Is Your Dept As Lucky As The Irish?

ShamrockIt’s St. Patrick’s Day, we all know that means a lot of drinking, eating and searching for gold. I’ve been searching for years, but I haven’t been as lucky as that couple in northern California.

Anyways, back to the point of today’s article. I wanted to talk about how so many departments seem to be relying on luck to get them through life. They sit back and wait for members to come to them, hope their community decides to fund a new truck, and react to things thrown at them.

The fire service as a whole needs to change. Life is changing for most people. There’s more and more asked of them every single day, but less and less being offered in return.

People are making sacrifices left and right to maintain their status in society, keep a roof over their head and feed their family. And that mentality seems to be shaping it’s way into the firehouse’s as well, which makes sense.

If the people running your organization are sacrificing left and right to make ends meet in their personal lives, it seems logical that those same mentalities would transfer to their leadership skills.

But there in lies the problem.

What our departments desperately need right now are not people that are going to cut corners, sit back and hope that things work out in their favor. We need leaders that are going to go out and fight for their cause.

Most departments need manpower. Step up and say something. Start a recruitment campaign. Start advertising and let the public know, don’t just sit back and hope that your messages will get through to the Recruitment Gods and they will grant your wish. There’s a fat chance that will ever happen.

If your department needs a new bunk room, or piece of equipment, do the same thing. Get out there, get your message heard and fight for it. Do it every single day until you achieve your goal. Your community will be much more likely to support you when they know what you need, why you need it so badly and how they can help you.

We all have so many messages hitting us daily between Facebook, email, snail mail, magazines, text messages, etc, that we don’t have the time to sit back and think like we used to. Whether you like it or not, your department needs to be an active part of people’s lives if you want to receive funding and support.

The idea here is to get involved in the community discussions long before these people ever need your help. Our fire departments used to be a staple of every community, and while many still have that luxury, most others have lost that and are now just a gigantic number on a balance sheet in the town hall.

Like anything in life, nobody understands the true value until they’re told about or experience it. We hope that most of our citizens never have to experience the value we provide, so that really leaves us with just one other method to demonstrate our value.

TELL THEM.

I don’t want you to get on top of your firehouse with a bull horn wearing your leprechaun outfit shouting about how awesome you are, although that would be funny. But there are a lot of other methods you can use to get your value out there in the public eye.

Post in the local paper  – If you have a weekly or even monthly newspaper in your community, be active in it. Give the reporters stories about the things your organization is doing, calls you responded to, community events you helped with etc. Also consider posting your call volume for the month in the paper. People have no idea how many hours we invest in the fire service, let them know you’re not just there when the exciting calls happen.

Show up to charity events happening in town – Someone hosting a community bake sale or fundraiser? Bring the fire truck down and help them out, or provide free batteries for smoke detectors. Find a way to be present when big things are happening in town. It may be subliminal, but if people see you everywhere, they’ll remember you when it comes budget time.

Social media presence – If you’re going to do it, do it right. You don’t need to be on every single site like tumblr, twitter, etc. Find where people in your community spend the most time, most likely Facebook and create a page there. Establish a posting schedule and stick to it. This may not be worth your time if you’re in a community of 200 people, but if your community is in the thousands, consider doing it.

Get out there. Don’t be afraid to put your message in the public’s eye long before they ever need you. The departments that do this and do it well have historically been well taken care of by the community versus those that sit back and wait for the pot of gold to come to them.

Now go, go on and get your voice heard, make sure your department is well represented. And be sure to enjoy some corned beef and maybe a GOOD beer or two today (find a craft brew, none of that mainstream crap), after all, we need to help support the beer industry right?

 

And if you haven’t watched our replay about how you should be recruiting now, do that here.

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Chris Lockwood

Chris is the own of The Bravest Volunteers. He's worked as a 911 dispatcher since 2004 and been a volunteer fire fighter since 2002. During that time he served as Captain before moving to a new town.

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