Washington, DC (November 28, 2008) -- It’s been a bone of contention for decades – career firefighters also serving as volunteers in their home communities. This “two-hatter” concept has been a godsend to volunteer departments, who benefit from the expertise and daytime availability of well-trained, paid municipal firefighters. But in recent years the union representing North America's paid firefighters has really turned up the heat on those who have chosen to serve in a dual capacity.
The next step for the IAFF is to lobby at the federal level in an effort to persuade lawmakers to legislate career firefighters to stay at home when off-duty and out of volunteer firehouses. If successful, the volunteer fire service -- especially departments surrounding large municipalities -- would be dealt a lousy hand. The chips would go to the public, who will be forced to decide on how much they're willing to ante up to protect their communities.
Personal note: I’ve got no gripe with the concept of “two hatters”, although when I compare it to a plumber returning home at night, only to rush off and fix someone’s drain for no fee, the thought is a bit bizarre. However, I do have a deep concern for “two hatters” as well as volunteers who serve in agencies that provides little or no benefits in case of injury.
If you decide to don that second helmet, make it a point to determine what benefits exist for you and your family, should tragedy strike on the fireground. My bet is that you’ll find you have poor coverage at best. That’s when you should hang up that second lid and take up golf.
- International Assn. of Fire Chiefs