NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – Battalion 13 needs your help so it can help you if an emergency arises. It is made up of the Croton Falls, Goldens Bridge, Vista, Pound Ridge, Somers and South Salem Fire Departments, and the Lewisboro, Pound Ridge and North Salem Ambulance Corps.
“Many people don’t realize that our firefighters and emergency technicians are totally volunteer,” said Somers firefighter Jody Leverich.
Battalion 13 has received a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Called the SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant, it will allow the group to employ Leverich as a full-time recruiter to seek out volunteers.
“There are a number of reasons why we have to recruit actively,” said Leverich. “With today’s economy, a lot of people are already working two or three jobs and just don’t have time to volunteer. But another reason is that people who’ve moved here from urban areas don’t realize our emergency services are completely volunteer. Nobody gets paid."
There are about 460 active volunteers in Battalion 13. Nevertheless, Leverich said, there never seem to be enough people for a major emergency. “If a structure fire occurs during the day when most people are at work, it’s a real problem. We need volunteers around the clock.”
“We tell people, we’ll take any time you have,” said 1st Assistant Chief Jason Blauvelt, who has been a volunteer firefighter with the Croton Falls Fire Department more than half his life. “Day, night – we’re not hard on you. You can come and go as you please.”
Since the recruitment program began in October, 24 new volunteers have been enrolled, 11 of them in Croton Falls. Six of them are over 40. Everyone is welcome of course, said Leverich. “If you do the training, it doesn’t matter who you are.”
Once people have been recruited, Leverich concentrates on keeping them. Communities use various incentives such as scholarships for young members or low-cost housing. Social events and fundraisers encourage camaraderie among members, and public recognition is always appreciated, he said.
The most gratifying thing about volunteering for emergency work is “the thanks you get at the end. I was sworn in on a Tuesday and within 24 hours I was on a cardiac emergency case," Leverich said. "I transported someone to the hospital and his heartfelt thank you stayed with me always. You meet people on their worst days.”
If you would like further information about becoming a volunteer firefighter or emergency medical technician, call 914-458-2911.
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