News

How to Start a Successful Junior Firefighter Program

August 24th, 2021

Blaize Levitan

One of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done is junior firefighting, both as a participant and later as an advisor. I can’t imagine my youth without the service and experience of junior firefighting, which profoundly affected who I am today.

Every department with the will and resources should start a program. And if you’re ready to do so, but don’t know where to start, you’ve come to the right place.

WHY START A PROGRAM?

Junior firefighting programs allow teens, usually between the ages of 14 and 18, to join their local fire department. When done properly, a junior firefighting program is an incredible opportunity for your community. Here’s why:

  • Teens that participate will have the chance at one of the most unique and rewarding life experiences. They develop leadership skills that will serve them for the rest of their lives, inherit important values of the fire service, build lifelong relationships, explore career opportunities, and have a chance to serve their community.
  • The department will benefit by having a group of young people who are willing to assist with a variety of tasks and responsibilities, access to this great recruitment tool and, as their training progresses, additional on-scene support.
  • The community benefits by having young adults engaged with public safety agencies and exposed to opportunities for social development, as well as benefiting from the community services participants can help sustain.

Watching young people transform into adults by passing on the knowledge and traditions of the fire service is well worth the time. Making a lasting impact on a young adult is a powerful and priceless experience.

ARE YOU READY TO COMMIT?

This is the most important question: Are you and your department ready to commit? To do this right, it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. It will take countless hours. When working with young people, there can be unique, time-intensive challenges. Keep this in mind as you proceed. That said, this is the fire service and you’re not alone. You will need the support of department leadership and a dedicated team committed to this program.

HOW TO START THE PROGRAM

The most successful way to approach the structure of a junior firefighting program is to essentially treat it as its own fire company, with its own drill times, meetings, events, training schedule and even its own junior leadership. You’ll want to integrate the program into the fire department, but the program requires independence to operate. Let’s review how to make this work.

Establish a team of advisors: First, the program needs adult leadership to serve as “advisors” to the program. This team will establish the structure of the program, training guidelines and schedules, and handle the administrative work. They will also serve as the liaison between the department and the program. A variety of firefighters can be called upon to assist with specific training and events, but you want a dedicated crew to lead the program on a day-to-day basis.

Create program policy or guidelines: The first assignment for the Advisor Team is to establish the governing policy creating the program. To start, rather than address every detail of the program, focus on who and how decisions will be made. Often, volunteer departments will need to consider bylaw amendments.

There are many factors to address in this process:

  • Membership: How will junior firefighters fit into the structure of your department? Volunteer departments often have different classes of membership with certain benefits and requirements. Do you want to establish a junior firefighting class of membership?
  • Application process: What steps do you envision to apply?
  • Program eligibility: Who do you want in your program? There are several factors to consider here:
    • Age: Standard participation range is 14-18; however, some programs allow participants to remain until 21, while others don’t let participants join until 16.
    • Residency: There is value in allowing non-resident participants to join your program, especially if there is no alternative in their community.
    • Participants: The program should be co-ed. Junior firefighting programs can be a great way to reverse the fire service’s abysmal record on gender diversity.
    • Health: Consider requiring a doctor’s note, as many school sport programs do.
    • Academics: Consider collecting high school report cards and requiring academic intervention if participants drop below a certain grade point average. Participation in junior firefighting should help develop young people into healthy and successful young adults, not inhibit academic achievement. Advisors or even fellow program participants can tutor those in need.
    • Criminal history: Do you plan to conduct background checks for program advisors?
  • Advisor onboarding: Will you onboard advisors so they understand appropriate behavior when dealing with minors? Dating or any type of relationship with participants outside of the program must be strictly prohibited.
  • Discipline: Who will be responsible for issuing discipline? This is important to navigate, as there is the Advisor Team as well as Department Leadership.
  • Sign-offs: Who is approving the minor’s participation? Participation by minors requires forms for parent/guardian sign-off, which should also include approvals for photo use on the department website or social media accounts.

Note :It is also important to leave some decisions for the program participants to make.

Start recruiting: Recruitment can be a challenge – but it will get easier with time. Websites and social media are easy ways to advertise and a great place to start.

Engage with the local public school system, which will have multiple options to connect you with interested participants. For example, you may be able to speak at an orientation event for students entering high school or you could include a flyer in the new year materials handed out to students. My former department used to park an apparatus in front of the high school on orientation days, and some of the junior firefighters would wear their gear and discuss the program with interested students.

Further, ensure your presence or inclusion in regular department recruitment operations, such as tables at farmers markets or community and department public events. Eventually, word of mouth will become one of the primary methods of recruitment for your program. Invite those interested to come and watch a drill or two to see what it is all about.

On-board your members: On-boarding is important. If you’re investing time and money into the participants, you want to be sure they clearly understand the commitments. Be upfront about the commitment and expectations. This is not just any club or organization; the members will be representing one of the most respected organizations in their community.

Start by developing a standard agenda or checklist that can be reused, then set up a meeting with the interested participant. By doing this, you can not only explain the program but also learn more about what they hope to achieve. Through this process, you may also learn that they have special skills that can benefit the department, such as social media engagement or website graphic design.

A good friend of mine in a neighboring department was highly adept in video editing as a high school student and made multiple amazing videos for his department while serving as a junior firefighter – and he’s a lieutenant now!

RUNNING THE PROGRAM

The specifics of every department’s program will be just as unique as every fire department in this country. Here are some general aspects to consider:

  • Develop a schedule: When does the organization meet? My suggestion is to pick one night per week, with three drills and one monthly meeting. If this is too frequent, consider every other week.
  • Participant leadership: The organization should have its own leadership structure. This is key for participants to develop leadership skills. They should hold an annual or biannual election to elect officers (e.g., president, vice president(s), treasurer and secretary, at least).
  • Monthly meetings: The club should hold an administrative meeting once per month that follows Robert’s Rules of Order, and requires reports from each officer to the membership, and minutes, too.
  • Program finances: The program should have its own budget, managed by the treasurer, with guidance from an assigned advisor who has actual signing authority. The department will need to make a financial commitment to start the program, and then through fundraising, the program can help sustain itself. Firefighting gear, insurance and similar expenses should be covered by the department. T-shirts, banquets and the like can be funded through a thoughtful budget and then fundraising events.

DRILL TIME

One of the most rewarding aspects of running a junior firefighting program is designing training. Training for junior firefighters should focus on the basics, fully preparing members to excel in Firefighter I training, if they so choose.

Here are some ideas to help get started:

  • Hydrant operations: This is what we trained on more often than any other topic. We set up hydrant relay races and held timed hydrant challenges.
  • Ground ladders: Practice throwing ladders over and over, a key skill that junior firefighters can provide on a fireground. Try this target practice exercise with ground ladders.
  • Equipment location: This is a good one for quizzes and mock responses.
  • Equipment use: Try Jenga or stacking cups with extrication equipment.
  • Radio communications: This is a good drill to engage members.
  • Major fire history: It’s important that new members know fire service history.

Encourage participants to attend and or participate in regular department training, too, especially if they are going to be responding to calls with firefighters. This helps build a positive rapport with firefighters.

Other training events include holding joint drills with other junior firefighting programs in the region. One exciting training event is to have competitions with other junior firefighting programs, relay races or muster challenges. For over a decade, the Connecticut Fire Academy has hosted an annual muster for junior firefighters from across the state. Also, Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts has hosted a historic firefighting muster challenge for junior firefighters, with a bucket brigade and hand-drawn pump.

RESPONDING TO EMERGENCY CALLS

Responding to calls is by far the most exciting aspect of the experience. If properly implemented, it is also a huge benefit to the department. Juniors don’t get complacent in firefighting basics because they are constantly training on them. It’s likely a junior firefighter can dress a hydrant and get water to a scene more efficiently than a 10-year veteran who may have not dressed a hydrant in years.

How junior firefighters respond to calls will depend on the design of your program. Clear standards must be met to allow for response eligibility. Develop a set of competencies that must be attained before response is allowed. Utilizing the concept of Firefighter I and Firefighter II, set different levels for participants to attain.

For example, a Level 1 junior firefighter must prove their competence in a basic set of competencies. Create a checklist that each participant can use to track their progress. Have an advisor sign off, confirming when each skill has been successfully demonstrated. Once the checklist is fully signed off, consider performing a final overall spot test. If they pass and have demonstrated character and discipline in line with expectations, they should be approved to start responding. Send a notice to ensure that they’re introduced to the rest of the department.

Level 2 can include a set of more advanced skills to encourage additional development. This level could come with extra benefits, such as an extended time of response or maybe some tools or a pager. Interested participants should be encouraged to become certified EMTs or emergency medical responders.

It’s important to consider participant ages and local, state and federal work rules. While you may allow participants to join at 14, it may be beneficial, based on labor rules, to wait for the emergency response age to be 16. Most states have guidelines and rules that apply to minors working or volunteering in the fire service.

Further, ensure that junior firefighters understand the confidentiality of what they may be exposed to on scene, as well as protocols regarding cell phone use and social media.

Remember, these are teens responding to potentially serious emergencies. There may not be a need to expose them unnecessarily to disturbing or traumatic situations. For example, there was an emergency in which a routine garage fire turned out to be a suicide, with a deceased individual that had barricaded themselves in the garage and then set fire to it. We didn’t need the junior firefighters on scene for body removal. If they are exposed to trauma, include them in critical incident stress debriefing. It’s best practice to reduce the exposure to trauma for anyone, especially young adults. Instill a positive approach to mental health in junior firefighting programs, and start their fire service career on a strong footing.

BOY SCOUTS EXPLORING

One cannot consider starting a junior firefighting program without discussing Exploring, the national program affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) that seeks to “teach important life and career skills to young people from all backgrounds through immersive career experiences and mentorship.” Exploring is implemented through local BSA councils and an interested organization can form its own post or club. Establishing your program as an Exploring Post is like buying ready-to-assemble furniture. It will provide you with operational guidelines, basic policy and a model structure. Notably, exploring programs provide some basic insurance, training for adult advisors, and background checks.

This all comes with a cost, though. There is a per head fee for both explorers and adults, as well as insurance fees and some minor costs depending on your local BSA chapter. Your program will also be affiliated with the BSA, which comes with its rules and policies, as well as to some extent, its branding. I recommend considering a Post at the start and then rethinking its value as the program stabilizes.

IT’S WORTH IT

There is no single right way to start a junior firefighter program. It’s not easy, but it is worth it. When I contemplate my years as a young adult, I can’t imagine them without the profound impact junior firefighting had on my life, as a participant and advisor. I carry this experience wherever I go. Even in my career outside of the volunteer fire service, I find myself leaning on the leadership skills and values I developed as a junior firefighter. That is surely something worth creating for others.

Albany Democrats Want To Raise Your Fuel By 55 Cents Per Gallon And Heating Fuel 25%

August 20th, 2021

Albany Democrats Want To Raise Your Fuel By 55 Cents Per Gallon And Heating Fuel 25%

What will this mean for your fire district/department budget?

Members of the Senate and Assembly Republican Conferences today held a listening session with stakeholders across various industries to discuss the potential impacts of the Climate and Community Investment Act (CCIA), a proposal being advanced by Albany Democrats that could increase the cost of gas by as much as 55 cents per gallon and increase home heating costs by more than 25 percent. Another listening session was held earlier this month in Albany.

The legislation would impose a carbon tax of $55 per ton of fossil fuel emissions in order to reach renewable energy mandates under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCP), passed by the Legislature in 2019.

The session was led by Sen. Dan Stec and Assemblyman Robert Smullen (R,C,I,SAM-Johnstown), ranking members of the Senate and Assembly Environmental Conservation Committees, and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning), ranking member of the Assembly Energy Committee. Discussions revolved around the potential impacts on small businesses, farms and various sectors of the energy industry. The session provided an opportunity for lawmakers to listen to testimony directly from stakeholders from across those industries

“The CCIA clearly demonstrates two things. One, that the Senate and Assembly Majorities are clearly trying to get out in front of the job the Climate Action Council (CAC) is tasked with doing relative to their scoping  plans for implementing the CLCPA and two, that they are completely out of touch with the financial needs and concerns facing families and businesses in our state.  Our CCIA roundtables will continue our efforts to highlight these issues so we can make clear to the public the wide-ranging financial impacts implementing the CLCPA will have on every sector of our state’s economy and the critical need for the state to conduct a full, transparent and honest cost benefit analysis of the CLCPA.  Given that NY contributes just. 0.5 percent of the total carbon emissions globally and 3.3 percent in the U.S., the public clearly deserves to know what the financial impact of implementing these policies will have upon them. While I agree clean and renewable energy needs to be a part of our energy portfolio and strategy, it is equally important, however,  that our energy portfolio and strategy address affordability and reliability for families and businesses and the CCIA, and likewise the CLCPA, clearly fails to address these vital areas,” said Palmesano.

Pick up the phone and tell them what you think about that.  The only bus we’ll be able to afford is the one leaving New York!!

Model Code of Ethics for Fire Districts

August 19th, 2021

Do you have a completed Code of Ethics on file with your Board?  If you undergo an audit by OSC you will be asked for a copy.  If you haven’t constructed a Code of Ethics here is a template you can use.  Please don’t just fill in the name on the line, read and understand what the Code is saying.

code-ethics-local-governments

Fire District Budget Process Calendar for the 2022 Budget Year+Tax Cap and Tax Base Growth Link

August 19th, 2021

The Tax Cap for 2022 will be 2%

Link to the Tax Base Growth Factors for Special Districts: https://www.tax.ny.gov/pdf/publications/orpts/tbgf/2022-tbgf-specialdist-7-29-21.pdf

FIRE DISTRICT BUDGET PROCESS CALENDAR FOR 2021 FOR THE 2022 BUDGET YEAR

On or Before September 28th, 2021

Required Action:

  • Adopt proposed budget for 2022, including fund balance estimate for 2021 (Town Law [“TL”] §181[2]).
  • File budget with fire district secretary (TL§181[3]).
  • Post budget on fire district’s website (if district maintains a website) (TL§181[3]).
  • Provide copy of proposed budget for 2022, including fund balance estimate for 2021 to town
  • clerk of towns in which district is located. (no statutory reference, but best practice)

 

September 29th to October 4th

Required Action:

  • Post notice of budget hearing on fire district website and signboard (if district maintains a

website/signboard) (TL§175-c[1]).

  • Provide copy of notice of budget hearing to town clerk of towns in which district is located. (Each town

clerk must post the notice on their town’s website (and on clerk’s bulletin board and town

signboard)(TL§175-c[2]).

  • Provide copy of notice of budget hearing to town clerk of towns and secretaries of fire districts with

which district contracts. (Each town clerk and fire district secretary receiving notice must post it on the

town or district website; town clerks must also post the notice on clerk’s bulletin board and town

signboard) (TL§175c-[2])

 

On or Before October 14th

Required Action

  • Publish notice of budget hearing in official newspaper or, if not official newspaper, in newspaper having

general circulation in district, and publicly post notice (TL§181[3][a]).

Remember That You Have Already

  • Posted the notice on fire district’s website (if district maintains a website)(TL§181[3][a]).
  • Provided a copy of proposed budget for public inspection to town clerk of towns in which district is

located [see September 29th tasks stated above] (TL§181[3][a]).

  • Provided a copy of published notice to town clerk of towns in which district is located (Each town clerk

must post the notice on the town’s website and on the town signboard) (TL§181[3][a]).

Treasurer Performs Following Task on Comptroller’s Website:

After adopting proposed budget complete tax cap levy form for New York Comptroller’s Office

and “save” but do not submit. Determine if proposed budget will exceed tax cap (GML§ 3-c(3))

 

On the 3rd Week in October (has been changed to any day of the week) BUT: I would not recommend holding it on a Friday night!!

Required Action

  • Hold Budget Hearing (TL§181[3][a]).

 

On or Before November 4th

Required Action

Before passing any resolutions necessary to override the tax cap levy and adopting the Fire District

Annual Budget “submit” the Fire District budget/ tax cap form to the New York State Comptroller’s

Office on the form prescribed by them. (GML3-c(7))

  • Adopt fire district annual budget (TL§181[3][b])..

 

On or before November 7th

Required Action:

  • Fire district secretary delivers two (2) certified copies of fire district annual budget to town clerk of

towns in which district is located (TL§181[3][c]) and obtains receipt.

What are the Current OSHA/PESH Training Requirement for Firefighters: A Review

August 17th, 2021

Are your firefighters taking their annual OSHA/PESH training, and if not, who do you think is going to answer for the lack of training if something unfortunate happens to one of your members?  You, the Board of Fire Commissioners.

The pertinent OSHA/PESH requirements which require annual refresher training are those designed to maintain proficient firefighter knowledge, skills and abilities in according to 29 CFR (Code of Federal Regulation) 1910.156(c)(2) and increase overall firefighter safety in accordance with other applicable OSHA/PESH standards.

What is PESH?  PESH is the Public Employee Safety and Health division of the NYS Department of Labor.  The Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau (PESH), created in 1980, enforces safety and health standards promulgated under the United States Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) and several state standards.  Public sector employers include:

  • State
  • County
  • Town
  • Village governments
  • Public Authorities
  • School Districts
  • Paid and Volunteer Fire Departments

The Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau responds to:

  • Deaths related to occupational safety and health
  • Accidents that send two or more public employees to the hospital
  • Complaints from public employees or their representatives

The Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau also:

  • Inspects public employer work sites
  • Gives technical assistance during statewide emergencies

The OSHA/PESH required annual training for all fire departments both career and volunteer is conducted so that all members can demonstrate knowledge and proficiency in the topics required.  Those topics include; Hazardous Materials/Emergency Response, Respiratory Protection, Blood Borne Pathogen, Right to Know, Workplace Violence and Fire Extinguishers (if required to use them) which most firefighters are required to do at some point of their career.

In addition to the above required training, OSHA/PESH Standard 29 CFR 1910.156(c)(2) requires that Fire Department Training Programs be designed to address annually the proficiency of each member’s knowledge and abilities as it relates to that member’s expected assignment. Such assignments may include Exterior Firefighter, Interior Firefighter, Apparatus Operator, Fire Officer/Incident Commander and Fire Training Officer. The annual refresher training should be comprised of current content and of sufficient duration so that each member can demonstrate knowledge and abilities in their assigned duties. It is important to maintain documentation of all training conducted to comply with these requirements While no specific time is allotted to the annual training or specific topics, this clarification is not intended to shorten the previously established timeframe, but to provide you with the flexibility to adjust the length of time spent on specific topics that your department feels are more or less necessary.

The OFPC Best Practices for Fire Department Training Programs document outlines subject matter that can be considered for annual refresher training for each member’s expected assignment. Fire Departments must document each member’s annual proficiency training to maintain knowledge, skills and ability proficiencies as related to that member’s expected assignment. This annual refresher requirement does not take into account special operations or activities that would exceed the requirements for this refresher training and should be considered separately based on the needs of the firefighters assigned to those activities.

Suggestions: In addition to subject area topics discussed in a firefighter’s initial training, additional topics for annual refresher training may include those listed below. It is also important to maintain an awareness of current fire service trends and advancements as they relate to your Fire Department and response area.

Some suggested topics may include:

  • Hazard Recognition
  • Fire Station Safety,
  • Response Safety,
  • Fire Scene Safety,
  • Protective Clothing,
  • SCBA Use,
  • Tools and Equipment.

Summary: The overriding consideration when determining the appropriateness of fire service training intended to address annual firefighter refresher training is:

  • Does the training relate to the expected duties and assignments of the firefighter;
  • Does it provide a means to refresh or evaluate competencies the firefighter is expected to perform; and
  • Does the training increase the level of safety for the firefighter.

Volunteer Firefighter Cancer Benefit Program Improvements

August 15th, 2021

It’s a well-known fact that certain types of cancer are a health risk for firefighters. With that diagnosis come major costs. Thanks to the signing of GML-205CC, volunteer firefighters throughout New York State have been entitled to an enhanced cancer disability benefit insurance program provided by their fire district, department or company. It’s why the AFDSNY, FASNY and NYSAFC, have partnered with The Hartford to bring you a way to help protect our 110,000 volunteer firefighters and their families: the New York State Volunteer Firefighter Cancer Benefit program.

At the start of the program the following firefighters were eligible BUT read to the end, now even exterior volunteers can be covered:

  • Served at least 5 years as interior firefighter.
  • Passed a physical exam with no evidence of cancer upon entrance as a volunteer.
  • Pass 5 annual mask fit tests.

What Types of Cancer Are Covered under the Enhanced Plan?

  • Cancers affecting the prostate or breast; lymphatic, hematological, digestive, urinary, neurological or reproductive systems; and melanoma are covered by this policy. As required by New York law, lung cancer, mesothelioma, sarcomas, non-melanoma skin cancers, or certain cancers of the endocrine system are not covered by this policy.

What Types of Cancer Are Covered Under the Premium Plan?

  • All cancers are covered under the Premium Plan, as defined in the policy.

Coverage Amounts for Cancer (Lump-Sum Cancer)

  • $6,250 per diagnosis for less severe forms of cancer as defined in the policy.
  • $25,000 per diagnosis for more severe forms of cancer as defined in the policy.
  • $250 once per lifetime for non-melanoma skin cancer (under the Premium Plan only).

Coverage Amounts for Long-Term Disability

  • $1,500 per month
  • 36-month maximum

Death Benefit

  • $50,000

WHAT’S NEW?

  • For 2022, following discussions with Hartford Insurance, there will be a 15% decrease to the base and enhanced/premium plans.  This rate discount puts us at $132.50 for the base plan and $169 for the enhanced plan.
  • Contract Changes by Hartford Insurance:  The two changes approved by the NYS Department of Financial Services are: #1. allowing the AHJ to use any form of documentation to validate eligibility; and #2 allowing the AHJ to add exterior firefighters with five years of service…period, no other requirements!
  • Fire Districts should budget now to cover this expanded group, you will be receiving information in the near future and insurance agents across the state are being informed of the changes.

Compensation May Increase for Chair’s, Election Inspectors and Fire District Ballot Clerks

August 15th, 2021

On August 2, 2021 Governor Cuomo signed A6296 (Griffin)/ S4064 (Gaughran) into law as Chapter 347 of the Laws of 2021. This amendment of Town Law §175 increases the compensation permitted for fire district election board members. It increases the maximum pay for the chairmen, election inspectors and ballot clerks for fire district elections from $35 for a three-hour election and $50 for a longer election to a sum not to exceed $70 for a three-hour election and $100 for a longer election.  This amendment to Section 175 of Town Law shall take affect upon signing.

  1. The question was asked if this includes the workers who may come into the station to prepare the election rolls or to become familiar with the electronic voting machines and the answer is the law is silent on this matter and those workers could be compensated separately by a resolution of the Board.

Soliciting Competition for Professional Services

August 4th, 2021

Soliciting Competition for Professional Services

Tom Rinaldi, President AFD-CA

This article is being provided as an educational service for the fire districts represented by the Association of Fire Districts of the Capital Area.

Through the first seven months of 2021, the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) has issued 21 reports on audits they have performed on fire districts. The majority of them address the lack of oversight the board of fire commissioners has over financial activities (and the treasurer). However. two recent reports addressed the procurement of professional services and the perceived lack of competition sought in securing those professional services. The most recent was released in July, 2021. The OSC further addressed professional services procurement for all local governments in a report issued in July 2018. The Office of General Services also maintains a website specifically dedicated to procurement for municipalities. Links to these reports and resources are below.

We believe competition is good for the consumer and/or the taxpayers of a fire district. There are few options, it opens opportunities for vendors to seek their own interest and not that of the consumer. Without competition, there tends to be less innovation, higher prices, and a lack of customer service. On the other hand, competition keeps potential vendors sharp – they tend to pay more attention to the needs of fire districts and create products and services that will meet their needs at reasonable prices.

Generally, a fire district is not statutorily required to seek competition or use a request for proposal (RFP) process when seeking professional services. One exception is when hiring a certified public accountant to audit the fire district’s financial statements. Rather, a fire district is bound by its own adopted procurement policy, which each fire district should have based on their circumstances. The reports released by the State do not state that a fire district requires the use of an RFP process, but they do make it clear that a fire district should go through the process of seeking competition before awarding a professional service contract.

From our viewpoint, the challenge with using an RFP process when soliciting a professional service is that an RFP is generally about meeting a certain specification – can the proposer meet all the stated requirements (specifications) of the request. There is no opportunity for intangibles of value such as experience, diligence or dedication that are difficult to define in an RFP.  There are several inherent problems with using RFPs for professional services:

  1. Most times, the fire district doesn’t actually know what it wants (doesn’t know what it doesn’t know) and so the RFP is incomplete and/or inaccurate and may eliminate qualified vendors for unnecessary reasons.
  2. RFPs usually result in longer detailed contracts and if the fire district is unhappy, it is hard to make changes until the term of the contract expires, which could be as long as 5 years.
  3. Conversely, if the contract awarded through an RFP process is too short or vague, vendors may not bid as the effort isn’t worth it, and may result in unhappy customers as costs increase when customers realize what is really needed, adding more time and cost.
  4. Myriad of other reasons likely stemming from fire districts that are unable to define their specific needs.

When you as an individual make a purchase, you rarely make the purchase purely on specifications. In reality, most people buy a story. A story that typically makes them feel good about their purchase, in addition to the product meeting a certain specification. Apple is great at selling a story in order to get consumers to pay more for a phone that doesn’t offer significantly better benefits than other phones (or, the benefit it does offer are not that valuable to the consumer to justify the additional cost). In professional services, relationship, chemistry, loyalty and overall “fit” are very important in the decision-making process. However, when those factors are prioritized, it could lead to a fire district paying more or perhaps not getting all the services they could receive from a competing vendor. In other words, the story a fire district might tell itself about working with a certain professional (such as how long they’ve been a client or the good things that vendor might do for the fire service) may be preventing that fire district from getting a better experience elsewhere. Soliciting competition at least gives a fire district the opportunity to see if “your guy” is offering the best service at a reasonable (not always best) price.  While OSC may be looking for an RFP, what they are really looking for is the process, are you going through the process of determining if your fire district is getting the most bang for its buck, not because you like the company logo.

As a fire district commissioner, you should be looking closely at each of the vendors and the fees that they charge for the services they provide.  We can also learn from the guidance issued by OSC in their audit reports.  Fire districts should seek out vendors who want to partner with them and not lock in long term obligations so they can drive up billable hours.  Keeping professional services providers hungry and honest will discourage bad behavior.  A fire district should delineate clear expectations in writing, so a determination can be made at the end of each year if all services were provided and if they were performed adequately.

References:

Professional Service Procurement: Considerations for Local Officials

https://www.osc.state.ny.us/files/local-government/publications/pdf/professional-service-procurement.pdf

Local Government Management Guide – Seeking Competition in Procurement

https://www.osc.state.ny.us/files/local-government/publications/pdf/seekingcompetition.pdf

Bidding 101

https://ogs.ny.gov/procurement/bidding-101

Procurement for Municipalities

https://ogs.ny.gov/procurement/procurement-municipalities

Contact the NYS OSC Division of Local Government and School Accountability,

518-408-4934  or  at  localgov@osc.ny.gov

Capital Area Association of Fire Districts Picnic

July 31st, 2021

Our picnic at Gansevoort Fire Department went very well today, we had a happy crowd and as a matter of fact we are going to do it again next year.  Mark Saturday July 30th of 2022 for next year’s picnic at the Gansevoort Fire Department pavilion.  We want to thank Jim and Tom for their efforts to make this successful. Also kudos to Tony Hill for all his efforts to get members to respond and attend.  Thanks to Chaplain Fred Richards we have photos of the event.  While the crowd was small we all enjoyed some great summer food and each other’s company.  Make a note on your calendar and make plans for next year.  We have plenty of room, so lets make the crowd a bit larger next year.

 

We were joined by Elizabeth Henry from Fire Districts Mutual (FDM), thanks for joining us.  We hope that more of our Business Partners can join us next year.

Best of Luck to Jill Wiseman

July 22nd, 2021

Just when you think all is right with the world and things are falling into place you get derailed.  I don’t remember exactly when but a gracious lady was introduced to us by Mike Podolec fa commissioner from West Glenville Fire District.  Jill Wiseman was a commissioner, a firefighter and was willing to join the group and make contributions.  What a find I thought; was it to good to be true and yes it was.  While Jill was part of the group she spoke up, made valuable contributions and was obviously going to be a rising star.  Jill made the commitment to be an officer and was elected to the office of 2nd and subsequently 1st Vice President.  Recently Jill’s husband had landed a technology position in NYC and of course during the pandemic was able to work from home, something a lot of us have learned how to do.  Then Jill’s mom was alone out in Oklahoma (Oklahoma?), which is not over the river or through the woods, and her and her husband decided to move to OK to take care of Jill’s mom.  I admire the fact that they were able to escape from the land of high taxes and questionable politicians, but the Capital Area has lost a valuable contributor who I think had a great future and I’m sure is also a loss to West Glenville Fire District.  We wish Jill and her family all the best and it was a pleasure to have her in our lives while she was here.  We will miss her and all the contributions that she made to not only our organization but to all of the fire districts that belong to the Capital Area.  Safe travels and all the best in the future, we will miss you don’t forget your friends back here in New York.

CoVid Update, Take Precautions

July 22nd, 2021

Public Health reports steady increases in COVID cases in much of the State (https://www.arcgis.com/apps/dashboards/e56ae5bf0064452fb7b6aa2933f79f8e).

To maintain operational readiness of our law enforcement, fire, and EMS services, it is essential that everyone be aware of current DOH recommendations for exposures and quarantines.  Here are the key points:

  1. Any person with COVID signs/symptoms should be tested for COVID, whether they are

fully vaccinated or not. See a local provider that can do a rapid COVID tests for people with symptoms. Other test sites: https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/find-test-site-nearyou. If the COVID test is negative, the person can return to duty (and work) once their symptoms go away.

  1. People who test positive for COVID are quarantined by Public Health for 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status. While COVID infection is extremely unlikely in fully vaccinated people, no vaccine is 100% effective. Vaccinated people who contract COVID experience milder illness and are less likely to infect others.
  2. Unvaccinated people exposed to COVID (defined as unmasked contact within 6 feet of a COVID positive person for 15+ minutes in any 24-hour period) are placed on 10-day quarantine by Public Health, unless they have recently recovered from COVID. Fully vaccinated people without COVID symptoms are not subject to quarantine following an exposure; they are advised to self-monitor for COVID signs/symptoms for 14 days.
  3. As cases continue to climb, vaccination becomes increasingly important for continued operations of emergency services. Exposures will happen. Vaccinated people are not subject to quarantine following an exposure, unless ill. Vaccines are readily available: https://www.vaccines.gov/search/.

DOH Guidance: Quarantine for Community Persons Exposed to CoVid 19

update-interim-guidance-for-community-exposure-quarantine_042221

 

 

2022 Tax Cap will be Two Percent (2%)

July 17th, 2021

Property tax levy growth will be capped at 2% for 2022 for local governments that operate on a calendar-based fiscal year, State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced today. This figure affects tax cap calculations for all counties, towns, and fire districts, as well as 44 cities and 13 villages.

“Allowable tax levy growth will be limited to 2% for a third time in four years for local governments with calendar fiscal years,” DiNapoli said. “As the economy recovers from the pandemic, local governments have seen some revenues rebound and have benefited from one-time federal financial assistance. At the same time, the risk of inflationary cost increases and the need for investments that will stimulate economic growth and fund essential services may lead to challenging budget decisions ahead.”

The tax cap, which first applied to local governments and school districts in 2012, limits annual tax levy increases to the lesser of the rate of inflation or 2% with certain exceptions, including a provision that allows municipalities to override the tax cap.

The 2% cap for the 2022 fiscal year is the third time since 2019 that municipalities with a calendar year fiscal year (Jan. 1 through Dec. 31) had their levy growth capped at that amount. In 2021, the allowable levy growth was 1.56%.

The Growth Factor for fire districts will be 1.0200%%