Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2007

HJR 743: Joint Subcommittee Studying Incentives for Fire & Rescue Squad Volunteers

July 24, 2007

During its organizational meeting in Richmond, the Joint Subcommittee Studying Incentives for Fire and Rescue Squad Volunteers elected Delegate Thomas Rust as chair and Senator Nick Rerras as vice-chair. The chairman then made opening remarks and asked the other seven members of the joint subcommittee to introduce themselves and provide some background. Other members of the joint subcommittee are Delegates Bobby Orrock, Tommy Wright, and Johnny Joannou, Senator Phil Puckett, and citizen members Garland Hamlett and Robert M. Woodall III.

Work Plan
Staff reported an overview of the study resolution, a history of volunteer fire companies and rescue squads, a review of four prior studies in which retention and recruitment was addressed to some extent, and an outline of what the joint subcommittee may consider doing during its tenure. The members may meet up to three more times and must complete their work by November 30, 2007, with an executive summary of their findings and recommendations due no later than January 9, the first day of the 2008 General Assembly session.

Mr. Charles Singleton, with the Virginia State Firefighters Association, addressed the subcommittee next. He thanked the members for their interest and asked them to consider providing funding for the Volunteer Firefighters' and Rescue Squad Workers' Service Award Fund. The Fund was created in 1999 as a type of retirement fund for active volunteer firefighters and rescue squad members. The General Assembly has not provided any funding, other than for administrative costs, to the Fund in the eight years of its existence. Eligible volunteers have made contributions, however, at $30 per quarter/ $120 per year.

Mr. Singleton was followed by Mr. Gary Dalton and Mr. Ed Rhodes, who spoke on behalf of the Virginia Association of Volunteer Rescue Squads, Inc., (VAVRS). VAVRS works with volunteer rescue squads in leadership training as well as retention and recruitment. Volunteer rescue squads have been losing members in recent years for a variety of reasons and they are working to reverse that trend with a variety of incentives. Both speakers indicated, however, that more needs to be done through local and state government assistance.

Mr. Rhodes mentioned some of the incentives that surrounding states, such as Maryland, West Virginia and North Carolina provide to volunteer firefighters and rescue squad members. Staff is collecting information from all 49 states regarding such incentives and will present the findings at a later meeting of the joint subcommittee.

Other Business
The chairman opened the floor to comments and two individuals took the opportunity to speak. One was a volunteer firefighter and the other a volunteer rescue squad member. Both talked about the strain being put on volunteer departments due to the smaller number of volunteers. It was suggested that a monetary length of service award program to reward those volunteers who attain a certain number of hours of service could be considered as a new incentive. The idea is to provide volunteers the opportunity to break even regarding their personal expenses incurred while volunteering.

The joint subcommittee decided to invite a sociology professor from Longwood University, who has specialized in the study of volunteer firefighters and rescue squads, to address them at the next meeting. In addition, representatives from the Office of Emergency Medical Services and the Virginia Department of Fire Programs will also be asked to appear at the next meeting to explain their respective roles with regard to volunteer rescue squads and fire departments.

The Virginia State Firefighters Association, VAVRS, the Virginia Municipal League and the Virginia Association of Counties were also asked to assist in providing more information as needed throughout the course of the study and their representatives were more than willing to help. There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.

Next Meeting
The next meeting of the joint subcommittee will be held in late August and a third meeting in late September. Once the dates are set, the information will be posted on the meeting calendar on the General Assembly website, as well as the study website sponsored by DLS.

The Hon. Thomas D. Rust

For information, contact:
Joan Putney, DLS Staff


Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2007

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