Firefighter Crisis: Townships Urge Governor, Lawmakers to Take Action
Become a Volunteer Firefighter
The volunteer fire company is a long and cherished tradition in our commonwealth, dating back to 1736 when Ben Franklin founded the nation’s first all-volunteer force to fight blazes in Philadelphia. For nearly three centuries, communities have relied on volunteer fire companies to protect property and save lives. Today, this volunteer model is in jeopardy. Across the state, local fire companies are struggling. Volunteers are dwindling. Costs are soaring. Training requirements have intensified. With donations and volunteers harder to come by, the future of the local fire company, long intertwined in the fabric of a community, looks grim. Without real, viable solutions to address this volunteer shortage, many local stations may be forced to close their doors. That means one thing: Pennsylvania is on the verge of a public safety crisis.
Time for action
Recently, township officials from across the state passed a resolution at the 96th Annual Educational Conference of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS) demanding that Gov. Tom Wolf call a special legislative session immediately to address the volunteer crisis facing local fire and emergency management services. Rep. Steve Barrar, chair of the state Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, has embraced this call for a special session. Recent initiatives to tackle the crisis, including the bipartisan Senate Resolution 6 Commission, which has been tasked with studying issues affecting first responders, are a good step but they’re not enough, said Shirl Barnhart, PSATS immediate past president and a member of the SR 6 Commission. He noted that the deadline for the commission’s report is November 30, which coincides with the end of the legislative session.
“Instead, local leaders are imploring the legislature to act now, before General Election Day, and give this crisis the attention it deserves,” Barnhart said. “We’ve ‘talked the talk’ for long enough; it’s time to ‘walk the walk.’”
Consider these sobering facts:
Volunteers at fire companies across Pennsylvania have dropped from 300,000 strong in the 1960s and ’70s to below 50,000 today.
At least 75 percent of fire companies are struggling with manpower at a time when the state’s population is aging. The average age of a firefighter is 50-something, and people are busier today than they were decades ago.
Communities would have to raise taxes almost $10 billion a year to switch to a paid model for fire service, according to the office of the state fire commissioner.
Gov. Tom Wolf recently declared the opioid abuse problem in Pennsylvania an emergency disaster. Programs and funding have been dedicated to ending this deadly epidemic.
“As local officials who are witnessing the lethal consequences of opioid addiction in our communities, the members of PSATS support this commitment,” Barnhart said. “However, we also believe we have been dealing with the volunteer fire and EMS crisis for far longer. It’s time that our hard-working fire companies and volunteers receive the same attention and recognition from Harrisburg.”
This call for action isn’t intended to distract from the current opioid crisis. Instead, it is related. First responders are on the front lines of the opioid battle every day. If communities expect emergency personnel to respond to overdose calls, they can’t afford to lose any more foot soldiers in this war.
Too important to lose
Whether it’s helping at the scene of an overdose or putting out a house fire, volunteer fire and emergency responders keep the commonwealth’s communities safe. While local leaders are doing their best to keep this volunteer model alive, Barnhart said, they need help from the leaders in Harrisburg. PSATS and its members are urging the state legislature to immediately enact real and feasible solutions, such as allowing variable training standards for rural, suburban, and urban areas; granting a tax incentive for employers who permit employees to respond to calls while at work; and providing a fix for out-of-control insurance rates at the State Workers Insurance Fund (SWIF). If Pennsylvania doesn’t find real remedies soon, the day is not far away when someone calls 911 for help, and no fire company responds.
“We must make sure that never happens,” Barnhart said. “Our volunteer fire companies are simply too important to lose.”
(Excerpted from a Townships Today Newsletter)
Fireworks on the 4th: Celebrate Safely
Fireworks are synonymous with our celebration of Independence Day. This is the first Fourth of July in Pennsylvania since the laws governing the purchase of fireworks have been relaxed. Currently, any adult with a PA driver’s license can purchase some pretty high powered and dangerous fireworks. Yet, the thrill of fireworks can also bring pain. On average, 280 people go to the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the days surrounding the July 4th holiday.
Remember, fireworks can be dangerous, causing serious burn and eye injuries. You can help us prevent fireworks-related injuries and deaths. How? Follow these safety tips when using fireworks:
- Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
- Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers.
- Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents don't realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees - hot enough to melt some metals.
- Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
- Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
- Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
- Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
- Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
- After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.
- Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.
Remember that fireworks have caused a lot of household fires. If you have a fireworks mishap resulting in fire damage, call SERVPRO of Whitemarsh/Cheltenham for fire restoration services. SERVPRO of Whitemarsh/Cheltenham wishes everyone in the area a safe and fun Fourth of July!
Hurricane Preparedness in Our Area
National Hurricane Preparedness Week May 6-12
Hurricane Preparedness - Be Ready
While we are not located close enough to the ocean to feel a hurricane’s full effect on a regular basis, hurricanes always pose a wind and water damage threat to our property. Two keys to weather safety are to PREPARE for the risks and to ACT on those preparations when alerted by emergency officials. According to the FEMA, we can prepare for a hurricane by following this four stage guide:
Know if you live in an evacuation area. Assess your risks and know your home's vulnerability to storm surge, flooding and wind. Understand National Weather Service forecast products and especially the meaning of NWS watches and warnings. Contact your local National Weather Service office and local government/emergency management office. Find out what type of emergencies could occur and how you should respond.
Communications is important during a weather emergency. Keep a list of contact information for these resources:
Emergency Management Offices, County Law Enforcement, County Public Safety Fire/Rescue, State, County and City/Town Government, Local Hospitals, Local Utilities, Local American Red Cross, , Local TV Stations, Local Radio Stations, Your Property Insurance Agent
Plan & Take Action
Everyone needs to be prepared for the unexpected. Your friends and family may not be together when disaster strikes. How will you find each other? Will you know if your children or parents are safe? You may have to evacuate or be confined to your home. What will you do if water, gas, electricity or phone services are shut off?
Put together a basic disaster supplies kit and consider storage locations for different situations. Help community members do the same.
Develop and document plans for your specific risks. Protect yourself and family with a Family Emergency Plan. Be sure to plan for locations away from home. Pet owners should have plans to care for their animals. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention offer information on animal health impacts in evacuation shelters.
Review the FEMA Evacuation Guidelines to allow for enough time to pack and inform friends and family if you need to leave your home. FOLLOW instructions issued by local officials. Leave immediately if ordered!
Consider your protection options to decide whether to stay or evacuate your home if you are not ordered to evacuate.
When waiting out a storm be careful, the danger may not be over yet. Be alert for Tornadoes, as they are often spawned by hurricanes. The calm "eye" of the storm – it may seem like the storm is over, but after the eye passes, the winds will change direction and quickly return to hurricane force.
Wait until an area is declared safe before returning home. Remember that recovering from a disaster is usually a gradual process.
Here are some additional resources for Hurricane Preparedness
- Refer to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) gov/hurricanes for comprehensive information on hurricane preparedness at home and in your community.
Prevent Frozen Pipe Burst
Frozen water pressure burst pipe.
How to Protect Your Pipes in Cold Weather
How to Protect Your Pipes in Cold Weather
Frozen pipes are a tangible risk during winter in the Philadelphia,PA area.When the thermometer dips below 32°F, water begins to expand as it freezes. By taking a few steps now and during winter storms, you can prevent the costly damage caused by frozen and burst pipes. Here are a few tips on how to protect your pipes in cold weather.
Insulate Exposed Pipes
Pipes that are most vulnerable to freezing are exposed to severe cold. These include outside pipes such as water/lawn sprinkler lines or outdoor hose spigots. Unheated areas like crawl spaces, basements, attics, and garages, can also pose a risk to your unprotected water lines. You should insulate all hot or cold-water pipes that run through these areas. You may even want to insulate any exposed hot water pipes inside heated areas of your home to conserve energy and keep the hot water at desired temperature.
Products designed to insulate water pipes include pipe sleeves, heat tape, heat cables, or similar products readily available from your local plumbing and home improvement stores.
Add Insulation to Your House
Having adequate insulation in your attic, basement, crawl spaces, and even your garage can help maintain a higher temperature in your home. As a bonus, your heating usage could be reduced from prior years. (Saving your family money)
Drain Outside Lines
You should have your homes irrigation system drained and blown out before the freezing weather sets in. Follow the manufactures instructions or hire an expert to do this.
Prevent Frozen Pipes
When winter weather has arrived, let water from your cold line drip from faucets that are fed by exposed pipes. Running water is less likely to freeze.
Open cabinet doors in your kitchen and bathrooms to let warmer air reach your plumbing. If you keep cleaning supplies under the sinks, you may wish to relocate them away from the reach of kids.
If your best efforts result in a frozen pipe burst and that frozen pipe bursts damaging your home call the professionals at SERVPRO Whitemarsh/Cheltenham (610)909-6690
"Like it never even happened."
24 hour Water Damage Emergency Service
Water Extraction underway.
A water damage can occur at any time of the year,whether it be a leaky or burst pipe, toilet overflow, a broken water supply line,flood or wind driven rain.
Knowing who to call when a water damage occurs in your home or business can be key to timely mitigating damage to your property.
Our staff is ready for whatever happens 24/7, 365 days a year. We will respond to the 2am water damage emergency.
With our trained professionals and state of the art equipment we are able to effectively dry out the structure of your home or commercial space.
In this picture one our crew begins the extraction of water that caused a significant amount of water to a local church in Portland. The damage was due to a burst pipe that occurred during some freezing cold temperatures that had occurred overnight. Our crews responded quickly, minimizing the damage within the building.
Success in business requires training, discipline and hard work.
Understanding the cause of Christmas tree Fires
Be safe gather with family and enjoy your beautiful tree.
SERVPRO of Whitemarsh/Cheltenham wishes one and all a very Merry Holiday Season. Be safe at home and on the road.
Facts about home holiday fires
- One of every four home Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical problems.
- Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur, they are more likely to be serious. On average, one of every 32 reported home Christmas tree fires results in a death compared to an average of one death per 143 total reported home fires.
- A heat source too close to the tree causes one in every four Christmas tree fires.
- The top three days for home candle fires are Christmas, New Year's Day, and Christmas Eve.
- Candles start two out of five home decoration structure fires.
Smoke and soot clean up
Smoke damage from a Dryer fire .The fire originated in the basement and effected every room in the home.
Smoke and soot are very invasive and can penetrate various cavities within your home, causing hidden damage and odor. Our smoke damage expertise and experience allows us to inspect and accurately assess the extent of the damage to develop a comprehensive plan of action.
Smoke and soot facts:
- Hot smoke migrates to cooler areas and upper levels of a structure.
- Smoke flows around plumbing systems, seeping through the holes used by pipes to go from floor to floor.
- The type of smoke may greatly affect the restoration process.
Different Types of Smoke
There are two different types of smoke“wet and dry. As a result, there are different types of soot residue after a fire.
Before restoration begins, SERVPRO of Whitemarsh/Cheltenham will test the soot to determine which type of smoke damage occurred. The cleaning procedures will then be based on the information identified during pretesting. Here is some additional information:
Wet Smoke Plastic and Rubber
- Low heat, smoldering, pungent odor, sticky, smeary. Smoke webs are more difficult to clean.
Dry Smoke Paper and Wood
- Fast burning, high temperatures, heat rises therefore smoke rises.
Protein Fire Residue Produced by evaporation of material rather than from a fire
- Virtually invisible, discolors paints and varnishes, extreme pungent odor.
Our Fire Damage Restoration Services
Since each smoke and fire damage situation is a little different, each one requires a unique solution tailored for the specific conditions.We have the equipment, expertise, and experience to restore your home from fire and smoke damage. Call today. Its the first step to professional restoration by SERVPRO "Like it never even happened."