We are a 50 square mile mountain district with roughly 5000 residents. We recently onboarded 12 new recruits to our 60+ member strong department. We recruit once a year and it works well for us.
We aren’t marketeers but to earn attention from our community we know we need to be remarkable.
We maintain a strong social media presence throughout the year; posting red flag warnings, updates on local incidents, safety notices, and more. Our community are used to hearing from us; initially on our mailing list, previously mostly on Facebook, and more recently on Nextdoor, and a few on Twitter. This gives us a head start; a baseline receptive audience.
We don’t exactly design a full recruitment marketing campaign, but we lay out some ideas and posting a timeline throughout the recruitment drive. We post interviews with our members, we show what it is like to be part of the fire department community, we show we are their neighbors (just like them). We communicate what firefighters do, and our requirements.
The smaller we can make the step to a community member thinking … “I could be a firefighter too” … the better. Towards the end of the recruitment drive we let the community know it is now … or a year from now … creating “urgency to act” (in marketing speak). We ask our community to share with their family, and share with people they think might be interested, to help raise awareness and recruit with us.
We time recruiting to November/December in order for us to complete our interview process in the new year and then background checks, driving checks and medical tests before the year progresses too far; We want to get S130/190 and pack tests done before the wildland fire season kicks off (not that it isn’t 365 days, these days.) We schedule Emergency Medical Responder and Fire Academy for the group in the next year or so.
We plan based around our schedule, but November/December also seems good for our community. Without any real evidence … the bustle of summer has past, the community-centric time of the holidays is building, and people have an eye to planning their future … starting with next year.
Recruiting as a group of recruits allows trainee firefighters to form bonds with their peer group, to have support from each other (as well as their mentors), and that camaraderie persists for years … maybe their whole career. Being part of a kohort (not joining individually) provides ties strengthening their commitment to their service, helping them through any tougher times.
Allowing entry as a Wildland Firefighters is a significantly lower time commitment, and yet still a critically important role. Some of our best All-Hazard Firefighters joined as Wildland Firefighters, then converted to.
We don’t consider the “waiting period” (i.e. if somebody just misses the recruiting drive) as a problem. We accept contact information and reach out to them when the recruiting period opens. If a new recruit cannot wait some months maybe their circumstances wouldn’t allow them to have made it through the two years to get fully trained. A volunteer firefighting career develops over time; plan for the long run.
If a big event occurs throughout the year we will leverage the community appreciation and attention to gather names for a the next recruitment drive.
Our membership is supportive of our organization (we have a strong culture) and they help spread the word, inviting people from their network.
We recruited a bakers dozen new recruits this year, but only because we delayed due to the Pandemic. Normally we recruit 7-8 new firefighters a year, and have good retention numbers. We do lose recruits (typically the younger members who need to move for work) but we also have many firefighters with over a decade of service, two decades or service and more.
Recruiting annually works for us.