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Delaware Firefighters Find Partner to Help Recruit Volunteers

The Delaware Volunteer Firefighters Association has brought in First Arriving to help recruit, train and retain volunteer firefighters by marketing the opportunities it offers, like free training.

The Delaware Volunteer Firefighters Association (DVFA) has almost 3,400 volunteers but says it needs about 600 more.

To get the word out on the opportunities that await young people who would like to become volunteers, like free training, DVFA partnered with First Arriving, a startup that offers marketing and recruitment services to first responders.

“First Arriving tackles the problem really by offering comprehensive recruitment services that are tailored individually to the unique needs of our clients, using the latest tools and targeted strategies to attract and retain talent,” said Shannon Gilliland, First Arriving CEO.

The partnership with Delaware is less than two years old and the contract is for four years.

The strategy in Delaware so far includes running ads on Facebook and Instagram, doing Google search ads, using the sides of buses as mobile billboards for ads and, coming to Delaware theatres soon, videos on the topic of being a firefighter to go along with previews before a movie starts. And the key, according to Kristina Greene, assistant director of recruitment marketing for First Arrival, is having a website where people can find all the information they would need to learn about what’s involved and where to go. has all the profiles about the departments," Greene said, "so if you’re interested in volunteering or just more information, you’re able to connect with every single department across the state.”

The DVFA used a FEMA grant to bring First Arriving on board, even though they have had a pretty robust recruitment arm in the works.

“I think [First Arriving] has put together a pretty good marketing strategy to reach out, between social media and some other means of advertisement,” said Tom DiCristofaro, vice president of DVFA and president of Claymont Fire Company, an all-volunteer fire department in northern Delaware.

“I have a pretty active recruitment and retention committee here at my station, so we haven’t had to lean on them too much currently.”

DiCristofaro said it can be hard to compete with the other interests of teens these days and ask them to volunteer when there are so many other opportunities and things to do for young people.

“Take a 16-year-old kid — that’s the earliest age they can come in. You really don’t have a lot to offer them and ... we’re fighting video games, we’re fighting the lack of just people wanting to volunteer,” DiCristofaro said.

DiCristofaro said his pitch has to be that the kid will be trained to be the best and that they won’t get much out of it but self-satisfaction.

That’s a tough sell when the volunteer is sacrificing their time and possibly their life. DiCristofaro, a 50-year veteran of the fire service, said times have changed, making it harder for people to volunteer their services.

“We used to have a lot of shift workers; we have used a lot of guys that only worked one job and the wife stayed home,” he said. “Nowadays, some of the guys are working two jobs, the wives are working and someone has to watch the kids. The whole cycle has changed drastically.”


Jim McKay is the editor of Emergency Management magazine.