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We are a small volunteer department. Our roster is about 15 members but only about half show up to training. We've set two different Saturday mornings each month for training and one Wednesday night a month for a business meeting. On top of that we offer Fire Fighter 1 class every Tuesday night. Three members have succesfully attained Fire Fighter 1 status and 3 have successfully attained First Responder status. We just can't get people to show up to do anything. Normal training days we have myself (training officer), my husband (fire chief), the assistant chief, the asst chief's wife (Medical only), the chaplin (who's also taking fire fighter 1), and another young couple. Does anyone have any ideas on how to get the rest of the department invovled?

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Our bylaws only allow dismissal after a group of no less than five people have reviewed the person's conduct and after a six month probation period after that. We are not concerned with numbers as much as we are with a persons ability to preform. I guess before I start pulling training records and saying we need to have reviews of half the department I'd like to attempt to do something to get them involved. I think I'm living in fantasy land. lol You know if I do something really cool this month for training they will all show up and life will be good again.
Well that's what I was hoping this discussion would do would allow people to bounce ideas off of each other. All we can do is support and learn from each other.

We are planning a live burn if it ever dries out enough to do it. We burn fields for the local farmers. It gives us a way to do some controlled training in what we do the most of and it keeps us from having to go out there and put it out once it is out of control.
Just stay possitive and keep having the trainings and things wil work out.
I used to work with a volunteer department with much the same problem. I caution you on the dismissal approach as the department I am referring to went down that exact same path and it still struggles to this day with severe morale and recruitment woes. There is no doubt in my mind that department will eventually be absorbed by an adjoining district, or possibly even Denver Fire.
I understand there are sometimes individuals that do need to be dismissed, but if you advertise a philosophy of wanting 4 or 5 good members and wish to "can" the rest, you will quickly alienate anyone that is "on the bubble" when it comes to participation. If you take this approach you may even end up pushing out individuals that are contemplating leaving but still have good participation and have not yet let you know they are burned out. Just be careful with Pandora's keys....
As for training schedules, I have long since abandoned the pipe dream of competing with Saturday and Sunday family life. Given the choice, most volunteers will never choose training over family activities on a weekend. The department I referenced above moved from weeknight training to Saturday and Sunday only. That move was a disaster and training attendance dropped steadily after the change.
I agree with Todd McKee, you have to keep things positive. Don't start a discussion that may sound like a witch hunt. If you do, everyone will wonder if they are on the witch list.
Recruitment & retention has always been a difficult task in my department. Unfortunately, the volunteer service is riddled with problems that make that task a challenge: varying work schedules, ever-increasing training requirements, and the fact that it is difficult to discipline someone who feels that because they are volunteer, they are not required to participate. For many years my department had faced all of those problems at once. Recently, however, we have seen a large increase in attendance at drills & alarms. I think the biggest reason this has occured is because the members no longer view each training session as a chore or requirement. Each drill we review the basics, and allow the members to make contributions to the training based on their own strengths. As an officer, it is critically important to make each member feel like a valued member of the team. When people feel like their contributions are important to the team, drills and training no longer feel like work, but rather seem more like fun. Along those lines, it is also important to have a variety of social functions that can promote higher morale. Making sure your members maintain a positive outlook towards being a member of your department is the first step towards improving member attendance. Make it fun, and people will want to be there.
If the training is good, people will show. Look at the trainings. Is it the same material offered every year that everyone could recite from memory? Is it a powerpoint training where they sit in a classroom and look at a screen instead of hands on work? Are the people being harassed by the training officer or someone else in the classes? You need to take a good look at what people in your department are saying about the trainings. Good trainings where people learn and can apply to the real world will make people want to attend.
If the training was amazing people wouldn't show up. The group of people are not motivated to show up. They don't think they need to train. When my husband took over as chief he started doing training once a month. When I took over the training I set it up for at least two times a month so people couldd make it. We had a good attendance after we laid it on the line that they had to be there. Then we had a fire where myself, my husband, and the assitant chief were not there. The fire fighters left turned the scene into a circus and if it hadn't been for the MA departments getting there to get things in line who knows what would have happened. After that they got reprimanded for not using their training and now people are like "Screw it." Well there were a few who were saying that because they always seemed to have an excuse not to show up. If they know what training is over, they say "We've done it before we don't need it again." Even though they can't complete the task. If you can't get water out of the truck you should be working on it.
Melissa, how about minimum training attendance per year. Make 70% or they get released from their job. It may be difficult to find new people but it seems the fireground is a much more dangerous place with their lack of training. Maybe a new crop of enthusiastic firefighters would be the best thing for the department.
We switched from weeknight training to weekend training after we polled the department on what they wanted. When we set up a training schedule and our SOGs we tried to get the members involved. They even voted to charge a dollar for each training missed since the dates were set as they wanted it. If I called some people up for their missed meetings I would have almost enough to buy a new set of bunker for some one. My husband even offered that if someone couldn't make a training to make that up when ever was conviant for them.
How did you get people to change their minds that because they are volunteers they don't have to do anything? That is our big deal, I'm a volunteer why should I do it. It doesn't help when TPTB aren't NIMS compliant because they feel they don't need too.
The real challenge in that is to not take the hard-line approach of "show up or get out." I find that by making the training interesting for the members, they don't show up because they HAVE to, they show up because they WANT to. For example, my department runs many MVA's each year, and we do an extrication drill just about every month. But an extrication drill doesn't mean just take a junk car and have at it - it's an opportunity to give people a chance to do something they haven't tried yet. Let your members have fun while they work - change the drills up so that it's not the same thing every month. Do something different, try new techniques and ways of doing things. Try different scenarios at training. Allow an inexperienced member to handle extrication tools, or put an exterior firefighter on a hoseline. If your firefighters are allowed to try the things they want to do, and training becomes fun and exciting again, people will want to be a part of the team. Best of luck to you and your department - this is probably the toughest issue any officer in the volunteer service will have to face.
Getting them more involved?

Step back and honestly evaluate the department as a whole.

Any underlying dragged on issues that need fixing?
Lack of funding, always running on empty.
Names on the roster but empty bunker gear.
Invisible Officers that give an impression to others of not caring for the "ranks".
Idiots in charge.
Recruited/signed-on the wrong people in the first place.

Keep the training scheduled.
Don't have too much scheduled in a month. Burnout. Living at the vollie station.
Make it relevent.
Don't forget the basics.
Tell them where the training material/ideas is from. Don't be Mr. Secretknowitall.
Sit-down, step-by-step instruction along with hands on.
Limit the time. Reminded of reading in Firehouse about the successful California basketball coach who limited practices to an hour and a half.
Have handouts.
Give others the chance to take the drivers/instructors seat. Also give opportunity to those who are vocally critical of training and those who express it by not showing.
Keep it organized and flowing.
Don't allow the know-it-all to repetedly butt-in and steer the class.
Encourage discussion and feedback.
If someone is going to instruct, make sure they instruct. Don't give the impression of "well, I guess we'll do this".
Don't preach doom or fear.
Don't act like a Drill Sgt. a**.
Allow and encourage make-up classes.

If you do the preceading, and what others have suggested, and they still don't show, the department has some major problems and it's time for some root canals.
Have a very blunt face to face sit down with those who don't show.
For example, ask them what they're going to do if they have to rescue you out of a basement. Stuff that was covered in a couple previous RIT orientated trainings.
Remind them it's not a glory gang.
Chop off the dead stuff and throw it out.

Don't elevate somones career FF job schedule and make allowances over someones non-FF job. They're both jobs and require scheduling to show up for the forgotten vollie station.
"Sorry, couldn't make it because I was working at THE fire department".
That's great. What about make-up? Being an example to other/newer members?

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