Recently, a bill was introduced to address LOSAP points during the COVID-19 pandemic legislatively. You can read more about it HERE.
Despite this new proposed legislation, we thought we'd share an approach that we believe fits into the parameters of the current statute and may offer the relief some departments are looking for.
This approach centers around the definition of a "department response." If a department response is defined to be a call that all active volunteer firefighters are able to attend/respond, this would eliminate many of the calls that certain firefighters are being asked to not attend due to the current COVID-19 restrictions. Therefore, these calls would not count against those firefighters in determining the number of required calls to earn 25 points.
This interpretation could be viewed as a corollary to meetings. The statute provides one point for attendance at any official meeting of the fire company/department. The Office of the State Comptroller has issued a legal opinion that for purposes of this category, a meeting must be a meeting of the entire membership of the fire company, and not a sub-group like a committee or executive board. Using this same logic, if the fire department response protocols indicate that only certain calls are open for the entire membership to respond, then only those calls would be considered "department responses".
This approach is already being utilized in some departments, especially more suburban and urban departments where they handle a lot of automatic alarms. Often, these alarms and designated as a "Chief's Call" or "Signal 8" or a similar title. These calls are typically handled by an officer, or possibly a group of volunteers on a designated stand-by. If additional response from the entire membership is needed, then the call is elevated to a full department response.
Therefore, if a department has 400 calls during the year, but 100 are designated as chief calls, then the number of department responses for LOSAP purposes could be only 300, thereby requiring 30 call responses (10%) to earn 25 points.
The flip-side to this arrangement is what to do with the 100 chief calls. If they are not department responses, those who attend them do not get a response credit, but they certainly could be a point-awarding activity. Again, if we look to the OSC legal opinion about meetings, each of those chief calls could be considered a miscellaneous point. It would be difficult to treat them as any other kind of activity. Another solution would be that if the department did designate certain firefighters as being on stand-by for possibly attending these chief calls, the firefighter could earn a point for the stand-by, provided the stand-by lasted four hours. In this way they would at least earn 1 point for this time period.
The real solution is to amend the statute to provide an alternative method to awarding points for department responses. The law that governs the volunteer ambulance company LOSAPs allows those point systems to award up to one-half point per response. This would eliminate the all-or-nothing approach of earning points for department responses, and also provide direct incentive of a point (or fraction of a point) for each response.