Recently NBC10 did a story on the need for Volunteer Firefighters and Support Members in the Fire Service .. See the story and Video below:
Bucks County Seeks to Reverse Firefighter Shortage
By Sarah Glover
| Wednesday, Apr 2, 2014
Have a desire to help your neighbor and volunteer with a fire company? Bucks County wants to hear from you.
There’s a shortage of volunteer firefighters in the county and the Bucks County Fire Chiefs and Firefighters Association has launched a campaign to do something about it.
“It’s an ongoing problem and it’s all aspects of the fire service. It’s not just firefighting,” said Upper Makefield firefighter Robert Kay. “We need help with running the business of the firehouse. We need help running carnivals and pancake breakfasts.”
In 1976, there were 300,000 firefighter volunteers state-wide. Today, there are 50,000, according to Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner Edward A. Mann. To help bridge a shortage gap in Bucks County, officials were awarded a federal grant, called SAFER or Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, for $750,000 to be used over three years to recruit volunteer firefighters.
A online campaign was launched to attract volunteers in one of four positions: volunteer firefighter and rescue, volunteer fire police, volunteer associate and volunteer opportunities for teens.
Northampton fire chief Adam Selisker welcomes the recruitment efforts. To become a fully certified volunteer firefighter, you must complete 180 hours of training, a tough hurdle, according to Selisker. But, his department sees a key to retention is getting volunteers into a shorter orientation program so the recruits can ride on the apparatus in support roles within three months.
“It’s is one of the most rewarding situations you can be in. Many volunteers end up in full-time careers, springboarded from their volunteerism,” Selisker said.
In addition to the website, advertising and commercials are being run in Regal and AMC Bucks County movie theaters, at large-scale events and on Comcast cable in Bucks County. (Comcast is the parent company of NBC10.com)
Visits to schools and community colleges have also been added to the outreach plan.
Benefits include free training, excitement, pride from helping others, according to the website. Kay serves as the co-chair of the recruitment committee and says every department’s needs are different, but emphasizes firefighters are wearing more hats than ever before.
“You have guys running carnivals and leaving to run out to a fire, and there’s the time needed to spend with families,” Kay said.
Some Bucks County fire companies have paid support, such as Bensalem, Newtown, Bristol and Northampton. However, every Bucks County fire company has volunteer staff.
“Your payments and the gratitude you get from the community that you get for saving somebody’s house or their pets or their family. There’s no payment that can amount to that feeling,” said one volunteer in a campaign video.
For more information and to volunteer, visit here.
Also A Story was done in the Bucks County Courier Times:
Mon Apr 7, 2014.
Volunteer firefighters wanted, needed in Bucks County By George Mattar Staff writer Bucks County Courier Times
Bucks County is a large and diverse region with people from all walks of life and every socioeconomic class.
But one common thread is the shortage of volunteer firefighters.
The slogan for the marketing campaign is “Save. Protect. Volunteer.”
“(The website) is a great resource for us and the community,” said Parkland Fire Co. Safety Officer Jerry Barton, who co-chairs the association’s recruitment committee. “This way people can learn more about volunteering 24 hours a day, seven days a week and get their questions answered.”
Barton’s father was a firefighter, Barton’s son is a firefighter and his brother-in-law is a firefighter.
Barton, 55, has been fighting fires for nearly 40 years and said when he joined in 1975, “We could fill three fire trucks with no problem and head to a fire. Today, it’s a dire situation. We need people. The trucks are going to calls practically empty, especially during the day.
“Things are very different today than when I joined as a teenager. We didn’t have all this electronic stuff like cellphones and iPods to occupy our time. There wasn’t much to do, so you hung around the firehouse, which is what I did,” he said.
Add to that, most of what used to be farmland in Bucks County is now full of expensive homes, Barton said.
“There’s more homes, so more potential fires to fight. We have only about 15 active members, but since the ads starting running there has been an influx of people coming in to see about joining. We had four young men come in at the same time. Now, we just hope we can keep them,” Barton said.
Today, everyone is so busy that the county’s 87 fire stations aren’t drawing in volunteers.
The recruitment campaign is being paid for with a $732,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Sam Eckhardt, who is Parkland’s treasurer and also on the staff of the Bucks County Fire Chiefs and Firefighters’ Association, which is running the ad campaign.
Eckhardt is unable to fight fires since he needs to use a wheelchair, but helps out by overseeing Parkland’s $85,000 annual budget.
Eckhardt said the ad campaign began running in mid March and will last about 12 weeks.
What can being a volunteer at a fire company offer someone thinking about joining?
Both Eckhardt and Barton said one has a chance to serve his or her community, respect for themselves, and some education, such as the free 180 hours of training required to go into a burning building.
Being a firefighter also may lead to a paid career in the fire service. Barton said several firefighters are dispatchers for Bucks County’s 911 system; others are paid paramedics at rescue squads.
“Being a volunteer lets you realize you’re part of the community and not on some island by yourself,” Barton said. “We need dedicated people.”
Rob Kay, the other co-chair of the recruitment committee, summed up the situation.
“The need for volunteer firefighters is a countywide issue,” he said. “We’re really trying to get our name out there. We want people to know that there are ways they can protect and help their communities starting right now.”
A few municipalities have small, paid crews that supplement the volunteers and generally work during the day on weekdays, when it can be tough to find volunteers.
Northampton is one, said Northampton Fire Co. Chief Adam Selisker.
“We have four firefighters who work out of our Richboro station from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. They are there to (make up) for the lack of available volunteers during the day, when most of us are working,” the chief said.
Selisker said his department has about 75 active volunteer firefighters, but he can always use more.
“We have about 13,000 homes and 2,000 businesses that we are responsible for. We answer about 1,000 calls a year in our 27 square miles. It is a great deal of responsibility,” he said.
The Northampton Fire Co. is getting ready to celebrate its 100th anniversary in May and proudly has at least 10 families in which the children of firefighters also became firefighters.
Selisker, who is 49, has been a firefighter for 34 years, as was his father.
“When I joined in 1980, we had about 200 calls a year. Now, it’s 1,000. The main reason there are so many calls is that the population has increased. More people, more houses, more fires,” he said. “Our call volume has skyrocketed and that increases our expenses.”
Selisker says time, or the lack of it, is a major reason why getting firefighters can be difficult.
“It takes 180 hours to get your Firefighter 1 certification. That means two nights a week and one day each weekend for more than three months. Most folks just don’t have the time with all the two-income homes these days,” he said.
Then there is constant training on top of that to keep up with federal mandates.
Falls Township Fire Marshal Richard Dippolito, whose entire family is involved in the fire service, said he started in 1978, when he was still a teenager.
“People just don’t have the time to commit (nowadays),” he said.
Dippolito said he is aware of the push by bucksfire.org, but hasn’t seen anybody walking in off the street because they saw the advertisement.
He said daytime volunteerism was not a problem about 25 years ago, when 10,000 people still worked at USX Fairless Works. Now it is basically closed.
“We had plenty of guys working swing shifts, so people were always available. We don’t have that luxury anymore,” he said.
And volunteers are needed for reasons other than going into a burning building.
“If you have a special skill or interest, we’ll find a way to put you to work,” Kay said. “We need people who can help us maintain our vehicles, flip pancakes at fundraising breakfasts, keep our books in order. Everything.”