Monday, May 18, 2009

Who Represents YOU?

A few years ago, an East Coast friend and I were lamenting out loud that we didn’t have a national organization that REALLY represented the silent majority in the volunteer fire service.

Now; I want it understood that, if some of you who are reading this served on committees at the national level of the National Council on Fire Blah, Blah, Blah; this is NOT directed at you. I don’t need anymore hate mail for a while. But, how many of you who have worked for a fire service organization at the national level ever saw more than 20% of surveys returned? I rest my case. There IS a silent majority of firefighters in this country.

So, my friend and I floated the idea and were amazed at how many others felt the same way. What was done in jest was catching traction. I mean; there was some serious chatter about creating a new, national organization that would listen to us, work for us and become our strong voice for issues that were not being addressed at the national level. (Sidebar: it is noted that many organizations have addressed personal safety to varying degrees). An example could be a lack of programs for things like college tuition credits, property tax breaks, retirement benefits, annuities, etc. for people willing to volunteer their time in their communities. And let’s face it; we have a President well versed in community involvement, don’t we?
Continue Reading Who Represents YOU?

It was getting more and more evident that organizations were getting together to discuss “issues”-real or imagined-and would argue about the pecking order and the seating chart, who would get credit for the “plan” and most importantly, who would pick up the tab for the conference then and the program down the road later. Oh and make sure that your participation finds its way into your resume for future consideration of another organization that you intend to single-handedly rescue! (Sorry; I’ll put the sarcasm away).

I have always held that providing fire service to communities should be an intimate, local issue; from deciding what type of fire protection, to funding for it, deciding who should be on the fire department and to provide a grievance process for when expectations are not met; expectations of the fire department and the community being one and the same.

Let’s be honest here; how many of you KNOW what your community expects or are your expectations what you THINK their expectations are?

How many of you operate under the don’t ask/don’t tell or my favorite what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas mantra and especially for the “bad” stuff?

In summary, how many departments FEAR getting their communities involved because of that whole “control” thing?

We want to be called “heroes”, but will run like our hair’s on fire if they have reason to call us “convicts”…and there’s been a “few” of those times lately, hasn’t there?

We want their money, but we want it with no strings attached. Our reasons for wanting it should be good enough, right?

What would your public’s reaction be if they found out that you had been sneaking up their taxes, but have never applied for a grant?

Does your best efforts measure up to your community’s yard stick? Or does we did our best still cover it?

Does parking the rig out front while you sweep out the truck bay define your training program?

Now that I have your attention, let’s get back to fire protection as a local issue.

Until FIRE Act came out, I was fully prepared to work within our local boundaries for funding, but I soon realized that the “redistribution” of my tax money wouldn’t benefit us locally, so we started applying for grants.

We are 1 for 7. For (5) years, the Peer Reviewers told us that we didn’t need a new truck, so we gave up and went for SCBAs. We GOT that grant, but then they told us last year that we didn’t need the compressor to fill them!

What’s my point, you ask? Simple; we DO need a truck, so we applied for and received through our state a zero interest loan for its purchase.

And that compressor that we don’t “need” will be purchased at some point with money from fundraisers.

Funny, isn’t it? We all receive those emails in BIG, BOLD ALL CAPS that says WE URGENTLY NEED YOUR HELP when they are wanting a piece of legislation passed for their special interests.

Do you believe that it’s all in OUR interest? If you do, then click your heels together (3) times and say “there’s no space for our foam” or something like that.

So, the moral of this story is: You represent YOU! If you wait for someone else to help, you will find yourself in a hole… and look who’s throwing the dirt on you!

Create relationships in your community, your county and state government. Know your politicians. They’re the ones asking for donations to “take back government”; whatever that means.

How will you know if you’re doing enough?

Easy; the mayor will be following you on Twitter and your state rep will be calling you by your first name.

But, we STILL need a national organization that thinks like we do!


This article is protected by federal copyright laws. No reproduction of any kind is permitted without the expressed permission of the author. This article is published under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella.
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