By Jordan Vallone, Mallory Wilson and Michael Malaszczyk
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 realm on April 22 and 23, these all in favour of becoming a member of the departments may have the chance to speak to lively 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 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, who’s the quick former East Meadow Fireplace Chief. They meet month-to-month to debate enterprise, which additionally consists of methods to recruit new members into their respective fireplace departments.
“We’re all seeing the identical issues,” Cheswick mentioned. “It would not matter if it is East Meadow, Wantagh, Seaford – we’re all affected by the identical issues as low numbers of individuals desirous to volunteer.”
Cheswick, who began with the East Meadow Fireplace 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 Fireplace Chief Timothy Carroll mentioned he started witnessing a decline in his firefighters’ membership about 5 or 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, folks have been dying to return in right here.’ What’s low for me is nearly non-existent for them.
“We attempt to clarify as finest we will how lengthy will probably be as soon as they merge,” Cheswick mentioned. “However then folks actually sit down and notice how busy it truly is they usually cannot do it, so that they find yourself simply leaving after a short while 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 hearth division.
“You have got your loved ones, you could have obligations with work, possibly two jobs, so it is more durable to maintain these members,” Cheswick mentioned. “We’re attempting every little thing we will to cut back the load on folks, but it surely’s exhausting as a result of you must work out, you must go to calls, you must come to conferences and know what is going on on.”
Carroll mentioned, “Because the years have passed by, the typical firefighter has aged. The youngsters, that is the 18, 19 yr 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? Folks work two or three jobs they usually run out of time”.
Phil Schaaf, a captain at Wantagh Third Fireplace 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 herald some new folks — not simply youthful, however simply new — to essentially begin integrating a few of those that aren’t in a position to be as lively due to age and well being.”
George Kern, a former Seaford fireplace chief, has related views on a senior fireplace division.
Firefighters are getting extra calls now because of trendy smoke and carbon monoxide detectors robotically alerting native departments. So regardless that the menace in a house is probably not critical sufficient for a response, firefighters are nonetheless summoned.
Every sixth Battalion division lends mutual support at any time when considered one of its unbiased 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 right this moment,” Carroll mentioned, “I might get you thru the academy courses in Could, and also you’d end fireplace academy by August, possibly September. However for those who take part September, I am unable to get you into the hearth academy till (subsequent) Could, 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 yr and should attend 50% of all coaching periods and 50% of all conferences. After the primary yr, they solely must attend 20 % of calls, conferences and occasions, which Carroll says is about 4 hours every week.
Firefighter volunteers obtain advantages, reminiscent of tuition payment help, tax breaks, and retirement. A volunteer drive, in comparison with a career-long fireplace drive, saves residents $273 million in annual taxes.
Begin them younger
Among the finest methods to recruit and retain volunteers is to get them all in favour of 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’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 Fireplace Academy in Previous Bethpage, the place they’re skilled in quite a lot of practices they have to be taught to turn out to be a firefighter.
Moreover, Nassau BOCES runs EMT coaching for highschool college students. Cheswick mentioned East Meadow Fireplace Division officers have been attempting to talk at a number of profession days within the East Meadow College District to indicate college students what is accessible to them. Carroll mentioned Bellmore Firefighters additionally go to John F. Kennedy Excessive College for a similar function.
“We have been actually adamant about attempting 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 Fireplace Division solely has one firehouse, however former chief George Kern mentioned its doorways are open to younger individuals who need 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 can be very useful in getting the phrase out about us.”
From volunteer to profession
For school-age youngsters, free courses 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 presently 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 obtained 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 response to Schaaf and Kern, volunteer firefighters are engaged in a way of neighborhood and function.
“It is about serving to the neighborhood and serving to your neighbors,” Schaaf mentioned. “There’s numerous household enjoyable, in addition to parades and barbecues for households to participate in. There’s quite a bit 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 Fireplace 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 flexibility to reply a neighbor’s name in time of want builds a way of neighborhood that may’t be duplicated some other manner. We’re all known as to serve and use our items and skills to learn others, and for those who be a part of as a firefighter or fireplace physician, it is an effective way to make a distinction in folks’s lives in a direct and private manner.