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Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014

Fire chief says paid staff key to keeping volunteers

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

McCOOK, Nebraska -- Fire Chief Marc Harpham recalls that in 1984, the fire department had three full time people, compared to nine in 2010. "We relied heavily on our volunteers then, requiring them at times to make several meetings a week, respond to more calls than we require per week today and the paperwork our personnel in general were required to do was very time consuming," he said.

While Harpham noted the paperwork requirements, even with technological advances, has actually increased over the years, the full time staff has assumed much of that responsibility, relieving demands put on the volunteers. "We were burning out volunteers at a rapid pace and a change needed to be made" Harpham added. The current full time staff has led to much great retention and a higher quality of volunteer. "We are able to keep the good ones around and our volunteer waiting list has now been full for the past 10 years."

City Council approved a proclamation earlier this week that designated May 16-22 as Emergency Medical Services Week, in celebration of the achievements of the local EMS community.


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One of the reasons it is hard to retain paid and volunteer fire/rescue people is the poor facility. The same reasons the police find it hard to recruit and retain people.

-- Posted by dennis on Wed, May 19, 2010, at 1:19 PM

That's a bit of a stretch, and I support the creation of a new facility 100%. Be careful 'dennis' not to tie every comment that's made to the poor condition of the current building. Could come back and bite you in the end. I can't imagine that someone with a desire to volunteer their time & abilities as a firefighter or EMT is going to say "No, I'm not going to apply to be a member because the building the trucks are parked in is outdated and needs repaired." If someone is going to volunteer, or even apply to be paid-staff, one of the last things they'll consider is what the building is like. Emergency services people do what they do because they have a burning desire to help people in need.

As a former EMT myself, I know what dedication the volunteers have - no matter what service they choose (fire or EMS), most of the general public takes their time for granted and just assume that when they dial 911, it's always a paid person that shows up to help.

Like I said on another thread, McCook has an obvious need for a new station house. We just need to be sure to go about it with the right attitude and do it right for the betterment of the community.

-- Posted by Justin Case on Wed, May 19, 2010, at 2:20 PM

You're really overreaching there. Make an honest case for a new facility because people know when someone is blowing smoke and they don't appreciate it.

Sounds like the fire chief has addressed that problem quite well despite the facility so obviously it's not that much of a factor. Who knows why the police chief can't produce similiar results but it certainly is not due to being understaffed nor is it reasonable to blame a building on retention problems. It's likely there are bigger factors at work for the retention issues in the police department. Buildings contain people. People retain people.

-- Posted by hometown1 on Wed, May 19, 2010, at 2:32 PM

Whoa partner! I said ONE of the reasons, not THE reason. When folks leave for another like job in another community or take a job in another community over McCook, ONE of the reasons could very well be the other community has better facilities. UNL knows the importance of having a top notch facility when trying to recruit athletes. Generally speaking people would rather work in a nicer facility than what we have in McCoook. All I am saying is the surroundings do make a difference.

-- Posted by dennis on Wed, May 19, 2010, at 2:47 PM

Oh, it's just "one of the reasons" that's all. Therefore, it must bear very little significance towards the need to actually build a new facility. Gotcha.

-- Posted by hometown1 on Wed, May 19, 2010, at 5:18 PM

Just wanted to say thanks to Mark and the rest of the firefighters and EMS personnel for all that you do! You guys are some of the best and are much appreciated. McCook is lucky to have you.

-- Posted by blueCollarWorker on Thu, May 20, 2010, at 8:31 AM

That's amazing-10 years with a full waiting list. That's awesome! Keep up the good work! There is obviously a burning (no pun intended!) desire to help with our fire department with those statistics. Thanks for all you do!

-- Posted by ashleywalkington on Thu, May 20, 2010, at 2:57 PM

I can remember a time not too long ago that the fire department was in a state of disarray. They couldn't keep a fire chief any longer than a year or so. I'm sure this didn't help the mood and retention of fire fighters. It sounds like McCook finally has a fire chief they can be proud of again. Keep up the good work Mark.

-- Posted by McCook Supporter on Thu, May 20, 2010, at 6:25 PM

I am wondering McCook Supporter, what caused all of the problems in the past fire departments. Was it the fire chief or the actions of the city council???

Maybe it was the city council, city manager and some of their leaders!!!

McCook, in the past years has had some great Fire Chiefs, Just to name a few----Fred Walker, Edd Miller & Don Einspahr.

I guess they all worked in the same OLD BUILDING.

Maybe its not the building but the people involved!!!

-- Posted by Just a reader on Mon, May 24, 2010, at 3:25 PM

How will nebraska explain getting beat next year by K-State as a lack of facilities?

-- Posted by mickhaney on Tue, May 25, 2010, at 11:14 PM

Just a reader, all the problems started back in about 83 when the full time guys were working their part time jobs while on duty at the FD. The City decided to try to force them to work 8 hour shifts and the firefighters walked off the job. The City said fine and didn't welcome them back. That's kind of when the problems all started. In about 84 or 85 the City hired a minimal crew of guys and added more volunteer firemen. They also renovated the firehouse and added on the addition for the fire trucks. I think you're kinda right about the city council and city manager but the way I see it is they kind of got burned. When the city employees walked off the job this left the city with no fire protection. So, I'm sure they were gun shy for quite a while after this and this sole action of the fd staff muddied the waters for years after that. All I'm saying now is that it seems we are beyond that and the current fire chief we have seems to be doing a very good job and needs to be complimented for his efforts.

-- Posted by McCook Supporter on Wed, May 26, 2010, at 7:48 PM


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