According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in 2018, US fire departments employed an estimated 1,115,000 volunteer and career firefighters. That number continues to grow as the need for emergency services personnel expands. How do you find the best firefighter candidates though, and how do you attract these individuals who have the needed education, vision, courage, strength, and good character?
Start with a Clear Picture of Your Community
Start by performing a community risk analysis to determine the frequency of each type of threat. Follow up this risk analysis with a master plan update that addresses how you will mitigate the risks. Your community needs and mitigation techniques decide how you will word the job description.
Create a Detailed Job Description
A well-researched job description provides the foundation for properly screening potential candidates. At a minimum, today’s job description for firefighters requires the following diverse emergency services skill set:
- Emergency medical care
- Machinery and vehicle rescue
- Fire suppression
- All-hazards prevention
- Life safety education
Knowledge of these areas requires vocational and technical training. Some items require college coursework.
Required Job Training
Like most careers, firefighting does not include on-the-job training. Each candidate must already have the skills and education needed to properly do the job. Include these educational requirements in your job description.
- Emergency Medical Care/Paramedics License
- Rescue Disciplines Mastery
- National Fire Protection Association Firefighter I
- Emergency Medical Technician-Basic
- Fire Apparatus Driver/Operator
- Vehicle Rescue Technician
- Hazard prevention life safety education
The appropriate candidates will agree to ongoing training, also called continuing education, which they must complete annually after having obtained their initial education listed above. These continuing education courses keep the firefighter’s training up to date.
In some areas, the risk analysis may also reveal a need for education in fire protection engineering, paramedicine, fire service administration, and emergency management. To maintain compliance with the NFPA25 Code, firefighters must conduct visual and functional tests of fire protection systems at monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, annually, and 5-year and 10-year intervals, so firefighters must train on how to test these items.
Advertising Your Fire Department’s Positions
To obtain the best candidates, advertise your positions in college newspapers and business or vocational newsletters. Purchase both online and print advertising because advertising repetition results in action on the part of the person reading the ad. An online ad lets them bookmark it for later reference, and a person can take the newspaper ad with them.
Hold Recruiting Events
You don’t need to recruit frequently, but attending your local college’s annual career fair can help ensure that you have better-quality applicants when you need to hire. These recruitment events help you build engagement with your target audience – potential firefighters. While you’re not selling a product, you are selling your workplace as the ideal one, and the most engaged audiences spend about 76 times more money on products and services advertised online, according to High Rock Studios. By building engagement, you attract the best candidates by showing what a superb work environment your fire department offers.
Attracting the Best Firefighters to Your Department
Creating a detailed job description that provides adequate information for potential applicants that offers a starting point for finding the ideal firefighting personnel. Draw heavily from the information you glean from your risk analysis and master plan update. Specify the training your department needs each applicant to have already obtained. Creating this hard and fast set of job requirements nets you better applicants.
Engage with potential recruits at career fairs and educational events to build rapport with potential firefighters. Fire departments vie for the best recruits, just as businesses do for the top college graduates. Showing your positive work environment helps you attract the best firefighting candidates.