I certainly take it personally, the fact that my tax money goes to subsidize a personal vehicle service, then these departments have the nerve to come door to door asking me for more money.
You know what, come put my fire out, then send me a bill.
Sorry I posted in here asking a general question, then got a bunch of assumptions about who I have called, haven't called, how much I support firefighters, etc, etc.
SMIBs, return to your 10oz Bud Lights and Honey Boo Boo worship
I'm a little late to respond to this, but I wanted to give you my perspective as a volunteer in another area. I've recently moved down here and haven't yet joined a department in this area, but I've been volunteering for a few years in Prince George's County.
Our department does go door to door for fundraising. We don't knock on doors, but personally deliver a donation request to each home in our first due. We do this around Christmas in departmental vehicles and with our tshirts that designate us as Fire/EMS. I'm not sure what's done around here, but even in Prince George's, with it's reputation for crime, our department continues to do this yearly. We take precautions by going in groups, keeping radios on everyone, and using our departmental vehicles to ensure that the community knows it really is us. We have heard of others going through the neighborhoods requesting money for the department, but the community is used to our yearly fund drive, so if this happens we will receive phone calls at the firehouse informing us of potential thieves attempting to raise money for themselves in our name. Each department does it differently. If you have a question as to someone's authenticity, I would encourage that you request their Fire Dept ID or call the station they are claiming to be from.
For those of you that have seen departmental vehicles out of their designated area, there are a number of reasons for this:
Chiefs are often given a vehicle that will allow them to respond to incidents from further away. These are often the SUVs you see, and they are lent to members for other reasons, as well. Chiefs are granted a vehicle is in case of an emergency within the department, departmental accident, serious injury etc. Our department owns these vehicles and the county does not contribute to their maintenance or fuel. I suspect that, given that St. Mary's is primarily volunteer, most stations own their chief's vehicles. Don't presume that everything from the department is paid for by the county; very often it's not.
Students in classes for the department may borrow the vehicles to attend class. While Southern Maryland MFRI is in La Plata, classes are held throughout the county and state at various locations, including locally at nearby departments. Companies may also hold joint training exercises, etc, that require them to be out of their normal first due (primary responding area).
If there is a major incident that requires resources for a prolonged period of time, the county may redistribute available resources throughout the county such that the entire county is sufficiently covered. So, for example, if there is a fire in one area that has an entire company (or two, or three, etc) occupied, other departments will be transferred to one of those stations so if there is an additional emergency (medical call, accident, etc), resources will be close at hand.
I think you're mostly referring to fire department vehicles, rather than EMS, but if you see an ambulance out of the area, they may be returning from a hospital. Different hospitals offer different services/specialties, depending on the type and severity of the call. There is a hospital that has a center dedicated to hand/finger surgery in Baltimore, as well as a burn unit. Our protocols dictate where we take people, and these calls are not the norm, but it is possible for a unit to be required to go what may be considered out of the area to provide the required care.
And finally, sometimes departments hold fundraisers, etc, out of their area. Again, I'm not sure how it's done around here, but my department would try to keep an additional crew at the station in order to respond to calls. If this wasn't possible, then the crews that are out of the area inform dispatch of their location, and calls are taken in that area. Regardless, if they are on the apparatus, then they are able to respond to emergencies.
I can't speak to people visiting girlfriends or the policies of the departments for going out of their first due, but if you are concerned about the resources not being in a place where they can appropriately respond, I would encourage you to call the department of the vehicle you've seen, ask for an officer and report it. Perhaps ask for follow up as well.
Either way, please keep from generalizing about Fire/EMS volunteers as a whole. Most of us do take our volunteer jobs seriously and strive to provide the best care and services that we can. Yes, as can be found anywhere, there are a few bad apples that act unprofessionally, but as a rule, most care a great deal for their communities and for their departments.
I would expect that service, in every form, is respected as an important contribution to the community. I find it immature that there have been comments challenging others to volunteer for a specific organization or cause, as if unless they do so they are not entitled to an opinion. Fire/EMS is a public service, and as such we are subject to the public eye. It is our responsibility to ensure that we are presenting ourselves as professionals, in every setting. Perception is reality, and if you're not considering how your actions will be perceived by the public, then you are not doing your job. Rather than be combative, do your part to challenge the stereotype of Fire/EMS around here by acting like a professional and representing yourself, your department and the county well.
Volunteers are only one part of the picture and support from the community is an important part as well. Without it, we couldn't purchase vehicles, take additional classes and purchase resources for training, etc, as well as some of the comforts that help encourage others to volunteer and volunteers to stay (internet, appliances, beds, etc).
Thanks for your service to the community throughout the years and for your continued support to the local volunteer Fire/EMS.
P.S. You don't graduate from MFRI (Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute). It's not an accredited program, but rather offers Fire/EMS courses in a standardized format so that volunteers throughout Maryland have received standardized training. You can earn college credit through the classes, but it's not a degree granting program from which you graduate.