Coordinator focuses on increasing volunteer firefighter numbers
Lacey Lancaster has been working to increase awareness and participation within Warren County’s volunteer firefighter ranks since taking the position of recruitment and retention coordinator in January.
Fire Chief Richard Mabie said Lancaster has been focused on informing, recruiting and retaining those interested in volunteering their time to the fire department.
“Most fire departments throughout the state and even throughout the nation are having a hard time recruiting people and at the time we didn’t have anybody who was dedicated to heading up any recruiting program and recruiting with our volunteer companies,” Mabie said.
Not only will Lancaster’s part-time position focus on getting more people in the door, but also on why volunteer numbers are declining.
“What we did several years ago was appoint a committee of volunteers and we even put a career person on the committee,” Mabie said. “Even that committee was running into the things we’ve been running into – people just don’t have the time to invest in service now. We figured the only way to do it properly and with oversight was to hire somebody and that’s where Lacey’s job came from.”
Lancaster, an EMT who previously worked in the emergency room at Warren Memorial Hospital, explained the nature of her position and how she works with other entities to get to the root of the recruiting problem among volunteer companies. She said she’s been enjoying her work so far.
“It’s been going great,” she said. “I have been working towards improving our application process as far as recruiting in the community,” she explained. “I’ve been building a retention program to keep our current volunteers.”
“Many surrounding counties do have somebody in this position,” Lancaster said. “Loudoun County has been a big help. There’s a retention network and we meet about four times a year and discuss what problems we’re having and what we can do to fix it. We all work together and share information and if somebody has a good idea we try to spread it around. This isn’t just a local problem, it’s a national problem.”
She also explained how her desire to take the job stemmed from her passion for fire and rescue.
“When I first heard about this position, I was really excited because it was something that was so needed,” she said. “It’s something I’m really passionate about. I’m glad I’ve been able to do my part and be able to build. It’s something I really enjoy. Communities need the resources and need to know that if they call, we’ll answer.”
Mabie said that the work she’s been doing has been helpful to the department and that it will be determined later on if the position needs to be upgraded to full time or eliminated.
“Right now, we certainly feel that some of these functions that she goes to and with handouts that we leave at certain business is certainly moving in the right direction,” he said. “It’s certainly a little early to tell how it’s going to be in the long term. We didn’t expect miracles by any means because the system before wasn’t producing this information for us. We’re just starting to get to a point now where we can look at it better.”
Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org