When a house catches fire, when automobiles collide on dangerous roads, when someone in trouble contacts 911, the man or woman that dons the firefighter's uniform and answers the call can make the difference between life and death. These folks are the local heroes that we depend on in life's most dangerous situations.
This week, I'd like to take a moment to tell you about an opportunity to truly make a difference by joining this honorable calling and serving the families in your community as a volunteer firefighter. The Fireman's Association of the State of New York (FASNY) is sponsoring "Recruit NY," a program designed to encourage citizens to visit, support and join their local volunteer fire departments. As part of National Volunteer Week, many of our local firehouses will open their doors on April 21st and 22nd to encourage members of their communities to answer the admirable call of volunteer service.
The weekend will highlight the duties and rewards that come with being a volunteer firefighter and raise public awareness about the dire need for volunteers. I encourage you to step forward and take this opportunity to learn more about what it takes to become a volunteer firefighter - a true hometown hero.
HELP REVERSE THE DISTURBING TREND OF DECLINING VOLUNTEER RECRUITMENT
The men and women in our community that proudly wear the firefighter's uniform and boldly walk into danger while the rest of us run out are the bravest folks in town. There are approximately 97,000 volunteer firefighters in New York - an estimated 95 percent of all state firefighters. Quite frankly, volunteers are the life-blood of this industry. Without them, our neighborhoods would truly be in crisis. These men and women donate their time to protect their communities, often while juggling all the additional responsibilities of families and full-time jobs.
Unfortunately, volunteer numbers are on the decline, but the number of fire and emergency calls are not. The duties still need to be performed with fewer firefighters, which in turn puts a dangerous strain on the entire system as the remaining volunteers need to work longer hours to fill the gaps. Volunteer firefighters are critical to the livelihood of our community. Now is the time to stand up and participate - and the good news is that you can make a difference.
Please take the opportunity to visit your local fire station during RecruitNY weekend. Departments participating in my 129th Assembly District include Oaks Corners Volunteer Fire Company in Oaks Corners, Ovid Fire Department in Ovid, Scipio Volunteer Fire Department in Scipio Center and Tully Hose Company No. 1 in Tully. For a full list of participating departments across the state, visit http://www.recruitny.org/opendoors.php.
Department members will gladly discuss what it takes to be a volunteer, answer questions and let visitors know how to get involved in firefighting. This is a great opportunity to meet and talk with volunteer firefighters and show them how appreciated they really are.
THERE IS STILL TIME FOR FIRE DEPARTMENTS TO SIGN UP TO PARTICIPATE
If you are reading this and are a member of a local fire department, there is still time to participate! FASNY has all the resources you to need to promote the event, including graphics for posters, signs, cards, banners, etc. They even provide checklists to help you prepare and advertise throughout the community. For all of the information relating to RecruitNY, visit http://www.recruitny.org/.
PROTECTING THOSE WHO PROTECT US
We must also protect the health of our firefighters - they risk their lives to serve others and selflessly donate their time and talent to their communities.
This session, our Conference introduced the 'Volunteer Firefighter and Ambulance Worker Protection and Incentive Act,' which includes initiatives that will provide volunteers with an increased personal income tax credit, heart disease and blood exposure protection, employment protection and priority access to wireless telephone and text messaging services during emergencies. I also sponsor legislation to expand the existing health coverage provided under the Volunteer Firefighters' Benefit Law.
The proud men and women in volunteer fire service use their skills to make a positive difference in their communities every day. This legislation will ensure that they have the tools they need to respond quickly to emergency situations and are cared for in return for their heroism.
"WE MAKE A LIVING BY WHAT WE DO, BUT WE MAKE A LIFE BY WHAT WE GIVE" - Winston Churchill
Certainly, volunteer firefighters and emergency responders are vital to our safety. These brave local heroes - our neighbors, family and friends - often put their lives on the line to protect us when an urgent situation arises. Stop and say a prayer every time you hear the fire truck's siren in your community, think of the men and women that put their lives at risk to keep yours safe, and please come out and support your participating local fire departments during the RecruitNY weekend, April 21st and 22nd. If you would like to volunteer, they would love to meet you.
As always, constituents wishing to discuss this topic or any other state-related matter should contact my district office at (315) 781-2030 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.