1. #1
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    Default Mandatory Training for Volunteers

    How do you guys and gals feel about mandatory trainings, being told that you have to attend a training, even though you're a volunteer?
    Here's the story:
    I set up a mandatory training and sent out letters to our members over a week ago explaining that we needed to take the online NIMS course, that in order to receive federal funds all members have to be certified in the IS700 course, and that they must attend or contact me to reschedule if they can't make it. If they did not attend and we're awarded, they'll be made inactive. I guess it wrinkled a few members' panties (no pun intended) and I'm catching the heat. Most of the members on our department don't come around anymore unless it's the middle of the night and a working structure fire. And a handful of them think it's appropriate to run to the chief or assistant chief to complain instead of being mature and coming to me. Sure, it's great to tell people that you're a firefighter, wear the PPE and feel like superman, but how dare anyone tell them that they should come to the station every now and then to make sure they stay familiar with running the pumps (which has bit us in the ***** in the past). Now I'm hearing that it was a little brash, we're having trouble keeping people on the department and should not be sending out such strong demanding letters and running them off completely. The letter of course was approved by the officers prior to the mailing.
    Why would I set up a mandatory training for something that isn't required until next summer? Good question. They're lazy and wouldn't attend if they had an option. If you give them an inch they'll go a mile, and I'm not allowing anyone to slack off. The IS700 is so easy a monkey could do it. The officers allow members to not show up, even though it breaches bylaws and shrug it off when someone questions attendance issues or problems like this arise. I asked my assistant chief this morning if $330,000 was worth losing someone who A) doesn't show up anyway, and B) complain all of the time.
    You must know that I'm a little upset and truly love the guys on my department. But it's very frustrating to me, the one who researched, studied information and wrote the grant.
    Would you risk losing a grant or a member who doesn't even participate? Please guide me.

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    Our department has the following mandatory training requirements:

    1. Minimum of 12 hours training per calendar year, inhouse or elsewhere.

    2. 3 mandatory topics each year. We do set up a makeup date for those that cannot attend initially.

    3. Our active members are divided up into equal groups that are assigned a truck each month. Each truck has a maintenance list that must be completed. Each member is required to complete the maintenance at least 1 time on every truck PER YEAR.

    4. CPR card must be held.

    5. Haz-mat operations cert must be held.

    6. NIMS will be soon to follow I am sure.

    See, your guys don't have it so bad.

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    We tell people up front that yes you volunteer to join the department, once you join, there are requirements that you agree to. You don't get the choice to volunteer for some things but not others.

    I don't think that requiring the NIMS training is too much. We required 60 points a year to maintain active status. Those can be made up from a max of 40 calls, meeting/training attendance, collateral duties (fund raising) and formal training.

    The only suggestion that I can make is that you stick to your guns. It really sounds like you need MORE manditory training.

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    The last time ISO was in our hall, they were looking for 20 HOURS of training a MONTH! Think about that one for a bit.......

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    We are just lucky to get the members to show up for calls, but we have 1 training day per month, but usually the same 4 or 5 people show up for those. We also have 1 work day per month to maintain the apparatus and other equipment, usually no one but the chief and myself show up for those. It sucks but there isnt much that can be done to change it.
    Steve
    Proud member of the IACOJ
    SUA SPONTE
    "I've got no respect for any young man who won't join the colors."
    ~Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, CSA

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    We have guidelines set up and every member has been aware of them. We only require our members to attend at least five meetings, four training sessions, or respond to at least four emergencies in the 12-month calendar year. We have two meetings a month, one followed by a training, and a work detail on the fourth Thursdays. Then of course the all day trainings that are quarterly through the year. That's cake, right? I think so. But they don't show. Like Spider, we usually have the same number of members attend the meetings and trainings, mostly the same for runs as well. But I don't agree that there isn't much we can do to change it. You meet the requirements that you've known about for the past 5 to 20 plus years or just move on and make some room for someone who wants to participate. Training is everything, I agree. If you don't retrain and learn new methods, you're putting other members at potential risk on the fire ground. If we have someone fumbling with a pump, trying to figure out how to engage it for a few minutes because they've not been around for a while, that's just dangerous and unacceptable.
    I was told this morning that we can't cut our volunteer's pay and can't afford to lose anymore by sending out such a threatening letter. The only member(s) we would lose are the cry babies who can't go to the source of the problem and have to run to someone else to complain and those who just don't participate.
    So as everyone else says who gets as frustrated as I am right now, why the heck are we wasting our time??
    What can departments like ours do to change the attitudes of the head officers? How do we make these guys understand that trainings are very important and that there's nothing wrong with sending a letter that says "be at the training or become inactive"? Why waste so much time and energy worrying about upsetting members and walking on egg shells to prevent making waves, and focus on improving the department even if we downsize. We can get others to join, who care!
    Right?

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    even though you're a volunteer?
    Remind them that the last time they "volunteered" was when they "volunteered" to join. From that point forward, they agreed to follow the rules. Don't follow the rules, there's the door - make use of it.
    "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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    Our state requires FF1 Certificates for any work in an IDLH environment. Our county requires a minimum of two training sessions a month and response to 25% of a departments calls inorder to receive a monthly stipend ($100 once qualified FF1) The FF1 includes CPR, First Responder, and Hazmat Awareness Level. Just to get this, you are looking at about 160 hours of training before entering your first working structure fire.
    My department was made up of many like those you have described. When we initiated the required changes to our training programs we did lose a large number of personnel. Was it worth it... YES. We now train every Monday night and require each member to stand a duty day one Saturday out of every three. It took alot of banging heads to get to this point. Now, as potential volunteers come to the station, we give them a complete application package that includes exactly what will be required of them. As long as it's the accepted practice and everyone knows what's expected, you will find very little friction or complaining.
    The hard part will be instituting the change. Your Chain of Command must understand that the change is inevitable and losses will occur. They will soon realise the better trained response they get will better serve the citizens. Firefighters who are there for the right reasons will stay and enjoy the pride they feel when they know and understand what they are doing.

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    Sounds like you're being reasonable. The only times I ever chafed at a training requirement was a couple of things that were only offered once, no make-ups, and we were told we *had* to attend. That's obviously not workable for people who have jobs, classes, etc. If you're giving good notice in advance and offering other times for people with schedule conflicts, you're doing everything right. Anyone who's not working with you on that is not being very cooperative.

    I do agree with, oh, someone up there who said offering incentives is a good idea. Carrots I've seen used are the free food, door prizes at trainings, awards or recognition for highest participation, and the "team spirit" thing -- "C'mon guys, we need this money and we need you to come to this training so we can get it!" I don't know if that would work at your station, but feeling important and needed sometimes triggers people to show up.

    Of course, I find I'm always one of four who are cleaning up after every call and doing all the scut work long after everyone goes home... so what would I know?

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    Like many of the others here my department has training requirements set forth in policy that each member is made aware of before they become a member. We have a required call percentage and you must have 24 hours a year in firefighter training to stay up to date with our department. We have one medical drill (3 hours) and two fire drills (3 or so hours) a month. We really don't have a problem. Although we are battling the NIMS giant right now as well.

    What annoys me is that NFPA standard for firefighter I and II has not yet been changed so new members have to get trained twice to cover the same material. This whole NIMS thing has a lot of departments mad.
    FF/EMT Erik ("Woody") Wood
    Auburn Fire/Rescue
    Auburn, KS

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    The guys who have been on the department as long as I have and longer are the ones who are slacking, to be quite honest. I believe it was when three of our youngest members joined and had the hotshot syndrome (which none of us can deny we had too) and it aggrevated some of the older guys. Then came along a woman who was "a little more friendly than she should have been" and that really upset some of them as well with good reason. The operations of the department changed a little after the younger guys joined, which wasn't bad to be honest. We need to get away from the dinosaur age. Trainings were established, more notices went out and we began to structure in a more positive manner. But with change is resistance, and those resisting are the ones that don't show up and the ones I was directing the letter to mostly. It's mandatory, we won't get the grant if you don't get this training, etc... just as we've said already.

    I talked with our President a few months ago about the retention issues and suggested that he talk with the older members who stopped coming around. He has and they make the empty promises and continue to stay away. Personally I'm kind of sick of trying to hold everyone's hands and trying to please everyone. I know as a leader that you have to do this to some extent, but come on!!! We're all adults. That's the most recent message I've sent to our President.

    The bottom line is we have to get this certification in order to receive federal funds (which was stated in the letter), we're all adults and know what the minimum attendance requirements are, as well as the repercussions if we do not meet those. When the President/Assistant Chief & the other line officers don't know how to better the situation and try to get these members to be more active, I think we have a serious problem.

    Incentives are good, but do these people really want a shirt or jacket or plaque? I really doubt it, knowing them as much as I do. Sure we have materialistic members but not these guys in question. The last time I talked with them, they told me that they just don't care anymore. It stinks to hear that from them because they're darn good firefighters, but if we can't get them back or more involved then maybe it's time to tell them to turn their stuff in and we'll find someone else. I'm not sure.

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    Sorry...I forgot to mention the NIMS training and requirements. I understand the frustration everyone's feeling about the government putting so many constraints on volunteers, but it's time we just buck up and do it, right? I mean, it has been a matter of time before something like this happened. We've had to face change all of our lives, so why not just roll with it?

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    not for nothing, but if they aren't coming to training, then throw them out. If they are life members, and they don't go to trainings, then they can't go on the apparatus to calls. yeah, it sucks, but if they aren't training, how do you know they will be good when it comes to the real thing?

    or if you change something on the apparatus (ie, the way the crosslays are packed), and they don't know, your going to pull up to a fire and be a hinderance to your operation.

    As a volunteer, I'm 100% in favor of mandatory trainings for ALL 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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    I can see a lot of people would not like it at my f.d.. We require 7 training’s a quarter. Weekly work details broke up into 6 groups. All members must be active in all fire department functions work details, fund raises community events and so on. We are talking about cutting back to 5 training’s a quarter. Quarter is three month period. Training’s are every Thursday except for the third Thursday which is our business meeting. If you miss 3 meetings in a row you do not have a vote till you make three in a row. Sundays are make up training’s as well. Yes it is volunteer but if you do not train you are going to get someone KILLED. If they think they know it all they should get out of it. Things change everyday for the fire service. If you do not make your quarter for training’s then you do not get on a truck until you make them up. I f you can not make one of these training’s we will set up a make up for a person with people that want more training. In other words if you are two training short for a quarter you have to make two training’s in the next quarter to get back on the truck. And to answer the big question everyone has how many people make this. We have only had two people have to make up training’s to get on the truck. Three be voted out for not making training’s in 6 years. I would rather have ten people who want to be there and put in the effort than 30 how come and go as they please. As for the people who say I’ve been fighting fires for twenty years. True you know a lot. But 1985 was a long time ago and everything has a twist to it now. House fires are different car fires are different extraction is different everything the fire department does has change how we deal with it every couple of years. The only thing that has not changed is getting cats out of trees. There are only two ways to go in the fire service forward or backward. Standing still is falling backward. Training does not make perfect training makes permanent!

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    Can I just join one of your guys' departments? Yours sound much more structured and safe.

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    Where you at in Ohio?
    Training does not make perfect. Training makes permanent!

    IACOJ probie

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    In our department you are told coming in that you must complete 2 hours of training per month, 10 months out of the year, and respond to a percentage of calls (that occur during your off time). If you don't, and you don't call up and offer to return your gear whilst you take a leave of absence, then the local deputy will come round and take it from you.

    I personally prefer this. I'd like to know that if my life is in someone's hands that they take their commitment as strongly as I do, and that training is important. Otherwise, I'm outta here!

    Cate

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    We have minimum participation requirements as well as occasional mandatory topics.

    All regular members have to make 25% of the drills each year. Probies have to make 50% (though they're "encouraged" to make most if not all) and reserves have to make (I think) 15%.

    As far as mandatory on-going requirements go, all members have to maintain current CPR and AED certs and a current HazMat First Responder Ops. These are offered in-house, but if you get them outside (say through your regular job) that's fine.

    We do also occasionally have other mandatory classes. For example, California passed a mandatory requirement for all supervisory personnel to have sexual harrassment training (this is across the board...not just fire service), so that's mandatory for officers. We also did a mandatory safe driving class a few months back that was required by our city's insurance carrier for anyone who drives city vehicles. Also, for members who want to go on wildfire strike teams, there's a series of required classes.
    Chris Gaylord
    Emergency Planner / Fire Captain, UC Santa Cruz FD

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    I thought my department was the only one that has those same probs.. At least some of you are tryin to change things. I read in a book one time this>>>. People that you challenge for "change" will sometimes make "YOU" out to be "the problem".. but that doesnt mean that just because you notice and bring attention to something that needs to be different, you are.. Most of us dont like "change".. "

    Our department has some great guys on it..they have fought fires for 25 years, done several rescues, etc. but we are in the 21 century.. paperwork, reports, training and even computers have a place in Volunteer fire depts now.. We are blessed enough to have 2 Career Firemen on our Volunteer..they are our training officers, they do training exericises every week at work.. But when they teach a training class at our Volunteer Dept.. we have guys that think they know as much as them.. ?? go figure. I hope I never get to a point I cant learn something.. .. I feel better now..lol...

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    Thanks for all of the responses everyone. And thank you for listening to me grumble, complain, etc... I too feel that if my life is in their hands and they can't show the same dedication, I'm outta there. Why take such a risk?!

    I'm in Athens County by the way.

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    We don't have a big problem with getting members to attend and keep up their training, probably because we have so few members. In the past we've had some slackers, and they don't stay long. I've tried to show respect that they are volunteering, but there comes a time when they do need to realize that when they volunteered, that does not mean that they can decide what they do or do not need to do. They volunteered to be a firefighter, and this is what a firefighter has to do. The days of just getting by are all but gone, and lifelong training has to be.
    There goes the neighborhood.

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    When I first joined my department we had about 6 folks who regularly attended drills and calls. We went through a couple of probie classes and finally have about 10 to 12 that show up 80% of the time for calls and drills.

    In my opinion if you can't make the calls or the drills why bother. This is a lifestyle, that means when the pager goes off, you go. You don't get to pick and choose what calls or drills you want to go to. When you signed on, you signed on to help your community even if you have other stuff going on, no matter what the call.

    When I first joined my wife and I had the discussion. She knows, that no matter where we are going, or what we are doing, if I am in the district and the pager goes off, I turn around and go. That means if we are in the neighboring town (about 10 to 15 minutes away) and a second page comes out for help, we pick up...and we go. We have left restraunts and parties so that I could help out my brothers and help the citzens of my district. That is what we do. We are all fireman. When the call comes...we go.

    The same one would think, should apply to training and I am glad to say that for the most part that is the case in my department. Our Chief and officers have done a great job of recruiting those who want to be there, those who want to train, learn, and make calls and weeding out those who don't or can't. Before I was appointed they made that very clear to me.

    I imagine that this is common in the volunteer service.
    FF/EMT Erik ("Woody") Wood
    Auburn Fire/Rescue
    Auburn, KS

  23. #23
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    As for the NIMS training, why not do what our training officer did- Post the web site address in a conspicuous place for everyone to see (or establish a home email address for each and every member, a great way to enhance your communications in your VFD) or email the web site address to all your members- The NIMS Training provides for a certificate to be mailed to you, and also for up to two persons to be notified of your successful completion- Why not allow your members to complete the training at their leisure, in the comfort of their own homes??? Require that either you be one of the notifications be made, and/or that a photocopy of the certificate be provided????

    As for the subject of mandatory training, It's a double-edged sword: I understand and acknowledge the fact that SOME training needs to be done, in order to keep up proficiency and skills, however; (I have said it before on these forums, and I will say it again, and again, and again.....)

    ** WHEN MY VOLUNTEER ORGANIZATION STARTS PAYING MY MORTGAGE, THEY MAY THEN MAKE TRAINING AND DRILLS MANDATORY. **

    I'll leave it at that. For those of you who dont like it, lets just agree to disagree.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    I respect everyone's opinions. That's why I love you guys and gals so much!!
    Here's why I made it mandatory. If we don't impose a mandatory training, they won't do it, plain and simple. There are a few members who are responsible and have asked if they can take the class on their own, which I have agreed to. That really isn't a problem. But for the slackers, this is really the way it has to be or they'll just be made inactive. We really don't need members who won't show up for anything year round. That's a dangerous environment and not productive when someone else could certainly fill their wall space.
    I don't mean to sound cold or crast, but it's just getting to the point where we need to mandate things like this to really see who cares and who doesn't and then clean house. Sure it's volunteer, but do you want someone entering a structure with you who hasn't been to a training for a year or more? Do you want these type of people backing you up?? That's my concern.
    As far as giving everyone an email?! Are you kidding? I would say that 50-60% of our members don't even use email. And those who do have computers in their homes and do use email I've asked for their email addresses and they've just ignored my request. So, I just said the heck with it and send their information through USPS. Quite frankly, I feel like we're in elementary.

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    Thumbs up Cleaning House....

    Cleaning house is always a good thing. The problem lies in the fact that this is a volunteer organiztion (our departments not all). Our standards do that pretty well. We clean out those that can't or won't particapte in training, calls and drills.

    I think my department views it more as a safety issue. We are blessed we have a 25 man roster and about 10 show up to just about all calls (day calls are different) and depending on the call (you already heard my opinion on that) more then that.

    I have worked with other volunteer organizations and retaining and keeping motivated active members is hard, not just for the fire service but everywhere. There is a line as FWDbuff points out we all have other jobs and other committments outside of the fire service. I think all of us are on a department because we want to help out the community, but sometimes (should read always) family comes first. Paying the mortgage and bills has precedence over all else. That is where mandatory training in any department hits a road block.

    Our department makes the effort. We have duty officers Monday thru Friday 9 to 5. If you missed something you can make it up during the day if you want and all of the officers are willing to come in on a weekend and get done what needs to be done.

    In any volunteer organization it's finding that happy medium. Doing what the organization set out to do and in our case doing a dangerous job safely with less training, less equipment and less man power not to mention less money. It's hard...each department must come to there own conclusion on how best to handle things.
    FF/EMT Erik ("Woody") Wood
    Auburn Fire/Rescue
    Auburn, KS

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