For years I have written about community service, especially when it comes to volunteer firefighters. I attended a meeting at the Walkersville VFD last weekend, and the topic of membership was brought up, as is usually the case at VFD meetings. Each of them needs members, and not everyone knows how to increase their lists.
Lewis County OEM deputy director and E-911 Center Keith Talbert said telling potential members that the education and certifications he or she would get through the training could help them serve for other purposes. These certifications include CDLs, hazardous materials training, and eventual college credit.
There’s more to that, however: teaching our older students about community service and careers, whether paid or volunteer, in the fields of first responders, must be a priority. If we don’t teach our children the value of these professions, and teach them how valuable these people are, what will happen when there is little or none at all?
In November 2019, I wrote about it, remembering how, as a child, I discovered the police, firefighters, teachers and those in the medical field:
“People working as officers, firefighters and teachers, in particular, fight all the time for funding, support, to be trained and certified, and face resistance at every turn. While volunteering is declining everywhere, the lack of volunteerism in fire departments is alarming.
We are reaching a point where volunteer fire services will have to become paid services just to survive.
For those new to the fire department, the countless hours spent taking lessons are intimidating and could eat into an entire weekend, which could be the only downtime they have. The requirements for paid and volunteer firefighters are the same in West Virginia, and training is much easier if you are employed as a firefighter, as the time it takes for this training does not eat away at that time. when they are not at work.
Obviously, volunteers need training, but when the requirements are developed by people who have little or no understanding of the life of a volunteer firefighter, interest wanes and the public faces danger. of which he is not aware, and those who are active volunteers bear the added burden of responding to emergencies more often than they should.
More children should be exposed to public service careers at school and outside. Children need to see officers in a positive light and to know and understand that they are there to help them. It’s the same with firefighters, 911 operators, paramedics and educators. If young people continue to shy away from these professions, we will have a much more serious crisis on our hands, and primarily fighting local and state governments on current issues will seem benign in comparison.
It can take a long time to wait for the legislation to change. Teaching children that these are noble and worthy professions can begin now. There are a lot of unknowns regarding public service and the implementation of changes to these types of careers.
In July 2020, I wrote about how VFDs were excluded from beneficiaries of CARES law funding. Senators from WV Romano, Facemire and Stollings have drafted a letter to the Governor of Justice demanding that part of the funding for the CARES Act be diverted to volunteer fire services. The letter stated that VFDs “have been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 crisis, which has significantly reduced their ability to increase their operating income.”
In Lewis County, no funds are allocated to volunteer fire departments other than the annual fire fee. They, along with VFDs across the state, rely on fundraising events to supplement the approximately $ 45,000 to $ 50,000 they receive each year from the state. Senators Romano, Hamilton and Facemire introduced Senate Bill 26 in January 2020, which proposed an increase to 1%, instead of the current 0.55% surcharge on fire and damage insurance policies, and be used only for volunteer firefighters. The bill didn’t go anywhere, but Romano was ready to present it again in the 2021 session.
In March of this year, I wrote about how the VFDs still face an uphill battle, as they have been for several years.
“Every training and every piece of equipment is just our advantage. Equipment is expensive, with some of them having a lifespan and needing to be replaced. The training is ongoing and can sometimes take a long time.
Everything they do is designed to help people when they need it most. Some of us may never need it, which is wonderful. I’m sure, however, that we all know people who have needed it. Their longevity and durability are good for all of us.
Our responsibility is to support our VFDs. We need to educate ourselves and our children about the importance of firefighters, including the cost of training, equipment and devices, while remembering that VFDs receive no county funding and only a minimum amount of money. state every year.
They, along with law enforcement and EMS personnel, are clearly doing something that most of us would not do. We have to support them because sometimes we can be all they have. When it comes to frightening emergencies, they’re all we have. We have to make sure they are there.
Just because we are tired of hearing the same concerns does not mean that they are not valid. We need to focus more on the community now, or we’ll all pay the price.