About Us | NYS Drill Teams

For over 100 years, fire departments throughout New York State have competed against each other to measure their skills. As motor-driven firefighting equipment was introduced, firemen incorporated these vehicles into their events, alongside more traditional tests of stretching hose and hoisting ladders. These competitions have evolved into a terrific display of basic firefighting skills and teamwork, exhibitions that are one-of-a-kind around the world. Your volunteer department is welcome to compete, and we are here to show you how. .

Mission Statement

Drill teams are a vital component of the department they serve, with the specific purpose of providing the opportunity to hone basic firefighting proficiencies, develop and foster teamwork, build character, teach commitment and discipline, promote physical fitness and conditioning and attract and retain individuals in the volunteer fire service. These purposes are achieved through firematic competition which complements the fire department's primary function of emergency response to fires, medical emergencies, and other calamities. Drill teams consequently instill their members with a life-long commitment to serving their community as highly skilled volunteer firefighters.

I recommend all departments take on an aggressive recruitment and retention campaign, and a department drill team should be considered as a terrific supplement to that program.
- Bob McConville   
Former President, FASNY
The board of the NYS Association of Fire Chiefs has officially recognized NYS Drill Team competition as a top-notch recruitment and retention program.
- Don Corkery   
NYS Association of Fire Chiefs

Benefits of Maintaining A Drill Team

  • 1. Recruitment & Retention

    Convincing today's youth to volunteer is getting increasingly difficult. In order to keep new members coming in, departments state-wide have been budgeting for major public relations campaigns, and major marketing including print, TV, and online advertising. These programs have delivered mixed results. On the other hand, drill teams are cost-effective ways to turn heads and draw interest. When a youngster sees the drill teams compete, they ask one question: "How do I get in?" After they join, they grow a passion for firefighting as a whole, and with the right direction, become effective firefighters for your community. Drill teams keep them in your department longer as well, important since we all know that an experienced firefighter is priceless in the fire service.

  • 2. Team building & Department Pride

    Team Building Exercises aren't just corporate mumbo-jumbo. Local, state and federal government agencies across the country invest in team building exercises to build trust and develop interpersonal working skills. Your department's drill team becomes a way for your firefighters to learn how to come together for a greater good. A successful team is a source of great pride for our departments, and gives every department something to rally behind. Your drill team also helps develop leadership qualities in the members entrusted with managing and overseeing the team.

  • 3. Athletic Activity

    High Schools have football teams. Fire Departments have drill teams. Drill teams practice two times a week, and compete throughout the summer. Some contests include our Class B and C apparatus, others include the members alone. Watch the "Buckets" event, where twelve 45lb buckets are lifted to the arch, and you'll see a team of firefighters working together as athletes. Your drill team will leave the summer healthier and in better shape, a priority for all fire departments.

  • 4. Practice Under Pressure

    Structure fires are down across the country, and that's a good thing. But firefighters know that delivering under pressure is a learned skill, and recreating the intensity of the fire attack is very difficult. The most successful drill teams learn how to perform when the pressure is on. Drill teams have to eliminate distractions, and perform at their best to be successful. Most important, drill team competition takes backbone. When two members from your drill team are entering a second floor window of a private dwelling to VEIS above the fire, you know they won't freeze, or fake a malfunction of their SCBA; Drill team competition and firefighting takes guts.

Questions? Check out Our FAQs

Ranked Reasons for
Maintaining a Drill Team


#1 Recruitment & Retention


#2 Team Building & Department Pride


#3 Athletic Activity


#4 Practice Under Pressure


#5 Firefighting Skills


#6 Networking

  • 5. Firefighting Skills

    Drill teams across the state have been competing since the late 1800s. As such, many drill team events might seem simple compared to today's firefighting evolutions. But the basics are still the same: raising, climbing and operating on ladders, connecting to hydrants, connecting hose couplings and advancing hoselines are all useful skills on the fireground, and drill team members can perform these tasks flawlessly. Your department might not be using the bucket brigade anytime soon, but they WILL need to work as a team - departments across the state benefit when their members know how to work together. In motorized competition, the vehicles used are obviously disparate from those used in emergency responses, but their operation, pumps, and equipment are similar to what would be expected on the fireground.

  • 6. Networking

    Fire Departments throughout the state rely on mutual aid to ensure the safety of their residents. Your next structure fire is not the time to introduce yourself to your neighboring department. At every drill, firefighters from across the area are making contacts and building professional relationships that will benefit their department as a whole. In the corporate world, they call this "networking", but our departments call it family. Next time you need a standby, you want to know how a department runs supply lines, or you want to get some time at a department's training simulator, you can rely on your drill team connections for help.

* Percentages indicate what percentage of respondents agree with the rank of the indicated benefit. For example, 84% represents the amount of participants who consider Retention & Recruitment as the #1 reason why they maintain a drill team. 64% indicates the amount that consider Department Pride as the #2 reason, etc.

Any department member can request our Free Starter Kit to receive everything their department needs to get started. Or for additional help you can use our convenient contact form and we can answer any questions you have, give you more details on what it takes to get into the competition, and give you info to provide your department leadership.
For brand new departments, we will pair you with another drill team currently competing. They will help get you on the track, and answer any questions you might have while you get started.
Drill Teams competing in ground events can get on the track with a few hundred dollars. Drill teams across the state have loaner equipment ready to get you going.
Teams will have 6-8 events to compete in throughout the summer. As the schedule is released, you can see the specific dates. Most teams also practice at least once a week. We can also help you put together a practice course, or get you lined up with a location to practice.
Departments are always merging with another local department to field a full team. Even one or two interested members are welcome.
Absolutely. Send us a message (click here), and we'll get you information you need to get started, as well as contacts for your chiefs and commissioners to reach out and get their questions answered.
Departments with junior drill teams universally agree that these programs are terrific recruitment tools, and deliver the most motivated members to their department when they become of age. Getting started is the same, send us a message and we will get you in touch with the directors from junior programs in your area.
In most instances, drill teams are wholly or partially funded through a very small percentage of fire district or protection budget. Districts and departments should have every confidence that responsible, prudent drill team spending is an appropriate budget item and not a waste of taxpayer dollars. Competitive activities are funded by governments at the town and county level as well. Public funding supports middle and high school sports programs, as well as town and county recreational programs, which usually include competitive sports. These are worthy expenditures because of the opportunities they afford the general population, but few have the added benefit of skill enhancement and team building for their local firefighters.
Auditors across the state recognize that drill team spending is a legitimate recruitment and retention expenditure, and we encourage departments and districts to support their drill team with modest spending, matching the benefit they believe their department can derive from the team.

Drill team expenditures are not precluded by NYS law as long as the governing body is realizing sufficient benefits to justify these expenditures.
Yes, New York State Volunteer Firemen's Benefit Law names drill team tournaments as a covered fire department activity.

According to Section 5 of the Volunteer Firemen's Benefit Law:
The duties and activities in relation to which benefits shall be paid and provided pursuant to this chapter are:

Subsection i. While…practicing for, or participating as a contestant or an official in, any competitive tournament, contest or public exhibition conducted for firefighters which is intended to promote the efficiency of the fire department, fire company or any unit thereof, including necessary travel directly connected therewith other than travel to and returning from such practice.

Importantly, other competitive events are excluded: subsection m. While…working in connection with a fund raising activity of his fire company…including necessary travel directly connected therewith, as well as necessary travel to and necessary travel returning from such activity, but shall not include competitive events in which volunteer firemen are competitors, such as baseball, basketball, football, bowling, tugs of war, water-ball fights, donkey baseball, boxing, wrestling, contests between bands or drum corps, or other competitive events in which volunteer firemen are competitors and which involve physical exertion on the part of the competitors.

Read more at: www.weblaws.org/new_york/laws/n.y._volunteer_firefighters'_benefit_law_section_5

In recent years, the NYS Drill Team Association has implemented significant changes to equipment to ensure that our members can continue to compete with minimal risk. Like firefighting as a whole, we acknowledge that the competition is not without the possibility of danger, but the benefits outlined above outweigh those risks. For motorized competition, our apparatus is inspected by DOT certified mechanics throughout the competition season, as well as a painstaking inspection at the start of the year. Like the rest of the fire service, we strive to learn lessons from any 'close calls', and we continue to push our teams to compete with maximum safety.
If your department has never competed in drill team competition, we recommend considering an OF Division (Old-Fashioned) competition team. We can pair your department with another local department that currently competes, so you have a partner to answer all your questions as you start out. Miller Place Fire Department have been NYS Old-Fashioned champions twice in the past five years, and they started their drill team only seven years ago!
NFPA 1901 is the standard for automotive fire apparatus which has established the best practice that recommends members to be transported in an enclosed cab. Section 1.3.1 states that the standard applies to new fire apparatus "that have 10,000lb or greater gross vehicle weight rating", and "that are designed for use under emergency conditions".

The B and C class competition vehicles are not used for emergency responses, and operate at a GVWR of significantly under 10,000 lbs. A best practices standard has been developed by the New York State Volunteer Firemen's Parade and Drill Team Captains Association (NYSVFP+DTCA), which covers the requirements to maintain maximum safety on these apparatus. The NYSVFP+DTCA is continually striving to increase safety for our members, while maintaining the 100 year tradition of FD drill team competition.

Our Mission

NYS Drill Teams is a professional league of volunteer firefighters from across NY State who compete in firematic competitions. These competitions are geared towards honing basic firefighting proficiencies, developing and fostering teamwork, character-building, commitment, discipline, physical fitness and conditioning. Participation in the league complements each fire department's primary function of emergency response to fires, medical emergencies, and other calamities, while instilling members with a life-long commitment to serving their community as highly skilled volunteer firefighters.

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