RecruitNY and the fireman’s association are having their annual recruitment event April 23 and 24. Over 500 departments within New York State have some type of recruitment process over the course of a year, which will hopefully continue to bring in volunteers.
John D’Alessandro of the Fireman’s Association of the State of New York, (FASNY), helps organize and plan recruitment events for departments within the state. He emphasizes the importance of recruitment events, since community members benefit in multiple ways.
“We always find other people in the local community who don’t know much about the fire department,” D’Alessandro said. “We do this to recruit new members … and to continue to build and strengthen the bond between the local fire department and the community it serves.”
D’Alessandro also said that these events are vital to maintaining a decent workforce within the fire departments. The number of volunteer firefighters has dropped over the last few decades, and the drop in helping hands makes a difference, since the scope and complexity of issues that fireman deal with has also increased since then.
According to D’Alessandro, there were 120,000 volunteer firefighters in the early 1990’s, about 80,000 – 85,000 during the early 2000’s, and a period of growth within the past few years.
“We’ve sort of managed the hemorrhaging, but we are nowhere near where we need to be,” D’Alessandro said.
This significant drop in firemen can affect the work they are able to perform. Perhaps the steady increase in work demands brought this decline. Volunteer firefighters receive the same training as paid firefighters, minus the paycheck. They also respond from their daily lives, instead of having some 24 hour shifts. Having this title means having a second full-time job with no pay, but fulfillment in the process of helping and saving others in extremely dangerous situations whenever those times arise.
“Thirty to 60 years ago, we would respond to less calls, and calls tended to be simpler. Now we respond to natural disasters, hazardous materials events, etc,” D’Alessandro said.
D’Alessandro urges all those interested to attend the event(s), since anyone with a willingness to help are considered.
“We take all kinds of people, all education levels, all sizes, all backgrounds… There are dozens of jobs in the fire department, from structural (putting fire out), to staying outside buildings (fire police). Some fire departments run in emergency medical services; fire departments still need repairs, office work. If you are interested in helping the community, we have a spot for you,” D’Alessandro said.
David Babcock, Assistant Chief of New Paltz Fire Department, says much of the same towards having a recruitment event for NY firefighters.
“We’ve been having a steady decrease in firefighters due to increased demand in working, compared to past ways of life. FDSNY creates a state initiative to help create awareness.” Babcock said.
Babcock shares enthusiasm for the local efforts. He adds that these events bring in muchneeded labor. So far, they have had a steady stream of incoming volunteers, but could always use more since the trend seems to be in decline.
“We’ve been lucky enough to bring in one per month,” Babcock said. “Maybe two per year, a couple of others per month. Depends on desire to sign up.”
Babcock adds that a preference among some college aged firefighters is they can volunteer in New Paltz while they live in another city, so they are not solely committed to one department.
D’Alessandro further stresses that anyone can volunteer depending on how they choose to help, no matter what social or economic background they come from.
“Depending on talent, local department, we have different classes of membership: active firefighters, social/auxiliary members. Being an individual, you have to determine where you fit in. People won’t know if they don’t talk to men and women serving the community,” D’Alessandro said.
Babcock mentions to schedule an appointment to talk to a fire department worker and watch how members interact and respond to key issues in their environment. Therefore, people can determine from their observations how they would like to contribute, and to get a feel for the workforce.
Attending the recruitment event may be just as informative. Babcock says there will be chances to put on gear and talk to firemen regarding their experience. Food and refreshments will be served, and a live band will add to the entertainment at 25 Plattekill Ave. on April 23.