Retention and Recruitment for the Volunteer Emergency Services

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Many fire departments across the Nation today are experiencing more difficulty with recruiting and retaining members than ever before. There is no single reason for the decline in volunteers in most departments. However, there is a universal consensus that skilled department leadership is a key to resolving the problems.

Retention and recruitment problems usually can be traced to several underlying factors: more demands on people’s time in a hectic modern society; more stringent training requirements; population shifts from smaller towns to urban centers; changes in the nature of small town industry and farming; internal leadership problems; and a decline in the sense of civic responsibility, among other factors. Although some regions are more affected than others, and the problems and solutions vary across regions, even within states and counties, volunteer retention and recruitment is a problem nationwide. Specifically, it is a local issue and must be dealt with locally.

Can the trend in declining volunteerism be reversed? Information collected reveals that departments that have taken steps to deal with the problems have seen a resurgence in volunteerism. This indicates that many of the problems can be mitigated or eliminated if proper attention and resources are given to them. Departments that have failed to address the problems and challenges of volunteering in today’s world have been forced to hire career firefighters, consolidate, or even close their doors.

The USFA publication Retention and Recruitment for the Volunteer Emergency Services: Challenges and Solutions identifies and shares ideas and practices that are successful in recruitment and retention.