Efforts Focus On Recruitment, Training, Community Engagement
ERIE COUNTY, NY— Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was joined today by firefighters from local districts as well as the Fireman’s Association of the State of New York (“FASNY”) to bolster volunteer recruitment efforts and kindle interest in community service.
The “Volunteer NY” campaign, promoted by FASNY to encourage volunteer fire departments to host an open house in their community on April 21-22, has been spotlighted by an outdoor advertising push aimed at increasing awareness and boosting volunteerism. Across Erie County, 55 billboards are in place to call attention to the upcoming open house events, with 30 Erie County volunteer fire departments currently scheduled to participate in these events.
“Today we gather to salute the men and women serving as volunteer firefighters, and send out a call for others to join their ranks in protecting and serving their communities,” said Poloncarz. “As I noted in my Comptroller’s report on the cost of volunteer fire departments, unfortunately fewer individuals are volunteering for this important community service. The importance of the job they do can never be over-emphasized, their dedication is an inspiration to others, and their selfless commitment is a testament to their departments. Our community needs a strong base of volunteers to sustain the current system. I encourage any resident who’s thinking of getting involved to join them and be a part of something that benefits all of Erie County.”
The billboard campaign is part of a larger overall effort based on a $498,800 U.S. Department of Homeland Security Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (“SAFER”) grant secured in partnership with the Erie County Fire Chiefs Mutual Aid Organization. The state-wide recruitment effort, working in conjunction with National Volunteer Week, invites participating volunteer fire districts to throw open their doors next weekend to let community members learn more about their local fire department. Local departments will host tours, allow visitors to try on turnout gear and inspect firefighting apparatus, and provide visitor activities. Information will be available on recruitment, youth programs, and the many types of volunteer opportunities open to interested visitors.
“We estimate that we have a population of some 5,000 plus volunteer firefighters in 94 volunteer fire departments across Erie County,” said Daniel Neaverth, Jr., Erie County Commissioner of Emergency Services. “Historically, we consistently attract 400 to 500 new recruits a year and our goal for implementing this campaign is to increase that number to 600 new recruits per year through the performance period of the grant, which runs through April 2013.”
Erie County residents interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities at their local fire departments are encouraged to visit www.ErieCountyFIRE.org or www.iVolunteerFIRE.org for more information.
The first annual “Volunteer NY” weekend was held in 2011, with fire departments in more than 50 counties across New York state participating.
FASNY President David Jacobowitz said, “Over the last several years, it has been tough for many fire departments to recruit and retain volunteers for many reasons, including the turbulent economy. Volunteer NY is an important initiative to help bolster membership numbers so that fire departments can continue to provide the optimum level of protection to their residents.”
Also highlighted at the event was the recent donation of six (6) rescue training mannequins for use at the three Erie County training towers. The donation represents a cost-sharing collaboration between Erie County’s three fire service organizations: the Fire Chiefs Mutual Aid organization, the Volunteer Firemen’s Association, and the Fire District Officers Association. Each organization contributed $2,198.04 towards the purchase of the mannequins, for a total cost of $6,594.12. The “Rugged Red Drag-Rescue Dummies” weigh 180 lbs. each and are constructed of a specially-treated heavy canvas material that allows them to be carried or dragged and still survive even the toughest training conditions; the Erie County Department of Emergency Services’ Fire Safety Division delivers and coordinates over 1,200 training events each year.
“Having these anatomically correct training mannequins will give firefighters a realistic appreciation of the exertion required to carry a victim,” added Neaverth, Jr. “The collaborative effort and pooling of funds that occurred to purchase these much-needed training props represents an effort that will benefit all firefighters in Erie County.”
For more information about:
The Volunteer NY Campaign: http://www.recruitny.org/
The Firemen’s Association of the State of New York: http://www.fasny.com/
National Volunteer Week: http://www.nationalserviceresources.org/calendar/national-volunteer-week-
SAFER grants: http://www.fema.gov/firegrants/safer/index.shtm
The “Rugged Red Drag-Rescue Dummies”: http://trainingdummies.com/ruggedred.html