HJR 743: Joint Subcommittee Studying Incentives
for Fire & Rescue Squad Volunteers
August 23, 2007
Chairman Tom Rust
opened the second meeting of the joint subcommittee studying incentives
for fire and rescue squad volunteers by welcoming everyone and reviewing
the agenda. Guest speakers included representatives from the Virginia
Department of Fire Programs (VDFP), the Office of Emergency Medical Services
(OEMS), Virginia Municipal League (VML), Virginia Association of Counties
(VACo), as well as Dr. Kenneth B. Perkins from Longwood.
Department of Fire Programs (VDFP)
G. Shelton, Executive Director of VDFP, described the agency's role in
providing fire and emergency services support to communities throughout
the Commonwealth. Some of the many VDFP services are financial assistance
to communities and organizations; professional development and training
programs for emergency responders; public fire and life safety education;
research, analysis, and information reporting; operational support to
communities during emergencies; advocacy and promotion of best practices;
and technical assistance through expertise and consultation.
VDFP revenues are
generated from one percent of the gross income of fire-related insurance
premiums, with 75% going directly to counties, cities, and towns as aid
to localities and 25% going to training and administration. Mr. Shelton
discussed four possible incentives to increase the number of volunteers:
- Free local decal
for volunteers for one vehicle.
- Personal property
tax exemption for one vehicle.
- State tax incentives
- Funding the Volunteer
Firefighters' and Rescue Squad Workers' Service Award Program Fund (VOLSAP).
Emergency Medical Services
on behalf of the Office of Emergency Medical Services were Gary Brown,
Director; Scott Winston, Assistant Director; Warren Short, Training Manager;
and Rohn Brown, Technical Assistance Coordinator. Since the 2004 JLARC
Review of Emergency Medical Services in Virginia Report was published,
OEMS has evaluated and addressed many of the issues raised in the report,
such as why volunteers leave the emergency medical services field, which
include personal conflicts, lack of time to volunteer, as well as poor
management and leadership. With the population aged 65 and older in Virginia
growing, there is an increased need for emergency medical services. With
volunteers making up 51% of all certified fire personnel and EMS providers,
agencies cannot afford to lose volunteers. OEMS is responsible for certifying
and re-certifying all Virginia EMS providers. The agency has been working
on a number of volunteer retention programs and created the Keeping
The Best! Retention Toolkit for use by Virginia's EMS agencies. OEMS
supports the creation of flexible and creative approaches to increase
retention by offering technical assistance through the EMS Workforce Development
Committee, an on-line recruitment directory, and the agency's Christopher
Reeve Recruitment Campaign. OEMS financial assistance provides leadership
and management training, advertising, and signs and recruitment materials.
offered three recommendations for consideration by the members:
- Legislation to
ensure that localities have the powers and duty to develop a written
emergency response plan in the event the local EMS agency disbands so
that local emergency services will remain available.
of funds directly to localities from the Virginia State Police Med-Flight
program for incentives to recruit and retain volunteer EMS personnel.
- Legislation to
waive or reduce fees for students in a Virginia Community College EMS
program who become state certified and affiliated with a licensed EMS
Municipal League and Virginia Association of Counties
Palmore, Town Manager of Blackstone, spoke on behalf of the VML and Chief
Ken Brown of the Goochland County Fire and Rescue Department spoke on
behalf of VACo. Each of the representatives supported the consensus of
speakers from the first meeting of the joint subcommittee in July, reiterating
that retention and recruitment are serious issues, as is leadership. They
noted that any help the members could provide would be greatly appreciated
and emphasized how important it is for the General Assembly to appropriate
some amount of money to VOLSAP, which is administered by the VRS.
B. Perkins, Longwood University
The final speaker
was Dr. Kenneth Perkins, Special Assistant to the President for Longwood
University. Dr. Perkins' field is sociology and over the years he has
done extensive research related to volunteer fire and rescue squad departments,
and he is a longtime member of the Prospect Volunteer Fire Department.
Dr. Perkins' research
indicates that Americans love to form and participate in volunteer assistance
services. Fire and rescue squads differ from one another in that rescue
squads have a lot more "sick" calls that are not true emergencies.
These calls create fatigue and burnout for many volunteers. The time demands
are significant for many EMS volunteers, which is of great concern to
Virginia's localities, particularly in rural areas. Dr. Perkins remarked
that it should not be assumed that volunteerism is dying out; however,
recruitment and retention can be a great problem.
In some localities,
volunteer squads have difficulty recruiting what they call "come
heres," new residents that move into an area. Recruitment difficulties
may also stem from inadequate leadership and a volunteer organization's
internal politics. He offered several ideas for the members’ consideration,
- Educate the populace
to not use 911 for "sick" calls.
- Assist with a
public awareness campaign at the local level.
- Promote and support
leadership training programs for volunteer organizations.
- Compensate volunteers
for EMS training.
- Provide a modest
stipend/retirement pay for volunteers.
Dr. Perkins added
that any investment made at the state or local level to increase volunteer
retention would be well worth the money saved each year on the cost of
providing emergency services.
Three citizens briefly addressed the subcommittee. One was a volunteer
rescue squad member, one was a volunteer firefighter, and one was a lobbyist.
Each of the speakers spoke of the important role that volunteer firemen
and rescue squad members play in their localities, and they asked the
joint subcommittee to help provide the means to educate the community
and to fund VOLSAP.
The next meeting is scheduled for September 24, at which time, the joint
subcommittee will hear from Scott Kezmen, an attorney in Virginia Beach,
who will discuss the Benshoff FLSA test. The members will also discuss
The Hon. Thomas
Joan Putney, Amigo
Wade, DLS Staff
of Legislative Services > Legislative
Record > 2007
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