So, what is the future of Fire Police?
Everywhere we look, we find the number of people volunteering is dropping. Not just in the Fire Police, but also in the Fire Departments, ambulances and even little league coaching and scouts.
What incentives do we offer to attract people to become Fire Police? Across Pennsylvania, the same concerns are raised - Fire Police are treated poorly. Fire Companies balk at buying the equipment we need - our favorite story is the FD that spent $2200 on murals for their tanker commemorating 9-11 only to turn around and deny a $1700 Arrow Board for their donated Traffic Unit. Or another FD that spec'd the chrome wheel inserts for their new Engine at an $1800 cost, moments after denying $600 for the Fire Police to purchase cones - especially when they had NONE that were 28" or reflective.
Don't even get us started on vehicles! We've never seen a cop told to use his own car for patrolling. We've never seen an EMT told to take the sick person to the hospital in their own car. Firefighters don't have to bring their own ladders, water, or hoses to fight fires. Even the township guy putting up new street signs doesn't use his own vehicle. So why are we using our own cars??? Especially with the price of gas these days!
We've let ourselves get walked on, because our generation grew up sacrificing for everyone else. Our parents or grandparents went through the Great Depression and we learned directly how bad things could be. We learned the value of saving "for a rainy day". We used our own cars and bought our own equipment because we had the sense of Community that has vanished over the past three decades. Now, it's expected of us to be in the background and be quiet, while others plot fancy new fire trucks with chrome wheels and multi-color murals. We never learned to say "enough is enough".
Of course, we have no guidance. The motto of the Pennsylvania Fire Police Association should be "Status quo's the way to go!" as they have done absolutely nothing for us over the last twenty years. No wonder their membership's declining! This organization thinks recipes are more important for their Newspaper than articles about how the laws are changing! We're talking about an organization that fought having a website, and doesn't want to expand the site or put relevant material on it! They have NO voice in Harrisburg, and numerous times dropped the ball on new regs, rules and legislation.
So, who can do our job? We're aging so fast that we'll be too old in 10 years to hobble out of the way of traffic.
Cops don't have the equipment, time, or personnel.
What about our local road workers? They have the equipment and training (Temporary Traffic Control is for both Work Zones and Incident Management). Oops, they have no authority outside their neatly-carved municipal borders. Idiotic that Pennsylvania has over 2500 separate municipalities, isn't it? Also, there's the problem that they'd need to be "on call", and this becomes a money issue with overtime, plus they don't typically have the right equipment for Incident Management needs.
So who else could do the job? PennDOT only works state roads, and they're not exactly plentiful during the winter when they're busy putting salt on the roads or plowing. And, they have a union and overtime costs too...and are now telling us they will not come out to help when needed.
An entirely different issue, but very related, relates to motorists. Every County Fire Police Association meeting lists how many hours of duty time is spent by Fire Police, with "no prosecutions and no warnings". Why? How can we engender respect from the public if they can do what they please, instead of what we're telling them to do? Oh yeah, it's that "we're too nice" mentality again...
One suggestion that's been floated is to organize at the County Level, under the County Sheriff. Think about it for a minute. Many States have "Reserve Deputy Sheriffs" who volunteer their time, with no out-of-pocket expenses. They have to undergo the same programs as a regular Deputy, but then have all of the same authority. Pennsylvania's Courts have repeatedly ruled that Deputy Sheriffs can enforce the Vehicle Code.
So, the vision is that, depending on the normal call volume, when a call comes in, the Reserve Deputy would be in a position to respond in a County SUV or Utility Vehicle with appropriate equipment, to meet the needs of the incident. Anyone who crosses the Deputy's path gets cited (remember, Section 3327 was changed to increase the fine to $250 at Emergency Scenes).
Are there questions about this? Sure! Does it offer a possible path? Absolutely! Would it involve a lot of work? You kidding? But the bottom line, would it serve the needs of the public and emergency responders? You be the judge - but we haven't heard of anything better.
But don't get your hopes up. Twice we've attempted to have an audience at the Sheriffs' state meeting and twice we've been denied. What does YOUR County Sheriff have to say? York's has gone on record to endorse the idea, while Lancaster's won't even meet with us despite numerous attempts, instead telling us through their Chief Deputy that "it won't work." This same Sheriff complained when his rank-and-file got a pay raise...
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