The CTIF Commission for Volunteer Firefighters held their annual meeting on the island of Hydra
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The Hellenic Volunteer Firefighter Association hosted the meeting of the CTIF Commission for Volunteer Firefighters on October 16-19.
The 10th meeting of the CTIF Volunteer Firefighters Commission took place on the island of Hydra in the Mediterranean Sea at the invitation of the Hellenic Volunteer Firefighter Association.
In a breathtakingly beautiful landscape, 22 participants from 12 countries came together to discuss current issues in the fire department. The meeting focused on the impact of climate change on the work of fire departments. How do (volunteer) fire departments have to adapt to the changed climatic conditions?
What impact will this have on technology, tactics and related training? With presentations and contributions to the discussion, firefighters shared their views. The participants also discussed the future of the work of volunteer fire departments on the basis of reports on scientific research projects in Holland and Greece, focusing on motivation and retention.
The commission also dealt with the situation in Ukraine. The German Fire Brigades Association, the Austrian Federal Fire Brigades Association and the Association of Volunteer Fire Brigades of Poland had agreed in the spring of this year to help set up a system of volunteer fire departments there after the terrible war in Ukraine. The CTIF Volunteer Fire Brigades Commission supports this position and asks the national fire department associations to join the position and to support it.
Participating countries in this meeting:
- Slovenia: Janko CERKVENIK, Neza STRMOLE, Stanjko KRAMER
- Greece: Vassili BIKAS, Alexios ROUKOS, Christina CHRISSIKOU, Pavlos KOKVOS, Serafem TSIOUGRIS
- Netherlands: Karin GROENEWEGEN TER MORSCHE, Ronald KRAAN
- Finland: Petri JAATINEN
- France : Angelique FRIEDRICH
- Germany: Christoph WELTECKE
- Austria: Rafael KOLLER
- Estonia: Piia KALLAS
- Bulgaria: Martin GEORGIEV
- Norway: Arne BU
- Hungary and Latvia joined by videoconferencing.
Facts and Reports from member countries:
24,000 firefighters (20,000 volunteers, 4,000 full-time)
953 fire stations across 25 regions
Average call processing time: 2 minutes and 2 seconds
Average arrival time at fire station: 3 minutes and 57 seconds
Average driving time to the scene of the fire: 1 minute and 57 seconds
Average time until arrival on scene: 7 minutes and 51 seconds
Education: ARI, fire, rescue, water rescue, hazmat
Volunteer recruitment: Local organization with the slogan “you are your own business card”
Training: No national regulations. Remote computer-based training has been used since COVID.
Vacations: Intended for expenses and lost wages. Fixed annual contribution of 378 euros plus hourly compensation for interventions (25.22 euros), training and other activities (13.41 euros), and long-term presence (16.80 euros). The annual and hourly rate depends on the type of activity.
Legal position: In accordance with the Matzak ruling, the Dutch government concluded earlier that due to the same training, the same task and lower pay than full-time firefighters, volunteers are part-time workers. Difficulty differentiating between volunteers and full-time firefighters without creating “A” and “B” fire departments is a concern.
No certainty since the government resigned. The outcome is uncertain. It is possible that the 24-hour guard model will not be retained and even less possible.
The Firefighters Association was founded in 1919.
On January 22, 2010, the Estonian government recognized the association.
The association has 210 members and 3 volunteer units. No financial compensation is provided to volunteers.
Missions include fighting fires, animal protection, and traffic accidents. Major prevention work includes fire safety and checking the presence of smoke and gas detectors by home visit.
School activities are very developed, with 1.5 hours per week from October to May dedicated to awareness raising.
Each team of volunteers has acquired an AED.
The association donated 6.1 million during the Ukrainian conflict.
Global warming is associated with a constant increase in extreme weather conditions, accompanied by long-term heat waves, causing fires dozens of times faster in the case of forest and landscape fires.
There are 12,400 professional firefighters, 1,700 in 5-year contracts, and 500 seasonal workers (in forest fire season).
There are 4,215 volunteers, including 10% women, aged between 18 to 55 years old (but can last up to 60 years old).
Training is provided by the Hellenic Academy only.
Volunteers work with professionals (mixed stations or only volunteers).
July 2023 was a record month for temperatures.
Antonio Guterres said: “The era of global boiling has arrived” 2.
Some figures: 96,610 hectares Evros, 18.6 hectares Rodes, West Attica 11.62 hectares, 8.63 hectares Volos, 6.05 Parnitha, a total of 174.97 hectares2.
This year, Greece was helped by 22 countries, 277 fire vehicles, 24 air assets, 1,523 SP, and 84 liaison officers.
This is the second year of pre-positioning for forest fires in Greece. EU member states are pre-positioned in Greece in anticipation of forest fires.
The Liaison Officers Coordination Centre (LOCC) is led by the coordinator of liaison officers with his deputy and is in communication with the chief of staff.
Two days of mandatory training are provided for these essential liaison officers during pre-positioning.
Thirteen liaison officers were certified this year
Association purchase of support material: identification chasubles, identification card, etc.
The impact of climate change has led to adaptation to risk assessment, updating of educational programs, and vulnerability of critical infrastructures. In 2014, ice rains required the purchase of specific equipment. In 2022, there was a forest fire in Kras, and in 2023, there were floods and landslides. In addition, storms have forced them to review their training plan against natural disasters.
Results implemented include an immediate response of improved educational programs, purchase of special equipment, and use of the EU mechanism.
State measures include activation of a national plan (reimbursement of all expenses), state-regulated insurance, tax rate for firefighting equipment and vehicles, and purchase of aircraft for forest fires.
Norway has large forested areas, heavier rain than before, lots of buildings in low-lying areas, and torrential rain erosion of waterways.
There are 12,000 volunteers, 4,000 full-time firefighters, and 8,000 part-time firefighters.
Sivilforsvaret is the civil defense organization in Norway with 220 full-time members and 8,000 called into service.
Fourteen helicopters are prepared from April 15 to August 151.
The impact on firefighters includes fewer people in normal preparation, closed roads, exhausted crews, but also dry periods of available water. When there is flooding or forest fires, it is everywhere.
Austria has experienced floods and forest fires, and new scenarios need to be developed more frequently. This requires new technologies and therefore new training.
There are new financing instruments such as Waldfonds, but no general solution has been found.
Fire and rescue academies and associations are financed, and good prevention practices are in place. However, there is no compensation for volunteers.
The Center of Excellence in Fighting Forest Fires (Tyrol Academy) provides joint training for the 9 provincial associations.
Fire safety education is provided from kindergarten to high school, and the FOREST FIRE program has been developed.
Since 2019, a bonus system has been implemented with employers. It provides an advantage of 200 euros per day with a mutual employer-employee agreement. It is only for large-scale interventions (8h > 100 SP).
The representative of politics and economics has an employer mindset: daily interventions vs. disaster response. The duration of the program is 2 years, with a certificate and inherent communication.
There are 242 volunteers in training courses, and 3,149 volunteers including 80 volunteers in Sofia. However, many appear on paper but are inactive.
Updates on the various floods experienced this year were provided.
The Bulgarian effort course is obligatory for any volunteers, and there has been increased development of training.
It is not possible for volunteers to integrate them because they depend on the municipalities. State Professional FF belong to the state. Not the same training. Either basic volunteers or trained in command with certain reservations.
If a volunteer leaves its defense territory, there is no insurance. Clothing and material equipment are financed by the municipality and people’s donations.
There is little support from mayors for financial investment.
A donation from Germany of clothing and audio equipment was received.
In 2023, 31 lives were saved.
There was a return to aid Ukraine by setting up a hospital in 2 days.
A game created by Martin was presented, aimed at developing prevention but also as a promotional element for volunteering and recruitment. An associated QR code was provided to reach young audiences who have other communication codes https://martocreativearts.wordpress.com/storz-card-game )
Also discussed: Working Time Directive
The President of the commission, Christoph Weltecke, specified that the European directive on working time is indeed a real concern and should lead to reflections on the subject. There is a need for a real status for volunteer firefighters.
The President gave the floor to Slovenia regarding their future strategy. Stanjko KRAMER explained that they have a strategy for the next 5 years on how they work, including the creation of a commission for the promotion of protocol and public relations.
Karin GROENEWEGEN TER MOSCHE (Netherlands) presented a 4-year research program that takes into account the point of view of employers, why people leave, accentuates their actions on recruitment and retention by taking into account the vision of citizens, learning from other voluntary organizations, and developing “women in fire services (under construction).”
The conclusions drawn were that better and more information for employers is key to the future. No generic information but personalized and customizable. Special attention is necessary. Should we focus on volunteers, on employers, or simply on how things are done? Or all three? Employers are not a barrier to volunteering.
The main reason most volunteers start on their own initiative is the balance between professional/personal/volunteer life. A quarter of the firefighters interviewed maintain that most departures could be avoided.
The work by firefighters is very appreciated, even after the departure of some frustrated people. Many of them want to come back (provided there are changes). Involvement remains high even after leaving. The main criticism raised is and remains the lack of listening and consideration. It was observed that there is a severe lack of leadership, an attentive ear, and an honourable exit procedure.
Recruitment bottlenecks are not experienced by ¾ of the volunteers. Feedback on the general atmosphere turns out to be positive, especially locally. Recruitment is mainly based on word of mouth. Hooking recruits requires attention and personalization.
Explanations for recruitment bottlenecks include lack of suitable profiles, no vision of how firefighters are perceived, fire station in closed position, lack of coordination and cooperation between the fire station and the general staff, and duration of training not always adapted to other obligations.
Half of the volunteers encounter no problems. Intrinsic motivation to provide help, rotation option, support for the home front, and sense of responsibility are some reasons for this. However, lack of knowledge is a concern.
Not a single bottleneck described in the area of recruitment and/or retention is encountered in all barracks. If a fire station is experiencing a bottleneck, new leadership, new management, and new thinking must be considered. Use of pluralism for a uniform organization is recommended.
Suggested solutions include differentiating training and tasks, employer involvement, recruiting targeted profiles, and recognition of existing ones.
Greece - Survey on the position of women in volunteers fire services:
The percentage of women volunteers in Greece is low. The reasons for this are complex and historical. In public safety regions, attention is paid to this issue. However, demotivation of citizens, especially women, is a significant factor.
To address this issue, it is important to have a positive image of firefighters and look elsewhere for good practices. Positive discrimination can also be helpful.
To improve the situation, it is important to watch out for women leaving and support them to become trainers. A recovery process after pregnancy should be planned, and appropriate clothing and facilities should be provided. Directing women towards manager/command roles can also be helpful.
There is a future for volunteers in Greece, but change is needed. More customization rather than uniformity is required, and more attention and support at all levels are necessary.
Speech by the President, Christoph Weltecke:
Christoph Weltecke recently gave a speech regarding the EU Working Time Directive (WTD) and future action to be taken. However, we could not find any information regarding the continued commitment to Ukrainian comrades.
The Commission's statement reads:
Volunteer fire fighters rescue, extinguish, recover and protect citizens in their community and beyond. Women and men are ready to volunteer to serve others: 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.In the case of the volunteer fire fighters in Ukraine, the special circumstances of a war are added
to the situation: increased deployment volume coupled with a lack of resources and the constant threat of attack.
Strong volunteer fire fighters need strong associations to coordinate their firefighting efforts and represent their interests. Convinced that volunteer fire protection is rooted in the community and develops in democratic structures with elected representatives up to the state level, the German Fire Service Association, the Austrian Fire Brigades Association and the Association of Volunteer Fire Brigades of Poland agreed in the “Norderney-Declaration” in April 2023 as follows:
We want to continue our commitment to the comrades of the fire departments in Ukraine. As soon as the situation in Ukraine allows it, we will also be a partner for all municipalities and volunteer fire fighters that want to organize themselves in a self-created association. We will share the knowledge of association organization, which has grown in more than 100 years, and where necessary we will support as a non-material partner in the establishment of an association.
The CTIF Volunteer Fire Fighters Commission supports the position of the “Norderney-Declaration” and asks the national fire service associations to join and support this position as well.
Hydra, 18th Oct. 2023