By Candice McDonald, MA
Serving as a firefighter can be stressful, which can lead to issues with retention and team morale. Finding ways to destress and promote team continuity is important. Incorporating team-building activities into an organization is one way to reduce stress and promote an effective and cohesive team that is supportive of each other.
The phrase “team building” is one that is not always well received. Despite the pushback, engaging members in teambuilding activities is an investment in a better-functioning organization. Team building fosters comradery, promotes effective communication, reduces conflict and creates a culture of unity.
The following seven activities can be used to facilitate bonding and stress reduction within your fire department.
1) Night at the Races
Break your department up into teams, with each team working to build a pinewood derby car. The car kits can be purchased for under $5 online. Ask the teams to create a mascot and theme for each of their builds. At the end of the build off, let the night at the races begin. Post the race brackets, invite family members to cheer on the racers and break out the tailgating snacks to watch the big competition.
2) Family Movie Night
Engaging family support in the fire service can lead to less stress and higher retention rates among volunteer firefighters. Host a family movie night, complete with popcorn and fun movie snacks. Rent or borrow an inflatable movie screen to make the night a little more exciting. You can even encourage the kids to dress up like the characters in the movie. A movie night also offers families the opportunity to get to know one another and provides an outlet to share specific benefits the department may have to offer family members.
Yes, I know what you are thinking, isn’t that what our members are already doing with the fire department? Volunteering for a cause outside the fire department is a way to destress and bond as a team. Building a Habitat for Humanity house is a perfect way to come together as a team and continue making a difference in the community.
4) Escape Room
One fun bonding activity that involves strong communication, leadership, teamwork and patience is an escape room game. Create your own or visit one locally. This activity involves small groups of team members entering a room full of clues. The group has to solve all of the clues to “escape” and be declared the winner. The teams that work together to solve all the clues instantly gain team bragging rights.
5) Recreational Sports
Participating in recreational sports is a great way to increase communication and destress. Holding kickball or softball tournaments between internal members or challenging a mutual aid department is a sure way to get members to work together. It’s important that all sporting events are designed for players at all levels and the competitive environment is supportive of amateur players.
6) Scavenger Hunt
We all know how important pre-planning is in the area you serve. Divide members into teams and send them out on a scavenger hunt with clues based on critical infrastructures and key locations in your community. The first team to complete the scavenger hunt will hold the victory title.
Gear up, complete with air packs, and engage in a friendly competition of dodgeball between internal members or those from another department. This gets members working together, gets the heart rate racing and promotes physical activity while in turnout gear.