In need of advice regarding "pager pay employment"

UtahEmt33

Forum Ride Along
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Hello all. I joined a volunteer fire department in 2018 which was essentially absorbed by the County at the beginning of this year, becoming a professional station (2 firefighter/EMTs full time pay). There is still room for volunteers in the department, but many/most have been co-opted (for lack of a better word) as on call County employees.) I am one of them. I imagine it works like many other departments, we all have pagers, shifts are set, and we use the crewsense app to keep track. The problem is, what was once a volunteer gig, is not a County job. I'm on anywhere from 50-75 hours a week, pager pay. We get around 2 calls a month (small town) and I have to be 5 minutes from the station at all times on call, in a town with no gas station, grocery store, gym, UPS, or anything you can think of. All of that is about 10 minutes away. 7 months in, and I feel like Im under house arrest. This super sucks and I dont know what to do because I dont want to let anyone down, but this isn't volunteer anymore, show up when you can kind of thing. Im sure this is a common complaint but pager pay is $1.50 an hour, which is so insulting, and I feel stuck. Any thoughts, thank you.
 

akflightmedic

Forum Deputy Chief
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Ummmm, the area is covered as they have employed full time staff, and in order to not displease the community they offered an alternative way for the volunteers to stay connected.

First, there is NO way in heck I would every be "on call" for 50-75 hours per week, especially for $1.50/hour. NEVER. This is unrealistic and unsustainable. I almost think the County knows this and eventually the volunteers will depart due to "natural attrition".

Second, your town is covered. You are a back up plan, however technically you are not needed. Relax, go enjoy life. Stop the martyr/volunteer mentality of "I must do this, my people need me", as that never accomplishes anything but stress, hurt feelings, delays hiring of actual number of people needed, and stalls wage discussions for the paid employees. Sorry the volunteer is now paid...it will not go back, so do what you can to help those who are paid by not augmenting a poor staffing plan.

Third, the only person you are letting down is YOU.


Who assigns the shifts? Is this something you pick up yourself? Are you taking all these hours because you see holes in the schedule? If so, then stop doing it. Schedule yourself appropriately. If someone else is scheduling you, have a chat with them and say look, I am available X hours on these dates only.

And no. No, this is not similar to other departments.
 

chriscemt

Forum Lieutenant
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Local AMR did this in the recent past for their NICU transport. On-Call, 24 hour shifts, $1.50/hr. They actually hired a guy to do it five (5) days a week. Unreal.
 

DrParasite

The fire extinguisher is not just for show
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First, there is NO way in heck I would every be "on call" for 50-75 hours per week, especially for $1.50/hour. NEVER. This is unrealistic and unsustainable. I almost think the County knows this and eventually the volunteers will depart due to "natural attrition".
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for a system that gets two calls a month, there is 0 reason for you to be on call 50-75 hours per week. Did you chose those times, or were they assigned to you? I would end up suicidally depressed if I had to be within 5 min of the station 75 hours a week, if I was at a station that gets 2 calls a month. it would be even worse if I was a full-time employee there.

I mean, I might consider doing this 40hrs a week (from 11pm to 7am, when I'm usually fast asleep and sober), but that's about it. and if I had other plans (date night with the wife/gf/bf/husband, wanted to go drinking with the guys, etc), then I would make sure not to be assigned page time for that night. if you are routinely doing 75 hours a week, and it's during the daytime, and you are feeling restricted... I know I would never do that. if you feel like it sucks and you are under house arrest then maybe it's time to turn in the pager.

the situation you describe is NOT common. at my FD, volunteers can sign up for shifts; $50-100 for a 12 hour shift, but they are expected to be in the station alongside the career staff. and we get waaaaaay more than 2 calls a month. and if they want to take the QRV to go to the store to get food, have a gym at the station, and sleeping quarters. the situation you describe sucks; if I was doing it, I'd give in my 2 weeks notice, and I am 100% supporting of volunteer systems and being professional, despite not getting a paycheck. And we also have volunteers who live around the area and will respond from home for calls (but they rarely make the first truck out due to in-station staffing).
 

DrParasite

The fire extinguisher is not just for show
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We get around 2 calls a month (small town) and I have to be 5 minutes from the station at all times on call, in a town with no gas station, grocery store, gym, UPS, or anything you can think of. All of that is about 10 minutes away. 7 months in, and I feel like Im under house arrest. This super sucks
If I was you, I would ask whoever is in charge if you can do the following:
1) sign up for the minimum amount of hours you need to maintain "county employment" (if it was me, 11pm to 7am when you have nothing else going on). if they don't have pager time requirements then so be it
2) carry your pager whenever you want. if you hear a call go out that you want to go on, head down to the station, and hop on the truck
3) ask the county if they can pay you for the $1.50 for the call (if it's needed for county policy or insurance requirements). For me, the $1.50 isn't going to play a big impact on my personal budget, so I wouldn't care if I got paid or not.

as a FF, I have would have no issues having "off duty FFs" hopping on the truck during a major incident when additional hands are needed, provided they were trained and accountability was maintained (typically by the officer in charge of the truck). "Major incident" is defined as MVA with pin, working fire, or incidents requiring multiple units to handle.

as a taxpayer, I'd rather pay FFs during an incident than paying them not during an incident.

as a FF, I would HATE being tethered to a station that did 2 calls a month. the odds are more likely that you will not be needed than actually get a call, esp if an EMS call would be handled by the career staff only (cardiac arrest or technical extrication would be the exception to the "EMS call handled by career staff only" mentality).

and if they say no, well, you can either walk away or do whatever. but it might help out with your personal sanity
 
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