Volunteer Firefighter crisis (statistics, obstacles + some creative recruitment resources)

March 21, 2015

A dramatic decline in the number of volunteer firefighters, particularly young ones, threatens the ability of small departments to provide an essential public service.

Most people may not think this potential crisis impacts them, however almost 70% of firefighters across the nation are volunteers.

And it’s not just about fighting fires since most calls are for emergency medical services.

For the first time in 28 years, the majority of volunteer firefighters in the U.S. are over the age of 50, according to a firefighter profile released in November by the National Fire Protection Association. And while the number of on-call firefighters is decreasing, the demand for fire and rescue services is increasing.

Some Volunteer Fire Service statistics

The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) says in 2013 there were an estimated 30,052 U.S. fire departments and 19,807 of them were all volunteer.

According to the National Volunteer Fire Council

  • Volunteers comprise 69% of firefighters in the United States. Of the total estimated 1,140,750 volunteer and paid firefighters across the country, 786,150 are volunteer.
  • Communities served by volunteer firefighters depend on them to be their first line of defense for many types of emergencies. Volunteer firefighters are summoned to a wide array of emergencies across the country every day including fires, emergency medical incidents, terrorist events, natural disasters, hazardous materials incidents, water rescue emergencies, high-angle and confined space emergencies, and other general public service calls. The public relies on the volunteer emergency services to be their first line of defense in these emergencies. Volunteers spend an enormous amount of time training to prepare for these emergencies.
  • Small and mid-sized communities rely heavily on volunteer firefighters. Small communities (populations under 10,000) across the U.S. are typically protected by all volunteer departments. In some cases, however, these communities have hired a few paid firefighters to assist. Mid-sized communities (populations above 10,000) are typically served by combination volunteer and paid departments. Large communities (populations over 100,000) are most often protected by combination volunteer and paid departments that consist of primarily paid staff. There are few strictly paid fire departments in the U.S., but those that exist are primarily found in very urban areas.


Recruitment Obstacles

The Citizen-Times.com writes in 1980, a firefighter needed only 36 hours of training. Today that number has grown to 250 hours to obtain firefighter certification. Earning the certification can take up to a year for someone working a regular job and taking the training in the evenings.

Because fire departments have expanded the scope of their duties to include answering emergency medical calls, many firefighters also are emergency medical technicians, which requires another 100 to 250+ hours of training.

As Mount Pleasant Fire Department Chief Larry McRae recently explained at a County Commissioners meeting, “We require them to attend numerous hours of training. We look for people to be willing to go into a structure fire or approach a burning vehicle to save someone’s life. We ask them to expose themselves to contagious disease, use their personal vehicles, pay for their costs to replace their clothing, be available to respond at any time day or night, seven days a week in any kind of weather and under potentially stressful and life-threatening circumstances.”

“And we are asking them to do this for no pay,” McRae said. “And then we ask them to work at their volunteer fire department fundraisers.”

NVFC states volunteers typically contribute 20 to 100 hours per month or more.

McRae said without volunteers, the fire departments in the county can’t offer the fire and rescue protection to residents they are commissioned to offer. Aside from the safety repercussions, insurance service office ratings can cause home insurance rates for homeowners to go up several hundred dollars a year in communities without a fire department or volunteer fire department.

Creative recruitment ideas & tools

Below are some creative recruitment ideas, resources and vids to share with family, friends, co-workers, local officials, schools and youth groups. If you can contribute your time and energy, please consider becoming a volunteer or at least talk to your local Fire Department to see if there are ways to support them operationally and/or financially.

And speaking of financial assistance… please share our programs associated with our customizable IT’S A DISASTER! preparedness and first aid manual since ideas can help fund and support volunteers, agencies and others. Download a 2-page overview with funding examples (PDF) or call Fedhealth at 1-888-999-4325.

Maine Pension Program: Maine State Federation of Firefighters is working hard to try and recruit more volunteer firefighters, and to promote state legislation that aims to support the firefighters.  L.D. 164, An Act To Establish the Maine Length of Service Award Program, would create the framework for a statewide pension-type program under which volunteers such as firefighters or emergency medical service providers eventually would receive a pension. The bill would pay for the program through a tax on consumer fireworks writes Bangor Daily News.

The SERVE Act: This bill, introduced in 2013 and one of the National Volunteer Fire Council’s legislative priorities, is designed to help local volunteer emergency services agencies recruit and retain personnel. It would provide a $1000 tax credit to volunteer firefighters and volunteer emergency workers. Two other bills (Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Reauthorization Act (VRIPRA) and Volunteer Emergency Responders Tax Deduction Act) are also up for a vote in Congress. Read more at WBNG.com and IAFC.org

WHHC free room & board: A volunteer fire department in Lycoming County Ohio is looking for recruits and has something that could entice young firefighters writes WNEP.com. The Willing Hand Hose Company offers free room and board for college students who will respond to ambulance calls, fire calls, accidents and more. The fire house has been upgraded with all new amenities, including an updated kitchen, living quarters, and a TV room. Not only are the live-ins getting free room and board but they are also getting professional training which would cost them thousands to do on their own.

Fire Corps: The NVFC has also been instrumental in the launch of Fire Corps, a national initiative to recruit community members into local fire and EMS departments to perform non-emergency roles. This allows department members to focus on training and emergency response while at the same time increasing the services and programs the department can offer. Fire Corps is a component of the DHS’s Citizen Corps initiative and is administered on a national level by the NVFC. For more information, visit www.firecorps.org .

1-800-FIRE-LINE: In addition, the NVFC administers the 1-800-FIRE-LINE national recruitment campaign in an effort to boost the ranks in the volunteer fire service both operationally and non-operationally. Community members can call the toll-free 1-800-FIRE-LINE number from anywhere in the country to learn about the firefighter, EMS, and Fire Corps opportunities in their community. The campaign also includes resources for fire departments and state fire associations to implement and market the campaign. Learn more at www.1800fireline.org.

NVFC Retention and Recruitment tools: The National Volunteer Fire Council has many helpful resources, Best Practices, videos and PSAs and other tools on their Retention and Recruitment section.  Also learn more about other NVFC programs and services at www.nvfc.org or call 1-888-ASK-NVFC.

National Junior Firefighter Program Recruitment Video: Junior firefighter program advisors and department leaders can use this short video, which features juniors participating and explaining their interest in junior firefighting and their plans for their future, to recruit youth for their program at the local level. The video can be downloaded and taken to schools, community organizations, or department open houses to educate youth and adults about the benefit of junior firefighter programs.

Why I Chose Fire: Next Generation Volunteer Video: This 9-minute video features inspirational interviews with diverse first responders about why they love volunteering and what inspired them to get involved in the fire/EMS services. The videos articulate what potential volunteer firefighters need to know to be successful today and in the future. Click here to download a free copy of Why I Chose Fire: Next Generation from the Fire 20/20 web site, and learn how to get a customized version for your department or organization.


Above article appeared in our Fedhealth March 2015 enews


Need custom preparedness books? Going to print soon

February 20, 2015

Several agencies and groups need custom books for their communities so we are trying to schedule a large bundled print by April 2015.

If you or any agencies, businesses or nonprofits you know would like a customized version of our 266page disaster preparedness and first aid manual, please call Fedhealth at 1-888-999-4325 to discuss your needs.

Realize we bundle 1,000 unit & up custom jobs together and print 20,000+ books at a time. Also … we can do multiple versions of books for projects (1,000 & up per version) so you can customize covers and pages by area, county, division, agency, etc. (Fedhealth also supports small quantity orders using our red books and free stickers as explained below.)

The entire cover and title can be changed in the print process, and first 12 pages can be customized with local data, maps, reporting-in procedures, etc. in full color on glossy paper now.

We discount our books 50% to 75% off list (or as low as $3.50 U.S. each + freight) and customize them for free.

And, if needed, agencies, nonprofits and groups can upgrade to add 48 to 288 extra color glossy pages (for a total of 300 custom pages) to include advertisements, coupons or sponsorship messages, grant specific data and more for $5.50 US each delivered ($6.50 for businesses).

Another advantage is this tool provides grantees about a $3 or $4-to-$1 return on match due to the deeply discounted Government price and other donated goods and services. And funds can be committed within hours. Fedhealth is a small business, sole source registered on GSA’s SAM database and also listed as a Private Sector resource on FEMA’s Public-Private Partnership Tools page.

c4l-booth-IL12-2Books make great educational giveaways for your employees, volunteers, members, customers and local communities esp. at events like PrepareAthon, health fairs, public safety expos, etc. Plus our customizable tool can help clear out leftover grant dollars that are time sensitive.

Also … groups needing smaller quantities can always purchase our standard red books and personalize them with free peel & stick labels. We can ship red books within 24 hours of your order anytime so you don’t have to wait for a custom print.

Learn more about our customizable book and our fundraising ideas for volunteers, schools and nonprofits … or call FedHealth at 1-888-999-4325 to discuss your needs.

 


Should I stay or should I go? (Evacuation and sheltering tips when away from home)

January 22, 2015

Evacuations are quite common and happen for a number of reasons — fires, floods, mudflows, hurricanes, or chemical spills on the roads or railways. Most preparedness data for the general public focuses on things to do around your home before, during and after an evacuation.

But what if you are at work or school or traveling? Things can happen near your workplace that can force evacuations or sheltering-in-place as seen recently in Paris when terrorists were holed up at a business … or during active shooter incidents at workplaces or schools. And sometimes accidents happen when riding public transit like Washington DC and New York City experienced recently with fires at their train stations.

Whenever these types of emergencies or incidents happen hopefully people take a moment to reflect on some things like… Continue reading our Jan 2015 enews


Anatomy of a Hangover (how a body typically reacts to large doses of alcohol)

December 31, 2014

Most of us have probably been there … puking or “praying to the porcelain god”, massive pounding headache, queasy stomach, extreme thirst and more … after partying too hard the night before.

So before you imbibe at holiday celebrations and social functions, consider reading the below graphic to learn how a body typically reacts to large doses of alcohol. (And keep in mind it doesn’t necessarily have to be large amounts since a few sips might set off one’s chemistry into motion too.)

We also included some tips from GMA’s Dr. Savard on how to make the morning after a bit more tolerable.

MCT: Hangover anatomy

If you want to avoid a hangover, obviously the easy answer is … don’t drink. But according to GMA contributor Dr. Marie Savard, there are some things drinkers can do to help make the morning after more tolerable…

  • Sip slowly (so your stomach can absorb the drink slowly rather than getting pounded).
  • Eat chips or foods with fat in it to help slow the absorption of alcohol.
  • Drink water throughout the day / evening (or a glass between each drink) and avoid carbonated drinks since they can increase alcohol absorption.
  • Consider taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen or Alka Seltzer before drinking to decrease inflammation. Also … Dr. Joel Saper, founder and director of the Michigan Head-Pain and Neurological Institute, says “never take acetaminophen for a hangover. The combination of Tylenol plus alcohol equals death in some people.” That’s because acetaminophen stimulates an enzyme that can damage the liver. The combination can overwhelm the liver’s capacity to remove toxins from the body.1

Happy and safe holidays to all … and to our military, first responders and volunteers who work day in and day out to help keep us safe — thank you for your continued service and sacrifices. Take care, j & B

Source: Fedhealth Dec 2012 enews


Winter Safety Tips for Pets and Livestock

December 23, 2014

Unfortunately many people think since animals have fur or thick hide they are able to withstand the cold better than humans, but often this is not the case. Cold weather can be as hard on critters as it is on people and may lead to serious illness, injury or death.

Gimme shelter: When the temperatures drop in the winter months, bring your pets and critters indoors since they can be susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia. If you don’t have a barn or structure for livestock and other outdoor animals, at least make some type of windbreak to help keep them safe and out of the wind.

If you do keep livestock indoors, make sure the barn / building is well ventilated since ammonia can build up. Also add plenty of dry bedding (such as straw) to stalls, coops and cages so animals aren’t standing or lying on the cold ground, and provide a blanket for pets to sleep on. Space heaters and heat lamps should be avoided because of the risk of burns or fire. Heated pet mats should also be used with caution because they are still capable of causing burns.

Water and food: Make sure pets and livestock have plenty of fresh food and water, and constantly check their bowls and troughs to ensure their water isn’t frozen. Increase feed amounts for pets and livestock during cold snaps since they’ll burn more calories trying to keep warm. Also try to keep at least several weeks worth of feed on hand since you don’t want to run out when it may be difficult to have another load delivered.

Watch for signs: Take extra time to observe livestock, looking for early signs of disease and injury. Ready.gov explains severe cold-weather injuries or death primarily occur in the very young or in animals that are already debilitated. Cases of weather-related sudden death in calves often result when cattle are suffering from undetected infection, particularly pneumonia. Sudden, unexplained livestock deaths and illnesses should be investigated quickly so that a cause can be identified and steps can be taken to protect the remaining animals.

Animals suffering from frostbite don’t exhibit pain. It may be up to two weeks before the injury becomes evident as the damaged tissue starts to slough away. At that point, the injury should be treated as an open wound and a veterinarian should be consulted.

Your pets will give you signs too. If it is whining, shivering, seems anxious, slows down or stops moving, seems weak, or starts looking for warm places to burrow, get them back inside quickly because they are showing signs of hypothermia.

Also, the AVMA suggests you check your dog’s paws frequently for signs of cold-weather injury or damage, such as cracked paw pads or bleeding. During a walk, a sudden lameness may be due to an injury or may be due to ice accumulation between his/her toes. You may be able to reduce the chance of iceball accumulation by clipping the hair between your dog’s toes.

According to the American Animal Hospital Association…

  • Frostbite happens when an animal’s (or person’s) body gets so cold it pulls all the blood from extremities to the body’s core to stay warm. An animal’s ears, paws, and tail can get so cold that ice crystals form in the tissue damaging it. Frostbite can be tricky because it is not immediately obvious. Sometimes the tissue doesn’t show signs of damage for several days. If you suspect your pet may have frostbite, contact your veterinarian immediately.
  • Hypothermia is body temperature that is below normal. This condition occurs when an animal is unable to keep its body temperature from falling below normal. It occurs when an animal spends too much time in cold temperatures, or when an animal with poor health or circulation is exposed to cold. In mild cases, the animal will shiver and show signs of depression, lethargy, and weakness. As the condition progresses, muscles will stiffen, the heart and breathing rates slow, and the animal will stop responding to stimuli.

Cat check: Outdoor and feral cats have a tendency to curl up against a warm vehicle engine during cold spells so check beneath your car, bang on the hood, and honk the horn before starting the engine to scare the critters away.

Hoof check: If you have hooved livestock, hoof care is very important during winter months since wet ground combined with dirty conditions (esp. bacteria and fungi) may cause thrush and foot rot. Robyn Scherer (author of “Managing Livestock in Winter Conditions” article in Countryside magazine) explains regular trimmings should be performed to keep feet in good condition. Also, if you own horses in cold country, pick their feet on a regular basis to prevent ice balls from forming, as this can cause stress on tendons and ligaments.

Antifreeze: It only takes a few tablespoons of highly toxic antifreeze to seriously jeopardize an animal’s life. Ethylene glycol, the most common ingredient in antifreeze, can cause crystals to form in an animal’s kidney, ultimately leading to kidney failure and death. Learn more about this sweet but deadly toxin on USFRA

Holiday food and decorations: Avoid giving your pets rich, fatty foods like ham, turkey or goose since they can cause stomach problems, plus bones can splinter easily. And keep toxic foods such as onions, grapes, raisins, xylitol (a sugar substitute) and chocolate away from dogs, as well as plants like poinsettia, holly and mistletoe.

Dogs – esp. puppies – like to chew and eat anything … and cats love to play with shiny, dangly things so keep an eye on decorative strings of lights (both indoors and out) as well as ribbons, tinsel, ornaments and candles.

Heaters: Check your furnace to make sure it’s working efficiently, and install (and test) carbon monoxide detectors to keep your pets and family safe. Carbon monoxide is odorless and invisible, but it can cause problems ranging from headaches and fatigue to trouble breathing to even death. Also use space heaters with caution since they can burn your pets or the units can be knocked over, potentially starting a fire.

Move it: Exercise is good for pets, livestock and humans during the long winter months, but just make sure you don’t overdo it in the chilly temps and watch for signs of frostbite or hypothermia (see above). Also make sure you wipe down pet’s paws after playing or walking outside to remove any ice chunks or salt that may have gotten wedged in their pads or between their toes.

Be prepared: Cold weather also brings the risks of severe storms, blizzards, tornadoes and power outages. Create disaster supplies kits for your home and vehicles and don’t forget to pack supplies and water for your critters too. Download the Family Emergency Plan section and several topics from our IT’S A DISASTER! book to help you and others get prepared.

Sources:
American Animal Hospital Association
American Veterinary Medical Association
Countryside magazine
Grit.com
Ready.gov
U.S. First Responders Association  

Above appeared in our Dec 2013 enews

Additional Resources:

Holiday Fire Safety Tips  (about Christmas trees, lights, candles, etc.)  

Preparing for winter storms (tips to winterize home, prevent ice dams and more)

Winter Driving Tips  … and download our Winter Storm preparedness and safety tips (PDF)

12 Days of Winter Safety (a comprehensive + cost effective list by FLASH.org)

‘Tis the season for Pet safety (infographic in PDF by Pets Unlimited)

 


Avoiding scams, phishing and malicious emails (things to watch for, how to report them + more)

November 19, 2014

Scam artists use clever schemes to defraud millions of people around the world each year. People need to learn how to recognize common phishing tactics and malicious emails and what you can do to avoid them.

Scammers typically create emails and messages that look like they’re from real companies, agencies and organizations and even use their logos, fonts, layouts and color schemes.

According to OnGuardOnline.gov, some clues that an email or text message is suspicious include:

  • the message is requesting your personal information — do not respond or click links! Companies, agencies (like the IRS, etc.) and organizations will not request your password, user name, credit card data, account numbers, or other personal or financial data through e-mail or text.
  • the email appears in your junk folder;
  • the sender’s email address does not have that business or agency domain name in it;
  • when you hover over a link or coupon the web address is not that company’s / agency’s website;
  • if you receive a coupon for a free or discounted item, ask yourself if you signed up to get emails from this company. If not, it’s unlikely they’d send you a discount or freebie out of the blue;
  • the email or message has several typos, missing data or poor English.

If you’re not sure an email is legit, DON’T click any links or open any attachments. Instead, look for signs that the email isn’t the real thing or do a search or visit that company’s site to see if there are any complaints from others who received similar emails.

Shipping confirmations or delivery failed messages

Fedex, UPS, USPS and other carriers are often used in fraudulent emails asking users to click on links that more often than not will place malware on the user’s machine. The subject lines typically say things like there was a problem with delivery or they want you to verify information or some important information is missing, etc. The fraudulent email may have an attached file that contains a virus or other malware … or the link may take you to a website that might download a malicious file. Don’t fall for these scams and report it (if you want to) then delete it. Read more about delivery failure phishing scams on Denver’s ABC7 

ups phishing shipping receipt

Receipts

Be on the alert for fake emails posing as online retailers like PayPal, Amazon and others with a subject line similar to a receipt you would see for a purchase on that vendor’s online store, a PayPal payment to someone, etc. These fake receipt emails are sent by cyber criminals — not the retailers — and clicking links contained in a fake receipt email may install malware on your system, in particular spyware used in severe forms of cyber crime such as credit theft, extortion, and identity theft.

For example, just last week I placed a small order on Amazon and received my order confirmation as usual.

The next day I received another Amazon confirmation email for a $1,099 electronic device and the first thing I thought of is someone hacked our account..!

I immediately logged onto Amazon.com and checked our shipping history and it didn’t appear so I went back to the email in my Inbox and noticed several things…

#1 – The “To” line had an email id called “bobrph@…” (my name is Janet);

#2 – The “Hi %USERNAME%” didn’t auto-populate a name;

#3 – When you hover the mouse over a link (DON’T CLICK IT – just hover) it displays a website NOT called “amazon.com/…” but rather “imailsolution.com/…”. << We strongly suggest you not visit this site – just in case!

email phishing1

Note the email has Amazon’s logo and layout, fonts and color scheme are almost identical to a typical order confirmation email from them so you need to be on guard.

#4 – As I scrolled down and hovered the mouse over other links (again without clicking) the same domain / website name kept showing up.

email phishing2

#5 – Whoever designed this email even added a typical footer that Amazon uses on their confirmations. This was just an image (nothing popped up when I hovered over these links), but it sure gives the appearance it is a normal message from them.

email phishing3

If you click a phishing or malicious link…

According to Anti-abuse.org once a victim visits a malicious website the deception is not over. Some phishing scams use JavaScript commands in order to alter the address bar. This is done either by placing a picture of the legitimate entity’s URL over the address bar, or by closing the original address bar and opening a new one containing the legitimate URL.

In another popular method of phishing, an attacker uses a trusted website’s own scripts against the victim. These types of attacks (known as cross-site scripting) are particularly problematic, because they direct the user to sign in at their bank or service’s own web page, where everything from the web address to the security certificates appears correct.

A Universal Man-in-the-middle Phishing Kit, discovered by RSA Security, provides a simple-to-use interface that allows a phisher to convincingly reproduce any website and capture any log in details entered at the fake site.

Report Malicious / Phishing / Scam emails

It does help to report suspicious emails to the respective company but it is always best to find out how they want you to report it. Some may ask you to forward an email while others prefer you send it as an attachment.

Below are some examples of common brands we’ve seen in suspicious emails over the years, and it’s easy to do a search on a company name and the phrase “report phishing” to find their preferred method of sending them the data.

Once you report an email just delete it so you don’t accidentally click on any links in it later. Realize you probably won’t hear back from the company you reported the malicious email to, but you will get an auto-reply explaining they received it and will be investigating it.

As Amazon.com mentioned in the auto-reply to me, “please be assured that Amazon.com is not in the business of selling customer information. Many spammers and spoofers use programs that randomly generate e-mail addresses, in the hope that some percentage of these randomly-generated addresses will actually exist.”

You can also forward phishing emails to phishing-report@us-cert.gov and/or reportphishing@antiphishing.org. The Anti-Phishing Working Group, a group of ISPs, security vendors, financial institutions and law enforcement agencies, uses these reports to fight phishing.

If you might have been tricked by a phishing email:

Additional resources:

OnGuardOnline.gov
StaySafeOnline
US-CERT
Anti-Phishing Working Group
Protecting your devices from cyber threats

Stay safe out there..! j & B


Veterans Day Thank You + 2014 discounts and deals for troops and their families

November 9, 2014

usfra support our troopsOn November 11th our nation will celebrate Veterans Day (originally called Armistice Day) to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

One way businesses and organizations show their appreciation to veterans and active duty military is by offering discounts and freebies at restaurants, recreational sites, and retail stores.

Some deals start this weekend and extend out for days or a few weeks, while most are valid on Veterans Day only.

Take a moment to review Veterans Day 2014 discounts and deals for troops post on the U.S. First Responders Association forum … and please share the information with veterans and active duty troops you know. (The list is also available in a 6-page PDF so easy to print and share.)

Words cannot express the appreciation we have for our military (2- and 4-legged troops and vets) and their families … and we thank you ALL from the bottom of our hearts! j & B

 


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