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Survey: 49% of New Yorkers express interest in becoming volunteer firefighter; hold firefighters in high regard


Thu, Feb 1st 2024 09:30 pm

Firefighters Association kicks off 2024 RecruitNY campaign with release of survey of New Yorkers’ feelings on volunteer fire service; data from poll to help shape recruitment efforts 

Submitted by the Firefighters Association of the State of New York

The Firefighters Association of the State of New York (FASNY), along with other state fire associations, kicked-off the RecruitNY 2024 statewide firefighter recruitment campaign by releasing a survey of New York state residents’ perceptions of volunteer firefighters. The survey also detailed public perceptions of the value and savings these dedicated volunteers provide to their communities, and how residents feel about volunteering themselves.

The survey results were shared today during a press conference at the Nassau County Firefighters Museum and Education Center in Uniondale.

“This survey has provided FASNY and the entire volunteer fire service with very valuable insights into what New Yorkers think and know about their volunteer fire service,” said Edward Tase Jr., FASNY president and a lifelong volunteer firefighter in Niagara County. “We have known for some years that we are losing volunteer firefighters to several factors – aging out, moving away, the need to balance work and family life with volunteering and other challenges. We are very excited to see that almost half of the New Yorkers surveyed have expressed some or even strong interest in becoming a volunteer firefighter. Now it is our job to continue reaching out to these people and help them take the next step in joining our ranks.” 

Joining the press conference and supporting the RecruitNY campaign were the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs, the Association of Fire Districts of the State of New York, and the New York State Fire Coordinators Association. 

FASNY conducted a survey of 1,000 New Yorkers outside New York City who were not already volunteer firefighters. The survey was conducted from Jan. 18-22 and has a margin of error of 3%.

Results of the survey highlighted New Yorker’s strong perceptions of firefighters and emergency medical service professionals as:

√ The top descriptions of volunteer firefighters from respondents were “good people” (79%), “heroes”(76%) and “strong” (73%).

√ 98% agreed that “Volunteer firefighters and emergency medical services are important for the health and safety of my community” and 94% said they look up to firefighters.

The survey also showed strong support for volunteer firefighting as a civic institution that saves lives and lowers taxes:

√ 79% of New Yorkers surveyed said saving lives or helping people in need is the single most interesting impact of firefighting.

√ Over 80% of the New Yorkers surveyed felt the cost savings associated with the state’s volunteer firefighting forces were impactful or very impactful. New York’s volunteer fire service saves taxpayers almost $4 billion annually. Converting to an all-career fire service would also incur a one-time cost of $8 billion in infrastructure and equipment costs. Moving to an all-career firefighting force in NYS would raise property taxes by an average of 28%.

√ When asked about a series of skills or attributes that firefighters are better at than the average American, 65% of respondents said firefighters are better at making tough decisions; 44% said firefighters were better at fixing things and other home chores; and 42% said they were better at being a friend.

“We will continue to work with the Legislature and the governor on programs that acknowledge the service of our volunteers, including our push for an increase to the income tax credit for volunteer firefighters and EMS providers, and the ability to combine this tax credit with real property tax exemptions for volunteer emergency responders,” Tase said.

For the past 20 years, New York state has seen a significant decrease in the volunteer firefighter ranks of approximately 40,000. With new insights from this survey, FASNY is looking at ways to increase and fine-tune recruitment and retention programs including leveraging these key data points:

√ 49% of New Yorkers expressed interest in becoming a volunteer firefighter.

√ When it comes to learning more about volunteer firefighting, two-thirds of respondents (66%) said they would visit their local fire station to gain more information, while 55% would turn to a Google search.

√ 55% of respondents with some knowledge of volunteer firefighting gained that knowledge from friends or colleagues, 43% attributed their knowledge to the news, and 35% learned about it from social media.

To support the recruitment of additional volunteer firefighters across New York, FASNY is holding its 15th RecruitNY campaign this spring – culminating in a statewide open house program the weekend of April 13-14. Information on the campaign and the open house weekend can be found at RecruitNY.org.

The RecruitNY campaign is sponsored annually by Lincoln Financial.

“We would like to thank our friends at Lincoln Financial for their continued support of the RecruitNY program – it is an important part of our ability to assist our local fire departments with participation in the program,” Tase said.

“New York State Associations of Fire Chiefs mission is to educate the current and future leadership of the fire service,” said Chief R. Scott Ewing, president. “We know that good leaders come from the ranks of the fire service firefighters. Those firefighters are the foundation of the fire service today and the future!”

“We are very happy to stand with FASNY and the other fire service organizations to support the RecruitNY campaign and year-round efforts to recruit additional volunteer firefighters,” said Donald Corkery, president of the Association of Fire Districts of the State of New York. “As fire commissioners and fire district officials, our members are charged with providing fire and emergency medical services in our communities in the most economical fashion possible. Volunteers are a key resource in these efforts. We applaud FASNY for commissioning this survey that provides us with new information on how to recruit new firefighters and EMS providers.”

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