Weekly Feature

2017-10-05 / Editorial

Our area is well served by volunteers

Lancaster Village Mayor

Traditionally, October is designated as Fire Prevention Month, and although I believe every month should be treated as such, I would like to stray from that topic and remind readers of the value and critical need for volunteers in our fire and emergency medical services communities, for without their devotion and dedication, taxpayers would see a tremendous increase in the costs for those vital services.

I can speak from personal experience, being a 39-year member and past chief of the Lancaster Fire Department. At one time, our ranks swelled to 230 members, and there was a waiting list to be able to join. Today, those numbers have dropped and continue to drop, not only within our fire department, but within surrounding companies and ambulance services. There are several factors that influence these statistics: a change in our culture as a whole, apathy, more activities available for children to be involved in requiring more involvement from parents, the necessity of two incomes within families and so on. I also believe that training requirements have hindered rather than helped our volunteers to attract new members. Adequate training is vital for our firefighters and EMS personnel to assist in keeping them safe while performing their duties, but has it gone too far? In 1978, the basic firefighter training course was 39 hours, and the additional training was provided in-house. Today, that basic training is more than 100 hours with additional OSHA training and specialized training in auto extrication, hazardous materials, water rescue, natural disasters and so on. While this training is meant to ensure the safety of these men and women, it also has become a deterrent for recruitment and retention. People have an interest to join, but when they discover the time commitment, the organization usually loses a potential member.

The Village of Lancaster Fire Department was recently awarded a $42,600 SAFER Grant that will be used to recruit and retain members for its ranks. Fire service, whether paid or volunteer, is the largest union in the world and is a group that has an extremely proud tradition and reputation. It was 16 years ago that we lost 343 members of that group to a terrorist attack. We need to remember our volunteers and do what we can to help to bolster their numbers. Volunteer fire and EMS persons are the backbone of most communities; these people deserve our recognition and our respect. They have earned it.

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