FIRST ARRIVING NETWORK
First Arriving Network
Powered by the First Arriving Network, Reaching 1M+ First Responders Worldwide

When staffing matters

IT ALWAYS MATTERS!

Sooner or later, it’s gonna catch up with em …. the ole “do more with less” approach to Public Safety…. “playing the numbers” … I hate to see who’s gonna have to “pay the price”.

The sad thing is that it’s almost become an “accepted” practice and, a lot of the blame lies on us … the members. Soon after 9/11, after everyone forgot what we are asked to do on a daily basis; our bosses boss asked them to save some money somewhere…. anywhere … everybody had to share the cuts they said.  Public Safety wise, trucks, equipment etc wasn’t going to change so the only place left to look was staffing.

They came to us … hat in hand, talking “hard times” that would soon get better. They needed us to do just a little bit more … a little more with less. Of course we stuck our chests out and said if it needed done, we’d do it …We’re FIREMEN …. it’s what we do. Now, the hole we’ve dug has only gotten deeper and deeper and I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to climb out.

It used to be that Departments running 3 and 3 ( 3 members on an Engine and 3 on a Ladder… counting the driver and Officer) was a joke… now, that’s good staffing. I know of Departments running with 2 and some even sending out a rig with just a driver! How did we let them convince us that these numbers are ok? Why do we continue to allow them to tell the citizens we protect that these same numbers are adequate when we all know THEY’RE NOT?!?

It’s happening everywhere …. closer to home than you may think!

The picture to the left is a fire in Roanoke, Va that occurred just last week. This single incident depleted City Fire/EMS resources. I’m hearing reports of a single City Engine remaining in service but, the local news reported every City Unit was called to the scene.  “We pretty much had all our resources at that fire,” Bradbury said.”

Read my post on the fire by clicking HERE .

Local news coverage HERE, HERE , and HERE

Follow Ironfiremen.com on Face Book, click HERE and “like”

All additional calls for assistance were handled by Mutual-Aid companies from surrounding Jurisdictions  …. some even volunteer. I wonder how many calls “deep” the City was before the system could be put into place and take affect. I wonder what the time delay was and if anyone suffered undue harm because of it. Is this simply the “cost of doing business”?

This is the 2nd fire in as many months that has depleted City resources. The first occurred on June 29th when severe storms tore through the area. Read my post from that night by clicking HERE .

It used to be that the “it only happens once every so often” excuse held water…. or somewhat anyway.  Now, Departments across the country are facing large scale events that are happening much more frequent.  If “playing the numbers” has been an acceptable “planning model”, I wonder what kind of plans these Departments now have in place to handle the next resource depleting event (for some, the next event is due to hit in less than 30 days…we ARE running the “numbers” right?).

I wonder if the “powers to be” thought their resources would become so “taxed” when they approved all the cut backs. The station consolidations and closures.

I wonder if they REALLY think that projects such as a $27 MILLION dollar renovation to a downtown building is worth more than Public Safety?

Well, at least it has a “living wall”, a “Koi pond” and a “Butterfly habitat”!  Click HERE.

Ok, maybe a butterfly “habitat” is important for City development … at least they’re not messing with their pay or pensions …right?? WRONG …click HERE.

How about a $66 MILLION Art Museum? Money well spent?? Hummm CLICK  HERE   HERE and  HERE.

Hey, it’s not just Virginia either … take Texas for example.

There are Departments down there that are REALLY hurting. Rhett had a post up a few weeks back about the Corpus Christi Fire Department.

See Fire Critic’s post (with video) HERE

What make this situation so bad is several items hot in the National news of late.

The first in my mind would be all the wild land fires they’ve been faced with recently. Acres upon acres, house after house burned. I bet the Brothers and Sisters in Texas could talk a while on staffing.

I’d love to see em sit down with Leslie Alexander to have that conversation … well Mr Alexander and Governor Rick Perry…now THAT would be a video worth watching!

Why Leslie Alexander and just who is he??? Well, he’s the guy who owns the Houston Rockets. The NBA team that just paid this guy $25.1 MILLION dollars to play basketball! CLICK HERE

YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!  $25 MILLION DOLLARS for one person … ONE PERSON to play basketball in Houston while just 200 miles away (and in many more areas of Texas) firefighters are putting their lives on the line understaffed and poorly equipped ?!?

Again, I’ll say a lot of the blame lies within ourselves. First, we buy the tickets to see this guy play. We buy the NASCAR tickets where drivers make millions per race weekend. The baseball tickets and $10 stadium beers. We are supporting them but getting none in return.

Why?? Because nobody knows what we do. Maybe it’s as simple as Republican vs Democrat.

I doubt that. The “general public” has no idea what we see and do on a daily basis. You’d be surprised at how many people that see a Fire Company shopping for groceries, think that the City (or Department) that those members work for are paying the bill. How many people in your first due know your schedule? If it’s a 24 hour shift like mine, do you think your everyday “customer” understands what working that kind of shift entails?

How about EMS runs? Do you ever hear “I called for an ambulance..not a fire truck”? Do your citizens understand the types of responses you’re faced with every day? Do they know and understand the levels of training your members are required to have and maintain?

Do they know the additional services your Department provides? Smoke detector installs, chimney inspections, child safety seat installations, school / church safety demonstrations etc.

Do they know your staffing? Do they understand what running with 3 and 3 means? Has someone sat them down and explained what happens when the first unit arrives on a working fire?

One guy driving … the Officer giving a size up, establishing command and setting the stage for incoming companies. That leaves ONE member. Now explain “2 in 2 out”.

The 2nd Engine stops at the hydrant. One firefighter gets out and hooks up. On scene, the driver gets out and assists connecting to the first rig. That leaves the Officer. (we now have 2 available members to fight fire etc).

The Ladder arrives and command needs a search. Don’t forget to ventilate and get some ladders set to the roof and 2nd floor. Which task should they preform first? The driver doesn’t have on gear yet. The Officer and lone firefighter can’t (shouldn’t) split up right … remember 2 in , 2 out … working in pairs.

Now, the Chief shows up along with a Medic unit and Safety Officer. That’s 13 members (6 pieces of apparatus) on scene and and only 4 available to get inside. It almost seems IMPOSSIBLE to accomplish huh?

Read “It’s all in the numbers …” click HERE

Again I’ll ask if you’r citizens are educated as to all the services your members provide and exactly what it takes to do so. How do you educate them? Is the only time your “customers” hear from you during a fund drive? Maybe just at election time or if you you happen to make the paper for whatever reason.

Don’t let every time they hear about or from you be shown in a negative light. Create a positive image of you and your Department and make sure as many people as possible see it! Take PRIDE in the job we do and share it with whomever will listen.

Social Media is a great tool to make it happen ….. you’re reading this aren’t ya? Web sites, Blogs, Face Book, Twitter etc … utilize these tools to get your message out. How about a Citizens Fire Academy?

Volunteer or paid, it doesn’t matter … we all need to do a better job of educating the public.  STAFFING MATTERS!

Stay SAFE and in House!

Captain Wines

Comments - Add Yours

  • Jay

    Hey Capt., 25 million for one player is a great deal, but 1.5 million in retirement with 38 yrs of service is unacceptable for a retired Houston firefighter to leave with. This is what we are dealing with down here.

    http://blog.chron.com/houstonpolitics/2012/06/numbers-differ-on-whether-pension-is-problem/

  • Pingback: Around the Fire Web | Firegeezer()

  • Pingback: Best of the Rest – Black Hat, Staffing Matters?, Denver, Events, and more | The Fire Critic()

  • Bob

    The issue in the fire service is that the focus needs to be on operating with these staffing figures instead of fighting them tooth and nail. Fact is, these positions are gone and theyre our own fault for the most part. “We have met the enemy, and it is us”.

    How can we sit back and get fat on money, benefits, and staffing during a time when we all watched the Auto Industry do the same thing then fall flat on its rear and lose hundreds of thousands of jobs for a product that you can bet more people care about than their local public safety agency. Personal vehicle vs. staffing? Take that poll and see what happens.

    A majority of firefighters want nothing more than to be in a busy company, yet to be in a busy; firefighting company; you need to be in the poor neighborhoods for the most part. So you complain about staffing yet many of us want to operate in neighborhoods where we see fire but dont have the tax base to support doing it “with the right staffing”.

    Make your choice. If the city you work for is only providing you so much staffing then make the smart decisions to keep your people safe while doing your job.

    Educating the public on your “issues” while you recieve a pay check every two weeks and they are worrying about their house being forclosed on is not going to get your anywhere. They could care less.

    When the fire service as a whole takes a historical look at what happens to “big business” when salaries, benefits, and what not begin to outpace the economy, many eyes should open to the fact that this is the new future of our business.

    And with that in mind, be careful about your Citizen Fire Academy, because with that open forum type education come the inevitable questions of: “you make how much? and do what during the day?” “you sleep at work while we pay you” “how many calls do you run a day?” “do you live in the city?” and god forbid you get an educated citizen who begins to ask why we have so many fire trucks running EMS calls and why not more ambulances if our EMS call volume is so high.

    Let me just say that I enjoy reading your blog and will continue to do so because there are very few “firemen” left in this business and we all harken back to the days of plentiful staffing and wood frame dwellings with aggressive firefighting. But the educated among us need to realize those days are over, and worrying about the past will paralyze us in the future.

    • Robert

      Amen….

  • jim

    I can see your point to a bit. If we want to keep staffing, we’re going to have to make concessions with pay and benefits. True or not (i think the problems many cities have are over stated), the public has been told and believes that the city is hanging on by a shoestring and we are part of the problem. Now I’ll debate that because of all the money that is wasted, but I think you are right. It’s hard to argue for 3+ % raises, while everyone else is getting pay cuts or holding steady.

    I think firemen deserve a fair wage, and we’ve definitely did not have that 20-30+ years ago. Perhaps the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction.

    The fact is though that we do need to argue for adequate staffing. We do no good by rolling over and play dead. “Oh dropping us from 4 to 3 men on the truck, forget it just drop to 1 we’ll figure it out.” I don’t know about where you work, but I definitely am not sitting around all day. There is a lot we do, and we need to staffing both on the trucks and number of companies to do it well.

  • James

    Aussie firm seeks donations to launch predictive virtual 3d earth fire mapping mobile app http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/192919?a=746377 check this out, if your concerned about fires, this app may save your life