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How to create an incredible firefighter recruitment video

Follow these simple steps for showcasing your department to prospective members


“A recruitment video can be an extremely useful tool in catching the attention of someone who may be curious about a career in the fire service,” writes Shoffner.

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As it becomes more challenging to attract firefighters into the fire service, it is important to focus on how we can market not only the fire service in general but also our own individual departments.

There has traditionally been a lot of competition among departments to attract the best firefighters, and this has become even more challenging as applicant pools have shrunk over time, especially now. Many career fields have seen a mass exodus of employees due to retirements, other opportunities for pay and better benefits, or even for a complete change of pace. With so many competing priorities and interests, how can we sell the many benefits of joining the brotherhood and sisterhood?

A recruitment video can be an extremely useful tool in catching the attention of someone who may be curious about a career in the fire service. It may even capture the attention of someone who has never thought about a career in the fire service.

Steps to success

There are several factors to consider when creating an effective recruitment video.

Identify your target audience: Who are you trying to attract with this video? I have seen several recruitment videos with athlete-focused themes. This is a great place to start, as many athletes embrace the team atmosphere and physically demanding work that the fire service shares with many team sports. But remember, you don’t need to limit your recruitment videos to one audience. There are many other groups that you may want to consider, depending on your mission-specific goals, or your jurisdiction. For example, consider high school and college career fairs. If there is a military base nearby, check to see if they offer opportunities to approach service members who will soon transition to civilian life. These are all great pools of applicants that have the potential to become great firefighters.

Represent your community: It is important to recognize and understand your community demographics, as your workforce should be representative of your community. This is why it is important for you also to identify a diverse group of your firefighters to participate in your recruitment video.

Find your on-camera “talent”: In identifying the group of firefighters for the video, you also want to make sure they are passionate about the department and what they do. If the firefighters you choose to participate do not share the passion and dedication for the fire service, your audience will see this. True passion and dedication are easy to see on camera.

Sell your story: After you have identified your target audience and corresponding firefighters who you feel will represent your department in a positive manner, it’s time to determine what you want your audience to see or learn about your department. What are your primary missions, responses? What is a day in the life at your fire station like? These are things that should be highlighted in your video.

Capture action shots of apparatus running emergency traffic somewhere or leaving the station. It is great to capture training footage that appears exciting and interesting to your audience. Any live-burn training is sure to pique interest from the viewer, as would any specialized training, such as high-angle, swiftwater, confined space, and even training involving helicopters and partner agencies, such as law enforcement. You want your audience to be captivated by what your department does, and you need to highlight bits and pieces of all of what this entails. Don’t focus too much on any one thing.

Also, be realistic with what the job entails. While we do experience calls that involve all of the interesting things just mentioned, if EMS is the biggest part of what your department does, make that clear. Interview firefighters about the satisfaction of regaining pulses on a patient, or even how much it means to people when we respond to literally pick them up off the floor or check their home oxygen machines. These can be very rewarding experiences because we are often the lifelines to these people. Help your audience understand this part of the job and that it is a privilege to serve others.

Read next: ‘This is not what I signed up for’: Why some firefighters simply don’t understand the job

Find your tech whiz: In order to put together a professional video, you’ll need to have tech-savvy personnel on your roster or at least access to a division or department in your jurisdiction with someone who’s proficient in video editing. Our department is fortunate enough to have another City division that specializes in community outreach, including producing videos for all of our City’s departments and divisions. There are also several different video editing platforms that are available and affordable if you do produce something in-house.

Edit your footage: Now it’s time to put it all together! You must go through the footage with a fine-tooth comb. Focus on these factors:

  • Policies: In order to keep your department out of any hot water, take time to review the footage to ensure that all applicable department policies, guidelines, NFPA standards, and any other applicable state or federal laws are followed. Mistakes are going to happen in anything, but you don’t want such mistakes on display while actively marketing your department. Enlist the help of members who are intimately familiar with these standards to ensure your footage is compliant and correct in terms of the performance of any skills displayed.
  • Legal: Find out if you have a legal department that you need to consult prior to the release of your video.
  • Music and media: If you utilize any outside music or other media, you must make sure that you are not violating any copyright laws.
  • Real incidents: Use caution in using any footage from real incidents. This can be asking for legal trouble depending on a number of issues, from permissions to compromising what may result from litigation from an incident. While it can be very eye catching to use real incident footage, it can also create substantial problems, so utilize the dynamic training footage instead. If you feel it necessary to use footage from incidents check with your department policies and applicable laws before venturing into this territory.

Remember, once you release this video on social media or other outlets, you cannot recapture what you are displaying to the world. There is no room for error when it comes to portraying a positive image of your department. Don’t rush through the production of your department’s video. Have fun with it, and show off your department and personnel to the world.

Spread the word: Fire department recruitment videos can be posted to your social media sites, utilized at career fairs, and shown to an array of audiences.

A vital recruitment tool

Recruitment videos can be an awesome tool to educate the public about this great profession and extremely useful in capturing the attention of future firefighters. And right now is a great time to connect with your community about the importance of service to community and how they can contribute through a career in the fire service.

Bonus resource: Share FireRescue1’s How to Become a Firefighter resource page with prospective members to help them better understand what to expect from a career in the fire service, the key steps needed to join, and how to excel in their position.

Daniel Shoffner is the battalion chief of EMS and public information officer for the Burlington (North Carolina) Fire Department, and has 25 years of experience in the fire service. He is also a volunteer with the Mt. Hope Community Fire Department in Guilford County. Shoffner has served with the Kimesville Community Fire-Rescue Department in Guilford County, worked for Guilford County EMS and volunteered with Emerald Isle EMS in Carteret County. He holds a Ph.D. in public policy, with research focusing on fire apparatus staffing, plus a master’s degree in public administration concentrated in emergency management. Shoffner is an adjunct faculty member in the Fire Science and Emergency Management Program at Purdue University Global as well as the Fire Protection Technology and Emergency Medical Services departments with Guilford Technical Community College.