why you can’t find/keep volunteer firefighters

I’m one of the few – and maybe the only – consultants regarding volunteer engagement that regularly delves into the subject of volunteer firefighters. I’m not sure why most DOVIAs and other associations of managers of volunteers avoid the subject. Surely the fundamentals we volunteer management experts believe are essential to success in involving volunteers also apply to involving volunteer firefighters? Yet, go to a conference on volunteer engagement and you will find few, if any, workshops related to engaging and supporting volunteer firefighters. Go to a web site with resources about volunteer engagement, and you may not find any information about the particular environment of volunteer firefighting. Likewise, walk into a fire station which is staffed fully or partly by volunteer firefighters, and you probably won’t see any books related to volunteer management, in general, and few managers of volunteer firefighters attend DOVIA-related meetings or conferences.

This gap really bothers me.

I’ve been interested in the reasons fire stations involve volunteer firefighters, and the challenges faced in recruiting and retaining such volunteers, since 2001, when I started dating a volunteer firefighter in Germany. He’s now my husband (and now a volunteer firefighter in the USA). It’s been fascinating to compare Germany – with the highest number of volunteer firefighters, per capita, in the world – with the USA. Both are facing similar challenges regarding volunteer firefighters – and both have far more people complaining about “the way things used to be,” rather than addressing the realities of the day and leveraging our times many strengths to recruit, involve and support volunteer firefighters. Earlier this year, I compiled research and case studies regarding recruitment and retainment of volunteer firefighters & justifications for involving volunteer firefighters that do NOT relate to “money saved”. It was my tiny effort to get stations that are staffed wholly or partly by volunteers to quit complaining and start changing so they can flourish in the world we live in now.

I also try to track issues related specifically to volunteer firefighters that are talked about in the news. Recently, a colleague passed on two articles to me:

Without volunteers, rural fire districts wouldn’t exist, laments the lack of volunteers in several rural areas of Oregon, and blames the problem on the attitude of young people, with comments like:

  • Young people don’t believe in an expectation that they will volunteer for their community
  • “Most of the younger folks say, ‘We don’t have time,” or ‘We’re too busy with class,'”
  • “It’s hard to get the volunteers to show up (to calls)…It seems like on training night they have something else better to do. If it’s in the middle of the night, the younger guys would rather sleep, so it’s just two or three of us that show up on a regular basis.”
  • “They want to be firemen and (then) they see something they don’t like. Like a wreck.”

The article never interviews any current or former volunteers, to find out why they have volunteered, challenges to their volunteering, why they left, etc. It never interviews young people to find out their attitudes about volunteerism and community service – it just takes the word of a couple of guys that do not represent that demographic. And those comments wouldn’t make me want to volunteer there if I were in my 20s or 30s, as they obviously don’t like people from that generation – they say so! 

And in the same publication is this: Coos Bay trying to buck trend of declining volunteer firefighters. It attributes lack of volunteers to:

  • the community’s aging population
  • economic problems
  • stricter standards for volunteers regarding their training
  • lack of monetary compensation
  • busier lives
  • lack of social interactions – it’s just work to do, no fun aspects, like there used to be when you could drink alcohol in the stations

Again, no current or former volunteers are interviewed.

These articles also leave out some other factors that are, no doubt, affecting the numbers of volunteer firefighters:

  • Firefighters don’t fight fires all that much. They don’t even do rescues all that much. The vast majority of their calls are medical calls. They do far more ambulatory/paramedic work than they do true firefighting work. Ask your volunteer firefighters, current and former, which calls they find most appealing – most will tell you fire fighting. Perhaps it’s time for the USA to look into the German model, where a separate, dedicated agency handles emergency medical calls? That greatly reduces training costs for firefighters – as well as equipment costs – and means firefighters get to be, mostly, firefighters.
  • The national union for career firefighters has stated it is against volunteer firefighters and would like to see all volunteers eliminated and replaced with paid people. A career firefighter in a big city is not allowed to be a volunteer firefighter in the small rural area where he or she lives, because of union rules as well. Volunteers feel this animosity from some career firefighters, and it creates a very unwelcoming environment in many stations. Unless this animosity is addressed, and statements about volunteers being valued because they save money stop, the number of volunteer firefighters is going to continue to drop.
  • Firefighters haven’t changed how they recruit. AT ALL. A sign out in front of a station that says “Volunteers needed” just isn’t going to cut it anymore. If there are young people in your community, there are potential volunteer firefighters, and you have to go where THEY are. You also have to have an ONLINE volunteering application. You have to be posting videos on Facebook and YouTube and Twitter of your firefighters in action, and reminding people via social media what volunteers do, how to do be one, and WHY to be one. And you have to reach out to people that speak languages in addition to English to make sure they know about volunteering opportunities and how to qualify.
  • Many stations do a substandard job of responding to inquiries aboutvolunteering, and applications from potential volunteers. Are you sure that EVERY person that calls or emails the city, the county, or your station about volunteering as a firefighter is getting a prompt, courteous, encouraging response? And are you sure every application is being responded to rapidly? Read Volunteers needed, but are they wanted? and Fire station turns away volunteers – & how it could be different for more on this subject.

As for the lack of a social aspect among firefighters today, that is HUGELY important for volunteer firefighters, particularly those that are not volunteering as a part of career exploration/advancement. Those volunteers hear all about all the work that needs to be done – but without some kind of social aspect, they aren’t going to last long. Also, social gatherings help to build cohesion among firefighters that can have benefits later during crisis situations. Could your station have a regular, unofficial meetup at a favorite pub once a month for all off-duty firefighters to play some darts, shoot some pool and just hang out socially? Would leaders at your station organize firefighter-only gatherings in their homes, such as potlucks or lawn games, even just twice a year? Would someone organize a rafting trip or a day trip to do bungee jumping for any firefighters interested in such? Creating a social aspect for your firefighters is tricky: activities have to be entirely unofficial, entirely voluntary, and regularly done in order to cultivate the kind of brother and sisterhood you want among all of your firefighters, volunteer and career. But without making a consistent effort, your volunteers will most certainly drift away, tired of being asked only to provide labor, and receiving no real value in return.

There ARE potential volunteer firefighters out there, even in your small town. You might be hearing a lot about how people are preferring microvolunteering, where they volunteer for only a few minutes or hours once, and have no requirement to ever volunteer again, but the reality is that there are also a LOT of people who are hungry to connect, hungry for a deeper, more substantial activity that connects them with the community and causes they believe in. Volunteer firefighting can have a great deal of appeal to today’s young people. But if you don’t have a welcoming environment, if you aren’t trying to reach them where they are, if you aren’t using social media, and if you are just talking about all the work that has to be done and the obligations to be fulfilled, those young people are going to go elsewhere. And that’s a shame, because they have a lot of energy, talent, ideas and strengths from which your fire station could benefit. Are you ready to evolve to involve them?

Of course, the only way to know for sure about the challenges for volunteers in any one fire department or association is to survey both current and departed volunteer firefighters – and perhaps those that applied to volunteer but never completed the process. And this kind of survey should be done at least every other year. Make a list of questions you want to ask these current and former volunteers, and then have journalism students from the local high school or management students from the local college or university ask the questions of the current and former volunteers – volunteers are much more likely to speak freely if it isn’t to the fire chief. Have the students compile all of the answers, and share it freely, openly, and welcome comments from everyone on what is offered. That’s your starting point.

Also see:

11 thoughts on “why you can’t find/keep volunteer firefighters

  1. Michael Kinkade

    Today I discovered your blog on volunteer firefighters in the United States. You introduce your article by stating “I am one of the few – and maybe the only – consultant regarding volunteer engagement that regularly delves into the subject of volunteer firefighters.” I have some experience in this myself. I have over 30 years in the fire service, working for eight fire departments on the west coast, and have spent most of my career in combination volunteer/career fire departments. I currently lead three departments, all primarily volunteer.

    The focus of this blog seems to be that there is a nationwide firefighter volunteer recruitment problem (true), and that the fire service understands little, and is doing little, to address this.

    The gap between your understanding and the reality bothers me.

    I understand your use of a newspaper article from Coos Bay to start this conversation. What I think is misleading (unintentionally) is your dependence of an anecdotal article written by a reporter on a single case study to justify some of your opinions, many of which are erroneous. There is a vast amount of research, training, classes, and material available to help departments with volunteer recruitment and retention, most of which make extensive use of. This has been a primary discussion in my industry for over two decades. Search through the National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer papers on volunteer recruitment and retention – you will find thousands. Look at the classes locally, regionally and nationally. Look at the grant awards for volunteer recruitment and retention coordinators – I have two in our little region. This grant and these positions did not exist ten years ago. You are missing an entire industry dedicated to working on this problem, and creative individuals that are making a huge difference. Locally I can look at Tad Buckingham, Phil Duncan, and Matt Aalto. Have you seen what Matt is doing in Stayton? Are you aware of the national impact that Tad is having with his partnership with the Veterans Administration? Are you aware of the creation of the volunteer intern programs? I believe you may have missed the volunteer recruitment and retention conference we hosted in our little community (at McMenamins) in March, where over 20 specialists from across the state came to McMenamins to discuss this issue and look at successful case studies. In an earlier blog response you criticize an agency for only having one academy a year (we actually have two), but do you know why we have to limit this? The reason is that we receive more applications than we could possibly train and hire.

    I could write reams on what is being done to enhance and improve volunteer firefighter recruitment, and the success we have had, but I do not want to dominate your blog site. Please feel free to call me and have coffee to discuss what national, local and regional programs that are being done. Yes, there are more things we can do, and yes, there are anecdotal problems within any organization – but you are not seeing the whole picture. We know each other, and live in same community – we can talk about it (503-992-3240). Maybe we can help each other understand your DOVIA industry and my fire service industry better.

    Michael Kinkade

  2. jcravens Post author

    The first part of the article talks about volunteer management experts – generalists, like myself – and how they largely ignore volunteer firefighting. It doesn’t mean there aren’t people who are deeply experienced in the management of volunteers in fire stations – re-read the paragraphs, and you will see I’m discussing volunteer engagement professionals, as a whole. I’m criticizing DOVIAs, former AVA conference organizers, ARNOVA, CNCS or other volunteer engagement conferences and researchers for ignoring volunteer firefighting, as well as . Instead, those that work with volunteer firefighters discuss it among themselves – and that’s fine, and they should, but it bothers me that these volunteer management organizations are largely ignoring volunteer firefighting. If you’ve benefitted from a NOVAA, DOVIA, AVA, ARNOVA, CNCS, or other volunteerism-related conference, and felt volunteer firefighting wasn’t ignored, by all means, name some of these conferences, and if some of the attendees to your McMennimin’s gathering were NOVAA members, I’d love to know – I’d love to find out I’m wrong in this criticism of my volunteer management colleagues in these associations. I know that firefighters themselves are looking into this problem – and they should. I also think learning across sectors is fundamental to effective volunteer engagement.

    As for the other focus of my blog, on how some firefighting stations can create an unwelcoming atmosphere, I’d be happy to dig up other articles about the lack of volunteer firefighters where fire station reps make statements that would discourage young people from seeking to volunteer there – in fact, I could find many articles from a VARIETY of nonprofit organizations that do the same thing. My point is simple: one cannot lament the lack of volunteers whilst also complaining about an entire age group. While it’s not at all something I’ve seen in Forest Grove, I’m sorry to say it’s something I’ve seen across the USA – and not just at fire stations. So many nonprofits are perfectly willing to make sweeping generalizations about age groups that they would never make about, say, people of a particular ethnicity or religion. Again, this isn’t something I’ve seen locally, but it’s something I see across the state, across the nation… the most jaw-dropping comment I ever heard was from an organization in Canada, in fact. And I think to blame the reporter is unfair – I think the reporter probably very well captured an atmosphere that, until then, was unidentified.

    It’s great that you’re researching volunteer recruitment strategies across volunteer fire stations. Keep doing that. It would be great to see more firefighters that live in the communities where they work, and volunteer engagement is a great way to do that, and sharing resources with other firefighters is a great way to do that. But don’t limit your reading to firefighter-related materials. There is a wealth of information out there that could help you related to volunteer engagement in a variety of settings. I’d be happy to refer you to those non-firefighter-related resources, if you are unfamiliar with them (such as Energize, Inc., ARNOVA, etc.).

    I hope you will read those other blog links at the bottom of this entry – they point to a lot more real-life examples regarding volunteerism in firefighting that aren’t going so well (non of which are Forest Grove, FYI – but that’s probably rather obvious). The recruitment process and atmosphere for volunteer firefighters here was one of the PRIMARY reasons we chose to live here, as I’ve mentioned in blogs a few times.

    And if you ever want to car pool to a NOVAA workshop, do let me know.

    1. Michael Kinkade

      I have gone back and re-read your post, and I do not think I misunderstood. I realized that you started by talking about the lack of awareness of volunteer firefighters among “volunteer engagement professionals”. In fact, if you go back and re-read my post you will see that there is an invitation and a phone number to further discuss it. I think there is a case to be made that both our industries may be able to benefit from some of the synergies and experience of each other.

      Where I disagreed with your perspective was when you began diagnosing the problems within the industry I work in. At one point you mentioned the “sweeping generalizations” of some non-profits, which I found somewhat ironic. That is what I believe you are doing – making sweeping generalizations, based on anecdotal evidence. When you made the statement “These articles leave also leave out other factors that are, no doubt, affecting the numbers of volunteer firefighters.” No doubt? You then list four bullet points of your conclusions about why we are having problems. I disagree with each of your points. The analogy I would draw would be if I suddenly began to criticize the actions of one (or all) of the volunteer management organizations you mention. I realize that as the spouse of a volunteer firefighter and informed observer you have access to more information than most – but as someone who has been involved in the industry locally, regionally and nationally, I also come with an informed perception, and I have to disagree with your conclusions.

      I do believe that there may be opportunities for both of our communities to learn and help each other. I am more than willing to talk to a partner that wants to learn as much as teach. We are in complete agreement that “learning across sectors is fundamental to effective volunteer engagement.” The fire service, as one of the oldest continuous volunteer organizations, could even offer some lessons to your groups. This is why I ended my previous post with an invitation, an invitation which I offer again.

      1. jcravens Post author

        As a volunteer management researcher, my comments are not based only on “anecdotal evidence.”

        If you’d like to point me to research articles that show fire houses involving volunteers in the USA are actually doing a great job of recruiting young volunteers, and keeping them for more than one year, I’d be happy to read them. You can put links or names and authors in the comments here – I’m sure others will enjoy reviewing the data as well.

        According to fireengineering.com and the NVFC web site “volunteer firefighters make up 69 percent of the nation’s, yet the number of volunteers has declined by about 12 percent since 1984. At the same time, call volume has nearly tripled. In addition, the average age of the volunteer fire service is increasing as departments are finding it difficult to reach millennials -€“ those within the 18-34 age range.”

  3. Jake

    I agree with your post. We have a big gap trying to get people to volunteer. I just don’t know how we are going to fix it. People just don’t want to volunteer.

  4. jcravens Post author

    Thanks for replying, Jake. But I have to disagree – people DO want to volunteer. But they aren’t being told what’s available, and their schedules aren’t be accommodated. Also, we have a corporate culture that discourages people from volunteering more than just at a one day, just-show-up beach cleanup. If nonprofits and government agencies don’t get the word out much more effectively about volunteering opportunities (and aren’t funded better to support such), and if we don’t get rid of the 40+-hour-work week, organizations will continue to struggle to find and keep volunteers. But people DO want to volunteer – that isn’t the problem at all.

  5. Henry

    It’s interesting you sight articles yet haven’t taken any time to get your own statistics. I am a 27 year veteran on an all volunteer fire department currently holding the rank of Asst. Chief. I also attend college full time at a local community college with over 2600 students. I am very active in the college community and have made it a point to try to convince our younger generation of the importance of volunteering. For one of my classes I choose to do a speech on the Vanishing Volunteer Firefighter. I took this opportunity to survey students as to their knowledge of volunteer firefighting. When asked if they knew that approximately 69% of the firefighters in the U.S. were volunteer, 79% did not. When asked if they have ever given any thought to volunteering, 72%. Of the other 28% that had given it thought, just over 98% said they wouldn’t join due to a variety of reasons listed below. When asked whether they understood the need for volunteer firefighters; 29% fully understood; 42% somewhat understood; 29% didn’t understand. When asked what would keep them from joining it was overwhelming for one thing, time at over 95%. Other issues from health problems, fear, no interest, volunteering in other areas a long with a host of various other reasons were given for reasons why they wouldn’t join.
    So I guess you have me confused with your comments about the current generation. All though I agree its bad policy to discuss the current generation in a negative way in regard to attracting them to volunteer I find you are either being given incorrect information or are out of touch with how today’s generation feels about volunteering to be a firefighter. From what I’ve seen in school today’s youth prefers short term, quick in and out style volunteering to long term committed volunteering. I work daily trying to show how rewarding, fun and social being on a volunteer fire department can be. Our department works hard to have several gatherings over the course to keep moral levels high and to make the group we have draw closer. However it is difficult to get the members to even attend these events. Many site the fact that they give enough of their time volunteering, they don’t feel like giving up additional time they really don’t have to socialize. Others have to many family obligations to attend the events. You claim that no volunteers are interviewed to gain information like this and I agree that is important. But this information comes directly from the mouths of our members, I don’t make it up.
    The lack of time issue is not an anomaly. I myself am having issues being involved while attending college full time. When you pile into the mix marriage, children and both parents working full time it is quickly clear why people have no time. Those that od make a bit of time are barely able to do that. There was a time when Mom was stay at home, and it allowed Dad to put full effort into being a volunteer firefighter. That just isn’t the case anymore. Single young adults find it difficult to obtain employment after graduating and often must work two jobs just to pay school loans. Add social lives into their busy schedule and it leaves them with little time or want to join. It becomes easy to understand why we are seeing the falling numbers of volunteers.
    I like your spending time trying to delve into this circle and trying to figure out what is the cause of the vanishing of our volunteers but I think you need to expand your understanding of what exactly is causing the problem. It goes far beyond the use of social media and going where the young people are. Many of us, at least in this part of the country are doing that, with little success. I am in the trenches as I said at a local college, but have made no headway with trying to connect today’s youth with the needs of their communities.

    1. jcravens Post author

      Firstly, thanks so much for commenting. I respect your experience, your views, and the time you spent writing this very long, thoughtful response.

      “It’s interesting you sight articles yet haven’t taken any time to get your own statistics.”

      I’m not understanding this sentence.

      “When asked if they knew that approximately 69% of the firefighters in the U.S. were volunteer, 79% did not.”

      Which is something I have touched on as well – so this proves that point: firefighting companies have done a poor job of talking about the contributions and importance of volunteers to younger generations. An understanding that past generations have had, seemingly automatically, about volunteer firefighting is lacking among Gen Xers like my self and Millennials and whatever is coming next. I bet you would get the same results with a survey most anywhere in the country re: lack of awareness about volunteer firefighters.

      “just over 98% said they wouldn’t join due to a variety of reasons listed below… When asked what would keep them from joining it was overwhelming for one thing, time at over 95%.”

      But do they really know how much time it takes? They might be stunned to find out that it doesn’t take as much time as they might think. They also might not know how much volunteering can boost their career prospects even if they DON’T want to be a career firefighter. There’s so much they *don’t* know, as your survey shows – and I bet there’s lots more – about volunteer firefighting. Don’t you wonder what their response would be if they really understood what volunteer firefighting is, the benefits they would receive, and the actual time commitment it takes?

      “So I guess you have me confused with your comments about the current generation.”

      I don’t see why. You’ve proven so many of my points in your response – primarily, that they have a great deal of misunderstanding about what volunteering at a fire station means now, versus what their perception might be, what the benefits are, etc. If these younger generations were better informed, I bet there would be a lot more recruits among these younger generations. That’s certainly the case here in Forest Grove, which has no problem recruiting far more people to apply to volunteer and go through each academy than it has places.

      “From what I’ve seen in school today’s youth prefers short term, quick in and out style volunteering to long term committed volunteering.”

      And from what I’ve seen in working with thousands of volunteers, and slogging through endless numbers of research and articles – that’s what I do, not for fun, but it’s my job – is that young people **say** they want short-term, quickie volunteering – micro volunteering – but aren’t following through with ACTION. What they are saying, versus what they are actually DOING as volunteers, are too different things. In addition, from my work with volunteers, I find that people that do undertake lots of micro volunteering start wanting more – something more significant, something more substantial. They want volunteering that will really accomplish something, give them hard skills, give them great connections, and feels great to do – and they just don’t get that from continual micro volunteering. Micro volunteering is a great “taster” for new volunteers, but it’s not something people stick with over years.

      “I work daily trying to show how rewarding, fun and social being on a volunteer fire department can be.”

      That’s wonderful! What are some of the daily activities you do? How do you train current volunteers to be advocates? What social media do you use and how often? What community events do you attend – events that aren’t yours, but another groups, that reach people that you would love to volunteer? I’d love to see some of your social media messages – do you do your social media through the department’s Twitter and Facebook official accounts? Do you encourage other firefighters to share/retweet those messages? Have you made sure absolutely everyone answering your company’s phone or email knows how to direct all inquiries re: volunteering?

      “Others have to many family obligations to attend the events.”

      That’s absolutely true. With the USA practice of 40 or more work weeks, family time is scarce. I think that’s probably the biggest block to people applying for volunteer firefighting.

      “There was a time when Mom was stay at home, and it allowed Dad to put full effort into being a volunteer firefighter.”

      Wow – a rarity, even in the 1950s! Good for you that you had that experience. That’s an ideal most homes in the USA never experienced, despite what “Leave it to Beaver” and similar shows have told us. Now, there are so many women that would make great candidates to be volunteer firefighters – what outreach do you do especially for women, or to make sure it’s obvious that your station is welcoming to women volunteer firefighters?

      “Single young adults find it difficult to obtain employment after graduating and often must work two jobs just to pay school loans.”

      Absolutely true of many, but not every, young person. And many young people don’t understand how volunteer firefighting – and, indeed, other types of leadership volunteering – can help in job hunting. My husband landed his job here in the USA in part because of his volunteer firefighting training, and while not a volunteer firefighter, I’ve landed many a job because of my intensive, specialized volunteering in a variety of scenarios. How do we let young people know how much volunteering can help their career prospects?

      “but I think you need to expand your understanding of what exactly is causing the problem.”

      I think I’m well aware of the problem, as my extensive research and experience shows. The problem is, indeed, beyond using social media – it’s about changing the culture of many fire stations, and changing the attitude of the career firefighting union from being anti-volunteer – two things you haven’t mentioned at all, yet are HUGE obstacles to recruiting the next generations of volunteer firefighters.

      Again, thanks so much for writing, and I hope you will look into the plethora of expert information available online and in print form that can help you improve your recruitment efforts among young people.

  6. Henry

    First, I would like to point out that after giving my speech, which was very in depth, that the students views didn’t change as to wanting to join. Several even went so far as to saying, what’s in it for me? Clearly showing that more and more people care more for personal gain then the betterment of their community.
    I’m guessing because I don’t know where your from but it’s not in the Northeast. Here things are much worse in terms of recruitment then the rest of the country. The liberal Northeast mentality of get not give seems to place a part in this. We could go on about that, whether true or not true but for me entitlement plays into a big part of the problem, especially here.
    How much time do you think it takes? Initial training requirements alone scare most people away. When I tell people “mandatory” training, more then likely that’s the last time I see them. Something that seems to be lost in the sauce on this topic is that for instance when I first joined we had no mandated requirements, none. Most small volunteer departments were still in their infancy of responding to non-fire related emergencies such as EMS. It was literally 2 hours a week, hands on training period. This is simply no longer the case. State mandates alone result in countless hours of training. Our newer apparatus purchased through Federal Grant Programs have stipulations forcing any that drive them to be certified. Good at first glance, but ads to training time. I could go on but I’m guessing at least to some extent your aware of some of this.
    Something else not talked about here is the dollar factor. When a potential volunteer asks you if it’s going to cost me money, the answer is yes. Could be lost time from work, long distances to drive to training add up on fuel and so on. Our town is less then 1500 people, our budget is $45,000 annually to run 2 stations and 7 pieces of apparatus. There is no room for reimbursement in that budget.
    You state in simple terms that volunteering to be a firefighter is good for a resume. This simply is not the case. Most employees would agree that they stand behind the aspect of volunteer firefighters, they fall short when it comes to the hiring them. Employees cringe simply seeing that listed on applications or resumes. I know this all to we’ll having experienced it first hand myself along with countless stories told front fellow volunteers.
    I could go on but I’m out of time.

    1. jcravens Post author

      “I would like to point out that after giving my speech, which was very in depth, that the students views didn’t change as to wanting to join.”

      Not surprising. In fact… it reinforces my point: changing perspectives about volunteer firefighting among young people, and changing the culture of fire stations, is going to take more than one speech!

      As for the amount of training it takes – it should! This isn’t volunteer-when-you-feel like it. It’s an ongoing role that requires particular skills. A lot of people *want* that kind of volunteering – but they just need a clear picture of how it works, and ideas for balancing work, family and volunteer firefighting. After initial training, how much time does it take a week? Being clear about that – and the benefits of training outside of a firefighting role – can be a big plus in recruitment messages. Again – other fire houses aren’t having trouble recruiting volunteers for their academies; the much bigger problem is KEEPING them. And that’s another blog…

      I’m not sure what else to say. Again, I would love to have a look at your social media activities and even your web site – I would be happy to give you advice on how to make that messaging indicate that you are a station worth volunteering with, that you would welcome all volunteers from a variety of backgrounds, etc.

      “You state in simple terms that volunteering to be a firefighter is good for a resume. This simply is not the case.”

      It is. I know volunteers that have been hired specifically because of their training and experience as volunteer firefighters. But they don’t just say, “I’m a volunteer firefighter.” They list their training, the special projects they’ve undertaken, etc. Employers are VERY interested in having employees with such training.

      So, again, I offer to look at all of your outreach materials and activities and give you ideas beyond what I already have. Just email me at jc@coyotecommunications.com – I’ll give you this freebie. But to be honest – it sounds like you’ve given up. And that attitude probably comes through in your volunteer outreach.

      Again, thanks so much for sharing your experience. Hope you will try some of this advice. It DOES work – if it didn’t, I wouldn’t promote it.


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