The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) and fire truck and rescue vehicle maker Spartan Motors have partnered to create and promote the first national Junior Firefighter Program aimed at supporting existing volunteer departments by fostering relationships and engaging youth in learning about, and ultimately becoming, members of the emergency services.
"The need for well-trained and highly-motivated volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel throughout America's communities has never been greater," said Philip C. Stittleburg, Chairman of the NVFC. "Over 70% of the firefighters who protect our nation are volunteers. Yet, statistics show that while fire department call volume is steadily increasing, the number of volunteers is decreasing."
According to the NVFC, the causes for the downward trend in volunteers are varied, including increasing time demands on two-income families, more rigorous training standards, and limited advocacy for volunteering among youth. Retention and recruitment of new members has never been more challenging.
Recognizing these challenges, Washington, D.C.-based NVFC and Charlotte, Mich.-based Spartan Motors joined forces to reach out to America’s youth and engage them in non-operational roles within emergency departments. Reaching out to people when they are young has long-range effects, and encouraging youth to take part in the emergency services is extremely beneficial to local communities and departments. Benefits of junior firefighter programs include:
- Allowing youth to gain insight and interest in becoming long-term members of the emergency services
- Increasing awareness among youth about volunteering and supporting the fire and emergency services
- Providing departments with additional help in accomplishing non-firefighting or non-emergency tasks
- Leadership development for America's youth, who are tomorrow's leaders
- Educating parents and mentors on the importance of encouraging volunteerism
"Spartan Motors has long been committed to manufacturing safe, well-equipped vehicles to assist our nation’s firefighters in saving lives. Yet, this is still a people-dependant business. This partnership allows us to expand our reach by educating and encouraging young people to give serious consideration to volunteering their time and energy to firefighting as a youth and into adulthood," said John Sztykiel, president and CEO of Spartan Motors. "We're excited to be part of this program and look forward to seeing the impact it will have on increasing the number of volunteer firefighters nationwide."