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First Responder Retention

3 min read.

When we think about the retention of first responders, we tend to focus on their salaries and benefits. While these factors are certainly important, they can’t be the only things you look at when trying to keep your team happy and engaged. Retaining employees starts at the moment of hiring and continues through every aspect of their careers with you.

Avoid hiring the wrong people

  • Hiring the wrong people can be expensive. Bad hires can lead to high turnover, low productivity and low morale. In some cases, they can even lead to lawsuits, poor customer service or other negative outcomes that are costly for your business.
  • It’s critical to hire the right people for your organization.

Train well

  • Training is a long-term investment.
  • Training should be ongoing, not just during the hiring process.
  • The training needs of each agency are unique, so training should be tailored to meet those needs.
  • The benefits of employee engagement, retention and motivation can only be achieved by all employees being given access to quality training opportunities that are fun, interactive and documented. It’s also important that they evaluate their success with an eye toward continuous improvement.

Treat employees with respect

Here are some ways to treat employees with respect:

  • Respect their time. Make sure that you keep your word, and let them know if you need to change something at the last minute. This can be especially important when dealing with deadlines for a project or an event.
  • Treat employees as equals, not subordinates. Employees want to feel like they’re working for a company that values their contributions and cares about their professional development. If you treat them as valued members of the team (and don’t view them simply as resources), they’ll be much more likely to stay long term!
  • Treat employees as part of a team—but also make sure they have time to themselves! It’s important for everyone to get breaks throughout the day so they don’t burn out or feel overwhelmed by work responsibilities. You don’t want anyone coming back from vacation only five minutes before quitting time because they haven’t seen sunlight all week!

Empower your employees to make decisions

A key element of retaining your first responders is to empower them to make decisions. Use your authority as a manager and leader to let them know you trust them and have their back. In other words, give them the tools they need so that they can do their job well. This doesn’t mean giving away control or taking it away from yourself; instead, it means empowering your employees by providing them with the authority they need in order to succeed in their role at work.

There are many ways an employer can empower his or her employees:

  • Providing training on how to do tasks correctly and efficiently
  • Allowing autonomy in scheduling work hours (such as flexible start-times)
  • Giving feedback based on performance rather than personality traits like “you did a great job!”

Engage in positive employee relations programs

As a first responder, you know that the moment you put on your uniform is one of the most important of your career. It’s a symbol of service and commitment to community. So it makes sense that when we hire first responders, we should do everything in our power to ensure that they feel valued and appreciated for their work on behalf of citizens and communities across the country.

A key component in ensuring that employees feel valued and appreciated is employee relations programs designed specifically for them. These include:

  • Employee recognition programs;
  • Employee retreats; and
  • Incentive programs like cash bonuses or gift card rewards (e.g., $100 Amazon gift card).

A well run agency starts with happy employees.

Of the many ways you can improve your agency, I believe that happy employees are one of the most effective. A happy employee is more likely to be productive, creative, loyal and generally enjoy their work than an unhappy one.

A satisfied workforce is not only more likely to stay with a company but also more inclined to do extra tasks or take on new roles when asked. They feel valued which in turn encourages them to show loyalty towards their employer and not jump ship every time a better offer comes along.


A well run agency starts with happy employees. This can be achieved by training them well, treating them with respect and empowering them to make decisions. It also requires taking part in positive employee relations programs that will allow you to engage your employees as well as clients and the community at large.