Greg Wright and I had the privilege to attend the fall meeting of the NVFC in Kearny, NE, on September 27-29. North Dakota will be hosting in 2018, and Georgia in 2019. Greg and I both serve on the Health and Safety Committee. I also serve on the Recruitment and Retention Committee. Committee members are required to attend their assignment but outside of that Greg and I divided our time over the remaining 14 NVFC committee meetings. All State appointment directors and assistant directors are allowed to set in, ask questions and suggest their opinions on any committee and involved with Q/A, but only committee members vote, it is essentially an open forum to all States through process. Committee decisions can be over turned by the combined council but their hard work on the front end seldom comes to that.
Leading off with recruitment and retention, the Make Me a Firefighter (MMAF) campaign is in its third year which replaced the 800-Fire-Line. 25% of the nation’s volunteer departments have registered with 8,300 users. Over the past 24 months NVFC can document that MMAF has signed up 2,600 new volunteers. This is a free service which only requires registration on the NVFC website. We all realize the fire service has new demands with fewer and fewer staff to meet demand. This backs up against another reality of being able to recruit but not retain. This disconnect may not be realized especially, that once the application is turned in; recruitment is over. You are now in retention mode and exit interviews are showing we do not understand this very well, perhaps not all?
What actually recruited the new firefighter and most importantly the ever more precious value of their very little time is missed! They joined to be part of the special group of professionals, not segregated to sub-titles, sub-dress, sub-equipment, sub-treatment, sub-recognition and sub, other things. Studies now reveal if they look different, are treated different, they will think different and find a different activity to spend or volunteer their limited time. The bottom line, it is easier to walk away from something you never really had or experienced versus fully/correctly experienced, tasted and lived only to walk away. There is a difference between having to pay your dues while waiting your turn versus meeting expectations while recognizing excellence in doing so.