From the Chief
The members of the Hope-Jackson Fire Co. are looking to attract and maintain an experienced force of volunteer firefighters. Specifically, the department wants to retain existing firefighters plus attract new volunteers.
The Hope-Jackson Fire Co. has experienced a high rate of turnover and struggles to maintain trained, certified, competent volunteer firefighters. Nearly 50% of our volunteers have less than five years of experience. In the past 3 years 29 volunteer firefighters stopped volunteering for our department, and we have only added 16 new volunteers during this same time period. It is increasingly difficult to deploy ideal staffing required to comply with NFPA standard 1720.
The Hope-Jackson Fire Co. has found that our biggest challenge is keeping people past a five-year mark. This is mostly due to other demands on their time including work, family and other interests. By recognizing the value of these people early on in their career as a volunteer, we can build a seasoned and talented firefighting force.
With the exception of small budget marketing campaigns, there have been inadequate volunteer recruitment efforts in our area of Rhode Island. Hope-Jackson Fire Co. attributes the decline of people volunteering to the lack of communication between the fire service and the public, plus overcoming "What’s in it for me?" Most people today want to know that they will receive benefits for serving their community. A large percentage of the public still does not realize that there is a need for volunteer firefighters and they do not know where to obtain more information about becoming a volunteer firefighter.
Without the recruitment of new volunteer firefighters and the retention of current volunteer firefighters, staffing levels will continue to decline putting our communities and firefighters at risk. Therefore, our 4 volunteer fire departments will not be able to comply with the response and operational standards established by the NFPA.
Statement of Open and Inclusive Recruitment
The Hope-Jackson Fire Co. has a policy stating we will not discriminate for any reason when hiring or promoting firefighting staff. This is not just a policy, but also the culture of the department.
Our current marketing program is designed to be open and progressive. We will continue to actively recruit volunteers who are available for daytime responses, our most basic need. We will increase our recruitment of women and members of the community who may not have been the normal recruits just 10 years ago, but who have proven themselves to be valuable members of the department. To be truly inclusive, it is incumbent on us to reach out and market to all groups in our community.
The Hope-Jackson Fire Co. spends thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours training new volunteer firefighters meeting or exceeding the NFPA 1001 Standards. As new recruits they all receive Firefighter I level upon completion of our academy and all newly hired firefighters are trained to the Firefighter II level within two years. Our department also exceeds the EMS certification training by training to be First Responder or EMT certified. This is a tremendous investment for our staff and budget.
We have experienced that it takes two years to learn the basics of firefighting and a total of three to five years to reach a high level of expertise. To have a firefighter leave after 5 years is a devastating loss to our system and the extraordinary investment by our staff. It is imperative that we do everything possible to keep seasoned firefighters active and on the roster
With our call volume increasing each year, and our budget deficits, we find it increasingly difficult to continue to meet our commitment to the community with declining volunteer staffing. A new cohesive recruitment and retention program will produce the needed volunteer firefighters to ensure that our community has more adequate protection from fire and fire-related hazards.