Meet Tom

By Laura Towers posted 03-01-2021 08:00

Get to know your fellow NVFC members!


Tom Merrill serves as fire commissioner for the Snyder Fire District in upstate New York. You might recognize him from some of the trainings he has conducted for the NVFC, including a webinar on Professional Development for the Fire Officer

How did you get involved in the fire service?
When I was 19 years old and going to a local college, I worked at a supermarket. One day one of my co-workers who was the same age as me simply asked if I wanted to join the local volunteer fire department. He had joined at 16, and his father used to be chief. That's all it took to start me out on what has been to date a 38-year journey.

What came as the biggest surprise to you after you started volunteering?
The fire service is a second family you immediately become part of. It truly is a brotherhood and sisterhood, and it carries with you as you travel the country. You wear that Maltese cross and you earn respect from citizens around you and attract the attention of fellow firefighters everywhere who instantly become new friends.  

What's one thing you wish all of your community members knew about your department?
My department is made up of community members of all ages, education levels, and occupations. We extend membership to everybody from age 16 on up and really would like to encourage any residents to consider joining. I would also like to remind them that the department is 100% volunteer. 

How has the NVFC helped you as a volunteer?
In so many ways! The tremendous number of resources available to help recruit new members; the tremendous amount of examples and templates available to help develop and implement SOPs and SOGs for a variety of programs; the informational webinars, videos, articles, and courses covering a wide range of important topics (operationally as well as administratively); the Training Summit, which is such a great venue not just because of the great classes presented, but the networking opportunities that occur at them; Volunteer Voices offering free advice and guidance on pretty much any topic of concern to a volunteer fire department member...I am a big NVFC advocate!

f you could keep one snack on hand at your fire station at all times, what would it be?
Pretzels! We have 'em, and I say keep 'em!  They're my kryptonite. Our department keeps a wide range of snacks on hand for the membership, and just recently our board of direc
tors has started looking into purchasing more healthy snack options. 

Do you have any interesting hobbies that keep you occupied when you're not working or volunteering?
Anything history related, I am all over it. I love American history, whether it's reading about it or visiting an historic site, I can't get enough of it. I also write quite a bit and put on presentations on a variety of volunteer fire service topics. I enjoy traveling the country and presenting at and attending various trade shows, conferences, and seminars where I meet so many great brother and sister firefighters.