The volunteer fire service needs a life net to preserve the tradition of neighbors helping neighbors.
Our nation is facing a crisis as the decades-long struggle of emergency service organizations (ESOs) retaining qualified members and maintaining organizational unity has now reached its breaking point. Qualified volunteers have always been the lifeblood of the American fire service with more than 90 percent of ESOs relying on their service, but today these volunteers are becoming increasingly difficult to retain and recruit. The inability of organizations to maintain experienced staff not only increases risks to residents of the community, but also to department members themselves.
The International Association of Fire Chiefs’ (IAFC) Volunteer Workforce Solutions (VWS), in collaboration with Connecticut Fire Chiefs Association, North Carolina Association of Fire Chiefs, Tennessee Fire Chiefs Association, and Virginia Fire Chiefs Association, has been implementing FEMA SAFER grants to enhance the ability of individual departments to successfully recruit and keep qualified volunteers. Key members of those state associations, the IAFC's Volunteer and Combination Officers Section and IAFC staff formed a Volunteer Retention & Recruitment (R&R) work group to share results and discuss potential improvements that can be shared nationally.
While there is not a single plan that can meet the unique needs of every department, members of the Volunteer R&R work group used their experience to identify problems inherent in the current system, their experience in overcoming recruitment/retention issues, and to produce potential solutions to assist communities and emergency service leaders as they strive to create and maintain dynamic organizations. The result of the meeting was a series of documents and tools intended to provide ESOs with proven retention and recruitment methods and resources designed to promote a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Throughout these documents, the common phrase “recruitment and retention” was intentionally reversed to reiterate the importance of keeping qualified volunteers rather than solely expending efforts on recruiting new members.
Documents and Tools:
Preserving the Tradition of Neighbors Helping Neighbors: Steps Toward Success
Download the PDF
Become a Volunteer
Download the Poster
How to Retain & Recruit Volunteers
Download the Poster