Organizations: Firefighters Emerald Society
For firefighters, crisis response does not always end when the smoke clears.
A 32-year-old Morgan County lieutenant and father of a toddler was recently paralyzed from his chest down when his truck overturned en route to a call. So the Firefighters Emerald Society of Metro Atlanta (FESMA) raced into action to deliver his family a check.
Sounding The Alarm: “Even though Morgan County is not part of the 13 metro Atlanta counties that we normally cover, we voted that this was a situation that warranted help,” says Presi-dent Harold Philips, who is also a Cobb County firefighter. “We primarily operate as a benevolence fund, offering assistance to firefighters who are hurt or burned but also to those who are fighting cancer or some other illness. If they are killed, we reach out to their families.”
The Emerald Society began in New York City in 1953 to celebrate the Irish heritage of civil servants.
The Georgia group, with about 100 members on its rolls, also donates time, skills and sweat by mowing lawns, building wheelchair ramps and making household re-pairs while co-workers convalesce.
The Heat Is Always On: Nationally, more than 30,000 firefighters incur injuries every year while extinguishing a fire, but the stakes for job-related accidents are always high, even off-duty. Of the 87 firefighters who died nationwide last year, many suffered heart attacks and strokes after overexertion; some were killed in vehicular collisions; and a few perished during training exercises. Nothing kindles camaraderie quite like shared danger, FESMA members are quick to note.
Brotherhood: “Being Irish is not a requirement to belong to our group or to receive assistance,” Philips says of the Atlanta society, which spun off from the Metro Atlanta Police Emerald Society in 1999. “We like to honor Gaelic heritage, but we have members from all backgrounds.”
Adds Bruce Brower, a retired Gwinnett County firefighter with ancestral roots across the pond, “It’s Irish at the edges, in all the best ways – gossip and stories, adult beverages and riding in the St. Patrick’s Day parade.”
Members pay annual dues and hold dart tournament fund-raisers.
“In the current economy, it will be even more necessary to support the families of our brothers and sisters in the fire service as salaries, benefits and pensions are being cut,” says firefighter Keith Schumacher, a founding member of the chapter.