Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Hook

Upsala Fire Department is accepting applications for the position of Firefighter. Not that I can remember a time when we weren't accepting applications, but that's beside the point. There's a rumour that if you drive too close to the fire hall bay doors, a giant hook will dart out and snaffle your car into a secret room where you are brainwashed into signing your life away as a volunteer firefighter. But it's just a rumour.

Speaking of recruitment, the Alberta Fire Chiefs Association got a $50,000 grant to develop a tool box to assist departments with recruiting so they don't have to resort to giant snaffling hooks to fill their rosters. The the final report was finished last May, but I just saw it today. If you aren't intimidated by 128 pages of information and good ideas, click here. If you are a dedicated and patient recruiter, read the whole thing from start to finish. If you suffer from mild ADHD like me, I suggest that you go to page 37, the Local Fire Department Self-Assessment Tool, and work from there. Click here for a document that gives background information on the endeavour. The Ontario government developed a similar guideline a few years ago, which you can see here.

The problem with a comprehensive recruiting strategy is that it assumes you actually have people to recruit. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the hard work that went into these documents. I glean useful information from them and put it to the best use I can. But every recruiting technique must be built on the firm foundation of warm and willing people. If they are in short supply, the strategy is just words.

It kind of reminds me of the fire investigation courses I've taken. They always include a hands-on segment for students to analyse an actual fire, set by the instructors. The problem I had with this valuable learning experience was that a suppression crew knocked the fire down before it burned up all the "evidence." Many of the fires I investigate are complete burnouts. The basic principles are the same, but the techniques are not as effective as they are in the controlled burns.

Many small communities are headed toward complete recruitment burnout. The general principles in these resource packages are good, but more help is needed than just good screening policies and media blitzes.

Volunteer fire departments are being bombarded with challenges like Benghazi is being bombarded by Gadhafi. Recruitment strategies and UN resolutions are all good and well as long as there are still survivors next week or next year when the dust settles. More help is needed, sooner than later.

One omission from most government sponsored recruitment strategies is the possibility of funding as part of the solution. I understand that money is in short supply, and that it isn't the only answer, but I wonder how well our police and ambulance counterparts would do without it. It was generous of the Alberta government to award that $50,000 grant and everything, but $50,000 is less than they put into one police officer every year. One police officer.

You can read more of my crazy ideas on recruiting here.

And now it's time to go polish up my giant hook.

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