After nearly two decades of being on my volunteer department
I’ve started noticing a frightening trend amongst our members – low attendance. And I’m not just talking about the boring and mundane weekly truck / station maintenance. I’m talking about emergency incidents and training.
The same ten or so people out of a 30-person roster keep showing up for everything, while the others seem to show up periodically. Some I haven’t seen in months (literally).
I had always heard of this strange phenomenon from other departments, but had never been witness to it myself until last year and most of 2009.
So what gives? Where is everyone? What’s the causes and how do we turn things around?
I think the causes are many and some just can’t be explained. I know one reason for our department is because a good portion of our roster is getting older which means more family involvement. The kids are getting older and are in sports and events. They can take longer vacations because the kids don’t need to be looked after so much.
The other causes or reasons are a bit of a mystery to me and I even posed the question in another firefighter forum. Although the response was minimal, one particular response caught my attention.
“The sad fact is some people just don’t enough pride in themselves, their fellow firefighters or their department to really make a difference. They are just shirts.”
I agree to an extent with some, while others I think have just lost interest in one form or another. Sure, they’ll be there for the “big one” and show up to the more glitzy and glamorous events, but ask them to attend a sit-down training or help with the more repetitive and mundane tasks and it’s like pulling teeth.
My initial thought(s)? Market within. Make the department such a neat place to be and be part of that people can’t resist coming around. Here is a short list of ideas I’ve come up with.
* Competition: Firefighters are for the most part type-A personalities and are competitive. Have an annual award for the firefighter with the highest attendance
* More competition: Divide your roster into even teams with a captain leading each and see which team can perform the best. The losers have to buy the winners dinner or give them a cookout or something
* Compliment and encourage: Being a leader means you have to look at every member of the department and periodically remind them just how important their job is and how good they are at doing it
* Make the station a focal point: For most volunteer departments the fire station has always been a focal point. Maybe it’s lost some of that luster and it’s high time you make it the central gathering point for firefighters and the community alike
* Re-Think Training: Train, train, train, it’s what we do. We know we should and more often. But with any volunteer department it gets harder and harder to keep up with local training, let alone the constant barrage of government required trainings now mandatory for all departments. Maybe we need to re-think how the trainings are handled? Offer a dinner before or after? Train more in the public view possibly?
* Compensate: I know, money should be the last thing on a firefighters mind when doing this job and I also know some can’t even fathom paying their volunteers what with budget cuts and all, but maybe a little extra dough in one’s pocket is an incentive that could help
* Do it for the kids: Maybe integrate a junior firefighter program along with your fire prevention program to ensure the future of the department
What else? Any other thoughts? Ideas?
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