NVFC Receives Federal Grant to Support Volunteer Firefighter Recruitment and Retention

The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) is excited to announce it has received a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to support volunteer firefighter recruitment and retention initiatives. This is the third SAFER grant awarded to the NVFC since 2014.

Recruitment and retention are two of the most pressing issues facing the volunteer fire service. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that 65% of firefighters are volunteers, 90% of fire departments utilize operational volunteers, and that volunteers save communities across the country an estimated $46.9 billion per year. Volunteers are the backbone of communities they serve and respond to emergencies of all kinds, including structure fires, wildland fires, vehicle accidents, medical emergencies, natural disasters, hazardous materials incidents, mass casualty incidents, and more.

Despite the critical services volunteers provide, many fire departments struggle to maintain adequate staffing to effectively and safely serve their communities. The NVFC has been addressing these issues thanks to support from its previous two SAFER grants. This includes the development of the Make Me A Firefighter™ campaign, which provides materials and tools to help departments implement a successful recruitment campaign, a national database that prospective volunteers can search to find local fire service volunteer opportunities, and a national public awareness campaign to let people know that volunteers are needed and they can step up to serve. Currently, 36% of volunteer fire departments in the U.S. are registered with the campaign and over 33,000 volunteer applications have been submitted through the campaign’s web site.

The new $2.9 million grant will span four years and include three strategies to aid fire departments in growing their ranks and improving staffing and deployment capabilities through better recruitment and retention practices.

  • Resource development: The NVFC will develop additional research-based materials to aid departments in recruitment and retention and build upon the Make Me A Firefighter campaign. These include a mentorship program guide, handbook for leadership, an onboarding kit, and more.
  • Training: The NVFC will continue to offer existing training programs on recruitment and retention as well as develop new courses. Two recruitment and retention conferences will also take place during the grant’s period of performance.
  • Outreach: The NVFC will conduct outreach campaigns geared to the public to encourage them to volunteer as well as to departments to alert them to the resources and tools available to assist in their recruitment and retention efforts.

“Recruitment and retention are top priorities for the NVFC,” said NVFC chair Steve Hirsch. “If a department does not have sufficient staffing, this impacts the safety of both the firefighters and the community members. It is critical that we work to address the key barriers to recruitment and retention and develop solutions to help departments thrive. We thank FEMA for providing this critical funding so we can continue our work to make sure our fire departments are best prepared and equipped to protect our communities.”

The SAFER grants are part of FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant program and provide funding to fire departments and volunteer interest organizations to help them increase or maintain the number of trained, frontline firefighters in their communities. The goal of SAFER is to enhance the ability of local fire departments to comply with staffing, response, and operational standards established by the NFPA. Learn more about the SAFER grants here.

About the NVFC
The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) is the leading nonprofit membership association representing the interests of the volunteer fire, EMS, and rescue services. The NVFC serves as the voice of the volunteer in the national arena and provides critical resources, programs, education, and advocacy for first responders across the nation. Learn more at www.nvfc.org.