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President's Letter: IAFC, VCOS, iWomen to Partner on SAFER Grant

As the first woman president of the IAFC and former chair of the IAFC Human Relations Committee, I am proud to announce that our association was recently awarded a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant for national volunteer recruitment and retention.

Beginning this December, this significant competitive award will be applied during the next three years to increase the number of women and other under-represented groups among volunteer firefighters in communities across the United States.

The IAFC and VCOS will partner with the International Association of Women in Fire and Emergency Services (iWomen), along with other national interest groups, to assist combination and volunteer fire departments throughout the United States with the means to improve their ability to recruit, retain and manage the volunteer of the future.

In order to adequately staff volunteer and combination fire departments, we need to do a much better job making our fire departments more reflective of the communities we serve. Part of that means providing a clear and expanding leadership track. This goal fits with the IAFC’s strategic direction, adopted by the board of directors earlier this year, calling on fire service leaders to “promote a culture that is inclusive, diverse and reflective of societal expectations.”

The SAFER grant will address the questions:

  • Who is the volunteer firefighter of the future?
  • How do departments adapt to recruit and retain them?

Outcomes of the grant will include a

  • toolkit for volunteer chiefs
  • a volunteer management technology solution
  • webinars and applicable trainings
  • case studies to overcoming barriers to volunteering
  • an updated study on the state of the volunteer fire service

These materials will be showcased in 10 different communities across the country, but made available to everyone via an IAFC volunteer portal.

We are proud to be working in partnership with VCOS and iWomen. Additional stakeholders will be involved as advisors when the program is underway. Much more information will be available soon at IAFC.org as the partner organizations begin to coordinate and administer the grant.

Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr
President and Chair of the Board

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