Unfortunately, the national trend for volunteers is dropping at an alarming rate with some studies showing volunteerism down as much as 25%. There are many factors that have a direct bearing on this number. For example, families with 2 household incomes are now both at work. Many have children enrolled in numerous activities. And, members that started our volunteer department in 1978 are moving on.
Another factor is the training that is required to become a volunteer has changed drastically over the years. Back in the early 70's, an interested person would just show up and say "I want to be a Volunteer". That person was issued gear, a pager, put through a short class on fire fighting - and, you were then a "Volunteer Firefighter",
Fast forward to 2019. A minimum of 240 hours of training is needed to enter a burning structure. This new training stems from the liability that the department shoulders if personnel are not trained to the national standards. It takes a lot of time away from family to get the necessary training these days.
The sense of community is changing as more subdivisions are added,
spreading out over the 25 square mile area that is our Jackson Trail Fire
district. And, the volunteers today usually do not work their primary job in the district where they volunteer. So, the days of the boss letting the volunteers leave work to run fire calls is coming to an end.
There are numerous studies available on how to recruit and retain Volunteer firefighters. We at JTVFD have tried the following approach with wonderful results. Membership of extremely talented Firefighters is at an all time high with dedicated involvement.
- JTVFD created a Facebook page & a webpage for the improvement of communication. Not only do these outlets behoove our members, but it allows us to be more involved with our community.
- JTVFD began paying "per call" to respond to calls. Although we now have limited firefighters on duty 24 hours/day, some calls require additional help. So, we try to give back a little by paying our members for leaving the dinner table, leaving their child's activity, or by getting out of bed in the middle of the night. To help with this, we have implemented a fire/rescue calendar for members to sign up to run calls with the on duty firefighter. This assists us with having adequate personnel on uncomplicated scenes since 80% of our calls are medical in nature. Naturally, if it is a fire call or a serious call, we ALL go!!
- JTVFD continues to improve our stations. We want JTVFD to be a place where members and their families want to come & be a part of. We are remodeling our kitchen, we've cleaned & straightened the entire station & have added beds for those working overnight. The outdoor fire pit & grilling area have been a welcomed addition. Our Accredited Crossfit Gym keeps our members working out together & builds a strong body & camaraderie. We have collected play pens and toys so parents can bring there children to the station.
- JTVFD has enjoyed & continues to enjoy the improving working relationship with our neighboring departments, West Jackson FD, Jefferson FD, Arcade Fire & North Jackson Fire, Jackson County CI; and the Jackson County 911 Center. Communication with each other is imperative and we strive to work daily on developing this very important component of firefighting.
I am very proud of this department. Our members do most of the work to update, add, & improve our stations. They have fresh ideas & stay motivated until goals are completed. It is with their help, the support of our Board of Directors & encouragement from our community that we are moving forward at such a fast pace.
Chief David Coholich
Jackson Trail Volunteer Fire Department, Inc.
3345 Jackson Trail Road, Jefferson, GA. 30549
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