The ability to host a successful open house is vital to volunteer fire departments. Open houses give the community the opportunity to learn from and interact with department members.
WHEN SHOULD YOU HOST? Timing for fire department events is extremely important. Effective open houses are held one or two weekends a year typically in warmer seasons to attract more attendees. Some counties hold open house weekends while others allow departments to choose when they will host these events.
HOW DO YOU START PLANNING? A committee is a great way to make sure a focused group of members oversee the event and can effectively communicate event needs to the department. A budget should be created at the beginning of the fiscal year and dates should be chosen well ahead of time (usually the beginning of the year). This allows for ample time to promote the event and ensure there are enough members present. All department events should be well thought out and organized to make the most of budgets, member time and allow for the best attendee outcome.
WHAT DO YOU NEED? It is ideal to have as many department members as possible present for the open house event. This shows the community how the department operates and promotes a family atmosphere. Have some form of refreshments for guests, this can be as simple as cookies and bottles of water or burgers and hot dogs for a barbeque. Make sure the station and apparatus are clean and you have clean, spare gear ready for children and adults to try on. Setting up different stations with tools and equipment is another great way to demonstrate and educate what department members do daily. Some adults may even want to try their hand at the power tools or gear. This is a golden opportunity to recruit!
HOW CAN YOU RECRUIT? An open house is a dual-purpose event. Not only is it a great public education event, but it is an excellent recruitment opportunity, as well. Make sure you have department marketing materials and applications available for attendees. This is the time to educate interested volunteers on all opportunities available within the department, from firefighting to EMS to administrative positions. Remember that every event, every call and every day is a chance to recruit and grow your department.