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Standardized procedures, recruitment push among key strategies to fix fire, emergency response issues: Yaeger

By Mike Pettinella
Tim Yaeger

The task force charged with finding ways to stabilize fire and emergency medical service in Genesee County has identified eight priority measures from a list of about 100 recommendations provided by an independent consulting firm.

County EMS Coordinator Tim Yaeger (photo at right) on Thursday said the task force is meeting regularly in an effort to implement these strategies, with a focus on developing standards that all local fire departments or companies can follow and finding efficient ways to recruit potential volunteer firefighters.

In July 2022, the Genesee County Comprehensive Fire & Emergency Medical Service Implementation Plan (Fire & EMS Plan) was finalized. Since that time, the task force received feedback on the recommendations from Municipal Resources, Inc. of Plymouth, N.H., and has decided to start with the low-hanging fruit – items that won’t take years to put into practice.

Yaeger said that two key recommendations fall into the fire operations category.

From the task force report:

-- The Genesee County Fire Advisory Board, working collaboratively with the Genesee County Emergency Services, should form a committee to begin the development of a comprehensive County-wide Standard Operations Procedures/Guidelines (SOP/SOG) manual utilizing existing SOPs/SOG’s as a starting point. They should also consider the development of County-wide operational manuals based on the Northern Virginia Regional Fire Services manuals. This could even be pursued as a regional endeavor with the other counties in the GLOW region.

-- The Genesee County Fire Advisory Board, working collaboratively with the Genesee County Emergency Services, should adopt a standardized SOP/SOG form.

“Right now, we operate, I would call it regionally,” Yaeger said. “There’s not many calls that the single fire department handles by themselves. Most incidents are now handled by two or more fire companies. So, it makes sense to be basically operating off the same sheet of music. That approach in other parts of the country has had very good success.”

Yaeger said having the same strategies and tactics for all fire departments is “really a safety component.”

“By doing this, we want to make sure that we're all providing a better level of service while maintaining the safety of the firefighters.”

Another of the eight recommendations deals with volunteer recruitment and retention. 

From the task force report:

-- The Genesee County Emergency Services Task Force and Genesee County Fire Service Advisory Board, assisted by the Genesee County Department of Emergency Services, should establish, and recommend the use of a uniform application and screening process for all new members of the fire and EMS services throughout Genesee County. Although these personnel are volunteers, they still enjoy all of the rights of full-time public safety personnel and possess the same high ethical and moral character.

The report states that all volunteers must have a valid driver’s license and submit to background and credit checks, and drug testing.

“The operations group is looking at ways to streamline the application process and the onboarding process of volunteers into the EMS system, or fire and EMS system, and is looking at better ways to market and advertise the need for volunteers,” Yaeger said.

Rounding out the priority recommendations:

-- The Genesee County EMS Council should be reactivated to meet monthly with representatives from local fire departments, Genesee County Sheriff's Department 911 Dispatch Center, Genesee County Emergency Services, Mercy EMS, and LeRoy Ambulance. This group would meet and discuss any documented concerns or thoughts from the previous month to help enhance services in the future. The EMS Council should not be considered as a forum just for the airing of any grievances but an open forum for communication and feedback to improve the quality of EMS service to Genesee County.

-- Working collaboratively, the Genesee County Fire Advisory Board and the Genesee County Emergency Services should develop a plan to deploy several daytime quick response units; fire apparatus staffed with an officer and three firefighters, positioned strategically around the County in fire stations that wish to host them.

-- Genesee County's fire and EMS providers should consider the implementation of a reward, recognition, or incentive program for members that attain a level of more than 25 percent response. An example would be to provide gift certificates for local restaurants, concerts, or other entertainment as a reward for attaining a high level of response.

-- Working collaboratively with their partners at Genesee County, the Genesee County Emergency Services Task Force and Genesee County Fire Advisory Board should explore the feasibility of standardizing many of the tools and equipment utilized by the County's fire departments to allow for cost savings generated by group purchasing arrangements.

-- The Genesee County Legislature should consider funding regional or county positions that would reduce the overall burden on local fire and EMS organizations and enhance operational capability and efficiency. Examples of those positions are training officer, fire operations officer, health and safety officer, fire prevention officer, recruitment and retention officer and human resources officer.

Yaeger said he is encouraged by Genesee County’s move to contract last fall with Le Roy Ambulance and Mercy EMS.

“It seems to have stabilized both organizations, and we consistently continue to monitor their performance because it's fragile,” he said. “The whole EMS system is extremely fragile –both statewide and nationwide. So, we're hoping that the subsidies that the county’s providing to both agencies will be sufficient enough to sustain that reliability, performance and staffing level that we're expecting from those two agencies.”

He also pointed to the significance of having “elected officials at the table with fire service officials,” something that Genesee County EMS is facilitating.

“It’s so important that the elected official understands what's going on in the fire service and the fire service understands where the elected officials are coming from,” he said. “So far, these meetings have been very, very successful.”

Yaeger said he plans to update the Genesee County Legislature on the task force’s work, possibly as soon as next month.

EMS task force is ready to release consultant's report

By Mike Pettinella

For the past year and a half, the Municipal Resources Inc. team has been taking a deep dive into Genesee County’s varied fire and emergency response operations in an effort to eliminate what County EMS Coordinator Tim Yaeger calls “the peaks and valleys.”

The report drafted by the consultants from the Plymouth, N.H.-based firm -- which includes around 90 recommendations for consideration – is on the verge of being released to the public, Yaeger said.

Speaking at Monday’s Public Service Committee meeting of the Genesee County Legislature, Yaeger said the local emergency services task force will be meeting at 6 o’clock tonight at the Fire Training Center on State Street Road to sift through the recommendations.

He said the initial goals are to develop “a plan of implementation and for a strategy of working groups, and how we’re going to work on those things – and then following that up with a meeting with the press so it can be read officially and released to the media (because) the public is waiting and wanting to know what that report said.”

Yaeger said the findings of MRI, which is fulfilling a $94,000 contract with the county, set the stage “for the real work to begin; to figure out where we’re going to be going to right the ship with our service.”

Following the task force meeting, the media has been invited to ask questions of the group at 7 p.m.

While it’s uncertain what measures will be implemented, Yaeger told the PSC by that no means is Genesee County government going to take over fire and emergency response in the county.

“I think my biggest hurdle, and our biggest hurdle collectively, is for the fire service (personnel) to understand the county is not taking over the fire service in Genesee County,” he said. “We're here to give them a path to get better -- to stabilize their system and move forward for many years to come.

“But I still hear some rumblings underneath that it's a county takeover and that’s all that it is because the county’s name is in the report and in their (MRI consultants) writing. So, they’re (community volunteers) very protective because they're very proud of what they do.”

Yaeger said the MRI supports community-based organizations.

“We're here to help them survive for the next 50 years (but) change is coming. They have to realize that they can't just continue to do the same things that we've been doing. We've got to act regionally. We've got to work regionally. We just need to formalize those things,” he said.

Mercy Flight EMS of Buffalo, which provides helicopter and ambulance service to the county, is on board with the changes, Yaeger said, relaying key points of a recent conversation he had with Margie Ferrentino, the company’s vice president and chief financial officer.

“I think she’s understanding that we need to stabilize the EMS system in this county,” he said. “We’re getting too many peaks and valleys. So, we had long conversation and I think she gets where we're coming from -- that those peaks and valleys need to go away.”

He said the location of where the ambulances are stationed is crucial to response time, and that MRI has addressed that situation in its report.

In a related development, Yaeger said county EMS has forged an agreement with the City of Batavia to bring about a dozen city firefighters into the county’s Special Operations Team.

“It’s very similar to the ERT team that law enforcement uses,” he noted. “That’s one of the changes that we felt was in the best interest of the public -- the city of Batavia residents and the county residents -- because we've got to be able to guarantee our response.”

Yaeger said he doesn’t fault town and village volunteers for the gaps in fire and emergency response.

“The message with the volunteer service, the dedicated folks out there, is that they’re ready, willing and able but they’ve got life and they’ve got everything else in front of them,” he said. “Some of them are getting pretty frustrated and aged to the point that they’ve been doing this 35 years, 40 years.

“And they’re wondering where the fresh troops are coming from. So, I think we've got to find out where those fresh troops are going to be coming from and find a new way to deliver that service.”

File photo of Timothy Yaeger. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

Genesee County releases survey seeking public input regarding emergency management services

By Mike Pettinella

Genesee County officials are asking citizens to make their voices heard as the quest for a more efficient emergency and fire response network moves forward.

County Emergency Management Services Coordinator Timothy Yaeger today announced that a series of questionnaires and surveys – including one targeting county residents – are ready to be distributed.

Over the last several months, the county has been working with representatives of Municipal Resources Inc., a Plymouth, N.H.-based consulting firm that specializes in finding solutions for municipalities dealing with emergency services staffing shortage and other issues.

“This is pretty much the public's chance to have a voice and give their views and be a part of this process,” Yaeger said this morning. “This is a very important part because although fire and EMS does a great job providing these services, rarely do we get the input from the public unless they’re receiving those services.”

Yaeger said most people aren’t familiar with the level of service or who’s delivering this service to their community.

“I think it's important for them to understand the severe staffing issues that we're having, so they can be part of the solution,” he said. “And we really want to hear what they have to say. What level of service do they expect from us? Can we meet that need? We need to figure out how we’re going to meet that need.”

While questionnaires and surveys will be emailed to fire responders plus fire, county, town and village officials, the surveys developed for the public are available online (see below) and through traditional and social media, Yaeger said.


Yaeger said MRI consultants have made two site visits thus far, talking to 30-35 local officials and fire personnel as well as to owners of some of the county’s larger business and representatives of the Genesee County Economic Development Center and the Chamber of Commerce.

The questionnaires and surveys will be received by MRI, which will then compile the data and issue a report, likely in late spring. The deadline to fill out the surveys has been set for the end of February.

“Their goal is to get a very broad viewpoint of fire and emergency services in the county and how they're delivered in light of the awareness of these individuals, agencies or citizens,” Yaeger said. “We believe these surveys will go a long way to helping us find a way to meet the expectations and provide these services in the most efficient manner.”

In a press release, Yaeger reported:

About 85 percent of the fire departments in the United States are volunteer. This includes all the departments in Genesee County, except for the City of Batavia. The core issue is the decrease in the number of people able to volunteer at their local fire department.

There are many reasons for this, but the primary reason is the amount of time that people have available. Daily lives are hectic with people working extra to provide for their families, juggling home life and kid’s activities, leaving little time for other pursuits. As a result, our ability to recruit and retain members becomes more difficult every year.


In addition, the community composition has changed and the days when multiple family generations make up the ranks is almost gone. People used to grow up, find work, raise a family and retire in the same community.

This is rare today as many people are leaving for opportunities in other parts of the country. The average age of the community members is also increasing, limiting the number of people available having the physical abilities to perform the stressful duties of a volunteer.

The Genesee County Task Force was established to develop a vision and implementation plan that will help ensure the residents and business owners of the community receive the highest level of emergency services. The goal is to enhance the services we provide by evolving to meet the needs of community with the changing levels of resources (staffing, equipment, funds, etc.) that are available to us.


Yaeger said you can help by reaching out to your local volunteer fire department and ask for an application or by completing the public survey by clicking on the following:


Paper copies of the survey will be available at the following locations: Richmond Memorial Library, Batavia, NY; Woodward Memorial Library, Le Roy, NY; Haxton Memorial Library, Oakfield, NY; Corfu Public Library, Corfu, NY; Hollwedel Memorial Library, Pavilion, NY; Byron-Bergen Public Library, Bergen, NY and the Office of the Aging, Batavia, NY.

Previously: Consultants are meeting with as many people as possible in effort to fortify county's emergency response model

Consultants are meeting with as many people as possible in effort to fortify county's emergency response model

By Mike Pettinella

Genesee County Emergency Management personnel are keeping employees of the consulting firm that has been hired to evaluate and fix the county’s emergency response capabilities very busy during their first visit to the area.

Four representatives of Municipal Resources Inc., based in Plymouth, N.H., arrived in Batavia on Tuesday and will heading back home on Saturday morning. During their 4 ½-day stay, they are meeting with a variety of stakeholders in the process – from the Genesee County Legislature to Chamber of Commerce officials to fire chiefs to governmental managers to business leaders to the Genesee Association of Municipalities.

“We’re getting in as many meetings as we can to help them conduct their interviews, collect data and solicit feedback primarily of the state of the volunteer fire and EMS service in this county,” Emergency Services Coordinator Tim Yaeger said today. “They wanted to be busy – morning to night, so we’re trying to get to as many stakeholders as we can before moving to the next stage where surveys will be sent out.”

Yaeger said the county will utilize Chamber of Commerce marketing and communication tools to get the surveys out to the businesses community and work with the municipalities to get them out to the public.

As previously reported on The Batavian, Genesee County is paying MRI Inc. up to $101,675 to study of the emergency response situation in the county and to develop a plan to ensure that all areas have enough staffing at all times to meet the public’s needs and expectations.

MRI Inc. officials in town at this time include Brian Duggan and Peter Finley Jr., director of Fire EMS & Emergency Management Services and senior associate for Fire EMS & Emergency Management Services, respectively.

Yaeger, once again, emphasized that the overwhelming majority of feedback is pointing to the lack of consistent and adequate staffing at the volunteer fire companies.

“It’s below where we need it to be, and we need to find a way to increase that activity level and the participation level of every fire department in this county,” he said. “How we get there is why they have been hired.”

Genesee County Manager Matt Landers said he is open to “any model they (MRI officials) bring forth that has merit and makes sense.”

“Whatever way they want to utilize the county, I will certainly examine it and look at it – kick the tires – and, if it makes sense, I will certainly put my weight behind it,” Landers said. “Obviously, we are invested because the county is paying for the study and, right there, it should show the community at large that the county is invested in finding a solution for the long-term viability of fire delivery and emergency management services.”

MRI representatives met with Landers and county legislators last night.

“We’re all interested in hearing what workable solutions that can be put forth. No one is interested in having another study that sits on a shelf. We need action items and one of the action items can’t be just leave it alone,” he offered.

Yaeger said options may include incentives to attract more volunteers into the system, including compensation for volunteer firefighters, with the main priority being the safety of firefighters and residents alike.

“It’s kind of intriguing because these consultants as they go across the state realize that this problem is nationwide; this is not a New York State-centric issue or Genesee County-centric issue. This is very much a United States issue,” Yaeger said. “It’s going to be interesting to see that what fits and works in our county may not work in Orleans County.”

Calling it a five- or six-step process that will take some time, he said this week’s schedule of meetings with MRI consultants is an initial phase. Meetings are as follows:

Tuesday – Emergency Services Task Force.

Wednesday – County Manager, HP Hood, Genesee County Economic Development Center, Town of Alabama supervisor (pertaining to WNY STAMP), Chamber of Commerce, Emergency 911 Center officials, County Highway Superintendent (pertaining to the county water supply), Emergency Management Services staff, Fire Advisory Board, GAM.

Today – City Manager, City Fire Chief, Orleans/Wyoming/Monroe county fire coordinators, County 911 Board, Le Roy Ambulance director, Six Flags Darien Lake administration, fire department administrators, municipal fire station visits

Friday – Town of Batavia supervisor, Mercy EMS administration, E3 Communications and continued tour of the county.

“They’re looking to get a real good feeling of the county, including the agricultural impact and our current businesses …” he said. “Also, they will be starting to look at fire stations, fire equipment and fire trucks, which really has never been done; an assessment of our fleet, countywide.”


Landers also reported that an updated cost estimate of the proposed new Genesee County Jail has increased from the pre-COVID price of just shy of $63 million to $69 million.

“I was afraid that the project was going to go up to about $80 million, so I guess to only have a $6 million increase – as crazy as that sounds …,” he said, adding that the county should be able to offset some of that by using American Rescue Plan Act funding it received.

He said the legislature on Wednesday gave the go-ahead to move forward with the project, and that he plans to hold another meeting with the jail committee to make sure there is a consensus for the 184-bed design there as well.

The legislature asked Landers to update the jail operating expenses projections, too.

“Unless something crazy comes out of that, they are supportive of the 184-bed design, four pod jail,” he said.

Fire, emergency services consulting firm reps plan trip to Genesee County in July to address staffing dilemma

By Mike Pettinella

The Genesee County Emergency Services Task Force on Monday night took another step on the road to a countywide “reliable, capable and professional” fire and emergency response strategy by interacting with project managers of the Municipal Resources Inc., a consulting firm headquartered in Plymouth, N.H.

Emergency Services Coordinator Tim Yaeger reported on the Zoom call with MRI representatives Brian Duggan and Peter Finley Jr.

Duggan is director of Fire EMS & Emergency Management Services, and Peter Finley Jr. is senior associate for Fire EMS & Emergency Management Services.

“Our initial work is to get a lot of data sets to them – demographics of the county, the number of fire calls, number of EMS calls – as they want to be familiar with us before they come to Genesee County,” Yaeger said. “Then we want to get information out to the fire companies and to the general public about why this study is being done.”

The Genesee County Legislature is on board with allocating up to $101,675 to fund MRI’s study of the emergency response situation in the county and to develop a plan to ensure that all areas have enough staffing to meet the public’s needs and expectations.

“The end goal is to have a reliable, capable and professional emergency services response,” Yaeger said. “It’s a countywide problem and we need a countywide solution or solutions. Right now, we’re all over the board; some days we’re reliable and some we’re not.”

Yaeger said the MRI managers plan to make at least four trips to Genesee County for meetings, with the first one expected to take place at the end of July. He added that media briefings with the consultants will be slotted into their visits.

He also said surveys are being developed as the task force wishes to receive feedback from “anyone who has a vested interest in public safety.”

Calls to Duggan for comment on MRI’s framework and timeline for implementing change were not returned at the time of the posting of this story.

Previously: Yaeger: Paying 'volunteers' is an option as county seeks outside help to solve emergency response woes.

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