High school students devise marketing campaign to attract new county volunteer firefighters

Jean J. Sanders

BUCKHANNON – A Buckhannon-Upshur High School class is undertaking a marketing campaign to encourage people to volunteer at local fire departments.

Dr. Justin Bowers, career tech business and marketing teacher at B-UHS, said this is the first time he has taught a business marketing class, but this topic was a great place to start.

“I connected with [Upshur County Commission president] Kristie Tenney and (Buckhannon fire) Chief Kimble, and we’ve had conversations about the needs of the fire departments for more help or support and our class has taken this on as a marketing project,” Bowers said. “It’s a project-based learning piece; they’ve done all the research of what goes into a marketing campaign in small groups, they built their own campaign foundation for the fire department, and then they’ve collaborated to narrow that down.”

After conducting the research, the class will create ads for social media and posters around the community, encouraging participation at local fire departments. During their research, the class had a field trip to the Buckhannon Fire Department April 7 to ask questions and learn more about the department.

“I was talking to the students on way down here, and they haven’t taken field trips since they were in fourth or fifth grade and any time we can get them back out into the community and understand how, what they’re learning can directly relate to the rest of the world – the rest of life – I think that is a success,” Bowers said. “That’s really what I wanted to do was help them see the broader community and how they can make a difference in it.”

Pictured, from left, are B-UHS senior Dmitriy Ormeno, Chief JB Kimble and senior Asher Davis. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

Community members will be able to see the finished products around Strawberry Festival time.

“They’re talking about a social media campaign, so there’s definitely going to be ads on social media,” Bowers said. “We’re going to have posters all around the community and we’re going to have an immediate response. If someone’s interested in being a firefighter, there’s going to be a website or a QR code they can click on, that will basically give you information, an email or phone number, and then our county fire departments can respond and follow up with those folks.”

Buckhannon Fire Chief JB Kimble said he was excited about the project, and he would support anything that would improve staffing in fire departments.  

“We’re getting our local youth involved in the fire service, so maybe it’ll light a fire and we’ll get a few future firefighter applications, wherever they may live,” Kimble said. “I truly want to show our community leaders that we are working to attract volunteer firefighters here, and not only here, but throughout the county, and how difficult it is and that it’s a team effort.”

He said a lot of people don’t realize how many services a fire department dispenses and that it has changed a lot throughout the years.

“These kids are probably mostly16, 17 or 18 years old, so it’s been eight to 10 years since they’ve been in the fire station and a lot has changed, from the services we provide to the standards we try to adhere, so that that also means we need more people,” Kimble said. “I think it gave them an outlook of what we really do in the fire service and helps them really come up with a plan to help try to market volunteer fire departments.”

Currently, the Buckhannon Fire Department has 14 volunteers and 10 career firefighters.

“We’re here 24/7, unless we’re training or on a call, so if you have any spark in your eye and you want to look at the fire department, come on down,” Kimble said. “We can educate you if you have any questions; feel free to stop by, even if you live somewhere else and you can’t get to your local fire department.”

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