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Martinsville Fire & EMS Chosen To Participate in a Statewide Study

May 2, 2011

Media Release: For Immediate Release: 05/02/2011
Media Information, contact Deputy Fire Chief Kris Shrader

Martinsville Fire & EMS Chosen To Participate in a Statewide Study on
Volunteer Recruitment and Sustainability

Martinsville, Va., May 2, 2011 - The Virginia Fire Chiefs Association (VFCA) announced that Martinsville Fire & EMS has been selected as one of 20 departments in Virginia to participate in a federally-funded program to develop a first-of-its-kind model to achieve and sustain adequate levels of fire and emergency service volunteer staffing. The Volunteer Workforce Solutions (VWS) program is being led by the Virginia Fire Chiefs Association, who identified the need for departments in Virginia to seek new solutions to address continuing downward trends in volunteer staffing levels. The VFCA secured the funding from a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant.
Research and data collected by the VFCA since 2004 has shown that staffing issues in volunteer fire departments is consistently the #1 issue facing fire departments in Virginia. A 2010 Virginia Fire Service Needs Assessment Survey conducted by the Virginia Department of Fire Programs, found that 67% of all survey respondents reported the need for more volunteer firefighters. The VWS program will work to identify and address recruitment and retention challenges facing volunteer fire departments while helping the departments and elected officials in effectively planning their future emergency response systems.
"Over the last several years, it has been very tough for many fire departments throughout Virginia to recruit and retain volunteers for a variety of reasons," said Chief Jack Jones, VFCA President. "Most volunteer fire departments are constantly struggling to bolster their volunteer workforce in order to provide the optimum level of protection for residents. The participating departments -- and their communities -- are really stepping up to provide leadership on this issue, not just for Virginia, but for volunteer fire departments throughout the nation."
"This is an excellent opportunity for the department and the City," said Deputy Fire Chief Kris Shrader. "Over the past five years we have tried several different approaches to recruit and retain volunteer firefighters; however, we have not been very successful. Being a part of this program will allow the department to utilize cutting edge technology to enhance our recruitment of volunteer firefighters."
"Currently, we have 11 volunteer firefighters within our department, but only four of them are actively answering emergency calls" said Deputy Fire Chief Shrader. "Martinsville Fire & EMS answers, on average, 3,100 emergency calls per year. We have to rely on volunteers due to our limited career staffing, and we simply do not have enough volunteer firefighters."
A total of twenty departments were selected by the VFCA to participate in the year-long effort based on geographic information, population, fire department statistics, and an interest to participate by the community. Ten departments will engage in a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Segmentation study which will use technology to take a deeper look at the community's characteristics and create a future roadmap for recruitment and retention. The other ten departments will serve in a control group engaging in a traditional recruitment campaign.
Martinsville Fire & EMS is one of ten departments selected to work with the VFCA in the GIS Segmentation study which will measure demographic, cultural, and economic data to predict the best way to recruit and maintain a volunteer emergency response workforce. The basis of these studies is that, like people, communities have "personalities" that can be analyzed to identify the characteristics and traits that will attract a viable and sustainable volunteer firefighter workforce. It is intended that these studies will provide a roadmap for the individual community to show the current state of each area and suggest recommendations that can further advance the recruitment and sustainability of volunteers.
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About the Virginia Fire Chiefs Association, Inc. (VFCA)
The VFCA (www.vfca.us) is an advocate for leadership to emergency response organizations. The VFCA provides a comprehensive and integrated statewide public safety effort to enhance the quality of life for its customers. The VFCA is committed to providing its members the educational opportunities, leadership skills, and support tools to manage and lead today, and into the future.