Enable fire departments to improve response times and level of service – at no cost to the taxpayers.
Port Washington, NY - February 15, 2018 - Fire service leaders and elected officials assembled in Port Washington today to call on the Legislature to support a bill that would alleviate an affordability crisis impacting fire departments across New York State. Providing emergency medical services (EMS) can place a severe strain on fire departments, and fire departments are the only EMS providers in New York State currently prohibited from recovering any of the associated costs.
This legislation (S. 0363A / A. 7717A) is sponsored by State Senator Betty Little and Assemblymember Billy Jones and is a bipartisan effort to provide parity among New York State’s EMS providers. Much of the ambulance coverage in New York State is provided by fire departments, many of which are smaller and staffed with volunteers. These fire departments are responding to an ever-growing volume of medical calls, with many now handling more EMS than fire runs. Staffing an ambulance requires a significant investment in personnel, equipment, training, and time, and this investment is causing an affordability crisis in the fire service.
This legislation provides a simple solution. It allows fire departments to recover the costs of running EMS calls without raising any taxes. One source of untapped funds is patients’ already-existing healthcare policies. The money recovered would be used to ensure that ambulances can continue to operate with sufficient staffing and be available whenever they are needed, while also enhancing the level of emergency medical services available in the community.
Every other ambulance provider in New York State is already permitted to do this. Fire departments are the only ones who are not, and this legislation would place the many different providers on equal footing. Equally important, it would help provide support for many small fire departments that so often serve as the backbone of many towns and villages across the State.
Long Island fire departments are among some of the busiest in the State, with many answering a particularly high volume of EMS calls. Long Island also has some of the highest property taxes and costs of living in New York. This legislation was carefully crafted to minimize the cost to taxpayers, and recovering costs is not a mandate, but rather an option for those fire departments that need it. Cost recovery will ensure that ambulances are properly staffed 24/7/365 by allowing fire departments to hire paid EMTs as needed, while also likely yielding improved response times.
The passage of this legislation would give some much-needed financial assistance to many of the State’s departments, while also likely yielding improved response times and service for New Yorkers.
John Sroka, President of the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs: “Emergency medical services is one of the core missions performed by many fire departments. EMS calls require a significant investment in time, training, and personnel, and it is critical that fire departments are able to recover the associated costs, just as every other EMS provider in New York State already can.”
Kenneth Pienkowski, President of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York: “EMS calls are simply too expensive and too frequent for many small fire departments to continue providing. There are many volunteer departments across the State facing the very real possibility of having to discontinue providing emergency medical services. We are grateful to State Senator Betty Little and Assemblymember Billy Jones for their support, as well as to State Senator Elaine Phillips, State Senator John Brooks, and Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso. Their support is crucial if we are to improve the level of service New Yorkers can expect and help these struggling departments.”
Tom Rinaldi, President of the Association of Fire Districts of the State of New York: “This is a very real problem, but with a very simple solution. Allowing fire departments to recover the costs of EMS calls does not involve any new taxes and utilizes existing health insurance policies. The cost is minimal for New Yorkers, and the benefit is much greater.”
State Senator Elaine Phillips: “Volunteer fire departments are the backbone of our community and a crucial part of Long Island’s culture. This common-sense legislation that would allow fire departments to recover transportation costs is a simple solution to help the brave men and women who protect us each and every day. They do not deny our call for help, so let's not deny theirs.”
Senator John E. Brooks: “Volunteer Firefighters and EMTs go above and beyond to protect their community and answer their neighbors’ calls for help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It's only logical to allow all ambulance services to bill insurance companies to recover the associated costs of providing Emergency Medical Services. Removing the restriction on volunteer-based EMS to bill insurance companies will help alleviate the financial burden our taxpayers now absorb when our volunteers provide care to individuals in need of help. We must continue to ensure that all residents have access to fire and ambulance services in emergency situations, and I urge all of my colleagues to join me in supporting this crucial legislation.”
Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso: Under the present law, the emergency medical services provided by the fire department ambulance, cannot charge the incurred cost. This is creating a fiscal problem for the fire department, especially now with the ever-escalating costs. However, every other provider of the same emergency medical services is allowed to charge. If enacted this proposed legislation, would put an end to this inequity. I am a primary sponsor of this legislation, and I am committed to work with my colleagues in the legislature to successfully pass this “Bill”.
State Senator Betty Little: “Throughout New York State, from my North Country senate district to here on Long Island, we’re incredibly blessed by the service of volunteers who, at a moment’s notice, put their lives on hold to run to help someone in need. It is a tremendous calling of public service that all of us applaud but accolades aren't enough. These wonderful men and women need and deserve more help to continue providing the life-saving work so important to us all."
Assemblymember Billy Jones: “Ensuring North Country residents have readily available access to ambulance services in an emergency situation is crucial. The passage of this legislation will yield improved response times and coverage, thus improving the safety of all New Yorkers.”
Founded in 1872, the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) represents the interests of the approximately 110,000 volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel in New York State. For more information, visit www.fasny.com.
About the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs
Organized in 1904 the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs represents nearly 11,000 career and volunteer chiefs throughout New York State. For additional information visit, www.nysfirechiefs.com.
About the Association of Fire Districts of the State of New York
The Association of Fire Districts of the State of New York, a not-for-profit corporation, works to improve the fiscal responsibility, efficiency and effectiveness of the fire district management through education, training and advocacy for commissioners and other fire district officials in the 57 counties outside of the City of New York.