Sunday, January 28, 2007

Legal Issues for Volunteer Fire Departments

Yesterday and the day before I spent twelve hours at a NYS Fire Academy seminar titled "Legal Issues for the Volunteer Fire Service," sponsored by Tompkins County Department of Emergency Response and Tompkins Cortland Community College. The instructor was knowledgeable and entertaining. Participants included Fire Commissioners, Chiefs, Firefighters, and Town Board members.

Lawyers live in such a world of their own. While some of us are thinking, "Just let us collect the taxes and fight the fires," the lawyers are out their somewhere trying to impose some structure on the various ways we organize ourselves and anticipating the infinitely varied ways things can go wrong. Do the lawyers make our lives complicated? Yes. There were thirty-five new laws affecting volunteer firefighters in 2006. Do the lawyers help when things go wrong? Sometimes.

Incidently, the instructor is a volunteer firefighter, as well as a lawyer. I was happy to see several members of departments in Dryden participating including Andy Down, Freeville Fire Chief, who was at the Friday night session of the seminar from 6:30 to 10:30PM, went to work at Cornell Life Safety 11:00PM to 7:00 AM and returned to the seminar on Saturday 8:00AM - 4:30PM. One can only hope, for his sake, that there are no emergencies in the Freeville area this weekend.

A ton of information was shared in the twelve hours of the seminar - fortunately, a lot of it in print. Dave Makar and I, the new Emergency Services Committee, will be sifting through it with the help of the fire departments, the town lawyer and our insurance agent, prioritizing policies we need to create and procedures we need to modify.


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