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Monday, November 24, 2014

Empty Boots and Quiet Sirens: Some Hard Numbers

There are fewer volunteer and paid-on-call firefighters in Minnesota. A recent study by graduate students at the University of Minnesota Humphrey Institute put some hard numbers to what is happening. The study is entitled “Empty Boots and Quiet Sirens.” It reminded me of the phrase, “What if you had a fire and nobody came?” The retention and recruitment of firefighters in Minnesota is a developing issue.

The study looks at the number of firefighters in the state between 2008-2012 and reports that 56% of Minnesota’s counties had a reduction in the number of volunteer and paid-on-call firefighters. Ninety percent of those counties were outside of the metro area, and 77% of the fire relief associations that serve communities with populations of less than 4,000 reported a 10% reduction in their number of firefighters.

The report contains three major findings:
  1. Retention and recruitment of firefighters is a local problem requiring local solutions and resources.
  2. Rural areas are more likely to experience difficulty recruiting and retaining firefighters.
  3. Additional information is needed at the state level in order to provide the most impactful support to local communities.
Some of the factors coming together that are contributing to the problem are the volunteers’ desire for a greater work-life balance, the increased training requirements, department leadership challenges, and the state’s shifting demographics. One of the subheadings of the study sums it up nicely: “A valuable service in danger.”

The full study—including a comparison with neighboring states—can be found online here:

                                          Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next…Meet the New Loss Control Team Members

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


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