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    Default Undermanned crews. A disaster waiting to happen

    An interesting arcticle on the front page today, A FF and 2 civilians trapped in a basement because the nearest station was undermanned. The arcticle is a bit unclear on how many FF respond on an engine, but it sounds like 3. That is a disaster just looking for a place and time to happen. IMO, 5 is absolute minimum although I know many are responding with 4. I believe there was an article on here where a councilman in a city wanted the manning cut to 2! If this keeps up, there are going to have to be some hard decisions made as to whether to go in undermanned, i.e. 1 man on a hose, no back up, or to stand in the yard and surround and drown. There may already have been cases that this ill thought out notion has resulted in loss of life, if not, there will be. Either FF or civilians or both will die!

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    The station in question is staffed with three, and they respond with either the ambulance or the engine. When the box came in (they were 1st due) they had been dispatched on an EMS call minutes before. Minimum staffing for the department is three (officer + 2 FF) on an engine.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tfd181 View Post
    The station in question is staffed with three, and they respond with either the ambulance or the engine. When the box came in (they were 1st due) they had been dispatched on an EMS call minutes before. Minimum staffing for the department is three (officer + 2 FF) on an engine.
    Thanks for the clarification on staffing. To me, three is absolutely wrong. If they are the only fire truck dispatched or available, how can they in reasonable safety effect a rescue in an involved structure? Problem is, many, possibly most will attempt it and the result is predictable. We will have LODD as well as more civilian casualties. Possibly its better to cut down the number of stations but make sure the ones operating have full crews.I don't know that that wouldraise response times that much, but at least when the crews got there, they could do a complete job.

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    The problem comes to the politicians. They need to cut the FD budget because they need to supply themselves with vehicles, office remodels. Our commissioners spent a million bucks preparing land and working to get a Wal Mart in the area that never even happened.

    Before I say this I am not knocking road workers. Some off those guys work hard and if it wasn't for them we would not even be able to drive but......

    Politicians seem to use the road department to give friends and relatives jobs. Road departments are way over staffed. I have never seen a crew on a job where all of the crew was working. Usually two or three out of the ten that are there.

    ===Council Meeting===

    Forget about keeping the people protected with fire ad police. Lets hire 20 people to cut grass. Over budget, let's cut fire and police. They just sleep and ride around all day anyway. But please whatever you do, do not make me drive the same vehicle two years in a row. When someone dies we can blame it on the fire and police since they should have been there instead of sleeping or eating donuts. Hey the sanitation department has a surplus in their budget can we use that money to support the fire and police. HAHAHA no we need to use that money to build a new office building for us. Ours is 5 years old now.

    ===============

    I am sorry the irresponsibility of our officials is ridiculous and it goes right through me.

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    Angry

    We have the same problem with my dept.
    staff everything with 3 ff, closing down stations, and brown outs.
    BUT we can spend a MILLION dollars to relocate homeless people!!!
    I dont get it!!!!

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    Exclamation I know all about insufficient staffing

    Our department runs two engine companies with a minimum staffing of two members on each company. This summer, money got tight and we had several people out long-term with injury, illness or military leave. The decision was made to brown-out the second engine company instead of paying overtime for a fourth firefighter.

    As a IAFF local, we went to the news media to highlight the problem, which we thought to be dangerous to our members and the citizens. As a result, some wise people realized not only that one engine company in a city of 15,000 is grossly insufficient but that running two two-person companies isn't ideal, either.

    Only a couple of days after the brown-outs were ceased, the "what ifs" stopped being hypotheticals. Everything we had been preaching about came true. With one engine company on a cardiac EMS run, the department was punched out for an apartment fire. Had the fire happened just one week earlier, there would have been no engine company available to respond. Any response by volunteers or mutual aid would have been delayed. As it was, the guys on scene treated multiple occupants for smoke inhalation. What would the outcome have been if the fire department was delayed another four or five minutes?

    Sometimes, we have the chance to save lives through politics and advocacy instead of running into burning buildings or doing CPR. I think this is one example of where that's exactly what happened.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cozmosis View Post
    Our department runs two engine companies with a minimum staffing of two members on each company. This summer, money got tight and we had several people out long-term with injury, illness or military leave. The decision was made to brown-out the second engine company instead of paying overtime for a fourth firefighter.

    As a IAFF local, we went to the news media to highlight the problem, which we thought to be dangerous to our members and the citizens. As a result, some wise people realized not only that one engine company in a city of 15,000 is grossly insufficient but that running two two-person companies isn't ideal, either.

    Only a couple of days after the brown-outs were ceased, the "what ifs" stopped being hypotheticals. Everything we had been preaching about came true. With one engine company on a cardiac EMS run, the department was punched out for an apartment fire. Had the fire happened just one week earlier, there would have been no engine company available to respond. Any response by volunteers or mutual aid would have been delayed. As it was, the guys on scene treated multiple occupants for smoke inhalation. What would the outcome have been if the fire department was delayed another four or five minutes?

    Sometimes, we have the chance to save lives through politics and advocacy instead of running into burning buildings or doing CPR. I think this is one example of where that's exactly what happened.
    Its great to hear that you and your people handled everything with no untoward consequences and also that your people would make the effort to inform the public of what the potentials were. I hope more get onboard with this.
    I guess one thing I would like to put forward is the hypothesis that if cutbacks are coming, are we better off closing a station to ensure that the other stations have adequate manning, or do we keep going on trying to do more with less manpower?

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    Quote Originally Posted by BryanLoader View Post
    I guess one thing I would like to put forward is the hypothesis that if cutbacks are coming, are we better off closing a station to ensure that the other stations have adequate manning, or do we keep going on trying to do more with less manpower?
    I think that's completely dependent on the individual department.

    In our case, we run a lot of EMS and fewer fires than neighboring departments. With volunteers as supplemental staffing, it's better to have two under-staffed engine companies than one sufficiently-staffed company if given the choice between the two.

    Obviously, we will continue to advocate three-person minimum staffing for both companies. As a local, we try to demonstrate our willingness to help the community every chance we get... But we also freely explain how our staffing levels could prevent us from providing the service they expect.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cozmosis View Post
    I think that's completely dependent on the individual department.

    In our case, we run a lot of EMS and fewer fires than neighboring departments. With volunteers as supplemental staffing, it's better to have two under-staffed engine companies than one sufficiently-staffed company if given the choice between the two.

    Obviously, we will continue to advocate three-person minimum staffing for both companies. As a local, we try to demonstrate our willingness to help the community every chance we get... But we also freely explain how our staffing levels could prevent us from providing the service they expect.
    We're in a similar situation, except we don't currently do regular EMS runs, but still see a good bit of fire. We don't have volunteers to supplement our staffing, but we're also better off with our 2 under-staffed units (from different stations) than 1 fully-staffed unit on-duty.

    We're at 2 or 3 on a unit currently and working on getting that to be at least 3 every day.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FireMedic049 View Post
    We're in a similar situation, except we don't currently do regular EMS runs, but still see a good bit of fire. We don't have volunteers to supplement our staffing, but we're also better off with our 2 under-staffed units (from different stations) than 1 fully-staffed unit on-duty.

    We're at 2 or 3 on a unit currently and working on getting that to be at least 3 every day.
    OK with a 3 man engine, you're first on scene, next unit is about 5 minutes behind. Its a 2 story residential, obvious signs of occupancy, 0100h. Signs of fire at eaves, smoke. Whats your protocols for entry, suppression, and search?

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    Quote Originally Posted by BryanLoader View Post
    Its great to hear that you and your people handled everything with no untoward consequences and also that your people would make the effort to inform the public of what the potentials were. I hope more get onboard with this.
    I guess one thing I would like to put forward is the hypothesis that if cutbacks are coming, are we better off closing a station to ensure that the other stations have adequate manning, or do we keep going on trying to do more with less manpower?
    I think a lot of it depends on the overall size of the department and the current staffing levels. Cutting one FF on each unit in a department like FDNY is not going to have the same impact as cutting one FF on each unit in small department with only 2 units on-duty and current staffing of 2-3 FFs per unit.

    One line of thought is that it's better to run under-staffed than to close stations because it's much easier to add a FF to existing units than it is to reopen that station and company.

    It also isn't necessarily about doing more with less manpower in those situations. Say your response is normally 3E, 1T with 16 FFs and manpower gets cut. If you still respond 3 & 1, but now with 12 FFs, then that might be the case. However, if you change the response to 4E and 2T with 18 FFs to make up for that cut, then on scene staffing might not be largely affected. The down side to this is now you've used 2 additional units that you didn't have before and that might affect your capability to respond an additional alarm or respond to other alarms.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BryanLoader View Post
    OK with a 3 man engine, you're first on scene, next unit is about 5 minutes behind. Its a 2 story residential, obvious signs of occupancy, 0100h. Signs of fire at eaves, smoke. Whats your protocols for entry, suppression, and search?
    For us, it's rare that the second unit is 5 minutes behind the first. Most of the time we're arriving fairly close together - the bulk of our fires occur between the two stations rather than on the edges of the city.

    If there's an obvious rescue present (i.e. person in the window), then they will be the primary focus of the first unit. Otherwise, the driver will do the pump set up and the other 2 FFs will advance a line for fire attack. FFs off the second unit will perform the search.

    With limited on-duty staffing, you have to really prioritize the tasks needing to be performed. For us, it's very rare that a report of "entrapment" turns out to be true or that "signs of occupancy" produces a victim. So we've found that as a general rule, in the absence of the "obvious rescue situation" we get more value from putting water on the fire first without the resources to do both immediately. This however, doesn't mean that they aren't looking for occupants along the way.

    It's certainly not ideal, but it's the way things are right now. We try not to try and do "too much" but that doesn't always happen and fortunately we haven't gotten bitten so far.
    Last edited by FireMedic049; 10-30-2009 at 11:21 PM.

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    We operate as a primarily volunteer department with a daytime paid staffing of 1 shift firefighter, 1 part-time day firefighter, myself and the Deputy Chief. We generally have at least 2-3 volunteers around the station most of the day as well.

    Assuming we have no volunteers and both myself and DC are at the station, the DC will take his own vehicle, and generally I will drive the engine with the shift and daytime firefighter bunkering out. As per our mutual aid agreement with the parish EMS service, the ambo housed at our station will go out of the service and one of them will drive the rescue to the scene. In some cases, where one of the paramedics are pump trained, they will drive the engine and pump it at the scene, and either myself or one of the 2 firefighters will drive the rescue then bunker out on scene.

    Saturday and Sundays we have the shift firefighter and 2 daytime personnel, with one covering the DC's spot.

    Again, with the usual compliment of 2-3 volunteers at the station, we can generally fill at least 4 seats per vehicle.

    In addition, we average another 6-7 vollies responding from home for daytime runs.

    At night, we have one paid shift firefighter plus ride-out members. In the event that there are no ride-out members, the parish EMS paramedic will drive the engine and the shift firefighter will bunker out. A responding volunteer will pickup the rescue. We average a volunteer response of 30 members for an evening structure fire call so manpower or the response of our other engines and tankers are generally not an issue.

    There are currently plans to hire one additional firefighter per shift towards the middle of next year. Personally, I find this wasteful and unnecessary given our vollie response, and see much better uses for the money. Hopefully those plans will change.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    There are currently plans to hire one additional firefighter per shift towards the middle of next year. Personally, I find this wasteful and unnecessary given our vollie response, and see much better uses for the money. Hopefully those plans will change.
    Why do you oppose it? Not enough maintenance, or janitorial work, or equipment testing, or preplans, or inspections, to keep them busy? Oh yeah and when you deem it a serious enough call they can be firefighters too!!
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    Why do you oppose it? Not enough maintenance, or janitorial work, or equipment testing, or preplans, or inspections, to keep them busy? Oh yeah and when you deem it a serious enough call they can be firefighters too!!

    I oppose it because the vast majority of the time we simply do not need any additional paid staff, and in our case, it is simply a waste of the taxpayers money. There are very few times that, because of our active volunteer base, we are shorthanded in a typical year, and even fewer, if any times, that our being shorthanded leads to anything other than a little more grass being burned.

    The majority of our structure fires occur nights and weekends, when volunteer response is strong.

    The additional 150,000 cost of adding one additional firefighter per shift cannot be, IMO, justified, especially when you could take a fraction of that money and direct it towards volunteer recruitment, incentives and retention, which in our case, would in the long run, put far more (volunteer) firefighters on the fireground than the one man per shift the entire 150K would get you. The remainder we could redirect to PPE, communications and training, which in the long run would have a positive impact on retention, hence, more volunteers and even less need for those additional 3 paid positions.

    And no, there isn't enough testing or maintenance work to justify even another part-time or full-time daytime position, much rather another firefighter per shift given our current volunteer involvement and response, with the exception of annual hose testing and possibly, hydrant testing.

    I think part of the motivation is to spend our increasing revenue. last year spent less than half of our total revenues and carried over half of our budget (about 470K).
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 11-03-2009 at 10:39 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FyredUp View Post
    Why do you oppose it? Not enough maintenance, or janitorial work, or equipment testing, or preplans, or inspections, to keep them busy? Oh yeah and when you deem it a serious enough call they can be firefighters too!!
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post

    The majority of our structure fires occur nights and weekends, when volunteer response is strong.
    This may be the single stupidest thing i've ever seen here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sjb326 View Post
    This may be the single stupidest thing i've ever seen here.
    You must not have read a lot of his previous posts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    Why do you oppose it? Not enough maintenance, or janitorial work, or equipment testing, or preplans, or inspections, to keep them busy? Oh yeah and when you deem it a serious enough call they can be firefighters too!!

    I oppose it because the vast majority of the time we simply do not need any additional paid staff, and in our case, it is simply a waste of the taxpayers money. There are very few times that, because of our active volunteer base, we are shorthanded in a typical year, and even fewer, if any times, that our being shorthanded leads to anything other than a little more grass being burned.

    The majority of our structure fires occur nights and weekends, when volunteer response is strong.

    The additional 150,000 cost of adding one additional firefighter per shift cannot be, IMO, justified, especially when you could take a fraction of that money and direct it towards volunteer recruitment, incentives and retention, which in our case, would in the long run, put far more (volunteer) firefighters on the fireground than the one man per shift the entire 150K would get you. The remainder we could redirect to PPE, communications and training, which in the long run would have a positive impact on retention, hence, more volunteers and even less need for those additional 3 paid positions.

    And no, there isn't enough testing or maintenance work to justify even another part-time or full-time daytime position, much rather another firefighter per shift given our current volunteer involvement and response, with the exception of annual hose testing and possibly, hydrant testing.

    I think part of the motivation is to spend our increasing revenue. last year spent less than half of our total revenues and carried over half of our budget (about 470K).
    New and Updated website, Same old stupid sh t!

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    Last edited by BULL321; 11-04-2009 at 01:19 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    Why do you oppose it? Not enough maintenance, or janitorial work, or equipment testing, or preplans, or inspections, to keep them busy? Oh yeah and when you deem it a serious enough call they can be firefighters too!!

    I oppose it because the vast majority of the time we simply do not need any additional paid staff, and in our case, it is simply a waste of the taxpayers money. There are very few times that, because of our active volunteer base, we are shorthanded in a typical year, and even fewer, if any times, that our being shorthanded leads to anything other than a little more grass being burned.

    The majority of our structure fires occur nights and weekends, when volunteer response is strong.

    Really? Is that part of the Bossier Parrish fire staffing plan? You plan most of your fire responses at night and on weekends so volunteer staffing is high? Do your residents make an appointment to have a fire?

    The staffing this with you is simply ridiculous. I can go back and find where you have said your volunteer staffing was inadequate and that was why you needed you exterior qualified guys. So your oh so few interior qualified guys could go fight the fire. Ever since the adding paid staffing argument has been raised suddenly your volly staffing has miraculously blossomed into 2 or 3 guys hanging around the station all day (I suggest they get a life or a job), and 6 or 7 additional responding from home.

    Your nonchalant attitude about "our being shorthanded leads to anything other than a little more grass being burned" shows a complete lack of compassion and understanding for the community you supposedly serve. Golly what if one of those times you are understaffed gramma billie Bobbette's house catches fire? And even worse she is trapped inside? Mutual aid is let's see which is it 10, 20, or more, minutes away? Get a grip, you as a supposed Public Education person know that fires in homes occur at ALL HOURS of the day or night. So to say because you have adequate staffing at night and on weekends but lack it at other times is a disaster waiting to happen.



    The additional 150,000 cost of adding one additional firefighter per shift cannot be, IMO, justified, especially when you could take a fraction of that money and direct it towards volunteer recruitment, incentives and retention, which in our case, would in the long run, put far more (volunteer) firefighters on the fireground than the one man per shift the entire 150K would get you. The remainder we could redirect to PPE, communications and training, which in the long run would have a positive impact on retention, hence, more volunteers and even less need for those additional 3 paid positions.

    $150,000 for one guy? Seriously, what are you paying them and what is the benefit package? Because frankly that is absolute nonsense for an entry level firefighter and you know it.

    And no, there isn't enough testing or maintenance work to justify even another part-time or full-time daytime position, much rather another firefighter per shift given our current volunteer involvement and response, with the exception of annual hose testing and possibly, hydrant testing.

    Wait a minute, you admitted above you were short staffed at times. So which is it? You ALWAYS have adequate volunteers or you are short staffed at times? Kind of convenient for me when you contradict yourself in the same posting.

    I think part of the motivation is to spend our increasing revenue. last year spent less than half of our total revenues and carried over half of our budget (about 470K). Must be nice to be able to carry over budget money. Here in Wisconsin it is spend it or lose it. Frankly if you have that much budget left over you can easily afford to increase staffing and offer a more rapid and staffed response to emergencies. Either that or give the money back to the tax payers because you are obviously fattening up your budget request if you have $470K left over at the end of the year.
    Fuuny thing is your loathing for paid firefighters still carries over even though you are a paid member of the department yourself. Doesn't carrying all that hypocrisy around hurt your back?
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    Quote Originally Posted by FyredUp View Post
    Fuuny thing is your loathing for paid firefighters still carries over even though you are a paid member of the department yourself. Doesn't carrying all that hypocrisy around hurt your back?
    How can it hurt his back when he has no spine?
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    Besides the fact that this country has an enormous problem with this recession, the world has never been perfect or fair.

    In cities, towns or counties where we have seen firefighter layoffs or positions eliminated, there is no doubt that the community and the firefighters are less safe.

    And while it is easy to blame the elected officials and government in broad terms, it doesn't end there. We have to share the blame.

    When the time comes to tighten the belt, we all share that burden. Just like you have to live within your budget, government must also balance theirs. Throwing barbs about the mistakes made doesn't fix the current issue when budgets have to be reduced at the expense of who.... the public.

    We can learn from the exercise, but when you are out of money, you are out of money. So hard choices have to be made. The Fed is now borrowing money at historic levels, never seen before. Will that solve this crisis. It might get us through, but it will not solve the issue. The real problem will just be delayed for our children or grandchildren to solve.

    It is so easy to justify that many of us are understaffed and we must have another guy here and one over there. But how do you pay for that. Making the case to the public might get them stimulated, and they may storm city hall bearing torches and demand change. But again, where does that revenue come from when many people are out of work, and others not spending what money they can get hold of.

    It is easy to point a finger and hold someone accountable, but that just makes you feel better for the moment and still cannot solve the issue at hand.

    The bean counters can only use real numbers based upon historical data to predict budgets. What we are seeing is quite historical in nature, but we have never seen this before. Should someone have seen this thing coming? Yeah, of course. But when everyone is having a great time, spending money like there is tomorrow when times are good, why bother with a little thing like tomorrow when it comes and the money runs out.

    Well the money has run out. The time has come, many elected officials are having to make hard decisions. Many of those decisions will guarantee their re-election will fail. A new guys comes in making promises that cannot be kept. What changed. More cuts, more hard decisions.

    In our region, all budgets were cut by 12%. The direct impact to us. More firefighters laid off than any other department. Why? Because we cost more per unit than the road guys. No one is safer, but it is the stark reality that hard choices must be made. In 2010, we have been advised that we will face another 8 to 10% cut. So another round of crying begins. Easy to complain, but doesn't solve the fundamental issue. Going to the public, doesn't ultimately fix it. You just have to tighten the belt and move on.

    As I stated, we have never seen this before. Some places have yet to feel the whole effect, where other places are much like a war zone. So what is the solution? There is no easy one. There is not a quick one. But when we begin to put everything back together, I can promise that many of the things we once took for granted will be gone. Safety nets, big budgets, contracts, pensions and unions all will be effected.

    In many localities, contracts are a thing of the past. They cost too much. There are open discussions going on to go back to volunteer departments and scraping the system. You may say it will never happen. I think it will. You can show me the numbers to make your point, volunterism is way down. I will agree with you on that, but it can always come back if the right circumstances occur. What if a town eliminates the existing paid fire department, and replaces it with PAID ON CALL Staff and give them a few benefits like health insurance, longevity pay and retirement. There will be takers. It's better than nothing when you got nothing.

    I can argue that you don't have to look far to see that model in place working alot better than those of us that have grown fat and lazy. That department may not have the same resources, but it has a hell of alot more heart. And whoever said we had to save everything... our critics? Well let them do this job then, they won't.

    Cities, towns, counties are all businesses. Fire Departments are part of the business. Governments focus on how can they increase revenues. They tend to put additional resources into projects that can return increased dollars. That is called operating a business. Fire Departments do not directly put money into the city coffer. Indirectly, fire departments do influence what business and industry is attracted to the community.

    A good fire department with a decent ISO/PPC creates an inviting destination for businesses when they pay the insurance premums. Some homeowners will choose their hometown on crime, fire protection and schools. But these are ancillary parts of the localities business and only indirectly create revenue.

    And again, a cut in staffing will mean there will be higher risks, more deaths and more LODD. We can make the claim and we will see it happen. It is easy to say "you cannot put a price on a life". But you can put a price on broke. No funds means no funds. And just when we have recently seen a cascade failure of the economic system within this country, you ain't seen nothing yet.

    The contract that you signed will not have any value. The union will have no voice or impact. New elected officials that make uneducated promises will most likely create new problems. It is said that recessions clean out the pipeline of built up scale and crap. If you think it has already hit the fan, then prepare for the flood to follow.

    With Washington spending massives amount of money trying to stimulate and jumpstart the economy, it will sputter and fail numerous times. The clunker program had only a limited effect and has fizzled out. The Tier 3 unemployment has yet to be approved. Tier 2 is gone on Dec 31st. People, families are losing everything.... everything; hope, homes, and yes their lives. We may very well be stacking bodies in the streets my friends as we watch our communies implode.

    People that lose their way become desparate and will do anything to end the suffering. Look back 80 years ago and you can see the evidence of what we must try to avoid. We have to get this right. There is no choice. Government has to get it right. We don't have many choices. But as a member of this country, your community, you have a vested interest to do everything you can to roll up your sleeves and be ready to dig in.

    It is easy to moan and complain. It is alot harder to come up with good ideas to help fix this thing. When you pass from the position of worker bee to administrative bee, you see things differently. When your boss tells you to cut your department by 12%, you have to cut the department by 12%. If I chose to not follow my instructions, I can promise that someone will, and I'll be eating beans and franks and hang onto every dollar I have.

    Do I make the cuts heartlessly and without regret? What do you think? I have an obligation to fight for my department and the guys that put it all on the line. I work long hours to find every available resource to keep things moving. I can stand before my boss and tell him that he is putting the public in danger and my crews will not be able to safely do their jobs. And his reply is "I know". It is not because he doesn't care. We all care. I saw elected officials take huge pay cuts and refuse perks trying to prevent the cuts... but it was not enough, but then it was not the main cause either.

    I have no issue with what kind of fire department you may be at. I have no issue what kind of firefighter you may be. I have issue with some of the comments that I read. No one owes us anything. There is no guarantee that will make a damn if we all go down the tubes. Yeah it is hard. But if you are working right now, even if you had to take a paycut, be glad you still have the job. You could be one of the next ones that are waiting by the mailbox for your check.

    Our guys got all upset and emotional. Rightly so; It hurts. Collectively they all offered to give up some of their paycheck and benefits to keep the numbers up. But again, not enough to cover the spread. My command staff and myself also offered to take a cut so we could keep going, and we did, 25%. Not enough. We cut 8. 4 more will be gone in June. We are moving backward. I can talk about NFPA and Standards all day, but NFPA doesn't put any money into our department. So the standard is the standard and the reality is the reality. If the locality gets sued over lack of staffing, I'm sure they will fight like hell justifying their position. And no one will win; the town, the public or the plaintiff.

    But what do I know? I'm alot closer to the end of the road than the beginning. My dad grew up during the depression. He didn't like to talk about it. As you get older, some of you will not want to talk about how hard it was during the Great Melt Down.

    Betty Davis said it best: "Hang on, it's going to be a bumpy ride."

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaladinKnight View Post
    Besides the fact that this country has an enormous problem with this recession, the world has never been perfect or fair.

    In cities, towns or counties where we have seen firefighter layoffs or positions eliminated, there is no doubt that the community and the firefighters are less safe.

    And while it is easy to blame the elected officials and government in broad terms, it doesn't end there. We have to share the blame.

    When the time comes to tighten the belt, we all share that burden. Just like you have to live within your budget, government must also balance theirs. Throwing barbs about the mistakes made doesn't fix the current issue when budgets have to be reduced at the expense of who.... the public.

    We can learn from the exercise, but when you are out of money, you are out of money. So hard choices have to be made. The Fed is now borrowing money at historic levels, never seen before. Will that solve this crisis. It might get us through, but it will not solve the issue. The real problem will just be delayed for our children or grandchildren to solve.

    It is so easy to justify that many of us are understaffed and we must have another guy here and one over there. But how do you pay for that. Making the case to the public might get them stimulated, and they may storm city hall bearing torches and demand change. But again, where does that revenue come from when many people are out of work, and others not spending what money they can get hold of.

    It is easy to point a finger and hold someone accountable, but that just makes you feel better for the moment and still cannot solve the issue at hand.

    The bean counters can only use real numbers based upon historical data to predict budgets. What we are seeing is quite historical in nature, but we have never seen this before. Should someone have seen this thing coming? Yeah, of course. But when everyone is having a great time, spending money like there is tomorrow when times are good, why bother with a little thing like tomorrow when it comes and the money runs out.

    Well the money has run out. The time has come, many elected officials are having to make hard decisions. Many of those decisions will guarantee their re-election will fail. A new guys comes in making promises that cannot be kept. What changed. More cuts, more hard decisions.

    In our region, all budgets were cut by 12%. The direct impact to us. More firefighters laid off than any other department. Why? Because we cost more per unit than the road guys. No one is safer, but it is the stark reality that hard choices must be made. In 2010, we have been advised that we will face another 8 to 10% cut. So another round of crying begins. Easy to complain, but doesn't solve the fundamental issue. Going to the public, doesn't ultimately fix it. You just have to tighten the belt and move on.

    As I stated, we have never seen this before. Some places have yet to feel the whole effect, where other places are much like a war zone. So what is the solution? There is no easy one. There is not a quick one. But when we begin to put everything back together, I can promise that many of the things we once took for granted will be gone. Safety nets, big budgets, contracts, pensions and unions all will be effected.

    In many localities, contracts are a thing of the past. They cost too much. There are open discussions going on to go back to volunteer departments and scraping the system. You may say it will never happen. I think it will. You can show me the numbers to make your point, volunterism is way down. I will agree with you on that, but it can always come back if the right circumstances occur. What if a town eliminates the existing paid fire department, and replaces it with PAID ON CALL Staff and give them a few benefits like health insurance, longevity pay and retirement. There will be takers. It's better than nothing when you got nothing.

    I can argue that you don't have to look far to see that model in place working alot better than those of us that have grown fat and lazy. That department may not have the same resources, but it has a hell of alot more heart. And whoever said we had to save everything... our critics? Well let them do this job then, they won't.

    Cities, towns, counties are all businesses. Fire Departments are part of the business. Governments focus on how can they increase revenues. They tend to put additional resources into projects that can return increased dollars. That is called operating a business. Fire Departments do not directly put money into the city coffer. Indirectly, fire departments do influence what business and industry is attracted to the community.

    A good fire department with a decent ISO/PPC creates an inviting destination for businesses when they pay the insurance premums. Some homeowners will choose their hometown on crime, fire protection and schools. But these are ancillary parts of the localities business and only indirectly create revenue.

    And again, a cut in staffing will mean there will be higher risks, more deaths and more LODD. We can make the claim and we will see it happen. It is easy to say "you cannot put a price on a life". But you can put a price on broke. No funds means no funds. And just when we have recently seen a cascade failure of the economic system within this country, you ain't seen nothing yet.

    The contract that you signed will not have any value. The union will have no voice or impact. New elected officials that make uneducated promises will most likely create new problems. It is said that recessions clean out the pipeline of built up scale and crap. If you think it has already hit the fan, then prepare for the flood to follow.

    With Washington spending massives amount of money trying to stimulate and jumpstart the economy, it will sputter and fail numerous times. The clunker program had only a limited effect and has fizzled out. The Tier 3 unemployment has yet to be approved. Tier 2 is gone on Dec 31st. People, families are losing everything.... everything; hope, homes, and yes their lives. We may very well be stacking bodies in the streets my friends as we watch our communies implode.

    People that lose their way become desparate and will do anything to end the suffering. Look back 80 years ago and you can see the evidence of what we must try to avoid. We have to get this right. There is no choice. Government has to get it right. We don't have many choices. But as a member of this country, your community, you have a vested interest to do everything you can to roll up your sleeves and be ready to dig in.

    It is easy to moan and complain. It is alot harder to come up with good ideas to help fix this thing. When you pass from the position of worker bee to administrative bee, you see things differently. When your boss tells you to cut your department by 12%, you have to cut the department by 12%. If I chose to not follow my instructions, I can promise that someone will, and I'll be eating beans and franks and hang onto every dollar I have.

    Do I make the cuts heartlessly and without regret? What do you think? I have an obligation to fight for my department and the guys that put it all on the line. I work long hours to find every available resource to keep things moving. I can stand before my boss and tell him that he is putting the public in danger and my crews will not be able to safely do their jobs. And his reply is "I know". It is not because he doesn't care. We all care. I saw elected officials take huge pay cuts and refuse perks trying to prevent the cuts... but it was not enough, but then it was not the main cause either.

    I have no issue with what kind of fire department you may be at. I have no issue what kind of firefighter you may be. I have issue with some of the comments that I read. No one owes us anything. There is no guarantee that will make a damn if we all go down the tubes. Yeah it is hard. But if you are working right now, even if you had to take a paycut, be glad you still have the job. You could be one of the next ones that are waiting by the mailbox for your check.

    Our guys got all upset and emotional. Rightly so; It hurts. Collectively they all offered to give up some of their paycheck and benefits to keep the numbers up. But again, not enough to cover the spread. My command staff and myself also offered to take a cut so we could keep going, and we did, 25%. Not enough. We cut 8. 4 more will be gone in June. We are moving backward. I can talk about NFPA and Standards all day, but NFPA doesn't put any money into our department. So the standard is the standard and the reality is the reality. If the locality gets sued over lack of staffing, I'm sure they will fight like hell justifying their position. And no one will win; the town, the public or the plaintiff.

    But what do I know? I'm alot closer to the end of the road than the beginning. My dad grew up during the depression. He didn't like to talk about it. As you get older, some of you will not want to talk about how hard it was during the Great Melt Down.



    Betty Davis said it best: "Hang on, it's going to be a bumpy ride."
    Very well written. Probably one of the best summations of the situation facing a whole lot of depts now and in the near future.
    Thank you

  24. #24
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    The staffing this with you is simply ridiculous. I can go back and find where you have said your volunteer staffing was inadequate and that was why you needed you exterior qualified guys. So your oh so few interior qualified guys could go fight the fire.

    I'll repeat this .. again. I have never stated that our staffing is inadequate for residential structure fires the vast majority of the time. I have stated that our staffing is inadequate for well-involved commercial fires, which occur, one average once every 4-5 years. That one fire every 4-5 years hardly justifies a salary line increase of 150K per year.

    Are there times we are shorthanded? Rarely, but yes, and most of those times are not at residential structure fires but are at wildland incidents, hence the "burnt grass" comment.

    We use exterior-only personnel because it makes sense. It allows the current members who develop physical problems to still participate on the fireground within their limitations and allows other community members to be involved within thier limitations. It simply makes sense to involve as many people as possible.

    Ever since the adding paid staffing argument has been raised suddenly your volly staffing has miraculously blossomed into 2 or 3 guys hanging around the station all day (I suggest they get a life or a job), and 6 or 7 additional responding from home.

    Nope, have always said that. And those guys who "need a job" are folks that work off-hours at the casinos or the Air Force Base, or are full-time firefighters or paramedics elsewhere on days off.

    Get a grip, you as a supposed Public Education person know that fires in homes occur at ALL HOURS of the day or night. So to say because you have adequate staffing at night and on weekends but lack it at other times is a disaster waiting to happen.

    Yes they can. But for the last few years, close to 80% of our structure fires occur at night. In fact, the fire we caught Monday was our first daytime structure fire this year.

    It's rare that we get a daytime structure fire. In fact, only about 30% of our total incidents occur between 6AM-6PM, including MVAs and EMS. About the only run category that occurs more during the day are brush and wildland incidents. I wish I could tell you why, but that's simply when incidents seem to happen here.

    $150,000 for one guy? Seriously, what are you paying them and what is the benefit package? Because frankly that is absolute nonsense for an entry level firefighter and you know it.

    3 positions - 3 shifts w/ 1 extra man per shift to bring shift staffing to 2.

    Our current total salary, benefit and uniform costs for a first year firefighter is about 45K, but now that we have been forced to go civil service and give 18 days vacation instead of 5 the first year and cover additional holidays, plus jack the pay up slightly, that cost per man will actually probably be slightly over 50K/firefighter, especially if you factor cover shifts into the equation.

    Must be nice to be able to carry over budget money. Here in Wisconsin it is spend it or lose it.

    Money is not budgeted to us, as it comes from a dedicated 19 mil fire district tax.

    Frankly if you have that much budget left over you can easily afford to increase staffing and offer a more rapid and staffed response to emergencies.

    Increased paid staffing would do nothing to speed response as we have volunteers throughout the district who routinely beat paid staff from Central Station to almost all EMS calls and most fires with an engine from an outlying station. Fact is, our response times are generally quite good for a rural area.

    Either that or give the money back to the tax payers because you are obviously fattening up your budget request if you have $470K left over at the end of the year.

    Actually we are using that money - for capital items. We have no debt or outstanding bonds - everything is purchased with cash. In the past 5 years we have replaced 5 engines, a tanker and 3 service trucks with leftover funds. Next year we will purchase land for a new station, refurb another tanker and probably purchase 2 additional utility/command vehicles, and in 2015 we will build a new station and pay cash for all of it. In the next 3 years we will replace a custom engine and rescue - again, with cash. That's why we only spend half of our budget.

    Fuuny thing is your loathing for paid firefighters still carries over even though you are a paid member of the department yourself. Doesn't carrying all that hypocrisy around hurt your back?

    Nope, especially since we are talking about hiring full-time firefighters, not admin staff. fact is, the department felt they needed a full-time person for pub ed and training, as well as other admin functions to free up the Deputy Chief to be, the Deputy Chief. My primary role is not intended to fight fires. In fact, more often than not we have enough volunteer staffing which allows me to remain in the office doing my primary tasks.

    The fact is the rare occasions we need staffing simply does not justify the hiring of additional paid staff, especially when a portion of the money can be used for volunteer recruiting and retenion, which in the end, will bring in and retain more thatn those 3 paid positions.

  25. #25
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    Great post Knight.

    Sums up the fact that the money isn't there, there will be cuts and as a service we may have to accept options that we don't like such as POC or volunteer personnel being added to career or mostly career departments w/ a reduction in paid staffing.

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