Leading the Hand-in-Hand Fire Company on the administrative side is the president, who is also the chair of the Board of Directors. This Board consists of 12 members: president, vice president, recording secretary, financial secretary, treasurer, chief, deputy chief, assistant chief, fire police captain and three members at large.
The president and Board of Directors are responsible for making sure the Fire Company’s mission is accomplished and the vision is fulfilled. Giving direction, setting goals, and establishing a specific tone and rapport are also included in the president’s tasks.
The president is voted into office by the Fire Company membership every December and serves until a successor is found. It is important for presidents to identify leadership qualities in members and mentor others to come on board when they step out of this role.
In a nutshell, the president presides at the Board of Directors meetings on the last Tuesday of each month and Fire Membership meetings on the first Tuesday of each month. He also appoints committees and sits in on their meetings. Presently there are six committees: Nominating, Pot Pie, BBQ, Half Marathon, Administrative and Human Resources..
Overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Fire Company is a major part of the job. Firefighting is just one aspect of this organization. There are other areas requiring management and an eye for detail. The president takes care of phone calls and emails, is in touch with financial officers, serves as a spokesperson and represents the Fire Company when there are legal issues. The president also keeps track of how plans are implemented and follows through to assure projects are completed.
Working with volunteers in a nonprofit organization requires skill in leading others, motivating them to rally around a cause and to move forward on projects. It should be done in a way that avoids unpleasantness or opposition and without offending or hurting others’ feelings. It takes diplomacy to be president!
Tim Hoerner has served in the capacity of president since 2009. He also served two earlier terms making this his 13th year as president. He states, “My favorite part of this role is the satisfaction of working with people who have a common mindset and common goals. This allows for successful performance of our mission and the implementation of our vision. The mission is what we do on a daily basis and the vision is how we are going to be able to continue to do that.”
It is vital to the president to have competent people in the many Fire Company positions. When volunteers do their parts well and with skill and expertise, a leader benefits from all the cooperation. It is also crucial for the Fire Company to have overriding principles that are sustainable, enduring, and able to continue even when a new president is installed. Bird-in-Hand is fortunate to have both of these attributes and they help make our Company successful.
The Fire Company has a nearly $300,000 annual budget, thus the position of treasurer is important in managing the money properly. For the past six years Ivan Stoltzfus has filled that role. It was not a role that he stepped into overnight, but rather, the prior treasurer, Paul Fisher, mentored Ivan while he learned the details of the position. In fact, Paul and Ivan still work together on the Fire Company’s investments to make sure the money is at the right place at the right time.
Ivan had been involved in his family’s business since the age of 14 so he grew up knowing about the financial side of a business. According to Ivan, a good treasurer needs to be willing to learn, have an interest in finances, and be good with numbers.
The hands-on work of the treasurer includes depositing money, keeping records current, and paying the bills. At the end of the Fire Company’s fiscal year, which follows the calendar year, the treasurer reviews closely all the yearly income and expenditures.
Budgeting is another area where the treasurer gives input. The Fire Company officers view a budget as a planning tool, rather than a restrictive tool. In fact, the budgets have been developed for the next 20 years with the big picture in mind. Building projects and equipment purchases have already been planned for years in advance.
At the Fire Company there are checks and balances to ensure the security of fire company funds. This includes only four people being allowed to sign checks. Each check requires two separate signatures. Also, at the fundraisers there are always two people who receive the incoming money, count, and deposit. Each year, a member at large is designated to receive copies of all financial statements and to verify that those balances agree with those reported by our financial officers.
Serving as treasurer requires attendance at least three monthly meetings. The treasurer is part of the Board of Directors and attends those meetings. For the General Membership meetings he prepares a monthly report that is projected on a large screen. At all times he needs to have the paperwork ready in case there is an audit.
Ivan explains, “If there are any issues with the bank as far as our finances are concerned, I, as the treasurer, am responsible. It gave me confidence to have Paul Fisher help me out until I had a good understanding of the position. It is fun to be a part of a winning team!”
Bird-in-Hand Fire Company has one recording secretary who takes roll call and keeps minutes for both the General Membership monthly meeting (first Tuesday of the month) and the Board of Directors monthly meeting (last Tuesday of the month). The recording secretary is an official voting member of the 12-member Board.
The meetings follow a regular agenda and the recording secretary has the format on his computer, plus a spreadsheet for roll call. This simplifies the paperwork. He can anticipate the reports that will be given and other subjects that are to be considered, making it easy to record the major items of discussion in a clear, concise manner. It is, of course, very important to record the correct, official wording of each motion and second. Records of the financial reports given by the financial secretary and treasurer must also be accurate in the minutes.
Special committees of the Fire Company give reports at the general membership meeting and the recording secretary includes the highlights of these reports in the minutes.
Fire Company members who request a copy of the minutes can opt to receive either a hard copy or an emailed version when distributed following the Board meeting at the end of the month. The minutes are read at the beginning of each meeting and members suggest additions and/or corrections as needed. Finally, the minutes need to be approved before the meeting continues.
Since the early 2000s, electronic minutes have been uploaded on the Fire Company’s server and hard copies are kept in notebooks with each notebook containing three years of minutes. This makes the records easily accessible, when questions arise about past activities and decisions.
Another responsibility of the recording secretary is to maintain the correspondence of the Fire Company. He reads thank you letters that are received for various services the firefighters have given. He also sends out thank you letters from the Company.
Presently the recording secretary is Lavelle Beiler. He became a member of the Fire Company in 2010 after Chief Lonnie Kauffman, a fellow teacher at Weavertown Mennonite School, laid an application on his desk. Lavelle says, “By 2012 I had been asked to serve as recording secretary. For me this was a good entry level job since I soon got to know the ropes of the Fire Company.”
The recording secretary can also serve in other roles, as exemplified by Lavelle’s commitments. He is a lieutenant, one of three persons in the hub of the chicken barbecue wheel, and on the Human Resources Committee.
The office of trustee at Bird-in-Hand is a relatively new position, having been added seven or eight years ago. Before the Fire Company appointed trustees to oversee the building and grounds, different members performed the maintenance and repairs in an informal manner. Since no one was specifically in charge, some important upkeep was not getting done. Therefore the position of trustee evolved because there was a need.
Two of the trustees who are presently serving, Dan S. Fisher and Doug Glick, are the original appointees. A third trustee, Aaron Fisher, was added three years ago.
They are responsible for keeping the Fire Hall and the outside grounds in good repair. This includes securing janitorial services and outside contracts for maintaining the generator, alarm system, and the heating and cooling systems. They make sure all repairs are done and also oversee the housecleaning at the Fire Hall that happens three evenings throughout the winter.
Each of the trustees adds his expertise to the position. Doug Glick works with the electrical systems, Dan Fisher concentrates on construction, and Aaron Fisher oversees the outside grounds. They meet monthly, work within a budget, and submit a report of their decisions and accomplishments to the Board. This trustee report is also read at the regular Fire Company meetings. For larger projects of $2,000 or more, they fill out forms, get quotes, and work through a two-month approval process.
One of the recent repairs that they have been working on is replacing the rotten railroad ties that were used along the boundary fence, where curbing is needed to direct the water. Another repair is upgrading the lights in the engine room to LED bulbs. The advantage is better lighting but also less maintenance. In the future, clearer lines are needed on the engine bay floor as well as sealing the parking lot and painting new lines.
In addition to their trustee duties, these three Fire Company members also have other assignments as firefighters. Doug is an engineer who drives the trucks. Dan helps with cleanup at all events. Aaron is an active firefighter, plus has responsibilities at the fundraising dinners.
The trustees are a committed team and share the workload. All of them give many hours to the task of keeping the Fire Hall in fine working order. They know that the building is an investment and needs to be well maintained. It helps that they understand the building’s systems and have technical know-how and handyman skills. RUSTE
The chief of the Fire Company is an elected position and is put into office for a one-year term by the vote of the general membership. In January 2019 Don Boyer became the 17th Fire Chief in the 110-year history of the Hand-in-Hand Fire Company. It is both an administrative and a firefighting position.
As an administrator, the chief is a part of the Board of Directors, which meets on the last Tuesday of the month. At the general membership meeting on Tuesday of the next week, he gives the Chief’s Report. He is responsible for filling out the call sheets each time the Fire Company responds to an incident. In the report, he lists the details of the fire calls for the past month, and gives an in-depth report for major calls.
The chief meets with his deputy chief and assistant chief at the monthly officers’ meeting; quarterly he attends the Lancaster County Fire Chiefs Association meeting; and once a year there is a meeting of the four chiefs serving in the East Lampeter Township fire companies. He is also an alternate representative on the East Lampeter Township Emergency Services Committee, which meets every two months.
On the firefighting side, the chief leads the Fire Company by staying current with the National Fire Protection Association’s guidelines and state standards. This includes using multiple tools like the website and leadership trainings through webinars. He is involved in many decisions such as purchasing equipment, choosing line officers, and planning the monthly trainings.
When responding to calls, the chief either goes directly to the scene or if needed, drives one of the pieces of equipment. Providing leadership at the emergencies is a big part of the position. Characteristics of a chief must include calmness, level-headedness, and insight in order to coordinate all the efforts at a fire or other incident. At the end of major fires in Bird-in-Hand’s first due, he gives interviews to the media at the scene.
An important goal of a chief is to mentor the next generation of firefighters, giving them responsibility as soon as they are ready and standing with them to give support. Being open to new ideas, acknowledging that many new things are worth a try, and listening and communicating well all help to make a group of volunteer firefighters happy!
The captains and lieutenants are known as line officers. They are on the front line at the scene of a fire or accident and serve as crew leaders on the ground. The chief gives these officers their tasks and they in turn figure out how to get that job done. That means the officers receive orders and then turn around and give orders.
They know the abilities of all of the basic firefighters and understand their individual strengths. Thus, these officers know best which firefighter should be doing which job. They are well qualified to match the firefighters’ skills with the requirements of the job at the scene of an emergency. They depend on their years of training and service to help them organize and lead their ground crew.
In order to serve as a line officer, a firefighter has to be…
a very active member of the Fire Company
a senior firefighter
available to show up for calls
willing to go through the rigors of training
a capable person who can handles tasks well
physically fit with lots of stamina
The three company chiefs meet to choose their team of officers. That means the line officers are appointed, not elected. A certain level of responsibility comes with being chosen. Even though newly appointed officers might not feel ready for their positions, they know someone saw potential in them. They accept the positions assured of future leadership and mentorship.
In addition to being a line officer, they all have other tasks. Members of the present team have these individual responsibilities: in charge of confined space rescue equipment, in charge of engine bay, help with power equipment, in charge of managing turnout gear, and help with training.
When the officers respond to a typical call, two ride on the engine, one on the tanker, and one on the squad. When there is overlap on fire calls, they go by seniority since there is a respect that is learned in the ranks. They know each other well and call out, “I got it. I’m taking it.” In order to provide training and experience to his officers when there is a lower key incident, the chief will occasionally go to the back of the engine and say, “You’re up front.” That puts the officer in charge!
At Bird-in-Hand there is a pool of twenty Fire Company Members who drive the vehicles to the scene of an emergency. Many of these engineers are trained and experienced at driving all four apparatus: tanker, pumper, and two squad trucks.
The first responsibility of the engineer is to drive safely to the emergency. Driving defensively means always being aware of how the public responds to the apparatus with its flashing lights and sirens. In the forefront is the thought, “What is that other driver going to do?” Engineers make sure an intersection is clear before proceeding through a red light. The speed limit may be exceeded under normal and safe conditions.
At the emergency scene the engineer stays with his apparatus. He needs to thoroughly know the location and function of all of the firefighting equipment on his vehicle. That way he can help the firefighters secure the equipment they need as they exit the truck.
The engineer who drives the Pierce Lance Pumper is the person who operates the pump. There are sequential steps to manning the pump and with hours of training and practice, they become almost instinctive to the engineer. Operating the pump requires a specific skill set and the ability to work quickly. Experience also makes it possible to detect trouble or changes by listening to the various sounds that the pump makes.
After the apparatus returns to the station, the engineer has a check list that he follows to prepare the truck for its next call. If the truck needs to be washed, he enlists helpers. He makes sure that the driver’s seat is properly positioned, the radio is set on the correct channel, and all of the truck systems are reset. Also important is checking the fuel gauge; the tank must always be at least three quarters full.
At Bird-in-Hand a member has to be 21 years or older to begin training as an engineer. The first drives are around the parking lot of the Fire Station to get the feel of how to maneuver the apparatus. Then there are many hours of practice runs on the road and additional hours of operating the pump. Only then is the new engineer ready to drive the apparatus to an emergency.
Fire Police Officers are an integral part of the Fire Company and respond every time there is an emergency call. One of their main functions is to ensure the safety of firefighters and protect their vehicles and equipment at the scene of an incident.
They also protect residents, spectators, and media personnel from being harmed; set up a yellow tape security perimeter around the incident to keep them from interfering with the work of the firefighters; and safely direct motorists around the scene.
When their pagers go off, the Fire Police Officers drive their personal vehicles directly to the scene. After arrival, the first thing the Fire Police Captain does is to assess the magnitude of the incident. He then works closely with the Fire Chief to determine how far back onlookers must stay, which roads need to be closed, and what alternative routes and detours can be set up. Using his radio he assigns the Fire Police Officers to direct traffic at key locations.
In their personal vehicles Fire Police Officers carry flares and at least three traffic cones, enough to close down a road until more equipment is available. The Fire Company squad truck carries the Detour, Road Closed, and Incident Ahead signs as well as barricades and cones. Firefighters make the rounds to set out and then gather up the signs.
Safety gear for the Fire Police Officers includes high-visibility lime jackets and pants. Three essentials they must have while on duty are an official hat or helmet, a metal badge, and a flashlight with a red cone. High-visibility safety vests are also a standard requirement.
After the Fire Company brings new Fire Police Officers on board, they go before a local judge or the township supervisors. Classes that lead to certification are offered at the Lancaster County Public Safety Training Center in Manheim. The classes cover traffic control, the proper use of PennDot required traffic control devices, PA State Traffic Laws, and public relations training to enable the Fire Police Officer to better relate to civilians at any given incident. Personal appearance and grooming is a major part of the training.
In addition to fires and accidents, Fire Police Officers protect the community during weather-related emergencies, such as road closings due to flooding or downed wires and trees. They are also called upon to direct traffic during large community events such as the Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon and Lancaster County Carriage & Antique Auction.
Present Fire Police Captain Norm Decker says, “The reward for us is knowing that we are doing our part to keep things orderly and safe during an emergency. It’s great to know we are offering protection and possibly saving lives.”