According to this report released at NVFC.org, there were 44,000 fewer volunteer firefighters in 2010 compared to 2009, a reduction of 5.4 percent, according to the U.S. Fire Department Profile Through 2010, an annual report that was recently issued by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The loss of volunteers is primarily coming in communities with populations of 2,500 or fewer, which were protected by 377,550 firefighters in 2010 compared with 408,550 in 2009, a drop of approximately 7.6 percent.
[Read the balance of the article here.]
Without reading the entire study, one could wonder whether or not those numbers are a bad thing or just a truer reflection of the real number of volunteers directly involved in firefighting, not just total number of active and inactive members of volunteer fire departments. If you read on in the NVFC article you’ll learn that while the total numbers are going down, the average age of those left behind is going up. That’s a real issue we need to address immediately and constantly.
What we need to be concerned with is not only the raw numbers, but the quality of candidates we’re seeing come to the fire service as well as the amount of time each volunteer has to offer.
The overarching challenge lies in my forecast for the future of the volunteer fire service which I published several years ago:
The survival and success of the volunteer fire service relies on our ability to create more opportunities for more people to volunteer less time. The mathematical reality of this equation is that the job that used to take 10 people 10 hours a week to do it, might now require 20 people who only have 5 hours a week to give.
We need to be creative and resourceful in ensuring that we always have the right quantity and quality of staffing to effectively respond to the needs of our communities. The NVFC article offers potential solutions to addressing these challenges.
Thus, the FireRECRUITER’s burning question for this discussion is: What are you doing to buck this downward trend? Let’s hear what you’re trying and what is and isn’t working.