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Martinsville Fire & EMS Chosen To Participate in a Statewide Study

June 20, 2013

 

Martinsville Fire & EMS Chosen To Participate in a Statewide Study on

Volunteer Recruitment and Sustainability

 

Martinsville, VA, June 19, 2013...  The Virginia Fire Chiefs Association (VFCA) announced that the Martinsville Fire & EMS Department and the Henry County Department of Public Safety have been jointly selected as one of 14 departments in Virginia to participate in a federally-funded program designed to increase the recruitment of volunteer firefighters.  The Volunteer Workforce Solutions (VWS) program is being led by the Virginia Fire Chiefs Association, in partnership with the International Association of Fire Chiefs, Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri), and George Mason University.  Esri is the world's leading geographic information systems (GIS) software manufacturer.  Funding for the VWS program is provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant.

Research and data collected by the VFCA since 2004 has shown that staffing is consistently the #1 issue facing Virginia's volunteer fire departments.  A 2012 Virginia Fire Service Needs Assessment Survey conducted by the Virginia Department of Fire Programs, found that 70% of all survey respondents reported the need for more volunteer firefighters.  Because two-thirds of all Virginia firefighters are volunteers, it is critical to bolster and maintain volunteer personnel to adequately protect Virginia's residents and visitors.

"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 VFCA Executive Director Jimmy Carter.  Carter stated that "most volunteer fire departments are struggling to bolster their volunteer workforce in order to provide the optimum level of protection for residents.  The VWS program attempts to identify and mitigate the recruitment and retention problems facing volunteer fire departments while assisting the departments and elected officials in effectively planning their future emergency response systems."

As part of the VWS program, the Martinsville Fire & EMS Department and the Henry County Department of Public Safety will use a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) 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 also have unique "personalities" that can be analyzed to identify the characteristics and traits that will attract a viable and sustainable volunteer firefighter workforce.  "Tapestry Segmentation has been used successfully by government agencies, businesses and organizations to better understand population segments, how to reach them, and serve them," says Jennifer Schottke, Senior Manager of Fire/EMS and Public Safety Policy at Esri.  These studies are designed to provide a roadmap 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 campaign also includes one central website, www.EverydayHeroVa.org to direct prospective volunteers to a respective fire department and to provide other resourceful information.

Upon completion of the VWS program, 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 roadmap 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 Martinsville Fire & EMS Department currently has approximately twelve certified volunteer firefighters, and would like to recruit and train fifteen additional volunteer firefighters.  The Martinsville Fire & EMS Department protects a population of approximately 14,000, covering eleven square miles and responds to approximately 3,100 calls for service annually.

The volunteer departments of Henry County and the Department of Public Safety currently have approximately 300 volunteers, and would like to recruit 100 additional volunteers.  All the departments of Henry County protect a population of 54,151 covering 382 square miles and responds to approximately 7,868 calls for service annually.

"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."

"The citizens of Henry County rely on our volunteers to answer their calls for assistance in many different emergency situations," said Assistant Fire Marshal Kiah Cooper.  "Even though we currently have many valuable volunteers in our county, the demand for more personnel is very high and we are excited about partnering with the City of Martinsville to try and build our volunteer base even stronger."

"Currently, Martinsville Fire & EMS has 23 volunteer personnel within our department, but only twelve of them are certified as firefighters" said Deputy Fire Chief Shrader.  "With our limited career staffing, we have to rely on volunteers to assist us with firefighting operations, and we simply do not have enough volunteer firefighters."

In addition to the Martinsville Fire & EMS Department and Henry County Department of Public Safety, the following fire departments are also participating in the Phase II portion of the VWS program:

•o   Albemarle County Fire Rescue

•o   Botetourt County Emergency Services

•o   City of Hampton Fire and Rescue

•o   Clarke County Fire and Rescue Association

•o   County of Orange Fire and EMS

•o   Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department.

•o   Fairfax Volunteer Fire Department (City of Fairfax)

•o   Franklin Fire and Rescue/Hunterdale Volunteer Fire Department (City of Franklin)

•o   Leesburg Volunteer Fire Company

•o   Manassas Volunteer Fire Company

•o   New Kent County Fire-Rescue

•o   Purcellville Volunteer Fire Company

•o   Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue

 

General information about the VWS program is available at www.EverydayHeroVa.org or by contacting Deputy Chief Kris Shrader of the Martinsville Fire & EMS Department at (276) 403-5203, or Assistant Fire Marshal Kiah Cooper of the Henry County Department of Public Safety at (276) 634-4664.