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Genesee County faces future $725K mobile command purchase

By Joanne Beck
Tim Yaeger presents mobile buy
Genesee County Emergency Management Services Deputy Coordinator Gary Patnode, center, and Coordinator Tim Yaeger, right, talk about the need for a new mobile command vehicle in the next 12 to 18 months during Tuesday's Public Service meeting. 
Photo by Joanne Beck

It was a good run — squeezing out every ounce of use from a mobile command vehicle the last 20 years — and it’s now time to make another considerable purchase to upgrade Genesee County Emergency Management’s ability for on-the-go operations, Coordinator Tim Yaeger says.

He gave a presentation Tuesday to the Public Service Committee about the current vehicle’s status, purchased for $157,000 nearly two decades ago, along with how much for a new one, with more interior space to accommodate more than twice the people, communication equipment, three work stations, single telescoping with two mast-mounted cameras, internet, a bathroom, kitchen area with amenities, and on-board gas generator.

Ticket price? About $724,000.

“This thing has been added on and morphed over the last 10 years, and probably at most, we've updated some of the equipment in there. But its capacity to maintain and keep stuff where it needs to be, it just doesn't have the capacity. So it's just starting to age, mechanically, or visually, inside it just looks unkempt, but it still functions. But we struggle with it,” Yaeger said. “I’m leaning towards a year to a year and a half to take possession of another vehicle.”

While there initially seemed to be adequate space inside, there isn’t enough internal working space — fitting about four law enforcement people in the command area — for command staff and officials, he said, especially after COVID brought about a general sense of people not wanting “to be on top of each other” when working indoors.

By the time a new vehicle is purchased and delivered, this one would be at least 20 years old, having been used an average of 14 times a year for everything from a plane crash to events at Darien Lake. The propane tank needs to be replaced, and the front tires, brake lines, leveling system and generators are all a concern at this point, Yaeger said.

He recommended a manufacturer that makes the Snap-on Tool trucks, and a customized vehicle would have upgrades of two cameras for viewing from more than just the front as is the case now; seating for 10; a large command center area; an on-board bathroom, which isn’t always important for urban units but is for rural Genesee County, he said; and it can be retrofit for future needs and is a “50 percent improvement from what we’re using.”

Yaeger said he’s “guessing around a $50,000 value” for the current vehicle and that, after scouting for a new mobile unit the last few years, the package would include a $27,000 discount and delivery. He will be getting Homeland Security funds to replace radio equipment.

"I'm using all my security money. So the 800 megahertz radios are all going to be replaced with new ones, and we are going to have a couple of remote heads. So in the command area, there's a capability for you to be in the Command Area and hear what's going on, obviously, and talk, but most of the radio equipment's going to be in the back. That's all going to be new," he said. "We are going to reuse some of the UHF and VHF equipment because we can add that to the current vehicle, and it's not that old. But that's all that's allowable under Homeland Security, and I can afford it with the Homeland Security funding. We have to replace the equipment. But other than that, there's nothing to purchase.

“I fear the longer we wait, it’s not going to get less expensive,” he said. “Right now, it would be a capital project.”

He joked that on the plus side, County Manager Matt Landers spotted that it came with a Keurig coffee maker. Landers said that he had anticipated this expense in the 2024 budget with an assets allocation of $675,000. The remaining cost would come from a sales tax reserve.

“So anywhere between $20,000 and $50,000 is the additional amount that we're going to have to pull from a 1% sales tax reserve,” Landers said. “And we'll accomplish that through a budget resolution that we will bring forward to the public service (committee) next month, and then the full funds will be available in the budget, then Tim can go out and procure that vehicle. 

“Tim, 19 years ago, made the determination that this was something that was needed in the community. It is a significant cost, which is something that I'm mindful of. However, it does act in some ways, as I said, as an insurance policy,” Landers said. “You don't know how important it is until there's a crisis or something's happening, in which case you're going to need it. So we'll be glad to have it on hand in the event of that crisis. And it's just unfortunate that it costs so much money.”

Emergency Management offering free CPR class for community members

By Press Release

Press release:

Community-based hands-only CPR training is being offered free of charge by the Genesee County Office of Emergency Management. 

The class will be presented by Charlotte Crawford on Feb. 8 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Genesee County Fire Training Center, 7690 State Street Road, Batavia.   

This community-based CPR course teaches lifesaving skills of adult hands-only CPR, child CPR and infant CPR. The skills are taught in a dynamic group environment. This course is for people who want to learn CPR but do not need a course certification card for their job.  This course is ideal for students, new parents, grandparents, babysitters and for anyone interested in learning how to save a life.

Registration is required.  To register, call or email the Genesee County Fire Training Center.  (585) 344-0078 or

Local emergency personnel deploying to Erie County to assist with storm coverage

By Howard B. Owens

Volunteer and career firefighters from Genesee County are being deployed to Erie County to assist with emergency management as a result of heavy snowfall in the area.

Tim Yaeger, emergency management coordinator for Genesee County, announced Saturday night that the following departments have been approved for deployment starting Sunday morning at 6 a.m. for a 12-hour shift.

  • City of Batavia Fire
  • Town of Batavia Fire
  • Oakfield Fire
  • East Pembroke Fire
  • Corfu Fire
  • Genesee County Emergency Management

Participating personnel are instructed to assemble by 5:15 a.m. at the Corfu Fire Department, 116 East Main St., Corfu, for deployment to the Erie County Training & Operation Center, 3359 Broadway, Cheektowaga.

New report addresses growing crisis in county's fire and EMS coverage

By Howard B. Owens


There is a crisis brewing in fire and EMS coverage in Genesee County, but it's invisible to most area residents, according to a report released this week by the Office of Emergency Management.

The report was prepared by Municipal Resources, a consulting firm hired to review the state of fire and EMS services locally and recommend changes.

"The challenges that are facing the fire and EMS services in Genesee County are very real; there is a crisis that is slowly building, and has been for a considerable period," the report states. "The reason that many stakeholders, municipal leaders, and the general public do not see 'evidence' is the long tradition in both the fire and EMS services of 'getting the job done.'

"Looking ahead," according to the report, "the implications of not taking action will be quite simple: service levels will continue to diminish, some companies and EMS agencies may fold under financial pressures or because they are just not viable responders any longer, and fewer and fewer most likely aging volunteer members will be trying to respond to an increasing number of requests for service."

The 278-page report contains 95 recommendations to improve services and ensure the long-term viability of fire and EMS services in the county.

The report was presented to local media for the first time on Wednesday night at the Fire Training Center on Bank Street Road in Batavia by members of a task force formed two years ago.  The members, which included volunteer firefighters, elected officials, and Tim Yaeger, emergency management coordinator, set a goal of finding actionable recommendations on how to improve things and not just produce another study.

The goal is not a countywide fire service
The purpose of the report as some have assumed, said task force chairman Eric Weis (president of the Bergen Fire Department), is to push through a replacement of the current volunteer fire department system with a paid, countywide fire department.

He noted the report contains this statement: "It should be clearly understood by all stakeholders that the focus of this report is to augment and not supplant existing fire and EMS resources. Therefore, recommendations are focused on better utilization of existing organizations and resources while maintaining, supporting, and strengthening existing organizations."

Weis put the same sentiment in his own words.

"The volunteers are the backbone of the emergency services in the county," Weis said. "This is not intended to, again, take away from that. It's intended to enhance it. And I also want to say that, yes, there are issues, but, you know, the members of the volunteer departments in this county put forth a hell of a lot of effort every day. I think the needs are being met."

The biggest challenge for fire departments and EMS companies in Genesee County is the nationwide decline in volunteerism.  Genesee County is not unique.  People are much less likely to volunteer for anything, let alone service as demanding as firefighting or emergency medical assistance.

The report states:

The only reason why the challenges the system is facing both today and looking to the future are not more evident is because of the passion and dedication of the members of the county’s fire and EMS organizations who continue to answer the calls for service. But the number of active volunteers is declining in the county as they are everywhere, and many of those who remain are aging. 


The crisis of volunteerism
The report anonymously quotes a volunteer chief, "Volunteerism is being killed by social changes and increasing training standards for liability reasons. With fire call volumes being low and EMS requests high, we are at the point of high-risk low frequency events being a large concern. People don’t want to put in the time to train to fight one or two fires annually."

Long gone are the days when a young person could volunteer for the local fire department, be handed a helmet and coat, and start showing up at fire scenes. Now volunteer firefighters must go through hours and hours of training just to get started, and dozens of hours more every year to advance their skills.

And "volunteer" means they don't get paid for any of that time, either training or responding to incidents.

"I think most people in the community have no idea the amount of hours that they (volunteers) commit to this job," said Yaeger (first inset photo). "They are many hours away from home, away from family, away from work, to get this job done. 

"I think many citizens probably assume that volunteers are compensated to some extent," Yaeger said later. "And other than food and refreshments at a training or after an event, there is no compensation."

Among the 95 recommendations offered by Municipal Resources is finding some way to make some sort of compensation possible, be it monetary, health insurance, or gift cards to local businesses. But that isn't possible currently because state law prohibits any compensation to volunteer firefighters.

County Legislator Gordon Dibble, who served on the task force, said he and his fellow elected officials are ready to try and tackle that problem, which means going to the state Legislature to change the law statewide or working with Assemblyman Steve Hawley on a change in the law allowing Genesee County to become the first county to compensate volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel.

"I don't think we've (the Legislature) talked about that," Dibble said. "We haven't come to that, but I could agree with you that might be a way to go. It might help our situation. It starts somewhere and sometimes it starts with a small tiny county government that moves it up through the state."

Compensation needs to be an option
New York needs to catch up with other parts of the country, Yaeger said, when it comes to compensating volunteer firefighters.  In other parts of the country, volunteers aren't paid wages as much as they are provided pay on a per diem basis.

"They're being paid a stipend," Yaeger said. "They're being paid to be on-call. They're being paid to go to training. They're not making what a career firefighter is making, because they're just being paid or compensated when they're performing a duty for the community. That's something else that we need to pursue. And that needs to happen sooner than later because it's just inevitable."

One option to make volunteer firefighting less of time management challenge is to give volunteers on-call schedules so they know when its their turn to respond to any calls that come in and are prepared to respond.

"I did get some feedback from a friend of mine in the department who said with his job, it's tough for him to come on a whim on a call at certain times of day," said Weis (second inset photo). "He's working constantly. But if he had a set day, where he knew that he was on duty, his eyes opened up to that. That is something that would make being a volunteer more efficient."

The EMS crisis
The report also highlights the challenges facing ambulance providers, whether the all-volunteer services provided by departments such as Byron, Bergen, Alexander, and Bethany, or the paid-personnel services, what Yaeger refers to as "commercial," such as Le Roy Ambulance and Mercy EMS.

Currently, the mixture of volunteer and commercial EMS services are keeping response times in most of the county under four minutes for basic life support calls and eight minutes for advanced life support.

These are critical numbers when the calls are for cardiac arrest (less than two percent of EMS calls) or stroke.

The report states:

Heart attack and stroke victims require rapid intervention and care, and transport to a medical facility. The longer the time duration without care, the less likely the patient is to fully recover. Numerous studies have shown that irreversible brain damage can occur if the brain is deprived of oxygen for more than four minutes. In addition, the potential for successful resuscitation during cardiac arrest decreases exponentially, 7 to 10%, with each passing minute that cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or cardiac defibrillation and ALS intervention is delayed. Few attempts at resuscitation after 10 minutes are successful. 

Keeping EMS services staffed is both a challenge for volunteer departments and Mercy EMS and Le Roy Ambulance.  The training hours to qualify as a crew member can be up to 150 hours and the duty is hard and often puts EMTs in harm's way. 

Mercy EMS recently went through a staffing crisis that required assistance from services from outside the county and the turnover in personnel is frequent, with employees either finding the work isn't for them or using their training and experience as a stepping stone into a career as a paid firefighter.

"The environments that they're working in are not the best environments," Yaeger said. "People don't need to know what some of those environments are but it's a dangerous job. They're exposed to a lot of things that they probably shouldn't be exposed to."

In New York, as in most of the country, ambulances are not considered an essential service, like police and fire services.  Municipalities are not required to provide EMS coverage.  The report suggests that needs to change.

Among the consultants' recommendations, as one option, is the creation of a countywide EMS service.

This model would have the county assume all EMS response and transport responsibilities for EMS. The county would have to hire full-time personnel and purchase all equipment and vehicles to staff four units. These units would need to be housed in strategic locations across the county to meet response time benchmarks county wide. While this concept is relatively new in New York state, several counties have either implemented this type of service or, are exploring the concept. 

Countywide cooperation
While the report doesn't call for a countywide fire service, there are recommendations for standardizing operations.  That means establishing compatible Standard Operating Procedures across all departments so that when departments are working together, they're all using the same tactics and methods.

"Everyone in the fire service knows that we're already responding regionally," Yaeger said. "So how do we formalize that to make sure that everybody is on the same sheet of music? How do we make sure that the funding sources are there and available for all those resources to come in so we're not duplicating resources, we're not duplicating equipment?"

Getting everyone on the same sheet of music could eventually lead to a countywide department, but that won't happen any time soon, Yaeger said.

"Thirty years from now, 20 years from now, could there be a county-wide fire service? I won't be here to see it. Not in this position. But sure, it could happen," Yaeger said. "It takes time to see if it's even necessary. It may not be necessary. We may find that there are ways to work together and make our system better without forming a countywide service."

Going forward
With 95 recommendations, there is a lot for all the stakeholders to consider what priorities should be tackled first.  That process will involve everyone at all of the departments as volunteers read the report and come back with recommendations.

Task force members say that so far, the report has been received favorably, but they know that there will be those who resist change of any kind.

"(Somebody) coined the phrase that 'firefighters say the two things they hate the most are the way things are, and change,'" Yaeger said.

Weis said he hopes to see each department provide the task force with five, 10, or maybe 15 priorities from the 95 recommendations. The task force will use that feedback to come up with 10 to 15 action items to tackle first.

"We really want feedback first from the departments," Weis said. "Before we kind of settle on the 10, or maybe 15, before we settle on those, we want the feedback from departments. We don't feel we want to just dictate the solution."

PDF Downloads:

Top photo: Six members of the task force, from left,  Eric Weis, president, Bergen Fire, Mike Heale, chief, Elba, Bob Mruzak, fire chief, Bergen, Tim Yaeger, Genesee County Emergency Management Coordinator, Gordon Dibble, Genesee County legislator,  Donna Hynes, supervisor, Town of Elba. Not present and not pictured, Legislator Greg Torrey and Pavilion Supervisor Robert LaPoint.

Photos by Howard Owens

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

Genesee County faces difficult situation when it comes to transporting persons dealing with mental health issues

By Mike Pettinella


Severe staffing shortages among emergency response units have Genesee County officials searching for the most effective ways to transport residents experiencing mental health episodes to qualified hospitals where they can receive the evaluation and treatment they need.

Tim Yaeger, Emergency Management Services coordinator, and Lynda Battaglia, director of Mental Health & Community Services, led an hour-long discussion via Zoom with county legislators and law enforcement personnel this afternoon about a severely compromised level of ambulance service in the county.

“Why this topic is even being discussed is because there's an EMS (Emergency Management Services) crisis in New York State,” Yaeger said. “We’re looking at counties that are really in a very much of a reactionary form to figure out what they're going to do because the EMS transporting capabilities of the commercial systems are diminished.”

Yaeger said counties across the state are searching for answers as they experience lengthy response times and situations where no ambulances are available at any given time.

“We can probably talk for a long time about it, but it really comes down to pay and work environment and working conditions of the EMS system. That’s why it’s in trouble,” he said.

Emphasizing that his responsibility is to make sure ambulances are there when “the citizens of this county” call for them, Yaeger said he has been talking at length with Battaglia, Mercy EMS and Le Roy Ambulance representatives and law enforcement agency leaders about how to handle mental health incidents that fall under New York Mental Hygiene Law 9.41 and 9.45.


Section 9.41 permits police officers and peace officers to facilitate emergency admissions for immediate observation, care and treatment for any person who appears to be mentally ill and is conducting himself or herself in a manner which is likely to result in serious harm to the person or others. Section 9.45 gives similar authority to directors of community services.

In both cases, transportation to specially designated health care facilities, such as Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, Erie County Medical Center or Wyoming County Community Hospital in Warsaw, likely is warranted.

So, the question facing Genesee County legislators is: Who should transport these individuals – emergency medical technicians (or paramedics) in ambulances, police officers (sheriff's deputies, Batavia PD, Le Roy PD) or – what currently is on the table – a combination of both?

With the number of ambulances on the road in Genesee County down from where it should be, Yaeger said he has been working with Mercy EMS to make sure it prioritizes service to Genesee residents.

“Counties outside of Genesee have been relying heavily on Mercy EMS to backfill their shortcomings, and have recently over the last five, six months, it got to a point that was just not manageable anymore,” he said. “So, we worked with Mercy and changed our policy from one ALS (Advanced Life Support) ambulance to two ALS ambulances in service in this county before we will honor an out-of-county ambulance request.”

While the revised schedule is working right now, that doesn’t address the primary focus of today’s conversation – transporting of those in a mental health crisis.


Yaeger indicated that most surrounding counties use law enforcement personnel to drive the patients to the hospital, but Battaglia – along with Genesee County Sheriff William Sheron – said that, in the majority of cases, is not the way to go.

Calling it “a concerning topic,” Battaglia said those suffering from mental health issues by no means should be considered “low hanging fruit.”

“I wanted to just point that out … that the mental health individuals in the community are also those community residents that need medical services,” she said. “And I have to remind everyone, that somebody that's in a mental health crisis is ultimately considered a medical crisis.”

Battaglia said she was pleased to hear that both Yaeger and County Manager Matt Landers are looking at transports on a case-by-case basis, stating that persons exhibiting symptoms of psychosis are at acute risk of harming themselves or others need assistance from a mental health professional.

“I do have some concerns about EMS medically assessing an individual to determine whether or not police should transport or EMS should transport,” she said. “If somebody is making statements that they are going to die by suicide or if they are having suicidal ideations and deny taking any kind of pills, when in fact they did, and potentially negated telling that to any personnel, that places everybody at risk because they're not going to exhibit any kind of medical symptoms right away.”


She agreed that the entire EMS and healthcare systems are stressed due to COVID and workforce shortages but warned against the marginalization of the mentally ill.

“… What the system and the advocates have worked really hard about is to not stigmatize and to reduce stigmatization of individuals who are mentally ill,” she offered. “So, if police protocol is to handcuff somebody in a mental health crisis because they're being transported on a 941 and placed them in the back of a police car, that's criminalizing -- that is stigmatizing … and could have detrimental effects. It could possibly force that person to not want to reach out for help in the future; it could be very traumatizing …”

Sheron advised that the county transitioned from police vehicles to ambulances years ago “because of the more humane way to transport somebody that's in crisis.”

“To put somebody in the back of a patrol car behind a cage and in very limited space, I think is not the proper place for somebody who's in mental health crisis -- plain and simple,” he said. “Now, when we have an individual that is violent and we believe that they may become violent in the ambulance, we’ll send somebody along with the ambulance, either following the vehicle or inside the rig itself.”

Other key points brought up during the discussion are as follows:

  • Yaeger and Landers agreed that the situation is “not a black and white thing,” with the former acknowledging that the EMS crisis now has taken precedence over the county’s efforts to fix staffing and other issues related to emergency response in the case of fire or motor vehicle accidents.

In response to a question from Legislator Rochelle Stein about the county’s contract with Municipal Resources Inc., a consulting firm based in Plymouth, N.H., Yaeger said MRI's mandate will be expanded from finding solutions to the widening gaps in fire department coverage to also include confronting the EMS dilemma.

  • Legislator Gary Maha asked what happens if a call for a mental health transport comes in and no ambulances are available?

Yaeger responded by saying that request would be put on hold. “It’s either that or we’re going to try to get a volunteer ambulance to cover that call. They may cover it, or they may not, but it's going to end up waiting.”

  • Legislator Marianne Clattenburg said it is incumbent upon the county “to change how we fundamentally are doing things” by removing elements of criminalization in mental health cases.

“(To place) someone ... in a cop car I just think escalates things and I worry about the liability on the county … if we were to do that,” she said.

She then asked if the county had a contract with Mercy EMS for a certain level of service, to which Landers answered that there is no formal agreement on staffing levels although the county does provide funding to the operation.

  • Responding to questions from Legislator Christian Yunker, Landers said there are approximately 500 calls for mental health crisis intervention in Genesee County annually, although many of them end up as family member transports. The plan being considered is to shift up to half from ambulance to law enforcement transport to the three destination hospitals referred to previously in this report.
  • Landers said the discussion will continue, and he looks to include Dan Ireland, president of United Memorial Medical Center, as legislators inquired about the possibility of the Batavia hospital becoming certified to accept individuals in the midst of mental health breakdowns.

“They're (Rochester Regional Health administrators) heavily invested in doing everything with the new campus (in Batavia), and obviously, they're doing great things there with the hospital expansion,” Landers said. “So, I would hope that this could be something down the road that we have in our own community, I think there's a need there based on what we're hearing about (the numbers) being transported out of our community.”

  • Battaglia, upon hearing that paramedics are not provided with the training to properly handle mental health cases, said she would be willing to provide it.

“Law enforcement knows I've done some trainings for law enforcement. I was just at Le Roy Police a couple months ago, providing mental health training,” she said. “So, if you know that it’s not provided when they’re being trained and going to school, then that is definitely something that I can I can assist with.”

Genesee County EMS moves into 'The Drone Age'

By Mike Pettinella



Photos: Tim Yaeger, left, coordinator, and Gary Patnode, deputy coordinator, of Genesee County Emergency Management Services check out the features of the department's new Autel Robotics EVO II drone that will be used to assist in emergency situations. The 8-pound device can fly to a maximum height of 400 feet, has hovering capability and a memory feature that enables it to return from the point that it was launched. Currently, Dan Coffey, a New York State fire instructor and deputy fire coordinator for the Center Battalion, is the only authorized pilot, but others will be trained to operate it. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

Previously: Emergency Management Services receives its first drone 

Emergency Management Services receives its first drone

By Mike Pettinella

Genesee County Emergency Management Services received its first drone today, the department’s coordinator reported to the county legislature’s Public Service Committee.

Tim Yaeger said the drone, which actually is the county’s second (the Health Department also has one), will be used in situations involving hazardous materials, fire, search & rescue and other public safety issues.

He said the drone cost about $11,000 and was bought with Homeland Security funds. The type of drone that could be purchased, and the policies and procedures governing its use are set by New York State.

"In public safety terms, this is a beginner's drone," Yaeger said. "We wanted to start small and expand based on need."

Yaeger said the applications are varied -- from damage assessment to situational awareness to assistance in active fires and post-fire investigation to search-and-rescue operations. The drone features a thermal imaging camera attached to the regular camera.

One person has been trained as a pilot and a couple others will follow in that role, Yaeger said, noting that training will take place at the State Preparedness Training Center in Oriskany.

Public demonstrations will take place in the near future, he advised.

Yaeger said drones were one of the topics discussed at the 2021 Homeland Security Conference in Las Vegas from Aug. 29-Sept. 3. He was able to represent Genesee with expenses paid for by a grant provided to the county.

“We’re beginning to see drones up in the air and flying illegally, outside of the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) certifications that they were given,” he said. “It’s something to be on the radar – that we have to look at for primarily large gathering facilities. Darien Lake comes to mind.”

He said that people are using drones to drop basketballs filled with contraband into prison yards.

“A basketball with things that aren’t supposed to be in prison, like cell phones. They fly over the top of the fence and they drop the basketball. The basketball bounces and they think it’s just recreational equipment that was left out by someone,” he said. “Now, they’re tracking these and it was an absolutely amazing technology.”

Yaeger also said technology is being utilized by emergency management and law enforcement to combat civil unrest.

“Getting better information and critical information back to the EOCs (Emergency Operations Centers) and back to law enforcement and 911 Centers,” he said. “It’s just coming faster and faster as we move through these uses of technology.”

He said emergency managers are being instructed to consider diversity in their communities in developing operational strategies.

“How we operated 30 years ago when fire, EMS and law enforcement within our population is not how we should be operating today. So, there are a lot of lessons learned by us reaching out to those communities,” he said. “Sometimes were in a silo and we think we know what those citizens are thinking … “

Yaeger said his staff will look at examples of communities that have initiated effective outreach programs.

Conference seminars also dealt with the collapse of the apartment complex in Florida and cybersecurity, Yaeger reported.

Ninety-eight people died when the 12-story Champlain Towers South collapsed in Surfside, near Miami, in the early morning hours of June 24.

Calling it a “very depressing event,” Yaeger said the seminar provided insight into "the psyche of the first responders to go to an event with very few survivors if any, and how we treat those first responders mentally to deal with those types of things … and also seeing those first responders deal with the anguish and disappointment that they’re not able to help.”

“It was not a very uplifting presentation but it was very well done,” he noted. “Just to see what other communities have done and how they deal with those mental issues that are out there, for not just the families of the victims … but, more importantly, from our perspective, the first responders and how to deal with that.”

On the subject of cybersecurity, he said National Grid personnel are concerned about the vulnerability of infrastructure, telecommunications, power systems and transportation systems.

He said emergency managers need to have a contingency plan in the event of a cyber-attack.

Genesee County earns NWS 'StormReady' designation

By Mike Pettinella


When it comes to being prepared for natural disasters, especially weather-related events, Genesee County is flying above the storm.

That was the message shared this afternoon by Judith Levan, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service’s Buffalo Office, as she announced the county’s standing as an NWS StormReady community.

Levan and Mike Fries, NWS warning coordination meteorologist, presented the StormReady office sign and certificate, to Tim Yaeger, coordinator of the county’s Emergency Management Services department, at a meeting of the County Legislature’s Public Service Committee at the Old County Courthouse.

“It is with great pleasure that I am here to represent the National Weather Service to present a StormReady community sign to Genesee County for its efforts to become recognized as a Storm Ready community,” she said. “In particular, I’d like to extend our sincere appreciation to Tim Yaeger … for the tremendous effort he has exhibited to accomplish the goals set forth in the program.”

Levan said that EMS employees have cultivated a strong working relationship with the Buffalo NWS Office, adding that she and her staff “recognize the diligent effort to maintain community readiness in anticipation of natural disasters of any type.”

“We do not look forward to any other natural disasters, however, if and when another does occur, you can be confident that officials in the county have improved their communication and safety skills needed to save lives and property. You are an excellent example for other municipalities in New York State and I applaud you for your efforts,” she said.

Noting that severe weather or flood warnings are ineffective if they aren’t communicated to those potentially affected, Levan said that the Genesee County-NWS partnership is such that “all aspects of communication, warning reception and response are sufficient as possible and that there are many backups in place in case one or more systems fail.”

She said that several requirements must be met to be recognized as a StormReady community:

-- The establishment of a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center;

-- Having multiple ways to receive severe weather forecasting warnings to alert the public;

-- Creating a system that monitors local weather conditions;

-- Promoting the importance of public readiness through community seminars and education;

-- Developing a formal hazardous weather plan that includes training severe weather spotters and holding emergency response exercises.

StormReady communities have the improved communication and safety skills needed to save lives and property before and during the event,” Levan said. “I’m happy to say that Genesee County has not only met these criteria, but has substantially exceeding them in many categories.”

Photo: From left, Legislator Gordon Dibble, Tim Yaeger, Judith Levan and Mike Fries. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

Genesee County EMS coordinator says it's about time to replace mobile communications command unit

By Mike Pettinella


While staffing, or lack thereof, has been at the forefront of issues facing the Genesee County Office of Emergency Management Services, the importance of dependable equipment also is high on the list.

County EMS Coordinator Tim Yaeger on Monday afternoon emphasized that point to members of the Genesee County Legislature’s Public Services Committee during a meeting at EMS headquarters on State Street Road.

“We are looking at replacing ESU2, which is labeled as a mobile communications command unit … (and serves) as the mobile office,” Yaeger said. “It’s 16, 17 years old and it’s starting to show some wear and starting to show its weaknesses in reliability.”

Yaeger said he is in the process of putting a capital project together to obtain a larger mobile unit, stating that he expects the cost to be in the $400,000 to $450,000 range. He said he is hoping to “carve out a bit of money every year,” adding that the current unit does have some value as a trade-in.

He said the mobile unit is used once or twice a month on average, and is the only vehicle of its type in the county.

“The last thing we want it to be is not reliable,” Yaeger said.

The EMS coordinator touched on several other topics, including the Ready Genesee app, day-to-day staffing and operations, a contract with Municipal Resources Inc. to study the county’s fire/emergency response capabilities, training, other projects and funding.


Yaeger reported that his office will be working with the Genesee County Health Department to research other apps “in regard to capabilities, efficiency and cost effectiveness as an alternative to the app currently being used by the county.”

The Ready Genesee app was launched in April 2016 to assist residents in case of emergencies and as a tool to receive instant notifications should an emergency occur.

“This app has proven to be a valuable tool in communicating with the public in the past and during the on-going COVID-19 health crisis,” Yaeger reported.


“Overall, as far as the normal day-to-day operations of the office, we’re in really good shape,” he said. “There are struggles that we’re starting to see from the volunteer staffing side. It’s starting to affect our specialized team capabilities; it’s starting to affect our instructor staff that both work for the county and New York State.”

Yaeger said the candidate pool in the EMS field is shrinking.

“So, it’s that same issue (as staffing of volunteer fire departments) with the skill sets that we’re needing becoming very scarce, and my fear is that through that process we start to lower the bar. And, that’s the furthest thing that we need,” he said.

He said the expectations of his office continue to increase, noting that county EMS employees are having to be more “hands on” when it comes to emergency response.

Yaeger mentioned that Gary Patnode has been promoted to deputy coordinator position, and interviews are being scheduled to fill his former post as training technician.

Responding to a question about the factors affecting the EMS candidate pool, Yaeger said, “The expectation of the skill set that they’re required to have is getting harder and harder to find. That’s a difficult part. The pay scale is always an issue; it’s very competitive – to be able to find those opportunities.”

He also said the reality is that there are fewer people involved in public safety, citing the number of hours needed for training and the level of compensation in many cases.


Yaeger said he was encouraged by last month’s visit of four MRI representatives, reporting that they held 21 meetings in a three-day period.

MRI consultants will “make more rounds to fire companies and getting surveys out to firefighters and the community” as well as looking into the age and capabilities of fire stations throughout the county, he said.

He also shared the situation in the Town of Bethany, where the fire chief is shorthanded due to serious illness of a longtime paramedic.

“He’s at a loss,” Yaeger said. “What does he do now because he has less and less medics? So, how do we get the ambulance on the road? He’s very frustrated and upset.”

It falls upon county EMS to bridge the gap, he said, until a solution to our crisis in staffing across the county is found.


Yaeger said trainings have restarted after being shut down by COVID-19.

Some of those trainings include:

  • Automated external defibrillator drills. The initial AED training was conducted by the county in 2017 with recertification required every two years. Office of Emergency Management staff is in the process of coordinating the in-person AED recertification for county employees. Training is planned for 2022.
  • Fire drills. Six fire drills were completed to date with an additional 13 scheduled at county-owned or occupied buildings. In addition to the EMS office staff, personnel at Facility Management, City of Batavia Fire Department and Town of Batavia Fire Department will or have assisted in these drills. AED inspections are being conducted at the time of the fire drills.
  • Fire extinguisher inspection/AED inspection. As of 2018, the EMS office has taken on the added responsibility of the annual fire extinguisher inspections and semi-annual AED inspections. This effort is an attempt to provide a more comprehensive and cost effective service. Inspections of fire extinguishers in county buildings are complete for 2021.


Calling it the most important upgrade at this point, Yaeger said his office received a State and Municipal award for $60,000 to repave the main parking lot.

Work consisted of repaving of the main entry and main parking area of the Fire Training Center/Emergency Operation Center, including the rear driveway and entry to the rear apparatus bay as well as adding gutters to the main facility.

Also, Yaeger mentioned he is awaiting the go-ahead to resume construction of a training maze that was started by Iroquois Job Corps students. Materials were acquired through a donation from a local business.

He said the EMS office has received approval from Homeland Security of New York State to use Homeland Security funds to buy an unmanned aerial system (drone).

“It took us about a year to put the policies and procedures together that FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) requires to have in place to be able to use Homeland Security money to purchase that drone,” he said.


Yaeger said funding from Homeland Security fell by 11 percent for this fiscal year, from $82,336 to $73,620.

“I don’t know if that money is going to continue but it’s a little bit disturbing because we rely a lot on that money to run our programs and run our office,” he offered. “I’d hate to see that Homeland Security money downsize itself. It’s really important that we continue that appropriation.”

Additional funding sources include Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness, Emergency Management Performance, Regional Hazardous Materials and Public Assistance Program grants.

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.

William Schutt responds to the call to accept Genesee County Youth Bureau executive director position

By Mike Pettinella

After years of high-level involvement in the fire and emergency services fields and months of overseeing testing and vaccination clinics to earn the unofficial title as Genesee County “COVID czar,” William Schutt has decided to take on a new challenge as the executive director of the Genesee County Youth Bureau.

And county legislators and management are supporting his decision by wholeheartedly endorsing him for the job at Wednesday’s Ways & Means Committee meeting at the Old County Courthouse.

The deputy coordinator of Genesee County Emergency Management Services since August 2015, Schutt has been selected by an interview committee to replace Jocelyn Sikorski at the youth bureau, effective June 20.

Sikorski resigned in January when she accepted the executive director position at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County.

Schutt said he’s looking forward to applying his experience and talents to programs and events geared toward boosting young people.

“I’m always looking for a challenge and I really enjoy being involved in the community – trying to make a difference and pay it forward – and doing something that will make the community better in the future,” Schutt said. “So, when the position came out -- I knew the previous director -- I took a look at it. It just kind of stuck out with how I was feeling about things at the current time.”

Schutt, a Basom resident, said he talked to Sikorski about the position and her comments piqued his interest in taking a closer look.

“It may seem like it’s quite a bit different but it still involves helping people, just in a different format than doing it as a first responder,” he said. “I am used to working on a variety of projects with a variety of things going on, and obviously, as a first responder, the spur of the moment stuff, and I think all of that transfers over very well.”

Before joining the county workforce on a full-time basis in August 2015, Schutt held a per diem position as deputy fire coordinator for about five years – assisting local fire and EMS agencies through the county’s Emergency Management office.

A longtime assistant fire chief for the Town of Alabama, Schutt was the general manager for Mercy Flight Inc. Mercy EMS, based in Batavia, from 2013-2015.

Genesee County Manager Matt Landers said that Schutt has distinguished himself throughout his career.

“He is a familiar face to everyone – our quote, unquote COVID czar, who has been instrumental in our testing and vaccination efforts,” Landers said. “The interview committee is pleased to be recommending Bill for this position. I think his passion and organizational skills are well-suited for the youth bureau and the direction we want to take that department going forward.”

The interview committee was comprised of Legislator John Deleo and several members of the Youth Advisory Board.

Deleo, speaking to Schutt who was at the meeting, said he could see from the interview that Schutt is up to the task at hand.

“You seem to be a person that takes something and develops it. So, I’m very pleased to have you on board to take on this challenge,” he said. “With your background and everything, I think we’re going to win this. It’s kind of bittersweet though because we lose (you) from the other (Emergency Management department).”

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein commended Schutt for displaying leadership “under chaotic situations,” referring to the coronavirus testing and vaccine clinics.

“What you’ve demonstrated already on behalf of the community here in Genesee County, I just look forward for even more to come,” she said.

Schutt said he is confident that he will be able to make a smooth transition, especially considering that he has had interactions with current youth bureau employees -- Chelsea Elliott (Youth Court and Safe Harbour coordinator) and Chelsea Green (program assistant).

He said he was getting up to speed on the county’s involvement with Safe Harbour, a state-funded program that supports services to youth who have been trafficked, exploited or are at risk, and already was familiar with other programs, such as Genesee Youth Lead and Youth Court.

A native of West Seneca, he said he participated in local town youth recreation programs growing up.

“I also was a Boy Scout and my son was a Boy Scout, and were involved in sports with the kids,” he said.

Schutt and his wife, Shelly, have a grown son and daughter, and two grandchildren.

A formal vote on his appointment by the full legislature is expected to take place next Wednesday. The position carries a $61,000 annual salary.

Previously: County youth bureau's Safe Harbour program tackles problem of human trafficking

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.

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

By Mike Pettinella

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'

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

By Mike Pettinella

Tim 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.

GC Emergency Management Services awarded $3,800 fire prevention grant from insurer FM Global

By Press Release

Press release:

Genesee County Emergency Management Services has received a $3,800 fire prevention grant from FM Global, one of the world’s largest commercial property insurers. 

FM Global representatives presented the award to the Genesee County Office of Emergency Management, located at 7690 State Street Road in Batavia.  The award will be used to assist with fire investigations to help fire investigators more efficiently investigate and determine the cause of a fire.

Because fire continues to be the leading cause of property damage worldwide, during the past 40 years FM Global has contributed millions of dollars in fire prevention grants to fire service organizations around the globe. Locally, the company has awarded grants to a number of New York-based organizations.

“At FM Global, we strongly believe the majority of property damage is preventable, not inevitable,” said Michael Spaziani, assistant vice president – manager of the fire prevention grant program.

“Far too often, inadequate budgets prevent those organizations working to prevent fire from being as proactive as they would like to be. With additional financial support, grant recipients are actively helping to improve property risk in the communities they serve.”

Through its Fire Prevention Grant Program, FM Global awards grants to fire departments—as well as national, state, regional, local and community organizations worldwide — that best demonstrate a need for funding, where dollars can have the most demonstrable impact on preventing fire, or mitigating the damage it can quickly cause.

To learn more about FM Global’s Fire Prevention Grant Program and other resources for the fire service, please visit

About FM Global

Established nearly 200 years ago, FM Global is a mutual insurance company whose capital, scientific research capability and engineering expertise are solely dedicated to property risk management and the resilience of its client-owners. These owners, who share the belief that the majority of property loss is preventable, represent many of the world’s largest organizations, including one of every three Fortune 500 companies.

They work with FM Global to better understand the hazards that can impact their business continuity in order to make cost-effective risk management decisions, combining property loss prevention with insurance protection.

Genesee County EMS 'goes overtime' to help during COVID-19; calls upon task force to address staffing woes

By Mike Pettinella


The Genesee County Office of Emergency Management Services distributed more than 100,000 masks and nearly 22,000 2-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer through June 30 in its efforts to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.

In a departmental review presented to the Genesee County Legislature’s Public Service Committee today, EMS Coordinator Tim Yaeger (pictured above) reported that his office assisted about 250 agencies, “which then touched about another 100 agencies" from March 16 through June 30.

Yaeger said supplies went to first responders, churches, for-profit agencies, nonprofit agencies, and other organizations as it was “tasked upon us” during what he called a “difficult time.”

According to his report, the Personal Protective Equipment supply distribution was as follows:

  • N95 masks -- 8,412;
  • Surgical masks -- 66,636;
  • Cloth masks -- 48,354;
  • Gloves -- 65,300;
  • Hand Sanitizer (gallons) -- 605;
  • Hand Sanitizer (2 oz.) -- 21,996;
  • Thermometers -- 150;
  • Gowns/Tyvek Suits -- 1,275.

His report also indicated that the Emergency Operation Center, activated in response to COVID-19, was staffed on Monday through Friday, monitored on the weekend and manned by the department’s full-time staff with assistance from deputy fire coordinators and county fire instructors.

Hours of operation started at 12 per day before being reduced to nine per day during the final month.

He credited his employees, (Deputy Coordinator) Bill Schutt, Gary Patnode and Jeanette Diehl, for pulling together as a team, and noted that first responders in the community were understanding, “very, very cooperative, and everybody got through this.”

Yaeger reported that staffing of volunteer fire and emergency management services personnel throughout the nation, including Genesee County, is at a “critical level making it many times unlikely to provide the manpower necessary to respond to emergency situations.”

With that in mind, he said that a Volunteer Services Task Force at the county level has been established to address this issue. Several meetings have taken place to look at viable solutions and funding avenues.

He believes that the best option for emergency services is a “hybrid; volunteer/career, paid/unpaid, staffed/unstaffed, local/county system.”

His report indicates that qualified staffing needs to be available when mobilized, and hopes that the task force would come up with an effective plan.

“We need to find a better system that we have today,” he said.

Yaeger also reported on other aspects of his department as follows:

  • Nineteen of 20 jurisdictions (the Town of Alexander being the exception) have signed onto the county’s Hazard Mitigation Plan, which serves as a “blueprint for reducing the county’s vulnerability to disaster and hazards.”

Adopted in 2009, the HMP is a required guide for municipalities to be eligible for any state and federal mitigation funding. The updated County HazMat plan was approved by the legislature in October 2019.

  • Three new deputy field coordinators have come on board in the past 16 months – Brian Schollard, Dan Coffey and Chuck Dodson.

In a related development, the PSC approved the acceptance of a State Homeland Security Program grant in the amount of $109,781 in connection with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The bulk of the award ($82,336) will be appropriated to the Emergency Management Office operating budget to be used to develop regional partnerships, citizen preparedness efforts, cybersecurity programs, information-sharing capabilities and planning.

The remainder will be directed to the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement terrorism prevention initiatives.

Photo by Mike Pettinella.

Free face mask distribution in City of Batavia on Thursday and Saturday this week

By Billie Owens

(Above, City fire headquarters drive-thru route for free mask distribution Thursday.)

Submitted images and press release:

The City of Batavia will distribute free masks to members of the public on from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday, May 21st and again on Saturday, May 23rd.

Thursday's distribution will be at City of Batavia Fire Station located at 18 Evans St.

Saturday's distribution will be at the City of Batavia Police Station located at 10 W. Main St. 

Anyone wishing to receive a mask is asked to follow the drive-thru map instructions for each location and stay inside their vehicles.

Masks were obtained by the Genesee County Emergency Management Office to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

(Below, City police station drive-thru route for free mask distribution Saturday.)

GC Emergency Management: Use cloth face coverings to slow the deadly spread of coronavirus

By Billie Owens

Press release:

In an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19, all New Yorkers are required to wear a face covering in public when social distancing isn’t possible. In addition, Executive Order 202.6, requiring essential businesses to issue face masks or protective covering to all employees who interact with the public.

Both of these directives were announced earlier this week by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Wearing a simple cloth face covering helps to slow the spread of the virus as it helps people who may have the virus and not know it from transmitting it to others. Face coverings can be commercially made or be fashioned from household items and made at home at low cost. The Center for Disease Control has provided a guide on making cloth masks.

Genesee County, The United Way and Chamber of Commerce are compiling face mask resources for businesses and the public. The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce has provided resources for businesses looking to make or purchase face masks.

Local Mask Manufacturers

  • American Classic Outfitters – Jan Newville (585-302-4223)
  • Empire Emergency Equipment – Eric Dahlgren (716-225-0890)
    • Ricocet Masks -- $4; minimum 100

Easton Office Supply – Tim Garlock (585-300-9861)

  • Level One Protective Masks - $50/box of 50; $1,700 for 2,000

Local Residents Making Masks for People in the Community

  • Roxanne:         
  • Shandra:          
  • Bethany:          
  • Nancy:             
  • Crystal:            
  • Shirley:          
  • Karen:             


Nonprofits throughout the region are working to keep their staff and clients safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic and they need our help. Based on the recommendation from the CDC for all people to wear face coverings/masks in public spaces, there is an increased demand for homemade face coverings/masks.

If you are able to sew or make additional homemade face coverings/masks to donate, visit the United Way Website for more details.

Remember the best way to stay safe and stop the spread of the coronavirus is to stay home, wash your hands frequently and practice social distancing. When it is essential for you to go out remember to shop solo, wear a facial covering, maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others and continue to practice frequent hand washing.

Be prepared -- not scared! We are in this together!

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