New Legislation Honors Whitehall Fire Chief who Died in the Line of Duty
Asst. Chief Jim Brooks Jr. of Whitehall suffered a ruptured aorta while responding to a fire in the town of Dresden last May. He died four months later after complications set in. The 45-year-old Brooks reportedly racked up nearly a million dollars in medical expenses fighting for his life–which Washington County Workman’s Comp refused to pay. Today, state lawmakers, firefighters and Brooks’ family members stood in front of the Firefighters Memorial at the Empire State Plaza, while lawmakers introduced the Chief James Brooks Jr. Act, aimed at ensuring that those who suffer vascular ruptures in the line of duty are covered in the same way heart attacks suffered in the line of duty are covered.
S4562 Brooks/A6767 Woerner AMENDS § 61 OF THE VFBL TO CREATE A PRESUMPTION OF COVERAGE FOR VASCULAR RUPTURE WHERE SUCH RUPTURE RESULTS IN THE DEATH OR DISABILITY OF A VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTER, THE DISABILITY OR DEATH AROSE FROM THE DUTIES AND ACTIVITIES OF A VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTER.
Vital Statistics About the State Association Regions – The Break Outs
Current vital statistics about the State Association Regions – highlights the imbalances!!
Legislative Agenda – Issues of United Concern Covered at the Legislative Breakfast
The Capital Area Association would like to thank the following legislators for their support for our legislative agenda and for attending the Virtual Breakfast on Saturday Morning March 20th.
We also want to thank your patience as we dealt with the media glitches that crop up when trying something new and innovative.
Thank you to; Senators; Jordan, Breslin, Hinchey and Tedisco and to Members of Assembly; Tague, Ashby, McDonald, Fahy, Santabarbara, Walsh, Woener and Simpson.
OPEN THE LINK AND FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS: https://pheedloop.com/legislativebreakfast2021/login/auth/?redirect=/legislativebreakfast2021/virtual/
We Often Get The Question – What Is A Fire Commissioner Responsible For???
The Powers and Duties of a Fire District Commissioner:
Powers and duties of a Fire Commissioner Open this link, it will amaze you!!!!
Fire Service Attorneys and HR Personnel-What the Fire Service Doesn’t do Well
By: Gary Ludwig
Imagine you’re in command of a fire scene. There are several chiefs in various roles, such as operations and safety. You’re managing multiple companies inside the building and exterior. The fire is not yet under control, and the company assigned to do a primary search has not completed it yet.
Suddenly, the attorney for your fire department jumps into your command car and starts telling you how to manage the fire. The attorney is not a firefighter, has no fire background, and has not even taken one of those “a day in the life of firefighter” academy classes – you know, the ones where we give politicians and journalists some bunkers, an air bottle and a mask, so they can feel the heat of a burn barrel in the center of a burn building while breathing through a facepiece.
You have several options. You can laugh at your attorney or you can tell them in the most pleasant or unpleasant language to get out of your car.
Now, let’s reverse the scenario: Does your attorney or human resource (HR) director laugh at you when you try to handle a personnel or legal issue without you seeking their advice? I would venture to say they do – or at least maybe they shake their head. But it would be no different than them trying to tell you how to run a fire.
CONSIDER A COMMON PERSONNEL SCENARIO
You receive a complaint that one of your firefighters has written several negative comments on Facebook about those who protested and/or caused civil unrest last summer. The firefighter did not identify himself as a firefighter with your department and there are no pictures on his Facebook page associating him with your department.
How would you handle it as the fire chief? Would you tell him to delete the post? Would you ignore it? Would you take some other action?
If you were to pose this question to 100 fire chiefs, you would receive many, many varied answers. Some chiefs would tell the firefighter to delete the posts. Others would tell him to delete the posts and would discipline him. Other chiefs may terminate the firefighter’s employment. Other chiefs would ignore it. Still other chiefs would defend the posts if questioned by a citizen or a journalist.
This situation is complicated, and if not handled properly, you could find yourself in court facing a First Amendment lawsuit.
THE GIFT OF TIME
First, as I like to say and teach my chiefs and junior officers, you are not on an emergency scene. Therefore, you do not have to make any snap or misinformed decision – or even take any immediate action. Unlike a fire scene where immediate decisions are necessary, you have the luxury of discretionary time, and you should use it before you make a mistake.
So, what should you do?
This where the most undervalued members of your team come into play – your attorney and/or HR director. Just like your attorney trying to tell you how to run a fire, you should not take any action until you have spoken with your attorney or HR director about the complaint.
Even if you receive a media inquiry, it’s OK to use a simple answer like you are looking into the matter and will get back to them. Saying “no comment” does not sound good and raises suspicions that you are trying to hide something.
ENGAGING THE EXPERTS
Before calling your attorney and/or HR director, you should gather all the facts. They are going to ask a lot of questions. Be prepared to answer them to the best of your ability.
Next, follow their advice. They are well versed in employee law, and they know the landmines. Chances are, you may be knowledgeable, too, but you could step on one landmine that you did not know about.
Tips: Have your attorney and/or HR director on speed dial. After all, you should be in contact with them for a variety of issues, not only for First Amendment complaints. This would include any time one of your employees is arrested; you are served with a union grievance that may go to arbitration or a court after multiple steps; or you are served with an administrative complaint from the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the U.S. Department of Labor, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), or similar agency. You should contact your attorney and/or HR director when you are served with a lawsuit from an employee alleging work-related claims or when an employee complains of being mistreated in the workplace. The phrase “hostile work environment” should always get your immediate attention. Lastly, you should always consult with your attorney and/or HR director whenever you are considering terminating the employment of one of your firefighters or staff.
HERE TO HELP
You’ll never see your attorney or HR director on an emergency scene, but there is no doubt they can be one of the most valued members of your team when they give you advice that can save you money, avoid damage to your fire department’s name and reputation, and maybe even prevent someone from being injured.
Updated Legislative Scorecard – Get Involved or Else!!
See the latest scorecard HERE: Scorecard April 16 2021
This is the most up to date Scorecard, there are some things you are going to like and some that are not good for the fire service – get involved.
This is an easy grass roots effort to make your voice heard…..
This is the link to the NYS Senate bill search, once you land on this page the bills will be listed in numerical order, when you click on the bill the full text of the individual bill will be displayed, on the right side of the page a box will appear that will ask if you support this bill, and you can vote aye or nay. Using the scorecard, you can see whether or not the Association of Fire Districts supports the bill and you can get a good idea from reading the narrative on the scorecard.
Link to the Senate Bill Search vote:
The Next Capital Area Meeting will be Hybrid – In Person and Virtual
The next Capital Area meeting will be held at the Clifton Park Station on Thursday May 13th. Food will be supplied. We are going to hold this hybrid meeting in person and virtually for those members who live in the far reaches of our coverage area. The Capital Area represents fire districts in Montgomery County, Fulton County, Warren County, Washington County, Rensselaer County, Schenectady County and Saratoga County. You will be provided with a Zoom Meeting link as we lead up to the meeting date. Please watch for it!! We would certainly like to see you in person, but this will be a close second.
We are dealing with some concerning issues and we need as many districts involved as possible.
Do You Have Six or More Paid Firefighters? What you need to know!
Requirements for Chiefs of Departments where that department employs six (6) or more paid fire fighters
(Does not distinguish full or part time paid, and includes both paid and volunteer chiefs)
Purpose: Minimum qualifications for fire chiefs subject to Civil Service Law, section 58-a and General Municipal Law, section 204-dd.
Text of proposed rule: 19 NYCRR Part 426.9(h) is amended to read as follows:
(h) For Supervisory Level V (chief of department level responsibilities) [under development.] a person shall:
- possess Fire Officer 3 certification, pursuant to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1021 Standard for Fire Officer Professional Qualifications, 2014 Edition, or possess the training, education, experience, or combination thereof, determined by the State Fire Administrator to meet the requirements of Civil Service Law section 58-a; and
- meet the minimum qualifications established by the local civil service agency having jurisdiction; and
- meet the core competencies for incident commander established by the State Fire Administrator, pursuant to General Municipal Law section 204-dd and 9 NYCRR Part 227. A new Part 227 is added to title 9 of the New York Code of Rules and Regulations to read as follows: Qualifications of a Fire Chief. 227.1 Authority, intent and purpose. (a) Statutory authority: General Municipal Law Section 204-dd; (b) The intent and purpose of this part is to establish minimum qualifications for a fire chief in any fire department or fire company that employs six (6) or more paid fire fighters in the State of New York. 227.2 Definitions. (a) The term “fire chief” mean the person who is head of the department or any title or rank that includes the duties of fire chief in any fire department or fire company with six (6) or more paid fire fighters. (b) The term “fire fighter” means a member of a fire department whose duties include fire service as the phrase fire service is defined in paragraph d of subdivision eleven of section three hundred two of the retirement and social security law.
227.3 Qualifications of a fire chief
(a) To eligible for appointment or election as a fire chief he or she must meet the core competencies for incident commander established by the State Fire Administrator.
(b) The Office of Fire Prevention and Control shall post and keep current the core competencies for incident commander on its official website.
Text of proposed rule and any required statements and analyses may be obtained from: Kenneth Bruno, Deputy Counsel, Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, 1220 Washington Avenue, Building 7A, Albany, New York 12242, (518) 242-5000, email: Kenneth.Bruno@dhses.ny.gov Data, views or arguments may be submitted to: Same as above. Public comment will be received until: 60 days after publication of this notice.
According to the Best Practices, Incident Commander core competency qualifications can be met by taking the following:
NYS Office of Fire Prevention and Control
- Fire Officer I (2009) (Competencies 1 – 20 and 22) and ICS-200 (Competency 21)
Worker’s Comp Claim Denied by Washington County Plan Third Party Administrators
Workers’ compensation claim denied for NY assistant fire chief who died from on-duty injury
[Editor’s Note: This should be noted by firefighter’s who are being covered by a County that is “self insuring workman’s comp, and it should put our elected officials on notice that if you want to keep volunteers you need to take care of them!]
WHITEHALL, N.Y. — Some members of the Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company are raising concerns after a nearly $1 million workers’ compensation claim filed by one of their own after suffering a torn aorta while on duty was denied, despite a state law requiring Washington County to cover the expenses.
James Brooks Jr. died in September after tearing the artery while responding to a structure fire in Dresden four months earlier. He was taken to Rutland Regional Medical Center and later flown to University of Vermont Medical Center, where he suffered a series of debilitating strokes during a surgery to repair the damaged valve.
Brooks, who was 45 when he died, was confined to a wheelchair without the use of his right arm, and he was attended to by his older sister, who ensured he was cleaned and fed following the incident, said Brian Brooks, his uncle and president of the Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company.
“He was always a provider,” Brian Brooks said of his nephew. “He just did a lot for the community, serving with different emergency squads.”
During his various hospital stays, James racked up nearly $1 million in medical expenses, which Brooks said should be covered by the county under the state’s Volunteer Firefighters Benefit Law, which requires municipalities to cover medical expenses and provide compensation to any volunteer firefighter injured or killed while on duty.
But James’ claim was been denied by Benetech Adjustments, the county’s workers’ compensation administrator, which cited a preexisting condition for the torn heart valve.
“They should be paying his medical bills,” Brooks said.
Brooks said his nephew had no prior medical history indicating there was any issue with his arteries, adding that he passed a department physical a year prior. He was due for a physical last March, but the procedure was delayed because of the pandemic.
James, who was a member of the Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company for 20 years and served as an assistant chief, likely suffered the injury while reaching for a microphone, Brooks said.
He said the county is trying to skirt paying the claim because of the financial impact.
But the refusal to pay is an insult to all volunteer firefighters in the county who put their lives in danger in order to serve their communities, Brooks said.
“This should never have even been an issue,” he said. “Here’s a guy working for no pay, shows up on his own time, does all the training. I don’t understand the hatred for volunteer firemen.”
James’ family has since hired an attorney in order to appeal the decision to a state workers’ compensation board.
Roger Wickes, the county’s attorney, declined to comment on the case due to the ongoing appeal, but said the process is being handled the same way that any other workers’ compensation case would.
“We’re not going to comment on anybody’s medical records or anything like that, but what I can tell you is that there’s a process,” he said. “The same process we follow when you slip in the parking lot … and get hurt and make a workers’ comp claim. When the process is over, a decision will be made by the workers’ comp board as to whether or not the county is liable.”
Benetech did not return a request seeking comment.
But Brooks said if the county isn’t required to pay his nephew’s claim, it will set a dangerous precedent for all volunteer firefighters in the county who are injured while on duty.
He sent a letter to the county’s Board of Supervisors in December urging the county to pay the claim. Members of the department have released a short video on social media seeking to raise awareness about the ongoing situation.
“There can be no good end to Washington County maintaining its position on this case,” the letter reads. “The only result will be the loss of volunteer firefighters, as there will be another reason for people not to volunteer.”
Brooks said the fact that James was his nephew has little to do with his position, adding he would fight just as hard for any of his members.
He said that he’s heard from several of his members who have expressed concerns about continuing their service with the department over James’ case.
“It’s coming down to an us or them situation with our volunteer firemen,” Brooks said. “They’re going to do self-preservation and think about their families and think about, ‘Well, the next time I run into a house fire, I might not get out, so why should I continue to do it?'”
Virtual Legislative Breakfast 9am Saturday March 20th
Register for the Virtual Legislative Breakfast
9:00 A.M. Saturday March 20th at a Computer near you!
⇓ REGISTER HERE ⇓
We will be joined by local Members of Assembly, Senators, our Fire Service Alliance Lobbyists plus the Officers and Directors of the Capital Area Association.
Our main focus will be to review and discuss the Fire Service Alliance Issues of United Concern
EXAM ANNOUNCEMENT SARATOGA SPRINGS FIREFIGHTER
Firefighter Exam announcement for the City of Saratoga Springs, NY
Communicable Disease Plan Components to comply with NYS-DOL Section 27-c Requirements
Open this document and use as a guidance document for your Communicable Disease response and continuity of operations plan as required of all public employers by the recent addition of Section 27-c of Labor Law.
LINK TO DOL SECTION 27-C CHAPTER AMENDMENTS http://public.leginfo.state.ny.us/navigate.cgi?NVDTO: