Recruitment, Retention and Recognition of FirefightersThis may not be the only problem we have, but it’s certainly one of the more important problems. Volunteers make up over 75% of firefighters, in some States, volunteers literally make up over 97% of all firefighters. The problem is, we don’t have enough people stepping up or staying with it to keep up the good fight.
Whether it’s the economy, apathy, the demise of family and community, whatever it is, the volunteer firefighter is on the decline, when the need is higher than ever. To us, it actually doesn’t matter what the problem is, we need to find the solution, we need to find a way to change the current decline in numbers and maintain those that are still with us.
One way to help recruitment would be to focus again on the younger folks, preparing them, pruning them for the love of firefighting. That’s why we have JrFirefighters.com ready, and JuniorFirefighters.org in the wings to help push and promote these great programs that need to be refreshed and built back up again. Another resource we have not looked at hard enough is the other 50% of our communities, the women. A focus and push needs to focus on this resource that can certainly help us, and we need the help. Sure, you can make the old arguements about some women in firefighting not being able to literally carry their own weight, but I know many men that can’t do that and how often is that the case. What they can often do is the things that some men can’t do, get into tight spots, maintain their air supply, keep their calm is stressful situations, so don’t tell me that women don’t have a place in the fire service. We certainly need help in all kinds of ways, from the operations to the actual firefighting and whether it’s women or young people, this job can have a place for them and the “good old boys/mens club” attitude should be left behind and get on with the business at hand.
Now, retention is another problem. Not only do we need to recruit, but maintain and keep them happy. So how can we do that, surely you can think of ways that would simply make it easier on firefighters. Offering proper equipment, training and support would certainly go a long ways to start with. Then if we could somehow offer incentives or even rewards for helping our communities. What if we could offer health insurance or supplemental insurance if they already have some coverage? What about other benefits like legal aide, family support, discounts on taxes, or insurance or even their cell phone bill. There are actually all kinds of possibilities that we could come up with and even make them feasible as a reward for keeping ISO rates low, or protecting our wildlands and communities, the possibilities are actually limitless if someone would only apply themselves.
Utilizing our websites, online magazines, social media pages and other resources has already shown success in these areas, not just promise, but we have actual reports of recruitment, retention and certainly recognition with what we have already begun. Utilizing these resources to get in front of the potential recruits, retain those we still have and recognize those that deserve it is another part of our campaign with Firefighter Fellowship.
These and other ideas are where we’re heading, trying to bring people together, to bring people together. How about you, can you get involved, can you help, do you have ideas or abilities that can contribute? Please let us know, contact us at FireMagazines@yahoo.com