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Top Ten Reasons Women are Perfect for the Fire Service

July 5th, 2021
Top Ten Reasons Women are Perfect for the Fire Service

Jill Wiseman

I recently came across an entertaining article about why NOT to become a volunteer firefighter.  When I was reading it, I realized why women are perfect for the fire service, which I would like to share with you:

  1. We don’t need sleep. Especially for those of us who have or have had children, sleep is a luxury we have learned to live without.  From cramps, to pregnancy, screaming babies, and hot flashes, we are doomed to interrupted sleep pretty much our whole lives.  Jumping out of bed in the middle of the night to deal with a crisis comes naturally to us.  It’s what we do.
  2. We want to help. From an early age we have negotiated fights, talked friends through break ups, sat in hospital waiting rooms, comforted those who have lost loved ones, sewn costumes, and occasionally stayed up into the wee hours building a diorama with a teary-eyed middle schooler. Your problems are our problems.  We got your back.
  3. We can handle the sweat. As a woman in midlife, I can say that we are well-prepared to deal with this particular challenge.  It’s my lot in life at this point. Putting on 45 pounds of gear and running around the fire ground isn’t that much different than carting around a set of twins, hauling groceries, or running up and down two flights of stairs delivering laundry to seven kids.  This is not to mention the hours sitting at the high school band fireworks booth in the blazing sun or at a soccer game, those long Saturday runs, hot yoga and sitting in the sauna hoping to drop a few pounds before my 20th high school reunion.  No big deal.
  4. Breaking down doors and using big tools is like free therapy. I have to say that forceable entry is one of my favorite things to do.  Bashing down doors is a great stress reliever for those tense days when I’ve had to let the dog out and in and out and in and out (I have a Husky), picked up yet another wet towel on the floor, and done the dishes left by the sink which is right next to the dishwasher.  Chain saws can be fun too.
  5. We fear nothing. Fires?  We’ve already put out lots of those.  We got this.  In fact, I think we will be joined by most mothers of multiples in saying that, “I’ve got twins. You can’t scare me.”
  6. Lights and Sirens. This is almost as awesome as forceable entry.  There is nothing quite like the rush you get from driving a fire truck, lights and sirens blaring!  Finally, people are getting out of my way.
  7. Volunteering is what we do. From volunteering at food banks, church garage sales, Boy Scouts, bake sales, road clean up, the animal shelter, and building a house with Habitat for Humanity, we’ve got this. We are naturals.
  8. Scene preservation. Want to figure out how this fire started?  We are experts in working around messes made by other people and preserving evidence because believe me, we don’t want to destroy any evidence that someone, like say your 26-year-old-boomerang son who keeps having midnight cooking sessions, has left behind to be able to prove how this all started and who’s Responsible.
  9. Navy blue is actually slimming. Our duty crew shirts, like most departments, are navy blue and are a great cover for the extra 5 pounds that you picked up over the pandemic or over the winter.
  10. Being part of a close-knit group who trusts one another with their lives.

My husband and kids have had their lives in my hands for years and I trust that they are prepared to back me up.  Right? Yeah, sure, dream on!

Being in a group of people who choose to face life altering events every day and help is truly inspiring.  Going that extra mile for each other, getting more training, practicing skills so the muscle memory is there and learning about the science of fire to be able to react as things evolve is proof that we are worthy of the trust we put in each other.

Ladies?  Do you have a fire in you? Its not unlike raising a family.

Legislature Passes LOSAP Bill Modifying How Points Can be Awarded for Department Responses

June 20th, 2021

By Tony Hill

The New York State Legislature passed another bill on June 3, 2021 that would amend Article 11-A of the New York State General Municipal Law, provided the bill is signed into law by Governor Cuomo

This bill is S1210 / A6401 and was first introduced in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. A second bill was also introduced at that time, which allowed LOSAP sponsors to award up to five (5) points per month during the pandemic. Most readers know this second bill became law in 2020.

Bill S1210 / A6401 was also meant to address the staffing challenge fire departments were facing during the pandemic. Many departments were limiting certain at-risk volunteers from responding to calls. Although this was for the safety of those volunteers, these limitations made it more difficult to earn points under the department responses category. As a reminder, the current statute provides that 25 points are earned by a volunteer that attends a minimum number of the fire department’s total calls for the year. For departments that also have a rescue/ambulance unit, an additional 25 points could be earned for attending a minimum percentage of those calls as well. If a volunteer is restricted from attending some calls, it limits the opportunity to respond to the minimum to earn the 25 points. Additionally, the department response category is unique from other categories since it is an all-or-nothing category – either a volunteer responds to the minimum number and earns 25 points or does not and earns 0 points.

What makes this bill different from the one that became law is that it is not specifically tied to the COVID-19 pandemic – it is a permanent change to the statute that gives a LOSAP sponsor another option for how to award points for department responses.

Before we give you the text of the new proposed statute, let’s first review the summary and justification for the bill:

SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:

Amends General Municipal Law by adding a new subparagraph (q) to address developments in how volunteer fire departments respond to emergencies by allowing programs to calculate percentages based on the total number of calls an individual was dispatched.

JUSTIFICATION:

The length of service award programs (LOSAP) are pension-like programs intended to help recruit, retain, and reward volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers for serving their communities. New York requires volunteers to earn 50 points each year to receive these benefits. One of the ways firefighters can earn points is by responding to emergency calls. However, since COVID, emergency precautions have been adopted to protect vulnerable volunteer firefighters from being exposed to the virus. Specifically, fire departments have had to reduce how many firefighters respond to calls.

This bill recognizes that not every emergency call requires all volunteer firefighters to be dispatched. The current LOSAP point system does not reflect the complexity of emergency response protocols, which only results in more emergency vehicles on our streets and represents a less efficient system. Updating the law from using a percentage of the total number of calls the department was dispatched to in calculating LOSAP points, to the total number of calls an individual was dispatched to will create a more equitable and efficient system.

The Summary and Justification make it fairly clear that the intent is to allow a sponsor to credit the points for department responses on an individual basis, rather than for the entire department’s number of calls. In the view of the legislators that sponsored the bill, this creates “a more equitable and efficient system.”

Since our expertise is not in fire department operations, we won’t discuss how a specific department operates and if an emergency response protocol is efficient or not. We are certain there are many factors to be considered.

This legislation will be helpful for larger departments that have multiple fire companies that are dispatched individually. The actual point system category in the law is titled “participation in department responses”, but then the chart detailing the percentage requirement references “volunteer fire company.” Since department and company can sometimes be used interchangeably, it wasn’t 100% clear if points should (or could) be broken out by company or tracked for the entire department. This new legislation would make it clear that a LOSAP sponsor could calculate the minimum percentage based on each company’s number of responses.

Another scenario where this could be helpful is for departments that respond to a lot of automatic alarms that don’t require the entire department to be activated. Many departments call these “chief’s investigations” or something similar because they do not activate the entire membership, but rather dispatch a chief to investigate the automatic alarm. If the chief determines that the situation requires the activation of the full department, then that step is taken. Even under the current construct of the law, we believe an argument could be made to exclude chief’s investigations as a “department response” since the entire department wasn’t activated. However, this new legislation would appear to make it clear that this can be done. (A second discussion about how to award the individuals performing the chief’s investigations with points is a topic for another time.)

In general, we question whether this new system will actually be more equitable and if it really will create efficiencies in the recordkeeping process.

For a typical department where all active members (regardless of fire company membership) are dispatched for an alarm, the ability to create sub-groups or to assign certain calls to certain volunteers could create inequity and administrative complexities – the opposite of the stated intent of the new law. An obvious example is when chiefs are responsible for responding to all calls, whereas the fire police are only needed for a fraction of the calls. Whatever that fraction is, members of the fire police will be able to earn the same 25 points as the chiefs by responding to fewer calls.

Under the existing point system rules, every active volunteer firefighter of the fire department is expected to respond to the same number of calls in order to earn the same number of points (i.e., 25). The same for the other event-based categories: each firefighter receives the same number of points based on the specific event (points for officers being the one variant). This new statute would allow some firefighters to earn 25 points for responding to fewer calls than others. This seems contrary to the spirit of the rest of the point system.

There would be further complications about how to handle people changing groups mid-year, or even joining or resigning from the fire department mid-year. We can easily see this resulting in an individual-by-individual call requirement to earn the 25 points, as seems to be indicated in the Summary and Justification. This would likely be an administrative challenge for any department – large or small.

If adopted into law, this change to how points are awarded for department responses would be optional. Great care should be taken before implementing it, and the LOSAP sponsor should review it with its legal counsel and LOSAP administrator.

The full text of the new law is below. If you have thoughts or comments, please share for everyone to read!

Section 217 of the general municipal law is amended by adding a new subdivision (q) to read as follows:

(q) The program sponsor may make adjustments to the participation in department responses point system category provided for in paragraph(vi) of subdivision (c) of this section in the event that such program sponsor adopts written emergency response protocols setting different emergency response requirements for the fire department, fire companies, squads and units thereof such that certain participants are not permitted to respond and are restricted from responding to all non-emergency rescue and first aid squad calls and/or all emergency rescue and first aid squad calls. Such restrictions on response may relate to determinations made by the district physician or department’s physician as to the duties that may be assigned to certain personnel. In the event that the program sponsor adopts different response requirements for different groups, participants in those groups shall be required to respond to the minimum number of emergency calls assigned to their group by applying the percentage provided for in paragraph (vi) of subdivision (c) of this section. Notwithstanding the provisions of section two hundred sixteen of this article, a point system amendment to address written emergency response protocols may be adopted by the affirmative vote of at least sixty percent of such governing board, without referendum. Such amendment shall only take effect as of the first day of January next succeeding the completion of the proceedings required for adoption of the amendment and shall only apply prospectively unless the new written emergency response protocol is adopted in order to address a state disaster emergency, as such term is defined in section twenty of the executive law, and applicable to the county or counties in which the fire department operates, in which case such amendment may be applied in the year adopted.

 

Forming of Regional or County Fire District Organizations

June 19th, 2021

If other areas in the State are thinking about banding together as a group to exchange ideas or problem solve, here is a resource document to help form a formal or informal organization to bring fire district officials together.

Formation of a Regional Associations

Minimum Standards for Fire Chief of a Career or Combination Fire Department

June 6th, 2021

General Municipal Law §204-dd and 9 NYCRR Part 227 establish minimum qualifications for fire chiefs,
volunteer or career, of a fire department with six or more paid, civil-service appointed career firefighters

carcombochiefsstandards

Civil Service Law §58-a and 19 NYCRR section 426.9 establish minimum qualifications for fire chiefs
appointed pursuant to the Civil Service Law, relative to a career department (not combination).

chiefsstandards

Secretary Treasurer and Chaplain Appointed

May 25th, 2021

The Capital Area Association took action at the last meeting to appoint two positions.  The Secretary Treasurer’s position was filled by Tony Hill who is principle with Firefly Admin Inc.  Tony volunteered to take the position to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of Jan Turcotte who left to spend more time her ailing spouse.  We welcome Tony and appreciate his efforts.  We also thank Jan for her willingness to fill the position that was vacated by Mike Ouimet.  Jan your service to the Capital Area Association is much appreciated.

We also appointed a Chaplain.  Fred Richards a newly elected commissioner from the Harmony Corners Fire District in Saratoga County is also a chaplain for his department and has graciously agreed to be the Chaplain for the Capital Area Association.  Many of you probably remember Fred who was formally with OFPC prior to his retirement from the State.  We welcome Fred to the group and appreciate his willingness to provide his heavenly guidance.

We Often Get The Question – What Is A Fire Commissioner Responsible For???

March 18th, 2021

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

March 14th, 2021

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.

Do You Have Six or More Paid Firefighters? What you need to know!

February 27th, 2021
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:

  1. 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
  2. meet the minimum qualifications established by the local civil service agency having jurisdiction; and
  3. 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

  1. Fire Officer I (2009) (Competencies 1 – 20 and 22) and ICS-200 (Competency 21)

Web Link Here: http://www.dhses.ny.gov/ofpc/training/firefighting-best-practices.cfm

Communicable Disease Plan Components to comply with NYS-DOL Section 27-c Requirements

January 19th, 2021

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.

COMMUNICABLE DISEASE PLAN COMPONENTS

LINK TO DOL SECTION 27-C CHAPTER AMENDMENTS
http://public.leginfo.state.ny.us/navigate.cgi?NVDTO:

The LGS-1 Replaces the Current Records Management Schedule

January 19th, 2021

State Secretary/Treasurer Joyce Petkus has provided us with the new LGS-1 records management schedule with section headings particularly for Fire Districts.  Also is a model resolution to be adopted by the Board prior to using the new schedule.  This should be a great help to the records retention managers for each fire district.

Organized by Item
https://afdca.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/LGS-1-Featureing-FDs-item-list.pdf

Organized by Section Headings
https://afdca.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/LGS-1-excerpt-for-Fire-Districts_organized-by-section-headings.pdf
Model Resolution
https://afdca.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/lgs-1_model_resolution_form.pdf

Fire Districts had until January 1 2021 to adopt the new schedule by resolution of the Board, don’t use the new schedule until it is officially adopted.

NYSVFB Cancer Coverage Offered to Exterior Firefighters

January 19th, 2021

The definition of Eligible Volunteer Firefighter has been amended to:

  1. a volunteer interior firefighter who:
  2. has five or more years of faithful and actual service in the protection of life and property from fire subsequent to having successfully passed a physical examination which failed to reveal any evidence of Cancer; and
  3. has submitted or is able to submit proof of five years of interior firefighting service by providing verification that he/she has passed at least five yearly certified mask fitting tests as set forth in 29 CFR 1910.134 or the applicable National Fire Protection Association Standards for Mask Fit testing or, for firefighters who entered fire service prior to January first, two thousand twenty documentation identified by the office of fire prevention and control in rules and regulations promulgated pursuant to subdivision seven of this section which shall include, but not be limited to, training or certification records, health care provider records, internal fire department records, or any combination of official documents capable of evidencing that the firefighter meets the afore mentioned requirements

NEW: Exterior Firefighter Definition

  1. a volunteer exterior firefighter who has five or more years of faithful and actual service in the protection of life and property from fire subsequent to having successfully passed a physical examination which failed to reveal any evidence of Cancer.

This definition does not include any firefighter who is provided paid firefighter benefits under the New York State Volunteer Firefighter Enhanced Cancer Disability Benefits Act.

The Coverages are here, copy and Paste into your browser:

https://afdca.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Interior-Exterior-FF-Coverage-NY.pdf

 

Fire District – LGS-1 Records Retention Schedule

December 16th, 2020

We want to thank Secretary/Treasurer Joyce Petkus for sharing the new LGS-1 records management schedule especially for fire districts with us.  Attached below are two different formats of the same document one by item the other by section headings.  The LGS-1 is to be adopted by the Board of Fire Commissioners by January 1.  Also attached is a model resolution.

LGS-1 Featureing FDs item list

LGS-1 excerpt for Fire Districts_organized by section headings

lgs-1_model_resolution_form