Why Not You? JoinTheFD.com
08/08/2017 by Eric G. Bachman, CFPS, WHFR Firefighter and SAFER Grant Administrat
The West Hempfield Fire & Rescue Company (WHFR) was established January 1, 2000 after a consolidation of the Ironville and Silver Spring fire companies. WHFR protects a large portion of West Hempfield Township and a small portion of East Hempfield Township with a pumper, a rescue unit, a tanker and several support vehicles. In 2016, the company answered 505 emergency calls for service ranging from vehicle accidents, to structure fires to hazardous material incidents.
The members of WHFR are all volunteers. They are a proud group of men and women who serve the community in more ways than just emergency responses. They promote and participate in community events and engage in community safety programs for special populations and age groups.
The number of WHFR volunteers, as observed by volunteer fire companies both nationwide and locally however, has declined. The reduction can be attributed to many factors with time being the most common. Training, fire calls and fund raising can be difficult to balance with a job, family, and other obligations. Beyond the response side, additional time is necessary to manage the business side of the fire company such as finances, information technology, human resources and records management. Because of declining membership, some volunteers do double-duty serving as a firefighter and administrator. Less members creates a detrimental domino effect continuum across the entire organization which can compromise responder and public safety. Often, assistance from other volunteer fire companies is necessary to ensure basic fire ground strategies and tactics are adequately and safely accomplished. That increases the call volumes of other fire departments and further stresses volunteer member time commitments.
Recognizing this trend, leaders of WHFR, Mountville, East Petersburg, and Rohrerstown fire companies formed a committee in early 2015 to develop volunteer recruitment and retention strategies. A federal grant application under the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program was submitted. The SAFER grant supports initiatives for career fire departments to hire additional staff; and to volunteer fire departments to implement recruitment and retention strategies.
The overall goal of the SAFER program is to enable volunteer fire departments to meet the response time and staffing provisions established in National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 1720 entitled “Standard for the Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations and Special Operations to the Public by Volunteer Fire Departments”. The NFPA is a fire service peer-group organization that develops consensus standards to guide fire department response operations, performance and equipment specifications. Although not considered law, NFPA standards are benchmarks that are often cited as the minimum acceptable performance levels.
In July of 2015 the committee was awarded a SAFER grant to support recruitment and retention strategies. The grant is based upon a three-year period of performance (through October 2018) and is comprised of six specific projects including Administration, New Member Duty Wear, Physical Fitness, Awards, Firefighter Stipend Program and New Recruit Marketing Program.
The initial focus of the SAFER Committee was retention of current firefighters through development of a tiered points-based stipend program. Response personnel earn points for participating in activities such as emergency responses, training, meetings and other operational assignments. Response personnel meeting the minimum point schedule are awarded a nominal gift card on a quarterly basis.
Why Not You?
In mid-2016 the committee developed a New Recruit Marketing Program strategy. The Why Not You? campaign was created and designed to have residents reflect on joining their local volunteer fire department to serve in a wide array of fire company emergency and non-emergency service opportunities. The website www.JoinTheFD.com along with a Facebook account was launched providing more about volunteer opportunities and an on-line means to inquire for more information or to apply. In January of 2017 the Why Not You? campaign was aggressively reinforced with a community-wide mailing. Customized recruitment materials and booth were acquired and was featured at the Mountville Days Carnival this past May.
Range of Opportunities
WHFR is in need of members willing to serve in many capacities. Firefighters are needed which is for members 18 years of age or older to engage in response activities to save lives and property for a wide variety of incident types. Junior Firefighter (JRFF) opportunities are available for those between the ages of 14-17. JRFF’s assist at the scene of emergencies and provide other support functions. Fire Police Officer (FPO) opportunities are available to manage traffic flow and access control at the scenes of emergencies and other community events to protect operating personnel and the public. No previous experience is necessary and training and equipment for FF’s, JRFF’s, and FPO’s is provided by the fire department. The volunteer opportunities offered by the WHFR do not all involve emergency response. Administration Support Personnel are needed as well. These members serve in a multitude of fire department aspects ranging from managing the business side of the fire department including financial management, records administration, and human resources, as well as engaging in important community projects and public education programs. There is something for everyone no matter your age or ability to serve.
Volunteers are not compensated for their time. All proceeds generated by fund-raisers and municipal contributions are solely used for the equipment and facility operations of the fire department. Often times people ponder the question ‘What’s in it for me?’ The answer is “a lot”. The reasons someone joins WHFR varies from the excitement of responding to calls, to the empowerment of learning new life skills. Some revere being a part of a team or making new friends. Others find satisfaction helping those in need and giving back to the community. Whatever your motivation, your volunteer service in firefighting or administration at WHFR is needed. To learn more, or to start you volunteer fire service journey, please visit www.JoinTheFD.com or stop by the fire station So, with all of these opportunities available, Why Not You?