What do you want? Do you want just suppression volunteers or do you have roles for people in your community who want to serve but don’t want, or are unable, to go into burning buildings? A good volunteer program should have a seat at the table for everyone in their community who wants to help. To give the impression that to be a member of your department you have to fight fire glorifies that raging river and separates your department from quality people who may have a lot to offer. We all know there is a great deal of support needed to put that hose line into action.
Second – What is your plan? This has to be a well thought-out plan, starting from the point of making contact with an individual, through to their inception into your department. The first few weeks someone starts or joins something new are very fragile. While the person may verbally commit, that doesn’t mean they are fully committed. There should be a plan to make solid and constant contact from that initial meeting until they are fully inaugurated into your department.
This plan should involve an immediate follow-up after an inquiry. How many times have you left a message and expected a return call, only to wait days or weeks for that call? Remember, you are also painting an image of your department while recruiting. Make sure you are prompt and professional. That individual has shown an interest in joining your organization, so live up to that expectation.
If you ask most Marines if they had any intention of joining the Marine Corps prior to their enlistment, you should now not be surprised at the replies you will get. There are people walking by your station right now who would make an outstanding member of your department, with needs, talents and skills to offer, but they only see that raging river that you are expecting people to cross.
It is time to start building a bridge to bring people across and show them what you have to offer and how they can find what they are looking for in your department. The beginning of the bridge is your plan. In my next article, I will discuss how to further this plan, along with ways to find and attract neighbors from your community and show them how your department can make a difference in their lives. Recruitment programs should go beyond the engine displays and tables at the fair. They need to reach out and let people know what your department is about and how they can fit in.
DANIEL BYRNE, a Firehouse.com Contributing Editor, is a firefighter/paramedic, with the Burton Fire District in Burton, SC. A 20-year veteran of the emergency services, he holds both an associate and bachelors degree in fire science, is a National Fire Academy Alumni, and a veteran of the Desert Shield/Storm war with the U.S. Marine Corps. Daniel is the recipient of local and state awards for public educations and relations. You can reach Daniel by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.