As we reviewed in the last post, it is the responsibility of the fire company to maintain the point system records in accordance with the procedures established by the sponsoring municipality.
At the end of each calendar year, the fire company then must submit the final list to the municipal sponsor. Per §219-a(2)(c) of the General Municipal law:
Each volunteer fire company shall furnish to the governing board of such political subdivision a list of all volunteer members, certified under oath, and shall identify those volunteer members who have qualified for credit under the award program for the previous year. Such list shall be submitted annually by March thirty-first.
Therefore, the listing of firefighters of the fire company, indicating which volunteers qualified for service credit during the year (by earning 50+ points) should be submitted to the board of the sponsoring municipality by March 31, 2019.
Note this does not mean it must be to the third-party vendor that is assisting with the administration by March 31st. It only means the fire company has until March 31st to compile and submit he list to the sponsor.
In addition, the statute requires that the list be "certified under oath." A fire district commissioner, secretary or treasurer is able to administer an oath pursuant to Town Law §176(4-b):
Any fire commissioner, secretary or treasurer of a fire district may administer any necessary oath in any matter or proceeding lawfully before him, or in connection with any paper to be filed with him as such officer.
So can any town officer (supervisor, council members, clerk, and others), in accordance with Town Law §28:
Any town officer may administer any necessary oath in any matter or proceeding lawfully before him, or in connection with any paper to be filed with him as such officer.
Finally, so can village officers pursuant Village Law §4-404:
The village clerk or any member of the board of trustees may administer oaths and take affidavits upon any claim or account against the village. The village clerk may also administer oaths and take affidavits upon matters in connection with village business.
Or, the governing board could require the fire company to sign a certification statement witnessed by a notary public.
It is the time of the year where fire departments across New York State are finalizing the listing of points earned by their volunteer firefighters during calendar year 2018. I thought I'd spend the next several posts working through the process as stipulated in the General Municipal Law, as well as provide some other insights and good practices.
Note that I did say calendar year. In my career working with LOSAP, I have run across a couple instances where points were being kept on a non-calendar year. In New York State, the points must be tracked on a calendar year.
But ultimately, who is responsible for tracking the activities of the firefighters, and the resulting points? According the General Municipal Law §219-a(2)(b), the fire company has that responsibility:
It shall be the responsibility of each participating volunteer fire company to maintain all required records on forms prescribed by the governing board of such political subdivision of the state
Keep in mind that the terms "fire company" and "fire department" tend to be used interchangeably, so don't get bogged down in the technical difference.
Ultimately, it is the volunteer organization (company or department) that is responsible to maintain the records. That doesn't mean that the fire company cannot hire a third party to enter the activities into the software - that happens frequently. Or, it is very common for a fire district to task a district employee with the responsibility of entering the activities into the software. Even in these cases, the fire company is still ultimately responsible for the accuracy of the sign-in sheets and other attendance records, and there should be some review process in place to ensure the accuracy of the entry of the records into the software. Certainly, newer technology like finger-print readers and key-fobs improve accuracy since they eliminate most of the manual data entry.
Note also that the governing board of the political subdivision also has responsibility in dictating how activities will be tracked. Often (maybe always) the political subdivision allows the fire company the leeway to make these policy decisions, but ultimately the municipality is the one who has the authority to set those policies.
In the prior post, it was discussed if a volunteer on stand-by should be eligible to earn points for also taking a training class or attending a drill during the stand-by period.
It's a great question - the short answer is yes (see prior post for longer answer).
But that question is masking the better question behind it, which is, should that type of activity be encouraged or allowed?
Each volunteer fire department serves a local community and specific protection area (plus enters into mutual aid agreements to surrounding communities). There are specific by-law requirements to be a member and remain a member as well as possible standard operating procedures and guidelines. These policies may also be adopted and enforced by a fire district that oversees the operation of the fire department. Whatever the context, there are policies in place (or should be) that govern the activities of the fire department.
A simple example is the medical classification of a volunteer – internal, external, administrative-only, fire police, etc. These classifications dictate the responsibilities and capabilities of the firefighter during an emergency. Those classifications are in place so that volunteer and the leadership all understand what that individual is trained to do.
Similarly, the fire department would structure the training and drills so that volunteers are prepared to respond to the types of emergencies that are likely to occur in that protection area. Each department serves a different type of community, so the training and equipment will be different.
In the context of the original question, this fire department felt it was necessary to have volunteers scheduled to be on stand-by during certain periods so there is someone ready to respond. That is a policy. It is reasonable to then ask, is it a good policy for someone who is tasked to be on stand-by to also be engaged in another activity that could delay the response time.
It seems reasonable to me that a fire department would decide that someone on stand-by should not be allowed to participate in a drill. That is a policy decision, not a LOSAP decision. If the policy allows that individual to participate in the drill, then in my opinion the person would earn the points (if completed).
Create good by-laws, procedures and guidelines, then follow them. If a certain activity is allowed, then the next step is to determine how a LOSAP point should be awarded. Not the other way around.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, and how it impacts your local department.
A question came in the other day about a volunteer participating in a drill, or taking an online training course, while on a stand-by. The question is, can the volunteer receive the point for the drill as well as the stand-by?
First the disclaimer - we don't give legal advice and you should run this by your local attorney.
Now that's out of the way, I don't see any reason why not, as long as both activities are completed. If a volunteer has signed up for a 4-hour stand-by and completes the stand-by, then one point is earned. If, during that time, the volunteer is able to participate in a 2-hour drill, or take an online training course, then it would seem reasonable to me that the volunteer should also get the applicable points for completing that other activity. That being said, it is still imperative that the volunteer completes the training or drill. If, during the drill, there is a call and the volunteer cannot complete the drill, then no credit should be given.
However, this brings up two other issues that I'll address in future posts....
My eight-year-old son sprained his ankle a couple days ago. It was still bothering him and I asked him about icing it. My wife, half-joking, suggested to go and stick it out in a snow bank. He thought it was a great idea, asked my wife to record the video, and as he was running out the door yelled "Put this on YouTube!".
This comment struck me, because I'm left wondering if he wants his ankle healed, or to just make people laugh? Or maybe try and use up 1 minute of his 15 minutes of fame? Either way, by immediately wanting to promote what he was doing, it removed the genuineness of the whole activity.
OK, so he is only eight - I'm not going to kill him too bad on this - he's just doing what he sees and hears around him. But it was also contrasted against what I was reading at the time, about Robert Kraft and what he certainly did not want recorded for everyone to see.
Doing the right thing every time, even when there are no cameras or anyone around, is impossible - we aren't perfect. But try. Act with integrity always. When you slip up, admit the mistake, and start a new streak. That doesn't mean there won't be fall-out and loss, but you can start again.
The legendary coach John Wooden famously once said, "Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are." He then said, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching."
We all need that encouragement, because we all fail to do the right thing when no one is looking. I'll be praying for Mr. Kraft, hoping he will admit the mistake and start a new streak.
So I'll start my blog by encouraging you to follow Coach Wooden's advice and to act (say, do, type) like the world is watching (listening, reading) even when it isn't right then.