Editors Note: This article was published originally in the Lincoln News by Tony Hallett.
HOWLAND – Firefighter Chris Lord is not only a web guru, with an IT business and driving force behind the department’s website, but also a driver behind the department’s recruitment efforts. Last week, he witnessed first-hand the power of social media and his department’s presence on the web, when he received a message from a man in California. “We had a gentleman somehow find us all the way out in California,” Lord said Tuesday, stating the man saw the town had a Volunteer Fire Department. “Being part of a volunteer fire department has been a dream of his, and he wanted to know if he could join if he moved out here.” Lord, who said the department has been trying to leverage social media to reach out to both the community and new recruits, took this as a sign their efforts were paying off. “We are reaching significantly more people, not just in this area, but in all areas across the country,” he said. “It showcases the value of what we do.” Lord and the department regularly post videos and photographs to both the Facebook page and to the website, with topics ranging from training nights and community events to fire safety.
Lord says the content is relevant not just to inform people of what the team does, but also to display the culture of the department, and comradery among the team. Recruiting is a big focus for all departments both statewide and nationally, as lack of manpower challenges rural areas.
Howland and Passadumkeag are currently exploring creating a fire district to help address the issue and provide improved emergency response to residents in both towns. The department most recently began offering 24/7 ambulance coverage. Currently, the team is installing a bunkhouse inside the department.
As the department continues to make advances, the public will remain involved through social media. “Social media is important,” Lord said. “It allows us to disseminate that information.”