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Solutions for the Fire Service: Recruitment and Training in Modern Times

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October 18, 2023
By Ken Willette, Executive Director, North American Fire Training Directors (NAFTD)

We are currently facing a significant challenge within the fire service - recruiting and retaining qualified firefighters. When I speak with Metro chiefs, they express that in the past, they received hundreds of applications for job openings. Now, they're lucky if they receive dozens. Similarly, my fellow chiefs from mid-sized combination departments used to have dozens of applicants, but now they're down to just a few. On the other hand, chiefs of volunteer departments and rural communities are grappling with a lack of applicants for vacant positions and an aging workforce. The uncertainty looms over us as we wonder when this situation will improve and when we can once again expect a pool of qualified candidates. 

On a brighter note, a good friend of mine serves as the chief of a small combination department. Recently, he shared some promising news - he received a remarkable 34 applications for a couple of vacancies on the call force. I was truly impressed, especially in today's challenging hiring environment. Naturally, I asked him what he attributed this success to. 

He explained that he has worked diligently to establish a comprehensive training schedule. Members of the fire department are grouped and provided with scheduled training sessions almost every week. These sessions are not only frequent but also focused on delivering high-quality training with plenty of hands-on experience using tools and equipment. His goal is to ensure that they not only acquire knowledge and skills but also become proficient in the tasks expected of them. He believes that by adhering to this training regimen, these individuals will be qualified for interior fire attack and possibly even driving and operating apparatus within a year's time. 

It's worth noting that TRANSCAER® offers an extensive library of training resources to assist local fire departments in providing credible training to their members. This engagement reinforces their commitment to the fire service. The library includes over a dozen online videos, covering specialized topics, and offers TRANSCAER certificates that can be earned during organized drills or at home by individual firefighters. 

Moreover, their Augmented Reality App leverages the camera on Apple mobile devices to project an interactive 3D model into the local real-world environment. This innovative use of AR technology takes firefighter training to a new level, one that is appreciated and enjoyed by Gen Z firefighters. 

Complementing this impressive array of resources are the "Seconds Count - Are You Prepared" video series and more than a dozen field exercises conducted annually by TRANSCAER. These programs empower small departments to train on par with larger ones, both at home and within the station. When integrated into a department's training calendar, they engage firefighters in positive activities, significantly contributing to retention and recruitment efforts. 

To explore these valuable resources and more, please visit