Volunteer firefighters are continuously confronted with the problem of recruiting new firefighters and emergency medical technicians as name quantity will increase and energetic 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 realm on April 22 and 23, these curious about becoming a member of the departments could have the chance to speak to energetic volunteers, ask questions, and find out about the advantages of changing into a firefighter or EMT .
The Firefighters Affiliation of New York estimates that there are 20,000 fewer volunteer firefighters right this moment than there have been 20 years in the past. Calls have gotten extra various, as volunteers are known as for medical emergencies, flooded basements, downed energy strains, automotive accidents and fires, the affiliation stated.
Sixth Battalion members are close-knit, in accordance with Chairman Peter Cheswick, the speedy 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 stated. “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, stated he began seeing the decline in new volunteers about 10 years in the past.
Bellmore Hearth Chief Timothy Carroll stated he has seen a decline in his fireplace division membership 5 to 6 years in the past.
“It is all relative,” Carroll stated. “Should you ask a man 50 years in the past, he’ll say, ‘Prior to now, individuals have been dying to come back in right here.’ What’s low for me is sort of non-existent for them.
“We attempt to clarify as greatest we are able to how lengthy it is going to be as soon as they merge,” Cheswick stated. “However then individuals truly sit down and understand how busy it truly is, they usually cannot do this, so 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 stated he works two jobs himself, along with his work with the fireplace division.
“You’ve got your loved ones, you may have obligations with work, perhaps two jobs, so it is more durable to maintain these members,” Cheswick stated. “We’re making an attempt all the pieces we are able to to cut back the load on individuals, however it’s laborious 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 stated, “Because the years have passed by, the common firefighter has aged. The children, that is the 18, 19 12 months olds, they will go to school they usually’re not coming again.
“It is so costly to stay right here,” she added, “Why would you keep if you will get out of right here? Individuals work two or three jobs they usually run out of time”.
Phil Schaaf, a captain at Wantagh Third Hearth Station, stated the issue was not a decline in numbers, however slightly an ageing fireplace brigade and an absence of youthful members.
“Our members are beginning to age a bit,” Schaaf stated. “So we herald some new individuals — not simply youthful, however simply new — to essentially begin integrating a few of those that aren’t in a position to be as energetic due to age and well being.”
Firefighters are getting extra calls now due to fashionable smoke and carbon monoxide detectors mechanically alerting native departments. So regardless that the risk in a house is probably not severe sufficient for a response, firefighters are nonetheless summoned.
Every sixth Battalion division lends mutual support each time certainly one of its impartial firefighters wants help. Prior 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 right this moment,” Carroll stated, “I might get you thru the academy courses in Might, and also you’d end fireplace academy by August, perhaps September. However if you happen to take part September, I can not get you into the fireplace academy till (subsequent) Might, as a result of they can not have out of doors courses within the winter.
New members should reply 25% of all calls throughout their first 12 months and should attend 50% of all coaching periods 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 every week.
Firefighter volunteers obtain advantages, corresponding to tuition price 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
The most effective methods to recruit and retain volunteers is to get them curious 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 wish to be a firefighter or EMT.
They’ll earn the chance to attend Camp Fahrenheit 516, a week-long camp held in the course of the summer time on the Nassau County Hearth Academy in Outdated Bethpage, the place they’re skilled in a wide range of practices they have to study to grow to be a firefighter.
Moreover, Nassau BOCES runs EMT coaching for highschool college students. Cheswick stated 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 point out college students what is accessible to them. Carroll stated Bellmore Firefighters additionally go to John F. Kennedy Excessive College for a similar goal.
“We have been actually adamant about making an attempt to get faculty districts to allow us to in on their profession days,” Cheswick stated, “so we are able to present them what volunteer service has to supply.”
The Seaford Hearth Division solely has one firehouse, however former chief George Kern stated its doorways are open to younger individuals who wish to make a distinction in the neighborhood.
“We’re an enormous household,” Kern stated. “We’re group 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 can be very useful in getting the phrase out about us.”
From volunteer to profession
For faculty-age children, free courses can be found at Nassau Neighborhood Faculty for individuals who volunteer with the native fireplace division.
All that’s required is a signed letter from the chief proving involvement inside 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 Seashore.
Complimentary coaching acquired at native fireplace departments could 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 group and goal.
“It is about serving to the group and serving to your neighbors,” Schaaf stated. “There’s a whole lot 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 a long time of service with the Wantagh Hearth Division, stated, “My 30 years 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 group that may’t be duplicated every other method.
“We’re all known as to serve and use our presents and abilities to profit others, and if you happen to be a 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.”