How to Build a Smart Recruitment Program: Your Guide to Getting More Volunteer Firefighters

How to Build a Smart Recruitment Program: Your Guide to Getting More Volunteer Firefighters

August 27, 2018

Click here to download ER's guide to creating a volunteer recruitment program.

It’s no secret that fire departments are facing increasing difficulty in recruiting and retaining firefighters and first responders. These positions are necessary to sustain a department’s ability to operate and effectively respond to emergencies. Many volunteer fire departments are struggling to meet staffing needs as call volumes have tripled in the last 30 years and the services provided by volunteer fire departments continue to expand. 

The reasons for the staffing challenges are many. Time demands and training needs have increased, while at the same time people today often have less time to dedicate to volunteering. Two-income households, longer commutes to work, and people holding multiple jobs are all contributing factors. Small-town and rural fire departments are seeing a decline in the pool of potential volunteers and an aging department population as younger residents move away from the community in search of better job opportunities.

Firefighter Training NVFC 1

With 70% of the fire service consisting of volunteers, recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters can present significant staffing and response challenges if not properly addressed. Emergency Reporting has teamed up with NVFC to create a guide that contains helpful tips and advice on how leaders in the fire service can build a volunteer recruitment program that maximizes their agency’s resources and expands the reach they have within the community. It includes information on how to develop a marketing strategy, as well as specific tactics to get more recruits interested in your department.



 The recruitment guide begins with tips for developing a simple strategy:

  • Determine your target audience and what motivates them: Determine the characteristics you are looking for in new volunteers. This will help you determine where to focus the majority of your marketing efforts.
  • Evaluate your value proposition: Demonstrate the value your department offers to prospective members.
  • Be upfront about what you expect: It can be extremely expensive to train and equip a firefighter, so it's important to communicate your expectations early in the process. 
  • Expand your pool: It's important to diversify your efforts and look for new ways to
    reach people who may not be aware of the opportunities presented by the fire service.


Firefighters at Pump large Crop

It also covers more specific areas,  including:

  • How to use social media effectively.
  • Developing and maintaining a website.
  • Identifying local media opportunities.
  • Participating in local recruitment events.
  • Following up with prospective recruits.
  • Utilizing tools available through the Make Me A Firefighter campaign from NVFC.

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