Department Spotlight: Wheaton Volunteer Rescue Squad, Inc.

Department Name: Wheaton Volunteer Rescue Squad, Inc.
Department Location: Wheaton, MD
Department Type: Mostly Volunteer
Number of Active Volunteers: 134
Community Type: Suburban

What challenges have you experienced in terms of recruiting new members to your department?
The Wheaton Volunteer Rescue Squad, Inc. (WVRS) has an exceptionally high monthly riding requirement of 80 hours (ie: standby hours). Many potential recruits are unable to meet this requirement.

What methods have proved successful in recruiting new volunteers?
Responsiveness. Since 2005 we have used customer resource management (CRM) tool, Salesforce.org, to track all incoming leads from our web site. A new lead (ie: recruit) is immediately assigned to a recruiter who maintains frequent contact with the recruit as they are guided through the recruitment process.

What has your department done to reach all demographics in the community?
Reducing and eliminating barriers to entry. Our priority is to respond to over 10,000 emergency calls per year. To do this we need to have a uninterrupted pipeline of at least 40 raw recruits per year. From screening to training criteria, we are constantly questioning whether our standards support our mission of putting trained volunteers in the seats of our apparatus. At the end of the day if you’re willing to complete the required training and show up for duty ready to run calls, then we have a place for you.

How have you used the Make Me A Firefighter campaign in your recruitment efforts?
We upload leads from the Make Me A Firefighter CRM directly into our Salesforce CRM, ensuring that anyone who shows interest in the WVRS is contacted promptly by a WVRS recruiter.

How does your department support the retention of volunteers?
We view retention as a continuation of recruitment. Our recruitment CRM is also used as our human resources software and supports recruiting our volunteers into the classes needed to achieve higher training levels. Additionally, we continually recognize our volunteers with public awards posted to our Facebook page including: member of the month, unit citations, badges and collar brass for new EMTs, brass stethoscopes for new paramedics, custom jackets for new heavy apparatus drivers, annual WVRS awards, nominations for annual county awards, and nominations for annual state awards.

What tips or advice do you have for departments that are struggling with recruiting and/or retaining volunteers?
Treat every potential recruit as a customer. Eliminate barriers wherever possible. Monitor the processing time for potential recruits and reduce processing time wherever possible. You are selling the greatest volunteer product in America. Make it as easy as possible for your potential recruits to see this product; once they do you will likely have them for a lifetime.

Anything else you’d like to share?
Your department has been built by those who went before you. You can honor these traditions by improving your department and ensuring that their legacy is honored by future generations of volunteers.