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Genesee County Emergency Services

April 20, 2021 - 11:56am

Any and all options, including a way to compensate members of municipal volunteer fire departments, are on the table as Genesee County leaders tackle the ongoing problem of staffing during emergency situations.

On Monday, the county legislature’s Public Service Committee voted in favor of funding a contract with Municipal Resources Inc., of Plymouth, N.H., to provide consultant services toward developing a comprehensive fire service implementation plan.

The cost, not to exceed $101,675, will be paid by using available funds from the county’s 1 percent sales tax allocation. The full legislature is expected to ratify the proposal.

“Whether it’s a fire, EMS (emergency medical services) issue. motor-vehicle accident or a carbon monoxide alarm, it doesn’t matter what the incident is, we have to have the right number of people available that are able bodied and trained to get to the scene …,” County Emergency Services Coordinator Tim Yaeger said this morning. “They need to respond in the required amount of time, based on national standards, based on what the fire service believes they need to be – and holding their company to that standard and what the public expects. It’s not an easy answer; it’s not an easy fix.”

That’s why county officials are opting to call upon MRI, a company with a track record of helping municipalities in other counties and states find solutions to similar dilemmas.

Yaeger: It's a Nationwide Problem

“This issue is not just Genesee County. This issue is New York State, across the nation,” said Yaeger, who has been working with a task force set up by the Public Service Committee to study the problem. It’s more severe in some spots and less severe in others."

Yaeger said he has been talking to his colleagues across the state in an effort to solve this “crisis without evidence.”

“Unfortunately, we haven’t made much headway to it, and that’s why – maybe it’s too big of a nut to crack statewide. So, let’s look at it in a small segment and just look at Genesee County for now and see where we go,” he said.

While it’s way too early to predict the outcome of the consultant’s work, Yaeger said he supports some type of payment for the “volunteers who spend hundreds and thousands of hours at their fire departments.”

“In New York State, it’s either career or volunteer or a combination department, which really are more career than they are volunteer,” he said. “So, what we’re trying to do is look at ways to compensate volunteers. And that’s what many states and counties have done, even in the Northeast itself, is to compensate the volunteers for their time.”

Thousands of Hours with No Pay

He said volunteers’ tasks are numerous, including preparing for the emergency, administrative work, human relations work, fundraising, training, equipment maintenance and preparedness training.

“That’s thousands of hours that they’re committing to before the alarm even goes off,” he said. “And then when there is an alarm, taking training courses. So, those two things in combination with their administrative duties required to run a fire department. It would nice to see those men and women be compensated at some level. It is something that we’re looking at right now.

“It’s hard to find people and get paid, and now we’re expecting these folks to be available 24/7, 365 and do the job for free. It’s almost impossible.”

Yaeger said the task force was unsuccessful in its search for grant funding and turned to the legislature to address a situation that was first studied at the county level 20 years ago.

“This has been a problem for decades and I think they’ve finally realized now that it has gotten so severe that we have to take some more aggressive action to look for a solution,” he said.

Stein: We Need to be Prepared

County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said she is looking forward to finding out “exactly what we have in capacity in Genesee County and then, perhaps, find a path toward being able to fulfill the mission and responsibility of first responders in our county.”

“This takes in every town fire department, fire districts and we also are having the entire conversation shared with those departments and our emergency management staff, which will include the City of Batavia,” she said. “This is important to us because we are one tragedy away from something that is really horrific. We want to be able to stop that from happening.”

Yaeger agreed that the City of Batavia FD, which features a full-time paid staff, must be involved in the discussion.

“Anybody that provides fire and EMS services, they have to be involved in this,” he said. “The city is a key component to this conversation.”

He said the county and task force will begin “data mining” – providing pertinent information for MRI, such as the current number of firefighters, their qualifications, their age and their availability.

“Staffing is the number one issue that is causing our problem. We have to look at where we are today with staffing and then, how do we fix that,” he said, noting that some areas of the county are well protected while others “are really struggling.”

Have to Consider the Costs

Yaeger said that all are aware that potential costs to the taxpayers have to be considered.

“We have to as a group and as a community step in and find some solutions that are going to work and meet everybody’s need while maintaining that caution of expense,” he offered. “That’s what everybody wants to know. What’s it going to cost? We realize that, the committee realizes that and the consulting firm does as well.”

In a related matter, the PSC voted to accept a hazardous materials emergency preparedness grant for $5,172 from the United States Department of Transportation through the New York Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.

The grant program focuses on efforts that result in the prevention of serious hazmat transportation related incidents, principally those of high consequences to residents and the environment.

Previously: Task force seeks outside help to solve emergency services 'crisis without evidence'

March 15, 2021 - 7:54pm

eric_wies_2.jpgTim Yaeger calls it a “crisis without evidence.”

Eric Wies says it’s time for “drastic change.”

Yaeger, coordinator of Genesee County Emergency Services, and Wies, president of the Bergen Volunteer Fire Department, reported today to the Genesee County Legislature’s Public Service Committee on the findings of a task force set up to take an in-depth look at the state of emergency response in the county.

In short, what they have found is a critical shortage of volunteer firefighters. The situation has become so dire that some fire companies don’t have enough personnel to respond to an emergency and are having to call neighboring departments to assist.

“People in the system know it, but outside (in the general public) they don’t see the severe staffing issues,” he said. “We need a sustained response – 24/7 and 365. We need sustainability.”

He said studies of the problem – the lack of young men and women to replace those who have served their communities as volunteer firefighters for many years – have been conducted at different times, but nothing has been done about it.

“It’s been a matter of pointing a finger to blame somebody,” he said. “Nobody is to blame. There is no time (to waste). It’s more demanding every day.”

Wies, the task force chair (in photo at right), said that the Bergen Volunteer FD has two members over the age of 65 and they're still active.

“We don’t have an influx of young individuals,” he said, supporting Yaeger’s statement that “it’s a young person’s game.”

Wies said discussions within the task force and with county fire officials brought out a sobering reality: “We need change, and not just change, but we need drastic change. And not just immediately but going forward for our residents.”

He said the current structure of emergency services in Genesee County doesn't measure up to what is required to ensure complete coverage.

“If we were to take a map of Genesee County and imagine what emergency services would look like in this county – from scratch – it wouldn’t look anything like it is today … There has to be some drastic change in the framework.”

Wies said the committee concluded -- due to the fact that all have full-time jobs along with their part-time and volunteer roles in emergency and governmental services -- that it wouldn’t be able to develop an implementation plan.

“We’re not looking for a planning document that would sit on a shelf. We want a planning document that will evolve with the county for years to come but also to implement change because we feel we’re on the verge of meeting that change,” he said.

He said the committee reached out to firms that with expertise in evaluating municipal emergency response, and heard back from three of them – Center for Public Safety Management LLC, VFIS and Municipal Resources Inc. The task force then reviewed the proposals from each company, conducted interviews and listened to presentations prior to choosing MRI, which is based in Plymouth, N.H.

“From a pricing standpoint, the lowest price was $27,400 and, the highest price, with some annual options, was from MRI at $94,625,” he said. “Ultimately, the company that we felt was the best fit for us is MRI and, unfortunately, that’s most expensive option.”

Wies said reasons in that decision included the fact that MRI’s team leader represents a municipal fire department that is similar in size to what the county offers and that MRI is willing to come to this area with a five-person team to hold meetings with county officials, all emergency services departments, law enforcement and business people.

“… and we definitely agree that they could provide the most insight as to what situation we have, what the issues are and hopefully coming out with a solution that will fit us for years to come,” he said, adding that the next step is figuring a way to fund a potential agreement with MRI.

Both men said they need “stakeholder buy-in” with a goal of maintaining the identities and utilizing the current town and village fire companies.

Yaeger said it’s all about “what the citizens deserve and what do they expect (when an emergency occurs)? And we need to get there.”

When asked if there was a statewide push to address this issue, Yaeger said “nobody has had the audacity to stand up” to effect change. “New York has to wake up and realize there’s a severe problem in our state."

Prompting Wies to say, “That’s why we think it’s best for Genesee County to go it alone.”

Others on the task force are County legislators Gordon Dibble and Gregg Torrey, Elba FD Chief Mike Heale, Elba Town Supervisor Donna Hynes, Pavilion Town Supervisor Robert LaPoint, Byron FD Chief Bob Mruczek and County Emergency Services Deputy Coordinator Bill Schutt.

August 27, 2015 - 8:10am

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Members of Genesee County's rope rescue team trained at Indian Falls -- the site of many such real-life rescues over the years -- with a new rope system, called a Vortex.

The $25,000 system (including LED lighting) features a more sophisticated, and more effective and efficient, pulley system, making it easier to keep the ropes clear of obstructions and requiring less exertion of force to raise a patient lifter, making it easier for a medic to accompany the patient up the side of the cliff. 

Top photo: Christina Marinaccio and Jamie Call, the first team to descend and ascend with the new system. Marinaccio and Call are both city firefighters and volunteers (with Le Roy and Stafford, respectively).

To find out how you can do interesting things like this, help save lives and serve your community, visit ReadyGenesee.com.

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August 24, 2014 - 2:09pm

Genesee County Emergency Services and the Town of Batavia Fire Department conducted a confined spaces drill yesterday at the Muller Quaker Dairy plant.

Nationally, from 80 to 100 people die every year in confined space accidents and even rescues can be difficult and dangerous.

Photos submitted by a reader.

June 14, 2012 - 12:46pm

During the rescue of Brandon C. Smart, 34, of Batavia, and Michael C. Hayes, 24, of Rochester, yesterday at Buttermilk Falls, Le Roy, a member of Genesee County Emergency Management Services, D.R. Roblee, had his camera and took several pictures. The Batavian requested copies of those pictures and Tim Yaeger, director of emergency management, agreed to share them.

If you're unable to view the slide show below, click here.

September 4, 2011 - 9:41am

Fifteen volunteer firefighters from five companies in Genesee County are headed east this morning to assist in relief and recovery efforts in one of the hardest hit areas of the state from Hurricane Irene.

The volunteers gathered at the Emergency Servcies Training Center on State Street Road at 6:30 a.m. to be briefed on their mission by County Coordinator Tim Yaeger.

The group then headed to the Thruway to make it to Schoharie County by noon for a 72-hour deployment.

"They're in bad shape down there and now they've got more rain coming," said Yaeger, who was among the state's emergency coordinators dispatched to the region right after the storm hit.

The firefighters will be relieving other volunteers who have been working in the county since the storm hit last week.

"There's still places that are getting drops by Blackhawk helicopters of food and water because they're still isolated," Yaeger said.

Yaeger said it's amazing what these guys have signed up for with no pay. They will likely be sleeping on cots, living on pizza and pumping sewage out of basements during their 12-hour shifts.

They might also be called upon to deliver relief supplies to residents isolated by storm damage or just help with general clean up and recovery.

"And they're offended if I don't offer them a chance to go," Yaeger said. "These guys have been waiting for this for a week."

Darien Chief Dale Breitwieser couldn't make the deployment, but he was at the training center this morning to see off the three volunteers from his department.  He said it's events like this where you see that volunteers are a special breed of person.

"There will be volunteers there from all over the state and they'll all pull together," Breitwieser said.

Besides Darien, participating departments are Bergen, Town of Batavia and Stafford along with staff from Emergency Services.

Yaeger is not joining this group, though he may be deployed later today to Green County where a village of 700 people in the Town of Plattsville was wiped off the map. The town supervisor lost his house and his gas station and now he's trying to help his town through the devastation, Yaeger said.

The Albany Times Union has a photo slide show of the damage in Schoharie County.

January 18, 2011 - 6:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Emergency Services.

Genesee County will receive a $29,195 state grant to help authorities deal with pets during major emergencies.

Acceptance of the grant was approved by the County Legislature's Public Service Committee today.

In 2010, the Office of Emergency Services drafted an emergency response plan for the county that would cover a range of contingencies for natural and man-made disasters. Part of the plan involves dealing with pets' safety because people often won't evacuate a dangerous location if it means leaving pets behind.

While voting in favor of the grant acceptance, committee Chairman Jay Grasso expressed concern that the government was spending money on pets in current economic conditions.

"Don't get me wrong," Grasso said. "I love my dogs. They won the dog lottery with me. But in these tough economic times, I just don't understand spending money on pets."

The grant is funded by the NYS Division of Homeland Security.

It will be spent on the purchase of mobile pet-sheltering equipment and training.

The emergency pet plan is being developed in conjunction with regional emergency partners Wyoming and Orleans counties.

December 14, 2010 - 10:14am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Emergency Services, Reverse 9-1-1.

The Office of Emergency Services will test the reverse 9-1-1 system at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

If you receive a call, no response is necessary.

The test will be coordinated with the Sheriff's Office and the Emergency Dispatch Center.

The test will also include test alerts through the NY-Alert system. Anybody can sign up for alerts through nyalert.gov.

NY-Alert provides individuals with messages either via phone, text, RSS, fax, pager or e-mail of incident-specific emergency messages or impending road closures and weather issues.

The service is free.

September 12, 2010 - 12:15pm

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If you're fascinated by big fire trucks, Home Depot was the place to be on Saturday. Multiple volunteer fire departments from throughout the county, along with Mercy Flight, the Sheriff's Office and Genesee County Emergency Management Services were on hand to let the public tour their equipment and learn about local emergency services.

Emergency Management Coordinator Tim Yaeger said the Sept. 11 event was a way to remember the 343 firefighters and all of the civilians who lost their lives nine years ago and highlight emergency preparedness in Genesee County.

Yaeger also hoped the event would help with recruiting more volunteers, whether to the firefighting services, the Red Cross, Ameri Corps or other community organizations.

Within the firefighting services, there are numerous opportunities to volunteer Yaeger said. It's not all about rushing into burning buildings.

"You may feel that you’re not going to be a qualified interior firefighter, but you can be the driver of the apparatus," Yaeger said. "We need to get that truck there so we need those drivers there."

Volunteers are also needed to help prepare and get equipment ready and serve in management positions.

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August 23, 2010 - 4:42pm

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Family members, friends and fellow firefighers gathered at the Corfu Fire Hall this morning for a memorial service for William Dix, who died Wednesday at his business, Jay E. Potter Lumber. He was 56.

Dix served the local firefighting community, and the community of Genesee County, for 40 years.

"He will be with us wherever we go," said Betsy Abramson during a short and dignified graveside service in Alabama following the memorial service. "Everyone who knew Bill so intimately, please, please, tell these precious little ones what a wonderful grandfather they had."

August 22, 2010 - 9:28pm

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Hundreds of Genesee County's firefighters were in Corfu this evening to pay respects to William Dix, who died Wednesday.

Dix served as a deputy fire coordinator with Genesee County Emergency Services for 22 years as well as past chief of the East Pembroke Fire Department and most recently as commissioner with the East Pembroke Fire District.

Services for Dix will be tomorrow (Monday) at 11 a.m. at the Corfu Fire Hall with burial to follow in Alabama.

August 19, 2010 - 6:57am

william_dix.jpgGenesee County's firefighting community lost one of its highly regarded members early Wednesday when William Dix passed away while in his office at Jay E. Potter Lumber on Maple Avenue in Corfu.

Dix, a deputy fire coordinator with Genesee County Emergency Services for 22 years, was in his fifties.

In a statement, Emergency Management Coordinator Tim Yaeger said, "DFC Bill Dix will be deeply missed by his family and his fire service family, his dedication to his business and the fire service was never ending. Bill was always there when you needed anything, including a friendly smile and a handshake."

Dix was found dead early Wednesday morning after family members became concerned that he hadn't returned home from the office. His death is not considered suspicious. The cause of death is pending an examination by the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Besides his duties as a deputy fire coordinator,  Dix was also the past chief of the East Pembroke Fire Department and most recently a commissioner with the East Pembroke Fire District. The East Pembroke resident logged more than 40 years in the fire service.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

October 20, 2009 - 3:34pm
posted by Billie Owens in weather, corfu, Genesee County Emergency Services, FEMA.

New York is appealing last month's decision by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deny disaster assistance to five counties, including Genesee.

The state's formal appeal asks President Obama to overturn FEMA's denial and provide aid to Genesee, Columbia, Delaware, Rensselaer and Sullivan counties for damages suffered from storms that occurred from July 25 through Aug.16.
 
Damage, debris and response costs in the five counties exceed $7 million, according to a press release from Tim Yaeger, coordinator of Genesee County Emergency Services.

“The...counties are reeling from this summer’s flooding and storms, which have caused severe damage and hardship,” Gov. Paterson said. “The repetitive nature of these events has strained local governments’ ability to implement the recovery process and placed a severe fiscal burden upon the state and its local communities.” 

FEMA maintains that Genesee and the four other counties sustained infrastructure damage that was "not of the severity and magnitude" to warrant a separate disaster declaration (from a storm system that hit Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chenago, Cortland and Erie counties).

But the state argues that New York had the wettest summer in 138 years and the third wettest in recorded history. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration reported rainfall greater than 200 percent above normal for July.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture calculated soil-moisture content in excess of 500 percent above normal range in the five counties named in the appeal. This super-saturation of the soil resulted in "immediate significant rises in creeks and streams for even minor rainfall amounts."

“A failure to provide this desperately needed support to some of our most impoverished counties will leave them vulnerable to increased damage from even moderate future flooding events," Patterson said.

Corfu's damage assessment was found to be $246 per capita for Genesee County. That's well in excess of the per-capita threshold for aid established by federal law and cited in FEMA’s own preliminary damage assessment.

Damage and debris/response costs for all 10 counties affected by the summer storms is estimated at more than $60 million.

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