Where do we go when recruitment becomes non existent in some communities?

Where does everyone see the volunteer departments going that are no longer able to recruit people? We have had signs up and adds in the paper the last 3 years and we cant get people in our coverage area which comprises of a village and 3 townships. We maybe have had 4 inquiries but none can either pass a background check or a drug test?? We usuaully run around 70-80 fire calls (alarms, structures, vehicles, MVA's) and 200-250 EMS runs. We have have guys ready to retire but nobody inline to replace them.


I guess im just concerned about 5 years from now. We all have regular jobs and many of us work 2 jobs. Are communities like us going to have to just suck it up and hire full timers to ensure a response even though we dont have all that high of call volumes? What needs to be done. The people in our area obviously dont have an interest in become Firefighters/EMTs with all the recruitment we have done. Eventually response is certain to go badly.

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I guess one question would be, Do you go out to events and talk to the public? Talk to the commuity groups, attend community events, recruit at the high schools. Put a face out there with the signs and talk to the public. It might help.  

This goes directly into Russ's thread on the Demise of the Volunteer Fire service. IF you have call volume and can't get volunteers to cover those responses, the alternatives are limited. The other aspects as mentioned, physicals, drug tests, etc which are important aspects in having a professional level of service and more volly depts should take such issues into account as opposed to the "take what you can get" approach.


I would say Ashfire hit on some good aspects to consider for recruiting and would be a good place to start.

Honestly, as a fire and ems cadet who was recently recruited, what works the best is just sit down with a group of highschoolers and explain to them the benefits and opportunities of the business. Although i am with a full time department, we picked up eight cadets in three months. We do have a high call volume, but nothing major, hope advice from someone who recently went through it helps!

For the purpose of this response I'm going to refer to the signs and newspaper ads as "Passive Recruiting"  it's nice if you can get a volunteer from them but don't count on it.  You need to do some more "Active Recruiting"

Get out in your community, set up a booth at a community event, talk to people you run into in the community.  Don't just sit and wait for people to come to you.

One of my captains has recruited about 1/4 of the employees at the local grocery store just by talking to them and getting to know them when he's in the store.  These are young, hard working dependable people who have an honest interest in serving their community.  

Probably 90 % of our new members are actively recruited by an existing member. 

Give your members a challenge, ask each of them to identify one person they know who might be interested and would make a good firefighter and invite them to come down to the station to hang out/take a tour.  While there talk to them about becoming a member.  you might only get 20% of the members who actually bring someone in but you could end up with several new members from those who do come in.  

We hold a fund raiser where we sell hot dogs and hamburgers every month outside the local grocery store.  We only make  a little money off of it, but the real value is that the community gets to see us and we always have applications on hand it's pretty common for someone to come up and start the "I've always wanted to be a firefighter" conversation and when that happens we hand them an application and give them the chance.

 Along with all the above great points, one might want to take a step back and look at the overall operation of the dept. Maybe therein lies the reasons people might not want to jump on board..MAYBE. For example, Is there serious training happening on a regular basis? (whatever regular means) Is safety really practiced or merely lip service?  ( one just has to watch a fire scene to get a decent answer to that.. if members simply show up in civies and not proper ppe.. well ..next!) Is there strong leadership vs rampant freelancing, which leads to huge mistakes and an image along the line of the keystone cops. Are the community governments working WITH or AGAINST the well-being of the fire department? Is the social aspect or community (emergency) service the main priority? In other words, is the energy and commitment level that a dept. social function gets, the same as regular training/drill night? Is the general concensus of the public image just the proverbial "ole boy's club" or does the community at large even know anything about the department, other than " you call we show up ( maybe). So that might be one of the issues holding back new recruits. Maybe with all the public eduation, all the publicity from 911 etc, people really DO understand the job of a firefighter, and maybe they just don't want to jump into a job that is inherently dangerous enough even WITH all the safety measures and SOG/SOP's in place to help prevent injury, nevermind having to take the chances that there are other, maybe even more experienced members on scene, that are not as safety minded as they would expect or want them to be or might be under the influence of something,  That as a matter of fact is a nice seque into the "Backdraft, Rescue Me, and even the new Chicago Fire"  shows that portray firefighters in unrealistic ways sometimes. You know what, kids ( your future members) are smarter than we think. Society today is different from when we joined.. and perhaps they don't like "our" way of doing things.. just some food for thought!


Try transplanted professionals as a new pool.  I work in finance in NYC during the week but my wife and I have a country house in PA on the weekends.  So in one way I have no historic link to the area.  I had no previous involvement in fire service and thought simply that it was beyond my abilities.  On a lark this summer I called up the firehouse and 2 hours later was filling out the paperwork, got ride-qualified and am now taking FF1 on the weekends. There could be a lot of people in your area who have no idea that they can participate, or what's involved, so their father or brother was not a firefighter, for example.  I can only help on the weekends but I see they still have needs.  But believe me, people are looking to bring meaning to their lives, especially after the hellish economy we've had.  And we're also recreating what it means to be "community" - in my opinion it's becoming more of a self-created concept.  How to find these people?  Try reaching out to professional organizations - the Chamber of Commerce should know what sort of groups exist.  Realtors are professional networkers so they know what groups are good and attracting new members.  Then I think you need to actually send somebody to a couple of monthly meetings.  Advertising might only attract people are already know what's involved.  I think you have an opportunity to bring new people into it! 

excellent idea Roger! Not crazy about the chicken... but love your ideas! lol   ;)


Hey Brian - It took me a minute on the "chicken" - I just updated my handle.  It's for Kimberton Fire Co - maybe I should fix it!

lol  well, now that's isn't gonna be any fun now is it? lol People with think I am out to lunch.. lol I will just have to delete my initial comment too now hahahahaa.. 

stay safe bro

We know that feeling, the only recruits we get are mainly firefighters families members. Our town lost the high school 45 years ago has been a detrimental . The only businesses are a gas station, two bars, diner, health food  store and couple other family operations. Our dairy farms have consolidated into a only couple. The actual population has collapse other the years. now at just over 1200. Most of our department are over 55 and few chances of new members as everyone is working or moving out of town. We keep trying to recruit but is hard.

Hey Judson - Where actually is your town?

There are solutions. We as a service just have to be willing to look beyond the doors of the fire station and the ways that we always have recruited..


1. Recognize that recruiting is hard work, and a speciality. Recruiting isn't just something that you do in a hurry - it requires identifying your departments strengths, identifying who in your community is likely yo volunteer and just as importantly, why they will volunteer, developing a message for those incorporating the reasons they are likely to volunteer and delivering the messages to those target audiences in multiple ways and multiple places.

It requires a knowledge of marketing and motivation. It requires sending a member or two to college level courses on the subjects and utilizing the same marketing principles that are used to sell soap, hamburgers or any other product, because that is what the volunteer fire service is - a product.

2. Recognize that opeople in this economy have value. recognize the wide variety of ways that ways that people want to be rewarded.That may include slight reimbursement, family activities, coffe mugs now and then or simply recognition on aboard in the station for going above and beyond. The fact is the volunteer fire service needs to understand that folks need some type of motivation and they need to be rewarded... and that doesn't always mean money.

3. Recognize that we are in compettion for volunteers with a number of other entitiies. Develop a sense of who we are and implement that sense. Market who we are.

4. have a plan forr when members walk into the door. Let them know what the process is, and what they will be doing to progress through the process. Be honest about the time committment. Don't waste their time. Don't waste their time. And don't waste thier time.

5. Not every firefighter has to be a rifleman. Allow for exterior firefighters. Allow for drivers only. Allow for fireground and non-fireground support members. Allow for folks to help out in thier area of expertise even if they want nothing to do with fire including prevention, fund raising, apparatus maiantainece, RECRUITING, admin, etc etc etc.

Sure there are places where the deographics - total poulation, age, income - will make it difficult. that being said you need to understand your community and understand how to reach them, and that requires education in marketing and retention.

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