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Thread: Cross manning

  1. #1
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    Default Cross manning

    Hey all...been watching from the sidelines for quite awhile and finally decided it was time to "get in the game!

    Situation...full time dept., 22 person min. daily manning, 5 stations (3 w/engines and medics and 2 stations w/quints). 3 people on the engines/quints and 2 on the medics (21 + 1 D/C). 8000+ runs (fire/EMS) a year---------NOW the City is going into $ savings mode and seems to be "Buying into" a study by a "independant" study that is proposing putting medics in all the stations and staffing each station w/3 people and running "first emer. first", lowering our staffing to 19 a day (we will have 3 on a truck co.).

    They mulled this over 5-6 years back and I thought that we had shown them that, while this looks good on paper, it doesn't work in the real world (we really have no Mutual Aid in the area that can be depended on) as their stats show that 40% of the time 1 run is occurring- a 2nd comes in and 10% a 3rd is dispatched. There really is no flexibility when fires and EMS runs come concurrently (Anybody try to run a Code w/2people? or have 3 squads and 1 ladder show up on a fire?). Also, the practical aspects: what vehicle goes/sits when you go to training or the store? Fire inspections? Hydrant testing etc.,etc., etc.

    Anybody have any experience/thoughts on this manning? I know of 1 in the area that tried--hated it and is going back to dedicated units.
    Would love to hear of successes AND horror stories. Don't be shy...feel free to name names.

    Thanks.


  2. #2
    Forum Member gunnyv's Avatar
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    While my Dept does not run ambulances, your current situation and the proposed one are both common in my area. Some of the problems I've seen:

    -Ambulance out of service time-how long are they tied up at the hospitals? Are the hospitals in your district?
    My Dept is the same size as yours-5 stations, 7 3 man companies and a chief, about 7000 runs a year. We require the private ambulance to maintain 3 ALS rigs in town, and they have to bring in extras all the time due to concurrent calls-and we have 2 hospitals within our town, on opposite ends-no more than 10 minutes to a hospital from anywhere in town.
    -lack of mutual aid-the towns around us are smaller than us, and have no hospitals within their cities-we have them. Although they all have an average of 1 ambulance per station, they are constantly borrowing from each other to cover for rigs out of town at the hospitals.
    -At what point do the citizens refuse to accept the lack of available and manned fire apparatus? Taxpayers get unhappy when they see a $300K rig sitting in the station unmanned while their house burns down, because Billy Bob wanted a free ride to the hospital to fill his perscription. What will eventually happen is "leave the officer back to drive the engine if a fire comes in" All the citizens know is a fire truck showed up-they don't understand teamwork and company operations. And you'll be stuck working the code without the 3rd guy.
    -What happens when you show at a fire with the ambulance first, and the engine is 5 minutes out and you've got a citizen screaming for help on the second floor? Something similar happened to the dept next to us-they had a second fire while they were working the first, and sent some guys to check it out in a van-all their apparatus were tied to hydrants. 2 guys went in, they got trapped, the civilian and a firefighter died, the other firefighter was in the hospital for months with burns.

    If you are IAFF, contact them for help. They will do response time studies, evaluate your ambulance unit/hour ratios, all the stuff you can use to defend your manning.

  3. #3
    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Prince Georges County Maryland. We staff Stations, not units. Each Station has anywhere from 4 to 6 People on duty, Daytime, Weekdays. Some continue with this staffing 24/7, others are strictly Volunteer on nights, weekends, and holidays. Each Station responds with what is needed first. My Station, ( www.gdvfd18.com ) has 2 Engines, A Heavy Rescue, A Tower Ladder, A Brush Unit, A BLS Ambulance, and an ALS Ambulance. There are a minimum of 4 Career people on duty during the day, weekdays. The ALS unit is staffed with 2 Career EMT-Ps 24/7. We are a "Full Service" Organization, County wide, we have 49 stations, so mutual aid is not a problem, BUT we use a mutual aid system heavily since we and our neighbors all run everything on a basis of "whoever is closest gets the call". 1PM on a weekday, our station is dispatched on a dwelling Fire: The Career crew on duty takes the first Engine and goes. They may, or may not, have Volunteers with them. Subject to availability, additional Apparatus will respond with Volunteer crews. We normally dispatch 5 stations on a single family house Fire, which allows for 3 Engines, A Truck, and A Heavy Squad, all from different stations, with upwards of 20 people, usually more. This system predates our first Career crews being hired back in the 1960s and it has worked very well for us. I really think NO department in an area of less than a Million population should operate without a large, well trained, Volunteer crew available to back up the on duty Career crews.
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
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    Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

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  4. #4
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    Thanks for the start!
    To clarify: Gunnyv,
    1 hospital (centrally located, but soon moving to the edge of the city) so for now the squads have a pretty quick turnaround time.
    nearby vol. dept's struggle to gat a squad crew together in a timely manner, others may be sole coverage for a large section of the neighboring county and 15-30min away (if available).
    Citizen response- fortunately that is an area where a lot of support lies- but will they back it up w/$ in these days of "no more taxes' (especially when they're already paying the City)? The City would love a "fire levy" so they could completely cut us out of the General Fund.
    We are IAFF (very old local)and are in contact with them. In fact we have been since the "study" was proposed so the GIS and whatever else is needed is being prepared. But, how do you convince a Council (none of which have fire/ems/police backgrounds) that we are not the same as a street dept. and that we can't schedule our runs to fit the consultant's (that they paid) statistical BS?

    hwoods,
    Are the 2 medics 24/7 on the "bus" part of the 4 on duty during the day or in addition?
    We are also "full service", besides fire/ems (als), we are also responsible for HazMat, Confined Space, Trench and Building Collapse, High Angle etc. and we also do it with on-duty personnel. Have to, there's not much else around. We are sort of isolated, not geograpically but functionally, because the neighboring townships/municipalities stuggle to cover their own calls with small career dept.'s or 100% volunteers (particularily during the day).
    So we are sort of "Sink or Swim".
    While we are well less than the 1 million population you
    refer (approx. 65k with resid. and manufacturing {steel mill}, there is not a "large,well-trained volunteer crew" to be had. This is a situation where a City Manager has put a Bull's Eye on our backs and found a "headhunter" to try to give him credibility.


    Thanks to you both, I knew my brothers out there could provide a wide range of opinion!

  5. #5
    MembersZone Subscriber SFDredhat126's Avatar
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    Here's how our dept/city is set up: 28 FF/medics, 7 per shift, 2 stations. One station has an engine and ambulance with 4 people, the other has an engine, ladder, and ambulance, with 3 people. No hospitals are in our city (pop. 30,000). Nearest hospital is about 12 minutes from the center of town.

    Our dept. is very unique in that it has a "call-back" program. For the first 24 hours off, you are put on a list. When a call comes in, off-duty personnel on that list are called and requested to cover that station. For example, if two go out, like most EMS calls, two get called in. It is in our contract to maintain a minimum of a three-man and a two-man engine company at all times. It works really well, and it's nice for our personnel with the extra money (2 hrs. pay minimum).

  6. #6
    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Smile I'm Back..........

    To Answer a Question, No. The Medics are not part of the Career "Day" crew. They are assigned to the Medic unit, period. The Day crew is 4 or 5 in addition to the Medics, however, the Career folks sometimes run the BLS unit (as needed), and that could leave you with only 2 or 3 for a Suppression unit. Our current (Close guess) Numbers are:
    49 Stations
    6 Totally Volunteer
    2 Totally paid
    90 Engines
    23 Ladder Trucks/Towers
    12 Heavy Rescue Squads
    10 Brush Trucks
    4 Tankers
    46 BLS Ambulances
    12 ALS Ambulances
    Misc. Units (HazMat, Bomb Squad, Mobile Command posts(2), Light Trucks, Air Units, Etc. Etc.........
    700 (Approx) Career
    1750 (Approx) Volunteer
    850,000 Population
    430 Square Miles
    133,000 Incidents last year
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
    In memory of
    Chief Earle W. Woods, 1912 - 1997
    Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

    IACOJ Budget Analyst

    I Refuse to be a Spectator. If I come to the Game, I'm Playing.

    www.gdvfd18.com

  7. #7
    Forum Member kghemtp's Avatar
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    Default

    I was gonna go down the road that Redhat did about callback. Our department here is smaller than the ones listed above, staffing 2 stations full time, 9 folks per shift. Engine 1 & 2 are staffed with 2 & 3 people respectively. Ambulance 1 is staffed with one FF/P & a daytime attendant or volunteer supplementing. The second FF/P on shift (we have 8 spread between 4 shifts) is the single guy on the ladder, but he floats to cover any position that is out sick. We have a medium duty rescue that goes on all meds, or the crew jumps on to supplement the regular 2-person crew of our Engine 1. If ambulance, rescue, and engine are called, station coverage is automatic. The shift captain also calls for coverage as he sees fit. The callback is voluntary to any off-duty firefighter, including the separate call division. Callback is usually very productive, and turnout tends to yield adequate personnel. We're screaming up & down about lots of things, including leaving the station without a second person on ambulances immediately (depending on part time or volunteers to show up), splitting up engine companies to staff second & third ambulances, single person truck company (which is the first to get bumped when someone calls out sick), and so forth. For limited staffing
    ~Kevin
    Firefighter/Paramedic
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    Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong
    Dennis Miller

  8. #8
    Early Adopter cozmosis's Avatar
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    Default

    I understand the issue. Cross-staffing is a crummy idea if you're attempting to do it with two units that see heavy use. In my department, it hasn't been city hall suggesting x-staffing, but one or two members from within.

    Historically, we've had one career engineer on duty who would respond with an engine. That engineer would be met at the scene by police officers cross-trained as firefighters. This insured a minimum of three personnel on the first alarm. Additional units and personnel were provided through volunteers or mutual aid.

    We are splitting our Dept. of Public Safety into seperate police and fire departments. So, initially we'll have four FFs per shift for a single engine company with minimum staffing of three. We have some members within our own department that want to split those four people up -- two on a multi-use brush/squad truck and the other two on the engine. Mostly, this is so that certain members can avoid running the EMS calls.

    Our chief seems pretty dedicated to having a properly staffed engine (at least, properly staffed for our area)... So I don't think we'll be splitting anyone up. However, it's frustrating to have anyone suggest that you can do the same amount of work with fewer firefighters. It's even more frustrating to see firefighters making those comments.

  9. #9
    Forum Member Dave1983's Avatar
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    By the amount of information you have listed here as it pertains to your operations, I would say that no, it wont work for you. If you had reliable mutual aid then yes.

    Reliable, automatic mutual aid is the only way it works here.

    Dave

  10. #10
    Forum Member tfd181's Avatar
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    My Dept. has been cross staffing units for a few years now. It sounds like we have a similar make-up. Six houses: 5 Engines and 1 Rescue-Engine, 2 Trucks, and 3 ALS Ambulances. 1 Ambulance is fully staffed, and the other 2 crossed-staffed. 1 is with a Truck Co. and the other with an Engine. We run about 10,000 calls anually. The rarionale was this. The truck was the slowest unit in the city, and therefore "expendable" to City Hall. The Engine in question is busy, but centrally located, meaning the other units can cover it's territory while the Engine is staffing the Ambulance. Either way you cut it, the situation sucks. The bottom line is departments that do this sort of thing are understaffed, and no matter how you shift people around nothing will change that. Unfortunatly there are two VERY different points of view at work here. We, as firefighters worry about what might happen, and the bean counters at City Hall look at what usually happens. In that regard (and don't tell anyone this) it does work most of the time. The biggest problem we face isn't the fires. Actually, we put 17 people on a first alarm. However, once a Working Fire is called, all ambulances are out of service. The full time rig goes to the fire (they do truck work), whatever truck isn't on the box covers the city (knocking out that ambulance), and the engine in question is either at the fire or covering. At that point, EMS is what suffers. Again, the bottom line is inadequate manning. For those days with back to back to back EMS, and then a fire we are fortunate to have a strong mutual aid plan. We are surrounded by volunteers, but have 4 paid departments close by. (Not to start a paid vs. vollie argument, but we do not consider volunteers to be reliable mutual aid).
    There are other problems as well. Usually, if you go anywhere on the 2 cross-staffed units you take both rigs, or you risk missing a fire. We are not allowed to carry turnout gear on the cross staffed ambulances, instead it stays with your fire aparatus. This prevents going to the fire and abandoning the fire units!
    When this arrangement was concieved, for the Union it was a matter of being between a rock and a hard place. We ended up with 3 men on each Engine (up from 2) and minimum daily staffing in the contract. In upstate NY, that is unheard of in most departments. The other alternative was to get rid of the truck permenantly and have 2 full time ambulances. This plan was bad, because the truck, though slow, was in an isolated area of 3 story residential units tightly packed. When they go out the door, it is usually to go to work!
    I geuss all we can hope for is that someday, funding will improve and Cities will spend adequate resources on staffing.

  11. #11
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    No doubt it looks good on paper. Administrator's don't always see the practical side. Even had 1 admin. on the "steering committee" (read: directing the consultant) say, with a straight face "We don't staff for the real world, we staff by statistics!" What do you expect from a law director?
    If this comes about, there will certainly have to be a lot of revisions to the SOP's and the public will either have to get "comfortable" with their new level of service ("everbody's on the squads and we'll get to fighting your fire as soon as we can free someone from the ER") or severely jerk a few chains at City Hall and say that Public Safety (including the cops) is more important than the local access TV (that no one watches). Yep, that's right, TV____town was listed as higher priority than Police/Fire/EMS! As well as the City Manager adding a few assistants to his staff (only city dept. that has grown in the past 5 years).

    Keep it coming with the pro's and con's!!
    Thanks

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