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  1. #1
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    Default The Next Generation

    I have been struggling with how best to manage and understand the new volunteer firefighters joining our department. The question that has been on my mind is; "What do they want to get out of being a volunteer?"

    When I joined we did it because we wanted to fight fires and help other, this was NOT all that Long Ago!

    More and more I hear comments about, not getting paid, or the attitude wondering why rules need to be followed.

    I want to understand the differences that exist and why. I hope to hear from senior members and Officers as well as the newer, younger members.

    To the Newer members, you are the future of our business and I want that future to bring you as much enjoyment and fulfillment as it has brought myself and the other senior members of your departments.


  2. #2
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    Default

    We all feel your pain it seems that some new members have no respect for tradition or the people that came before them . Thats my 2 cents as for the not getting paid and bad attitude when i was a kid i didnt get paid for mowing my lawn or chores you just did it and my attitude was adjusted acordinly often
    engine 163 to command .. tell engine 165 we got it they can take up and return

    engine163 to county fire SEND ME EVERYTHING

  3. #3
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    Post Same Situation

    Lots of variables.

    First, we're getting older and our views have changed since our start. When I got in, I did it for all the same reasons as you guys, but I was still young and a pain in the butt for my officers. I'm sure the older members then thought the same thing about us....but we still made it happen. Hell, I became Chief.

    Secondly, ever-evolving world. More rebellion and straight up ego now more than ever. The main thing I notice is that I feel like I have to teach all of the things that came naturally for me (hard work, pride, loyalty, etc.) to the newer crowd. The ones who come in with those "old" values are few and far between.

    One of the biggest problems to me is the new wave of people (upper "leadership") trying to make a name for themselves. The days of caring for the citizens is fading. They claim to be in the business for that, but proof says otherwise.

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    www.thefirefighterwithin.com

  4. #4
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    Default Takes more time

    I got into the fire service in 1988 and I was in it to help my community. I think why it is so hard to get the new guys to get the wright attitude is because of all the time they have to put in compared to the old days. Maybe that is why there is talk of pay. My dad has been in the fire service for about 40 years and he has made the statement to me that if he had to do all the stuff you have to do now back then, he probably would not have joined. I am the asst. chief and also in charge of training at our 11 man dept. It is hard to get training in with just 11 guys, I can't imagine 30 or more.


    Dwayne Murphy
    Montgomery Vol. Fire Dept.
    Indiana

  5. #5
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    Default

    Several months back I came across a thread on another forum where some young buck was talking about the "rush" of answering calls, and he stated that his captain once told him that whenever the rush was gone it would be the time to get out of firefighting.
    Sound familiar ? It is an attitude that if prevelent in most areas of the country. This is indicitive of a generation who seek the biggest thrill possible and they want it NOW !

    The key is motivation : why are they there ? What is their reason for wanting to fight fire ?
    Some of these are individuals which any veteran who still has their sanity would never go into a burning structure with.
    TFW1EFW1 is right when he points out that most of these kids don't have a clue when it comes to loyalty, pride and dedication to duty ... all characteristics which have set firefighters apart from the rest of society for over two hundred years. These are at the very core of the brotherhood and they are saddly being missed by many of the new kids on the block.

    Don't misunderstand my comments. I have seen many a young firefighter who have the integrity and character and training to become the best in any department. But I've also experienced far too many of the other kind which I simply would not trust on the fireground.

    Maybe us old guys have the Don Quixote complex and we are tipping at wind mills, trying to hold on to those values which we grew up with and have lived through hundreds of fires, and are unwilling to let go of.
    Maybe so, but I think those qualities are too important as to who and what we are for them to be allowed to slip away.
    Just my 4 cents (inflation finally reaches everything ... even opinions)
    Last edited by Driver76; 07-13-2006 at 12:50 PM.

  6. #6
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    Default

    As a 21 year old with a little over 1 year of service so far, here are my comments/suggestions...

    I agree there are a lot of young people in the fire service who don't seem to be in it for the right reasons. However there are many who ARE in it for the right reasons so not all young people should be grouped together.

    My biggest suggestion is to actually teach about the fire service's history and tradition because this will develop the sense of pride and dedication to duty that is seemingly missing. I know when I went through the academy we didn't learn anything about this kind of stuff. Luckily for me I have some officers who have taught me a lot and encouraged me to read up on this aspect of the fire service on my own free time. If teaching this aspect of the fire service was implemented in an organized way (in the academy, through in-house qualifications, or some other way) I think it would help a lot of new and young guys develop loyalty and pride.

  7. #7
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    Thumbs up

    belder,

    Excellent point and well presented. Sounds like you have a good start. And I agree, in my paid department, now that I think about it, I don't think they said a word about the local history.

    In my vollie station, where I am Dist. Chief, I continue to try to pass on the 116 year history of our company, even to the extent of "trivia" on an LED board that I installed to pass info. to the members.

    Keep up the good work!

    _____________________
    MGHjr
    www.thefirefighterwithin.com

  8. #8
    MembersZone Subscriber mohican's Avatar
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    Default

    I think it's a mixed bag, and the gen Xrs are for better or worse the forseeable future of the vollie service.

    The biggest thing I notice about "the younger generation" is that many of them are looking for the vollie dept to be the foot in the door for a career job in fire or EMS. So they want to get the initial schooling in with you, and maybe move on.

    When I got on, we still had a few WWII vets on actively, plus people who had seen combat in Korea or Vietnam.

    We had a very strong ex military make up that isn't as strong anymore. There was more of a sense of department as a unit, maybe. And a stiff necked committment to duty, no matter what.

    We are rural enough that for the great majority, the work ethic is there.

    The difference I see is the competition for time. More kids tend to be in year round sports, so there is less time for people to spread around.

    We are also more of a bedroom community than we used to be. So people travel to work more than they did.

    Sure, it's not like it used to be, but change is constant.

  9. #9
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    Post

    As an officer, and of the "younger generation" I think most the observations here are correct. Here recently my department has been lucky enough to have recuited some top notch young volunteers who are willing to get the job done. Nine of my departments 22 members are ages 18-29 and make up the core of our responders.

    "What do they want to get out of being a volunteer?"
    A very good question! I think that there is less of an appreciation for volunteer firefighters in the community these days, so they're not doing it for the publicity. I personally do it because I take pride in what I do up there and want to serve my community.I can tell you that I joined the department to help the community. It was only after joining that I found I truely love doing this.

    The biggest thing I notice about "the younger generation" is that many of them are looking for the vollie dept to be the foot in the door for a career job in fire or EMS. So they want to get the initial schooling in with you, and maybe move on.
    I would for definitly have to agree with this statement. We have had to good futune of retaining the majority of members, including myself, that we have put money into training. The fact is you never really know what kind of commitment you will be getting from any volunteer until possibility too late. Another fact is volunteer department are a breeding ground for future career firefighters, and I personally take pride in that.



    For you older guys, don't forget that the door swings both ways.
    Last edited by loxfire16; 07-15-2006 at 04:09 AM. Reason: typo
    LT/EMT Wright
    I A C O J
    LOXLEY WARRIORS
    All opinions expressed are solely of my personal opinion and in no way reflect those of my department. This is for those of you who use a large stick to stir excrement.

  10. #10
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    Default

    I joined the fire service in 1974 , as a junior member of a volunteer fire company.In those days , we rode the back step,wore canvas duck coats,
    and the old MSA Squad 51 style helmets. We actually went to numerous working alarms ,in any given year. Going to "fire school" for training courses
    was a competition , to see who could rack up the most training in a year.It was a thrill and a priviledge to be a volunteer fireman.

    Today , we don't fight that many "real" fires , anymore. Mandatory training in those days ,was "firemanship I", a 28 hour course of the basics.
    Most everyone continued beyond that, because it was expected, and because the "fun" element was there.You did not HAVE to do it , but it was an unmandated challenge.BUT, you did have the opportunities to utilize what you had learned.

    Today,we are mandated to train WAY beyond those old requirements.
    Not that the current training requirements are "bad",but that the current
    crop of "newer" firefighters simply don't get the opportunities to utilize their training that us "old folks" did.

    Today's technology seems to dictate the direction the fire service must follow.Even though the "Mansaver bars" and safety belts were in place for the tailboard riders , today,only a few companies still permit "riding the back step", though the garbageman continues to do so with only a safety vest on.
    Though I know they mean well, the "safety Nazis" have apparently bored people from participating in the fire service.I will NOT debate this issue.


    The bottom line is this:in January, I become a life member of my company.That is to say , I don't HAVE to do a damned thing to stay a member, though ,I most certainly will,because I enjoy the fire service.
    It seems most folks who do join the fire service , leave with in 5 years.
    If we wish to continue the tradition of the volunteer fire service, we need
    to look at why these folks leave so soon,and maybe take a hard,close look at some of our current standards to see if we are benefiting our departments , or completely screwing ourselves over in the process of following them.

  11. #11
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    Unhappy

    loxfire,
    It is members like you that are the only connections left between old and new. I can only suggest learning everything you can about the history of your company and pass it on to anyone who will listen, and hope for more stars like you. I am 29 years old myself but I have been in the Fire Service for over 15 years, so I am lucky to have caught the "tail end" of the old school folks and have seen the changes.

    bushmaster,
    Congrats on your lifetime membership. Nice work. Don't stop!!!

    As I read your post, I got to thinking about all the conversations I have heard in the past from the older members. It's almost an evolutionary recycling, except for the advancement of technology. Think about it, at least in our company, there have always been "stars" that did all the work and ran all the calls. There have always been "slugs" that came for meetings and working fires. There have always been the "deadbeats" that joined and didn't do shiznit for the company. And the old guys have always worried about the "new" crowd.

    I think maybe the biggest factors are not internal, but external. You're right, for the most part "real" fires are down. And the fire alarms and EMS calls are way up. The need to "care" for people is almost rare sometimes, because we hardly make real contact with them on a regular basis anymore. The population and call loads are skyrocketing. Safety has gotten damned-near overwhelming and the politics are outright disgusting. To be honest, its almost no wonder why they don't stay. Hell, I'm also paid and I can hardly stand these things, so volunteers have it very tough.

    Luckily, the fires still burn pretty much the same way, and people still need us when they really need us. Unfortunately, they have become the minority. I'm not so sure that "we" have changed over the years as much as the world has changed faster than us, and we're simply starting to slip behind. Not really our fault, just sad.

    ______________________
    MGHjr
    www.thefirefighterwithin.com

  12. #12
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    Default

    I agree with the "Generation Theory" this theory relates the diference in generations with attitudes and actions.

    Our World War Generation is just about faded out. These were the guys who did what they were told and didn't question it, because that's just how it was. Due to the heavy military influence to this generation, they were used to taking orders and expected to carry them out, and it was someone elses job to worry about why and why.

    Next came the baby boomers, these are the majority of our leaders today. This generation picked up on the pride traits that was passed down from their fathers. Being very patriotic, and determined to do a good job.

    Generation X is really the first generlized rebel generation. Generation X feels that the baby boomers have fallen behind in the technology that has molded todays world and therefore feels that everything is ready for change, and wants to make those changes. Usually these changes in the fire service are good changes, more by the book and "correctness" rather than the "good ole boy club" that they see in the previous generation.

    Whereas your newest firefighters are generation Y. Pampered kids that have been given just about everything they ever wanted(or at least 100 times more than what most of us had as kids) they develope a Me Me Me attitude throughout childhood, which developes into the I do what I want when I want attitude we are seeing more often today.

    I am not trying to offend anyone with this, but it is an actual sociological study that has been done specificly in the fire service. Very Interesting stuff if you read the full report.

  13. #13
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Celtic
    I have been struggling with how best to manage and understand the new volunteer firefighters joining our department. The question that has been on my mind is; "What do they want to get out of being a volunteer?"
    O.K. - I know that this is going to sound like it but this is NOT intended to be a Smart @$$ answer - there just isn't any other way to put it.

    If you want to know what YOUR group is expecting to get - ask THEM not us. We can speculate all day and then some what other folks want because we are their age, were there age, or will be there age but the simple plain fact is everyone is different and therefore everyone has different motivational factors.

    I suggest that you ask ALL your members:
    1) "Why are you here?" - what is it that keeps you coming back every day.
    2) "What do you expect the Dept. to do for you?" - this could be anything from providing uniforms / training to having more social functions to creating an awards program.

    You get the answers to those two questions and do your best to accommodate them (with-in reason) and you'll be surprised at the jump in morale and quality of your dept.
    Take Care - Stay Safe - God Bless
    Stephen
    FF/Paramedic
    Instructor

  14. #14
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    Default Quantity over quality

    At the ripe old age of 41, I guess I now qualify as an "old fart". I have been working with the Junior Firefighters at my dept. for a while now and I have seen all the examples of the above mentioned types. I think that firefighter attitudes are not that much different than they have been in the past. You just don't see the old bad seeds because they left years ago and only the "best" are left. For every 3 new juniors that come in the door, I usually lose 2 of them due to either thier own inability to follow the rules or they find out that firefighting is hard, dirty work and not all fun and games like on TV. I have found that in any volunteer group, 90% of the work is done by 10% of the people. I think that if you do your best as a department to provide an environment for the good seeds to excell, they will attract other good seeds. If you lose a bad seed, you haven't lost much. This comes from a member of a department with more volunteer members than most of our neighboring depts. (approx 70) and good relations between volunteer and (part-time) paid staff with more requirements such as manditory volunteer over night duty (once every four weeks) and no volunteer pay for calls. Our members are the first to ask for someone to leave if they don't pull thier weight (usually a non-officer will bring someone up to get voted out before an officer). I don't mean to brag but I am proud of my dept. Sorry so long a post.
    Kevin Sink
    Fair Grove Fire Dept.
    Thomasville, NC USA
    kevinsink@northstate.net

  15. #15
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    Default

    I agree with Kevin has said, the kids today are maybe fewer but willing to put in the time and effort. But there are lots of other activities competing for their time also.

    I'm almost 50 years old but have less than 2 years in the vol. fire service. I also live in a state that has bascially no training requirements and I run with a company that follows the states lead. I have a lot of difficulties getting older members to take state fire school classes with me and in fact many of the older guys actively discourage me and others from taking classes or getting state certifications. I know that this is partly due to human nature in that the more established guys don't want any competition from the new guy and also as volunteers we have other obligations in life, but within my county I see many fire companies that the inspiration comes from the bottom and not from the top, where it should come from.

  16. #16
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    I have only been a vollie for a short time. But the biggest reason I joined my department is so that I CAN help out my community. To me there is nothing better than helping out people, especially when it is people you know, or know their family. So while I do agree that there is a new generation of vols that have a lack of respect for what has been done before them, or some misguided notion of what this is all about, I can honestly say that there aer some of us in the new generation that are doing it for the right reasons.

  17. #17
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    Default

    I am 25 and have been in the Fire Service for almost 7 years. I joined the service to eat some smoke and to do my part to better my community.
    I do have ambitions (sp?) to become a Paid FF, however I truly Love being a Volunteer FF; no one makes me do jack squat, I do all of it because I love doing it. I have no plans on ever leaving the Volunteer Side of the Fire Service, my plan is to use what I learn in Training and Experience on the Career Side (When I become a Career FF) to make me a Better Volunteer FF as well.


    Side note: Something our Dept. does with new members;
    When we bring on a new member without training, If we pay for that members training FF1&2/EMT, that member then has a 1yr obligation to our Dept. for each of those trainings that we send them to. If they resign or are terminated from the Dept. prior to their obligation being met. they then have to pay the Dept. back for those trainings.

  18. #18
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    wfd7137,
    I have heard the same from others that once they go career, nothing will change for the volunteers. Unfortunately too often it does. Not that they lied, but I just don't think they realized how much of a demand it would be to run both. When you throw a family in the mix, it becomes very difficult.

    Unless you have no other life, trust me, it will change in some way. Don't set yourself or others up for higher expectations than you will be able to fulfill when you do go career. It ends up being a bad thing because the other firefighters think you will be around as well, and then when you're not as much as you thought, they give you a bunch of crap about it. The attitude to have is that things will change, but until you settle in to that change, you're just not sure how much.

    I went career, and then still became District Chief at my vollie station. Worked well for me. The two jurisdictions were so different that I loved them both. Now, with a wife and kids, I am burning out quickly. Such is life. I'll keep doing what I can, but things do change.

    _________________________
    MGHjr
    www.thefirefighterwithin.com

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