Vitale Bill Establishing Task Force to Attract and Bolster Volunteer First Responder Clears Senate

TRENTON – A resolution sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale that would create a task force to study and make recommendations to help retain and recruit volunteer first responders across New Jersey was approved today by the full Senate.

“Volunteers play a critical role in managing emergency response before, during and after an event,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “This working task force will provide the necessary tools and recommendations we need to retain and recruit more volunteers in our communities across the state.”

The joint resolution, SJR-23, establishes a 15-member “Special Task Force on Volunteer Retention and Recruitment” to study and make recommendations for short-term and long-term strategies, incentives, and policies for the retention and recruitment of the State’s volunteer first responders to ensure their ranks stabilize and grow in order to be able to adequately service the communities in New Jersey.   The task force would be charged with, but not limited to, the evaluation of incentives, training and recertification requirements, and the Length of Service Award Program (LOSAP) for volunteer first responders. 

The 15-member task force would be comprised of the following members:

  • The Commissioner of Health or a designee, who is to serve ex-officio;
  • The Director of the Office of Emergency Medical Services in the Department of Health or a designee, who is to serve ex-officio;
  • The Director of the Division of Fire Safety in the Department of Community Affairs or a designee, who is to serve ex-officio;
  • A representative of the New Jersey State First Aid Council, appointed by the President of the Senate;
  • A representative of the New Jersey State Firemen’s Association who is a member of an all-volunteer fire company, appointed by the President of the Senate;
  • A representative of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly;
  • A representative of the New Jersey Association of Counties, appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly;
  • Two public members who are volunteer first responders, appointed by the President of the Senate;
  • A public member who is a member of an all-volunteer ambulance, first aid and rescue squad, appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly;
  • A public member who is a member of an all-volunteer fire company, appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly;
  • Two members of the Senate, who shall not be from the same political party, appointed by the President of the Senate; and
  • Two members of the General Assembly, who shall not be from the same political party, appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly

All appointments to the task force would be made within 90 days of the effective date of the bill. The task force would be required to report its findings and recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature no later than 12 months following the date of the task force’s initial meeting.

“There are so many residents out there looking to give back to their communities and volunteering for our emergency response departments is a great way to contribute,” Vitale said. “Developing strategies for recruitment and retention is vital to making sure we are able to adequately meet the needs of communities throughout the state.”

The resolution cleared the full Senate with a vote of 35-0. It next heads to the Assembly for further consideration.