1. #1
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Posts
    6

    Default Notes on retention from within the lines

    There's a lot of talk about recruitment and retention on the forums, usually from chiefs and officers. I thought it'd be helpful to talk about this as a firefighter who's only been around for about 2 1/2 years in a volunteer system that is one of the busier in the country, and what helped me and others stick around.

    1. Action. I realize this one is very impossible to help, but it is just a fact. The volunteers that are motivated to do the job are more likely to stick around if there is more action to be had.

    2. Go light on the ambulance duty. Too many firehouses have volunteers get in the door, ready to ride firetrucks, only to be shunted to ambulance duty for months at a time. If they came to ride firetrucks, once they are adequately trained, let them! In Prince George's county, the two major 100% volunteer stations with strong staffing, being Kentland 33 and Ritchie 37, NEVER force a member to ride an ambulance.
    That may not be an option, so try to lighten the load. EMS only members are a great option to retain your fire members, and there are plenty of people interested but want nothing to do with a burning building. Make it clear in your recruitment that this option is available as many people think volunteering for the fire department necessitates fighting fires. In addition, when asking fire members to ride the ambulance, don't shunt it all to the new guys. It's understandable for them to ride it more, but if they never set foot on the fire truck they will not stick around.

    3. Explain, explain, explain. The process in a number of firehouses seems to go like this: you come in to ride along, you are treated like a guest and everyone is very cordial. But as soon as you become a member, all the veterans expect you to know exactly your place and all the firehouse customs. Taking the time to explain your firehouse's customs gently will keep the new guys out of trouble and will keep them around longer. Sure, the new guy will have to clean up more around the firehouse, get messed with more etc. But explaining why they are expected to do more of the undesirable work, and that being messed with doesn't mean they are disliked, will go a long way towards keeping them around.

    4. Train, train, train. Train every night if you can. If you have little action, this is especially important in terms of retention, but obviously busy stations need to train as well! Keeping the new guys busy and teaching them things about the fire service will make them far more satisfied with their firehouse.

    There are a couple of notes to this:
    A: If they came to be fire members, train them for fire first. And don't require classes to ride. There is plenty of work to be done for exterior operations on the fireground- prepare new members for it well and then let them ride. Once they've experienced the thrill of the fireground, even from the outside, you've got a member for a long time.

    B: Check-off sheets are great for giving members a clear set of goals. If the term is unfamiliar, it's basically a list of skills a member must master before they can ride. It is usually independent of fire qualifications, instead focusing on in-station training. It gives new guys something tangible to work for, and getting it all out on paper is also a more thorough way to ensure that they know everything they need to know before they are riding with you. A great example of this is at the morningside vfd's website (http://www.morningsidevfd27.com/site.../page/Training)

    Hopefully this will help give you a different perspective on retention. Good luck, and stay safe.

  2. #2
    Let's talk fire trucks!
    BoxAlarm187's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Virginia
    Posts
    3,314

    Default

    Good information, but it's difficult to compare any of the PGFD stations to what most of us face. 33 and 37 are doing in a week what some other places do in a year.

    My station will run about 600 calls this year, 50% of those are EMS. We hold formal training for six hours a month (two, three-hour sessions). When we're averaging 2 calls a day (yet sometimes going 1-2 days without a call), it's a little harder to have a great number of members hang around the station to give training to on a daily basis.

    I do completely agree with you about having the members know their expectations, making them part of the family, and giving them goals to meet. Members like a sense of inclusion and the feeling of accomplishment when meeting those goals, and the leaders of the department should help make that happen.

    While I might think parts of your post don't apply to a lot of us, it does provide a platform for department leaders to stand on and think about when retaining the members that they already have.
    Career Fire Captain
    Volunteer Chief Officer


    Never taking for granted that I'm privileged enough to have the greatest job in the world!

  3. #3
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Posts
    14

    Default

    I would just like to add onto that if I could. A little background of myself I am a second generation volunteer with both my haing been on the department I am on now. As of now I am the only Cadet on the whole department and I am waiting for a recruit class (going on 3 months) but I am being patient and holding up my end. Many people at this point would just give up, but here's why I haven't. Not only do I have fire in my blood, but the Department strives to make me feel welcomed:

    - I am currently waiting on a Recruit Class in the meantime I have been invited to wash trucks and other mundane tasks, but I love every minute, why? Because I get to be around the trucks and guys.
    - On training nights I am invited to partake, I don't just sit back and watch but the senor guys train me on the basic use and knowledge of tools, where they are on the truck, and also other training like safety, etc. I am "hands on" in training.
    - When training nights are over the guys invite me to hang out at the station and of course I get a lot of bitch work, but overall they make me feel apart.
    - This may seem stupid, but the other night I was promoted by men who are senior on the department and men who served with my dad, I've known my whole life, and thus respect the hell out of. I was "promoted" from FNG to Probie that was a proud moment to me, because as of today I know I've earned my keep.

    That's all I got for now basically for me it boils down to being involved and active that keeps me coming back for more, heck even getting messed with makes me want to go back everyday. However, what do I know? I'm a dumb cadet probie so take what I've said for what it's worth and use if you can and if not well you started reading this because you probably didn't have better things to do anyways.

  4. #4
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    Location
    Lusby, MD
    Posts
    1,035

    Default

    A couple of comments here. In general I agree that getting the new members involved in training and riding apparatus as soon as possible. I also agree with having a checklist or somthing similar to let people know what needs to be done in order to ride apparatus. I had an issue with different people giving me different answers as to what needed to be done in order to ride.

    Regarding riding the ambulance: For us ambulance calls are 2/3 of our call volume, so it's hard not to have the new guys ride the ambulance. We require them to get cut loose on the ambulance as either an aid or EMT depending on training, before they can ride the fire apparatus. Just a little incentive to do what they need to do in order to ride fire apparatus. I also agree that the new guys shouldn't be the only ones on the ambulance. In our station, everybody rides the ambulance as needed and we try not to burn anybody out.

  5. #5
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Posts
    6

    Default

    Okay, fair enough. Obviously as I mentioned retention is a lot easier when you run more calls.

    That being said, a couple responses. More training helps keep them feeling more involved and busy when they're not running calls, so in some ways it can be a remedy (I know I try to drill as much as possible whenever we run into a call dry-streak).

    Back to the ambulance, which I knew would be controversial. Sure, make them get EMT and ride first. But EMT is a long course, and it may be a while before they are minimum staffing on the ambo. Let them at least get checked off to ride the engine during EMT, and then split their time with an emphasis on the ambulance until they get to minimum staffing for the engine as well. I can't tell you how many guys I have seen show up around here, sit on the ambulance for 3 months hating the fire department, and then leave for one of the aforementioned ambulance-free houses. So at least get them training for fire in the station even if they have to do get EMT first (though I frankly think it is obscene that when an open fire class shows up before an EMT and firehouses still make their members wait).
    Finally, I'd like to emphasize again- EMS only recruitment. Strong EMS memberships can do a world of good for keeping your fire members around and getting your ambulance out the door.

    And in response to maverik- good for you sir. That is dedication. But for people who aren't involved in the fire service through their family, and have no indication that their hard work will eventually pay off and get them riding, they will tire of it and leave.

  6. #6
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    358

    Default Retention

    Around 20 years ago, a fire chief told me this and I see this still going on today:

    If you have a member that is single, that firefighter usually has more time to spend with department activities (fire/EMS calls, training, socializing, etc.).

    Once that single firefighter becomes married, they do not spend as much time with the department activities. More time is spent with his new spouse and their new family.

    I have seen this happen in FD's. You get single young recruits and they are gung ho on doing everything and everything. Once they become married and have a commitment of a family, that takes alot of their time.

    My opinion, is that when a young single person joins the FD, is the best time to have them attend the required training (FFI, FFII, EMT, etc.). They have the time to attend and complete the training and are gung ho. In the event that they become married later, they would already have their required training and would then need to do recerts (EMT, etc.), which they would do, since they have already invested the initial time doing the certification.

    This is what I see. Not to say that any married member would not give 100%, but when the commitment of marriage occurs to a volunteer, they make that a priority, too.

  7. #7
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Posts
    14

    Default

    To flip the whole ambulance topic what if a member wanted nothing to do with riding a truck and everything with riding out on the ambulance? I came on to my department with no intention of ever stepping foot on an apparatus besides the Rescue Rig, I am already a first responder from my other volunteer gig and I absolutely loved trauma, but not so much the actual fire fighting. What then? Are they required to take FF1 etc. or just given a blue helmet and told to do what they do best?


    Note: I have long since embraced the whole department and love fire fighting just as much as EMS.

  8. #8
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    Location
    Lusby, MD
    Posts
    1,035

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by maverik View Post
    To flip the whole ambulance topic what if a member wanted nothing to do with riding a truck and everything with riding out on the ambulance? I came on to my department with no intention of ever stepping foot on an apparatus besides the Rescue Rig, I am already a first responder from my other volunteer gig and I absolutely loved trauma, but not so much the actual fire fighting. What then? Are they required to take FF1 etc. or just given a blue helmet and told to do what they do best?


    Note: I have long since embraced the whole department and love fire fighting just as much as EMS.
    We have no problems with these types of members. Fair or not, we do not require members to ride fire apparatus. 2/3 of our calls are EMS and for whatever reason, we have more problems finding people to ride the ambulance than the fire apparatus.

  9. #9
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Posts
    6

    Default

    maverik- I have emphasized this in two posts now that EMS only membership is something to be encouraged and recruited for! If you are an EMS member nobody will ask you to take FFI. A few guys act all superior to the EMS members and give them ****, but in general people are extremely grateful to have them around because it lightens the ambulance load

  10. #10
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Golden City 1 hour south of fort smith
    Posts
    544

    Default

    I totally agree about the marriage thing. We have losts some good firefighters that way. SO we changed how we handle it. IF we recuit and young single guy and he has a steady g/f we recuit her to. That way shes part of it with him and doesnt mind the time needed to volunteer.

  11. #11
    55 Years & Still Rolling
    hwoods's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    Glenn Dale Md, Heart of the P.G. County Fire Belt....
    Posts
    10,739

    Thumbs up Yep..........

    Quote Originally Posted by volfireman034 View Post
    I totally agree about the marriage thing. We have losts some good firefighters that way. SO we changed how we handle it. IF we recuit and young single guy and he has a steady g/f we recuit her to. That way shes part of it with him and doesnt mind the time needed to volunteer.

    Same here...... And it works.
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
    In memory of
    Chief Earle W. Woods, 1912 - 1997
    Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

    IACOJ Budget Analyst

    I Refuse to be a Spectator. If I come to the Game, I'm Playing.

    www.gdvfd18.com

  12. #12
    MembersZone Subscriber
    tree68's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Jefferson County, NY USA
    Posts
    2,287

    Default

    Stop me if I've said this before -

    When my father was part of the reserve police organization in my old hometown, part of the process for bringing in new members was an interview with the wife, to ensure that she understood the expectations.

    Nowadays that would have to be "significant other," but the concept remains, even if the significant other arrives after the member joins (as covered by VF34).

    We lost a member whose wife was upset that he spent so much time at the "fire department." Fact was, he was spending time with members of the fire department at a local drinking establishment every night after work (that's another issue entirely). Apparently he'd been telling her he was at the fire department...
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

    Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.

  13. #13
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Posts
    291

    Default

    I just wanted to add some clarification to some of the statements made by the original poster in regards to PG County..

    2. Go light on the ambulance duty. Too many firehouses have volunteers get in the door, ready to ride firetrucks, only to be shunted to ambulance duty for months at a time. If they came to ride firetrucks, once they are adequately trained, let them! In Prince George's county, the two major 100% volunteer stations with strong staffing, being Kentland 33 and Ritchie 37, NEVER force a member to ride an ambulance.

    Kentland and Ritchie don't have ambulances, well technically Kentland does but the county has to staff it.

    That may not be an option, so try to lighten the load. EMS only members are a great option to retain your fire members, and there are plenty of people interested but want nothing to do with a burning building.

    Keeping EMS only members are just as difficult to keep as those who just want to ride the engine. Granted its a good idea but you have to find the EMS only members first.

    Make it clear in your recruitment that this option is available as many people think volunteering for the fire department necessitates fighting fires. In addition, when asking fire members to ride the ambulance, don't shunt it all to the new guys. It's understandable for them to ride it more, but if they never set foot on the fire truck they will not stick around.

    Unfortunately it is the culture of most vfd's to stick the new member on the ambulance since most of those who are already members have been there, and have paid their dues riding the bus.

    4. Train, train, train. Train every night if you can. If you have little action, this is especially important in terms of retention, but obviously busy stations need to train as well! Keeping the new guys busy and teaching them things about the fire service will make them far more satisfied with their firehouse.

    The training should also be something for those who have been in the volunteer fire service for a while otherwise they tend not to show up and train.

    There are a couple of notes to this:
    A: If they came to be fire members, train them for fire first. And don't require classes to ride.

    Actually until the new member goes through Volunteer Recruit School in PG County they are not allowed to ride the engine/truck/squad let alone the ambulance.

    B: Check-off sheets are great for giving members a clear set of goals. If the term is unfamiliar, it's basically a list of skills a member must master before they can ride.

    And while having a list of skills is a good idea, it should also go in hand with the new member knowing where things are on the apparatus. Sure you can be book smart but you need to know where things are to be helpful on the fire ground.

    Hopefully this will help give you a different perspective on retention. Good luck, and stay safe.

  14. #14
    55 Years & Still Rolling
    hwoods's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    Glenn Dale Md, Heart of the P.G. County Fire Belt....
    Posts
    10,739

    Post And...........

    Quote Originally Posted by Leeland View Post
    I just wanted to add some clarification to some of the statements made by the original poster in regards to PG County..

    2. Go light on the ambulance duty. Too many firehouses have volunteers get in the door, ready to ride firetrucks, only to be shunted to ambulance duty for months at a time. If they came to ride firetrucks, once they are adequately trained, let them! In Prince George's county, the two major 100% volunteer stations with strong staffing, being Kentland 33 and Ritchie 37, NEVER force a member to ride an ambulance.

    Kentland and Ritchie don't have ambulances, well technically Kentland does but the county has to staff it.

    That may not be an option, so try to lighten the load. EMS only members are a great option to retain your fire members, and there are plenty of people interested but want nothing to do with a burning building.

    Keeping EMS only members are just as difficult to keep as those who just want to ride the engine. Granted its a good idea but you have to find the EMS only members first.

    Make it clear in your recruitment that this option is available as many people think volunteering for the fire department necessitates fighting fires. In addition, when asking fire members to ride the ambulance, don't shunt it all to the new guys. It's understandable for them to ride it more, but if they never set foot on the fire truck they will not stick around.

    Unfortunately it is the culture of most vfd's to stick the new member on the ambulance since most of those who are already members have been there, and have paid their dues riding the bus.

    4. Train, train, train. Train every night if you can. If you have little action, this is especially important in terms of retention, but obviously busy stations need to train as well! Keeping the new guys busy and teaching them things about the fire service will make them far more satisfied with their firehouse.

    The training should also be something for those who have been in the volunteer fire service for a while otherwise they tend not to show up and train.

    There are a couple of notes to this:
    A: If they came to be fire members, train them for fire first. And don't require classes to ride.

    Actually until the new member goes through Volunteer Recruit School in PG County they are not allowed to ride the engine/truck/squad let alone the ambulance.

    B: Check-off sheets are great for giving members a clear set of goals. If the term is unfamiliar, it's basically a list of skills a member must master before they can ride.

    And while having a list of skills is a good idea, it should also go in hand with the new member knowing where things are on the apparatus. Sure you can be book smart but you need to know where things are to be helpful on the fire ground.

    Hopefully this will help give you a different perspective on retention. Good luck, and stay safe.


    Thank You for raising these points........ I've tried to stay back a bit on this one, but not at the expense on misinformation getting out..... No one has mentioned the Third all Volunteer Company in the County - Bladensburg. The BVFD operates 2 Ambulances along with the Engines and Ladder Truck. And they do it with people hanging off the walls. The real root of the problem rests with people's attitudes about what THEY want to do, not what the VFD's needs are. Much of the problem in the Metro area comes from our successful Combination system, where Volunteers operate in an Urban setting with a Call Volume that is incredible to most folks. This environment draws (mostly) young folks who want to be involved in something a lot more challenging than what they have at home. Problem starts when the person shows up and learns that the VFD is also the EMS agency in our system. This may be a great suprise to some, but there are people who want nothing to do with EMS. This is fine with us, but you'll have to go somewhere else to pursue that, since we require EMT-B of everyone who gets on the Apparatus.
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
    In memory of
    Chief Earle W. Woods, 1912 - 1997
    Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

    IACOJ Budget Analyst

    I Refuse to be a Spectator. If I come to the Game, I'm Playing.

    www.gdvfd18.com

  15. #15
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Posts
    6

    Default

    Good point on the clarification, i didn't really want to get into PG county specifics for a general post.
    I didn't really count VRS as a class. I meant along the lines of somewhere like anne arundel where you won't set foot on the engine until you have firefighter 1.
    "Unfortunately it is the culture of most vfd's to stick the new member on the ambulance since most of those who are already members have been there, and have paid their dues riding the bus." key word being unfortunately. New members riding the ambulance more and all that is completely understandable- just making the same point that they should at least be training for fire while this is happening and getting them on the firetrucks as soon as they know what they are doing- which while I've never volunteered at 9 my understanding is that they do. (They also benefit heavily from their location for both call volume and proximity to UMD for live-ins).

    Finally, back to the checklist... It's not simply a checklist that they look at. They actually drill on all of it and get tested by senior members of the fire department before they can ride- pulling lines and laying out, throwing ladders, forcible entry, etc. Most include or imply complete knowledge of the inventory of the apparatus in question.


    These are just a couple notes from one perspective. Obviously from the administrative perspective chiefs and officers have a lot more to consider and will ultimately make the best decision- this was just to point out a way to look at it from a different perspective.
    Cheers

  16. #16
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Rushford, MN
    Posts
    34

    Default

    The volunteer department I am on actually likes / tries to bring on new recruits that are married,have families and own homes. I live in a small community and many young people move away for one reason or another. They believe that if a recruit is married with kids they are more likely to stay living in town and not leave after the department sticks alot of money into training and gear.

  17. #17
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Bossier Parrish, Louisiana
    Posts
    10,597

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by hwoods View Post
    Thank You for raising these points........ I've tried to stay back a bit on this one, but not at the expense on misinformation getting out..... No one has mentioned the Third all Volunteer Company in the County - Bladensburg. The BVFD operates 2 Ambulances along with the Engines and Ladder Truck. And they do it with people hanging off the walls. The real root of the problem rests with people's attitudes about what THEY want to do, not what the VFD's needs are. Much of the problem in the Metro area comes from our successful Combination system, where Volunteers operate in an Urban setting with a Call Volume that is incredible to most folks. This environment draws (mostly) young folks who want to be involved in something a lot more challenging than what they have at home. Problem starts when the person shows up and learns that the VFD is also the EMS agency in our system. This may be a great suprise to some, but there are people who want nothing to do with EMS. This is fine with us, but you'll have to go somewhere else to pursue that, since we require EMT-B of everyone who gets on the Apparatus.
    Different attitude here ... Not that your's is bad.

    Our bread and butter is EMS, which included MVAs, as it's almost 85% of our run volume.

    That being said we do not require our volunteer personnel to get a medical certification, which allows them to run EMS calls. Most of our members do in fact choose to get an EMS certification, as without it they are limited to just fire calls and MVAs. We understand that obtaining that certification, even just First Responder, requires a significant time commitment, which simply may not be an option. If they wish to run just fire, that works for us.

    One the flip side, we also allow members who just wish to run EMS to run EMS, as long as they understand that we do expect them to respond to fires to assist with rehab and medical monitoring as a part of their responsibilities as a member. if they do not wish to assist at fire scenes in this role, we politely tell them that this is a part of the job, and thank you for the offer, but no thanks.

    We also have a couple of members that just run technical rescue as part of our SRT team. IMO, that is a very specialized skill which justifies the inclusion of members with that special skill for those types of operations only.
    Train to fight the fires you fight.

  18. #18
    55 Years & Still Rolling
    hwoods's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    Glenn Dale Md, Heart of the P.G. County Fire Belt....
    Posts
    10,739

    Talking Huh??...........

    Attitude??............



    Seriously, good points....... You and I usually agree on the "Works for us" approach anyway.......
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
    In memory of
    Chief Earle W. Woods, 1912 - 1997
    Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

    IACOJ Budget Analyst

    I Refuse to be a Spectator. If I come to the Game, I'm Playing.

    www.gdvfd18.com

  19. #19
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Posts
    247

    Default

    I tend to think that a volunteer that is only interested in doing one thing is better than not having that volunteer at all if he/she is required to do everything. However, this could become unmanagable at some point. The leadership can only juggle so many categories of people at once when trying to set schedules or manage a scene. To some extent you want as many interchangable people as possible so that everyone there is capable of doing anything necessary.

  20. #20
    Forum Member
    FyredUp's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 1999
    Location
    Rural Wisconsin, Retired from the burbs of Milwaukee
    Posts
    10,068

    Default

    It is very common in this area for the volly/POC FDs that run EMS to have fire only and ems only members, as well as fire members that cross over and do ems. Usually those departments have a command structure that puts the fire chief in charge overall of the entire department and an ems director that runs the ems division. Generally this works very well.

    I have to say though, in my experience, that in volly/POC FDs, most of the issues seem to come from the ems divisions. Lack of staffing, sometimes new members just get tired of the constant turmoil and leave, seems to be the biggest issue. Personality conflicts seem to arise and fester far more often in ems than in fire. I haven't a clue why, it just seems to be what I am used to.
    Crazy, but that's how it goes
    Millions of people living as foes
    Maybe it's not too late
    To learn how to love, and forget how to hate

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Similar Threads

  1. World Of Fire Report: 05-06-05
    By PaulBrown in forum World of Fire Daily Report
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 05-08-2005, 09:21 AM
  2. World Of Fire Report: 01-17-05
    By PaulBrown in forum World of Fire Daily Report
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 01-19-2005, 08:14 AM
  3. World Of Fire Report: 12-20-04
    By PaulBrown in forum World of Fire Daily Report
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 12-31-2004, 09:39 PM
  4. World Of Fire Report: 01-17-04
    By PaulBrown in forum World of Fire Daily Report
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 01-18-2004, 12:47 PM
  5. World Of Fire Report: 01-10-04
    By PaulBrown in forum World of Fire Daily Report
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 01-12-2004, 11:12 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts

Log in

Click here to log in or register