The Virginia Fire Chiefs Association has announced that the Clarke County Fire and Rescue Association has been selected as one of 14 departments in Virginia to participate in a federally-funded program designed to increase the recruitment of volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel. The Volunteer Workforce Solutions program is being led by the Virginia Fire Chiefs Association, in partnership with the International Association of Fire Chiefs, Environmental Systems Research Institute and George Mason University.
Staffing is consistently the No. 1 issue facing Virginia's volunteer fire departments, but because two-thirds of Virginia firefighters are volunteers, it would be prohibitively expensive to replace those volunteers with paid personnel. It's critical to bolster and maintain volunteer personnel to adequately protect Virginia's residents and visitors.
As part of the VWS program, Clarke County will use a Geographic Information Systems Segmentation Study to take an in-depth look at their community by measuring demographic, cultural and economic data to predict the best way to recruit volunteer firefighters. The basis of the Segmentation Study is that just like people, communities have unique personalities that can be analyzed to identify characteristics and traits to attract a volunteer firefighter workforce.
These studies are designed to provide a road map for each community and suggest recommendations that can further advance the recruitment of volunteer firefighters.
In addition to the Tapestry Segmentation information, the VWS program highlights its Everyday Heroes Campaign which advertises the right message to the right audience through personal outreach and recruitment events. The website www.EverydayHeroVa.org directs prospective volunteers to a respective fire department and to provide other resourceful information.
The effectiveness and success of the program will be evaluated by ESRI, George Mason University, the IAFC and the VFCA with the goal of providing a road map for further advancing the recruitment of volunteer firefighters in Virginia. A formal program analysis and report will be submitted to FEMA at the program's closure.
The three fire and rescue companies in Clarke County protect a population of over 14,000 covering 178 square miles and respond to approximately 2400 calls for service annually. The companies in Clarke County currently have about 50 active firefighters and EMS personnel, and a like number of support personnel who assist with fundraising activities. They would like to recruit 30 to 40 more people.
For more information, call 540-955-5175.