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Emergency organisations need more volunteers

Bermuda's emergency volunteer organisations are joining forces to boost recruitment and retention in an age when fewer people are giving back.

The Bermuda Police Reserves hosted a round-table discussion with the Royal Bermuda Regiment and St John Ambulance to tackle mutual challenges.

The February 2 and 3 meetings were the first, with the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service expected to join.

Sandra Beach, commandant for the Reserves, told The Royal Gazette that a recruitment and retention division had been added in 2017, when “we noticed that our numbers weren't growing”.

At a joint function with the Regiment in 2018, both organisations noticed they faced the same dilemma.

Each identified challenges in recruitment and, with the exception of the Regiment, retention.

While St John has 60 volunteers on its books, only a small core regularly shows up.

The Regiment hopes for at least 40 more recruits for its intake of 300 while the Reserves, at 42 members, could take 80 more.

Adam Hall, chief officer for administration at the Bermuda Police Reserves, also oversees recruitment and retention.

He said the Reserves and St John could take a leaf out of the Regiment's public relations book.

“We need to be more in the public eye,” he said.

“For the Reserves, it is about creating our own identity — we are a department within the Bermuda Police Service but we are also an organisation in ourselves.”

Garaeth Adderley, commissioner for St John Ambulance, said volunteers often signed up but quickly moved on.

“We have people coming through the door, they are getting the training and then they are gone,” he said.

“We offer our training for free for those who are willing to stay around, usually for about three years.

“An emergency medical responder programme would normally cost you $1,800.”

Mr Adderley said the group hoped to dispel the view that its volunteers were just “band aid stickers”.

Duncan Simons, adjutant and public relations officer for the Royal Bermuda Regiment, said the force was 10 per cent under strength, but could still carry its responsibilities.

He added: “Optimally, we would like to overbear by 5 per cent.”

He said that no other organisation in Bermuda could match its leadership, training and travel opportunities for young people.

Each of the organisations discussed a strategic plan highlighting the benefits of volunteering.

Mr Hall said that the Reserves were also looking to bolster training opportunities, such as personal development and extra courses for officers.

He added: “We have programmes in the works including college evening classes.

“We also have internal training within the BPS — we have officers trained in underwater search and rescue and in the marine section that have pilot licences.”

Mr Hall said the Reserves were looking to streamline recruitment training, adding: “Similar to the Regiment, we need to bring down the time frame.”

Mr Simons said that the Regiment aimed to realign its focus in key areas.

First was to ensure that its training was “externally accredited and transferable to the civilian world”.

Second was humanitarian aid and disaster relief, and the third entailed “focusing on our military aid to the civil authority — how do we further support the security services and Police?”

Mr Adderley emphasised highlighting the benefits of joining St John.

“We are offering a life skill that can help the community. We offer everything from First Aid and CPR training to Emergency Medical Responder.

“If you get these skills, you might be saving a member of your own family.”

He noted that volunteers also gained access to a host of sporting and entertainment events.

Mr Hall said collaboration would be key.

“Rather than having just our regular Reserve recruitment tent at Harbour Nights, we will have all of our organisations there together,” he said.

“Not everyone will lean towards the Police or St John Ambulance, but maybe they would enjoy the Regiment or fire service.”

To contact the Reserves, e-mail reservemail@bps.bm or call 515-1480 or 717-1394.

• For the Royal Bermuda Regiment, e-mail arharvey@gov.bm or call 238-1045, 335-0252.

• St John Ambulance: e-mail recruitment@sjabermuda.org or call 236-7831.

• Bermuda Fire and Rescue: e-mail bfrsinfo@gov.bm or call 292-5555.

Privates fire their first shots with the Royal Bermuda Regiment's SA-80 on the rifle range at Warwick Camp yesterday (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published March 02, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated March 02, 2019 at 8:09 am)

Emergency organisations need more volunteers

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