(posted on the forum as well. Some people blog, some people work the forums)
For those that have followed my discussions (and yes there are just a few of them) you will know I am extremely passionate in promoting Junior/explorer programs. I don't have the gift to outline phenominal programs as the likes of Tiger Schmittendorf (read his recruiting and retention blogs, they are amazing) but I do have some summer pointers to help promote our next generation of "young blood" and hopefully bring their friends into the fire service as well.
My first rule of a Junior program is simple. ALWAYS have multiple advisors (3 is good). These advisors MUST always work together with the juniors. Never work on a 1 on 1 with ANY junior without the presence of more advisors. One word, LIABILTY. Now that my disclosure is over heres the good stuff.
High schools in my region have added a minimum amount of hours of community service as a mandate for graduation. What better way to market your junior program than to get your name out there? If your local school board has meetings, plan to attend and state your case.
Have equipment for the new juniors. Allow them to do things. Nothing worse than having to "stand back and observe only" for any and all calls. (for those who do this per your policy, you do your thing, I personally disagree with it) Allow them the benefit of training in their own set of PPE. Allow them to train on the same things as the senior members do. (exception of live burns. Here they have outside roles they can fulfill)
Instill Safety being the number 1 deal with firefighting. Leadership through example works extremely well here.
Promote the juniors you already have. There is no better marketing tool than getting them recognition for taking on community based projects. (non fire dept related) Have them rake a park, or plant flowers together as a group with their advisors. ALWAYS have them wear fire department shirts that show the community that it is your juniors who are making a differance outside the firehouse. Community leaders are born this way.
Take 1 night/day per month and have a "recreation day" at the firehouse or in your community. Nothing promotes brotherhood/sisterhood more than being able to jive well professionally and socially. When you build the bond between the members, you will be rewarded by more dedicated firefighters.
Have Junior training 1 night per month. This 1 night per month they should be able to memorize where every piece of equipment is, have gear races/SCBA races, (practice and repetition) know how to start and run all equipment (other than apparatus) and will also allow them ample time to learn with their young peers. General training is for the juniors, but the seniors primarily get the training, the juniors get the hose rolling/deck gun aiming)
Have your junior members raise their own money and elect one of them as treasurer (bookkeeper only the funds go to the bank). They will develope a sense of pride in raising money for their program to use to buy things like helmets, extrication gloves, or general pizza for recreation nights. If they do well with their fundraising they can buy a piece of equipment for the department to use as a whole. Again, pride in working for the items pays off.
Ensure sexual harassment policies are known, and each member signs paperwork saying they know the policy. (zero tolerance)
Have all the senior members treat the juniors with respect and dignity. They like the seniors are just starting out and deserve a break. (safety violations should be addressed immediately) We all learn at differant levels and paces. Understand that sometimes people will not pick up and understand things as readily as you do.
Ensure proper grades are being maintained at school. As in sports in school, you can't fail any classes to be able to participate, why would the fire department be any differant? Any F's on the report cards, they get a vacation until their next report card proves they have no failing classes. (this promotes education. If they can't take school seriously, why would they take the FD seriously)
Do away with the good ole' boy complex that has riddled the fire service. NOONE is given preferential treatment reguardless of family member's relation.
Always have an award for the junior members to be able to achieve at your banquet. Providing encouragement to always do better, and go above and beyond will have all the juniors going for the award. You win/They win.
I was a junior who wasn't afforded these options. I was a glorified truck washer, trophy cleaner, hose packing/rolling, clean up everything gofer. If it wasn't for the connection of being 4th generation and family involved, I may not have stayed involved. Don't abuse the Juniors, they are the future of our fire service. Understand they are not slaves, nor robots. Your junior program is a direct reflection of your department.