In many communities, the majority of firefighters are volunteers. That means a significant savings to municipalities and taxpayers. However, the decline of volunteer firefighters, particularly among younger people, has also put small departments at risk of cutting back on public service. The decline in the number of firefighters is especially alarming because most of the calls to emergency medical services are unrelated to firefighting.
Volunteer fire departments save municipalities and taxpayers $139.8 billion per year
According to a report by the National Fire Protection Association, volunteer fire departments save municipalities and taxpayers $139 billion a year in fire related costs. That is significant, considering that about 70 percent of firefighters nationwide are volunteers and 85 percent of fire departments are all volunteer. Despite this, volunteer fire departments still face challenges recruiting and retaining members. Volunteer firefighters must complete monthly training courses and respond to a minimum number of calls in order to remain active. Some fire departments even have public relations events to help recruit and retain members.
The average New York property tax rate would rise by more than 26 percent if fire departments were no longer staffed by volunteers. Some municipalities would see increases of as much as 120 percent. The response times of volunteer fire departments have improved in recent years, as the average time to respond to a fire has decreased by almost a minute.
The decrease in volunteer firefighters is due to changes in demographics and the economy. Volunteer firefighters are also becoming more senior, with the number of retirees increasing by 100 percent between 1987 and 2012. This decline is hurting many fire departments nationwide. Currently, 85 percent of fire departments are entirely or mostly staffed by volunteers, and 95 percent of those departments serve communities of fewer than 25,000 residents.
As a result, it has been estimated that volunteer fire departments save municipalities and taxpayers $139 billion per year in fire-related costs. These savings are also beneficial to volunteer fire departments. Volunteer fire departments are a great help to municipalities, and they can be a great source of community pride.
Volunteer fire departments have been the backbone of many fire departments for generations. Yet, despite their immense contribution, there are a few disadvantages associated with a volunteer fire service. While fewer people want to join the volunteer fire service, the membership rates have fallen and some departments are forced to close. At the same time, many highly trained long-time volunteers are leaving the ranks due to age or health issues.
Recruiting young people
Successful fire departments recruit young people for a variety of reasons. While traditional approaches like advertisements and job fairs can attract a wide range of candidates, innovative and unconventional approaches are also important. For example, innovative programs may include promoting diversity in the workforce and including women and minorities in recruitment campaigns. By highlighting these benefits, fire departments can attract strong candidates and reduce turnover.
A major concern for fire departments today is the increasing shortage of firefighters. Because most firefighters are volunteers, agencies are scrambling to fill positions. During the largest fire in history, the US Forest Service was forced to leave 60 engines idle due to low staffing. Additionally, today’s young adults are more likely to seek remote careers with more flexible schedules and higher pay. While volunteer firefighting is still an important part of the fire service, the number of volunteers is declining as the workforce grows older.
To attract new volunteers, fire departments should consider their own culture and values. Volunteers are likely to have busy lives outside of firefighting. Therefore, policies should be in place to accommodate them and prevent them from quitting due to a simple issue. Also, fire departments should consider the importance of community connections and offer volunteer opportunities for career advancement.
In addition to these traditional aspects of recruitment, fire departments should also promote benefits and perks. Young people, particularly millennials, have a strong desire to work hard for a cause they believe in. Hence, a fire department should highlight the benefits of training millennials and offering them scholarship opportunities and loan forgiveness.
Recruiting young people as firefighters is not a simple task. It requires hard work, but it is necessary to achieve the goal. As a result, fire departments should promote open recruitment events to attract young people and provide them with the necessary skills to be a good volunteer. The Firefighters Association has been encouraging fire departments to hold open houses and encourage young people to join.
A new recruitment process takes place once a year and includes an orientation meeting for interested youth. The process consists of an interview, a physical ability test, and a background check. The top forty candidates are selected to participate in a 16-week training program called Basic Rescue Recruit Academy.
Volunteer firefighters are required to undergo specialized training to become certified. Some training requirements are mandatory, while others are optional. Volunteer fire departments must meet minimum staffing requirements. Some are required to work in a joint response with another fire department in the event of a first alarm. Other requirements apply to volunteer fire departments, including having internal written standard operating procedures and succession of command. They must also maintain a standardized reporting system for incidents, which includes the location, nature, and operations of the incident.
Recruits must complete training at their local fire station before being sent out on calls. During this period, new firefighters will undergo physical and written tests to determine their qualifications. Once qualified, they may be assigned a shift. Generally, the training requirements are six months to a year.
Training requirements for firefighters who are volunteers vary by department, city, and state. Some departments only require a basic training, while others require more advanced training to allow their volunteers to function autonomously. Volunteer firefighters must be willing to attend at least three hours of training each week. Some departments also require their volunteers to be in good physical shape.
Volunteer firefighters should undergo at least 110 hours of training to become certified. This training includes both classroom instruction and hands-on training. They are trained on standard firefighting methods, handling of hazardous materials, and emergency medical procedures. In addition, they must attend mandatory drills to keep their skills sharp. Some departments have apprenticeship programs for those who want to join the fire service and are unsure about the level of training required.
Training for volunteer firefighters is similar to that of paid firefighters. Volunteer firefighters must be equipped with knowledge of emergency procedures and how to handle them safely. However, these trainings can seem overwhelming when juggling outside responsibilities. In addition to these initial trainings, volunteer firefighters should continue their education and attend continuing education courses.
When it comes to public sector retirement benefits, the average firefighter is lucky to receive a pension of $24,000 a year. However, many people do not realize that these workers are not paying Social Security. They instead invest the savings from their payrolls into traditional defined benefit retirement plans that give them income comparable to a 401K savings plan PLUS Social Security. While this fact is often overlooked, firefighters in Marin County have fought to secure more traditional retirement benefits.
Firefighters and police officers have long had a high sense of pride in their work and often have a high level of public satisfaction. However, budgetary constraints and economic realities often put municipal leaders in a difficult position. In some cities, there is little or no way to guarantee pay parity for all public sector employees.
Although the wage for firefighting is low, many firefighters make up for it by working overtime. In Marin, for example, firefighters give up a few hours of pay in exchange for a flexible schedule. This arrangement reduces commute time by as much as two hours a day. This arrangement makes it possible for firefighters to afford a home and still make their salaries.
In addition to this, firefighters are not permitted to “spike” their pensions by paying overtime and other perks. Twenty years ago, firefighters fought to end these wasteful practices. Firefighter pensions are calculated using the average of a firefighter’s base salary over several years. That means that a firefighter must work for 37.5 years of service to get back 90% of what they earned.
Public safety workers have been lobbieding city and state governments to pay firefighters the same as police officers. However, firefighters are still not on par with engineering professors. If we mandate equal pay for firefighters, we would end up with a large number of history professors at the best universities, but we’d be having trouble filling engineering positions. Moreover, firefighters face higher mortality rates than other professions, and the risk of developing cancer is higher for firefighters.
Public safety is often sacrificed for the sake of cost savings. A better quality of service and fewer fire deaths would offset the cost of a paid fire department. This is often ignored during emotional discussions of public safety.