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Harckham Bill Helping to Guarantee Health Benefits for Volunteer Firefighters Passes in Senate

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Seal of the New York State Senate

The New York State Senate unanimously passed legislation this week sponsored by State Senator Pete Harckham that will help expand health benefits for volunteer firefighters. The legislation, when approved by the Assembly and enacted by the governor, will make permanent the long-standing law covering disability determinations for volunteer firefighters due to certain lung disabilities.

“Volunteer firefighters statewide often incur major diseases and ailments in the course of protecting our residents and businesses, so we must reciprocate and safeguard the health of these brave first responders whenever possible,” said Harckham. “This bill will eliminate a sunset clause for lung care while streamlining access to much deserved health benefits.”

Volunteer firefighters provide an invaluable service to New York State and our individual communities. Accordingly, it simply makes sense to prevent unnecessary worry on the part of volunteer firefighters and their families as to whether or not they will receive their benefits.

Harckham’s bill (S.1176) regarding firefighters with lung maladies will amend a 2006 law that grants important lung health care benefits, yet needs to be renewed through legislative approval and enacted every two years. Similar health benefits for full-time firefighters, though, do not need to go through the biannual approval process—even though career and volunteer firefighters are exposed to the same risks.

The risks are, indeed, significant. Lung disabilities for firefighters exceed those experienced by the average adult population in the U.S. In the line of duty, firefighters are exposed to gases, toxins and other substances that have damaging short- and long-term effects on the respiratory system. Some of the toxic gases and respiratory tract irritants that firefighters are at risk of inhaling include sulfur dioxide, hydrogen chloride, phosgene, nitrous oxides, aldehydes and particulate matter.

The New York State Senate passed a similar bill introduced by Harckham last year, but the State Assembly did not approve the legislation. When enacted, the legislation will benefit over 80,000 volunteer firefighters and their families across New York.

“We would like to thank Senator Harckham for his hard work in getting this important piece of legislation again passed in the State Senate,” said Edward Tase, Jr., president of the Firefighters Association of the State of New York (FASNY). “New York’s volunteer firefighters are exposed to dangerous chemicals while fighting fires that may cause lasting lung damage. FASNY wholeheartedly supports this legislation, which will take this long standing benefit and make it permanent, further strengthening this critical safety net for our volunteer firefighters. We are ready to work with the Assembly and we urge them to follow suit and pass this in their house.”

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Rockland County Soil And Water Conservation District Is Recruiting Volunteers

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Want to collect important scientific data all within your local stream? Come participate in this year’s WAVE Basic Training!

The Rockland County Soil and Water Conservation District is recruiting volunteers for the Water Assessment by Volunteer Evaluator (WAVE) program for 2024, a NYS Department of Environmental Conservation project that is coordinated locally by the Rockland County SWCD. Volunteers collect and identify benthic macroinvertebrates – indicators of water quality – in local county streams to help determine any impaired streams.

In-person training runs from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 26 at Kakiat County Park in Ramapo. Please RSVP by Tuesday, June 25 by email to [email protected] or call 845-364-2669. Rockland County Division of Environmental Resources

 

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Rockland County DOH Shares Tips On How To Stay Cool In The Heat And Humidity

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Rockland County Department of Health urges residents to take these simple steps to stay cool and help prevent heat-related illnesses:

  • Use air-conditioning to cool down.  Stay indoors in a place with working air conditioning. If you do not have air conditioning at home, spend time in air-conditioned places such as libraries, movies, malls, or other public buildings during the hottest hours of the day. Cooling centers are places where people may go to cool down during hot weather. You can call your town or village for a list of cooling centers near you. Before going to a cooling center, it’s important to call ahead to make sure it’s open, as some cooling centers are only open during regular business hours and during officially declared heat emergencies and extreme heat events.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink more fluids. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and sugary drinks. If your doctor generally limits the amount you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot.
  • Beat the heat with cool showers and baths.
  • Stay out of the sun as much as possible.  Avoid activities that involve a lot of energy or effort during the hottest part of the day, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., and take many breaks from physical activity.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing to help keep cool.
  • Wear sunscreen and a ventilated hat (such as straw or mesh) when outside in the sun and even when it is cloudy.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about any medicine or drugs you take. Certain medications can increase the risk of heat-related illness. These medications affect the body’s ability to sweat and stay cool. Do NOT stop taking medication unless instructed to do so by your doctor.
  • Never leave children, pets, or those with special needs in a parked car, even briefly. Even with a window cracked open, temperatures in the car can become dangerous within a few minutes.  Always check that no one is left inside your vehicle before locking it up.
  • Keep your pets safe. Asphalt gets very hot and can burn your pet’s paws, so walk your dog on the grass if possible, and bring lots of water on walks.
  • Check in on your family, friends, and neighbors.  Heat and humidity can be dangerous for anyone, especially older adults, young children, and those with chronic medical conditions such as heart and breathing or lung problems.
  • Check the Air Quality Index to find out how clean or polluted your air is, what associated health effects might be a concern for you, and whether  you need to limit outdoor activities. Rockland County is considered part of the NYC Metro region. If you would like to get air quality notifications, sign up for Enviroflash.

For more information about keeping cool in the summer heat, visit the New York State Department of Health

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