One of the biggest challenges a volunteer fire program has is the number of volunteer firefighters it has on board, especially programs in rural areas in the United States. In fact, according to the National Fire Protection Association, there has been a consistent drop in the number of volunteers in recent years, including a 16.23-percent dip between 2015 and 2017.
From lack of time and increased training requirements to a change in demographics as younger people move away from rural areas or are just not as interested in a volunteer position altogether, volunteers are diminishing throughout the country. To address these hurdles and help volunteer fire programs overcome their recruitment and retention woes, there are a few things that can be done in order to successfully recruit and keep new volunteer firefighters.
No matter where a fire station is located, marketing efforts can be programmed and executed in order to gain more attention and find the best possible volunteer firefighter recruits. A fire station can get back to its grassroots and create signage announcing open applications and training sessions. Signs and flyers can be delivered to the surrounding community to help promote, which can be a low-cost way to get the word out.
For more direct and modern marketing methods, fire stations can utilize the power of social media to promote their openings and programs. A department needs an official Facebook page, Instagram account to create a visual story of its day-to-day, and a web page to thoroughly outline what the volunteer role entails. By doing so, a fire station’s reach can go further and be more effective in reaching a younger generation of potential recruits who use social media to find work and connect with potential jobs.
Go to School
If a fire station is near a university or community college, department heads can engage with students, recruiting them to take up volunteer posts that work with their school schedule. Even if they plan on continuing their studies elsewhere or pursuing a different career entirely, having this experience can help build skills they can transition to other opportunities.
Connecting with the Community
A volunteer fire department should reach out to its surrounding community, being sure to include all demographics. Finding ways to reach target audiences and supplying them with a direct invitation to join the department or look into opportunities is a major step in the recruitment process.
Departments need to be ready for new recruits as well, especially when it comes to inclusivity. No one wants to join a program where they feel like they’re an outsider or not supported. Everyone should feel welcome and encouraged to apply and join a program, but they should also feel like they’re part of something bigger together. Each individual brings their own unique strengths and insights to a volunteer firefighting role, and these need to be recognized.
Another major obstacle that volunteer departments face is offering training to new volunteer firefighter recruits, especially at the entry level. A class needs to have a certain number of enrollees to qualify, so a station should be open to having recruits from other counties join in.
These training classes and the written and practical exams must be completed in one year. An alternative to having people travel to a station to go through training and testing is to hold classes and exams online. With new technology around video streaming and online studying, becoming a volunteer firefighter is more accessible than ever.
Covering Volunteer Firefighters
Another challenge that some volunteer firefighting programs face is the perception that they won’t be able to put forth the same resources to keep volunteers as safe as full-time firefighters. On the contrary, General liability insurance programs can be purchased at a personalized rate to keep volunteer stations and their recruits safe from the potential dangers they face.
Having this kind of coverage should be factored into a volunteer station’s daily operations and finances. Insurance professionals should work with their clients to ensure these programs are operating with the same level of care and protection that recruits would see in a full-time setting.
About Provident FirePlus
At Provident FirePlus, we offer custom tailored packages to best protect firefighters and volunteer firefighters. We understand the risks that emergency response teams are subjected to on a daily basis, and have worked to serve these dedicated professionals for over 87 years. For more information about our products and policies, we invite you to contact our experts today at (855) 201-8880.