Though the Capital Region encompasses a large area mixed with city, suburban and rural communities, there is one thing that is common throughout: a vital need for more volunteer firefighters. Fortunately, a new federally-funded recruitment campaign has been created to fill this shortage.
The Capital Region Council of Governments (CapCOG) has recently launched a recruiting website: https://capitalregionfirefighter.org/. This website features 21 fire companies across the Capital Region, all of which are searching for local volunteers to join various areas of fire service.
“We need volunteers across the Capital Region,” said Scott Ryno, coordinator of the 21-fire company regional effort. “Our message of ‘Step Up, Gear Up, Volunteer,’ is one we hope to push out to our communities, and that will start with this website.”
The website includes volunteer testimonials, how and why to volunteer, FAQ, and photos. A navigation map shows visitors the fire stations closest to them. Leads from individuals who inquire are provided directly to their local fire company for follow up.
“CapitalRegionFireFighter.org is a great resource for us and our communities,” said Ryno. “Those who are interested can learn more about becoming a volunteer firefighter and answer any questions they may have.”
The launch of the website is just one step in a four-year recruitment effort throughout the Capital Region. This includes commercials on Comcast and Verizon FIOS that will broadcast on sports programming throughout the year, social media content, video testimonials, public relations in traditional media outlets, marketing materials, and hands-on recruiting efforts at community festivals and events.
“We want everyone to know that there are many ways they can help and protect their communities,” said Ryno. “We also want them to know the sense of pride and camaraderie that many of our volunteers have found through volunteering. It’s a rewarding experience.”
In order to help fund these new initiatives, CapCOG has secured a $2.2 million Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) so that there’s no tax burden on area residents. The grant program was created to provide funding to Capital Region fire companies to help them increase or maintain the number of trained “front line” firefighters available in their communities.
No previous experience is needed to join, and volunteer firefighters will be trained to respond to fires and rescue emergencies within their own communities.
“We’re hoping that ordinary people will realize that they can become firefighters,” said Ryno. “If they do volunteer, the training and equipment is free.”
And recruitment isn’t just geared towards fighting fires. There are plenty of opportunities for those who want to serve in other ways. There is a need for fire police as well as non-emergency positions such as fundraising, grant writing, and assisting at community events. Many fire companies have programs for junior firefighters, which gives teenagers an opportunity to become a full member as an adult and offers plenty of opportunities to enhance skills. Others seek EMTs. Some companies even offer a firefighter live-in program, which is an exciting opportunity for college students and young adults to receive free housing in exchange for responding to fire calls.
“There’s plenty of ways to get involved. Your local fire chief will find something for you based on your skills and interest,” said Ryno.
To help with its recruitment efforts, CapCOG has partnered with the Communication Solutions Group, a public relations and marketing firm based in Jenkintown, Pa. to help create content and develop new strategies for volunteer recruitment. The company has run multiple countywide and regional campaigns in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
For more information about the recruitment campaign, please visit https://capitalregionfirefighter.org/, like them on Facebook or follow them on Instagram.