Fire Departments can help the community help them by taking the following actions:
Keep members of the community informed about current events and issues with the department - By conducting public outreach on a regular basis, your department can ensure that the community is aware of your successes and needs. This will help members of the community to understand the importance of a well-trained, well-funded volunteer fire service. Departments can use methods such as websites, municipal newsletters, and newspaper advertisements to share this information.
Communicate with your local elected officials - Remember that in PA, it is the local elected officials that are responsible for the public safety. All of the fire company's authority is derived from the municipality. If your local officials only hear from you when you have a need or problem, it could be an uphill struggle to get the help you need. Provide them regular reports and keep them informed about the company's status (both the good news and the bad). This will develop a trust among all parties.
Participate in community-wide events, focusing on the importance of fire prevention and emergency preparedness -Many communities hold annual fairs, carnivals, or other public education events. Participate in these functions and allow the public to view the apparatus and equipment of the department. Use these opportunities to distribute fire prevention and emergency preparedness literature.
Work with the local school district, college or technical school to recruit volunteers for the department - Most school districts now require graduating seniors to participate in a number of community service hours. Work with the school district to allow students to complete projects that would benefit the department to fulfill this requirement. Also, many technical schools and some colleges have programs of study focusing on emergency services. Ask these schools to identify students in these programs who may be interested in volunteering their time and service to the department. Although a "junior" or explorer program is a serious time obligation for the department, it can pay huge dividends by starting what could be a lifelong commitment to the emergency services.
Clearly state what kind of help is needed, particularly what kinds of services or skills - Many people think that the only way they can help is to give cash or put on an SCBA and drag a hose. Take advantage of other kinds of community assistance like an accountant who might want to volunteer to help with your books, or a local plumber who does not want to fight fire, but might be willing to be your first stop when there is a leaky pipe in the kitchen.
Be prepared to receive the help you are asking for - Do due diligence, but don't require unnecessarily long or complicated processes to permit someone to become part of your organization. Consider having a category of membership for support persons who don't want to actually be firefighters. The worst thing that can happen is that someone who wants to help walks away in frustration because they cannot navigate the process of how to help.