In a bold initiative to address the declining numbers of volunteer firefighters in New York, the Firefighters Association of the State of New York (FASNY) has launched the RecruitNY 2024 statewide firefighter recruitment campaign. The kick-off included the release of a comprehensive survey detailing New York State residents’ perceptions of volunteer firefighters, their value to communities, and the willingness of residents to volunteer themselves.
The survey results, shared during a press conference at the Nassau County Firefighters Museum and Education Center in Uniondale, NY, offered valuable insights into public attitudes towards volunteer firefighters. Edward Tase, Jr., President of FASNY, highlighted the significance of the survey in understanding the challenges faced by volunteer fire services. Tase stated, “We have known for some years that we are losing volunteer firefighters to several factors – aging out, moving away, the need to balance work and family life with volunteering and other challenges. We are very excited to see that almost half of the New Yorkers surveyed have expressed some or even strong interest in becoming a volunteer firefighter.”
The survey, conducted among 1,000 New Yorkers outside New York City who were not already volunteer firefighters, aimed to gauge public perceptions and support for the volunteer firefighting sector. The results provided an encouraging picture:
- Strong Perceptions of Volunteer Firefighters: Respondents described volunteer firefighters as “good people” (79%), “heroes” (76%), and “strong” (73%). Almost all participants (98%) agreed that volunteer firefighters and emergency medical services are crucial for community health and safety, with 94% expressing admiration for firefighters.
- Recognition of Value and Savings: Over 80% of respondents believed that the cost savings associated with New York’s volunteer firefighting forces were impactful or very impactful. New York’s volunteer fire service reportedly saves taxpayers almost $4 billion annually. The survey also revealed that 79% of respondents considered saving lives or helping people in need as the most interesting impact of firefighting.
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Despite these positive perceptions, FASNY acknowledged the challenges faced by volunteer fire services, including a significant decrease in volunteer firefighter ranks over the past 20 years, amounting to approximately 40,000 volunteers. The survey results indicated that 49% of New Yorkers expressed interest in becoming a volunteer firefighter, providing a foundation for FASNY’s recruitment and retention programs.
To support the recruitment drive, FASNY is organizing its 15th RecruitNY campaign, scheduled for the weekend of April 13 and 14. The campaign aims to engage communities by hosting open house events across the state. The survey revealed that 66% of respondents would visit their local fire station for more information about volunteer firefighting, emphasizing the importance of localized outreach efforts.
The RecruitNY campaign, sponsored by Lincoln Financial, has been instrumental in FASNY’s efforts to address the decline in volunteer firefighter numbers. Donald Corkery, President of the Association of Fire Districts of the State of New York, commended FASNY for commissioning the survey, stating, “We applaud FASNY for commissioning this survey that provides us with new information on how to recruit new firefighters and EMS providers.”
The survey not only sheds light on the public’s positive perception of volunteer firefighters but also provides strategic insights into how to effectively communicate the importance of volunteer firefighting. As FASNY works to bolster its recruitment and retention programs, the survey results serve as a roadmap for engaging potential volunteers and ensuring the vitality of the volunteer firefighting sector in New York State.