The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

Bedford Fire Department welcomes new recruits

By JOHN ROCHE
SCOTT MULLIN PHOTO

Volunteer firefighter John Skeadas, assistant chief Pete Lazaro, EMTs Heather Feldman and Polly Schneck, vice president Sarah Kalarchian and 1st assistant chief Peter Aquilino at the Bedford Fire Department food drive. The department is holding an open house this Sunday in hopes of recruiting more volunteer EMTs and firefighters.

 

Usually, members of the Bedford Fire Department are rushing out into the community to answer emergency calls. This Sunday, volunteers from the department are inviting the community into the firehouse, sounding the alarm for new recruits.

From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 22, the community is invited to an open house at the firehouse, located across from the Bedford Village Green. The open house will include tours of the building and apparatus, the chance to speak with volunteer firefighters and EMTs, demonstrations of equipment, firefighting procedures and CPR, free blood pressure screenings and refreshments.

“This is a great opportunity for residents to find out more about who we are, what we do and ways that anyone who is interested can join us in serving the community,” said Seth Hirschel, who with fellow volunteer and EMT Polly Schneck is heading up a recruitment drive for the 87-year-old department.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to welcome people from the community who have a willingness to help, have some time they can commit and otherwise meet the qualifications to be a volunteer with our department,” Mr. Hirschel said. “We have a very strong, committed core of volunteers, but we’re trying to ensure that we have a sustainable department that serves our community, both now and well into the future.”

Both Ms. Schneck and Mr. Hirschel said they believe that greater community involvement starts with awareness. “We see new people moving into town all the time, and they have no idea that this is a completely volunteer fire department and ambulance corps,” Mr. Hirschel said. “There are a lot of pretty frightening implications if people stopped volunteering for the department, and one of those implications is higher taxes.”

Another reason the department hopes to bolster its ranks is to fend off burnout, Ms. Schneck pointed out. “The idea is to increase our numbers and broaden our membership so we’ll have a more robust organization,” she said. “We have a pretty diverse membership — men and women, older and younger, longtime residents and relative newcomers to Bedford Village — but we’re trying to be proactive to get even more volunteers onboard.”

The department would also like to change its procedures so volunteers would have scheduled times to be on call, and a broader base of volunteers would facilitate that.

There are about 90 members, approximately 50 who are active, and an even smaller number who regularly respond to the more than 700 calls the department handles each year. Those responses each year are generally split evenly between fire and ambulance corps calls.

For the most part, gone are the days where the bulk of the department’s calls were answered by volunteers who worked locally and could close up shop to respond to an alarm, Ms. Schneck said.

“The reality is that everyone’s lives are busier today than in the past, so we need more people to shoulder the responsibility,” Mr. Hirschel said. “Because of shifts in where we work, more varied schedules for our children in terms of school, sports or other activities — the simple fact is that we’re all leading busier lives, so having more volunteers makes sense from a safety issue, a scheduling standpoint, and in terms of sustaining the department’s service to the community, among other reasons.”

While there is a time commitment required, including several hundred hours of mandated training for all volunteer firefighters and EMTs, members of the department said they believe they can find a role for anyone interested in helping out. “We’re willing to work with members based on their availability and their needs,” Mr. Hirschel said. “The biggest commitment is taking that first step and saying, ‘Yes, I’m making myself available to this organization, and by doing so, I will be serving my community and helping to make Bedford Village safe and protected.’”    

In addition to performing a civic duty, being part of the Bedford Fire Department is also fun, according to the recruitment drive organizers. “We’re really diverse, very welcoming and there’s a real sense of community in the department,” Mr. Hirschel said, pointing out that there are social activities such as couples’ bowling nights, monthly pancake breakfasts, dinner meetings and the annual parade. “When you’re part of the department, you really feel part of a family, and your whole family does, too.”

Ms. Schneck, a stay-at-home mom, said she finds serving with the department an “incredibly rewarding” experience. “Being able to do something that’s interesting, stimulating and gets my adrenaline pumping while at the same time helping my neighbors and our community is something I’m really happy to do,” she said. “Plus, I’ve grown very close to the people I volunteer with. It’s really being part of a wonderful team, and it’s incredibly rewarding on many levels.”  

At Sunday’s open house, volunteer firefighters and EMTs will be on hand to provide information, answer questions and offer applications to anyone interested in joining the department. Members of Bedford’s junior corps, consisting of volunteers ranging in age from 15 to 17, will also be at the event.

Both volunteers said that if anyone is interested in learning more about becoming a part of the department but can’t attend the open house on April 22, a firefighter or EMT would be glad to meet with them at another time.

For more information about the department, call 234-3133 or visit www.bedfordfire.com.


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APRIL 20, 2012