Successful organizations are those with a strong organizational philosophy about volunteers.
Reducing Declining Number
The Butte County Fire Department is a combination fire department; the delivery of fire department services is accomplished using both career professional and citizen volunteer firefighters. The recruitment, training, and retention of volunteer firefighters has become more complex and difficult over the past twenty years and is not unique to the Butte County Fire Department. These difficulties are being experienced nationwide. The goal of this section is to identify and implement innovative ways to increase and enhance the citizen volunteer component of the Butte County Fire Department over the next five years. According to the Fire Department assessment conducted by Chief Ronny Coleman in 2005, “The economy and deployment platform of the Butte County area would seem to indicate the need to preserve the volunteer cadre to support the combination nature of the department into the foreseeable future (5-10 years at a minimum)” (Coleman: 80). The Fire Department agrees but expects volunteer firefighters to be an important part of the Butte County Fire Department well into the future.
Continue to maintain a department culture that embraces, encourages and appreciates the
citizen volunteer firefighter.
Strive to increase the numbers of citizen volunteer firefighters, especially in areas that are
underserved, but at a minimum maintain the current Fire Department citizen volunteer force. (150)
Create and train a recruiting task force under the direction of a Battalion Chief and
volunteer Company Captain. Recruiting should be ongoing, not time-limited. Recruiting takes
effort. Use a proven recruitment process – seek, sell, screen, select. Seek innovative and creative
solutions from both career and volunteer members through a recruiting task force. (Ongoing).
Conduct a needs assessment and identify how and where to focus recruiting efforts.
How many volunteers are needed this year and for the next five years to maintain current levels?
Should the thrust be for volunteers available during traditional low turn out times? (FY 06/07)
Continually evaluate the effectiveness of the recruiting task force efforts and make
adjustments as needed. (Ongoing)
Evaluate future opportunities for regional volunteer companies and/or
moving to a paid call firefighter program in lieu of citizen volunteers. (Ongoing)
Conduct anonymous surveys of citizen volunteer firefighters every two
years. Surveys should address issues such as respect for leadership, competency of the
organization, image of the fire department, respect for people's time etc. (Ongoing)
Continue quarterly volunteer Company Officer meetings with
career Chief Officers. (Ongoing)
Continue efforts of the Volunteer Standard Operating Guidelines
(SOG) Committee, to meet as needed, but not less than once per year to validate current
Develop clear professional guidelines for career station personnel,
chief officers and staff regarding volunteer relations, motivation and leadership. Provide necessary
training to accomplish this strategy. (Ongoing)
Maintaining a highly trained
citizen volunteer fire fighting force.
The fire service has changed drastically over the past few decades. The job of the firefighter has gone from one of putting out wildland and structure fires with a hoseline while wearing a heavy jacket and protective helmet, to one of all risk responses. These responses include, but are not limited to, emergency medical, hazardous material, technical rescues, natural disasters and terrorist acts. All of this is accomplished while wearing high-tech protective clothing, operating expensive high-tech devices and equipment under close public and political scrutiny. Here in lies a part of the problem of recruitment and retention of citizen volunteers. Even if a successful recruitment process exists, citizen volunteers must be trained at a level very near that of the career firefighter. Ensuring that citizen volunteer firefighters are trained as required by law and to a level that provides the service our customers require has been and continues to be the challenge and goal of the Butte County Fire Department.
Continue to look for innovative ways to provide for the training of citizen volunteer firefighters and
the oversight of this important part of the Fire Department.
Communicate regularly with citizen volunteer firefighters regarding training needs and requirements.
Consider developing a Support Volunteer Program to provide additional opportunities for potential
citizen volunteers to serve their communities.
The Fire Department believes in the importance of the citizen volunteer firefighter program as a vital aspect of the emergency service we provide to the citizens of Butte County . To provide the appropriate oversight for this function of the Fire Department, the funding of a chief officer to oversee recruitment, retention and training of citizen volunteers and plan for the future direction and needs of the Fire Department’s volunteer companies should be considered. (Ongoing)
Fire Department Chief Officers and staff will continue to conduct quarterly meetings with Volunteer Company Officers to provide information about the direction and needs of the department and to receive information about Volunteer Company training needs and ideas. Additionally, periodic meetings with Volunteer Training Officers will be conducted to evaluate current content, delivery and effectiveness of volunteer training. (Ongoing)
Fire Department Chief Officers will continue to ensure that career company officers are providing for the day to day needs of the volunteer companies they count on. This includes being the point of contact in the chain of command for citizen volunteers to bring forward ideas and concerns.
Support Volunteer Program
The Fire Department will consider establishing a Support Volunteer Program. Support Volunteers will provide assistance to the Fire Department in a non-emergency response mode. Duties of Support Volunteers would include assisting the Fire Department at incidents with logistics, equipment pick up, traffic control, scene security, personnel rehabilitation and other important tasks. Providing this type of support will free up career and volunteer fire fighters for more arduous and dangerous work.