Written by Carol Frank Friday, 17 September 2010 00:00
Most Great Neck residents know Bob Lincoln from his position of leadership as a commissioner in the Great Neck Park District and his strong ideals of promoting citizens participation in decision-making, transparency in operating the many and varied recreational programs and caring for the great physical assets of our parks. He has also served the community as a volunteer with the Vigilant Fire Company in many roles, including that of chief.
But he wears another important hat.
In his professional career, he has been directly involved in training Nassau County volunteer firefighters. Now, he has been promoted to serve as the executive director of the Nassau County Vocational Education and Extension Board(VEEB). As a special school district, the VEEB operates the Nassau County Fire Service Academy in Old Bethpage and the Emergency Medical Service Academy in East Meadow. He will now be serving as the superintendent of both academies. In addition, the VEEB operates a School of Practical Nursing located in Uniondale and the Firefighters Museum located at the Cradle of Aviation.
Mr. Lincoln started working at the VEEB in 1978 as an instructor. He is the first person to rise through the ranks and achieve the position of executive director and superintendent.
The Fire Service Academy includes a 14-acre campus used to train Nassau County’s 71 volunteer fire departments. In addition, the academy provides safety and emergency incident training to private industry and public agencies.
This agency is providing training for three essential services for Nassau County, fire fighting, emergency medical services and practical nursing.
Mr. Lincoln told the Record his greatest and most immediate challenge is budgetary. VEEB contracts with Nassau County to provide these services and with the Nassau County budget in critical condition, it will be difficult to maintain the level of training and sustain budgetary cuts. Along with all other agencies, keeping up with increasing pension and hospitalization costs for employees will add even more financial pressure. The nursing division will not be as seriously affected as it is tuition-based and many of the students receive grants and tuition assistance from various sources. As a special school district, the programs receive some state funding, but New York State has its own woes.
According to Mr. Lincoln, County Executive Edward Mangano is “very supportive and understands the importance of the services we provide,” but Mr. Lincoln is looking for ways to be more cost effective. He says, “While we do have some full-time people on staff, we also have per diem instructors which helps keep our costs down.”
New volunteer firefighters receive 80 hours of instruction at the Academy which is supplemented by training they receive back at their fire houses. EMTs receive 140-160 hours of training at the Academy and also have their skills honed back at the fire houses. Both academies meet National Fire Protection Association standards for training as well as Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards.
Centralized training for firefighters began in New York State in the 1920s and the Bethpage facility was opened in 1959. Mr. Lincoln says, “The idea of consolidating training for local fire departments was a good one because it provides not only efficiency, but continuity of training.”
He adds, “Training is a lot more sophisticated than standing around squirting water from a hose...there is a real science to fire protection and fire fighting. You need to understand hydraulics, chemistry and physics..it needs more acknowledgment of the complexity involved in fire fighting.”
Although he is bracing himself for the challenges of budget cuts, Mr. Lincoln is very excited about the cooperative relationship being formed between the academies and Nassau Community College. Although plans for more coordination are in the early stages now, he noted that, for example, the college offers a two-year associate degree in fire science which can lead to a four-year engineering degree needed for designing fire protection systems. He said, “National Grid and other companies have their own in-house fire safety departments...It’s a growing field...I feel lucky that I have moved into this position at a time when these fields are blossoming.”