Monday, October 15, 2018

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Concerns over decline in emergency services volunteer staffing

Members of the all-volunteer Carmel Fire Department

CARMEL – Declines in emergency services volunteer staffing is plaguing not only Putnam County but communities across New York State as well as towns and villages throughout the United States.

The New York State Fire Coordinators Association is deeply concerned about the dilemma and has requested that all emergency services providers from the northern tier to the shores of eastern Long Island identify the reasons for the downward spiral and implement solutions, plans and strategies to resolve the issue.

Putnam Commissioner of Emergency Services Ken Clair has welcomed the effort that will be focusing on various approaches to recruitment and retention.

Clair said the reduction in volunteer staffing and increases in emergency calls have resulted in a “diminished and crucial number of men and women available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year.  He said dropped calls, lack of qualified officers, understaffed equipment and delayed responses have resulted and are some of the issues that have become “most disturbing and concerning.”

Clair added that he realizes “a number of volunteer fire departments are still high performing agencies but sadly they are the exception and not the rule.”

The Fire Coordinators’ Association has joined forces with the Firemen’s Association of New York, the state Association of Fire Chiefs and the Association of Fire Districts to form the Fire Service Alliance that has begun focusing on various approaches to recruitment and retention.

Clair believes that a “new model in providing emergency services in New York is needed.”

The state Fire Coordinators group believes before anything can be remedied the scope of the problem must be identified. Firefighters from around the state are being asked to complete a Firefighter Survey by October 31. The survey is on line by contacting the state Fire Coordinators Association.

Emergency responders are being asked: “What would impact your retention? Where should recruitment activities be focused? What challenges do today’s volunteers face? How should recruitment and retention be addressed? Why do individuals leave the volunteer service?”

Clair noted that the problem will not go away without strategic and careful review. “Volunteerism in the emergency services field has been a part of the American way for generations. This stumbling block of reductions in personnel must be successfully remedied.”

 


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