Firefighting, Leadership, Truck Company

Rethinking Recruitment and Retention for the Volunteer Fire Department

Issue 4 and Volume 168.

By Ed Geis Hardly a month goes by where we don’t hear a conversation, see a news item, or read an editorial about the growing crisis of the dwindling staff of the country’s volunteer fire departments. According to the most recent National Fire Protection Association data, volunteers (and paid-on-call) comprise 69 percent of the nation’s firefighters. Volunteers are a key component of the fire service, so recruitment and retention challenges have serious consequences for public safety. Despite all the hand-wringing and dire warnings about the demise of volunteer fire departments, various countermeasures have been offered, often revolving around financial incentives to help recruit and retain volunteers such as pay per call, access to municipal health care plans, various other benefits, and so on. Although these ideas are all legitimate, they don’t address the most potentially powerful solution: making the experience of joining and participating in one’s local fire department as…

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