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Capitol Letters: Senator Rerras appointed to the Joint Subcommittee Studying Incentives for Fire & Rescue Squad Volunteers
August 8, 2007 - Eastern Shore Post

By State Sen. Nick Rerras

Last week, a new joint subcommittee met for the first time to study ways to assist with the retention and recruitment of volunteer fire and rescue emergency services personnel. I was honored to be appointed to this subcommittee, and I was voted in as the vice chairman. This subcommittee is a result of House Joint Resolution (HJR) 743, which passed the General Assembly during the 2007 session.

Volunteer fire departments and rescue squads play a critical role in providing emergency services for our citizens on a daily basis. Many volunteer fire departments and rescue squads throughout the state are having difficulty recruiting and keeping volunteers. This is a serious public safety issue. We have grown to expect the high-quality emergency services we receive when we call 911. I certainly appreciate all the outstanding emergency services provided by our volunteers.

Rural communities such as the Eastern Shore greatly depend on the dedication and commitment of our volunteer fire and rescue services. We also are fortunate to have a dedicated core group of career (paid) EMS (Emergency Medical Services) personnel on the Shore who respond to many emergency calls.

The average volunteer puts a lot of time into training, responding to emergency calls, and maintaining equipment and facilities. Our volunteer fire and rescue squads are a key part of America's Homeland Security network.

The volunteers also put an enormous amount of time into fund-raising activities in order to pay for their facilities, equipment, maintenance, and supplies. I recently spoke with a volunteer firefighter who said he did not mind putting a lot of time into responding to emergency calls, but the time needed for fund-raising could be a burden. This summer I attended the Wachapreague and Chincoteague firemen's carnivals, and the New Church Fire Company 4th of July Festival, and I again saw how hard our volunteers work to raise the required funds. I also know volunteer fire companies host many other types of fund-raisers throughout the year. I greatly thank all these volunteers, the women's auxiliaries, and the many others in the community who pitch in to help.

Surrounding states have adopted various incentives, such as state income tax incentives, re-imbursements for training, scholarships, paid uniforms, etc., to help with the recruitment and retention of volunteers. I think state income tax incentives, similar to those in Maryland, are an excellent recommendation. I would also recommend that the state reimburse volunteers for any state-required training and certifications that must be met.

Over the years, the legislature has made some progress in supporting our local emergency services. For example, Virginia implemented the "One for Life" legislation which added $1 on motor vehicle registration fees to support EMS We have now increased this funding source to $4 for every registration.

The Joint Subcommittee Studying Incentives for Fire & Rescue Squad Volunteers will have four meeting this year, and then we will provide a final report to the General Assembly prior to the start of the 2008 Session.

It would be very helpful for the subcommittee to hear from some of our volunteer fire and rescue squad personnel, and from other concerned citizens on the Shore. E-mails, letters, faxes, and requests to appear in person to address the subcommittee at the next meeting can be sent to the attention of our subcommittee staff person, Joan Putney, phone 804-786-3591, e-mail and mailing address Division of Legislative Services, 910 Capitol St., 2nd Floor, Richmond, VA 23219.

It is critical for the Eastern Shore, and for all of Virginia, that the commonwealth move forward with new proposals to help with the retention and recruitment of our volunteer fire and rescue squads.

It is always an honor to serve you in the Senate of Virginia. You are always welcome to call my office toll-free at 1-866-673-7727. You may also e-mail me at

Nick Rerras for VA State Senate
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