Frederick, Page and Shenandoah counties using GIS analysis
By Sally Voth -- firstname.lastname@example.org
With volunteer numbers continuing to dwindle, some area fire departments are trying a novel approach to finding "everyday heroes."
The Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue is one of 20 agencies statewide taking part in a Virginia Fire Chiefs Association study. Ten are part of a control group, with the other 10 using geographic information systems analysis in marketing volunteer opportunities.
Shenandoah, Frederick and Page counties are among the jurisdictions using the GIS information, according to a news release from the Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue. Rockingham and Culpeper counties are in the control group using traditional recruitment methods.
"The numbers of volunteers participating in fire and EMS organizations countrywide has been dwindling," Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue Chief Gary Yew said Monday. "So, to be able to participate in a novel way to attract people to the system, we're certainly excited about.
"The research has started, and has been provided to us. The geographic information systems used segmentation to highlight what members demographically of our county would likely be interested in being part of the fire and EMS system. That allows us to target those people instead of, if you will, [using a] shotgun approach."
According to the news release, the firm Esri's Tapestry Segmentation system breaks U.S. neighborhoods into 65 different market segments. These include income, jobs, home value, education and age.
This led to the Everyday Hero VA marketing campaign, the release says.
Yew said Shenandoah County hoped to start targeting potential volunteers next month.
He said the core group that will be targeted is labeled southern satellites. That segment has a median age of 38.5, has a household income of about $40,000 and enjoys outdoor pursuits and woodworking, Yew said.
Using that information, the department could team up with Lowes to reach those who do woodworking, he said.
Traditional recruitment marketing has included hanging banners saying, "Come join us," at fire and rescue stations, Yew said.
"Now, we can target demographically who would probably make the best fit," he said. "Hopefully, we can increase our ranks."
The study is a first-of-its-kind, VFCA Executive Director Jimmy Carter said Monday. For the past five years, volunteer agencies have listed a lack of volunteers as their top problem, he said.
The association is providing materials and information to the localities through the program.
"We sort of took that information and saw the opportunity to apply for this grant, and it has never been done before in the United States, so there's no ... data out there," Carter said. "We're sort of paving our own way. We're kind of excited about it."