SAFER Grant Information:

On March 6th, 2009 the Minnesota State Volunteer Firefighters Association (MSVFA) was awarded a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant to develop and conduct a recruitment and retention study of the volunteer fire service throughout the State of Minnesota.

Two-thirds of all career and volunteer fire departments across the United States, departments that serve large cities, suburbs, small towns and rural areas, do not have sufficient personnel to adequately protect the public. These staffing shortfalls often result in fire departments responding to the scene of a fire with fewer than four firefighters per vehicle.

Responding with fewer than four firefighters per apparatus prevents the first responder unit from complying with OSHA’s “2-in/2-out” standard for safe fireground operation, and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards which adds unnecessary risk to the already dangerous job of fire suppression.

The focus of the grant is firefighter recruitment and retention and the various causes and concerns that surround recruitment and retention. Increasing statewide recruitment by 20% in the next three years from the current level is one of the goals.

This will be a multi-year project and our intent is to work with everyone that is impacted by recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters.

  • We will gather information from active firefighters to determine what is keeping them as an active member on their department.
  • We will make every attempt to locate those firefighters who have recently left the fire service to properly gauge the various reasons for leaving the department.
  • We will be conducting surveys of the local citizens as to why they have not joined the local fire department.

Finding and analyzing the data will provide the base to help in current retention efforts and also in future recruitment of our firefighters.

Another goal is to work with the local leaders and the community to provide an action plan for retention and recruitment and have detailed, useful information to insure success for the fire service in Minnesota.

We will have the ability to conduct a Staffing Needs Assessment for each of Minnesota's Volunteer or Paid On Call fire departments in regards to their recruitment and retention status.

The landscape of fire protection is changing in Minnesota. In the last few months most communities have lost their experienced firefighters to the economic down turn in the relief association funds among other reasons. This has left communities in dire straits with the loss of this valuable resource, the volunteer firefighter.

Many in your community, who could volunteer, are not as willing to make the commitment as you and your predecessors were.

Coupled with many other factors are the incredible costs associated with bringing on new firefighters ranging from $3,600 to $5,000 when you factor in all the requirements of firefighter training, personnel protective equipment, immunizations, and other related costs, most within the first year of service. We basically can’t afford to lose our investment.

The time commitment required has turned away many from the fire service, as most families are two income families and have precious little family time together even without outside the family commitments.

The Minnesota State Fire Department Association and the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association have been contacted to participate along with the Minnesota State Volunteer Firefighters Association in this crucial project to gain valuable data to further insure the continued protection that the citizens of Minnesota now enjoy and have come to expect.

We have been in contact with theLeague of Minnesota Cities, the Association of Minnesota Townships and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety and the State Fire Marshal who are all onboard with this project and ready to lend support.

While many can surmise they know the answers to the recruitment and retention problem. With this comprehensive study funded by the SAFER program, we will be able to collect hard data to accurately and decisively assist the fire service in solving the recruitment and retention problems we face.

There may be a few that decide not to participate in this great opportunity which will be unfortunate. Together, with your help and participation we can make a positive impact on recruitment and retention, create a safer work environment for our firefighters and attempt to increasing statewide recruitment by 20% in the next three years. Providing staffing and response times as recommended in NFPA 1720 will help in providing the best of all services to the citizens of Minnesota. Watch this website in the coming months for updates and the project.

Participation starts with you!


For Immediate Release CONTACT

3/6/09 David Ganfield, 612-598-6369

The Minnesota State Volunteer Firefighters Association (MSVFA) is honored to announce acceptance of a four year SAFER Grant application for the purpose of studying Recruitment & Retention issues of Volunteer Firefighters in the state of Minnesota.

The MN Fire Service is at a staffing crisis point affecting our volunteer fire service. The loss of tenured experienced fire department members is crippling fire departments ability to effectively and safely perform fire suppression and rescue operations. Without new tools to attract and retain quality firefighters, community’s firefighting and rescue services are in jeopardy. We need to explore the reasons why some choose to leave the fire service in order to improve our retention rate. We also need to explore the reasons why citizens choose not to volunteer in order to improve our recruitment strategies.

Risk reduction for the community and volunteer firefighters will occur if we improve the experience base of our volunteer members. This will have a positive impact of safer fire ground operations, better staffing levels and faster emergency response times due to higher numbers of members that respond during emergency calls. An additional impact is to also improve mutual and auto-aid responses for the communities.

This grant will allow the MSVFA to provide support to communities statewide so they can continue to provide this critical volunteer service to their community. Additionally, the success of this program would be shared as a model for other fire departments throughout the country.

The MSVFA’s plan is to use this grant project to gather and analyze data, create educational and marketing tools to be distributed to all fire departments with education for improved marketing of the fire department to the community to successfully recruit and retain firefighters. This project will enhance a fire departments ability to attain minimum NFPA 1720 24 hour staffing, thus assuring that the volunteer fire departments will have adequate protection for fire and all hazards related incidents.

Currently, the initial cost of hiring a volunteer and the first year training is approximately $3,600. This cost includes: physical agility testing, medical examination, background check, EMS training and examination, Minnesota Firefighter I and FF II training and examination and uniform cost. As of now, one of every four new firefighters does not finish this first year. On average after the second year the current turn-over rate is at 50 %. Not only is there a human resource loss, but also a training investment loss of more than $3,600. This turn over rate is one of the main reasons our volunteer fire departments will not be able to continue in its primary mission to protect the community from the dangers of fire and to provide rescue and medical services to the people of the community.

Unfortunately, our states current retention rate is unacceptable. Some of our departments are experiencing losing one out of every two rookie firefighters after just two years and only one out of every three rookie firefighters is still on the department after just four years. If this trend continues, the volunteer fire department’s continued service to the community on a volunteer basis is very doubtful.

The entire population of the State of Minnesota will directly benefit by this program as well as all volunteer fire departments. By having more firefighters available for initial call in these small jurisdictions, and secondly having more experienced firefighters available, we will positively impact firefighter safety because of the pure numbers. Any firefighter who has to respond with less than adequate staffing on an emergency call is at increased risk. In the last few years we have had two firefighter fatalities on highway incidents involving relatively small fires so even small minor incidents can present major safety concerns for the firefighters. Any program that can increase the number of experienced firefighters available anywhere in our state will make our overall response more efficient and safer.