THE PROFESSIONAL VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT: Define ‘Professional’
By Thomas A. Merrill
Many times in discussions with the public, I am asked whether I am a professional firefighter or a volunteer firefighter. I take exception to that, and politely explain to them that there are paid firefighters and there are volunteer firefighters, but all firefighters, including volunteers, can strive to be professional.
When I consult the dictionary, I see various definitions for the word professional, including “characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession” and “exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace”. Can’t these definitions apply to paid firefighters as well as volunteers? For years I have been preaching that a volunteer fire department certainly can be professional.
No doubt, there are probably some paid fire departments that cannot be considered professional, and there are many volunteer fire departments that are nothing but professional. Professional means much more than being able to handle emergency calls proficiently and adequately, although that certainly is a large part of it. Also, being considered professional has nothing do with the age of the fire equipment, age of the firehouse, how many runs a department responds to or how much equipment they have. So, what makes the department professional? Continue reading