Many New Yorkers serve their communities as volunteer firefighters and ambulance drivers. Many volunteer first responders engaged in the cleanup of the World Trade Center after 9/11 and suffered injuries and illness. Fortunately, New York law provides benefits for these volunteers who are injured.
All volunteer firefighters may receive benefits if they are active members of a fire company of any New York County, city town, village, or fire district.
Most state volunteer ambulance workers may be entitled to benefits if they are an active volunteer member. Volunteer ambulance companies that are not under contract with a local government may provide optional coverage to their members.
Firefighters and ambulance workers are eligible for benefits when their volunteer company responds as a unit. They may serve their local district or assist another political subdivision. The political subdivision which accepted their services is responsible for paying benefits.
Firefighter or ambulance workers who volunteered to participate in the rescue, recovery, and cleanup of the WTC from September 11, 2001, through September 12, 2002, may also receive benefits. They are eligible if they worked at Ground Zero, the Fresh Kills Landfill, barges, piers, or morgues.
Spouses or dependent of a volunteer firefighter who died in the line of duty or from an existing injury caused by firefighting or ambulance work may receive death benefits.
Covered duties for firefighters
Volunteer firefighters are injured in the line of duty when they are engaged in these activities:
- Participating in a fire or alarm, hazardous material incident or another emergency.
- Travel related to fires and emergencies or other authorized activities.
- Emergency service at another locality if accepted by the officer command at that scene.
- Construction, repair, maintenance, inspection, and other firehouse duties.
- Inspecting property for hazards.
- Attendance at training or fire school.
- Fire prevention.
- Participating in an approved physical fitness class.
- Participating in an authorized drill, parade, funeral, inspection contest or other events involving firefighters.
- Attending a convention or conference as a delegate or representative.
- Testing or working on fire equipment, alarm systems and cisterns.
- Pumping water or substances from a building.
- Inspection of firefighting vehicles and apparatus before delivery.
- Responding to a call for general ambulance service.
- Fundraising at non-competitive events.
Covered activities for ambulance workers
Volunteer ambulance workers are injured in the line of duty when they are engaged in these activities:
- Travel and work related to an accident, alarm, or other duty that the ambulance company responded to.
- Travel related to other authorized activities.
- Emergency service volunteered to another ambulance company if the command officer accepts these services.
- Assistance provided to another ambulance company.
- Duties related to preventing accidents, disasters, or delivery of emergency health care.
- Being a teacher or student at training.
- Construction, testing, inspecting, repairing or maintaining the ambulance facility, its furnishings and equipment, or its vehicles.
- Attendance at any noncompetitive training program.
- Attendance or participating in authorized drills, parades, funerals, inspections, or reviews.
- Working at the ambulance department, its organized unit or company or its facility.
- Practice or participating in any contest or public exhibition for ambulance workers.
- Inspection of ambulance vehicles and apparatus before delivery.
- Attendance at an ambulance workers’ convention or conference of ambulance workers or officers as an authorized delegate or representative.
- Fundraising activity that does not include competitive events.
Injured workers may be entitled to payment of medical care, diagnostic tests, and medications. Under certain circumstances, benefits are paid for disability depending on their severity.
Benefits may also be awarded to pay for rehabilitation and social work services to reduce or eliminate a disability.
Spouses and dependent children of a firefighter or ambulance worker killed in the line of duty may receive cash death benefits.
The workers’ compensation process has many requirements and procedures. Attorneys can help injured volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers through this system and help assure that rights are not lost.