Why I’m Worried About Your Department

worryfaceI’m concerned, about your department, and most departments around the country. There’s a very harsh reality that you’re probably facing already, but if you’re not, you may be shortly. It’s concerning because almost nobody is doing anything about it, and those that say they are, in reality aren’t.

You see, there’s a lot of well-intentioned people that say they want to help, and create studies on what you should be doing, but they never actually take action. They’re in constant preparation mode, but never in the implementation mode and that’s what’s concerning. If you don’t take control of this now, your department will forever be in preparation mode.

So what the heck am I talking about?

It’s your manpower.

If you’re running a fire department, or heck, even if you’re a member, there’s a good chance you’re worried about being able to fill your trucks when the tones tip.

There are really two options to deal with this:

  1. Pay people to fill those spots

This seems to be becoming the default option that communities are seeking out because it makes them feel nice and secure. But they aren’t always ready for the increased expenses. It’s more than just wages, you have to cover medical benefits, retirement plans, deal with unions, etc.

I’m not saying it’s a bad option. The reality is that many communities are at a point where they need to rely on career staff to fill voids that volunteers just can’t cover any more. Communities and agencies alike need to be prepared for changes that must happen to accommodate these roles. And let’s not forget that it takes time to hire personnel, find the funding for it and get a solid employee.

2. The flip side to hiring someone is to recruit more people in smarter ways. I see way too many communities not spending money to get people in the door, or worse, wasting money on tactics that won’t work. Your department is just like a business, you need to spend money to get results, your results being qualified and capable volunteers.

When you take the time to plan and develop a recruitment system, and don’t just fly by the seat of your pants, you begin to develop a real asset. And that asset can be used over and over again to get you results immediately. Having a recruitment plan should be an essential part of every fire departments operation plan.

When you understand how to make a recruitment system work for you, you save a lot of time and energy, both up front and on the back end, because you’ll only be recruiting the people that will be a right fit for your department. I know you’ve seen it in your department, you take on 4, 5 or 6 people one month and maybe, if you’re lucky six months from now one of them is still active.

That happens for a very specific reason. Your department recruited the wrong people, or didn’t give them the full perspective before they came on board. It’s not just your department; almost every agency across the country is making the same exact mistakes.

Three steps to avoid that mistake:

  1. Develop a solid recruitment plan – Sit down with a core group of guys that care about your department and create a plan. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated, just having something in place is better than nothing. Every little bit helps to set up a serious plan that will get you more recruits than you can handle. (If you haven’t watched our recruitment webinar yet, you can still do that here).
  2. Weed out the bad candidates – You don’t have to accept everyone’s applications – especially if it’s obvious they won’t be the right fit for your agency. We provide one of the highest risk services in the world, not everyone is fit physically or mentally to do this job.
  3. Do it all over again – If you want to run a successful department, you need to be recruiting non-stop. All day, and all night. We live in a digital world, it’s entirely possible to recruit someone in the middle of the night while you’re sleeping soundly. This should be a major component of any recruitment plan.

I care about the volunteer fire service (if you couldn’t tell), so I want to see fire departments around the country and throughout the world succeed. It’s getting harder and harder to get people to commit the time and energy to your department, which means you need to work harder and harder to get them in the door.

Sitting back and waiting for people to come won’t do you any good, and in fact, it’s going to hurt your department. So get your guys together this week and create a plan to take your department beyond the hurt so you can worry less.

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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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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.