1. #1
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    Default How to get local volunteers?

    I'm with a combination paid/vol department, and lately we've been having problems finding volunteers who live in district. We've kept the roster full with volunteers from the city next door, but for obvious reasons this isn't the preferred way of doing things. About 1/2 of the department actually lives within the response area, while the rest come down for their scheduled EMS on call or for fire on call that they've signed up for and stay the night. During the daytime especially, this causes problems as those who do live in district are still at work and are too far away to respond on a regular basis.

    What are some ways you all have found and kept quality local recruits? The village itself is a suburb, with the expected suburbian demographic - heavy on the middle and upper class, and most work in the city during the day. What are some ways you've found to get those groups to volunteer?

    Any help would be much appreciated! Thanks!

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    This would be a little on the non-traditional side, but what about some sort of recruitment program for the people that work in the city during the day? Perhaps local businesses that have been supportive of your FD in the past. You could have meetings/trainings during the day time for that group and night time for the others. You would have to talk to the employers and find out if they'd be willing to let their employees go for any calls during the day (assure them it would only be when needed) and perhaps if they'd be willing to give their employees a couple hours off once a month during the day to do training.

    You could sell it kind of like a Reserves/National Guard for the FD. Give them a nice certificate and recognize them once a year or something. Who knows, you might find some employees around there that already have their certs, just never pursued getting hired for whatever reason.

    I don't know... never heard of my idea above, but it's just a thought. Maybe it will trigger something else in your ideas that will work.

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    zzyzx at my local volly department we have the same issue. We only cover about a square mile, and just like your situation we are heavy on the middle and upper class (though there are some lower class apartment complexes within the city). Afraid I don't have much of an answer at this point, but I share your concern.

    Up until this point our dept. didn't have a bunkroom, and one is now in the works. So at this point we can't really recruit outside of the city. Inside the city many people just don't seem to have the attitude that drives people to perform voluntary civil service.

    I do have one possibility for your situation, considering that you do have living quarters. Why not consider a live-in firefighter program directed at college-aged guys and girls. This kind of program has found a lot of success in places such as Prince George's County, MD., which you may want to look into. Their program is on a rather large scale, but there's nothing to say that if your department is smaller you still can't have a 3-4 man program.

    Free board is a HUGE incentive for college-aged kids (especially if there is a school in or near your district), and some people who work full-time during the day or part-time might be interested in the fire service. Maybe your department could use that to your advantage?

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    I have been a volunteer for 6 months, so I am new to all of this. I am 32, so probably not the typical guy who just comes in one day and says "How do I get involved in this?". I am about to finish my VFF1/VFF2, and have actually enjoyed this so much, I realized I was doing the wrong thing by owning a lumber company. I tested with the city and am currently #1 on the list and have a meeting with the chief on Monday (finger's crossed). There are 8 of us they want to hire, out of the original 100+ who applied.

    Our county VFF system has about 12 different districts or departments. Most with 2 stations, 2 engines, rescue truck, and water truck. We roughly have 300-400 volunteers. Our new coordinator is amazing and he swears that over the years as a fire fighter, before moving here some time back, they had the best luck with this simple approach:

    They put up a big banner/sign outside the station that said something along these lines: "We work hard to keep the property taxes low. We work hard to protect our community. Now we need your help. We need more volunteers. Please contact XXXXXXX at XXXXXX for more information on how you can become a fire fighter."

    He swears every department he has had try this has had amazing success. Just a thought.

    --Josh

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    We do things a bit different........ If you want to Volunteer with us, Apply. We do not care where you live, how fast you can get to the Station, How tall you are, what kind of 4X4 Pickup you have, or anything else. Due to our Call Volume, If you are "On Duty" you need to be in the Station. We are allowed a Maximum of 1 Minute to get on the street, so responding from Home or Work isn't an Option........ Since we have a "Different" situation, we don't have much of a problem with recruiting. Our Current Membership lives in Five STATES.
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    Quote Originally Posted by hwoods View Post
    We do things a bit different........ If you want to Volunteer with us, Apply. We do not care where you live, how fast you can get to the Station, How tall you are, what kind of 4X4 Pickup you have, or anything else. Due to our Call Volume, If you are "On Duty" you need to be in the Station. We are allowed a Maximum of 1 Minute to get on the street, so responding from Home or Work isn't an Option........ Since we have a "Different" situation, we don't have much of a problem with recruiting. Our Current Membership lives in Five STATES.
    wow, five states? how does that work?
    sounds like you got a heavy call volume

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    Quote Originally Posted by hwoods View Post
    We do things a bit different........ If you want to Volunteer with us, Apply.
    Hey Chief, I'd be curious to know what you guys do to recruit down your way. Obviously word of mouth is big but do you do anything to try to recruit locally?
    So you call this your free country
    Tell me why it costs so much to live
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    Quote Originally Posted by hwoods View Post
    We are allowed a Maximum of 1 Minute to get on the street,
    Don't you thibk that's a little harsh? It's hard to meet that standard unless you're sitting on the tailboard waiting for calls.

    Even NFPA 1710 allows 80 seconds and I wouldn't be surprised if that figure was increased soon.
    "Nemo Plus Voluptatis Quam Nos Habant"

    The Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.

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    Quote Originally Posted by abeth86 View Post
    What are some ways you all have found and kept quality local recruits? The village itself is a suburb, with the expected suburbian demographic - heavy on the middle and upper class, and most work in the city during the day. What are some ways you've found to get those groups to volunteer
    Hi abeth86,

    why you can do is write a letter or flyer to all locals in an interisting age range. Invite them to an "test" evening at your fire department where they can try out everyhing and where you explain the work of your Volunteer Fire Department. Additional you can give them an incentive, when they come (little coupon for local bar or restaurant).

    Not all visitors will be a member of your department, but you have a group of interested people in your station, and that is the first step I think.

    Best regards

    Florian
    My private Firefighter-Blog. More about myself and my firefighter life in Germany.

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    Five states away is pretty easy. Maryland (duh), Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Washington DC are all less than an hour away.

    Quote Originally Posted by DeputyMarshal View Post
    Don't you thibk that's a little harsh? It's hard to meet that standard unless you're sitting on the tailboard waiting for calls.

    Even NFPA 1710 allows 80 seconds and I wouldn't be surprised if that figure was increased soon.
    Come visit this area. Stand in the doorway from the dayroom to the bay area when a box alarm goes out and start counting. See how many seconds before you're trampled. I guarantee even at 3am when everyone is asleep, you won't get to two digit numbers. Geared up, in the truck, rolling out the door in <60 seconds is quite normal around here. I'm tellin' ya, this is another world down here. It ain't like back home
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    Im in a rural 1200 pop town that covers several miles in any direction from state parks to rivers and I have to say that yeah no one wants to get on. Its sad to see this happen but its happening everywhere. Ok not in large or paid dept but in the 20 or so calls a year dept. We have yet to find a good way to get anyone on and with the training hours being increased AGAIN its only getting harder to tell someone to get on and in only 120 to 140 hours you can ride the big red truck.

    Local state or Govt needs to help us out, tax breaks have been talked about at Fed levels and have gone nowhere, but to help smaller towns you could aproach the city with offering a tax insentive to their firefighters. As in little to no property tax or discount city bill. Just a thought from Minnesota.

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    I am in a rural department that covers apporox 500 square miles. Our "city" population is around 2500 and our over all population is around 4,000. We have had a significant decrease in volunteers in the last 5 years and are very concerned. One thing that we have thrown out and are discussing is having an auxillary. To help handle the non emergency stuff (ie. fund raisers, fire ground support ectt..) but that really hasn't gone anywhere either. Hopefully the state and local goverment will think aobut tax breaks or somehting to give a little initive to joining and giving of time.

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    We are lucky enough to have a university close by that one of our stations goes to football games to try to recruit. Another option is when you have fundraisers to pass out recruitment brochures and try to get word out. If you participate in any public relation events, parades or even safety seminars get word out there too. Having some sort of handout helps. Anytime you have the opportunity to be in the public and advertise that you are looking for members of the community is worth a chance. Having a website with information on becoming a member that you can direct people to is good too. Be all over the place when you can and have something accessible when you cannot.

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    As a suburban community, the daytime is an especially challenging time. We are fairly lucky in that we have a number of members who work as firefighters or EMT/paramagicals as a fulltime gig, so they are around when not on shift.

    As far a recruitment, here are some ideas:

    have catagories for members who simply wnat to handle support, including drivers/pump operators. there are probably folks in your community that would love to change bottles, take care of lighting, get equipment and the like. There are probably truck drivers that are perfectly capable of handling a fire apparatus and can be trained to pump the engine in a short period of time. In know the following statement will raise some feathers, but it doesn't take a firefighter to pump an engine. Most folks with a good understanding of mechanics, like truck drivers, can grasp the basic concepts pretty quickly, and can work a fire pump with few issues.

    Develop an administrative support category for folks that may want to assist around the office, or assist with public education, fund raising, grant writing or PR. While this will not assist you on the fireground directly, it may free up your personnel for maintainence functions, or assist with member training.

    Look at your training schedule. Are the requirements realistic for volunteers? Are they reasonable and achievable? Do you have day and night training scheduled so no matter when somebody works they can make training? (This is especially critical if you are looking to recruit day personnel who work nights). Do you have makeup opportunities? Do you have computer based training available which can be done around the volunteer's work and family schedule? If you are a combo department there is simply no excuse for not having multiple training oportunities for the volunteers.

    Finally, apply the features of the fire service to your community. market the comradie and teamwork to athletes, ex-athletes and ex-military. market the demanding physical aspect to athletes and folks who enjoy physical exertion. market the helping community aspect to families and seniors. Bottom line is develop poster, signs and slogans to appeal to variety of folks using a variety of messages in variety of places. Target your audiences. Find out where your audiences are. Develop a message for each audience and develop materials to deliver that message in the places you will find them in your community.

    Feel free to contact me with any questions at bcallahan@bpfd1.org

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    Quote Originally Posted by monkybrainz View Post
    wow, five states? how does that work?
    sounds like you got a heavy call volume

    Fire Engine, Rescue Engine, Heavy Rescue Squad, 2 BLS Ambulances...... We should hit 4,500 calls for CY 10......
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    Quote Originally Posted by voyager9 View Post
    Hey Chief, I'd be curious to know what you guys do to recruit down your way. Obviously word of mouth is big but do you do anything to try to recruit locally?

    We do the usual stuff, attend a lot of Community Functions, Banners, Signs, etc.......... A neigboring Company tried something at their Fire Prevention Open House last Month, and got an unexpected payback. Auto accidents are a big chunk of our work in this area, and everyone sees us working at some point. So, Along with the Usual Demos, etc, they had a row of Junkers to cut on...... Citizens attending the event could put on a set of Gear and pick up a tool and cut, or pop a door, etc....... Ratio of instructors was like 3 for each citizen. No Problems whatsoever. Of the Dozen people who Tried the Tool, Four have applied to join...........
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
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    Quote Originally Posted by hwoods View Post
    We do the usual stuff, attend a lot of Community Functions, Banners, Signs, etc.......... A neigboring Company tried something at their Fire Prevention Open House last Month, and got an unexpected payback. Auto accidents are a big chunk of our work in this area, and everyone sees us working at some point. So, Along with the Usual Demos, etc, they had a row of Junkers to cut on...... Citizens attending the event could put on a set of Gear and pick up a tool and cut, or pop a door, etc....... Ratio of instructors was like 3 for each citizen. No Problems whatsoever. Of the Dozen people who Tried the Tool, Four have applied to join...........
    We were going to do a similar thing at this year's Open House but we had staffing issues, so it was one of the activities that got scrubbed.

    Will make note that it seemed to work elsewhere and maybe move it higher on the priority list for staffing next year.

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    this thread is interesting, I want to volunteer soon also.

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    Question Ok..................

    Quote Originally Posted by gssjr11 View Post
    this thread is interesting, I want to volunteer soon also.

    What part of the World do you live in?? Things are different from place to place.....
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    We were going to do a similar thing at this year's Open House but we had staffing issues, so it was one of the activities that got scrubbed.

    Will make note that it seemed to work elsewhere and maybe move it higher on the priority list for staffing next year.
    How come nobody does real demonstrations such as forcible entries, piercing nozzles, etc. Everyone just does extinguisher training and extrication. Yes, we have more mvc and entrapments than we do with fires, but why not show the stuff rescue workers go through, put a dummy in the drivers seat and demonstrate tunneling or how to avoid further injuries from glass penetration and such. Or demonstrate shoring, or airbag use, collapses are rare and once they occur, does your department know what to do? It could pan out to be a good training and demo for open houses. Create a roof prop and and demonstrate cutting techniques or ladder placement?

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    Quote Originally Posted by FIREguy2011 View Post
    How come nobody does real demonstrations such as forcible entries, piercing nozzles, etc. Everyone just does extinguisher training and extrication. Yes, we have more mvc and entrapments than we do with fires, but why not show the stuff rescue workers go through, put a dummy in the drivers seat and demonstrate tunneling or how to avoid further injuries from glass penetration and such. Or demonstrate shoring, or airbag use, collapses are rare and once they occur, does your department know what to do? It could pan out to be a good training and demo for open houses. Create a roof prop and and demonstrate cutting techniques or ladder placement?
    As a rule, we have at least 2 live fire demos beyond extinguishers at our Open House. This year, because of the burn ban, we felt that it was better that we cancel all live fire demos.

    We have also discovered that an effective demo should take a maximum of 15 minutes, with an optimum time of 10 minutes, so most of our demos are centered around one or two quick, primary topics.

    In addition, we are often hamstrung by manpower limitations, and much of what we plan is based around that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nmfire View Post
    Come visit this area. Stand in the doorway from the dayroom to the bay area when a box alarm goes out and start counting. See how many seconds before you're trampled. I guarantee even at 3am when everyone is asleep, you won't get to two digit numbers. Geared up, in the truck, rolling out the door in <60 seconds is quite normal around here. I'm tellin' ya, this is another world down here. It ain't like back home
    Sorry, but I've actually done research in that area. In studies involving two large counties in that area, they didn't meet the NFPA 1710 standard either in a simulated response scenario nor in a review of one year's actual response time records. At 3 am, almost nobody meets the standard.
    "Nemo Plus Voluptatis Quam Nos Habant"

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    Default Recruitment

    We like many Departments have problems recruiting Volunteers. Lately we have been having a blood drive with tables set out looking for Volunteers along with radio spots during the event. This year they had to turn people away at the door because of the response not to mention we picked up a boat load of applications. This Saturday we're having a food drive at a local supermarket with donations to the food bank and tables set up to collect the food and also sign up potential Volunteers . There will be a raffle for the people signing up to Volunteer with the winner receiving a gift card for groceries at the store. With this all said we're starting our Academy in January to teach the new Volunteers how to do their job.
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    Our issue's has been 1) Finding volunteers and 2) When we do. They usually turn out to be there just so they can call themselves FF and are usually no good to those of us that are there because we love doing the job.

    So for us. Finding people has been a struggle in every way!

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    Quote Originally Posted by FIREguy2011 View Post
    How come nobody does real demonstrations such as forcible entries, piercing nozzles, etc. Everyone just does extinguisher training and extrication. Yes, we have more mvc and entrapments than we do with fires, but why not show the stuff rescue workers go through, put a dummy in the drivers seat and demonstrate tunneling or how to avoid further injuries from glass penetration and such. Or demonstrate shoring, or airbag use, collapses are rare and once they occur, does your department know what to do? It could pan out to be a good training and demo for open houses. Create a roof prop and and demonstrate cutting techniques or ladder placement?

    Our Auto Crash Rescue Demos are done with Victims that are made up to look the part. The Demo starts with the Apparatus driving up and carries all the way through to the "Patients" being loaded into the Ambulance. With other Equipment on Display, and with the Display Equipment staffed by people who know how to use it, and explain why and how we do things, we make out pretty well.....
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
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    www.gdvfd18.com

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