Organizing a Volunteer Department
Men, machines and knowledge are the principal ingredients
EFFICIENT administration and operation of a volunteer department require sound organization. The plan given here is brief and uncomplicated. It will serve as a guide which can be adopted, as is, or modified to suit local conditions. It is made in accordance with presently accepted principles of management, delegating much authority to officers, and fixing responsibility.
The original concept of a volunteer fire department as a group of men who gathered on infrequent occasions to combat an emergency has long been outgrown. The modern volunteer department is a complex organization with such responsibilities as the maintenance of expensive and complicated equipment; training to use this equipment effectively and to keep abreast of ever-increasing fire hazards; and the prevention of fires and elimination of hazards.
The principal ingredients of any fire department are men and machines. Both are essential, but the machines would be virtually useless if the men did not know how to use them or were not present to do so. Therefore, there must be men, machines and knowledge—all in sufficient quantity.
Machines should be purchased under specifications that will assure their adequacy and quality. This can be done by using the standard specifications of Pamphlet 19 of the National Fire Protection Association. Then they should be well cared for. This is essential for dependability at serious emergencies.
Knowledge can only be acquired through constant and thorough training. Initial training and additional training may be had through the state fire service training programs, but each fire department should maintain its own regular training program in addition. Frequent drills are necessary to maintain skill. Repetition is required to develop it.
Men are the most important part of the department. They should be carefully selected. Although a certain minimum number is necessary, it is better to have a small number of conscientious, well-trained men than a large roster of disinterested members.
A minimum number of 25 men is desirable. How many more than that are needed depends upon the size of the community and amount of apparatus. A rough formula would call for 10 men for each pumper, ladder truck and rescue vehicle. It is better to have a waiting list, than to allow everyone to join the department when they want to. The more exclusive a volunteer department is, the more desirable it is to be a good member. Members who clearly demonstrate lack of sufficient interest should be dropped.
There is no objection to admission of men under 21 years of age if they show the potential of being good members, and are kept under strict control. Youthful vigor is an asset, if properly used, and every department needs an infusion of “new blood,” just as a ball team does.
It is desirable to divide the men into companies, if practicable. This allows more efficiency at fires and makes for smooth and effective administration.
Below are prescribed duties for the various officers and men.
Staff Duties: Is in charge of and has final responsibility for all department property, personnel and activities. He shall handle personnel matters, including discipline, appointments of officers and assignment of duties. Presides at meetings unless otherwise specified in constitution. He shall perform what duties are not specifically assigned to others.
Line Duties: At every fire or other emergency where be is present, the chief shall be in charge of the department and shall direct and supervise, through his subordinate officers, the work of the men and the use of apparatus and equipment.
First assistant chief
Staff Duties: He is in charge of training. Plans and administers a systematic program of drills. Keeps abreast of new developments and reports on them to chief and members. He should attend regional and state fire schools to get information to bring back to the department. Keeps records of training and reports to, and makes recommendations to chief relative to quality of operations and training.
Line Duties: At fires and other emergencies, he shall assume command in absence of chief and shall direct operations until chiefs arrival. When chief is present, he shall report to him and follow his orders. He shall supervise operations as directed and may give orders to subordinate officers and members.
Second assistant chief
Staff Duties: Is in charge of apparatus, equipment and quarters and is responsible for maintenance, condition, and appearance of same. Keeps records on, and reports to chief on condition of apparatus, equipment and quarters, and makes any necessary recommendations for improvement of same.
Line Duties: Shall assume command in absence of chief or first assistant chief and shall direct operations until one of them arrives. When one or both of them is present he shall report to the one in command and follow his orders. He shall supervise operations as directed and may give orders to subordinate officers and firemen.
Third assistant chief
Staff Duties: Is in charge of fire prevention. Plans and conducts systematic program of inspections and reports fire hazards and violations which come to his attention. Investigates complaints of hazardous conditions and takes action to correct those found to be dangerous or illegal. Organizes and directs other fire prevention activities sanctioned by the department. Keeps records of inspections, hazards and violations. Attempts to ascertain the cause of each fire.
Line Duties: Shall assume command in absence of all of above officers. When one or more of them is present, shall perform duties as listed for second assistant chief, above.
Receives and transmits correspondence. Takes minutes of meetings and performs other secretarial duties as assigned. Keeps records of department activities not otherwise assigned and helps chief prepare an annual report. If treasurer also, performs normal duties of that office.
All of the above officers shall render reports as specified at each regular meeting of the department.
In the event of the protracted absence or illness of the chief, the first assistant chief shall assume the chiefs duties until bis return. Whenever one of the assistant chiefs or other officers is unable to carry out his duties because of illness or extended absence, the chief may temporarily assign those duties to another member. In the event that temporary succession of command beyond the above procedure becomes necessary, it shall be in order of rank if chief is not available to make the assignment.
Staff Duties: Shall be in charge of engine or pumper company. Is responsible for care and maintenance of this apparatus and the equipment thereon, seeing that it is kept clean and ready for immediate use at all times. He shall keep the second assistant chief informed of condition of this apparatus and equipment, immediately reporting any serious defects or missing equipment. He shall be responsible for getting this apparatus and equipment ready for immediate service after each time it has been in use.
Line Duties: At fires or other emergencies he shall command this unit, being responsible for the proper positioning and use of the pumper, and the operation of hose streams by this unit. He shall follow orders of superior officers and shall give orders to the men of his unit. When no superior officer or rescue squad captain is present, he shall assume command of operations until a superior officer arrives.
When there is more than one pumper, or where there is a ladder truck, there shall be captains for each, numbered 2, 3, etc., whose duties shall be as described above for each of their respective units.
Staff Duties: Shall be in charge of tanker company. Is responsible for care and maintenance of tank truck and equipment thereon with duties the same as those prescribed for Captain No. 1.
Line Duties: At fires or other emergencies, where tanker is to be used, he shall be responsible for its proper positioning and use, and shall supervise the discharging and refilling of the tanker. He shall be familiar with water sources in the area so that they may be utilized for refilling the tanker.
He shall follow orders of superior officers and shall give orders to the men of his unit. When no superior officer or other captain is present, he shall assume command until one arrives.
Rescue squad captain
Staff Duties: Shall be in charge of rescue squad. Is responsible for care and maintenance of this apparatus and equipment thereon, with duties the same as described for Captain No. 1.
Line Duties: At fires or other emergencies he shall be in command of the rescue squad and shall follow orders of his superior officers when present. When no superior officer is present, he shall assume command of all operations until one of them arrives.
Staff Duties: For each captain there shall be a lieutenant to assist the captain and to carry out tire duties of the captain during absence of the captain.
Line Duties: At fires or other emergencies, the lieutenant shall follow orders of the captain of his unit when the captain is present. If the captain is absent, the lieutenant shall assume the captain’s duties and command the unit.
When no chief or captain is present, the lieutenant who is first to arrive on the scene shall assume command of all operations until the arrival of a superior officer.
Staff Duties: Each vehicle shall have drivers assigned. They assist the captain and lieutenant in charge of the vehicle to keep the vehicle and the equipment thereon in good condition and ready for immediate use, and in the absence of both of the above, shall be responsible for condition and readiness of vehicle and its equipment.
If a driver notices anything defective or unusual about a vehicle, he shall immediately report this to the captain or lieutenant.
Line Duties: Drivers shall drive vehicles, follow orders of the officer in command of the unit and operate vehicles, as needed, at fires and other emergencies. When on the road, they shall exercise due caution with regard for the safety of the vehicle, the men on it and others.
Staff Duties: Firemen shall be assigned to each unit and shall assist in maintaining the apparatus and equipment of that unit in good, clean and serviceable condition. They shall perform other duties in quarters, as assigned, to keep the quarters in good, neat and clean condition. They shall perform other duties as assigned by the chief. They shall follow orders of the officers of their units and chief officers.
Line Duties: Firemen shall perform the actual work at fires and emergencies under the supervision and direction of officers. As far as practicable, they shall work with their units.
In the event that no officer is present, the senior fireman present will assume command of all operations until the arrival of an officer.