Having just completed a week-long National Fire Academy course in Advanced Safety Operations & Management, I was thinking of the correlation between safety — and recruitment — and retention. One could argue that the connections are both direct and significant.
If your fire department has a reputation for conducting operations safely and effectively — your audience: prospective candidates, stakeholders and the general public will have a positive impression about your organization. This is especially true when it comes to the often overlooked safety subject of health and wellness.
How well do you really take care of your members so that you minimize the risk of them not returning to their families at the end of a run. Isn’t that our most basic obligation to those who serve? I’m not referring to just physical care and safety SOGs, etc.
Are you addressing the mental and social needs of your members? What programs do you have in place to address these aspects of maintaining and motivating a qualified workforce. Are they treated as your most important asset or are they just a disposable commodity?
In presenting our group’s Risk Management Plan to our class, I argued that most of the challenges we face in the fire service today take more sheer will and determination to change — than they do time or money. Overcoming most of our challenges simply requires a change in mindset of how we look at the problem and how and where we look for solutions. I’m a firm believer in the theory that much of what we accomplish in life is 90% attitude and 10% about aptitude.
What’s your “Risk Management Plan” for recruiting new members and retaining the qualified services of your experienced members?
Most importantly, are you meeting the needs of your members as much as they’re meeting the needs of your organization? To maintain a successful volunteer organization today, the balance needs to be tipped in their favor — not the fire department’s. If not, you may soon find yourself in a situation where they stop meeting the needs of your department and we know the outcomes of that.
It’s your organization’s attitude towards its volunteers that means the difference between being flush with members — and flushing their irreplaceable years of experience down the drain.