Volunteer firefighters are always confronted with the problem of recruiting new firefighters and emergency medical technicians as name quantity will increase and lively membership decreases.
This weekend, Firefighters from the sixth Battalion, which incorporates Bellmore, East Meadow, Levittown, Massapequa, Merrick, North Bellmore, North Massapequa, North Merrick, Seaford and Wantagh, will open their doorways for the 14th Annual RecruitNY marketing campaign.
At open homes scattered all through the world on April 22 and 23, these eager about becoming a member of the departments could have the chance to speak to lively volunteers, ask questions, and study the advantages of changing into a firefighter or EMT .
The Firefighters Affiliation of New York estimates that there are 20,000 fewer volunteer firefighters in the present day than there have been 20 years in the past. Calls have gotten extra numerous, as volunteers are known as for medical emergencies, flooded basements, downed energy strains, automotive accidents and fires, the affiliation mentioned.
Sixth Battalion members are close-knit, based on Chairman Peter Cheswick, the instant former chief of the East Meadow Hearth Division. They meet month-to-month to debate enterprise, which additionally contains methods to recruit new members into their respective fireplace departments.
“We’re all seeing the identical issues,” Cheswick mentioned. “It does not matter if it is East Meadow, Wantagh, Seaford – we’re all affected by the identical issues as low numbers of individuals eager to volunteer.”
Cheswick, who began with the East Meadow Hearth Division in its junior program when he was 15, after which formally when he turned 18, mentioned he began seeing the decline in new volunteers about 10 years in the past.
Bellmore Hearth Chief Timothy Carroll mentioned he has seen a decline in his fireplace division membership 5 to 6 years in the past.
“It is all relative,” Carroll mentioned. “For those who ask a man 50 years in the past, he’ll say, ‘Up to now, individuals have been dying to come back in right here.’ What’s low for me is nearly non-existent for them.
“We attempt to clarify as finest we will how lengthy it will likely be as soon as they merge,” Cheswick mentioned. “However then individuals really sit down and notice how busy it really is, and so they cannot do this, in order that they find yourself simply leaving after a brief period of time.”
The decline may be attributed to how a lot time they should assist their households. Cheswick mentioned he works two jobs himself, along with his work with the fireplace division.
“You might have your loved ones, you’ve got obligations with work, possibly two jobs, so it is more durable to maintain these members,” Cheswick mentioned. “We’re making an attempt all the things we will to cut back the load on individuals, nevertheless it’s arduous as a result of it’s important to work out, it’s important to go to calls, it’s important to come to conferences and know what is going on on.”
Carroll mentioned, “Because the years have passed by, the typical firefighter has aged. The children, that is the 18, 19 12 months olds, they are going to go to school and so they’re not coming again.
“It is so costly to dwell right here,” she added, “Why would you keep if you may get out of right here? Folks work two or three jobs and run out of time”.
Phil Schaaf, a captain at Wantagh Third Hearth Station, mentioned the issue was not a decline in numbers, however relatively an ageing fireplace brigade and an absence of youthful members.
“Our members are beginning to age a bit,” Schaaf mentioned. “So we usher in some new individuals — not simply youthful, however simply new — to actually begin integrating a few of those that aren’t capable of be as lively due to age and well being.”
Firefighters are getting extra calls now because of fashionable smoke and carbon monoxide detectors robotically alerting native departments. So although the menace in a house won’t be critical sufficient for a response, the firefighters are nonetheless being summoned.
Every sixth Battalion division lends mutual support at any time when one in every of its impartial firefighters wants help. Up to now just a few calls required mutual assist, however now extra assist is required as there are fewer volunteers answering the calls.
Every fireplace division covers the price of coaching new volunteers, and it takes 4 to 5 months to finish the coaching.
“If I took the oath to you in the present day,” Carroll mentioned, “I may get you thru the academy lessons in Might, and also you’d end fireplace academy by August, possibly September. However in the event you take part September, I can not get you into the fireplace academy till (subsequent) Might, as a result of they cannot have outside lessons within the winter.
New members should reply 25% of all calls throughout their first 12 months and should attend 50% of all coaching classes and 50% of all conferences.
After the primary 12 months, they solely should attend 20 p.c of calls, conferences and occasions, which Carroll says is about 4 hours per week.
Firefighter volunteers obtain advantages, similar to tuition charge help, tax breaks, and retirement. A volunteer pressure, in comparison with a career-long fireplace pressure, saves residents $273 million in annual taxes.
Begin them younger
Among the finest methods to recruit and retain volunteers is to get them eager about firefighters at a younger age. Most firefighters have a junior fireplace firm, with volunteers beginning at age 15 and getting a style of what it is prefer to be a firefighter or EMT.
They will earn the chance to attend Camp Fahrenheit 516, a week-long camp held through the summer time on the Nassau County Hearth Academy in Outdated Bethpage, the place they’re skilled in a wide range of practices they need to study to turn into a firefighter.
Moreover, Nassau BOCES runs EMT coaching for highschool college students. Cheswick mentioned East Meadow Hearth Division officers have been making an attempt to talk at a number of profession days within the East Meadow College District to indicate college students what is obtainable to them. Carroll mentioned Bellmore Firefighters additionally go to John F. Kennedy Excessive College for a similar objective.
“We have been actually adamant about making an attempt to get college districts to allow us to in on their profession days,” Cheswick mentioned, “so we will present them what volunteer service has to supply.”
The Seaford Hearth Division solely has one firehouse, however former chief George Kern mentioned its doorways are open to younger individuals who wish to make a distinction locally.
“We’re a giant household,” Kern mentioned. “We’re neighborhood oriented. We’re searching for firefighters, paramedics and are additionally recruiting for our junior firefighter program which is for center and highschool college students. They may also be very useful in spreading the phrase about us.
From volunteer to profession
For faculty-age youngsters, free lessons can be found at Nassau Group School for many who volunteer with the native fireplace division.
All that’s required is a signed letter from the chief proving involvement throughout the fireplace district.
Two of Cheswick’s sons, Kasey, 21, and Connor, 19, have taken benefit of this program. Connor is at the moment learning emergency administration at NCC and Kasey has turned his EMT coaching from firefighters right into a full time gig EMT for New York State at Jones Seaside.
Complimentary coaching acquired at native fireplace departments may be taken with members in the event that they want to transition right into a paid profession in New York Metropolis’s EMS, NYPD, FDNY, or EMT.
Lifelong friendship and brotherhood
In accordance with Schaaf and Kern, volunteer firefighters are engaged in a way of neighborhood and objective.
“It is about serving to the neighborhood and serving to your neighbors,” Schaaf mentioned. “There’s loads of household enjoyable, in addition to parades and barbecues for households to participate in. There’s lots to do, assist one another, in addition to construct that camaraderie.”
State Senator Steve Rhoads, who has three many years of service with the Wantagh Hearth Division, mentioned, “The 30 years I’ve spent within the volunteer fireplace division have been among the many most rewarding experiences of my life. The power to reply a neighbor’s name in time of want builds a way of neighborhood that may’t be duplicated every other method.
“We’re all known as to serve and use our items and abilities to learn others, and in the event you be part of as a firefighter or fireplace physician, it is a good way to make a distinction in individuals’s lives in a direct and private method “.