouble recruiting volunteers, particularly during the daytimes. reasons include rising call volumes, increased training requirements, people workign during the daytime (9am-5pm) people working two (or more) jobs, double income families with kids, and more people living in one area while working in another have all contributed to the decline. Plus, unlike in some areas, most are trying to staff all their peices (in my case, 4 engines, 1 ladder, 1 snorkel, 1 heavy rescue) with full crews for an alarm, instead of doing what some areas are doing of having 4 members assigned to the engine, the 2nd engine coming from department #2, and the truck from department #3. it's hard to do (not saying what we do is right or wrong mind you).

    hwoods, I understand that your department's numbers have grown, but if you have such an abundance of voluteers, why do you have career staff in your house? do what kentland did, and tell the paid guys "thanks, but we have enough people, we are going to man our engines just with our non-paid professional firefighters."

    for those that say training is too much, I say it's too little!!! yes, FF1 is the BASICS, and everyone should know the basics (even if you don't need it). it sets the minimum standards that all firefighters should have. but a) most departments don't do just fire, they do rescue, EMS, hazmat, etc. b) from what my instructor told me, FF1 teaches you enough about fires to lay the ground work. FF2 gives you more hands on applications, and you still need to continue learning, to deal with emeregencies specific to your district.

    Matt, your 26, I'm 22. we are in similar boats, and I know what you are going through. I took FF1 already (took the daytime course during summer break one year), and am currently taking FF2. I leave my house for work at 7am, and get home between 6:30 and 7pm. then it's FF2 from 7:30-10:30pm two nights a week, a squad meeting once a week from 8ish-10ish. and yeah, I can't wait until FF2 is over, so I can go back to having some semblance of a normal social life (havn't been able to spend quality time with my g/f since wildwood, really looking forward to seeing her again (and yes, so is she)). as an FYI, EMT is usually only two nights a week with a couple of saturdays. if you get it while you are young, it's easier (I got my EMT at 17). don't get your EMT right after FF1. I would suggest trying to get into a FF2 class either in the spring, as it's definately worth it. wait a year or two before you go for EMT. but once you get it out of the way, you'll be glad you did it.

    the reason the old timers didn't have to do it is because FF1 didn't exist. this is also the same group of people who didn't wear SCBAs, rubber coats, no hoods, booster lines aka the red snake was the attack line of choice for structure fires, and who rode the tailboard when responding to fires. that's what they did then, because that's all they knew. Now we know more, we train more, we fight fires differently. It's all about changing with the times.
    Originally posted by LaFireEducator
    While the department I am on here in Louisiana does not have a waiting list we are seeing a new face or two wanting to join every week... and even though 50% of those faces will drop out within a year, we are still maintaining a fairly respectable membership numbers.
    that's ok, you'll have that type of turnover in a volunteer agency. that first year is usually the deciding factor for those that cut it and those that can't. it's normal. and I repeat, if you are so full of members (for both fire and EMS) that you are forced to send them away, send them to me. I'll set them up with my department, we can always use extra members.
    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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    Go here....


    http://www.usfa.fema.gov/applications/publications/


    Free pubs on what you are looking for. All you need to do is create an account. There is a pub called Recruitment and Retention for the Volunteer Fire Service.
    IACOJ Member

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    Default

    We haven't really seen a drop in volunteerism in my dept. My dept is affecting more by the demographics of the town. We have a large(very large townhouse and garden apt complex). Year after year, people move in there (often younger, eager to train folks) and join my dept. Problem is they get married, have kids...oops townhouse is too small, I'm out of here and a great deal of homes in my jurisdiction are way too expensive for a young, recenlty married couple with new children so they go elsewhere.

    The other side of that is that someone moves into the townhouse they vacated and the cycle starts over again. If I could just keep some of the members I referred to earlier, my membership would be huge, but instead it remains constant with a plus or minus of a couple depending on the given year as one moves in and one moves out.

    Another part of this volunteerism situation is not necessarily a drop in volunteerism but a change in its makeup. In earlier years (the 70's and early 80's) the vol. fd's were made up of tradesman (plumbers, carpenters, local shop owners, etc) With the advent of Big Box stores like Lowes, Home Depot, etc the Mom & Pop stores that the owner used to leave for a fire are no longer in business and that member is now forced to work out of town. Now you have different problems like low numbers during the day and kicking guys off the rig for a call at 21:00.

    I would maybe change your project to more of factors affecting volunteer staffing overall not necessarily focusing on it dying.

    With regards to other positions within your organization, we have that and trust me, it helps. We have support members and social members.

    A support member comes to calls, maintains minimal training (Bloodborn Pathogens, cpr/first aid), can be a driver of a rig, changes scba bottles, etc. Anything that doesn't require fire school.
    Cannot be a line officer but can be an association officer (pres. treasurer, etc). Many of my support members are Fire Police certified so that they can perform traffic control at incidents and free up the certified interior guys to pack up.

    A social member is just that, they don't come to calls but they help at all the other functions (fundraisers, etc) It helps to relieve some of the pressure from the trained, full member in that while some of our large fundraisers are mandatory that you work a set amount of time, the little ones can be staffed by social members so that firefighters can spend a little more time with their families and be available for emergencies which after all that is what we are there for.

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    Smile An adjustment to the Record.........

    Dan, thanks for your response. We do have a good strong membership, however, as you pointed out, everyone (almost) has their greatest need for help during the day, weekdays. We could, if forced into it, get by with no Career people at all. The County Government decides where the full time staff will work, not the Volunteer management. If the County says we will have them, we will. If the County says that they are needed elsewhere, so be it. There are currently 4 stations that have no Career staff in PG, and that may grow to 7 or 8. The flip side of this is that Apparatus and Station Management and Maintenence, Building Inspections, Prevention Programs, and other functions must go on, regardless of where the people are. Lots of little things out there that impact staffing needs.
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    Default random thoughts

    Just some random thoughts on the subject....
    -I think timing is everything as to when a new member joins. This is my second stint with the same VFD. The first time was difficult...babies at home...moonlighting to make ends meet (Long Island taxes !!) I'm more settled now and able to devote more time to the VFD, but always family first.
    -The younger guys who still live at home are the blood and sweat of many Long Island FDs but when its time for them to get married and buy a home they can't afford to buy within the district and many are forced to move out of NY altogether.
    -An indifferent press doesnt help. Read any article involving a fire, serious MVA or other fire/EMS related incident and you find no mention of what VFD responded nor what they did. Its as if the victims put out the fire and then drove themselves to the hospital ! The public needs to know what services we provide, how often we provide them and that the people running out the door at 0300 are thier neighbors. I've talked to local residents who dont know who thier VFD is.
    -People do still volunteer...I have friends who devote just as much time and energy as I do to other important community organizations (youth sports, PTAs, charities)We need to identify that common trait that all volunteers share and then sell the Fire Service to those individuals...easier said than done.

    Just one idiot's opinion.
    A man has to have something to believe in & I believe I'll have another beer.

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    Default volunteer.......

    All volunteers do not have to fight fire , there are alot of other jobs that willing volunteers can do without extensive training. After a * hour CPR class, they can do standby work. Others can stand available to provide rehab, bring drinks, or even meals. Don't ever turn anyone who is willing to volunteer down, whether they are willing to fight fire or not.......especially if they can tie a bolen. There are lot's of things to do besides fight fire.

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    Thumbs up Re: random thoughts

    Originally posted by jensam433
    Just some random thoughts on the subject....

    -An indifferent press doesnt help. Read any article involving a fire, serious MVA or other fire/EMS related incident and you find no mention of what VFD responded nor what they did. Its as if the victims put out the fire and then drove themselves to the hospital ! The public needs to know what services we provide, how often we provide them and that the people running out the door at 0300 are thier neighbors. I've talked to local residents who dont know who thier VFD is.
    -People do still volunteer...I have friends who devote just as much time and energy as I do to other important community organizations (youth sports, PTAs, charities)We need to identify that common trait that all volunteers share and then sell the Fire Service to those individuals...easier said than done.

    Just one idiot's opinion.
    Well, I gotta say, If that's an idiot's opinion, then your's is a very lucky village to have an idiot that thinks that well. You are absolutely on track with your thoughts on these two items. My take is that far, far, too many VFDs do not have a Public Information Officer who can interact with the media, particullarly when a incident is unfolding, OR, one who can be reached when the reporter is tied to a desk and a deadline. Too often, the ONLY person that a reporter can find is the Police Desk Clerk, who can fill in all the stuff that the Cops did, but doesn't know which VFD responded. We have an Officer, usually a Chief, who can talk to the Media at any time, and we are very quick to jump on the opportunity to get the straight scoop into the right hands. We always take advantage of EVERY opportunity to have the press out with us when we're doing something scheduled, like Fire Safety events, and Drills that attract public attention, such as Live Fire Training in abandoned structures. One local reporter calls me on a regular basis, just to chat. She also gets calls alerting her to Emergency Incidents in her area, and we get the good press in the end.

    The last comment about identifying and recruiting the right folks is also a point that is often lost on the very VFDs that need help the most. We have a regular monthly business meeting on the first monday. There is at least one, usually more, prospective Volunteer Recruits there each month. As a prospective member comes along, we act on their application as soon as possible, we DO NOT make people wait until one or two times each year to join. My opinion is that those VFDs that have a waiting list, only take new members once or twice a year, limit their membership to a set number, are doing ALL of us a disservice by portraying VFDs as slow, inefficient organizations that really don't want new blood. "Grab them before some other group does" should be the motto of every VFDs recruiting officer.
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    To everyone who has contributed,

    First off of I would like to say thank you for giving me your input on this matter. But The problem with everyones input is ,it is there opinion. I need hard evidence, like nationally published documents and such. Any links to sites that would give me some viable information on this would be great. I found a few already but any more you know offhand would be great.

    Thanks again,

    Matt Williams

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    Smile Well............................

    Matt, I've been in this business for a long time, and I'm just not aware that what you are looking for exists. Volunteerism is not diminishing in America. Yes, there are pockets where Volunteers are hard to come by, but that's not the norm. I really wish you would stop trying to sustain the myth that Volunteerism is dying, it's not.
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
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    I have to agree with Harve. In the 17 years I have been around, all of the volunteer departments I have been involved with have actually grown.
    -Bozz

    Air Force Medic

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    I would like to encourage you and your paper. Hard evidence with objective information is critical to any/all valid research.

    As many of the replies listed above show Volunteerism is not a problem with their departments. Others struggle to assemble a few responders at an incident, for a myriad of reasons.

    Check with the National Fire Academy. The Librarians there are extremely helpful. They participate in the interlibrary loan programs at public and private libraries that participate in the same. Their collection of books, periodicals and audio visual materials for the Fire Service is unmatched in the US.

    Check out. http://www.usfa.fema.gov/inside-usfa/about/lrc.shtm

    Please consider posting your paper on this site when complete. We all have much to learn if we are going to make our communities safer.
    Train Hard. Be Safe

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    Default Analytical but true

    There are very very few true volunteers left in the Chicago area. There are many paid on call or part time firefighters, but the days of pure volunteering around here have gone the way of the steamer.
    IAFF-IACOJ PROUD

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    Engine17:
    If you are looking for hard copy for your subject matter, then I would suggest "Recruitment and Retention in the Volunteer Fire Service" and Blue Ribbon Panel's report on the same subject. I believe both can be found at the FEMA website.
    I have to ask; is this the perception of whoever gave you the assignment or is it your's?
    Because depending on your geographic location, there may or may not be a problem with getting and keeping volunteers.
    Good luck.
    CR
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    I just wanted to clarify for everyone the reason why I chose this subject. This is a problem-solution research paper. I have never done this kind of research paper before. So I decided to do it on something I have a little working knowledge about. Everyones areas are diffrent. Right now in my company we a gaining more members than we got gear. But what I want to show is that there is still room for improvment on the recruitment/retention side. It is going to be a paper based soley on research. But again thanks everyone for the help. I will post it on here when complete.

    THanks,

    Matt Williams

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    Unhappy Diminishing volunteers

    In the five years that I have been with my department, I have seen a significant drop in membership (checking armpits for smell). This can be attributed to a couple of factors.

    1) Change in Dept. bylaws and introduction of LOSA. We now track and act on attendance for calls and training meetings, meaning that those who fail to meet the most basic requirements are actually terminated. This cut probably 6 members the first year it was enforced. Unpopular with those who don't make the grade or who are continually on the knifes edge as it were, but it's absolutely needed.

    2) Loss from natural turnover, older members, change in jobs and lifestyle etc.

    3) It's been two years since we had a new recruit make it through probation and the state mandated training requirements. Due to location, basic courses are few and far between, unless recruits want to travel 90 miles each way (like I'll be doing for my Officer Cert I class). The last member voted in was a probationary firefighter for over two years (now we're losing him due to relocation). So those members who are leaving either from reasons 1 or 2 above are not being replaced. Most new interested civilians spend a couple of nights at meetings and never show up again... we do follow up, and almost to a man cite other commitments and an inability to provide the necessary time to complete training.

    So for us, we are definitely suffering from diminishing volunteerism. The three closest departments to our South had the same issue and actually joined together to create one group to provide adequate manpower at incidents. Our geographic and economic factors may be partially to blame, but all I can say is I wish we had to actually close our doors due to excessive applicants.. now that would be nice.

    Good luck with the paper... if you complete it, post a link to it on these forums...

    Here's a link you might want to check out, it's a paper on a the same subject sort of.. more of a how to fix declining membership in a volunteer dept.

    http://www.nvfc.org/pdf/retention_and_recruitment.pdf

    Cheers
    Last edited by Fawlty; 11-01-2004 at 12:16 PM.

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    i see some of the volunteerism diminshing locally, but thats cause there aren't that many people that like the chief and the way he became the chief. for the most part the people that are still with the department do it cause the community needs a fire dept. i think with some attitude changes or administrative changes we would have our rosters full again.

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    I leave my house for work at 7am, and get home between 6:30 and 7pm. then it's FF2 from 7:30-10:30pm two nights a week, a squad meeting once a week from 8ish-10ish.
    Can we see the problem here? Faced with this type of demand for weeks on end, why are we surprised that people don't stick around? "Hey, I've got a life...I didn't want all this, I just wanted to help..." It's a lot to ask from someone who will not ever make a dime in return.

    We do not require FF1 to be a member of our department (I should point out that in Louisiana, unlike many other states, it's not required by law either). I don't expect a guy to drive 60 miles to Baton Rouge 3 nights a week to get trained. If it was to land a paid job, then I'd say sure, yeah, there's a return on investment there. That's not to say we hand you a pager the first night you show up, either. You still have to go through some training, but it's mostly in-house, and it's specific to our department and our way of operating.
    Chief Dwayne LeBlanc
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    "I have a dream. It's not a big dream, it's just a little dream. My dream and I hope you don't find this too crazy is that I would like the people of this community to feel that if, God forbid, there were a fire, calling the fire department would actually be a wise thing to do. You can't have people, if their houses are burning down, saying, 'Whatever you do, don't call the fire department!' That would be bad."
    C.D. Bales, "Roxanne"

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    First of all, congrats on the grant dmleblanc. Secondly, as i have mentioned before,I think there are two keys to recruiting and retaining volunteers and the gentleman from da swamps of Louisiana (south of me in the Louisiana drylands) hit it right on the head ... "we train them specific to our department and our way of operating". While FF1 is a great tool, for those folks with limited time and great driving distances, much of it is simply NOT needed to be a competent rural (and maybe even surburban, depending on the area) firefighter, and what is relevant can be easily taught at the station through well planned and effective training by competant senior members. In this day and age of limited time it is important that we use our members time wisely with well planned and RELEVANT training .. relevenat to thier operating situations (rural water, hydrants, etc), to thier buildings and occupancies and to the hazards they are likely to face during normal operations (including any special hazards in automatic aid or likely mutual aid response areas). There is no use, as hwoods mentioned of teaching a 3 hour segement on hydrants to a firefighter who's only source of water is farm ponds and rivers, just as one example.
    The second key is accepting "special members" to handle selected adminstrative,fund-raising, planning, public education and even fireground tasks. The bigger pool of people, firefighters and non-firefighters, a department has the less each person will need to contribute.
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 11-11-2004 at 04:13 PM.

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    LaFireEducator...thanks for the support...and the congrats. I do feel that every firefighter should strive to attain FF1 certification...it's the basics that every firefighter should know. Plus, it's a nationally recognized certification that establishes their knowledge level. BUT...in our setting you're not going to get them trained to that level within 2 or 3 months of joining....more like something to shoot for within a year or two. In the meantime, they still can be trained enough to be effective firefighters.

    When I present training, I like to throw in little "tidbits" of background information that I have learned over time...but in our environment it ends up being just "nice to know" stuff. Aerial apparatus...We don't have one, none of our neighboring departments have one, why do we need to train on it? Where would we even get one to train on? Sprinkler systems...we have like 2 in our whole response area, and in 15 years we've never been called to one activated. This is stuff I'll go over with them later, after they've learned fire behavior, SCBA's, hose handling and such.

    I have heard that the Louisiana State Firemen's Association is developing a curriculum that is an abbreviated version of FF1. Something that would be more realistic for the majority of the departments here in Louisiana (small, rural, volunteer). Something a little more attainable. They are trying to make this the statewide "standard" of training. I support the concept, although I haven't yet seen the final proposal. LaFireEducator, heard anything about this?
    Chief Dwayne LeBlanc
    Paincourtville Volunteer Fire Department
    Paincourtville, LA

    "I have a dream. It's not a big dream, it's just a little dream. My dream and I hope you don't find this too crazy is that I would like the people of this community to feel that if, God forbid, there were a fire, calling the fire department would actually be a wise thing to do. You can't have people, if their houses are burning down, saying, 'Whatever you do, don't call the fire department!' That would be bad."
    C.D. Bales, "Roxanne"

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