The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grants (SAFER) program was created to provide funding directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations to help them increase or maintain the number of trained, “front line” firefighters available in local communities. The goal of SAFER is to enhance our local fire departments’ collective abilities to comply with national staffing, response, and operational standards.
This new endeavor will be implemented by the Fire Board in conjunction with Berkeley County’s five volunteer fire departments (and their substations): Back Creek Valley Volunteer Fire Department, Baker Heights Volunteer Fire Department, Bedington Volunteer Fire Department, Hedgesville Volunteer Fire Department, and South Berkeley Volunteer Fire Department.
This grant award is specifically targeted towards the departments’ initiative to implement a new volunteer recruitment and retention program, addressing this component of the Fire Board’s long-term strategic plan. The primary focus is the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters who want to be involved with, or trained in, the operations of firefighting and emergency response. The grant is intended to create a net increase in the number of trained, certified, and competent volunteer firefighters capable of safely responding to emergencies that do occur within the department’s response areas. Grant funding covers the costs of readying newly-recruited firefighters (i.e. insurance, training expenses, turnout gear), tuition reimbursement incentives for new recruits, supplies and training for recruiting personnel, and a significant marketing campaign.
The Volunteer Recruitment and Retention Program’s goal is to reach out and utilize our area’s growing population base by attracting new, untapped talent interested in becoming volunteers within their community. The Grant Coordinator and volunteer fire chiefs will be traveling to local community events, schools, and other relevant public venues to recruit for this initiative and efficiently use allocated grant funds. In order to best attract new recruits, a significant marketing campaign will be undertaken to advertise the benefits of joining one of the respective stations. An advertising campaign that includes expansive billboard promotion will be initiated, a programmatic website will be created, and tuition reimbursement will be available for college-aspiring recruits. New recruits will also receive brand new turnout gear after the completion of their required training. Additional training funding is available to assist project leaders in the retention effort of these newly-recruited volunteer firefighters.
This collaborate, team effort was intricately planned and executed, as the SAFER program is exceedingly competitive. The Berkeley County Fire Service Board and the five respective volunteer fire departments have pledged to work hand-in-hand on this project in order to most efficiently utilize allotted grant funding.