Why is it difficult to recruit new members to be a volunteer firefighter? Could it be that new members are afraid to get chew out because they might make mistakes? Be advised. This is a no holds barred discussion. 

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Robert, go look at my blog on recruitment and retention. You may find some answers there. With that being said the biggest reason is time. I'm not sure how long your classes run in VA. Here in NY they are 86 hours for FF1 and as of Jan.  that is going to 120 hours of training. So that will be one night 5 hours of class and 8 to 10 hours on a Saturdays. For roughly 6 months every week. Also scene support class will be 40 hours  longer. So you start with just this much time before you can do anything and the issues i bring up in my short blog and i think you'll find your answer. Let my know what you think.  

Our biggest problem in our area is getting new people through investigations, medical exams and into classes. Also like my volunteer dept. we don't have many senior or new members hanging around all the time. Most of our response crew are county career personnel manning  the station around the clock.

Training for new members has to be completed in 18 months after they join. They have to have FF1 and EMT-B by the time they finish.

Our dept. I can remember had 60 members between to stations and as the years went by we turned one station over to the county and then continued to lose more members for many reasons. Our members our just enough to have officers and some that ride and the rest help when needed or discuss and decide on something for the dept. 



Derek J Sinesi said:

Robert, go look at my blog on recruitment and retention. You may find some answers there. With that being said the biggest reason is time. I'm not sure how long your classes run in VA. Here in NY they are 86 hours for FF1 and as of Jan.  that is going to 120 hours of training. So that will be one night 5 hours of class and 8 to 10 hours on a Saturdays. For roughly 6 months every week. Also scene support class will be 40 hours  longer. So you start with just this much time before you can do anything and the issues i bring up in my short blog and i think you'll find your answer. Let my know what you think.

So what's your answer?  Should we go back to the days of having people join, give them bunker gear, a 5 minute class on SCBA, walk around the trucks, and then all the rest be OJT?  

In Wisconsin we have a 60 hour class called Firefighter Entry Level.  This is the first segment of FF1 and allows firefighters to work on the fire ground and do interior firefighting.  If certification is desired add another 36 hours of fire training and 24 hours of haz mat ops.  For FF2 add another 42 hours of fire training.  Wisconsin does not offer a class called "Scene Support."  Entry Level is required by state administrative code before you can do any fire fighting.

Time is an excuse used by people that don't want to be a volunteer firefighter.  These same people find time to play softball 5 nights a week, or bowl in leagues, or play darts, or any number of other activities.  They seem to find time for them, yet finding a few hours a month for meetings and drills is impossible.

Honestly I think public image plays a HUGE part in the ability to attract members.  If you look like a bunch of good old boys playing firefighter that affects membership.  If the station is a dump that affects membership.  If the trucks are in disarray, dirty, and not maintained, that affects membership.  We need to have a professional image in everything we do to attract the best of our community.

Leadership play another HUGE role in determining the retention and recruitment of firefighters.  If you have effectual leadership that keeps up with skills and technology and is an open minded yet consistent and firm leader people will want to work for them.  Leaders that refuse to stop the squabbling and drama that plague so many volunteer fire and ems departments soon kill incentive and desire to be a member.  Also add to that leaders that haven't learned a damn thing in 20 years when they have new young hard chargers coming onboard and how long will those people bash their heads into a block wall before they move on?
     

Don, I'm not saying that at all. You should by now know that i think training levels are not enough. Our FF1 doesn't make you a automatic interior FF. It will allow you to ride a truck and do exterior firefighting work. If you have read my blog you will see i have addressed the good ole boy image along with leadership and other points. 

You are exactly correct when you state time is a excuse. The fact of the matter is excuse or not it is what you hear all the time. I know people who get discouraged about the I'd love to join but i'm to busy statement all the time. I say this If they don't have the time to join and go through the required classes in the set time frame; then they most likely our not people you need on your department anyways. If they can't make time to do required classes to join then after they join they will pick and choose what calls or drill's they are going to come to.

Man I can't believe you asked that. I don't know what the whole answer is. But public image is a major role in the solution. Leadership is a major role in the solution. 

Time is probably one of the main problem. You got new members, including Junior Members that just expect to be handed things to do the job. No, it doesn't work like that. I had to bust my ass, sweat and bleed to earn my Firefighter 1, Haz-Mat Ops, and EVOC 1, 2 and 3 certifications. If I were to give my two cents about this. I'd say that part of the problem is that new members tend to have this Whats-In-It-For-Me attitude and some new members feel entitled to be respected. Another part of the problem is that some firefighters tend to hold new members back. That's through my experience. But my experience is different from another Senior Firefighter's experience. I consider myself as a Veteran Firefighter and Senior Firefighter. I've been in the fire service for eight years. I'm big on washing the trucks. That's the first thing I do after I step foot inside the walls of the fire department I volunteer at. I check to see if the trucks need to be washed and I check to see if the trucks need to be topped off on fuel on the tour I'm on duty for. Right now, I'm in charge of the fire department's utility and brush trucks. I love those trucks. I guess it comes down to the quality and personality of a new member that's eager and gung-ho. I'm a gung-ho and eager Senior veteran firefighter. I run calls, train, attend business and training meetings and I do fundraisers for the department. 
Derek J Sinesi said:

Don, I'm not saying that at all. You should by now know that i think training levels are not enough. Our FF1 doesn't make you a automatic interior FF. It will allow you to ride a truck and do exterior firefighting work. If you have read my blog you will see i have addressed the good ole boy image along with leadership and other points. 

You are exactly correct when you state time is a excuse. The fact of the matter is excuse or not it is what you hear all the time. I know people who get discouraged about the I'd love to join but i'm to busy statement all the time. I say this If they don't have the time to join and go through the required classes in the set time frame; then they most likely our not people you need on your department anyways. If they can't make time to do required classes to join then after they join they will pick and choose what calls or drill's they are going to come to.

Man I can't believe you asked that. I don't know what the whole answer is. But public image is a major role in the solution. Leadership is a major role in the solution. 

At some of the departments that I have been a part of, this was an issue at others it was not. As stated by earlier posts, Leadership is a Large part of the scenario, as well as time commitments. One particular department that I have been a part of classifies everyone as volunteers but then turns around and requires you  to be at the station for a particular shift each week, During that time we saw a dramatic increase in turnover due to the demands of the department. One other department was more of the be here when you can make at least 1 training a month and kept for the most part the same volunteers with new additions monthly the whole 6 years i was at that department

There are several departments that expect you to be at the firehouse more than expected. That is a problem. But one can say that if you don't have the time to be a volunteer firefighter and volunteer your time into the fire department. Then you shouldn't have joined the fire department. Some guys that has been in the fire service for a long time due tend to hold new members back. That's another problem. And there are some people that have the Whats-In-It-For-Me kind of attitude. There's another problem. Of course there are some people that take an ass chewing. There is a reason why it's the brotherhood in the fire department. From a Junior member to the rank of Chief, whatever you do is documented. Even the things you do wrong or I do wrong. IF I get chewed out, it's for a very good reason. Leadership may contribute too. But so does attitude, determination, commitment and dedication. 
Zachary Wolf said:

At some of the departments that I have been a part of, this was an issue at others it was not. As stated by earlier posts, Leadership is a Large part of the scenario, as well as time commitments. One particular department that I have been a part of classifies everyone as volunteers but then turns around and requires you  to be at the station for a particular shift each week, During that time we saw a dramatic increase in turnover due to the demands of the department. One other department was more of the be here when you can make at least 1 training a month and kept for the most part the same volunteers with new additions monthly the whole 6 years i was at that department

Becoming a volunteer firemen has a lot to do with a few things

#1 Knowing and understanding what is truly expected of you to be part of the particular volunteer fire department you are joining. Is it written in by-laws the requirements that is expected of you and did you actually read them?

#2 Your time available to truly commit to become properly trained as a firefighter. Certain departments may expect for you to be trained as a FF! in a year and I have heard some as much as 2 years. Besides the regular FF1 course their may be department trainings that you have to complete to ensure you understand your department SOP's.

#3 A much overlooked reason - "Is your family behind you joining the fire department ?" We all have seen a marriage stressed or a spouse hate the volunteer fire department because they feel their other half spends too much time at the fire house. How much is one really ready to sacrifice ?

#4 As far as getting chewed out for making mistakes - that's all in the delivery of the leader. Is it "C'mon we will do this together and I will show you how we can get it done" or is it "Let me show you how much I know and you don't" delivery. Maybe its in the way the delivery is and not necessarily in the reception. Was the person taught correctly ? Can't blame someone if they were taught wrong either.

#5 As a leader (whether you be a Chief or Officer) you are elected by the membership to be a leader - Not an asshole. Anybody can sit their and bark orders, but a good leader you must remember you represent the men and/or women that put you their. Be proud of what you do and be proud of them and they will follow you to the end. Remember one very important thing I was told by a senior man in my volunteer department when I became officer for the first time - "You are part of a team no matter what position you hold in the department , they just elected you to represent them - be damn proud of it" 

#6 We were all new once - and I don't care how many fire science classes you have, how many doctrines you have,,, until you have actual real time fire experience you really don't know what its like or how you will act like until you are in the "SH#T". How are you going to act or react? Will you freek or freeze? Or with proper training will you be nervous as hell as you should be and be able to perform through proper repetitious training. No one can prepare you for that moment unless you have a good mentoring program. Someone who is willing to take the time to prepare you for that time when it is going to get ugly. Nothing speaks for experience... absolutely nothing.

I believe there's several ways to think about this. Not an expert just my own crazy theory.

Poor leadership is one cause, so much demand to be a good officer and especially a training officer these days, poor teachings or boring trainings, lack of serious interst in recruiting outsiders.

With my fire department we already have our training schedule for the whole year. In California as a volunteer you only need 110 hours of training after a year that volunteer certificate turns into your ff1, pretty easy. And most volunteers dont like the fact that they have to go out get medical training or get a class B license,  so some might be afraid to spend money.

and some older people joining may not like the fact they are being trained by a 21-27 year olds.

ways to recruit/retain: awesome sign that says we want you no experience necessary, good moral, staff is on point, training is good, making the department a family we all have to trust the person next to us. Enforcing rules very big to us they follow the rules no one will have a problem, open house great way to recruit, 

Here's some of my thoughts:

I agree that time is a big factor as it related to personal financial stability.

Another is increased time demands for training and certification requirements.

I've seen where the battle of career vs volunteer has devastated some departments and presents as discouraging for new members.

With the long term decrease in volunteerism, I speculate those of us still in are burning out having to take up the slack for our agencies being understaffed.

Bobby, Normally the battle of career vs volunteer keeps going on due the the volunteer side. Not always but most of the time. One shouldn't be to hard on the career guys. They are smart enough to get paid for doing the job. We both do the same job. What i have seen is the volunteers saying how good they are to the career guys. The career guy probably knows what the volunteer guys are doing for training. (Most of the time not much.) This is the career vs volunteer thing. I have never seen this being a problem with recruitment. But if you know of a department; that it has been a problem get me a number and contact person because i'd love to learn about this being a problem.

Yeah, i probably should have been a little more general being on a grander scale is both. My example is local, & some old wounds. Hopefully with new leadership they bury the problem.

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