Fire Yenta 5/30/03

By Diane Feldman, Managing Editor

First Annual Yentathon comes to
It is time for’s First Annual Yentathon-not to raise money but to raise stories. It is hard to believe that this is the Yenta’s 31st column. But the Yenta cannot provide quality columns without your help. Please send your TAX-FREE donations to You can contribute any amount–one story, two stories, three stories-there is no limit.

The benefits of contributing are:

  1. To embarrass your friends.
  2. To embarrass your co-workers.
  3. To embarrass your supervisors.
  4. To entertain the fire service.

If you have enjoyed the column in the past and wish to continue reading it, don’t delay! Send your stories today!

Five practical ways to retain volunteers
From John Buckman, chief of the German Township (IN) Volunteer Fire Department in Evansville, Indiana, and immediate past president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs: Keeping the volunteers you have is equally as important as getting new ones. Here are some tips to help retain volunteers.

  1. Have a “Volunteer of the Month” program to recognize the work of dedicated firefighters. Don’t forget to include the volunteers who don’t respond to emergency calls but who support the department in staff functions. Monthly award winners can also be part of a quarterly and yearly award program. Consider giving certificates to the monthly winners and inexpensive gifts to the quarterly and annual winners. Publicize volunteer award recipients in local newspapers and fire department newsletters.
  2. Develop a method to honor those who have served your group for several years–perhaps with a pin the volunteer can wear indicating each year of service. If your organization has an annual dinner, give out awards for years of service.
  3. Take a photo of each new volunteer and display it in a prominent place. Include the photo and a brief bio in your newsletter.
  4. Give volunteers something to identify them as a part of your organization. This will go a long way in making volunteers feel a part of the team.
  5. Make sure volunteers know that their opinions are important and their suggestions are welcome. This not only builds confidence in their job performance but also makes them feel more a part of the overall organization.

Whatsa matter-got ants in your pants?
Members of a department in northern California were on a medical call the other day–a man reported down in the backyard of his house. On arrival at the patient’s house, they discovered he had fallen down on the back steps and couldn’t get up. Right in the middle of getting vitals, patient history, etc., the engineer jumped up and started dancing around, smacking at his turnout pants. He darted over by a tree, dropped his pants, and discovered he was covered with ants. The other crew members laughed their heads off watching him jump around in his underwear screaming like a little kid!

Team players can say “No”
From John Buckman, chief of the German Township (IN) Volunteer Fire Department in Evansville, Indiana, and immediate past president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs: Distractions, interruptions, and requests for help occur at all kinds of workplaces but should not happen so frequently that they disrupt completion of your own work and/or family responsibilities. You need to determine if the tasks warrant your time and focus before accepting. The following can help you assess the value of taking on more work or responsibilities and whether you should say no:

  1. Is the work “nice” to do or vital to do? Helping others is very important to building teamwork, but not at the risk of ignoring your job responsibilities. Try to evaluate the importance of a task by considering how it relates to your job responsibilities and the department’s objectives.
  2. Is there another person who can do the task better? Don’t be afraid to refer a task to another person. Doing so will ensure that the best person for the job is performing the task, and it will help to develop others within your department to assume some of your responsibility and allow you to move on to other tasks that need doing.
  3. Can the task be completed at a more appropriate time? Ask the person asking you to do something if it is critical that the task be completed now or if it can be completed later. Is there a deadline, or can you work it into your schedule?
  4. Offer alternatives before saying no-offer advice or suggestions or to help with a portion of the task that you can complete quickly and efficiently.

Speedy recovery
The Yenta hopes Chief Rick Lasky from the Lewisville (TX) Fire Department, FDIC and Fire Engineering advisor, is resting comfortably at home from his recent illness. It takes a lot to put HIM out of commission! As soon as he felt better, he was asking his wife for his cell phone and his pager!

If you have a tidbit for the Fire Yenta, e-mail

Past Yentas

Click here for Fire Yenta–2002

Diane Feldman is a 14-year veteran of Fire Engineering; she has spent the past 13 years as managing editor. She has a B.A. in English/communications. Previously she was an editor at the American Management Association in New York City.

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