1. #1
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    Default Dealing with becoming a combination dept

    My teeny tiny volunteer FD, with only about 100 calls/year, now has three people on the payroll: a chief, paid for part-time but it's a pretty decent living wage, a paid day staffer, a part-time firefighter who is paid to do various administrative and other duties. Now they're talking about opening up a summer internship.

    I am beginning to suffer from a bit of jealousy here, and feeling rather undervalued. For instance, our part-time guy was just offered payment to do some work on getting a brush engine ready for the summer (I don't know if he took them up on the job or not.) I, OTOH, spent 18 hours getting the rest of the truck ready and so far have not gotten so much as a thank-you.

    I know it might sound petty, but I think it's a tough thing when suddenly some of the volunteers start getting paid. The way they have done the jobs -- the guy above was recruited quietly; there was no posted job opening, the summer internship is going *only* to someone registered for college next year) sort of makes it even tougher. As I said, we are a pretty small department without much money. We have virtually no training budget. Some of our members don't even have PPE that fits. So there really isn't any way to reward or compensate volunteers who put a lot of effort in, unless they change that.

    Has anyone else dealt with this change, and how did your department work it out so everyone felt valued and encouraged to participate?

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    A few questions:

    1 - Who is paying for the staff? VFD, town, etc.

    2 - What brought about the hiring ow staff? missed calls, delayed response, etc.

    3 - How can they afford to have staff and not PPE?

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    I'll back Spencer354 on this one.

    If the department has very little money than how is it paying the new paid staff ?

    Is there or was there a need to hire a staff ? Were the enough scratches {missed calls} to warrant this ?

    I'm a Career Guy in a combination department of about 80 members {there are 6 of us Career Staff} call volume is slightly larger {800-900 fire and over 2000 ambulance calls yearly} The company I work for hired their first full timer in 1986 to help off-set Ambulance Responses and to guaruntee a Duty EMT during Daytime Hours. As the Years past the need for more staff became greater and the job responsibilities increased.

    We went from one Fulltime Guy in 1986 to 6 Fulltime and 8 Part time personnel today in 2005 dur to lack of volunteer participation. Volunteers are still a big part of the company but don't really come around to often except if there is a meeting or real big fire somewhere and they never ever clean thier fire house even if they make the mess.

    We bill for EMS Services and receive State/County Funds which pays our Saleries and Benifits. I love my job, wouldn't trade it for the world

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    Good questions. The board of directors decides on how the money is spent, and I guess they feel it is important to have day staffing. To my knowledge there is almost never a problem with response to calls (we usually have about ten people show up for a simple medical call, and everyone comes out for a fire). It can get a little tight in the days when many of us are at work, but we have never actually missed a call or anything. Technically, we're only first responders to medicals, so even if no one from our dept showed up the ambulance would still be there from another dept.

    I don't really understand how they choose to spend the money -- maybe if I knew where they were coming from, this wouldn't bug me. The paid positions don't seem really necessary to me.

    Most of the work is done by a core group of volunteers -- the four or five of us who stay late to get everything cleaned, fixed, and reserviced. It is also all volunteers who maintain all our apparatus and the medical equipment.

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    Question

    Would the paid positions seem more necessary if you had one of them?
    Just asking,
    KC
    "PHILIPPEANS 4:13"

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    I believe going combo is always tough. My dept is combo with 7 paid and about 25 volunteer. The first paid guy was hired about 4 years ago, and the rest came on over the next two years. We haven't hired anyone additional in the past two years. Most of the original volunteers have left because of friction between them and the now "paid" guys. Depending upon who you listen to, there's at least 6 sides to the same story. Some of the volunteers who weren't hired were jealous, felt left out, were discriminated against, etc. Others say the former volunteer now paid guys were suddenly acting in charge, better than everyone else, etc. Most of the volunteers didn't have the required certifications to get hired in the first place (not commissioned or not a paramedic). It has caused a change in the volunteer force. Most of the new volunteers are commission certified and are looking to eventually get hired somewhere. We don't realy get anymore volunteers of the old community type. The city is growing and the times are changing. I don't have much advice except to say you have to roll with the changes as best you can.

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    Hey RMcnye,

    Sounds like there are some serious issues if the board decides how money is spent and not actual operations personnel/officers. Boards are supposed to provide strategic guidance, however shouldn't be making purchases or deciding operational activities. If your department does not endorse the things your board is doing, they need to find another board.

    Sounds kinda fishy though that they would spend a large amount of money (personnel are expensive) if there was no need. Just curious?

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    Originally posted by Spencer534
    Hey RMcnye,

    Sounds like there are some serious issues if the board decides how money is spent and not actual operations personnel/officers. Boards are supposed to provide strategic guidance, however shouldn't be making purchases or deciding operational activities. If your department does not endorse the things your board is doing, they need to find another board.

    Sounds kinda fishy though that they would spend a large amount of money (personnel are expensive) if there was no need. Just curious?
    I couldn't disagree with you more. The Board is responsible for budgeting and purchasing. I don't know what kind of department you come from where the Board only makes recommendations.

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    the summer internship is going *only* to someone registered for college next year
    Commenting on the summer intership job, I know there are grants available from various places if you hire on a student for the summer. Chances are the fire dept may only be paying 25% - 50% of the actual wage,or none of it at all, the goverment grant would pay the rest or all. We have these programs available in my area and there are places around that take advantage of it. We've never bothered at the FD just for the fact there's not a lot going on in the summer and there would be nothing for the student to do.

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    Ironmint,

    I'm sure boards are different everywhere, but ours is made up of 2 Chiefs, 2 Admin. officers, and 2 members-at-large. They are used in purchasing for emergencies (purchases above a certain amount and that need to be done before the next business meeting) and for guidance (putting together the strategic plan and budgeting). We've been providing excellent service since 1904, so something must be right.

    I don't have any experience in the matter, but I couldn't imagine non-operations people deciding operational matters. I wouldn't want someone who doesn't fight fire determining what equipment to buy or procedures to follow for people who do fight fire. I certainly wouldn't want people who are not running calls to hire personnel without consulting the people who do run calls!

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    "Would the paid positions seem more necessary if you had one of them? "

    Of course! LOL But I prefer to think it's not *strictly* jealousy that's making me uncomfortable with the deal. It's more the shadiness surrounding *how* they hire and whatnot. And the fact that they're currently going through a period of being *really* unappreciative toward volunteers. I think if you're going to pay some people and not others, you need to make a bit of an effort to make everyone feel included and equal. For instance, a paid member just got publicly thanked for putting in a couple of extra unpaid hours to do his job (he's salaried), while the volunteers who showed up for the SAME training were not thanked. Weird.

    Interresting to hear how other boards work. Ours makes all the purchasing decisions with the recommendation of the chief and of one firefighter who is on the board, as far as I can tell. It usually works pretty well, because our board is largely supportive. The only problem is, and this happens everywhere, is that I think the system can be abused a bit -- since things tend to happen outside of the regular dept functions, there is this wall, and so one officer can have a big influence on things, if you get my drift.

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    We have 3 paid, roughly 25-30 volunteer and LOTS of static between the vollies and the 2 paid guys that used to be vollies with us, the one paid guy who vols at another station gets along with the rest of us just fine, go figure.
    Doug Velting Jr
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    Oh really - go figure

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    Wait until you have a situation where a volunteers are hired for paid postiions but are still required to be active volunteer members, including going to calls, meetings or training when not on the clock, to be a paid FF.
    Been there, got the t-shirts.
    Steve
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    Default Hmm...

    You signed up as a volunteer, you didn't get paid before, and you don't get paid now. If it was good enough for you before, why isn't it good enough now? Don't worry if someone else gets paid or not. It's very helpful to morale to feel appreciated, though... money is one way to show appreciation, but there are plenty of others. Personally, in my department I feel that I am appreciated most of the time - with a simple "thanks", hand shake, smile, "good job", occasional bowl of ice cream, whatever.

    I find it's a simple fact of life that when you have a paid job, you generally want to leave when your paid time is up - and if you work extra time, you want to get paid for that extra time. When you volunteer for a job, you give whatever time you are willing to give - some weeks more, some weeks less.

    Don't be jealous - the paid guys *have* to be there, they can't pick and choose what they do and when, and they also have the added pressure of it being their *career* now. They may be acting a bit differently toward the vollies now because the change feels awkward to them, too, and they aren't sure how to deal with it.

    As for PPE, though - everyone had better have appropriate gear.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cellblock
    Wait until you have a situation where a volunteers are hired for paid postiions but are still required to be active volunteer members, including going to calls, meetings or training when not on the clock, to be a paid FF.
    Been there, got the t-shirts.
    Wow, in our department we are having the opposite problem. Our paid FFs have been told NOT to respond to calls on their non-paid time. One of them would very much like to respond as a volunteer on his days/nights off, because he wants to help - but he's no longer allowed to. If I understand correctly, if he responded they would have to pay him overtime and they don't want to, and even though he's perfectly willing to respond without pay that is somehow not okay... I guess due to insurance issues (?).

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    baileydonk, that is how we are. If the Paid staff responds on an off day, they are supposed to get Comp. time. Our Chief discourages it unless they are on our Haz-Mat team or they get called back due to a large incident.

    My department is a combination department. We have 6 paid firefighters, 2 per shift, 3 shifts. We also have 2 Asst. Chiefs on duty Mon-Fri 7a-4p. We have been Combination since the early 90's, way before my tenure with the department. Generally speaking our Paid staff and our volunteers have a good working relationship on calls. Our Chief is not actually paid. He gets a department vehicle, fuel card and I believe a small paycheck, not sure on the amount. Our Deputy Chiefs get a fuel card and I'm not quite sure what else, never really asked.

    Our Board is made up of 5 members, elected by members of the district, i.e. taxpayers. They make all the administrative decisions such as whether or not a volunteer who submitted an application will be allowed to join or not. They also give the OK for how money is spent. I asked to have the fire department pay for my EMT school and the Chief and I had to ask the Board, they had a closed door session and approved it.

    Around here, not sure if it is all of Missouri or not but....firefighters are NOT allowed to serve on the Board, if they wish to, they have to resign as firefighter, or Chief, or Captain whatever they are.
    Firefighter/EMT-B
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougVelting
    We have 3 paid, roughly 25-30 volunteer and LOTS of static between the vollies and the 2 paid guys that used to be vollies with us, the one paid guy who vols at another station gets along with the rest of us just fine, go figure.


    You got that wrong to !!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by cellblock
    Wait until you have a situation where a volunteers are hired for paid postiions but are still required to be active volunteer members, including going to calls, meetings or training when not on the clock, to be a paid FF.
    Been there, got the t-shirts.

    Fortunately FLSA law takes effect for our new guys and the new probies must resign from the vol co. because they are not on duty after there regular shifts- no t-shirts required

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    Quote Originally Posted by baileydonk
    You signed up as a volunteer, you didn't get paid before, and you don't get paid now. If it was good enough for you before, why isn't it good enough now? Don't worry if someone else gets paid or not. It's very helpful to morale to feel appreciated, though... money is one way to show appreciation, but there are plenty of others. Personally, in my department I feel that I am appreciated most of the time - with a simple "thanks", hand shake, smile, "good job", occasional bowl of ice cream, whatever.

    I find it's a simple fact of life that when you have a paid job, you generally want to leave when your paid time is up - and if you work extra time, you want to get paid for that extra time. When you volunteer for a job, you give whatever time you are willing to give - some weeks more, some weeks less.

    Don't be jealous - the paid guys *have* to be there, they can't pick and choose what they do and when, and they also have the added pressure of it being their *career* now. They may be acting a bit differently toward the vollies now because the change feels awkward to them, too, and they aren't sure how to deal with it.

    As for PPE, though - everyone had better have appropriate gear.

    Unfortunately most vollies don't understand its our career now -our job- so when they come to my job and interfere it's frustrating- I don't go to there job and sit around all day and create animosity or interfere in my regular duties

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    Quote Originally Posted by baileydonk
    Wow, in our department we are having the opposite problem. Our paid FFs have been told NOT to respond to calls on their non-paid time. One of them would very much like to respond as a volunteer on his days/nights off, because he wants to help - but he's no longer allowed to. If I understand correctly, if he responded they would have to pay him overtime and they don't want to, and even though he's perfectly willing to respond without pay that is somehow not okay... I guess due to insurance issues (?).

    it's FLSA law --federal labor law

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