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  1. #1
    IAFF3904
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    Angry Anyone have problems with combined pay and volunteer departments?

    My department just went to combined department and we have noticed a very large lack of intrest in the volunteer side. Could you guys help me out on some issues and problems that you have encountered.


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    I work for a Combination Department. I'm sure the problems are the same where you are as where I'm at. Once you have Career Staffing inside a Volunteer House most accept it but a majority don't.

    Those that don't accept it are usually the older members, and the young idiots who want so badly to be a Career Firefighter that they'll bash those that do it. -- Also at least where I work The Volunteers basically have lost intrest, pride, and responsibility as well as motivation to do anything. At one time the attitude was ......"The Paid Guys will take care of it......"

    We're pretty much EMS with Fire Duty mixed in staffing apparatus as needed which is 80-90% of the calls both day and night. We work two guys on daywork and I work alone at night {our shifts are 0600-1800 and 1800-0600}

    I heavily rely on the Volunteers as EMTs or Drivers for the ambulance after 6pm and usually get the same 2 or 3 people when the whistle blows -- No one wants to be involved in EMS here for some reason.....Is it because we get paid to do it ? Maybe so but explain the low fire response turn-outs and why the complaints almost every time we would staff a fire apparatus to insure 2 in and 2 out.

    In just this past year relations have dramatically improved on both sides. We are finally up to a full career staff {6 people} for the first time since I started 3 years ago and as paid and volunteer we've begun dual training, shared house responsibilities and gained 6 EMTs to the Volunteer Ranks {Yes they still need to be Field Trained but we're getting there} The Chiefs and other Officers fully understand now the Nesessity for us to staff the apparatus, and value our expirence. Some of the older members don't understand because....."back in my day we didn't need paid men....."

    Basically the problems of combination departments are everywhere. The days of the home responder are falling more and more and staffed stations even with Volunteers are the way to go including where I work.....Crews are now being formed for 2006 to insure an engine and an ambulance from 6pm to 6am......Moving me to Daywork eventually but hey......progress

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by devondual
    My department just went to combined department and we have noticed a very large lack of intrest in the volunteer side. Could you guys help me out on some issues and problems that you have encountered.
    Do you mean that the department was all volunteer, and now has some paid FF? Why in the world would that make the vollies lose interest?

    I volunteer at a dept with two full-time paid FF and the rest volunteers. I have a great deal of respect for any career FF willing to work in this small department where they are often relying on help from people with less training/experience/dedication than they have (I don't mean all the volunteers - we have a wide range from very experienced/decidated to inexperienced/dedicated like me on down to the inexperienced/undedicated). I don't really see any stress/problems between the vollies and the paid guys... but maybe I'm just not very observant of such things.

    My paid job is office work... I guess if there were people down the hall doing my same job for free, I would think they were kind of weird for it. And I guess they would feel that I should work harder than them, since I'm getting money for it... When I think of it that way, I can see that a combination FD could be prone to attitude problems. I just haven't seen evidence of that in my department (I've been there a little over a year). When we are working together no one seems to care who is getting paid what.

  4. #4
    Forum Member SpartanGuy's Avatar
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    I'm a captain at a combination department. We saw just the opposite reaction as everyone else seems to be encountering. We added our paid staff(we're up to 8 now). If anything, having a paid staff INCREASED volunteer interest and volunteer recruitment. All of our volunteers are training their butts off and answering calls to gain experience and knowledge to do well on our next hiring test. Plus, our career staff being out and available on a daily basis has increased public awareness of our department and brought in more volunteers.

    Will there be some friction? Yeah, but you'll find that those same people will cause problems in any system for any reason. Now, if your career staff treat your volunteers like $hit, then there's obviously going to be problems and a lack of interest(rightly so) from the volunteer staff. But we've never had that problem, as any new hire is sat down and given the paid chief's speech on how to treat the volunteers (full respect as an equal). Also, our career and volunteer staff train together and take orders from higher ranking officers on the opposite side. For example, my fellow captain is a volunteer, both of the lieutenants are volunteer, and one of our assistant chiefs is volunteer while the other is paid.

    I take orders from anyone whose higher ranking then me, whether they're getting a paycheck from the township or not. Why? Because if they didn't have the knowledge and experience to wear the helmet, they wouldn't be there. So I don't get the same attitude many combination career firefighters get about 'I'm not taking no orders from some damned hobbyist'. Ridiculous.


    Last edited by SpartanGuy; 09-28-2005 at 04:47 PM.
    "Captain 1 to control, retone this as a structure and notify the fire chief...."

    Safety is no accident.

  5. #5
    the 4-1-4 Jasper 45's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SpartanGuy
    I take orders from anyone whose higher ranking then me, whether they're getting a paycheck from the township or not. Why? Because if they didn't have the knowledge and experience to wear the helmet, they wouldn't be there. So I don't get the same attitude many combination career firefighters get about 'I'm not taking no orders from some damned hobbyist'. Ridiculous.
    This works, but only if the volunteer officers compete for their position just the same as career members do.
    Becoming an officer using a "vote" system is an unaccepteable policy for becoming a boss. Don't say it doesn't happen either, I know of many volunteer departments in my region that do their promotions this way.
    In a career job, respect is earned, and it's partially earned by competing for these promoted jobs. Passing the exams high enough to get hired and, paying your dues as a covering boss, and so on.
    Anything other is unacceptable.

  6. #6
    Forum Member SpartanGuy's Avatar
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    The only volunteers eligible to run for office in our department have to take and pass the same test that I took and passed to get promoted, and then only the top two or three depending can be voted on.

    And if someone resigns, the CAREER fire chief chooses a temporary replacement to fill out the term.




    Satisfactory?
    "Captain 1 to control, retone this as a structure and notify the fire chief...."

    Safety is no accident.

  7. #7
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    Nope- you vollys are nonproblematic

  8. #8
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    I find SpartanGuy's experience encouraging...

    We may be freaks in many people's eyes, but the three volunteer companies that make up our township's fire department have been lobbying for a career complement to staff an engine that can respond township-wide in the daytime. We know we can't maintain responsible staffing during working hours using only volunteers much longer (there are those who would contend we can't now) and, as our area becomes more and more an endless string of "bedroom communities," our prospect for recruiting daytime volunteers aren't good at all. We can turn out numbers during business hours, and should be able to for the foreseeable future, but the problem is becoming delivering enough of them fast enough...hence the need for that one guaranteed first-in crew to provide rapid response capability (along with the limited volly help that usually is closeby and available in the daytime). It's not so bad if people like me, who can leave work with a roughly 10 minute travel time to the district, are providing relief for the initial crews. It's bad if I'm the guy who gets the first rig on the road...and that's what we want to avoid.

    Many details have to be worked out and some arms have yet to be twisted, but I want a combination department for our municipality, because I don't honestly believe we can provide responsible services in the future any other way.
    Last edited by bobsnyder; 09-29-2005 at 02:25 PM.

  9. #9
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    You are a guy who is talking common sense and responsibilty to the community you serve in reference to a 1st responder fire department- Its a reality that volunteer response mon-fri is non existant in many communities- and it is irresponsible for vol fire chiefs and town councils or commissioners to allow no response to calls or a 15 minute response time- combo departments are growing because it's people like you who stand up and talk about the reality -not the volunteer tradition- its unfortunate but volunteers are dwindling because of the training requirements -time and effort and family and work committements- our combo town is expanding the career side because we have no volunteers to back us up any more -good for you for talking reality and being responsible to your town

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    My department is 100% volunteer. Our toughest turnout day believe it or not is daytime Saturday.

    We have a department near ours that has been a combination department for the last 4 years.

    The numbers of members who responded to calls actually decreased for the 1st three years. I don't know about the fourth year.

    Specific problems that I have heard are;

    Guys won't leave work as often for apparant bs calls.

    During they day volunteers leave right after the call and return back to work and in the middle of the night guys go home with the attitude " Leave it for the paid guys to take care of the next day".

    I have a problem with that;

    I feel the chief should motivate the volunteers to be more responsible What happened to the term "Constant state of readiness".

  11. #11
    Forum Member SpartanGuy's Avatar
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    Bob,
    We had the EXACT same position and we did the exact same thing you did. Except our growth was a bit different. We had a massive influx of housing and population (our population went up 1/3 in the last two years). Coupled with the housing increase, we're also in the middle of a massive commercial boom that's gone uninterrupted since about 98, when our first paid firefighter was hired.

    With this, we couldn't in good faith go on with such low turnout in the daytime. So we fought for daytime staffing and, voila, we have it. Now we have a good bit of it. Our goal now is 24/7 staffing with a minimum of a driver so a truck is guranteed out the door immediately. What we've realized is that, for example, at our one station we have about seven firefighters that aren't qualified driver/operators that live within a minute of the station. So they'll all be there sitting waiting for someone to show up...So we want to plug a driver into that the situation so they're on the road ASAP...

    Snyder, you might also like this suggestion, but if you're experiencing a lot of growth, its time to merge those three departments into one. We used to have two in our township. We're now all one department. The township is way more likely to listen to ONE voice instead of three voices, even if they're combined. Plus, look at the practical realizations. Who would be in charge of that engine company? Who would furnish the equipment? Who would furnish the actual engine? If there's a rescue call, will they have a rescue to take?

    All of these are concerns we dealt with. PM me with any questions/concerns you have. I'll try to help any way, and if I can't, plug you in with those who can.
    "Captain 1 to control, retone this as a structure and notify the fire chief...."

    Safety is no accident.

  12. #12
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    Talking Vol/Career

    *Disclaimer-This is for your average Dept. I know there are "bad" Depts out there and Im sorry if your in one of these, but this post is again for the average Dept. Thanks in Advance*

    I am from a Career/Volunteer dept. I have been a volunteer for a number of years and also worked as a temp hire so I can see both sides of the fence per say. I guess I'll put this in two sections ie gripes from volunteers and gripes from career guys.

    1. Gripes from Volunteers: The Career guys treat me bad on scene, Our engine gets cancelled by the career engine when we come on the air, I don't have much say so in the grand scheme of things, I don't feel like I get to do enough on scene.

    2. Gripes from the Career guys: The volunteers only show up on good calls. The volunteers try to but in on calls when they should stand by until told what to do. Vollies (I hate that term btw) are wanna-be's and don't have enough training to keep up with the career guys.

    Lets adresse the Gripes on the Vol. side first.
    #1 The career guys treat me badly on scene - I have as a volunteer been treated poorly on scene before BUT yes there is a but its usually by only maybe 1 or 2 guys on the Career staff. If you know who that person is just let it roll off your shoulder and stear clear of them as its probably not just Volunteers they treat poorly.
    #2 Our engine gets cancelled by the career engine - If this becomes a persistent problem then yes take it up with your officer of the station and let it be forwarded to the command staff. On the flip side sometimes the career engine knows a particular adresse or situation (frequent flyer although I hate that term) and knows that having two engines and a medic unit in the driveway for that particular call would be problematic.
    #3 I dont have much say so in the grand scheme of things - Well really nobody has too much say so in the grand scheme of things the volunteers think that because the Career guys have a bargaining unit that they have much more say so...Volunteers can go to the comissioners if need be and voice concerns that WILL be brought up at the meetings. I know its not the same as having a bargaining unit but it works.
    #4 I dont feel like I get to do enough on scene - If your just starting out in a dept realize your probably arent going to get to do much until you prove yourself to the Career and Volunteer staff. I do notice that as a volunteer it seems you don't get included in alot of stuff on scene's. I wouldn't take this badly. The career stuff runs together and works as a combined unit its hard to add a POV response or volunteer engine into the works for them. Im not saying that not including the volunteer staff is correct but that is a big part of the "why they don't include me equation". Our department fixes this by having the volunteers and career staff train together on certain days in a variety of categories. It works. It gets the career staff used to working with the volunteers and visa versa. Recommend it to your training officer. This list is why alot of volunteers drop off the radar as they feel not needed. You are needed otherwise there wouldn't be volunteer part of your dept. So train hard, have thick skin and show up on everything you can. You will get your time in and will be surprised at the reception on really bad calls ie MCI etc. Ive had the careers guys on more than a few occasions say thank god you guys showed up we were up sh**s creek manpower wise.

    Ok now on the Career side of things
    #1 The volunteers only show up on good calls - I would say look up to the volunteer section on this one. I wouldn't say volunteers for the most part (their are exceptions) only show up on good calls. I would say at one part of my volunteer service I started feeling like man I show up on ems calls and stand in the doorway WHATS THE POINT? Maybe ill just go on big stuff where they actually need me. I realized this was the wrong attitude and corrected it. As a career staff please realize when you look over and see the volunteer standing in the doorway feeling useless this needs to be corrected. If you want them to show up on calls make them feel needed on those calls. I know its seems you don't need them on your bread and butter chest pain call but think about when all the medic and aid units are on transports and the engines are on service calls and you have a staffing of 2 on your only available career engine. You will need them in this situation. Im not saying let the volunteers come in and take charge but give them stuff to do 1 it gives them real hands on training and 2 it lets you see what skill level they have and how you work with them on scene.
    #2 The volunteers try to butt in on calls when they should stand by until told what to do - Guilty I have done this a time or two. Its not that volunteers (and I know there are exceptions) are trying to butt in but after a while of "standing in the doorway" you get frustrated and trying to find yourself something to do so you feel like your making some kind of difference. This can be fixed by looking at post above
    #3 Vollies (I hate that term btw) are wanna-be's and don't have enough training to keep up with the career guys - This I've heard not mainly from my Dept. but from surrounding districts. Who's fault is this. There are two that can be blamed. If the training is not provided for the volunteer staff and mixed in with calls so they get hands on experience then something needs to be done with the training staff. Our dept. provides excellent training provided by career personell and offers offsite training to those who want it. It also does days where the Career and Volunteer staff train side by side. IT WORKS! On the flip side if you dept offers training to you as a volunteer and you dont take it then who's fault is that? Get as much training in as you can. Its your life on the line as long as people that are going to be depending on you to save thiers. I would say 99 percent of our volunteers attend all training (weekly, sometimes 2x weekly) and it really shows on scene. We run mutual aid with surrounding volunteer/career depts and our volunteers shine in comparison to the others.
    Just my two cents on this subject but if these issues can be adressed in a combo dept you will see happiness on both sides.
    Stay safe

  13. #13
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    From ritteam:
    #2 Our engine gets cancelled by the career engine - If this becomes a persistent problem then yes take it up with your officer of the station and let it be forwarded to the command staff. On the flip side sometimes the career engine knows a particular adresse or situation (frequent flyer although I hate that term) and knows that having two engines and a medic unit in the driveway for that particular call would be problematic.

    The thing you have to get used to is that you are no longer first due. In the career department I am in we get cancelled all the time when second or third due. Why? The first arriving company can handle the situation. Does it make sense to tie up apparatus where they are not needed? Does it stink? Yes. But you are then available for the next emergency run. Nothing is more painful then being called off a confirmed structure fire because another unit became available. Just my two cents having volunteered in a combination department before.

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