2012 is just around the corner.
If you haven't already made plans for the new year, then you'd better start now.
I am speaking to volunteer fire departments.
Have you made plans to recruit, and then retain new members?
There are people in your communities who are sitting on the fence. They want to get involved in their community in some way. Do you know who they are and have you reached out to them?
The days of having potential members walk through the door to proclaim that they want to join appear to be over. What is your plan to go out into your community and actively recruit new members?
What is your plan to keep the older members interested and active?
If you have a department where the older guys step back and watch, then you are a department that is operating no where near full strength. Remember that "complacency kills".
Are you sure that you are an organization that others WANT to join?
Do you have leaders that command and control and follow chain of command? If so, is it so transparent as to be non-existent? An absence of leadership is not transparency of leadership.
Does your community know what you do? If they don't, then how do you expect to fund your fire department?
Do you contact the local press when you have scheduled events, such as training, fundraisers or open houses? A picture accompanied by a thousand words is priceless.
Do you take advantage of nearby training facilities? Are your training officers meeting/exceeding expectations or are they just repeating last year's training schedule?
The majority of communities in this nation rely on volunteers to deliver their fire protection. It is more important than ever to know the buildings in your community and to have pre-plans. If you don't know; small departments do not get a "pass" if they are engaged in tasks that are covered under the national standards.
If you have SOGs, then it is time to review and to update them. If you don't have SOGs, then you need to start writing them. If you ever get questioned on your response protocols, such as in a court of law; your answer had better not be "we don't have SOGs".
Is your equipment up to date? Do you have the equipment for the services that you provide? If not, then why not?
There are no excuses if you haven't been reviewing your tax base or applying for grants. You have to remember that NFPA standards, NIOSH and OSHA standards will be cited in the aforementioned court of law. And if your equipment is not up to standards, then money that you would use to purchase or upgrade will instead go towards paying a hefty fine!
Career departments are being decimated by budget cuts. Lack of manpower is reaching the "danger zone". Volunteer departments may have to constrict as well, if the taxpayers believe that they are already paying enough.
And when I say “constrict”, I mean partnering with a nearby department and eliminating redundancy of services. For instance; if your department doesn’t have a full complement of trench rescue tools, then consider establishing an area-wide rescue team. Pool your tools and stow them in a trailer at the department that is central to your response area. At the very least, know who has what and call for their assistance when need be. Know your strengths as well as your limitations.
Communities will not be inclined to increase funding, if you do nothing more than to show up and keep exposures wet while the structure on fire collapses into the basement. Fire investigators get very testy when you leave them with nothing to investigate.
That takes me right back to having SOGs that includes automatic mutual aid. You might have to give up your "fiefdom" and get a department nearest to the call rolling first. You have to remember that lives and property are at stake. Don't jeopardize either simply because it is in your fire district and it's "your" call.
If you are already a good department, then plan to get better.
From there you can achieve excellence and THAT will draw new members and it will remind the older guys of the reason that they joined in the first place.
Plan to break out in 2012.
The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of www.fireengineering.com, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. All articles by the author are protected by federal copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form without expressed permission.