Volunteers play a crucial role in the fire service. In fact, 70 percent of U.S. firefighters are volunteers. Many mid-size communities utilize a mix of volunteer and career personnel, while smaller and rural communities rely almost entirely on volunteers.

Staff urgently needed

Despite their significant role in the emergency services, local departments are struggling to meet staffing needs as community demands increase. Fire departments today provide all-hazard response: in addition to fighting fires, personnel respond to medical emergencies, natural disasters, hazmat incidents, terrorist threats and more. Call volume has tripled over the last 30 years, placing a strain on department capacity.

“The good news is, anyone with the willingness to serve can be a firefighter, EMS provider, or support member.”

Sufficient staffing is a critical component to firefighter safety. Departments need enough personnel to do their jobs safely, effectively and efficiently. Short-staffed departments have more difficulty meeting national safety standards and addressing critical health issues, leaving both personnel and the community at risk.

There are many challenges departments face in terms of recruitment, including the time demands involved with volunteering and the lack of department resources to implement a recruitment campaign. Public awareness is also an issue. A survey conducted by the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) found that 79 percent of respondents did not know if their department needed more volunteers.

Why volunteer?

Departments across the nation are looking to the community to find new recruits willing to step up and serve. It takes commitment and dedication to be a volunteer responder, but there are many rewards. Camaraderie, making a difference, skills development and giving back to their community are all reasons people volunteer.

“We need more volunteers to join the fire service,” said NVFC Chair Kevin D. Quinn. “The good news is, anyone with the willingness to serve can be a firefighter, EMS provider, or support member. We are a family of over one million people with the shared goal of making our communities a better, safer place.”

The NVFC is working to raise public awareness and assist departments with recruitment through the Make Me A Firefighter™ campaign. Those interested in volunteering can find a local opportunity at MakeMeAFirefighter.org. Departments can visit the NVFC portal for help with recruitment.