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Pierrepont town councilman says fire department needs funds for new ‘entrapment’ training

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PIERREPONT - Extra efforts are being made to ensure the safety of firefighters across the state, but one Pierrepont town official says funds are still needed for department training.

The town received a letter from state Department of Labor Division of Safety and Health Director Eileen Franko recently, notifying them of an amendment to a part of the Labor Law and detailing the assistance the group will be providing the various departments.

According to the document, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation in 2012, amending Section 27-a of the Labor Law which requires employers to provide certain emergency escape systems to firefighters at risk of entrapment at elevations.

According to the letter, the Department of Labor Division of Safety and Health would provide certain materials to help fire departments and municipalities comply with the new provision.

“I noticed the list that they gave us of six things that the state is going to do for us and there is not a penny in there for the training or for the equipment or for anything,” Councilman Dahl R. McCormick said. “With all the training they have to do and the retraining and now we’ve got to do all this and pay for it.”

A training video on emergency escape systems, a copy of the amended law and a copy of the regulations are among the items accessible to the departments online.

A revised risk assessment worksheet, an equipment inspection guide and a list of the Public Employee Safety and Health district offices are also at the web page.

The amended law is based around new roping used for scaling in and out of high-elevation windows and structures.

“They’re going to kill the volunteers. We’ll have to have a paid department to have somebody to protect us and protect the community. We won’t be alone. They’ll be a lot of them,” Mr. McCormick said. “(The new law) is going to entail some equipment. We have to have a plan - as I understand it - of how we will get somebody out of a situation and that equipment has to be right there at the time and they give us nothing for any equipment to use.”

Both Laurie Hance and Arthur Scott McRobbie shared similar concerns regarding smaller department’s funding needs.

Ms. Hance serves as the director of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York, while Mr. McRobbie is the 2nd vice president of the Northern New York Volunteer Firemen’s Association.

“Being a director for the state of New York, I have a voice in what the firemen’s association says on it. Unfortunately I represent one of the very smaller districts,” she said. “Some of us around here really don’t have the buildings necessary to have these ropes, especially in Colton, Pierrepont, Hannawa Falls, etc. ... It has been a large concern.”

“They mandate that a place like Pierrepont, which doesn’t have many high-level buildings, have a rope system to escape from high level-buildings without any funding to allow this to occur,” Mr. McRobbie added. “Fire departments like Colton and Pierrepont have limited funding. I think it’s another example of unfunded mandate coming from above.”

Mr. Robbie said that the issue is more widespread than just St. Lawrence County.

“I can look beyond our borders, too. I have friends in a lot of these departments and the general idea of unfunded mandate is very hard for us to meet from time to time,” he said. “In no way am I opposed to training, but if we had all of the resources to buy everything that they need us to buy, it would be a moot point.”

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