I don't know about you but that word scares the heck out of me. Media images remind us that it is quick with thick smoke turning the familiar into a blackened maze. So, what do we on the affluent North Shore do? Well, we have a problem. We can buy expensive alarm systems but there's one thing we can't buy... Volunteers.
That's right, like most of Nassau and Suffolk, we have volunteer fire departments. Remember that word, "volunteer." It is not an auxilliary to another "professional" department. This is it.
So, who is a volunteer? These are not people with nothing else to do. They are parents who would rather be home with their kids; proprietors and workers, who would rather be putting time into their businesses that would yield them a financial return; teachers, lawyers and journalists whose clients demand a result on time regardless of whether they were out all night at an alarm; and students, who may miss critical time to keep up with studies to name just a few. Basically, they are your neighbors, which is a nice face to see when all else seems to be crumbling. They are friends who give up that precious commodity-time which, as we all know, is money.
When that alarm sounds, these neighbors leave their homes, friends, obligations and businesses to go to the firehouse, get the appropriate equipment and go to the scene. They do this for real fires, and false alarms, ambulance calls, toxic spills and just about any community emergency that could come to your mind. They cover all of the schools and we are lucky to have several school district employees who are volunteers. The training, with requirements, is as "professional," time consuming and intense as that which a paid department would receive.
So, the next time a mailing arrives from the fire department, don't just toss it in the round file. Take a good look at it. Look at your home and your family and know what you cannot afford to lose. Know also what you CAN afford to lose...Time. And, just maybe, you could volunteer.
Elizabeth T. Geiger