(NEW YORK) – At its annual firefighter convention on August 17th, the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) unveiled a historic initiative called the FASNY Higher Education Learning Plan (HELP), a first-ever college tuition reimbursement program for the volunteer fire service throughout the state. Due to a variety of factors, many volunteer fire departments statewide are experiencing a need to recruit and retain more members, and FASNY believes tuition reimbursement will be an incentive for people to volunteer in their community.
Under FASNY HELP, a student/volunteer firefighter who hasn’t already achieved an associates degree or higher will be eligible to have up to 100% of his/her tuition reimbursed in exchange for maintaining good grades and fulfilling service requirements as a member in good standing in one of New York’s volunteer fire companies. There is no restriction on the type of academic course(s) that the FASNY HELP student/volunteer firefighter can pursue on a full-time or part-time basis.
FASNY HELP funds can be utilized for tuition costs incurred in the fall and spring semesters. Eligible student/volunteers must maintain acceptable volunteer activity and training levels during and for a period after their entire course of study. They must attend the closest community college or one within a 50-mile radius of their residence. The deadline for volunteer firefighters to apply for tuition reimbursement for the fall 2011 semester is October 1st and the spring 2012 is February 1st.
“We are very excited about this important tuition incentive, and as a retired educator myself, I give FASNY HELP high grades,” said FASNY President David Jacobowitz, who officially announced the FASNY HELP initiative at the opening session of FASNY’s 139th Annual Convention. “We secured a federal grant to fund a multi-pronged statewide effort, which starts with FASNY HELP to be followed by an aggressive statewide recruitment and retention program.”
“Now more than ever, we need volunteers serving our communities so that the same optimal level of fire and emergency protection can be sustained for the safety of the citizens of this state,” said George Davenport, Chairman of FASNY’s Recruitment and Retention Committee.
In May, FASNY announced that it was awarded a $4,270,570 U.S. Department of Homeland Security Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant to help strengthen
the response of fire departments throughout the state by promoting and maintaining adequate volunteer firefighter staffing. For several years, FASNY has been advocating to implement a much-needed statewide volunteer firefighter recruitment and retention program.
The nearly $4.3 million dollar grant enables FASNY to implement a comprehensive strategy that will assist local departments with their outreach efforts. Under the leadership of the association’s Recruitment and Retention Committee, the first phase of this strategy is FASNY HELP available to all eligible volunteer firefighters in the state.
FASNY’s goal is to attract and maintain 15,189 new firefighters over the next four years. In order to meet this objective, the association will promote regional awareness of the volunteer fire service by sponsoring a large-scale public awareness campaign. In addition, FASNY seeks to develop the appropriate tools, training and resources that individual departments could utilize for recruitment and retention efforts that would be tailored to departments’ local needs. FASNY intends to oversee statewide efforts, develop messaging and media materials managed by the statewide volunteer representatives serving on the Recruitment and Retention Committee.
The latest available statewide studies show that if all fire protective services now provided by volunteers were funded by taxpayers, it would add approximately $2.8 billion in pay and benefits, firefighter equipment, and general operations costs per year.
The New York State volunteer fire service covers an area of 47,214 sq. miles and protects 9.8 million people through 1,740 volunteer fire agencies served by 88,841 firefighters.
Founded in 1872, the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) represents the interests of the more than 130,000 volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel in New York State. For more information, visit www.fasny.com.