View Poll Results: What shall you do?

6. You may not vote on this poll
  • Toss those who repent

    0 0%
  • sway them by sugar coating it

    1 16.67%
  • Move to a mutual aid dept that is more in tune with you

    2 33.33%
  • dump the inconsistant cheif affraid of conflict

    3 50.00%
  1. #1
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Pine Beach ,NJ, USA

    Default Hitting the change wall

    Okay so your new in town, you have come from a volunteer FD that ran over 300 calls a year and you have seen enough fire , extrication, and the run of the mill false alarms to hold you over for the next 10 years. Now your new dept. runs maybe 120 calls has limited resources and a member roster even more limited.
    As the "outsider" looking in you see room for change and to bring the dept. into the 21st century easy enough right? You are sooooooo wrong, unlike the saying change is good getting a dept. to accept a change is like being asked to willfully smash your fingers in the car door you just won't do it, you may ponder it or wonder what if despite your better judgement, but doing it would take substantial money, something we are wll short of in volunteer land.
    So ask yourself what do you do when the "good ole boys" drinking club who couldn't care if they run 30 calls or 330 a year have to under go a change, where do you start who do you start with?
    In some instances you will have maybe 1 - 5 who will take a minute and say "hey this guys right lets go for it" but for each of them rest assure there another 20 who just think "hey it works for us leave it be".
    Sad as it sounds it is very real in the volunteer services after all we are doing this for no other gain than the love of it, isn't that more than enough reason? would think so, but don't forget we as an being are lazy, society has proven that time and time again.
    Think about it on average some volly is at home feet up in sweats having either a cold one or coffee, now despite looks he/she is ready to jump up and run like a demon should the tones go out and spend the day risking life and limb for free.
    Take that same person and tell them on the day they can be relaxing you need them to take a course or alter the way the dept. will do something and you may as well face the wall and talk cause they aren't getting up.
    So what can you do? Weed out those who will adapt from those who just exist, sure but remember you are also cutting your membership, personally as an officer I rather have 6 over qualified responders than 25 members I have to baby sit and push any day.
    So if you have attempted to bring some measure of light to the tunnel and hit a wall share your ideas comcerns or solutions maybe between a few of us we can find a way to knock down the wall.

  2. #2
    Forum Member
    Bones42's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2001
    Pt. Beach, NJ


    First thing I would do is lose the condescending tone towards us old guys. Respect is earned through time, not titles and/or training certificates. New in town, so no one knows you that well. 300+ calls to 120+ calls is not that big a difference and more calls does not always equal better experienced or trained. I do know the Pine Beach area a little, so unfortunately, I would agree somewhat with your assessment of the area though.

    I'd also agree with sticking with that "core" group and working with them. Others may catch on, others may leave. In the end, you and the department, will be better off.

    Good 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?

  3. #3
    MembersZone Subscriber
    mohican's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003

    Default BigShow3840 - this is not about you in specific

    As a chief, I'm not resistant to change

    And I'm not against new Ideas

    but there is something about someone who comes in from another department and wants everything changes. Sometimes, there is a rationalle behind it. Sometimes, you have several means to the same end.

    I think you probably need some time in the department to really see how they operate. You get a group of people who have worked together for years, you will have to be part of the group for a while before they consider change.

    If you have been there several years, then maybe you can lead a charge.

    The chief has probably had several "gung ho, I want to modernize" people before, and will probably have them after you.

    This is not an endorsement of unsafe behavior, or outdated equipment.

    Just saying you need to walk a mile in the man's shoes before you criticize.

  4. #4
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    The merry old land of Oz


    I have been with 4 different departments over the past 35 years and have seen everything from young, struggling departments who seek help and want to grow, all the way to old stagnent companies whose membership has aged and has not been able to bring in new members.

    At both extremes I have found that the best advise is to take things slow. Take the time to know the existing members better and to gain an understanding of the community and the way the department relates to it.
    There is no bigger turn-off to a member (whether they want change or not) than to say, "We did it this way or that way where I come from."


  5. #5
    Forum Member
    mlaforge's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Upstate New York


    I have lived this scenario. I have almost 20 years experience and I was in a volunteer department that ran 300+ calls a year 20 years ago. I was also a paid ff and my unit ran about 2800 calls a year. I relocated after getting married and had a hiatus for about 5 years. 4 years ago, I built a new house in a fairly rural community and decided it was time to get active again. We average about 100 calls per year.
    I'm sure that when I joined there were guys thinking "Oh sure. Here is this guy that was paid from down near NYC and is gonna try to change the way we do everything." The first thing I did was keep my mouth shut and observe. You never know all and never stop learning. This action, I believe, earned the respect of a majority of the membership. Enough so that after 2 years, I was elected to a line officer position. They actually came to me and asked me if I would be an officer. This past month, I was asked by the Chiefs and the Training officer to join the training staff.
    Like I said, you can never stop learning. For example, our department relies on dry hydrants. Prior to moving here, we only drafted in a training situation. We had pressurized hydrants fed by 8 - 12 inch mains on every corner. I think now the members see my actions toward schools and training think "Ok - so here is this 39 year old guy that has seen enough fire for all of us and he taking a state FAST team class. Maybe there is something to this training and improving our skills thing."
    Anyway, I think the best way to effect change and improve operations is to do it gradually. It may take years. You need to get into a position where the membership accepts you and is willing to consider your ideas. I think that my situation is almost the ideal scenario. I hope that it goes well for anyone who tries to improve their department.

  6. #6
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Pine Beach ,NJ, USA

    Default The Wall addition

    To those who have responded to my original post, thank you
    but I do want to add a few things that I guess I should have in the first one so maybe there is more light shed on this.

    I am not just speaking of my dept. or anyone's in direct way I was posting this as what others felt towards this, since the area I am now in seems to have a lot of this going on not just my dept. per say.
    Also as an officer and an instructor for the Fire Academy I am aware that some take time and others are hard chargers both of which can be good and bad ways.
    Another point I want to add is that I would never frown upon the "older" members while it is immperative we as a Fire Fighters have to maintian an ongoing up to date level into the future I firmly believe that tradition are the roots of what we do and where we go.
    But with that in mind it is the fact that terrorism while it may not be the priority of a more rural dept. which in the community has no "targeted " value, the fact remains that the dept. with 30 100 or 200 calls a year maybe the one that is called on to mutual aid ( god forbid it should ever occur again) to be the calvary.
    And if a dept. has not taken measures to use the grants and training and tools of this new era they may find themselves in peril.
    Now just to let those know who have responded and may in my previous dept. I was a grunt for 6 years and upon moving to this area I am in now I spent 1 observing and taking in the ways, my second year I made minor changes and awarded Fire Fighter of the Year, and have spent my 3rd and 4th year as an officer and Instructor.
    The changes? for the most part they have taken place to a degree which was the reason for the poll/post originally, it's not that change can not happen its what happens when there is room for more and suddenly the gears stop or slow.
    In the new dept. I have intiated our dept. into a level 2 county certified F.A.S.T. as well as water rescue and assist, an honor gaurd, I have helped create a means for all members to be provided full class A uniform ( something they never had) and this past Oct. all members who steadily made their percentages work details drills etc. where given a perk of company jackets, which they were never ever given.
    None of this was mentioned in my previous post cause I while I used my for instance in the post it is not just about me or my dept. as an instructor I hear from recruits and yes even "old timers" that some depts .. dare I say seem to refuse any change and this comes from people who lived in the community a lot longer than myself.
    So to my brothers who read these posts if it came across as "dept. bashing" it was not the intent as much as just setting the stage for other views, and the dig on the cheif well that just cause we all blame the man in charge LOL.
    Be safe and healthy and hug your family.
    " Let no FireFighters ghost return and say it was do to poor training"

  7. #7
    Permanently Removed

    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Southeast Iowa


    Big Show,

    I agree totally with what you are saying. I certainly understood what you were trying to get across from your first post. I also find myself in the same situation that you described. I am a 23 year old FF/Paramedic in a small town of less than 1,000 people. We run approx. 120-150 calls a year. I have been involved with this department for 3 years. My full-time and part-time jobs are in emergency services working for paramedic ambulances in two different counties. I have had the opportunity to see both the good and bad of what other departments are doing in three counties as I teach continuing education classes. There are a small group of us on the department who go to outside fire schools and training events because we want to bring fresh ideas back to our department. However, we end up mocked and told "its worked for 30 years, were not changing". We do have up to date equipment and we run an ALS first response unit. Certainly change comes easier on the EMS side than the fire side. I too hold dear the tradition associated with this business and I respect the "old-timer" for their experience, however, I cannot understand why there is such a fear of change in the fire service. We have succeeded in implementing some new changes over time, but we have a long ways to go. The saddest thing is that we have 30 some odd thousand dollars in the department bank account and the full-support of our city councils and township trustees and yet everyone is afraid to spend money. Our fire chief is an excellent incident commander, however he lacks the ability to deal with interpersonal relationships out of fear of ****ing the wrong person off. Officers are too afraid to be even slightly strict on training requirements and participation out of fear that people might quit. I would rather have 10 fire ****ers than 20 "slugs". I know I may sound like I am trying to say I know it all, and some might take it the worng way given my age. Believe me, I know I am far from knowing it all, you can't know it all in this business, you should never stop learning and looking for ways to progress. But it seems in my department's case anyway that we have hit the "change wall" I agree with you that we need to work together to change this.

  8. #8
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Dec 2004


    From experience, I have found that having evidence in hand to back up your suggestions for changes is to your advantage. As a 14-year veteran, I share your same sentiments about stagnant members, resistant to change, and frustrated. People get comfortable in life Ė we have to realize that. Members focus more on their families; enjoy simplicity and quite a few older members rebel against new members coming in and trying to modernize. Iíve seen it for the past 6 years on my department. In order to effectively suggest changes in your department to bring them to the 21st century, get some proof to back up your theory or suggestion. Retention is the result of several factors, most of which we cannot change. We have tried implementing a points system and rewarding those who attend regularly. It seemed to upset some people more so it was dropped. I too am part of a department who doesnít want to **** anyone off by disciplining and telling the inactive members to get on the ball or hang their hats up. Itís really sad that such great leaders could have such weak backbones and lack interpersonal relationship skills that are vital to their roles. It would be really hard for us to lose most of our inactive veterans. They are great firefighters. I think we should identify what is wrong with each member and try to work with them individually to get them back in the station. The other suggestions made by NFPA, NVFC & USFA to impose points systems, award members, give them new jackets and uniforms, etcÖ may work for some departments and should be tried at least, but for us they did not work. Big Show, it sounds like you have made great changes and I salute your efforts. Donít get discouraged. Gather some statistics, evidence or proof to back up your suggestions. If you need some help, let me know. I have a vast array of resources.
    Happy Holidays and be safe!

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