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Area fire crews join in study of recruiting

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Edinburg volunteer firefighter Chris Tusing bags up hose on top of Woodstock's fire apparatus after a call on Monday in Woodstock. Shenandoah County is taking part in a Virginia Fire Chiefs Association study using geographic information systems analysis in marketing volunteer opportunities. Rich Cooley/Daily

Frederick, Page and Shenandoah counties using GIS analysis

By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

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."


This is not rocket science. The volunteer system in Frederick County is plagued with nepotism, a bad attitude for change, and a total lack of cooperation between the F&R Association and the County Board of Supervisors.

Let's hope Warren/Clarke Counties folow suit. Why would an honest, idealistic, hardworking individual volunteer to help out at Shenandoah Farms Volunteer Fire Department, where the Fire Chief, Buddy Harlan, objects to the Virginia State Police investigation into more than $1,000 missing from SFVFD's safe (as quoted in nvdaily)? Where criminal background investigations are conducted selectively (per Whistleblower as quoted in nvdaily)? No one in their right mind wants to work alongside a criminal in an emergency, life-and-death situation. Residents who depend on SFVFD are at the mercy of a fire department on a downhill slide as long as its integrity continues to be in question.

All this will be is a way to justify more paid firemen and increase our taxes in the process. When Volunteer Recruitment and Retention is spearheaded by the paid department, no good can come of it.

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