News

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

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%%

This is a Must Read Article About Silos – Applies to Fire Companies, Fire Districts and Other Organizations

July 14th, 2021

**Fire Service Organizational Silos: How To Emerge From The Depths And Foster Connection

Kristopher T. Blume

The organizational structure and rigors of the fire service make it susceptible to a critical stumbling block that is common within other industries. That stumbling block is organizational silos, or siloing.

Silos are organizational barriers that foster division, hamper functioning and limit overall ability. Organizational silos can limit creativity and kill organizational and individual morale. As much as siloing is a sign of overall organizational dysfunction, it is also an opportunity for organizational growth and transition.

SPOTTING SILOS

Silos are not always easy to spot; nonetheless, they can be discovered after peeling off the thin veneer of bravado and denial. Identifying the siloed organization is the first step. This requires candid, introspective conversions, and evaluations. An outside audit or assessment can reveal what those too close to the issue cannot see.

Most organizations do not set out to be siloed. And many in the executive ranks may tout the absence of silos in their organization. The truth, however, rests in demonstrable fact, not hot air and hyperbole.

In broad and general terms, siloed organizations are characterized by a lack of communication and cross-collaboration. The silo walls are created with us-vs.-them constructs. Siloed organizations often have teams or entire departments that work in isolation or bubbles, away from the rest of the organization. This narrow focus neglects outside stimulus, tunneling the siloed group into a survival mentality regarding their functional areas. The whole is subjugated by the parts. The insidious effects of silo construction are often not noticed in their incremental parts. Many times, the lack of awareness, energy or desire to remove silos expedites their depth. And once the groundwork of siloed organizations is laid, the rest happens with little effort.

PREDICTING SILOS

Gordon Graham asserts, “If it is predictable, it’s preventable.” Predicting silos means we need to pay attention to early indicators of their presence. Third-person pronouns – they, them, their, the department, etc. – can be isolationist terms. For example, “If only they would pull their weight, we (my team/silo) could get something done around here!” Sound familiar?

Variations of this statement have echoed from the station kitchen tables for as long as the fire service has been around. So, what’s the problem? Many conversions center around the officers at the station driving organizational tempo and culture. Before we dismiss comments like the one above, we need to understand where the silo is built.

When the internal dialogue among fire service membership turns into us vs. them, the inherent challenge of teams comes into focus and, without action, can become a significant problem. This disconnect can lead to tension, loss of productivity and, in the worst case, safety concerns.

Disenfranchised firefighters and officers are another concerning issue that arises in siloed organizations. When individuals are stripped of their formal or informal power and cannot speak up, the foundation is being laid for a significant problem. Employees and managers must feel as if they will be able to work together. When they are pitted against one another or just ignored, it shouldn’t be a surprise to then see an increase in turnover rates and organizational strife.

Another tell-tale sign of a siloed fire service organization is the duplication of tasks. This is the signature signal of miscommunication or the loss of communication. When people cannot decide who receives information or directives, or assign the job to multiple people, mass confusion occurs.

DISASSEMBLING SILOS

Disassembling silos is the key to stopping any further damage and challenges that may already exist within the fire department.

With remote work at an all-time high during the pandemic, more silos emerged and many existing silos deepened. The work disconnect was stronger than ever. To retain formality and a semblance of a schedule, many fire service officers at the administrative level allowed their employees to work on their own time when and where this is appropriate, with regular check-ins with their team throughout the day. Using various forms of communication gave members the chance to select one that works best for their situation and schedule. Some prefer to communicate in writing, while others might choose a video call. This helped promote connections and open lines of communication during a time that could naturally lead to increased siloing.

Another key step is to find ways to create empowered teams. General Stan McChrystal calls them “Teams of Teams.” For smaller fire service organizations, this might not be applicable, but for larger departments, it is essential to create teams. A large department will not have individual meetings and connections but rather team meetings. They have to communicate with one another as they work on projects together, highlighting the importance of staying on task and ensuring that everything is “on time, on target.” Creating chains of communication for these teams to talk with one another and other groups is essential.  Note: This is the decentralization of command. This isn’t the creation of more teams, but rather, empowering them.

No matter how it is done, it is essential to find ways for organizational members to come together in a collaborative environment. To stop the isolation of people within an organization through silos, senior leadership teams must explore and be open to new ways to connect and communicate with our membership. Without this, we will be unable to remain properly connected and informed. Whether through Zoom meetings or virtual chats, it is important for people to talk, share and stay on task – and support one another.

This also applies to finding ways to create organizational learning. In the fire service, we develop training and methods for people to share, learn and improve themselves and their emergency response skills. One of the most generic ways to promote connectedness rather than siloing is to encourage and incentivize the team atmosphere. Many fire service organizations don’t follow this approach, and it is shocking how many departments could be of better service to their communities and personnel if they chose to emphasize teamwork.

The integration of teams within an organization is accessible no matter the size of your department. Encouraging a team atmosphere is as easy as setting goals for the organization and company officers. If people feel they are all working toward something together, they feel more connected and purposeful in their obligations. If firefighters are feeling unsure about where they might be failing, they should feel encouraged and supported in their effort to perform a review at the company level and discover the leaks in their productivity and atmosphere.

STOP SILO RECURRENCE

Now that silos can be identified and dismantled, there are ways to retain the internal peace of the department. One of the best ways to ensure that silos do not return within your organization is through the practice of servant leadership.

Servant leadership is essential because it depends on the purpose of the team. Instead of focusing on the administration and quantitative data as the sole supplier of recognition, servant leadership looks at the people involved and seeks to improve individuals’ skill and make them more integral to the team. Teaching servant leadership is a pivotal way to retain employees and demonstrate the organization’s commitment to its mission, vision and values. With everyone on the same page and focused on the same goals, fire service organizations will find that they have more success than they can imagine in the future.

Preventing siloing is also essential due to the after-effects of the pandemic. Many administrative personnel for municipal fire departments want to remain at home, but fire service organizations need to ensure that people do not stagnate into silos and teams do not begin to fail in their communication abilities.

There are simple ways to improve these issues, including studying the optimal way to work from home. This would help their employees and create more unity with the company’s understanding of their employee experiences. Optimal scheduling and planning can be done by finding the best time and frequency of meetings, establishing freedom of schedule or at least blocks for people to work, and finding ways to incorporate offline updates. With the connectivity of the internet, programs and software are available at all times.

Such work-from-home approaches will differ for every organization, but it will be important that department leadership take the time to study the options to prevent silos. If they do not take the time to explore these issues and find ways to make the work-from-home schedule adequate, individuals will not be connected, might become disenfranchised, and then the siloing begins.

STAY CONNECTED

Siloed organizations can hinder the productivity and cohesiveness of the entire organization. When teams begin to shift focus from their primary purpose, and a battle among teams or managers and employees becomes the norm, collectively, as fire service professionals, we must find ways to stop the siloing.

The long-term losses from siloed organizations include failures on the fireground, frustrations at the individual and company officer level, and often lead to increased employee turnover rates. Working from home will not disappear, and it will likely even become more ingrained in society as an adaptive solution. Pandemic or not, fire service professionals will have to work harder than ever to prove their teams can remain connected and on task. Otherwise, we will continue to struggle with silos as an unwelcomed disruptive force in our departments.

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.