Firefighter recruitment: How to go the extra mile

We always need more volunteers – we just need to do the work to get them

On a single day this month, I received three requests from people wanting to volunteer. They are bashing down my door to join, but are they bashing down yours? If they are not, maybe there are some things you can do to make recruitment easier.

The first reason why they contact me is that has a large Web presence. Although volunteering is local, our society is now global on the Internet.

You may have joined your department by picking up the phone or looking in the phone book but most of your new members have probably never even used a phone book.

That means you need a good Web presence, and an email address that is regularly checked. Your website needs to give full details of how to volunteer and how to help in general (including a fundraising component).

The second reason why I get so many phone calls is that I serve a wide area. Much as 1-800-Fireline does, the ability to serve as a clearing house for volunteers is important. This is impossible for any one department to do, but easily done by a region or state.

Regional recruitment both shares resources and provides a single point of contact for perspective volunteers. It may be that you could work with your mutual aid agencies to develop a regional or countywide recruitment effort.

A pool of resources will also help you if you are applying for federal recruitment grants such as the SAFER program.

The third difference is that I am responsive. Although my answer when people ask me where to volunteer is “knock on the door of your local department," they get a response quickly.

The same must go for your department. Any requests to volunteer should be followed up with 24-48 hours. Some departments believe that if someone really wants to volunteer they will wait, but that is not an excuse for ignoring a request.

Potential members will judge your department by its responsiveness and friendliness. First impressions are a factor in volunteering also.

The person who makes the contact needs to make the best impression possible. It is a great job for one of the more "senior" members who may be retired, as long as they have the right attitude.
The fourth difference is timing. For many reasons, I get more requests to volunteer in September and after any natural disaster. People want to help, especially when they see there is a need.

Some of these volunteers may fizzle out after the crisis, but even if you gain one member, it is worth it. The harder part is to help the public understand that volunteers are always needed. It is OK to say we need help, even if some departments do not want to admit it.

Together, these differences lead to more members volunteering. It is worth the effort to find ways to help others volunteer. We always need more volunteers — we just need to do the work to get them. Together as a region we can pool our resources and ensure we all have what we need.

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