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    Default Volunteer Incentives

    Anybody have a "rewards" type program for attendance to calls, training and department functions?

    I am toying with the idea of a points system, with redemption annually for merchandise. An example would be 5 points per call / training drill, etc. Max of 1000 points. At the end of the year, the member could select an item from a "tier", and the department would get that item for the member. 1000 point item may be a LCD TV, or Play Station 3, gas grill, and so forth. Thought about cash, but that may involve a tax issue for the very folks I want to help.

    Just looking for the pro's and con's of this. You folks usually have some great ideas. I know this isn't an original thought, but we need and value our volunteers.
    Glenn Rainey
    Colington Fire Department
    Dare County, North Carolina
    The Outer Banks

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    We use a LOSAP pension fund. After 65 you get 20 per month for every year of active service and you can continue to add years even after you start collecting.Our other top responders also get the first shot at going to Fire or EMS expos out of state.

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    We use a points system here, that accumulating a pre-set amount of points for so many years will result in so much money when you retire.

    A department just a few towns over anticipated the need for an incentive program, and now have life members collecting in the upwards of 600 dollars a month.

    At an older age, that's a good chunk of change.

    We tried to implement a system like it in the early eightys, and did successfully for a while until it got lost along the wayside.

    The points are something along the lines of 2 per call/meeting/etc., with if you are on the duty roster for the EMS but don't make an alarm, you get docked points or something to that extent.

    I'm not 100% familiar with the program at the moment, but it's a good idea if you ask me. R&R is essential these days.
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    My department uses two different systems. One is a quarterly system that rewards members who meet the requirements. This award could be a gift certificate, job shirt, etc. The end of the year award is for member who attend 20% or more of the fire calls for the year.

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    Quote Originally Posted by achief15 View Post
    Anybody have a "rewards" type program for attendance to calls, training and department functions?

    I am toying with the idea of a points system, with redemption annually for merchandise. An example would be 5 points per call / training drill, etc. Max of 1000 points. At the end of the year, the member could select an item from a "tier", and the department would get that item for the member. 1000 point item may be a LCD TV, or Play Station 3, gas grill, and so forth. Thought about cash, but that may involve a tax issue for the very folks I want to help.
    Are you being serious right now. a lcd tv or a playstation 3. What are you smoking and where the hell do you volunteer. Since when do you need a reward to volunteer. Honestly, a playstation 3 or lcd tv. I agree with someone else maybe a t-shirt just once a year or something, but i am at a lose for words. Maybe next time you go in someones house you should just take what u want, as a payment for putting out the fire or helping them out. Incentives what a joke.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JimFightsFire07 View Post
    Are you being serious right now. a lcd tv or a playstation 3. What are you smoking and where the hell do you volunteer. Since when do you need a reward to volunteer. Honestly, a playstation 3 or lcd tv. I agree with someone else maybe a t-shirt just once a year or something, but i am at a lose for words. Maybe next time you go in someones house you should just take what u want, as a payment for putting out the fire or helping them out. Incentives what a joke.
    Lets do some backwards extrapolation using the example numbers posted by chief. 1000 points/5 points call/drill=200 incidences required to "earn" the top prize. A vollie doing this kind of volume a year is saving some municipality/district big $$ by them not having to pay (or pay as much) staff necessary to cover all that activity. Why not throw the vollie a bone for that much time/dedication? My guess is that if you added up all the hours spent in the incidences and divided the cost of the item by these hours it would come out to well less than minimum wage.

    This is not to meant to be and should not be construed as a knock on the departments that have a low run volume.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JimFightsFire07 View Post
    Are you being serious right now. a lcd tv or a playstation 3. What are you smoking and where the hell do you volunteer. Since when do you need a reward to volunteer. Honestly, a playstation 3 or lcd tv. I agree with someone else maybe a t-shirt just once a year or something, but i am at a lose for words. Maybe next time you go in someones house you should just take what u want, as a payment for putting out the fire or helping them out. Incentives what a joke.
    It must be nice to be on a department that doesn't have any problems with people responding. Perhaps when you get a few years in you'll realize the effects of burn-out, the restrictions families put on responding, or just plain being too tired to go help lift grandma off the floor.

    I'm curious, what is the general makeup of your department, anyway? Judging only by your post, I picture a bunch of young, single pups that "do it for the community" with cars lit up like a Christmas tree and brag to every chick at the bar or in the online chat room that they're a fireman.

    As Husker pointed out, that's a pretty hefty call volume to obtain 1,000 points. I think a PS3 or TV may be a little extravigant, but if that's what they want to do and what it takes to get people to the scene, that's their perogative. Imagine the cost if they paid each person just $5 per call. That'd be $1,000 for someone who goes on 200 calls. I'm thinking a $400 PS3 is a helluva bargain in comparison.

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    I think this is like the up and coming trend to give crap away to blood donors. I started when I was 17 just because it was a good thing to do. Now it seems everyone I go to, they have yankees tickets or something like that. Makes me really quite sad.

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    We use a point system and members earn points for meetings, trainings, fundraisers and workdays. Everyone likes to respond to calls, so we didn't include those. We pay a $ amount for each point earned at the end of the year. This helps to cover fuel expense and etc. No one gets rich, but it helps a little.

    We also have everyone throw an accountability tag in a bucket at each meeting. At the end of the meeting, we draw a tag out and the person gets a piece of clothing with the dept. emblem it. These include jackets, hats, sweatshirts, polo shirts, work shirts, etc. Gets everyone used to always using their accountabilty tags also.

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    Default incentive idea's

    We have looked at this topic a couple of times in my dept. we've just never done anything for several reasons. One of the reasons was if you "pay" a volly for his time, now that income should be shown for taxes, both on the department side and the ff side. The second thing that we looked at was reduced costs for city services (Water, Sewer, Trash, ect) this excluded persons that lived outside city limits. I never thought about the points system that would be redeemable.

    What is available to FF is:
    (1) Access to on site exercise equipment
    (2) Agreement with off site fitness center for $25 each/month membership for FF or spouse, with yearly 1/4 paid for FF by dept.
    (3) Yearly banquet provided for FF, EMS, and PD, bring a guest
    (4) Yearly steak dinner at golf course, dinner provided, golf extra
    (5) In the event EMS is needed for your family and insurance doesn't cover the cost of the call I believe the cost is forgiven
    (6) Given the opportunity to attend state fire training, room is provided, take the family
    (8) Yearly fish fry for FF, EMS and family members
    (9) Yearly 'health physical for FF if not provided by other means
    (10) Training, for some FF this is of value, work place requires CPR, first aid, emt ect., and they can get the training from us, saving them time and expenses

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    Quote Originally Posted by JimFightsFire07 View Post
    Are you being serious right now. a lcd tv or a playstation 3. What are you smoking and where the hell do you volunteer. Since when do you need a reward to volunteer. Honestly, a playstation 3 or lcd tv. I agree with someone else maybe a t-shirt just once a year or something, but i am at a lose for words. Maybe next time you go in someones house you should just take what u want, as a payment for putting out the fire or helping them out. Incentives what a joke.
    Actually sir I was being serious. I do not have the luxury of a large pool from which to draw from for volunteers. We are an unincorporated fire district and are fortunate to have tax based funding and fundraisers. The fundraisers would be used to buy the items. In this area, volunteers have to have a steady source of income to feed their families, have other commitments and have a life which prevents them from being available to the FD as often as they would like. My volunteers get the shirts, hats, etc, but with each generation, there is more of a "what's in it for me" attitude. It's no longer just enough to be a part of the organization. A retirement plan, which we do have through the state, is great, but can't be accessed until 20 years of service and 55 years of age.

    My question was to see if others were trying anything along this line to help with recruitment and retention. If you have a problem with me wanting to reward my folks for their efforts, too bad. And most of what you have implied in your reply in very insulting.

    For the rest of you that replied, thank you for taking the time. I appreciate your sharing what you do and your input. I know this is way out of the box, but I am trying to stay ahead of the game and be somewhat innovative and do something other than pay per call.
    Glenn Rainey
    Colington Fire Department
    Dare County, North Carolina
    The Outer Banks

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    Issue stipeneds at the end of the year. Unless you're issuing high 4 digit checks, a little extra cash at the end of the year would be nice. I recieved approx., $400 bucks last year. And there are some tax breaks for both sides.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Catch22 View Post
    It must be nice to be on a department that doesn't have any problems with people responding. Perhaps when you get a few years in you'll realize the effects of burn-out, the restrictions families put on responding, or just plain being too tired to go help lift grandma off the floor.

    I'm curious, what is the general makeup of your department, anyway? Judging only by your post, I picture a bunch of young, single pups that "do it for the community" with cars lit up like a Christmas tree and brag to every chick at the bar or in the online chat room that they're a fireman.

    As Husker pointed out, that's a pretty hefty call volume to obtain 1,000 points. I think a PS3 or TV may be a little extravigant, but if that's what they want to do and what it takes to get people to the scene, that's their perogative. Imagine the cost if they paid each person just $5 per call. That'd be $1,000 for someone who goes on 200 calls. I'm thinking a $400 PS3 is a helluva bargain in comparison.
    So Catch 22. U have been looking at my posts. A bunch of young pups you say. Well, i do go to college and where i currently live is a college town so i guess you could say we have some young guys i myself being one of them. However, young i wouldnt say so. We have about 15 to 20 that show up on a regular basis on the fire side. However there are more. Young guys, we have guys that have been with the department 25 + years including a another with 51 years. so when u talk about single young pups, i don't think so. Do we have a bunch of cars lit up with blue lights. No. its not needed and i personally think it is a pointless thing to have. Does that mean we don't have them at all, most of our college guys run to the call or ride a bike. Others only live up the street. Now back onto the incentives issue. We have a point system but that is to make sure we stay active and we are still part of the department. How about this for an incentive. I joined a year ago, in that year i did 200+ hours of out of house training, received my fire fighter one and now am hoping to be registered with the pro-board, while still looking for firefighter 2. I now look at my life and think maybe this is what i would actually like to do. Now if u are only looking at this post good for you. And one more thing, what if we do want to do it for the community. What if we do get satisfaction from helping someone, what if we do like seeing posted on the board in the department of another thank you card for helping someone out. Personally i see nothing wrong with it and those who do, like u make yourself seem with the whole do it for the community thing should find something else.

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    Well Jim, I'm glad that your department has no issues with recruitment and retention. I'd be willing to bet that your department is in the minority though.

    Our county has put several incentives in place. They offer child care reimbursement, tuition reimbursement, and a retirement (LOSAP) program. Several local businesses also offer discounts including free movies and discounts at the gym. They are also discussing property tax breaks. All of this requires a minimum number of calls and collateral duty points each month, for at least 2 years before you are eligible for the benefit.

    I don't know of anybody that has joined or sticks around just for the benefits, but it sure helps to know that you're appreciated.

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    ...............
    Last edited by Irish6019; 07-01-2008 at 03:58 AM.

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    I've been following this thread, and there are a lot of good points on here.

    Our county gives the volunteers a $125 dollar yearly tax break as long as they meet criteria set forth by the county fire department (includes meeting attendance, minimum number of training hours, duty hours, and calls answered). Upon successful completion of Firefighter I or EMT, the county FD also gives the member a nice embroidered shirt to wear during their duty hours.

    At our individual station, as chief, I try to recognize the members who put forth the extra effort. I give certificates and/or plaques at our banquet, and the recipients are those who answer the most fire calls, EMS calls, most training hours, and any special awards that I feel are worthy. Now, are the members ASKING for these things? Not at all, but they sure deserve them.

    For the first time, I appointed an "awards committee" and they were given $1000 to which award members for events throughout the year. The committee consists of a Captain, Lieutenant, and Firefighter, and they have the power to spend the money as needed. We know that our 60+ year old members don't want a new N5A, but they'd probably like a gift certificate for them and their wives for for dinner one night. Make the award/incentive/gift/whatever you call it fitting for the individual member.

    I've always wondered about the people who say that volunteers deserve NO compensation in any way, shape, or form for what they do. My Assistant Chief works 50+ hours a week (plus his on-call time), has two active kids, coaches sports, and still manages at least 20 hours a week at the FD. You're telling me that this guy (or the many other like him) don't deserve a tax break, free job shirt, or similar item?

    Till next time, keep the good ideas comin'...
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    I guess I was a bit harsh in saying that I believe no incentives should be given. I do however strongly disagree that there should be a known program that promotes bad behaviors. Working towards getting the new tv, or other item is something that shouldn't be encouraged. Now if at the end of the year a member is rewarded with something that they didn't expect(I can't think of a better way to word this, I guess I mean it's not a sure thing) thats fine with me. It's the do x and get y type of deal that I do not like. The biggest gifts my dept. gave out were survivor lights to the top 5 responders the year before I got in. But it is common to give out a jacket or a gift certificate to those that put in the extra effort that year. They gave these out at the yearly formal dinner.

    Being a volunteer chief is very much a full time job and those guys deserve much more than they get.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JimFightsFire07 View Post
    So Catch 22. U have been looking at my posts. A bunch of young pups you say. Well, i do go to college and where i currently live is a college town so i guess you could say we have some young guys i myself being one of them. However, young i wouldnt say so. We have about 15 to 20 that show up on a regular basis on the fire side. However there are more. Young guys, we have guys that have been with the department 25 + years including a another with 51 years. so when u talk about single young pups, i don't think so. Do we have a bunch of cars lit up with blue lights. No. its not needed and i personally think it is a pointless thing to have. Does that mean we don't have them at all, most of our college guys run to the call or ride a bike. Others only live up the street. Now back onto the incentives issue. We have a point system but that is to make sure we stay active and we are still part of the department. How about this for an incentive. I joined a year ago, in that year i did 200+ hours of out of house training, received my fire fighter one and now am hoping to be registered with the pro-board, while still looking for firefighter 2. I now look at my life and think maybe this is what i would actually like to do. Now if u are only looking at this post good for you. And one more thing, what if we do want to do it for the community. What if we do get satisfaction from helping someone, what if we do like seeing posted on the board in the department of another thank you card for helping someone out. Personally i see nothing wrong with it and those who do, like u make yourself seem with the whole do it for the community thing should find something else.
    Gotta love rooks! So dedicated and ready to go!

    Hey, you'd have more credibility (at least in my eyes) if you applied some of that college education and used correct capitalization and grammar. Just a recommendation.

    As for the reward program, unlike some others in this thread, our department struggles constantly with recruitment and retention, mostly because we don't have a large population (think 1200 people in the 30 square mile district) or a large call volume. Incentives/rewards are not designed to necessarily attract people...it's a "thank you" for ducking out on the family, missing kids ball games and getting up at 0300 on a "sick" call just to be at work at 0700.

    We don't have a program (yet). I'm kicking one around too. I wish we had the money to give away TVs! We'd probably do stuff like t-shirts, gift cards or something.
    Bryan Beall
    Silver City, Oklahoma USA

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    Guess I ruffled a few feathers with the words "LCD TV" and "Playstation 3". Perhaps I should have added that these were ideas thrown out in my station when we discussed this some time ago. Clearly, just a few folks would max out on the top tier point items. But there would also be gift certificates to local restaurants, stores and so forth and other prizes for much lower points so everyone gets something. There is always equipment like leather helmets and personal flashlights that could be an option too. Our funding for the program would come from our annual fundraiser and weekly bingo which may take away from other projects, but that is the only source.

    As for Irish6019's last comment, I truly do not know how rewarding folks for their effort "promotes bad behaviors". Could you help me understand why this could be negative? Iím open for suggestions and thatís why I posted this in the first place.
    Glenn Rainey
    Colington Fire Department
    Dare County, North Carolina
    The Outer Banks

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    I would imagine that based on a point system you will have people that attend the exact number of events needed for a particular item. Once that's done, so are they. Responding to calls to get yourself a tv, does not promote good moral. I think it is quite the slippery slope.

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    Some say that incentives are a sad thing to see. I am 22, and I started when I was 16. I used to have about 40% response rate/year and thats being a few hundred miles away from the dept while at school. Those responses where when I was home. Now that I am home, and working I do not have the time to "volunteer" for free like that anymore. Sad? Sure. but when I can make $30+/hr as a RN to pay off the 10's of thousands of dollars I have in school loans, how can you compare. I am single and do not have a lot of $ left over at the end of the month. I am not spending it on booze/drugs/vaca, it goes towards my tuition/daily expenses ie: car/utiliies/rent. I am not posting this for a pitty reply. I am posting this because until people understand why volunteers are dwindling and the need for incentives goes up, the problem will only worsen. As others stated above; if you paid someoen $5/call it would be much more than the year end incentive. In that case the incentive is SAVING everyone around A LOT of MONEY. Think an EMT-B gets paid 8-12 dollars/hr for a paid service+ benefits. Right there you are saving money even if you paid$5/call. We need to treat our emergency service employees appropriately or one day we will call 911 and either get NO RESPONSE or a $5000 bill for what is now a $500/ambulance bill.

    I run with a combo dept that pays $12/call. It does involve taxes as we get paid a lump sum quarterly as a "pay check". But this is really nice to help out with the gas/wear/tear on the car you use, and to maybe take your family out to dinner as a thank you for all the times you left them to go to a call. The pay/incentive does more than just help the responder it also helps their family, as in the PS3 situation, a responder who normally could not afford a ps3 for their kid now can via the incentive program, that way it would take that $500 expense off of the parent and also make the kid happy.

    I started volunteer, and still run with an all volunteer company in addition to the combo, and love doing it. However times are changing and we need to change with them, I know (through stories) 100's of people used to come out for an ems/fire call and now a days you cannot even get a crew of 2 or get the truck out the door. But they also used to fight fires with basically rain coats and jeans, and ems WAS truely a taxi service with lights/sirens. Now we have state of the art fire fighting structural/hazmat gear (lev A suit) and highly respected/trained emt B-P's that can do almost everything an ER can but out in the street.Also, jobs used to let volunteers leave for calls with pay, now if you leave you get docked pay or get fired, which causes people to do the obvious and stay at work. We pay nurses/docs $20-100's /hr but pay emt-p's $15 /hr, why?

    Incentives are an excellent idea and I love the idea of $/call. Others as stated above have excellent ideas. I also belong to another all volly dept "who would have "parties"throughout the year for the members. ie: a christmas party with steaks all paid for by the dept, a dress up (suits/dresses) night for the members and their significant others that was catered with dancing,dj, again all pd for by the dept, and in the summer picnics for the members and their families, all pd for by the dept, as a thank you not only to the members, but also to their families for making the sacrifice. That dept could get 20 interior ff's on a wed afternoon 1pm for a working structure fire without any problems (seen it done) and 10 interior ff for an auto alarm on a tuesday at 1pm/3am. It really seemed to make the difference when the dept gives back to its members and their families. I hope this helps and sorry for the extensive post. goodluck

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    Quote Originally Posted by JimFightsFire07 View Post
    So Catch 22. U have been looking at my posts. A bunch of young pups you say. Well, i do go to college and where i currently live is a college town so i guess you could say we have some young guys i myself being one of them. However, young i wouldnt say so. We have about 15 to 20 that show up on a regular basis on the fire side. However there are more. Young guys, we have guys that have been with the department 25 + years including a another with 51 years. so when u talk about single young pups, i don't think so. Do we have a bunch of cars lit up with blue lights. No. its not needed and i personally think it is a pointless thing to have. Does that mean we don't have them at all, most of our college guys run to the call or ride a bike. Others only live up the street. Now back onto the incentives issue. We have a point system but that is to make sure we stay active and we are still part of the department. How about this for an incentive. I joined a year ago, in that year i did 200+ hours of out of house training, received my fire fighter one and now am hoping to be registered with the pro-board, while still looking for firefighter 2. I now look at my life and think maybe this is what i would actually like to do. Now if u are only looking at this post good for you. And one more thing, what if we do want to do it for the community. What if we do get satisfaction from helping someone, what if we do like seeing posted on the board in the department of another thank you card for helping someone out. Personally i see nothing wrong with it and those who do, like u make yourself seem with the whole do it for the community thing should find something else.
    While I'm not surprised, you missed my entire point. The fact you don't have the issues cited in the original post makes your department a bit of an anomaly. Sure, everyone's eager and excited in their first years; they attend training and want more, they run high on a high percentage of the calls, and they get frustrated that they can't do more.

    Three, four, maybe five years down the road their commitment starts to wane. They get married, have kids, have increased responsibilities at work, etc. Or, a lot of times, they're just getting burned out. They see the senior guys who aren't running on as many calls as they are and they resent that they're doing all the work.

    Before you criticize a department looking at incentive programs, perhaps you should look at how things are outside of your college town fire department, where new recruits are available every fall. I think you'll find most vollie departments have some sort of incentive program. Some pay per call, some give gifts at the end of the year, some simply have a banquet to thank everyeone. The fact is, our society expects something in return for their time, no matter how small it is. If you don't give them a little something, you can't expect them to continue giving their time over the long term.

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    I am sorry i just dont think vollies should get any comp. our dept pays for a membership for our local mediflight thats way more than what they should if you ask me. I joined 4 yrs ago and yes i have got burned out but i do it for simple fact that one day you may need the help one day and whos going to be there for you more than likely a vollie. I paid for my own radios for my pov I also paid for a lot of my own gear to keep from having the dept to have to buy it. Just volunteer for the simple fact of helping someone out in the time of need.

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    We get $8.00 per run at our dept, paid monthly. When you serve 10 years you are vested in the state retirement and when you get 20 years of service you can retire from service and draw around $140 per month for as long as you live or go to plan B and put another 5 years in which increases monthly pay. The state also gives you a $200 tax credit on state taxes for new guys and a $400 tax credit if you get your (I think) 40 hour vol firefighting training completed.

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    repost of first message Deleted
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