February/March 2002 Issue Number 32
Is a monthly electronic newsletter which links current events and issues to the daily challenges faced by fire and emergency services managers. Current topics in the areas of leadership development, workplace diversity, change management, and conflict resolution will be discussed.
We hope that you find the information here useful and provocative.
enter your email address
Let us know what you think! If you'd like to subscribe to the newsletter, please enter your email address in the box below.
Leadership Training Seminar: March 8-10, 2002, San Diego Bahia Resort. Sponsored by Women in the Fire Service. For more information call 608-233-4879 or email email@example.com.
FDIC West: April 28-May 2 at the Sacramento Convention Center. Call 888-299-8016 for more information.
National Conference of Women in Policing: April 30- May 4, Washington DC. Check www.womenandpolicing.org for more details.
Staff and Command School presented by Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute, May 1-8 at the Adams Mark Hotel, Dallas, TX. Linda Willing will be on the faculty for this program. Go to www.mfri.org for more information about the course.
What if you gave a promotional test and nobody came? Increasingly, this is the situation many fire departments are facing.
Last year, the Corpus Christi Fire Department opened the promotional process for the rank of Firefighter II- Paramedic six times. At no time did the number of applicants satisfy civil service rules that require three firefighters per job opening. Each subsequent promotional process brought in fewer candidates. By the end of the year, there were 14 openings for the position, and only one firefighter signed up to take the test.
The situation in Corpus Christi is not unique. Around the country, fire departments are having increasing trouble recruiting qualified candidates to test for promotional positions. In particular, there has been decreasing interest in the positions of paramedic and battalion chief.
Hiring and retaining qualified paramedics is a constant challenge for many fire departments. In Corpus Christi, union president Carlos Torres speculated that the problem was due to wages and call volume. Paramedic units usually run more calls than engine or truck companies, and many of those calls come in after midnight. And although paramedics in Corpus Christi get incentive pay for the position, to many the slight pay increase just doesn't justify the added responsibility and aggravation of the job. "Nobody wants it," said one firefighter-paramedic who was considering taking a demotion to get out of riding the ambulance.
Many fire departments are seeing similar trends when it comes to promotion to battalion chief, or a similar first-level management position. A common refrain of "It's just not worth it" summarizes why fewer people aspire to promote to these ranks.
There is no question that becoming a paramedic or a battalion chief greatly increases the challenges and responsibilities employees must handle. Most departments want their best and brightest workers to enter these ranks. It is disheartening when many of these talented people choose to cap their careers at lower ranks.
How can departments change this damaging trend? Clearly, employees who promote must feel there are rewards which go along with added work and responsibility. But rewards and incentives come in many forms, and departments should be careful to choose rewards that encourage the desired outcome.
Case in point: one fire department has increased paramedic pay so dramatically that no one considers ever leaving the position. This department has the opposite problem as Corpus Christi: even paramedics who are burned out and need a break from the position will not leave it because they cannot afford the large drop in pay that would result.
What can a department do to encourage its employees to get involved at all levels, and continue that involvement through timely promotion? These questions will be discussed in this space next month.
Source: "Firefighters Leery of Promotions" by Mary Moreno at caller.com.