I keep seeing articles about the downfall of volunteers, and the one recurring theme is that it's too much training and how it costs too much to train guys. Usually, they fall back on the normal excuses: “we are volunteers, so why do we need the training that metro cities need,” or “we make 100 calls a year, I don't need this training.”
If this was football I'd throw the red flag to challenge them on this.
These statements really get under my craw. You can't say in one breath how the public will suffer if you don't make runs but you don't seem to mention how a lack of training affects them, and believe me it does.
If you think your 100 calls a year means you don't need more training, you’re barking up the wrong tree; you need more! If you take a city like Detroit--which make hundreds of fires a month if not thousands--firefighters get a ton of on the location time, and they will perfect their craft through the job itself. If you’re making a handful of fires a year you don't get that opportunity every day, you need more training the traditional way. You can't tell me you feel that you’re good enough in every aspect to not practice your craft. Dudes who have been doing this since the Reagan administration are still learning new things!
I get that it can be hard to get guys involved in training. I've seen that. Find a way to make things interesting. Your students are not 5 years old; they don't want you to read them slides, they can read. Find a way to make things interesting and take time to look around at the different training resources, such as Fire Engineering and the numerous Facebook groups and pages. You say you don't have time…read a magazine article before bed, or take time while you’re in the bathroom. This isn't that hard.
I don't know why we always fall back on training as a reason why our staffing is becoming depleted. I have read that training costs too much and that we could merge departments and create more income and better coverage, but guys take and pride amd ownership in their department and don't want to merge. That's like saying we have so much pride we can't change. I know of a department that had to merge with another due to staffing issues. It made a lot of people mad because that was their identity, they feel the community is identified from its department. But the merger created more coverage, larger budge, and guys started getting paid so some more joined up, and training was a joint thing now instead of trying to do it all yourselves. Things got better!!!!!!! You know what else? The rigs and station stayed the same. Take the FDNY, one department with more company pride than some have for an entire department. They take pride in there station history and district. They take pride in their rigs, tools, performance, but some I hear in small towns don't care about those things…often it comes down to who is going to be in charge and who controls what. Again, how can we say we want to help others but we don't want to merge, even if for the best?
Another issue is people feel we are a social club and not professional. When you show up the great T-shirts--like “Find ‘em hot, leave ‘em wet” and “I fight what you fear” (Another one I see that is super offensive is a fire truck that is a monster truck and dudes are peeing on the fire.) Seriously! What does the public see? Uneducated, unprofessional firefighters. That statement may be harsh, but I've heard the statements about unprofessional firefighters, and that was from a mutual aid department about a neighboring station. Seriously, if you want to be known as a professional just like a career guy, act like it. If you run around without a clue, what's that say?
I get that training can get expensive, but you have got to be crafty. You can't say we need less training, and you can't expect things to revert back to the way they were years ago; times have changed and we need to keep up. If you have to merge to create a better department, then swallow that pride and do what needs to be done. If you feel you can't make it due to budget, don't cut corners, look for solutions. Others have had to do so before you and will continue to need to in the future. You need to get ahold of your local governing agency creating these training requirements and talk to them about tailoring your training to fit your department’s needs. While you may not need high-rise training in a rural setting, there are a lot of other things that you need to be successful. But by saying less is more, well, that's just not the answer.
Stay crafty, folks.