1. #1
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    Unhappy VOLUNTEER FF's NEEDED IN BC LOCATIONS

    Burning need for volunteer firefighters

    By Gerry Bellett, Canwest News Service October 30, 2009

    B.C. fire departments are having trouble recruiting and keeping volunteers who make up the bulk of the province's firefighters, an official said yesterday.

    Of the province's 15,000 firefighters, 73 per cent are designated volunteers, said Stephen Gamble, president of the Fire Chiefs Association of B.C.

    The association and the Union of B.C. Municipalities is expected to release a report on the volunteer problem in early December, said Gamble.

    "The biggest thing we face is the recruitment and retention of volunteers -- and these are issues we'll have to address," he said.

    The issues were raised yesterday in Ottawa when the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs told a Commons standing committee on finance that Canada's volunteer fire service was "under considerable stress."

    According to the association, the reasons included the inability of volunteers to find work close to where they were needed, aging local populations, inadequate reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses and competing family demands on their time.

    The association told the committee there should be some tax relief given volunteers to help "faltering recruitment and retention."

    Gamble said volunteers are expected to undergo a high level of training and find it difficult to balance their day jobs with the demands for their services.

    Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist

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    This is a critical topic.

    The fact is both fire departments and governemnts need to realoze that volunteers have value. Some do and they operate accordingly. Some don't and they can't effectivly recruit or retain.

    If you look at the cost of a full-time firefighter, the idea of spending 2K-3K per volunteer or per year makes a lot of sense. These may be cash incentives offered by the department. They may be merchandise or rewards of some other types. They may be tax breaks or incentives offered by the local government or state government. The fact is 2-3K is probably 5% of the total salery and benefits package of a career man, so the investment is minimal and well worth it.

    In addition to incentives, fire departments need to understand other motivaters for both recruitment and retention, and understand how to market these motivaters and use them to attract market audiences. A college psycholgy course, or a marketing course, while certainly non-traditional "education" it is should be required education, right up there with Firefighter, Instructor and Officer X,Y & Z.

    IMO, until the volunteer fire service truly understands that we need to aggressivly market ourselves and that college-level education in basic business classes and skills such as marketing and human resources are as critical as firefighting and leadership skills and classes, we will stay well behind the 8-ball when it comes to recruiting and retention.

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    One of the biggest factors we face as a composite department are the constant need to recruit. We are lucky to have a good core of people, but other departments around us have had a real struggle. Government can play a huge role in giving tax breaks to vollies. It has been put forward to the Canadian legislature to allow for a tax break of $3000 for volunteer Firefighters. I think currently we can get $1000 tax break. It is not a huge amount, but well worth it. Any sort of monetary incentive will help in todays economy.
    The other factor is work and family. A lot of people want to volunteer, but with OHS legislation - Firefighting is a commitment for vollies as well as carreer. Training, training, training - unfortunatly it takes time and if you have a young family it can be hard to make that commitment.
    -I have learned people will forget what you said,
    -People will forget what you did,
    -But people will never forget how you made them feel!

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