July/August 2002 Issue Number 37
a monthly electronic newsletter which links current events and issues
to the daily challenges faced by fire and emergency services managers.
Current topics in the areas of leadership development, workplace diversity,
change management, and conflict resolution will be discussed.
hope that you find the information here useful and provocative.
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International August 23-26, 2002. Kansas City, MO.
Annual Women Chief Fire Officers Fire Service Leadership Conference
November 8-10, 2002 at Motorola University, Schaumburg, Illinois.
Call 630-990-2390 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
for more information.
International Conference of Fire Service Women April 23-27, 2003.
Denver, CO. Contact email@example.com
for more information.
Divided We Fall: The Challenge of Combination Departments
firefighters from the Derby Fire Company have been staying away from
the fire station, and this is bad news for residents of their district
in southern New Jersey. Adequate emergency response depends on the
participation of the volunteers, who serve alongside a handful of
paid firefighters and EMT's. Volunteers say that they are staying
away because they feel disrespected by the paid members of the fire
company. Paid firefighters say the volunteers are poorly trained and
do not maintain their certifications. Most
observers agree: the problems are mostly due to a clash of personalities
between paid and volunteer firefighters are nothing new. Although
they are all doing the same job at emergency scenes, paid and volunteer
departments often have significantly different histories, cultures,
and ways of doing business. A few examples of these differences include
the fact that most paid firefighters are unionized while volunteers
are not, volunteers often elect officers vs. a promotional testing
process for paid firefighters, and volunteers are usually members
of their service communities, while paid firefighters may live far
from their workplace.
then there is the issue of pay and hours. Paid firefighters come to
work at designated times and get paid whether they respond to emergency
calls or not. Volunteers
get paid on call, if at all, and choose whether to respond to any
the Derby Fire District problems underscore perhaps the most challenging
differences between paid and volunteer firefighters: those of culture
and perception. The volunteers say that they get no respect and that
they are not listened to, but the paid staff says that they are just
trying to enforce professional standards. The volunteers see the paid
people as lazy and spoiled; the paid people see the volunteers as
out of touch and of marginal use to real emergency response. The result
is discord and diminished response, and the ones who are hurt most
are the citizens who receive the service.
districts do not have the population base or the money to support
a fully paid firefighting staff. Some districts have a strong tradition
of volunteerism that they wouldn't disrupt even if they had the resources
to hire paid firefighters. Volunteer and combined paid/volunteer departments
are a fact of life, and it is critical that leaders find ways to make
this arrangement work. To do so, leaders need skills in communications,
mediation, facilitation, and forming diverse teams.
an organization with a diversity of outlooks and opinions is challenging,
but it is the reality of leadership for just about everyone these
days. All members must be able to work together toward common goals,
or all will fail. United we stand, divided we fall: it's as simple
Burlington County Times, April 17, 2002