1. #1
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    AFD368's Avatar
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    Feb 2002
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    Albion NY
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    Default Retaining Members

    Speaking with a young man last night, who I knew, or thought I knew from a neighboring Department, I found out that he had left the Fire Service because of the politics within his Department. Another neighboring Department has lost six or seven members because of their mandatory requirement to work on their Bingo teams. Some of these Firefighters have had over ten years of Volunteer Firefighting Service, and because of dwindling rolls, and the increased demand for their time at fund raising, they have decided to leave the Fire Service. These men and women who have taken the training and dedicated part of their lives to Protecting and Serving their Communities, but because of Officers elected on Popularity Votes, and the increased demand for smaller rural Departments to supplement their budgets, these individuals have decided to pack it in. I fully understand the diversity of people and families, but find it heartwrenching that the Fire Service, in this time of need for trained and qualified people, still has to struggle to retain quality individuals. Recruiting new members is difficult. It just seems that the younger generation isn't interested and the older members are not getting any younger. What's the secret here? What do some of your Departments do?
    "The uniform is supposed to say something about you. You get it for nothing, but it comes with a history, so do the right thing when you're in it."
    Battalion Chief Ed Schoales
    from 'Report from Ground Zero' pg 149
    I.A.C.O.J. Member

  2. #2
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    May 2002
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    Default

    Unfortunately, bingos and other fundraising functions are a necessity to keeping most volunteer departments operational. While they may not be fun, they are essential in ensuring there is adequate funding for the department.

    We are fortunate enough in our department to have the type of dedicated individuals who realize the neccessity of these fundraising events, and while they are not entirely enjoyable, they are just another part of the job. From time to time, we like to do fundraising events that benefit just our members, not the department. We take the money raised from these events to buy jackets or something else for everyone in the department. That way, people can see a return from their many hours of volunteer time. As well, we are very up-front with our financial situation and go over the financial records with everyone interested once a month. Once everyone realizes the kind of funding it takes to keep the department operational, it makes people realize how important these fundraisers are.

    It sounds to me like these departments who are losing their members have a morale issue to deal with. Putting in hours of fundraising time and training and not going on runs can be a downer for lots of people. Maybe the officers should get together and decide on some things that could help with morale. Find a firefighting or extrication competion in your area and get your guys excited for that. Being able to show off a little and doing something fun will do wonders for putting pride back in the department. If everyone is proud of themselves and their department, it shouldn't be too hard to talk to them into going to the fundraising events or other duties.

  3. #3
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    Nebraska
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    Being able to retain quality people is difficult at best. The demands on a volunteer department are the same as on a paid, except we get to juggle work, family and the fire service. We have retained a full roster ( or very close) for the last 4 years ( 60 personal ) and it hasn't always been easy. It seems that we have drifted away from a lot of the social activity's of the past.
    It seems that most of the fund raising and fire prevention is being done by a few people while the rest sit back and just belong. I can see a need to require everyone to carry part of the load sometimes. But what we can't have is a lot negitive people around, one person can bring down the entire department. Each person must decide if they are going stay through the hard times. I believe that the quality of person is shown when things get a little rocky. These are the foundition of strong department.
    Our department requires new recruits to go through a rookie training program, FF1 type program, infectious control, emergency driving course and a few others before responding to calls. Each person is given a mentor that gives guidence and support. They are also required to make 25% of all calls, training and business meetings for the first 2 years. The changes haven't come easy, we lost a few people but i think our department is better because of it.
    Their's the hope that people will swallow a little pride for the good of fire service and their comminuities, giving up is not the answer.

  4. #4
    JeepFireNY
    Firehouse.com Guest

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    My volunteer fire department is very community/civil activities oriented. Although we don't have a mandatory requirement to attend this events, we do indeed have a lot of them. These include local parades & parade refreshments, local conventions, luncheons, you name it. We don't require members to attend these events, but we do end up having a lot of the members show up for these types of events to help out. The relationship the FD has with our community is very close.. partly because we are a small little village.

    Like Rescue Eighteen's department, we are also fortunate to have member who truly understand the definition of a volunteer firefighter. Which in a lot of cases means more civil duties than actual firefighting activities. We give back to our community by means other than providing fire protection, and in our time of need, the community is more than happy to help us out. Post-9/11, this relationship that we have with the community has only become stronger and more understanding.

    Its tough to find people, especially young people, you fully understand that most of their time with the volunteer fire department is indeed going to be spent doing 'civil' duties (fund raising, etc.) I like jvsmith's depts' idea of 'mentors'... I think giving a rookie and old crusty veteran to look up to will only produce good things.

    Good luck.

  5. #5
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    What we have had success with is stressing from the start that there is more to the fire department then putting out fires.

    We own our building, and as we all know, that is very expensive. What I have found is that if you explain why things are important, from the beginning, then it is understood.

    There are other departments that concern themselves solely with firefighting but all of our members know we go 'above and beyond'. I have also found that labeling projects as 'mandatory' tends to lower the attendance. An alternative is to have the committee chairman of xyz fundraiser call each member personally and get a commitment. Usually the turn out will be very good, and all members involved feel needed due to the 'personal touch'.

    Yours in Serivce,

    Jason
    Jason Zigmont

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