Firefighter Crisis: Townships Urge Governor, Lawmakers to Take Action
Become a Volunteer Firefighter
The volunteer fire company is a long and cherished tradition in our commonwealth, dating back to 1736 when Ben Franklin founded the nation’s first all-volunteer force to fight blazes in Philadelphia. For nearly three centuries, communities have relied on volunteer fire companies to protect property and save lives. Today, this volunteer model is in jeopardy. Across the state, local fire companies are struggling. Volunteers are dwindling. Costs are soaring. Training requirements have intensified. With donations and volunteers harder to come by, the future of the local fire company, long intertwined in the fabric of a community, looks grim. Without real, viable solutions to address this volunteer shortage, many local stations may be forced to close their doors. That means one thing: Pennsylvania is on the verge of a public safety crisis.
Time for action
Recently, township officials from across the state passed a resolution at the 96th Annual Educational Conference of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS) demanding that Gov. Tom Wolf call a special legislative session immediately to address the volunteer crisis facing local fire and emergency management services. Rep. Steve Barrar, chair of the state Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, has embraced this call for a special session. Recent initiatives to tackle the crisis, including the bipartisan Senate Resolution 6 Commission, which has been tasked with studying issues affecting first responders, are a good step but they’re not enough, said Shirl Barnhart, PSATS immediate past president and a member of the SR 6 Commission. He noted that the deadline for the commission’s report is November 30, which coincides with the end of the legislative session.
“Instead, local leaders are imploring the legislature to act now, before General Election Day, and give this crisis the attention it deserves,” Barnhart said. “We’ve ‘talked the talk’ for long enough; it’s time to ‘walk the walk.’”
Consider these sobering facts:
Volunteers at fire companies across Pennsylvania have dropped from 300,000 strong in the 1960s and ’70s to below 50,000 today.
At least 75 percent of fire companies are struggling with manpower at a time when the state’s population is aging. The average age of a firefighter is 50-something, and people are busier today than they were decades ago.
Communities would have to raise taxes almost $10 billion a year to switch to a paid model for fire service, according to the office of the state fire commissioner.
Gov. Tom Wolf recently declared the opioid abuse problem in Pennsylvania an emergency disaster. Programs and funding have been dedicated to ending this deadly epidemic.
“As local officials who are witnessing the lethal consequences of opioid addiction in our communities, the members of PSATS support this commitment,” Barnhart said. “However, we also believe we have been dealing with the volunteer fire and EMS crisis for far longer. It’s time that our hard-working fire companies and volunteers receive the same attention and recognition from Harrisburg.”
This call for action isn’t intended to distract from the current opioid crisis. Instead, it is related. First responders are on the front lines of the opioid battle every day. If communities expect emergency personnel to respond to overdose calls, they can’t afford to lose any more foot soldiers in this war.
Too important to lose
Whether it’s helping at the scene of an overdose or putting out a house fire, volunteer fire and emergency responders keep the commonwealth’s communities safe. While local leaders are doing their best to keep this volunteer model alive, Barnhart said, they need help from the leaders in Harrisburg. PSATS and its members are urging the state legislature to immediately enact real and feasible solutions, such as allowing variable training standards for rural, suburban, and urban areas; granting a tax incentive for employers who permit employees to respond to calls while at work; and providing a fix for out-of-control insurance rates at the State Workers Insurance Fund (SWIF). If Pennsylvania doesn’t find real remedies soon, the day is not far away when someone calls 911 for help, and no fire company responds.
“We must make sure that never happens,” Barnhart said. “Our volunteer fire companies are simply too important to lose.”
(Excerpted from a Townships Today Newsletter)
SERVPRO becomes big around the nation in disaster restoration
Members of the SERVPRO of Whitemarsh/Doylestown franchise. Photo by Gene Walsh / Times Herald Staff
Copied from an article in the Times Herald Newspaper
By GARY PULEO
Posted: 09/07/11, 12:01 AM EDT | Updated: on 09/07/2011
WORCESTER - When it comes to “Dirty Jobs,” Mike Rowe has nothing on Andreo DiPrinzio. He may not be the star of his own TV show, but the owner of SERVPRO of Whitemarsh/Cheltenham gets a major rush from diving in to the muck and the mold when a large-scale cleanup job is in order. Clearing the decks after one of Mother Nature’s virulent tantrums is what brought DiPrinzio and his “minutemen” to the Poconos in late August. Lightning had severely damaged the roof of Swiftwater Elementary School, and SERVPRO’s job was to reinstate a normal environment in time for the first day of School on Aug. 29. It was the kind of disaster restoration that DiPrinzio thrives on, he admitted by phone after a few days of being knee-deep in the wreckage. “I love this stuff,” DiPrinzio said. “I got the call on Monday from the host office, so you just have to react. We call ourselves the “minutemen’ at times like that. You tell your wife and kids, I don’t know how big the project is or how long I’ll be gone. In my industry you have to take these things when you can because you’ll be lucky to go on two of these a year. Last year alone I worked in six states and was personally on the road for two months. We’re working against the clock to get this Swiftwater job done,” he added, “And if we have to ramp it up to a third shift, we will.”
SERVPRO of Whitemarsh/Cheltenham, which DiPrinzio launched 15 years ago, is part of a nationwide system of more than 1,500 franchises, which includes DiPrinzio’s second location, SERVPRO of Doylestown. Though the Whitemarsh/Cheltenham designation signifies SERVPRO’s geographical territory, DiPrinzio runs his flagship operation from a family property in Worcester called Abruzzi Farm. “If the host office gets a job, no one can handle a big job with 200 people that you need done in five days, so they call in the franchises,” DiPrinzio said. “It looks like all the work here is being done by SERVPRO of Monroe County, but technically there are close to nine franchises all working together on this building.” The Swiftwater project, which DiPrinzio estimated would cost $1 million, was not the typical “bread and butter” job that SERVPRO deals with on a regular basis, he noted.
“A typical job is between $3,000 and $5,000,” said DiPrinzio, who also owns DiPrinzio Building & Development Co. “A pipe breaks in your house from the hot water heater and pours water all over the floor. We’ll come in and cut up the carpet and spray for mold and mildew. Most other outfits just come in and suck water and don’t get involved in the construction, but because of my home building I contract out other repairs to my own company to take care of the whole job.”
Besides fixing up monumental messes, SERVPRO is also cleaning up in the numbers game as well. The company was recently recognized at a national convention for hitting the million-dollar mark in revenue. “It was the third time we went to a million dollars,” said DiPrinzio, a Bishop Kenrick graduate. With the Swiftwater Elementrary School project still in full swing, his services were being booked to mend destruction in the wake of Hurricane Irene. “I got an email from an insurance company that said we will pay you to mobilize so that once the hurricane hits you can start serving us exclusively for any damages that we have,” he said. “After 15 years my back is broken, and you won’t see at a small $2,500 job. I’m personally committed to going to the large losses now. It’s what I give to my company, for lack of a better word.”
Fireworks on the 4th: Celebrate Safely
Fireworks are synonymous with our celebration of Independence Day. This is the first Fourth of July in Pennsylvania since the laws governing the purchase of fireworks have been relaxed. Currently, any adult with a PA driver’s license can purchase some pretty high powered and dangerous fireworks. Yet, the thrill of fireworks can also bring pain. On average, 280 people go to the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the days surrounding the July 4th holiday.
Remember, fireworks can be dangerous, causing serious burn and eye injuries. You can help us prevent fireworks-related injuries and deaths. How? Follow these safety tips when using fireworks:
- Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
- Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers.
- Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents don't realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees - hot enough to melt some metals.
- Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
- Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
- Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
- Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
- Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
- After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.
- Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.
Remember that fireworks have caused a lot of household fires. If you have a fireworks mishap resulting in fire damage, call SERVPRO of Doylestown for fire restoration services. SERVPRO of Doylestown wishes everyone in the area a safe and fun Fourth of July!
Hurricane Preparedness in Our Area
National Hurricane Preparedness Week May 6-12
Hurricane Preparedness - Be Ready
While we are not located close enough to the ocean to feel a hurricane’s full effect on a regular basis, hurricanes always pose a wind and water damage threat to our property. Two keys to weather safety are to PREPARE for the risks and to ACT on those preparations when alerted by emergency officials. According to the FEMA, we can prepare for a hurricane by following this four stage guide:
Know if you live in an evacuation area. Assess your risks and know your home's vulnerability to storm surge, flooding and wind. Understand National Weather Service forecast products and especially the meaning of NWS watches and warnings. Contact your local National Weather Service office and local government/emergency management office. Find out what type of emergencies could occur and how you should respond.
Communications is important during a weather emergency. Keep a list of contact information for these resources:
Emergency Management Offices, County Law Enforcement, County Public Safety Fire/Rescue, State, County and City/Town Government, Local Hospitals, Local Utilities, Local American Red Cross, , Local TV Stations, Local Radio Stations, Your Property Insurance Agent
Plan & Take Action
Everyone needs to be prepared for the unexpected. Your friends and family may not be together when disaster strikes. How will you find each other? Will you know if your children or parents are safe? You may have to evacuate or be confined to your home. What will you do if water, gas, electricity or phone services are shut off?
Put together a basic disaster supplies kit and consider storage locations for different situations. Help community members do the same.
Develop and document plans for your specific risks. Protect yourself and family with a Family Emergency Plan. Be sure to plan for locations away from home. Pet owners should have plans to care for their animals. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention offer information on animal health impacts in evacuation shelters.
Review the FEMA Evacuation Guidelines to allow for enough time to pack and inform friends and family if you need to leave your home. FOLLOW instructions issued by local officials. Leave immediately if ordered!
Consider your protection options to decide whether to stay or evacuate your home if you are not ordered to evacuate.
When waiting out a storm be careful, the danger may not be over yet. Be alert for Tornadoes, as they are often spawned by hurricanes. The calm "eye" of the storm – it may seem like the storm is over, but after the eye passes, the winds will change direction and quickly return to hurricane force.
Wait until an area is declared safe before returning home. Remember that recovering from a disaster is usually a gradual process.
Here are some additional resources for Hurricane Preparedness
- Refer to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) gov/hurricanes for comprehensive information on hurricane preparedness at home and in your community.