Bucks County is a large and diverse region. It has people from all walks of life, every socioeconomic class. But, across the board, from top to bottom, there’s one thing every municipality has in common: a shortage of volunteer firefighters.
To address this challenge, the Bucks County Fire Chiefs and Firefighters Association has recently launched several new recruiting initiatives including a new website, www.bucksfire.org.
“The need for volunteer firefighters in a countywide issue,” said Rob Kay, Co-Chair of the Bucks County Fire Chiefs and Firefighters Association’s recruitment committee. “That’s why our 87 member stations our collaborating in a comprehensive marketing campaign with a core message: Save. Protect. Volunteer.”
The new www.bucksfire.org website includes photos, videos, member testimonials, answers to frequently asked questions and details on how to apply. A navigation map shows website visitors the fire stations which are closest to them. Leads from individuals who inquire online are provided directly to their local fire company for follow up.
“This is a great resource for us and the community,” said Jerry Barton who also serves as Co-Chair on the recruitment committee. “This way people can learn more about volunteering 24 hours a day, seven days a week and get their questions answered.”
The new website is just one-step in a multi-step campaign to increase volunteer firefighter membership countywide that includes a social media push on Facebook (www.facebook.com/bucksfire) and Twitter (@BucksFireOrg), public relations in traditional media outlets, and face-to-face recruiting at festivals and speaking engagements.
The association has also started running commercials on Comcast, Verizon FIOS and in movie theaters across Bucks County.
“We’re really trying to get our name out there,” Kay said. “We want people to know that there are ways they can protect and help their communities starting right now.”
In order to help pay for these new initiatives, the Association has secured a SAFER grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) so that there’s no tax burden on county residents. SAFER stands for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response. The grant program was created to provide funding directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations to help them increase or maintain the number of trained, “front line” firefighters available in their communities.
“All we’re asking for from the community with this initiative is their time and their service,” Barton said. “If you volunteer, even the training and equipment is free.”
The Association is hoping to recruit members for all areas of fire service, not just firefighters. There are plenty of opportunities available for individuals who want to help with non-fire, non-emergency positions like fundraising, event coordinating and administrative duties.
“If you have a special skill or interest, we’ll find a way to put you to work,” Kay said. “We need people who can help us maintain our vehicles, flip pancakes at fundraising breakfasts, keep our books in order. Everything.”
The Association will also host speaking engagements at places like high schools and college campuses to help recruit younger volunteers.
To help with its recruitment efforts, the Association has hired the Communication Solutions Group, a public relations and marketing firm based in Jenkintown to help develop new strategies for volunteer recruitment. Communication Solutions currently handles volunteer recruitment public relations for Abington Township Fire Department, Bristol Borough Fire Department (Station 51) and the Wildwood Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 in New Jersey.
“We are excited to work with the Bucks County Fire Chiefs and Firefighters Association,” Communication Solutions founder and President Leza Raffel said. “We have a strong history of helping fire companies recruit volunteers, and we look forward to bringing the same success here.”