If you had just 30 seconds to convince someone why they should join your volunteer fire department, what would you say?
What would your message be? Do you have a standard sales pitch that you use for just such occasions? Can you even say hello in 30 seconds?
I recently had the opportunity to coach and practice some speed-recruiting exercises with the Doyle Hose Co. 1 in Cheektowaga NY. They had been invited to be a part of career day at the local high school in their response area and they invited me to join them.
The Evans Center Fire Hall (as we called it) was just down Bennett Road and around the corner on Route 5, maybe a few hundred yards away from my house, as the crow flies. Closer than that was the rear entrance to the sixteen acres of fire company property, directly across the street from our driveway.
Growing up so close to the firehall, it was an obvious choice as a place to hang out with my friends. We played baseball on the ball fields the fire company leased to the Little League for a dollar a year. We helped out at and patronized the carnivals and other fundraising events. When the fire company added on a large banquet hall in 1971, we helped the contractors move supplies and materials. My initials are carved in the concrete sidewalk they poured. I was eight.
I don’t know if it’s the fact that my father served in the US Army in two wars, my self-inflicted guilt for not serving in the military, or simply my love for country; but over the past several years I’ve experienced a growing appreciation for – OK, almost an infatuation with – our US Military and the men and women who serve in it.
My logical side admires these ordinary people who perform extraordinary missions in defense of our freedom.
My creative side is in love with the marketing machine that is the US Military.
I’ve been asked by FireCritic and FireDaily to join them as their special guest on this week’s edition of Firefighter NetCast.
Naturally, we’ll be discussing volunteer recruitment and retention along with an overview of my presentation at FDIC in April and my cover story in the March edition of Fire-Rescue Magazine featuring my online book project: Run-to-the-Curb.com.
While I haven’t had the chance to read the entire 52-page report cover-to-cover, I can tell you that it’s comprehensive in scope and a well organized resource for anyone involved in creating or maintaining a fire department sponsored youth program. It holds something for everyone including chief officers, youth leaders, fire department administration, parents, support liaisons and the youth themselves.
I hung around after drill and talked with two good friends, Dave and Jack. Jack has been a volunteer firefighter on and off over the last 20 years, and with a few different departments. All three of us are within a few years of each other in age but Dave is a probie, and we remind him of that constantly. In fact, we have a pet name for him that I won’t put in writing.
He just joined the department in the last year as a result of the peer pressure we amply applied. The Probie’s gear rack is positioned smack-dab between Jack’s and mine, so we can keep a close eye on him and hopefully keep his rookie blunders to a minimum.
Dave started asking questions about the scenes depicted in some of the photos that hang on the wall outside of our training room.
Not only is he hanging it out on the line for all of his firefighters to see if he’s got the right stuff to be considered one of their own, but he’s exposing his fire academy laundry for the public to see through his blog. Both take a lot of guts for a 50-year old fire chief and I give him a lot of credit.
It’s good reading and contains fire service and life lessons for all of us. Check out “On Scene with Car 1.” See for yourself.
My kids will verify that we rarely swear in front of them. Foul language is unacceptable in our house. My involuntary response to the pager message was: “Holy S***!” Alex immediately sensed something and asked me “What’s wrong Dad?”
I said, “I can’t believe I’m saying this but… I’m going to a plane crash.” I grabbed my laptop backpack and my go-bag for extended deployments and headed out the door.