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  1. #1
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    Default Cost Saving Ideas if you have them..

    Currently I work for a small department of 27 ff's. We had 41 when I began 5yrs ago. As of yesterday the city wants to cut 8 more guys and eliminate ambulance service. We are currently trying to brainstorm and come up with ideas to save the $600,000 they want to save all of our men. If any of you have any ideas, we are in desperate need. We already have a few, like selling one of our rigs. We begin negotiations soon, and we need to take bold steps. Feel free to ask any questions about the department here or on my messages. THANK YOU!.

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    Does your FD charge for ambulance service? Revenues from running the bone box can be placed in a revolving fund that pays for equipment and salaries.

    You have to let the pubblic know what is going on.. an aggressive PR campaign is in order.

    If you are an IAFF Affiliate, contact your district VP. The International can run a financial assessment of the community to see just where the money is spent.
    Last edited by CaptainGonzo; 03-28-2010 at 09:37 PM.
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    It is hard to exactly know what to help you cut when we know absolutely nothing about how your department operates. However, taking care of your lawns and own laundry is a good start. At a last resort close firehouses but keep the personnel and companies by creating dual houses. Get signatures to get a measure placed on the next ballot with a tax increase to help sustain current services. Get the word out to the public via your union letting them know that Fireman will lose their jobs and how that will effect them.

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    A department near us took a pay cut to save jobs. It has saved the jobs for now. Was it a good idea? I don't know. I can see alot of problems in doing something like that.

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    If you got regular pay raises in the "good times" taking a cut in the "hard times" should be reasonable. Many of the people paying the taxes likely are taking in the shorts to make your paycheck.

    Cut overhead idea. The porkulous bill that Barry jamed thru includes a large pile of $ for energy effiency improvement to gov't or nonprofit buildings. Each state is getting $. Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Program under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). I applied for/received 50% grant to replace bay doors with 3" high eff. insulated doors; new high eff. furnaces and unit heaters (in bay); high eff. modern T-8 Fluorescent lights; Energy Star Washer and 2x Energy Star Refrigerator, and a demand gas water heater. As the existing items were all 30yr old they were very near the end of their useful life anyhow.

    Should be significant cut to electric/gas usage. Grant was approx $10k and local utility rebates will be around $2k.

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    Suggest, through the union, that everyone take one day off a month without pay till the crisis has passed. This should not only help reduce the short fall, but is a great PR tool to gain support from the community.
    Once the positions are eliminated they will be hard to get back.

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    If you run a four platoon system, and use overtime for manpower shortages, consider going to a three platoon system to reduce that OT. A few three platoon system schedules are the 24/48, the 48/96 which helps reduce sick time usage as well, or the 3 on/4 off.

    Consider altering response criteria to lower priority calls to reduce fuel consumption (one FD I know of reduced running their heavy rescue on everything to just running pin jobs and fires).

    Since every little bit counts, consider setting thermostats at 78 in the summer and 64 in the winter. If you're cold, put on a sweatshirt, and if you're hot, wear shorts. Open the blinds and use natural light during the day time, and use only necesary lights. Open the bay doors and leave them open until bed time, reducing electricity consumption by doors up and down all day.

    Charge for medical service. In a county I know of, either people can "subscribe" for $50/year per household, or pay when services are needed (obviously BLS is cheaper than an ALS response).

    Charge for false alarms. Give businesses and households "one strike going into the count". They have a false alarm which could have been prevented (malfunctioning system), they're warned. The same type malfunction happens again within a reasonable amount of time, send them a bill. People will more than likely fix their systems, but it'll bring some in.

    Take a pay cut. I have a lady-friend that took a 5% pay cut to keep her job. In the grand scheme, it was worth it. They already gave her a bonus, so things are turning around for her.

    Do away with longevity if you get it every year.

    Reduce uniform allowance. This coming fiscal year, our department has already said "no uniform allowance".

    Install a rain catcher system. Use the water for things like equipment washing. Check out www.legeros.com for a story on it. Have to search back a little, but he has a story on a few firehouses doing this in my area.
    Last edited by RFDGloWorm; 03-29-2010 at 12:54 AM.

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    Looks like you have 9 guys per shift now. This will take you to 6 per shift with one extra. We have two departments here covering populations of 15,400 and 12,600, 7 and 5 per shift respectively. This is just for comparison. I believe starting salaries are around $19,000.

    The $600,000 you speak of equates to $22,222 (600,000/27) per fire fighter. So it sounds like you have to make cuts other than just personnel. Selling a rig is a one time fix. I recommend you take your budget and go line item by line item looking for things you can sacrifice.

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    like RFD said, setting the thermostat lower in the winter and higher in the summer you can really reduce energy costs, especially in older buildings. If you A/C the apparatus bay now, stop doing it. obviously you'll have to keep the heat on in the barn during the winter.

    you run an ambulance, start charging. stop sending suppression apparatus on EMS runs unless its a P1 or your ambulance is already out.

    be careful with electricity usage. I don't know about your FD, but our guys never turn the lights off until they hit the racks at night. Turn the lights off when not in the room. Maybe cut down on outdoor lighting, obviously its necessary but you might have over kill where cutting a few lights out won't effect the overall lighting but saves power.

    laundering the linens in the firehouse yourself could save money.

    run the dishwasher only when full.

    so you'll lose 2-3 guys a shift? there are studies on the effects of losing manpower. You could argue that the cuts could result in an increase in fire damages higher than the $600,000 saved. Add that in with the cuts that have been mentioned above and you make a good argument not to cut the manpower.

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    We're talking 600K here.

    While all the above suggestions will save you money, it won't be near what you need to save in order to make up the shortfall. And while I agree with things like charging for alarms, and EMS calls if you don't do that now, in most communities these types of things will require the approval of the city administration, and I would be willing to bet they won't go along with it.

    Bottom line is there really no way, unless the mayor changes his mind on that number, that you are going to not lose staff. The math dictates that.

    So what's my suggestion? Start planning now to start or expand an existing volunteer component. Don't bury your head in the sand about the staffing not disappearing. Start thinking about it now. Plan for it and be ready to implement it. Guess that will make me anti-career .. again.

    Fact is this is happening more and more, and will continue to happen. You have a choice. Bitch and moan about not having enough folks when the axe falls, and think ahead, and accept volunteers into your organization before the axe falls to supplement career staff. More and more communities will face this and like it or not, this is a workable and viable answer. But, that's from someone who is anti-career.
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 03-29-2010 at 10:15 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    We're talking 600K here.

    While all the above suggestions will save you money, it won't be near what you need to save in order to make up the shortfall. And while I agree with things like charging for alarms, and EMS calls if you don't do that now, in most communities these types of things will require the approval of the city administration, and I would be willing to bet they won't go along with it.

    Bottom line is there really, unless the mayor changes his mind on that number, that you are going to not lose staff. The math dictates that.

    So what's my suggestion? Start planning now to start or expand an existing volunteer component. Don't bury your head in the sand about the staffing not disappearing. Start thinking about it now. Plan for it and be ready to implement it. Guess that will make me anti-career .. again.

    Fact is this is happening more and more, and will continue to happen. You have a choice. Bitch and moan about not having enough folks when the axe falls, and think ahead, and accept volunteers into your organization before the axe falls to supplement career staff. More and more communities will face this and like it or not, this is a workable and viable answer. But, that's from someone who is anti-career.
    It will still cost money to train and outfit a call/volunteer force... money that could be spent on mantaining staffing.
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
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    I don't know Gonz, in NJ, FF1 training is free. Yes, some gear would probably need to be purchased, but a much lower cost than the salary of 1 FF. And like LA said, a lot of the above mentioned stuff will help, but most likely will not make a significant impact on $600k.

    I don't even think enough of a paycut per guy can be taken to make a large impact. That's a large amount for what sounds like a small department.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    Gonz ..

    I would suspect that you could train and equipp at least 5-7, if not more depending on the pay scale of the department, call firefighters for the salary of 1 paid member. And much of that cost would be turnout gear and radios, which could be reused when that original firefighter leaves.

    Training could be conducted by the current on-duty staff, which since they are already being paid, would cost $0.

    Like it or not most communtities can operate quite effectively with a core group to handle to routine EMS calls, alarms, gas leaks and minor day-to-day MVAs. Most communties only require a larger force on the much less frequent larger or multiple events. As more communities face shortfalls, the model of a large on-duty staff will begin to disappear, and a more flexible model reflecting the core staff-call staff for those infrequent larger events will simply have to be accepted and adopted by small all career or primarily career combo departments. There will be no other way to operate given the reductions in funding they are likely to face.

    Call forces can be incorporated into daily operations with incentives or requirements for personnel riding out. Even with these incentives, the yearly cost for a supplelemntal volunteer force is extremly minimal when compared to the salary of one fulltime firefighter.

    Obviously for this to work, the paid staff has to to buy into the fact that the structure of the department will change and there will be fewer career slots. That won't be easy, but it will take leadership both at the top, and more importantly, on the floor, to convince the paid staff that this is something that cannot be changed, and that other than running short, this is the best option. I know there are fiolks reading this right now that are probably using words that your mama told you not to use, but if you have a better solution, let's hear it.

    Again, if that makes me anti-career in your mind, so be it.
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 03-29-2010 at 10:30 AM.

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    keep the ideas coming, good or bad. couple things...

    We do charge for fire and ems calls. we make about $500,000 a year on ems runs. the city know this, so when they eliminate jobs they are cutting past 5 guys so they can make a savings.

    current staffing levels is 3 shifs...9,9, and 8.

    Also we just saw a city 20 miles from here take a 5% pay cut with a guarantee of no layoffs. @ weeks later 3 guys laid off. So guys here are gun shy to take wage hit.

    We are the only full time department in our county. The city is pushing to go paid on call, which is amazing to me. We run a great ambulance and we have great firefighters. They really dont want to listen , its almost like solely a head-hunting mission.

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    Some questions ...

    general idea of your location.

    Demograhics including square miles, population, structure types?

    Runs - fire and EMS?

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    Quote Originally Posted by nameless View Post
    like RFD said, setting the thermostat lower in the winter and higher in the summer you can really reduce energy costs, especially in older buildings. If you A/C the apparatus bay now, stop doing it. obviously you'll have to keep the heat on in the barn during the winter.

    be careful with electricity usage. I don't know about your FD, but our guys never turn the lights off until they hit the racks at night. Turn the lights off when not in the room. Maybe cut down on outdoor lighting, obviously its necessary but you might have over kill where cutting a few lights out won't effect the overall lighting but saves power.

    run the dishwasher only when full.
    While these are good common sense ideas how much do you think they will really save? Assuming the department is on a demand meter they would be paying a higher rate based on peak demand. It might save $10,000. Now this is nothing to sneeze at; but it is just a drop in the bucket.

    I have also seen the idea of charging for EMS. If you do that, do it with the intention that the firefighters will also do the administrative work that goes with it. Also, since you feel your job is one of the most important, offer up taking care of the grounds on city land. Find things that you can do in your down time that will benefit the city. You could take the engine and the entire crew out to a city park and trim the hedges, mow the grass, paint the benches. Only thing is yo may have to drop what you are doing at a moments notice to go.

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    This is a huge amount to trim. Best of luck to you.

    The largest line item (i'm sure) in your department's budget is salaries. You've seen some good suggestions that will save some money. I didn't see anyone discuss benefits, but there might be some concessions there that could help.

    When I was chief, apparatus maintenance was a huge expense. Can you guys do some of the PM work? Are there opportunities there that you can explore? Hose testing, pump testing, ladder testing... Heck, what about hydrant maintenance?

    Are there jobs being farmed out that you guys can do?
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

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    Southeast MI..

    Population around 24,000. area struck pretty hard by loss of Ford plant.

    run about 3,100 calls a year. 2500 medical

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    Make sure your dept is doing everything inside their dept: maintenance, laundry, cleaning, landscaping, etc.

    If you have cars for your Chief or admin, consider selling those vehicles and providing a vehicle allowance to compensate.

    When light bulbs burn out (or if you can get a grant to do them all), replace them with lower wattage bulbs and energy efficient types. Also, if you can get a grant, install motion sensors or timers on lights.

    Your EMS should be one of the last things to go as it is usually one of the only, or the only, part of the fire dept that actually produces revenue.

    I would be hesitant to take on other jobs in the city such as landscaping the parks or crossing guards as that just shifts the layoffs to another dept and doesn't solve the problem. Also, that's committing your dept to tasks you'll probably never be able to get rid of when things turn around. If you have to do something like that, have it written in the agreement that these duties will expire after one or two years unless your Union votes to continue providing them.

    Temporarily suspend some incentives (education incentives, uniform allowances, special duty pay, etc.). That way it only affects each person by a few hundred dollars instead of one person losing their job.

    If you have any apparatus that honestly aren't really used, sell them. Think about boats, quads/gators, grass fire rigs, etc. that you may only use once a year. Also consider ditching specialized equipment like confined space. Make sure there are resources still available within a reasonable response time.

    Contract out your specialized services to neighboring cities or counties. Or considering creating county wide response teams to the burden of these programs are also carried by other depts.

    None of these things will save your dept the full $600k alone, probably not even combined. But you might get enough to save some jobs.

    Here's an article from FH that was posted last year:
    http://www.firehouse.com/topic/firef...cutting-safety

    Notice toward the end he states to publicize your efforts. Make sure the citizens are aware of your efforts and get them on board to support you. Speaking of citizens, try to get your citizens to pay for some of the services that may be received for free (trash service?). $40 per household isn't much but that might save everyone's job.

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    What are the options as far as a volunteer force?

    Any history of it in your department? Would the community support a volunteer force? What is the department member's feelings toward the development of a call force? Would it be practical in your situation?

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