VFIS of Texas and Texas Mutual Insurance Company Award $45K in Grant Money to Texas Volunteer Fire Departments
AUSTIN, TX – VFIS of Texas and Texas Mutual Insurance Company recently awarded grants of up to $2,500 to 39 volunteer fire departments across Texas. Funds awarded through the Firefighter Safety & Training Grant Program will enable these departments to participate in a certification program and training to support critical workplace safety training.
Fifty-eight volunteer fire departments applied for the grant and the 39 grantees were selected based on their financial needs and the impact the funds would have in their safety and training efforts. VFIS of Texas and Texas Mutual Insurance Company partnered with the State Firemen’s & Fire Marshals’ Association of Texas (SFFMA) to manage the application process and select the grant recipients.
“We are very fortunate and thankful to VFIS of Texas and Texas Mutual for this grant, which will help us pay our 2014 annual membership dues to SFFMA,” said Jack K. Rymer, Fire Chief of Possum Kingdom West Side VFD. “This is a very important association that greatly benefits volunteer fire departments such as ours by providing certified training courses and other training programs to make our department safer and more professional. Like many volunteer fire departments, our department is short on resources and this grant money goes a long way in helping us meet our budget.”
In addition to Possum Kingdom West Side VFD, the following volunteer fire departments were awarded grants: Bowman Community VFD, Boyd Fire Rescue, China Spring VFD, City of San Diego FD, Clint FD, Cookville VFD, Cottonwood Shores VFD, Crafton VFD, Cresson VFD, Daingerfield FD, Indian Creek VFD, Jamaica Beach VFD, Kaufman VFD, LaRue-New York VFD, Levita FD, Lone Star VFD, Mico VFD, Nevada VFD, Paducah VFD, Pleasant Grove VFD, Rising Star VFD, Rocksprings/Edwards County VFD, Sand Hills VFD, Santa Rosa VFD, Santo Fire and EMS, Six Mile Community VFD, Somervell County Fire, South Ector County VFD, Sunset VFD, Terrell VFD, Tolar VFD, Trout Creek VFD, Turnersville VFD, Village of Pleak VFD, Wayland VFD, Westminster VFD, Whitney VFD and Windthorst VFD.
Grantees will be recognized at the SFFMA Conference June 6-11, 2014 in Lubbock, Texas.
Barbara Marzean, president of VFIS of Texas, recently received the “2013 Valued Safety Partner” Award from Texas Mutual Insurance Company in recognition of the Emergency Service Organizations Safety Group, its safety committee and VFIS of Texas / Regnier Insurance for their commitment and promotion of safety. You can learn more about this Safety Group by visiting www.esowcgroup.com.
Pictured: Woody Hill, Texas Mutual VP Safety Services; Angela Gardner, Texas Mutual Safety Services Training Consultant; Barbara Marzean, ESO Safety Group Master Agent; and Jack Ogden, Texas Mutual Sr Marketing Specialist
On Thursday, January 16th, the Senate approved H.R. 3547, the Fiscal Year 2014 omnibus spending bill. The $1.1 trillion dollar spending package funds the federal government through the end of the fiscal year and provides $39.3 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a reduction of $336 million compared to the Fiscal Year 2013 enacted level for the department. The House approved the spending package earlier this week. The bill will now go to the White House for President Obama's signature.
While the omnibus spending bill does reduce spending on homeland security programs, Congress did not make cuts to several important fire service programs. In fact the Assistance to Firefighters (FIRE) Grant Program and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant Program are funded at higher levels -- $340 million for each program. This is an increase of $2.5 million for each program over the Fiscal Year 2013 level. The bill also funds the United States Fire Administration (USFA) at $44 million, the same level as in Fiscal Year 2013, and rejects a proposal by the Administration to transfer the State Fire Training Assistance Grant from USFA to the FIRE Grant Program. The Urban Search and Rescue System is funded at $35.18 million, also the same amount the program received in Fiscal Year 2013.
"CFSI is proud to play a leading role in securing funding for these critical programs," said Bill Webb, Executive Director of the Congressional Fire Services Institute. "Because the national fire service organizations are committed to working together in a cooperative manner, we have been able to demonstrate to Congress the importance of a federal investment in fire and emergency services."
Congress is currently in recess until January 27th. When Congress returns, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will begin work on the 12 Fiscal Year 2015 spending bills.
Source: Congressional Fire Services Institute
Statement Issued from U.S. treasury Department: Treasury Ensures Fair Treatment for Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Under the Affordable Care Act
The Affordable Care Act requires that an employer with 50 or more full-time employees offer affordable and adequate health care coverage to its employees. For this purpose, full time means 30 hours or more per week on average, with the hours of employees working less than that aggregated into full-time equivalents. Employers that do not fulfill this obligation may be required to make a payment in lieu of meeting their responsibilities, which are described in what are called the employer shared responsibility provisions. An important question arises about how the hours of volunteer firefighters and other volunteer emergency responders should be taken into account in determining whether they are full-time employees and for counting toward the 50-employee threshold. Treasury is acting to ensure that emergency volunteer service is accorded appropriate treatment under the Affordable Care Act.
Treasury and the IRS issued proposed regulations on the employer shared responsibility provisions (Section 4980H of the Tax Code) in December 2012 and invited public comments. Numerous comments were received from individuals and local fire and Emergency Medical Service departments that rely on volunteers. The comments generally suggested that the employer responsibility rules should not count volunteer hours of nominally compensated volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel in determining full-time employees (or full-time equivalents). In addition, Treasury heard from numerous members of Congress who expressed these same concerns on behalf of the volunteer emergency responders in their states and districts.
Treasury and the IRS carefully reviewed these comments and spoke with representatives of volunteer firefighters and volunteer emergency personnel to gain a better understanding of their specific situations. Treasury and the IRS also reviewed various rules that apply to such volunteer personnel under other laws. These include the statutory provisions that apply to bona fide volunteers under Section 457(e)(11) of the Tax Code (relating to deferred compensation plans of state and local governments and tax-exempt organizations) and rules governing the treatment of volunteers for purposes of the Federal wage and hour laws. As a result of that review and analysis, the forthcoming final regulations relating to employer shared responsibility generally will not require volunteer hours of bona fide volunteer firefighters and volunteer emergency medical personnel at governmental or tax-exempt organizations to be counted when determining full-time employees (or full-time equivalents).
These final regulations, which we expect to issue shortly, are intended to provide timely guidance for the volunteer emergency responder community. We think this guidance strikes the appropriate balance in the treatment provided to traditional full-time emergency responder employees, bona fide volunteers, and to our Nation's first responder units, many of which heavily rely on volunteers.
Mark J. Mazur is the Assitant Secretary for Tax Policy at the United States Department of the Treasury.
Record keeping is an important part of a department’s maintenance program. The NEW VFIS Maintenance Tracking Software can help emergency service organizations track and store the data by creating maintenance tickets. It is simple to use, just copy the directions and files to your hard drive and start creating maintenance tickets.
VFIS Clients can order this new program (item C10:513) at http://shop.vfis.com or by calling 800.233.1957 ext. 7680.
Join us at the 2014 SAFE-D 13th Annual Conference @ Moody Gardens Hotel and Convention Center in Galveston, TX on January 24, 2013. VFIS of Texas is proud to sponsor attorney Michael McCall on Friday, January 24, 2014. He will be presenting a workshop at 9:45am and again at 2:45pm on important Labor/Employment Issues. Don’t miss it! To learn more about the SAFE-D Conference and register to attend, go to www.safe-d.org.
Personnel Problems & Litigation: “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”
Personnel lawsuits, such as workplace harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination can be lodged against your emergency services district at any time. These are also the types of claims that you have no immunity towards. How will you do under the scrutiny of a deposition or on the witness stand? In today’s hyper-litigious society, it is imperative to be able to demonstrate how your organization has implemented policies and processes to treat all personnel equitably and prevent work-related misconduct. Learn what risk management processes can be implemented within your ESD to show you are part of the “good”, and not the “bad or the ugly”.
Brazoria-Fort Bend Counties Instructors Association Field Day
WHEN - February 14-16, 2014
WHERE - Fort Bend Cty Field, 260 Clay Street, Richmond, TX 77469
FEE - Burn Projects: One Day $100 – Both Days $200
- Non-Burn Projects: One Day $85.00 – Both Days $170.00
- Vehicle Extrication Class: $250.00 – Friday at 6PM
WHO - All members of volunteer, paid, or part-paid fire departments of cities and industries who want the latest training in firefighting and related skills.
WHY - To keep abreast of new opportunities and developments in the fire service and gain experience in various fire control and fire protection methods.
To lean more and to register, CLICK HERE.
What can be done to increase volunteer retention in Texas? Do incentives like pension programs make a difference in retaining volunteers?
Help us by taking part in our Volunteer Retention Study in partnership with State Firemen's & Fire Marshals' Association of Texas and the Texas Emergency Services Retirement System. This is a statewide study of 300+ departments, open to TESRS and non-TESRS participants. To learn more about the study, CLICK HERE. For questions or to enroll in the study, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Original Source: www.firerescue1.com
By Linda Willing
The largest problem in the coming year is how departments deal with young firefighters.
As I look back on 2013 in the fire service, I find that some of the biggest challenges currently facing fire departments involve looking into the near future.
How many times have I heard this when I travel around the country? "Kids these days, they're not like us. They're spoiled, entitled, lazy. They don't respect tradition. They're not willing to pay their dues. They're not serious about the job. They lack commitment and follow through."
I hear these complaints not only from older firefighters, but even recently from someone just 32 years old talking about those who are just a few years younger.
Of course, disdain for the younger generation is nothing new. Socrates said, "Children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders…" That was nearly 2,500 years ago.
Prior to World War II, those who later became known as the Greatest Generation were generally considered to be a bunch of slackers. Generational conflicts are a natural part of every culture.
But without question there are now generational issues that challenge and frustrate fire service members of all ages. Successfully dealing with these issues will determine how prepared any individual department, and the fire service as a whole, are for meeting the demands of the future.
You can't think about young people without thinking about technology. The youngest members of the workforce grew up not only with computers and smartphones, but also with social media, Twitter, endless apps, and the expectation of being connected 24/7.
The average person currently checks his or her cell phone between 110 to 150 times every day, and this number is much greater among younger people. A survey done by State Farm insurance indicates that nearly 50 percent of drivers between the ages of 18 to 29 are online while driving.
Certainly being tech savvy is a plus in a world that is increasingly driven by technology in all aspects. But there are dangers, and not just those associated with distracted driving.
Technology can become an addiction that diminishes other types of relationships, and misuse of social media has led to more than one firefighter losing their jobs (although this problem is not confined to the youngest generation). Inappropriate photos and comments posted on social media have undermined the reputations of individuals and the departments they work for.
2. Communication skills
Managers in all fields comment that young people in the workplace may lack well developed communication skills particularly related to conflict resolution or other types of difficult conversations. The prevalence of virtual communication has led to some people never developing real skills in face-to-face communication.
Fire departments need to recognize this disconnect and address it accordingly. Training in effective communication is crucial, but so is leading by example. Leaders must resist hiding behind technology and model good communication practices that they want others to follow. This means having that tough conversation in person, not texting a response.
3. Practical skills
Although the youngest generation at work may have tremendous knowledge and skills with computer technology, they may lack more practical skills — how to change a tire, how to use hand tools, how to fix real things that are broken.
This decline in practical skills is a source of frustration for older firefighters who may pride themselves on building their own houses or fixing their own cars.
Even though it is rare for people of any age to fix a car on their own in 2013, practical hands-on skills are still critical for success in the fire service. The fact is, in a world increasingly dependent on computer technologies, fewer people possess these skills.
For this reason, it is important that older firefighters make an effort to mentor and train younger workers in practical skills that will aid them in their ability to do their jobs.
4. Sense of time
Everything moves faster these days, and it seems that young people are always in a hurry. The newest generation in the workplace is impatient and not always willing to wait their turn. They believe in meritocracy vs. seniority, and want to feel that they are making a meaningful contribution in their work sooner rather than later.
For this reason, younger workers may be more likely to leave a job that is not fulfilling, on the assumption that they can always find another job. This is the world they have grown up in, but is very different from the expectations of most fire departments.
Younger workers need to develop more patience, but organizations also need to recognize that their abilities and talents must be used from the start, or they will risk losing their commitment in the long run.
5. Work/life balance
Younger workers are not workaholics like many of their older counterparts. They completely expect to be able to have a career, a rich family life, and time for personal interests. This expectation applies to both young men and women.
The desire for balance does not mean that younger workers are not serious about their jobs. It simply means that they define themselves by more than their position or how much money they make.
The result of this shift is already apparent in many organizations. Men as well as women are asking for leave time to care for children. Organizations that are not family-friendly will risk losing their best employees. Good policies in this area are a must for every fire department.
The youngest generation at work grew up getting lots of feedback and they expect it. In contrast, older firefighters often grew up with the idea that no news was good news, and thus any feedback had a negative connotation. For older workers, feedback was only necessary if someone was doing something wrong — if everything was good, there was no need to say anything.
This approach simply won't fly with younger workers. They need feedback and will not perform as well without it. For older workers, this need for feedback makes younger people seem both insecure and demanding.
But there is nothing inherently wrong with giving and receiving feedback. Quite the contrary — the ability to give and receive feedback is an essential leadership skill, but one frequently lacking among older firefighters.
Giving effective feedback is a skill and it can be learned. Training in this area will benefit every individual as well as the department as a whole.
When older firefighters evaluate the challenges associated with the newest generation at work, they often see only problems. The reality is that these young people are often better educated and better prepared for their jobs than many of their older counterparts.
They have gone to school and attained certifications. They are physically fit and committed to maintaining that fitness level. They bring passion, energy and new perspective to the emergency services.
And most importantly, for better or worse, young people are the future of the fire service. It is up to existing firefighters to stop complaining about them and start appreciating their strengths and potential. This means that new firefighters should be welcomed and included, not just tolerated or made into clones of existing members.
Older firefighters must act as mentors and guides, and organizations must take a proactive approach to training and preparedness. The future of the fire service depends on it.
VFIS of Texas NEWS
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