1. #1
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    Post Volunteers hard to find

    Just finding this out now? Time constraints, family and employment responsibilities have taken their toll across America...for a good while now.

    By MIKE BELT
    Lawrence Journal-World
    LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - When a call comes to respond to a fire or
    traffic accident, they go.
    It doesn't matter what they are doing at home or at work. It
    doesn't matter if they have to drive a 30-year-old fire truck to
    get there. And it doesn't matter that they don't get paid.
    But volunteer firefighters in Douglas County are becoming harder
    to find.
    Nobody knows that better than LeRoy Boucher, longtime chief of
    the Lecompton Fire & Rescue Department. He has seen his department
    in recent years drop from an average of 20 or more volunteer
    firefighters to about a dozen.
    "The kids now, they got full-time jobs and they just can't drop
    everything and run," Boucher said. "A lot of them work in Kansas
    City or Lawrence and they cant respond in the daytime."
    Dan Hardtarfer, Clinton Township fire chief, agreed. He heads a
    department of 10 firefighters, who respond to fires in areas around
    Clinton and Lone Star lakes.
    "It's a dying breed," Hardtarfer said about volunteer
    firefighters. "It's hard to recruit people because of their
    (daily) schedules."
    The recruitment situation is a little better for the Wakarusa
    Township Fire Department. The department has four full-time, paid
    employees, including Chief Chris Moore. It has two stations: one at
    1230 N. 1800 Road north of Lawrence, and one at 31st and Louisiana
    streets, which has one full-time staff member on duty 24 hours a
    day. It currently has 18 volunteers, but recruits are always
    sought, Moore said.
    "It's not something we struggle with so much as some of the
    other departments since we're situated on the outskirts of
    Lawrence," said Moore, who has been chief more than two years.
    Wakarusa firefighters in recent years have responded to an
    average of about 220 calls, including 100 emergency medical calls.
    The department requires its firefighters to go through a 120-hour
    class to become certified in Kansas as a Firefighter 1. Many of the
    firefighters also are trained as emergency medical technicians or
    first-responder medics.
    The Wakarusa department is often used by young firefighters as a
    place to get their training and experience before moving on to a
    bigger department. They have often been hired by Lawrence-Douglas
    County Fire & Medical and departments in Johnson and Leavenworth
    counties, Moore said. But many of them also continue working as
    volunteers for Wakarusa and may spend 20 hours a month working at
    the station ready to handle calls, he said.
    Moreover, none of the current firefighters live in Wakarusa
    Township, Moore said.
    "We've been pretty fortunate to find a good group of guys who
    are dedicated to something they don't have a vested interest in,"
    he said.
    That is not the case in Clinton Township, where the firefighters
    live in their district, Hardtarfer said.
    "I moved out in the neighborhood and felt like I ought to help
    out my neighbors," said Hardtarfer, who also holds down a job as
    an aerial truck driver as a 22-year-veteran of the Lawrence fire
    department.
    Other township firefighters volunteer for the same reason,
    Hardtarfer said. They respond to more than 20 fire calls a year, he
    said.
    "We are a very small township in comparison to some of the
    other townships, and our equipment is horribly outdated,"
    Hardtarfer said. "We're going through a lot of changes. We're
    actually pursuing the purchase of a new truck. It's just a matter
    of getting board members to write that check."
    Hardtarfer hopes a used fire truck can be purchased with grant
    money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. An application
    has been made, but it won't be known if it is granted for several
    months. A truck could cost up to $100,000, he said. Currently, the
    department's youngest truck is more than 30 years old.
    Most of the county's volunteer fire departments are funded and
    come under the control of township boards. Several years ago,
    Lecompton's fire department was under the control of both a
    township board and the City Council. The two entities couldn't get
    along, so Boucher formed a fire district board that includes six
    people and himself as chief. The chief votes on matters only to
    break a tie, he said.
    "It was the only way I could get anything done," Boucher said.
    Boucher started as a volunteer firefighter in the early 1970s
    and was chief of the Oskaloosa area department in Jefferson County
    before moving to Lecompton and becoming chief.
    Lecompton is a growing area and Boucher said he thought the time
    was near for a full-time staff member to be hired for the station,
    at least during the day. And Boucher is ready to retire.
    "If I could get somebody to take over the chief's job, I'd be
    willing to step out of this," he said. "I'm going to be 67 pretty
    quick, and that's too old for this."
    ---
    Information from: University Daily Kansan

    (Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
    Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

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  2. #2
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    That pretty much sums up my volly dept. We only have 5 or 6 that regualarly show up. Only 2 of us are under 50 years old. Trucks are 35-40 years old.
    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

  3. #3
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    Exclamation

    Its great that people(newspapers) can point out the problems, but what about us that get calls and no one responds. No one period. I know we all have our unique situations, but unless it hits people in the pocketbook, no changes will happen. When our department puts out the tax levy to pay for paid personell to cover 24/7 with all the costs associated with it, then people will come out of the wood work to join. Except they can't make trainings or Essentials or drills because of..... Excuses and drama.

    We do the best with what we got! Thats how the Fire service was built and thats how its gonna be. Lets come up with solutions... I urge people to look into the SERVE act and write your federal legislators for backing of the bill. If we can give our volunteers a little incentive that helps their pocketbook then maybe...

    Just my two cents....

    Chief of a department with a budget of $9,000 a year, two broke down trucks and a list of volunteers who have excuses as to why FF is not important enough to make sacrifices. But dealing with it as best as we know how.

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    I've been reading a lot of these articles in all the fire-related publications, and I was a bit surprised to see that the volunteer shortage has spread far beyond the small section of Northern Florida that I call home.

    My dept also had a dramatic decline in active membership over the last two years. One afternoon this past February, there were a total of four of us left (that actually ran calls). At that point we decided that the traditional volunteer recruiting thing (basically word of mouth) was obviously not cutting it to get new memebrs. So we embarked on an active recruitment campaigne aimed at the local colleges and residential areas.

    So far, we've had tremendous success recruiting new people - especialy from the EMT and Paramedic programs offered by the community colleges. After one month of active recruiting, we signed up 10 new members, and put them through training. We're starting up the second Recruit program in a few weeks, and we already have 7 more people interested (without even actively recruiting at the moment).

    Sometimes all it takes is for a few people in your local dept to get fed up with an empty station. All we did was make flyers and set up tables during community events. It cost next to nothing to and didnt even require a lot of our time. I know every community is different, and we're fortunate to be close to a college town with a lot of eager young people, but hey... you never know until you try..
    IAFF - Fire/EMS

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    Default no shortage here

    We are lucky, knock on wood. We have a roster of about 30 very active firefighters and about 10 not so active ones, we also have about 6 active first responders. Many of our firefighters are relatively young like 30. None of use are over 50. Our trucks are relatively new. We just got a new brush truck, we got a pumper in 01, 98 tanker and 98 light rescue. The other two are pretty old. We are trying to get a new station, polaris ranger and tanker pumper to replace the two old ones. We are in pretty good shape as far as PPE go too because we got the FEMA grant two years ago and we got new air packs and gear. We could use some more portable radios but they will come with time.
    "Let's Roll." Todd Beamer 9/11 first soldier in the war on terror

    "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. And to the republic for which it stands ONE NATION UNDER GOD indivisible,with liberty, and justice for all.

    I.A.C.O.J. Probie and darn proud of it.

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    Right at the moment, we have just enough man power to get by. It seems like each time we get a new member that turns out to be an asset, we loose a good member, so we end up staying short handed. We have tried many kinds of recruitment techniques, but so far have not found the one that worked.
    People do still like to volunteer, but only at their convenience. So they do things like coach a kids sports team where they can set the hours. They are doing a great service to the community, but too many people are going that way.
    I'm sorry if this looks like a rant, but this is the one thing in the fire service that drives me nuts. 1 tenth of 1 percent of the public are active in our fire company. That is a shame for sure.
    Other than that, everything is great.
    So, how are you guys doing?
    There goes the neighborhood.

  7. #7
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    Default A DYING BREED !!!

    I remember as a kid growing up in 1970's Southern New Jersey - The Volunteer Fire Company was the place to belong, or hang-out.

    I remember at least 6 of my neighbors belonging - when that siren blew in town it was a mad rush up my street. We kids knew to get away from the street {We did goofy sh** back then playing near the street}

    Everyone in town either belonged, was retired from, or was related to someone who was involved with the fire company in some respect....and if you weren't a firefighter you belonged to the Volunteer First Aid Squad. - Of course life styles change and people move on but really whgat has happened to our volunteer fire companies ??? Oh yeah sure they still exist but they don't flurish like they used to and in just a 25 year time span they went from the in thing to the "oh you do that and don't get paid ???? why ??"

    Well I do get paid for it and I'm still an active Volunteer - although not as active as I should be - I still enjoy the rush at 3am, the sense of belonging to a group of tight nit individuals, and the sense of pride I get with being involved in the community. - I'm also a Career Firefighter with in a combination department. The membership there basically has given up taking any sort of pride....I think because we {6 paid personnel} came along. But that began happening in 1986 when the Ambulance was tough to get out during the day. As years wore on the apparatus began running short and the paid staff now is charged with manning the apparatus around the clock because membership responses are poor at most times.

    Forget the pride in the equipment and the station - They just don't care - they figure paid staff will take care of it....So I think the mentality and the mind-set has become.....Why should I do for free what others are getting paid for ? I'm not complaining by any means hell, the laizer the members remain and the less they respond....Justifies my job. But seriously what ever happened to the True....VOLUNTEER ?

  8. #8
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    Default Volunteers are hard to find

    I used to work in a convenience store and could wear t shirts while on the clock.
    My usual wear was one of my department shirts and I got asked numerous times about joining the department.
    If someone didn't live in the district,I'd find out at least the street and advise them to either try the city,move into my district or any of the other 6 county volunteer departments.
    Reidland Farley is training about 15 people newer than me(2 years)and we are finishing up a new and bigger station in the Reidland part.Also on the burners is obtaining a 40 MPH,1500gpm fireboat.
    We currently have 50 active members who work around the clock so we have good turnout for calls.It is rare that fewer than 15 people respond.Our officers are used to having to rack their brains to find stuff for people to do as opposed to figure out who can get the most jobs done.
    This is not just my department,either.The tones go off in McCracken County for any department and after the dispatcher shuts up,the radio is covered with calls of"....responding to Station 1....going to Station 2."
    We might "just" be volunteers but we have some dedicated people who will advise other departments of problems needing attention as well as jump in and bear a hand on calls.
    All of our members can go to any other department in Kentucky and train as long as we get a "yellow sheet"certifying that the training was done IAW Commonwealth,IFSTA,NFPA and other alphabet requirements.
    I guess we're lucky that people actually want to do this for a gas stipend or nothing at all except paid training.
    It bothers me that paid firefighters see a division between us,and that some vollies see a line as well when when we're packed up and carrying the irons off the truck,unless there is a difference in air packs or names on the turnout coat,there's no real difference in who we are or what we do.

  9. #9
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    I guess you could say I am one of the only true volunteers left. The dept. I am on is fully volunteer, and by that I mean we get no pay per call or any other compensation. Roughly a year ago, we did get p.p.c. which was a total of $6. That was enacted before I joined up in a way to get the response from members who had slacked off. Unfortunatly tho, the members at the time were in their 40s 50s, and some were even in their 60s. They were getting tired and older, and it was beginning to get harder to get out of bed at 2 am, and stay on a scene for 4-5 hours at a time.

    I am a second generation volunteer. I was a young kid when my faather joined up, shortly after the dept was founded, (1986 I think, the first in the county.) I remember many nights going with him to the dept meetings and training drills and waiting for the day I would be old enough to hold a charged hose and put the wet cold stuff on the hott red stuff . But until I actually became a member, I never KNEW how much hard work and dedication it took/takes to be a volunteer firefighter. Yea, of course when I first joined up it was pure adrenaline, but after a while you start to relize just how much is really on the line.

    Ok, im sorry I rambled, but back to the topic. Volunteering is hard to do. Around my area, it is very VERY rural, with the nearest city at approx. 5-10 miles away, and the largest employment city at over 45 miles away. Most of the vollies (me excluded) work the day shift or a 7-5 time frame. Me being the only one there to cover the day time calls, puts a strain on the service, esp when you have subjects asking "what took you so long." After the job is done, I usually reply to the question with, "Sir/Ma`am, I live less than 2 hundred feet from you, I was in the bed sleeping from working all night at my full time job. When the page went out, I had to wake up, get dressed, hop in my P.O.V. and drive the 5 miles to the station. Get out of my vehicle, get my gear out, start the rig (hopefully it cranks) get my gear on, and then make the 5 mile drive BACK to you at a total top speed of 50 mph, slowing down for the driver who refused to yeild the right away. But all in all you are welcome and if ever need help, don't hesitate to call 911, we are there when you need us. Have a good day sir/ma am." I therefore think that alot of "potential volunteers my see the bad side of appreciation of the service we do and even the equipment we operate with (we have a annual budget of $5000, the rest is raised off of fundraisers in a primarly senior citizens area living on fixed income) and the said potential recruits feel they don't want to be associated with such disrespect.

    Now I have been a vollie for 2 years, along with a primarly young team (6 of the 10 certified volunteers are all under the age of 24 with 3 only being between 35 and 50 and the fourth being 55.) We have started a new generation of future firefighter by starting our junior program and allowing them to repsond to some of our calls and participate in some of the training. We are prepared to accept these "almost fully capable" 8 teens within the next 2-4 years, and we are always out recruiting when we are doing our fundraisers.

    Sorry if I did alot of rambling, but I thought I'd just put my $.02 into the equation.

  10. #10
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    Unhappy We are often our own worst enemies...

    I am not picking on anyone who has already posted here, but it is true. Look at the news here lately. The Ohio Fireman's Convention, with the nudity and drinking. Not many "family" types will be interested in joining that. When I first joined, even though I have already sown my wild oats, my parents were concerned I would lose my CDL because of drinking. That was the image we portrayed, drunken idiots. That scares off many other prospects, and gives us the chaff to chose from. We get the whackers and drunks because that is who applies.

    As for training, we still have the "good ole boys clubs" in operation that shun training and will be down on a new member for wanting it. That happened to me personally. If you go out and get the training on your own, then you are a threat and "want to take over the department." That, my friends, is a direct quote made by an assistant chief. Because I wanted EMT training for the ambulance and propane training for the rural fires we encounter with LP tanks. So I could be safer. If we beat down new members, we get what we deserve. I am at the point with this "club" I belong to, that it is over. I love my community, and want to serve. But, more and more, it seems like safety takes a back seat. This is also bad for the volley service as a whole.
    "Illigitimi Non Carborundum"

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  11. #11
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    Right now we are in pretty good shape .........we have an almost full roster and everyone continues to sign up for the 8-4 daytime EMS shift. We got 2 levies passed last fall and are doing ok. In some aspects we are still like many of you in terms of night calls, people who you hardly see, etc etc......advertsie in your local papers, get the word out you NEED people, let you civic leaders in on it too. Also I can attest to how it was vs how it is..........back when I was a young boy hangin around the station, there was (and still is) the memebership board, where all members are listed in seniority from oldest to newest. Back then the board was a virtual gridlock, with the "old farts row" never moving anyone up........and some very occassional movement to the rest of the board. Fast forward almost 18 years ........and the old fart row now has members with like 8 years in vs the 10,12 or even more than it was before..........and the aggravation with hte new people trying to get them acclimated to the whole place. I DO miss some the retired people ......especailly the ones who you could trust operating any piece of equipment.........both on the road on and on the scene.
    IACOJ both divisions and PROUD OF IT !
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    fortunalty I can say that my station does not fall into this catagory. My station averages over 500 fire calls each year. We have about 35 riding members. During the day we get a turnout of atleast 4 to 6 guys for just about any call, and at night over 10 wether its a water leak, or a working fire. During the day we also recieve automatic aid from the other stations in town for more manpower. We have good equipment and just about every interior firefighter is trained to atleast the the Firefighter II level. We have alot of pride, and any work that needs to be done around the station like painting or a new walkway etc is done by the members and even their familys comeout and help. i am proud to say I am from this volunteer fire dept.

    please feel free to visit us at www.stepneyfire.com
    Firefighting is not just a job, its a way of life........
    IACOJ

    SORRY FELLAS, NO TIKI BAR HERE!

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    Recruiting and retaining volunteers can be done if you .....

    Understand what motivates people to join the fire service ... and there a lot of them.

    Understand the basics of recruiting and marketing your organization.

    Target folks that are most likely to join.

    Understand that recruiting is more than word of mouth ...

    Know that recruiting is a planned, coordinated effort for a limited time period using a variety of means to attract your target groups.

    Understand why people leave YOUR fire department.

    Understand what rewards people look for in an organization, and making every effort to provide that motivation with rewards and incentives (and most are not monetary).

    Provide clear and concise guidelines and expectations as to how the membership process works and be consistant as an organization in meeting those guidelines and expectations.

    These are just a few things that, if they happen, will in most cases ensure that the fire department will an attractive place to be. There are plenty of books on the subject of recruiting and retention, and there are many departments that are sucessful in recruiting and retaining folks because they understand that it requires planning, coordination and the ability to look at your own organization and make changes when necessary. We can still attract quality folks... we just have to work a little bit harder and smarter than in the "old days".

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    We have a "Retierment" Plan in my town for all the Volenteer FF. Every FF gets an account set up for them and the town puts 450 dollars a year in it. At 55 with at least five years of service you start getting checks monthly from the account. There is a vote for residents in all four fire districts in my town to increase that amount to 700 per year next week.

    In our town we also sometimes share FF's. If you live or work in another fire district you can respond to that fire depts calls with them with permission from both depts chiefs.

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    I live in one of the oldest cities in our state, which has had a declining population for many years. The Fire Department, which once boasted 4 large companies, now operates with three. The equipment is growing older and our numbers are dwindling every year.
    From time to time there is the standard call for more volunteers but they are pretty much hollow words. Example: last winter one of the companies took in 7 new members, 4 of which have their FF1 certification. Included in the group are 3 paramedics, 3 EMTs and all have a wide range if experience.
    To this date none of them has been allowed to answer a single alarm.
    The chief has yet to approve them as firefighters with the city. Each month it's a different excuse as to what is holding up the proccess and, to be honest, the guys are really starting to get tired of his BS !
    How can you expect to attract new members when the new ones with excellent credentials are treated like this ?

  16. #16
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    Firewise, we are doing ok

    We need more EMTs, especially M-F, daytime

    We are starting to recruit again, especially on the EMT side

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