FASNY strives to provide programming, training and resources for its members and community. As one of the oldest volunteer organizations in the state, FASNY has built a longstanding tradition of serving fire service volunteers. Stop & Shop has supported the Firefighters Association of the State of New York through the Community Bag Program.
Tell us about the Firefighters Association of the State of New York (FASNY).
FASNY is a membership organization for volunteer fire and EMS personnel. We were founded in 1872 and are now in our 151st year. Our primary mission is to educate, inform and train the volunteer fire service, legislators and the general public on issues of importance related to fire and emergency response.
What services do you provide to the community?
As a membership organization, our function is to assist local volunteer fire departments not only to accomplish their mission of fire and emergency response but also to reach out to educate the public on exactly what their volunteer fire department does.
Contrary to popular belief, 80% to 85% of all fire and emergency response, not just in New York but in the country, are done by volunteers. With movies like Backdraft and TV shows like Chicago Fire, people believe there’s a paid crew of firefighters at most fire stations 24/7, but the exact opposite is true.
Contrary to popular belief, 80% to 85% of all fire and emergency responses, not just in New York but in the country, are done by volunteers.
What sets you apart from other nonprofits in your community?
Most, if not all, nonprofits serve a portion of the community that needs their assistance. But I think the Firefighters Association of the State of New York is unique. We represent the men and women who donate their time and energy to become proficient in skills so they can be there when their friends, families and neighbors need them.
I have great respect for my career brothers and sisters. Yet, the members of FASNY are those frontline men and women who are there to protect and serve their communities on some of the worst days the residents may have. We do this of our own volition and as a commitment to the community.
Tell us a story that illustrates the good work of your organization.
An interesting story relates to the unfortunate fact that a volunteer fire department can have all the best equipment and the newest trucks available, but the fact is, if you don’t have trained men and women who are dedicated to serving the community, all those things don’t have a lot of value.
And unfortunately, in the State of New York, over the last 20 to 30 years, we’ve seen a dramatic decline in the number of people becoming volunteer firefighters and volunteer EMS personnel. So, we need to get the message out to communities from Long Island to Buffalo to Niagara Falls that your volunteer fire department needs you.
Secondly, you don’t have to be a person pulling a hose line into a burning building. In addition to responding to emergencies, a volunteer fire department is also a business. So, you can be on the administrative side if you’re a bookkeeper, for example. Whatever time and skills you have, we are more than happy to take them and put them to good use, either on the response side or on the administrative side.
You don’t have to be a person pulling a hose line into a burning building. In addition to responding to emergencies, a volunteer fire department is also a business.
The real bottom line of this story is that anybody can become a volunteer fire department member. In my own instance, I didn’t join until I was 52 years old, and I followed my son into the volunteer fire service. Usually, it’s the other way around, but it was the exact opposite for me.
And the reason I tell that story is because people think they couldn’t do it and don’t have it in them to run toward an emergency scene. But there are dozens and dozens of jobs for everyone in the volunteer fire service, and we need all types of people and skill sets to fill those roles.
What is your most outstanding achievement or contribution to the community?
That’s hard to answer because most people that join the volunteer fire or volunteer EMS services are doing it because they want to help people in their community when they need it. That’s not to say that we don’t get great satisfaction personally.
Most people, if you’re on the active response side, will see everything from motor vehicle accidents to structure fires to medical calls. So that’s an ever-evolving question because just when you think you’ve seen it all, a call comes in that takes it to another level.
Personally, I’m proud to say that several years ago, we responded to a medical call where a person was in full cardiac arrest, and I was part of the team that was able to bring that person back. It’s extremely satisfying to take a situation that didn’t have a lot of hope attached to it and turn it around so that person is still here today.
Our work is a lot of personal stories. The important thing for us to remember as firefighters or EMS personnel is that every call, no matter how big or small, is as important as the last call and the next call that will come in.
A structure fire is no more important than an elderly person who has slipped and fallen in their house because, at that moment, the most critical thing in the world to that elderly person is getting help, getting up and getting medical attention. When somebody’s house is on fire, the most important thing to them at that moment is to have people come who are trained and have the proper equipment to mitigate the situation.
The important thing for us to remember as firefighters or EMS personnel is that every call, no matter how big or small, is as important as the last call and the next call that will come in.
Every call, in terms of the person being subjected to it, is the most important moment in their lives. Whether it’s a medical issue, a motor vehicle accident, a structure fire, or even pumping out a basement, that moment is one of the worst moments in their lives. And we, as first responders, should never forget that.
What do you want people to know about your organization?
That we’re ever-evolving, even though we’ve been here for 150 years. Unless we evolved and changed with the times, how we represent our members and what we advocate for, we wouldn’t have that longevity.
So we strive to be a dynamic, ever-evolving member organization. We work from the ground up because it’s on the ground where the men and women who are members operate day in and day out. That’s how we develop our Association positions and our legislative program.
How are you using the funds raised from the Stop & Shop Community Bag Program?
The funds we are fortunate to get from the Stop & Shop Community Bag Program go towards training classes and webinars. Since COVID we’ve done a lot more digital training.
Since we are the grassroots responders to emergencies, we must also have hands-on classes. Knowledge is critically important, but practicing and putting your hands on the various situations we may need to respond to is also critical. A large portion of our overall budget, and the funding we receive from supporters like Stop & Shop, go towards training programs.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
One thing that makes us absolutely and totally unique is that the Firefighters Association runs a skilled nursing home for volunteer firefighters in Hudson, New York. It’s the only one in the entire country for volunteer firefighters. It’s a skilled nursing facility, but it is as far from a nursing home as you can possibly imagine. When somebody gives a good portion of their lives as a volunteer firefighter to their community, we want to ensure they have a place to go in their later years, especially if they need skilled nursing care. It’s truly a wonderful place to be.
I encourage anyone traveling in the Hudson Valley to stop in and visit the Firefighter’s Home in Hudson, and on the same campus is a beautiful museum. If you’re interested in firefighting and fire apparatus, you can spend many hours in the FASNY Museum of Firefighting.
And perhaps more importantly, I always encourage anyone who has the slightest curiosity about what it takes to become a volunteer firefighter or volunteer EMS personnel to invest a few minutes in your future. Go to your nearest volunteer department, preferably on a night when they’re doing a class or they’re doing hands-on training, and see what it’s all about.
I can tell you from personal experience I drove by my local fire department for 30 years and always wondered what went on behind those bay doors. Still, I never really took the time to stop in and find out for myself until, one day, my son literally dragged me to the firehouse with him. If you do that, you may find it’s the most rewarding hour you ever invest in yourself. The mission of the volunteer fire service is increasing every single year. The number of calls responded to by every department is going up. The complexity of those calls is greater, and we’re asked to do it with fewer and fewer people. We are the front line of response in almost every community outside the cities in New York, and we need people, especially in the Long Island area. The fire and emergency responses in Nassau and Suffolk counties are probably 90+% done by volunteers. And they need people both on the response and administrative sides. So, if you’ve got a skill set and a little time that you can devote, we’d love to have you come and visit us, and we’ll put it to good use.
Published April 4, 2023.