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  1. #1
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    Default How do we transition our dept from "new" to "established"?

    I'll gladly take advice from anyone, but if there's anyone out there that has either helped organized a new fire department or has been in involved in turning around a struggling department, please give me your thoughts.

    Our VFD was organized 10 years ago this year in July. We're small and rural. We originally formed because wildfire out here is a real problem, and the closest FDs were just too far away to get here fast enough.

    Through the years, we've been fortunate with donations, subscriptions and grants and have built a good FD. We're to the point right now that we no longer are trying to acquire things we need--we're just trying to improve on what we have.

    Gone on the days that we have hand-me-down gear and half-functioning trucks. We have a nice 5-bay station, 20 dedicated volunteers, dependable equipment and compliant gear, SCBA's, etc. We're capable of fighting wildland fires (and do so quite agressively and effectively) and structural firefighting (we're not so good at that). We run First Responder EMS (our equipent is a little better than the transport services!) and carry a pretty full complement of manual and hydraulic rescue tools. 2005 handed us 104 responses in a 30 square mile district.

    There was a time when we didn't have a station and kept our only vehicle (a grass rig) in the Chief's barn. We had to dump the water if it was freezing, and were lucky if it would start. We've reinvented the wheel a few times on tactics, policies, equipment, you name it.

    For 10 years, we've had the "we're new" mentality, and with it somewhat (in my opinion) of an inferiorty complex, or maybe a general lack of confidence in what we able to do. We're now transitioning into an established fire department.

    I'm interested to hear how anybody out there has dealt with changing people's attitudes to make them think more confidently about their FD. I guess I'm wanting to get a more professional feel from the guys, build some pride and confidence. Get away from the "we're new and don't really know what we're doing" type of thinking. We've got 8 members that have been on since day one! Trust me, they know what they're doing.

    Thoughts? Questions?
    Bryan Beall
    Silver City, Oklahoma USA


  2. #2
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    Default Just an idea...

    Have a "competition" day. Get some other departments and do some hands on activities. Let the guys see how they compare to other established companies.
    "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
    Forum Member DeputyChiefGonzo's Avatar
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    Change your Department letterhead to reflect the years of service of your FD to the community.

    Hold an open house and show your residents "their Fire Department", who knows, you may even get a few new warm bodies out of it.
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

  4. #4
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    I think that you need to impress upon your members that, for better or for worse, you guys are the only game in town. When there is a fire at their nieghbor's home ( or at their home for that matter) YOU are the ones who will be responding.
    If you have any old photos of your original equipment and members you need to display them in a prominent place in the station along with pictures of your present apparatus, allowing the newer members to see on a daily basis just how far you've come over the years.
    It sounds like you have a good core membership and the tools to do the job. Just remember that 10 years of experience is still 10 years ... no matter how busy your department is or what types of emergencies you handle. You guys have 80 plus years of experience and that makes you vertens.

  5. #5
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    Default

    Near as I can figure, our current membeship of 20 has a combined 150 years of experience.

    Interesting that you should mention displaying pictures, as I've kept all articles in the local papers related to our department over the years and have a lot of pictures from the past. I'm trying to put them into some kind of slide show or presentation for our 10th anniversery. I'd also like to make some nice copies and display them at the station.

    We're starting to see a slight trend in our recruits over the last couple of years, and that is tending away from signing up out of shear civic minded-ness as the orginal group did back in '96. Back then, we got a great group of people that for the most part felt it was their duty to get the FD off the ground. The newer guys are all people that have moved out here since the FD formed, and it's just always been there, as far as they're concerned. They signed up because they wanted to be firefighters, not because they felt it necessary. Make sense?

    I want to help encourage the attitude/environment/camaraderie/pride that's comes from belonging to the fire department. I feel that we're getting to the point where we can afford (both actually and figuratively) to do that.

    I'd like to use the 10th anniversery as a springboard for the next 10 years.
    Bryan Beall
    Silver City, Oklahoma USA

  6. #6
    MembersZone Subscriber dmleblanc's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by SilverCity4
    Interesting that you should mention displaying pictures, as I've kept all articles in the local papers related to our department over the years and have a lot of pictures from the past. I'm trying to put them into some kind of slide show or presentation for our 10th anniversery. I'd also like to make some nice copies and display them at the station.
    Congratulations on your first ten years. Knowing what a tremendous challenge it is just to keep an established department operating efficiently, I shudder to think what it would take to get a new one off the ground. I applaud your tenacity...it sounds like you guys are doing it right.

    Please, please, do what you can to keep those memories....pictures, newspaper articles, some of the equipment you started out with....That's the best way to show everyone how far you've come. One thing that disappoints me greatly is that my department has lost a lot of its history....I've been on a quest for some time now to find a picture of our earliest apparatus and station, mememtos from our early days, but to litlte avail.

    It's funny how at the time it's happening, it doesn't seem important to preserve those memories, but now, 60 years down the road, I wish someone had done a better job of chronicling our history. I'm trying to piece it together, and the parts I do know about I make it a point to pass on to the newer members....it's important to preserve our traditions.


    The newer guys are all people that have moved out here since the FD formed, and it's just always been there, as far as they're concerned. They signed up because they wanted to be firefighters, not because they felt it necessary. Make sense?

    .
    I think you've begun to make the transition you seek....the fact that, to the new guys, the fire department's always been there........Someday (hopefully not too soon), the guys who founded the department will be gone and to everyone who's left, the department will have just "always been there".....
    Chief Dwayne LeBlanc
    Paincourtville Volunteer Fire Department
    Paincourtville, LA

    "I have a dream. It's not a big dream, it's just a little dream. My dream ó and I hope you don't find this too crazy ó is that I would like the people of this community to feel that if, God forbid, there were a fire, calling the fire department would actually be a wise thing to do. You can't have people, if their houses are burning down, saying, 'Whatever you do, don't call the fire department!' That would be bad."
    ó C.D. Bales, "Roxanne"

  7. #7
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    Dwayne makes a great point about the new guys viewing the department as always being there. By displaying your history, it sets a standard for the younger members to strive for.
    The hose company which I belong to dates back to 1894 with a long tradition, but so very much of our history is gone ... forgotten. Except for the ornate state charter from 1894 that hangs in our meeting room and a few old photos there is little else to remind us of just where we started and how far we've come.
    So save those pictures and clippings and make every attempt to pass it all on to the generations that come after us.

  8. #8
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    Default Transition takes planning

    Hi -

    I read this thread and it is very interesting. I really hate to point out the obvious but what you need is a plan for the next 10 years. Go to the bookstore and look at business plans - your fire department and any organization is similar to a business.

    You got a great story to tell and you tell it very well - that is why I read it and so many people replied to your thread.

    Now the question is where do you want to be 10 years from now or even better where does your community and members want to be 10 year from now. That is strategic planning and if you follow Drucker or any other guru out there - there books are available. The systems do work. It does sound like work but what you accomplished was work.

    You need the mission, vision, and then a strategic plan to reach your mission and vision.

    Good luck, you got a great story and a great history of success... now you have the opportunity to build a legacy that will get you the next ten years and beyond.

    Sean

  9. #9
    Forum Member DonSmithnotTMD's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Driver76
    If you have any old photos of your original equipment and members you need to display them in a prominent place in the station along with pictures of your present apparatus, allowing the newer members to see on a daily basis just how far you've come over the years.
    FWIW -- Spend some money on this part. Either get some good copies made or check with an archivist so you don't wreck original photos.
    I am a highly trained professional and can find my :: expletive deleted:: with either hand in various light conditions.

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