In response to the troubling prevailing trend of declining volunteerism in the Fire Service...oh the hell with that...let's call it what it is, we're in trouble folks....the numbers are bad, the kids aren't signing up and the current membership is aging at a rate that almost guarantees the death knell for Volunteer Fire Departments.
What to do? I've created and have almost completed writing a program that my organization (The Firemen's Association of the State of New York...aka FASNY) has given a preliminary green light to pursue that will, hopefully, trigger a response in the target market...Generation WhyShouldICare.
My Master Plan, and yes, you can leave that in capitals, is to bring the fire service into the schools, statewide. Only this ain't your daddy's fire service; we're bringing a younger, hipper, sexier service....one that speaks the same language as the 14-21 year old bracket. My hope is that this Recruitment program (yes, the dreaded "R" word) will kick these kids in the butt and get them off of their apathetic duffs and get them to sign up.
The above is a blog I posted quite a while back, below,you'll read about the program that I've proposed to my organization, but the project is lacking forward momentum right now, which is where all of YOU come in.
Feel free to appropriate as much or as little of the proposed recruitment plan below as you wish. I don't care about "ownership" or territory, I'd just like to see someone take this ball and run with it. One caveat, all I ask is that you let me know if you put this into play and get some success out of it.
What is it?
A program to bring FASNY (or your organization's) representatives into high schools across the state in an effort to recruit Explorers and Juniors and to educate the students about the benefits of volunteering for the Emergency Services.
A tandem team of FASNY Fire Service volunteers (1 Fire, 1 EMS?) will offer a program (one hour?) with video, chalk and talk, and discussion regarding the benefits of volunteering with the student’s local Volunteer Fire Department or Rescue Squad. Representatives from local departments also on hand in Class A uniform or turn out gear. This program can be part of a BOCES partnership, Office of Child and Family Services, or Career Day at the high school, or coordinated in conjunction with all three.
An MTV-style hip, fast-paced, edgy “call to action” video: similar to www.rollwithit.com . This will grab their attention. Talk about what a Smoke Eater is. Each presenter then offers a personal “slice of life” story about why they decided to volunteer, and relate either a humorous or harrowing personal narrative about their most memorable day on the “job”.
A discussion about the realities of being a firefighter or EMT ensues; how much training, cost associated, safety, hours, personal commitment. Discuss that ANYONE can become a volunteer fire service member and discuss the different roles within the department. Discuss what’s involved in being an Explorer or Junior. Explain the Line of Command.
A discussion about the benefits: Joining the “brotherhood” or “family”, sense of belonging, the adrenaline rush, the satisfaction of helping save a life or home, FASNY benefits, scholarship opportunities.
Q & A
1.) Has anyone here thought of becoming a firefighter or EMT?
2.) Do you know if the department in your neighborhood is paid or volunteer, or a combo of both?
3.) Have you volunteered for other organizations or causes, why or why not?
Ask for five volunteers from the audience, don’t tell them why. Get them in front or on the stage and rig them up in full turn out gear. Take their photos with a digital camera and print them out, give them to them framed with the literature. Then bring up anyone else who wants to try on the gear, take photos and get emails to send the photos to remaining interested students. Each student receives an info packet with some sort of “freebie” enclosed (pen, notebook, bracelet?)
The Local Angle:
Offer a sign-up with the local fire department to attend an “in the department” day. Attendees can check out the equipment, listen to the radio communications, talk to the firefighters, and hopefully sign on as an Explorer or Junior.
Create press release, follow up with local media to obtain presence.
A state-wide GET-SET camp at one of the fire academies (Central NY?). Invitations sent to everyone who attended a GET SET program and signed on as an Explorer or Junior. Training modules, presenters, team-building activities.