What is it?

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What differentiates Roanoke Fire-EMS from other departments across the Nation? Is it the pay? The benefits? The demographics? The personnel? The training? The City itself?

What is it?

Are Paramedics leaving at an increased rate?
Are the Officers underpaid and Medics overpaid?
Should the Medics ride the ambulance everyday for the extra pay they receive?
Should starting pay be more?
Is there selective discipline?
Is the promotional process fair and equitable?
Should we be riding on better trucks?
Are City employees treated as well as they deserve?
Are City funds missing there mark?
Are firefighters represented the way they should be?

These are just several of examples of issues that are talked about at the morning shift change. These conversations usually remain on the top of discussion the rest of the day. Occasionally news will drop affecting some of these issues and creates a buzz in the air. Then the rumor mill starts to wind up in full motion. Roanoke Fire-EMS top officials rarely answer the echoes of the buzz. Occasionally though, the eyebrows are raised in realization that there is a void of information which needs to be filled. We have all seen examples of this in the past. If you have taken the Officer I class from Virginia DFP then you know that this is a form of communication. While it may not be the most affective or even recommended, it happens.

At the end of the day, after fielding phone calls from all sorts of firefighters, I always return to the same thought: Every fire department has these problems. That is right, we are not special in that right. I am not saying we should throw our hands up and welcome mediocrity, rather I am relating our issues to that of other departments.

We do stand out though. Mostly in the viewpoint of Roanoke Fire-EMS being the biggest department in Virginia West of Richmond. We have well trained firefighters, loyal employees, specialized teams, specialized training, and adjunct instructors which teach throughout the State. We have a very young department, yet we remain a very experienced, dedicated, and professional force.

So what is the bottom line of all these issues? The bottom line is that each department has its strengths and weaknesses. If we learn from all the strengths and build upon that, then our department will move to the front. Take Phoenix for example. Why do they get so many applications each year? Because firefighters like what they see. Departments like Phoenix have placed the Fire Department and the services that the PFD offer at the top of the priority list.

The other day at the fire station we were doing a hard and arduous task that we were not asked to do, but we wanted to. After we were done, one of the older firefighters said to me “you know if someone had asked us to do that we would have bitched and complained”. Why is that?

There are several ideals that I have always believed in:

  1. Customer Service should be a priority.
  2. If you make it a point to do your job to the fullest, you will reap the benefits.
  3. If you want something, the first step is asking for it.
  4. Don’t ever let someone else tell you what you think.
  5. Stand up for what you believe in, you will be able to sleep at night.
  6. Be safe so you can go home in the morning.
I know I have kind of hit several points and wandered away from the point. That point being that Roanoke Fire-EMS isn’t as bad as some make it. If all the energy used to talk about what is wrong was used to fix what is wrong, we would be better off.

The next time you bump into a firefighter from another department ask them if their department is perfect.

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