(Feb. 8, 2019) Since the Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company brought Christine Bennett on board last June to fill its new Retention and Recruitment Coordinator position, staff and community relations have strengthened appreciably, fire company President Jay Jester told the City Council last week.
Jester provided a six-month update on the position, for which the city agreed last February to cover benefit costs, during the council work session last Tuesday.
“This is a shining example of the partnership that the volunteers really appreciate with the city,” he said.
Jester said Bennett, formerly of New Castle County, Delaware, came highly qualified following prior experience with the Minquadale Fire Company and the Goodwill Fire Company.
In addition, Bennett’s academic achievements include graduating magna cum laude from Delaware Tech Community College with associate’s degrees in fire science and fire protection engineering.
Jester said when Bennett was hired the initial focus was web-based.
“We really wanted to push the social media aspect of how we get our message out,” he said.
To that end, Jester said the OCVFC Facebook page, which is now approaching 20,000 followers, experienced a nearly fifty percent increase in public messages after Bennett was hired. Also, in August the fire company started an Instagram account that has about 1,200 followers presently.
Taking the job title literally, Bennett next created and distributed a retention and recruitment survey, Jester said.
“I’m a firm believer that it’s easier to keep somebody than it is to go find somebody new,” he said.
Jester said Bennett helped hatch other plans that highlighted the importance of feeling valued.
“We wanted to get the members together to let them know how much we appreciate what they’ve done over the past [and] also wanted to get their children involved,” he said.
On that note, the fire company sponsored a department party last Halloween and opened the West Ocean City fire station for children to trick or treat.
“It was not like a haunted firehouse but we’re getting ready to ramp it up maybe to that this year,” he said. “We want the firehouse to be a part of the community.”
In terms of luring in new members, Jester said after Bennett joined the team for the second half of 2018, associate, cadet and live-in candidates have grown from 21 prior to June and 82 after that point.
“We’re getting ready to embark on a very aggressive recruitment campaign of which a video is going to be a part,” he said. “If you remember, a few years ago we started the live-in program with a live-in video that was just phenomenally done and we’re hoping to see the exact same results from a recruitment video.”
Jester said he would return in six months, again accompanied by Bennett, and should have updates on a new state partnership.
“The state is on a very large recruitment campaign for volunteer firefighters across the state,” he said. “We will be joining with their recruitment event.”
Councilman Tony DeLuca, after complimenting Jester for the report, requested future appearances involve split screen time.
“I was wondering in the next six months when you come back if Christine could present a bit of the report,” he said.
Jester laughed while noting the intent today was initial introductions with future appearances involving multiple presenters.
“I will be more than happy to turn the reins over to her in six months,” he said.