This Saturday and Sunday is Recruit NY Weekend on Long Island, when many of our local fire departments will open up their doors and invite in new recruits. These are the volunteers that show up at the sound of an alarm and have been saving lives and property for decades. Now they need help. Consider joining one in your community.
Here’s what’s happening: Unlike New York City boroughs, where all of the firefighters and ambulance EMTs are paid professionals, nearly all of Long Island’s emergency responders do not draw salaries. Of the 181 fire departments in both Nassau and Suffolk counties, volunteers man 175 of them and there are 33 volunteer ambulance corps. The problem is, there are fewer people who are willing to make that kind of a commitment.
In the early 1990s, at its peak, there were 120,000 volunteers. However, by the mid-2000s that number dropped to an all-time low of 80,000, barely enough to handle the needs of nearly three million people. Clearly, something needed to be done. The fire districts recognized that and began a campaign in 2011 to draw in more help by launching the aforementioned recruitment event.
There are currently around 105,000 volunteers. That number certainly is better, but according to the experts, it’s not near what’s required to keep up with the growing demands since the number of calls has increased, which could be attributed to more automatic alarm systems in private homes and businesses. All alarms must be answered whether it’s an actual emergency or not.
The reason for the lower numbers seems to reflect what many other volunteer organizations are experiencing. It could be attributed to an aging population and perhaps the fact that the younger potential recruits are too strapped with the cost of living on Long Island, which has driven some to take on more than one job to get by. Regardless of the reason, something will have to change.
This year, as in years past, the call for volunteers includes women and minorities. Everyone needs to consider giving some time to this very important cause.
These dedicated individuals are always there if needed. It’s time to consider returning their good deed.