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Firehouse: The San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD) is down about 300 firefighters. Is there a plan for the future to hire new firefighters and promote EMTs?
Hayes-White: In the past few years, we have been unable to match retirements with new hires due to a challenging economy. Thus, there has been a heavier reliance on overtime. While this has proven to be more fiscally efficient, we are now at a point where it is not operationally prudent. Fortunately, we have a mayor, Edwin M. Lee, who has prioritized public safety and is a great supporter of the San Francisco Fire Department. Beginning last year, we hired a class of firefighters. Our plan is to hire a class every year for the next six years.
We have also been able to staff up our Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Division with single-function emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics. Our upcoming firefighter academy will be comprised of some of our EMS Division members who will cross-train to become firefighters.
Firehouse: I understand a new firehouse will be built for Station 1, another new station near China Basin and several others will be torn down and rebuilt. Will more stations be rebuilt or renovated?
Hayes-White: The City and County of San Francisco is experiencing continued growth within its 49 square miles. In an effort to keep up with this growth and fulfill our mission, we will be adding a new fire station in the China Basin/Mission Bay area, which is home to our San Francisco Giants and future home to the Golden State Warriors and UCSF Women and Children’s Hospital. In addition, we engaged in a public-private partnership to move out of the quarters of Fire Station 1 and into a brand-new facility a few blocks away. Station 1’s current facility will be used to expand the Museum of Modern Art. In exchange for this property, we will be moving into a privately financed, state-of-the-art firehouse later this year – a win/win.
The voters of San Francisco have been supportive of public safety as well. We have been the beneficiaries of several general obligation bond measures that have allowed us to seismically retrofit, renovate and repair many of our aging facilities. Two of our stations will be rebuilt entirely. Very exciting times for the SFFD!
Firehouse: Apparatus purchasing has been slowed. Is the purchase of new apparatus needed and how will the purchasing be made adhering to the budget?
Hayes-White: With the downturn in the economy, our ability to purchase apparatus has taken a hit and not allowed us to keep up with our apparatus replacement plan. We have secured funding over the next two fiscal years to purchase 10 ambulances, 10 triple combination pumpers and 4 aerial trucks. This will go a long way in getting us back on track.
Firehouse: Has the EMS workload in the city increased? Is there enough staffing and ambulances to keep up with the daily demand for service? Do you work with private hospitals to cover the city?
Hayes-White: EMS workload and overall call volume have been trending upward over the past few years. Total calls for service in 2011 were approximately 120,000; with the ratio of fire to EMS calls running 35%:65%. On average, the daily supply and demand for ambulances is met. Surges in the system are variable in cause and cannot be readily predicted unless historical data exists such as for some special events. When these surges occur, there is not a delay in the arrival of advanced life support (ALS), as 29 to 35 of SFFD engines per day are ALS and have a firefighter/paramedic onboard. They provide immediate assessment and advanced life support until an ALS ambulance arrives on the scene.
Our system is not a hospital-based response system. The EMS system in San Francisco is a dynamically deployed, shift-based system. The City and County of San Francisco has been the predominant provider of ambulance/911 EMS response since 1867. The SFFD is the majority provider of EMS response and transport. There are two private-ambulance advanced life support providers that work with the SFFD (American Medical Response and King American).