Time for Volunteers to Negotiate for Benefits and Protections

Volunteer Fire Fighters have proven that they work to seek the good of the citizens they serve, however, not everyone appreciates volunteers or support them for what they do. As jurisdictions seek to “improve” life safety conditions the first casualty is the volunteer service. Even though volunteers are worth their weight in gold they are treated like tin in a growing number of jurisdictions. How is it that an investment and the crown jewel of any society be treated so shabbily? In this Country Volunteers represent 70% of the service but are being fed peanuts by local jurisdictions while paid fire fighters are given lucrative contracts, sometimes at the demise of the volunteer system. How can citizens who receive life saving care day in and day out neglect the only lifeline that has proven to be reliable for many years at a very low cost?

The question is not the cost of supporting volunteer fire fighters but what is the cost of neglecting them? After watching the Congress of the United States flirt with the future of the citizens of this Country, millions of Americans were left scratching their heads on the logic of their law makers. At the same time citizens need to assess how they neglect their heroic volunteers. Volunteer fire fighters have no idea how to complain or bring attention to their plight as their ranks shrink due to lack of support. The good guys are bewildered that an adoring public has seem to forgotten their sacrifice and their needs as they struggle to serve. As the signs of inattention and neglect mount the good guys are at a lost for words and energy to rally citizens to their cause.

Unlike the military which is funded by taxes, the volunteers can’t survive on thanks for faithful service alone. Most Volunteer Fire Fighters are mostly funded through donations. Maryland appropriates some money to the volunteers for capital items like fire apparatus while some county governments have drastically reduced their contributions to volunteer operations. Those reductions have never been studied to ascertain the impact on volunteer operations. Some jurisdictions have seen drastic reductions in volunteer operations due to budget cuts. Citizens wait longer and longer for service and pay premium dollars for paid fire fighters when adjustments to volunteer budgets is much more effective in the long run. Its time for volunteers to obtain contracts with jurisdictions so at a minimum elected officials can make intelligent decisions about how they will ensure volunteer services are funded. Citizens may decide Volunteer Fire Fighters are a relic of the past. Benign neglect is not a way to make decisions about people who have dedicated their lives to helping others. In the next emergency you face don’t stand there wondering how long it will take for the service to arrive when you can ensure the service will be timely. Without cuts to the paid service, for pennies on the dollar, as a citizen you can ensure your volunteer service will be there when you need it.

Don’t forget about emergency medical services. Training for emergency medical technicians in some Maryland Counties are at critically low levels. Imagine a provider that has more capability than a nurse, that can provide free service, not being available because the low cost of training is not provided to volunteer emergency medical providers. Maryland is extremely proud of its medical system but the appropriations for volunteers to receive the training has slowed to a trickle. Administrators decry the high failure rates of those seeking to obtain training to become Emergency Medical Technicians but they provide very little training money to volunteers to ensure their success. It’s sad to pathetic that those same administrators have done little to improve volunteer’s ability to obtain needed training. How pathetic that a once vibrant system for volunteer emergency medical service providers are almost extinct in some Maryland Counties. Many Counties in Maryland either have a dwindling volunteer medical provider base or medical providers that have very little training to treat the needs of their citizens they respond to. Ask yourself, what am I doing to make sure the volunteers in my jurisdiction are supported? God forbid you participate in the destruction of the volunteer service in your jurisdiction for political gain. Give these heroic, selfless servants a contract for their protection. Elected officials owe it to volunteers to treat them on the same level as paid personnel. Are volunteers second class citizens in your jurisdiction? Do you negotiate with all County employees except volunteer fire and emergency medical providers. Volunteers do the same work but for free. How is that worthy of second class treatment? If you need preparedness training or would like to have a preparedness discussion for your employees or community checkout my website http://www.ejones224.moonfruit.com (Systems Emergency Preparedness Consultants) and contact me via email at sysmanemerconsult@aol.com for a free consultation.


About managingemergencies

I am a professional consultant with 30 years of experience in managing emergencies. My background and skills gave me the foundation to start Systems Emergency Preparedness Consultants. If you need preparedness training or would like to have a preparedness discussion for your employees contact me via email at sysmanemerconsult@aol.com. I held various positions in the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department until I retired in 2007. As a emergency planner and trainer in the Prince George's County Office of Homeland Security I planned exercises and training for government agencies and citizens groups. I was appointed Fire Chief of the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department in 2009. I started Systems Emergency Preparedness Consultants in June of that year. I had the opportunity to become the Assistant Fire Chief - Operations of the District of Columbia Fire/EMS Department and served for a year as the Interim Fire Chief. I am a trained mediator, mediator team leader and trainer. I also served as the Fire/EMS Department Equal Employment Opportunity Officer.
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