News

Interim Guidance for Fire Service Agencies from OFPC

April 4th, 2020

Please see the attached document on Interim Guidance for Fire Service Agencies from OFPC:

DOH_COVID19_FireServiceAgencies_040320

COVID19 and HIPPA: Disclosures to First Responders and Public Health Authorities

April 1st, 2020

What is the Impact of COVID19 On LOSAP??

March 27th, 2020

By Anthony Hill, Firefly Admin Inc.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, directives from government agencies of all levels – Federal and State for certain, but also County and other local governments – have resulted in the cancellation of many events, including activities of our volunteer fire departments. Departments are cancelling regularly scheduled meetings and drills. In-person training classes have also been cancelled, along with many fundraisers.

This pandemic will likely also impact how departments respond to calls. In Saratoga County, officials met on March 17th to talk about how emergency services will be managed in the County. It was mentioned that fewer police and EMS personnel will be responding to fire emergencies, and that firefighters will largely not be responding to medical calls. It doesn’t take much of a leap to foresee the next step being a limit to the number of firefighters who respond to an emergency, in order to prevent “large gatherings”. If in a typical emergency there are three times the number of individuals responding than can actually participate in the call, it makes sense to encourage fewer individuals to respond, or at least try and coordinate a sufficient-enough response to handle the emergency and thereby limit the potential spread of the virus.

But for now, what we concretely know is that events are being cancelled. Most everything else is unknown, including if any of these cancelled events will be made up.  The uncertainty and fluidity of our current situation leads to speculation on how long fire departments may have to run on a diminished capacity. Putting responses to the side, it is more than likely that a significant number of activities will not be postponed but cancelled altogether.

Under the current version of the law (Article 11-A), a municipality has no authority to grant points for activities that haven’t happened or to decrease the 50-point threshold required to earn a benefit. If there are no activities, there is no opportunity to earn points. We won’t know how significant of an impact this will have on the volunteers’ chances of earning 50 points during 2020 until this crisis is over. It may turn out that everyone will just have to be extra vigilant to attend activities during the 2nd half of the year. In all likelihood, earning 50 points will be difficult for some volunteers.

At this time, our suggestion is to track the training, meetings, drills, and miscellaneous activities that have been cancelled. This data will allow the municipal sponsor to assess how significantly impaired volunteers were from having opportunity to earn 50 points.

However, the calls present a different challenge. It would seem there are two scenarios – fire departments putting restrictions on the number of volunteers who respond, and/or volunteers becoming unable to respond because they either have the virus or are concerned about contracting it. Either way, this is an unusual time-period that may require a municipality to make some adjustments. One approach could be that a municipality identify the time period in which the COVID-19 pandemic impacted volunteers responding to calls. The required number of calls needed to earn points for department responses could then be determined two ways: (1) by including all calls for the year and all firefighter responses (i.e., the usual way), OR (2)by excluding calls and responses during this period. If a firefighter responded to the minimum percentage under either approach, then the volunteer would be credited with the points.

Depending on the severity of the situation, it is possible that special legislation will be required from the State to help guide municipalities. But given how low a priority the LOSAP point system is likely to be, it will probably be left to the municipality to determine about how to handle it locally.

We encourage you to reply with your comments and questions – the more input we are given regarding what you are experiencing at your local department, the better we can help develop reasonable solutions.

Thank you for all you are doing to serve now and in the future. It is an honor to work with so many people committed to their local community.

Category B Public Assistance Disaster Declaration for NYS

March 27th, 2020

What are Category B items that can be covered by FEMA.

Catagory B EPMeasures

Best Practices for Fire & Rescue Response adopted by Suffolk County, NY

March 27th, 2020

Cleaning and Disinfecting 3M Scott Facepieces

March 27th, 2020

See the information provided by Scott:  CleaningandDisinfectingScott

Corona Virus and the State’s Open Meeting Laws/Commissioner’s Meetings

March 18th, 2020
The statute reads as follows:
McKinney's Public Officers Law § 104
  •  104. Public notice
  Public notice of the time and place of a meeting scheduled at least one week prior thereto shall be given or electronically transmitted to the news media and shall be conspicuously posted in one or more designated public locations at least seventy-two hours before such meeting.
  1.  Public notice of the time and place of every other meeting shall be given or electronically transmitted, to the extent practicable, to the news media and shall be conspicuously posted in one or more designated public locations at a reasonable time prior thereto.
  2.  The public notice provided for by this section shall not be construed to require publication as a legal notice.
  3.  If videoconferencing is used to conduct a meeting, the public notice for the meeting shall inform the public that videoconferencing will be used, identify the locations for the meeting, and state that the public has the right to attend the meeting at any of the locations.
  4.  If a meeting will be streamed live over the internet, the public notice for the meeting shall inform the public of the internet address of the website streaming such meeting.
  5.  When a public body has the ability to do so, notice of the time and place of a meeting given in accordance with subdivision one or two of this section, shall also be conspicuously posted on the public body's internet website.Public Officers Law § 104

There is no authority to waive the strict requirements for video conferencing and right of the public to be present [as opposed to webcasting to avoid public attendance].
In looking at the Governor’s March 7th emergency declaration and it should be noted that he had waived some aspects of Article 7 of the Public Officers Law for certain  state agencies;

No. 202

E X E C U T I V E  O R D E R
Declaring a Disaster Emergency in the State of New York

WHEREAS, on January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization designated the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern;

WHEREAS, on January 31, 2020, United States Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II declared a public health emergency for the entire United States to aid the nation’s healthcare community in responding to COVID-19;

WHEREAS, both travel-related cases and community contact transmission of COVID-19 have been documented in New York State and more are expected to continue; and

WHEREAS, New York State is addressing the threat that COVID-19 poses to the health and welfare of its residents and visitors.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of the State of New York, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the Laws of the State of New York, hereby find, pursuant to Section 28 of Article 2-B of the Executive Law, that a disaster is impending in New York State, for which the affected local governments are unable to respond adequately,
and I do hereby declare a State disaster emergency for the entire State of New York. This Executive Order shall be in effect until September 7, 2020; and

Article 7 of the Public Officers Law, section 41 of the General Construction Law, and section 3002 of the Public Health Law, to the extent necessary to permit the Public Health and Health Planning Council
and the State Emergency Medical Services Council to meet and take such actions as authorized by law, as may be necessary to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak,
without meeting quorum requirements or permitting the public in-person access to meetings, provided that any such meetings must be webcast and means for effective public comment must be made available; and

   “The Committee understands that your office has fielded multiple inquiries seeking advice on the question whether public entities subject to the requirements of the Open Meetings Law (“OML”) may in light of current concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 obtain a “waiver” of the requirement that the public be permitted to attend open meetings “in-person.”

The OML contains no “waiver” provision.  The legislature did not contemplate the potential need for waivers of the “in-person” requirement for any covered entity when crafting the OML and the Committee does not have jurisdiction to grant waivers from legal requirements.  Accordingly, there is no provision for obtaining a “waiver” of such requirement under the law.

However, while it appears that no New York court has yet examined a challenge of this type, the staff of the Committee believe that judicial review of an alleged violation of the OML by a public body will take into consideration that body’s desire to protect public health while continuing to perform necessary government functions.  Under such circumstances, though, the staff of the Committee recommends that if any public body determines that limiting public in-person access to an open meeting is necessary given the current public health threat, those bodies should otherwise comply with the provisions of the OML regarding making meetings pubic through technology and also limit discussions and actions taken to those matters for which harm would be caused by delay in order to mitigate potential impact on constituents.”

Finally:

Suspension of law allowing the attendance of meetings telephonically or other similar service:

  • Article 7 of the Public Officers Law, to the extent necessary to permit any public body to meet and take such actions authorized by the law without permitting in public in-person access to meetings and authorizing such meetings to be held remotely by conference call or similar service, provided that the public has the ability to view or listen to such proceeding and that such meetings are recorded and later transcribed;

This suspension of strict Open Meeting Law requirements permits teleconference participation by Board members at meetings until such time as the Governor lifts the suspension of strict application of the statute. However, if your Board of Fire Commissioners utilizes a teleconference it will be necessary to audio record the meeting and transcribe it.

As long as you not closing the door to the public people have the ability to hear the teleconference while it is taking place as they observe those present.

WHAT HAS BEEN CANCELED DUE TO THE CURRENT STATE OF EMERGENCY!!

March 18th, 2020
Commissioner's 6 Hour Training Classes that were scheduled through May 10th and will be rescheduled. This includes Clifton Park, Endwell, Keeseville, Hammondsport, Sullivan Co, Watertown, Erie Co., Dutchess County, Long Island Annual Meeting, Irving and Westmere.
     We are currently working with the instructors and venues to reschedule the effected classes. Once a new schedule is set we will post it and send it to you via email, you will then have a few options.  
     1. Do nothing - your registration will stay at the same venue and simply transfer to the new rescheduled dated
     2. Change Venue - if the reschedule date for your current location does not work for your schedule, you can contact me to change in classroom locations
     3. Convert to Online Commissioner Training - you can switch from in classroom Training to Online Commissioner training.  (We will issue a refund for the difference of $25)
     We appreciate your patience and understanding during this event. 
     Please feel free to contact Cathy Deluca at 800-520-9594 with any questions you may have.
All classes at the State Fire Academy are suspended as of March 18th tentatively until April 5th.
All OFPC Field Classes have been suspended as of March 16th to April 5th.
The State Fire Council Meeting has been canceled until May.
The State Association Annual Meeting in Uniondale, Long Island has been canceled and the Annual Meeting will be conducted at the Niagara Falls Leadership Expo on the first weekend of October.
Updates will be posted here as they become available.

Advice if you Believe You have Symptoms of COVID19

March 13th, 2020

If you believe you have been exposed or that you have symptoms of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), CALL YOUR DOCTOR.  Please do not walk in to your doctor’s office or to the Emergency Room and risk exposing the staff and other patients. If you arrive to Saratoga Hospital, you will be directed to a safe entry at a nearby testing location.

For all other questions, call:

NYS Novel Coronavirus Hotline: 1-888-364-3065

OR: contact your County Public Health Service

Will VFBL Cover a COVID19 Exposure?

March 13th, 2020
  • In addition to other sources the Saratoga County self-insurance program; VFBL and VAWBL will be covering confirmed (“documented”) covid19 exposures, all claims should be thoroughly investigated and documented.  The issue of indemnity payments for individuals quarantined is an interesting one. They further stated that if the quarantined period is directed by the employer without confirmation that the virus is present or if the virus is present the exposure will need to be confirmed to determine compensability.  That issue will require further investigation. 
  • Check with your provider!!

A Resource Document from State Archives for Fire Departments

February 19th, 2020

How long do I have to keep this record?

MU-1 for Fire Districts – April 2017  here are your answers!!

Reservations Due March 1st for Capital Area Reception

February 13th, 2020

Reserve your seat at The Water’s Edge Lighthouse in Glenville on Saturday evening March 14th.  Across the bridge from River’s Casino.  This is our social event of the year and its always nice to see everyone.  Get your reservations in to Janice as soon as possible.