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  1. #1
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    Default four-man ride vs. company closings

    This weekend, our department started daily company closings. Seven were closed yesterday and the same seven today. Last summer, five companies were permanently shuttered, leaving us with 66. The administration was set to permanently close five more under a reorganization plan, but our union has had those closings and subsequent layoffs tied up in court since late summer.

    We won a four-man staffing award in arbitration a few years ago. Three-man engines and trucks were common before that. Our manpower is down more than a hundred since a year ago because of layoffs (approximately 60) and retirements. Starting yesterday and going forward until the legal action runs its course, the city has lowered the limit on the number of guys it will call in for overtime per day. If all rigs cannot be staffed with four, the daily closing will commence, starting with the five rigs the city wanted to permanently idle last year.

    I've heard a few guys around the firehouse argue that we should give up the four-man ride and try to keep as many companies as possible open (temporarily and permanently). That way there are more boss positions and more promotions. I favor keeping the four-man ride, for safety reasons, though I can see the other side of the debate too. But it is my opinion if we give up the four-man ride, the city will ride us short AND close the companies. We have to protect ourselves first. Thoughts?

    (Of course, this is purely theoretical. Our union is not going to voluntarily give up the four-man ride. The city, of course, doesn't need our permission to close companies. We've just got it temporarily tied to other issues, and everything will be decided in court soon enough. Meanwhile, the city is getting some of what it wanted originally, and timed right after the Super Bowl left town ... hmmm.)


  2. #2
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    Personally I would rather have the staffing than the companies open.

    What would it matter if they had 60 1 or 2 man Engines? I would rather have 30 4-man Engines or 5 man or whatever your best staffing would be.

    If that means you show up to someones fire in 10 minutes at least you will have appropriate and safe staffing for the brothers.

    The number of companies is more of a problem for the civilians than it is to us. Your union is probably going about the best course of action by sticking to the staffing issue.

    One thing we started doing was sending our Community Boards and polticians forms when they place our companies out of service for Bull sh*t like medicals and anual training, EEO and Diversity training.

    We keep track on a form in the firehouse and fax the forms to the important people every time they place us OOS. We also follow up every time a fire occurs when a company was OOS and should have been on the ticket.

    It has been very helpful and keeps the fire under the polticians azzes.

    FTM-PTB

  3. #3
    the 4-1-4 Jasper 45's Avatar
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    Stick with more firefighters per rig; it is the only way to work. If the mutts in city hall want to play roulette with public safety, make sure, you guys can operate safely enough. Three per rig does not cut it, four really does not either, but it is better than three.
    Your department has had to make due with far fewer resources than you need, especially for your workload. If they give the union a choice, shut the companies down, and redistribute the manpower to boost company level strength. With your cityís history though, that could be a precursor for more reductions.

  4. #4
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    The simple answer:

    If the city is willing to shut down 4 man companies, they'd be willing to shut down 3 man companies.

    From basic negotiations, that's not a conscenion to make.

    (I also generally favor fewer, better equipped / staffed stations both career & volunteer. I know we have certain standards like 8 minutes and 5 miles and stuff...I'd be happier with good stations that excede those then crappy stations that meet them).

  5. #5
    Forum Member emtcsmith's Avatar
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    Remeber that its you, your crew and then everyone else. Be safe and look after each other and mabye one day they will see saving pennies isn't going to save lives.

  6. #6
    MembersZone Subscriber E229Lt's Avatar
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    We won a four-man staffing award in arbitration a few years ago.
    YOU WON! We don't say that often, do we? Let them close companies. That is a fight for the citizens. As FFFred said, notify your community boards, the papers, the media and anyone else who will take up the fight. If a fatal fire occurs in an area with a closed firehouse, let the community know the difference between a fast and delayed response.

    Finally, never give up a hard fought contractual gain, especially when it is minimum manning. No matter how many houses they close, you will arrive with a full crew.

    Sounds like your community needs to take the fight to the "ELECTED" officials.

  7. #7
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    The problem is the highest elected offical was voted one of americas worst, along side our own famous mayor, John Street. We have been succesful in the courts by arguing that the closure of companies directly affects the saftey and wellfare of the members which required to be arbitrated. We have held off the closings for over a year now. Of course our next "contract" which is 8 months past due now could include the closing of companies. Im not sure where I stand on the issue. I think I tend to lean towards having a full back step rather than running short.
    Just another one of the 99%ers looking up.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by PFDTruck18
    The problem is the highest elected offical was voted one of americas worst, along side our own famous mayor, John Street. We have been succesful in the courts by arguing that the closure of companies directly affects the saftey and wellfare of the members which required to be arbitrated. We have held off the closings for over a year now. Of course our next "contract" which is 8 months past due now could include the closing of companies. Im not sure where I stand on the issue. I think I tend to lean towards having a full back step rather than running short.
    Somehow, even after our mayor was named by Time magazine as one of the nation's three worst -- along with your mayor and the mayor of San Diego (I think) -- he was re-elected in November despite scandals too numerous to name. Did your mayor face re-election? If so, how'd he do?

    Yeah, it's a complicated issue. Our promotions are strictly seniority-based. The guys making sergeant now came on in 1988. Sergeant is a B.S. position. We joke that it's the lowest-paid position on the job because bosses don't get overtime. Sergeants basically live out of their trunks, getting detailed wherever a boss is needed. And it's usually at least a five-year proposition.

    There are veterans of company closings from the late '70s and early '80s who didn't make sergeant for 22 years. We're an older department now -- what with our newest 60-some guys laid off, not to mention the 60 or so who were a day away from layoffs several months ago until our legal action put it on hold. Guys don't want to be 40-something and even 50-something-year-old deckies. I know I don't want to be a geezer on the back end. But I still agree that maintaining the four-man ride is the best course of action, for the reasons several of you have cited.

    Finally, never give up a hard fought contractual gain, especially when it is minimum manning. No matter how many houses they close, you will arrive with a full crew.
    Those are wise words E229Lt, pretty much summing up my thoughts. Of course, when my walker gets in the way of stretching on a dwelling, I might have a change of heart.
    Last edited by DetroitFF; 02-20-2006 at 04:29 AM.

  9. #9
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    Detroit
    I agree with the postings advocating holding on to the 4 man minimum. Minimum staffing levels benefit both the members of the department as well as the citizens. Once you arrive you can hav agreater confidence that there is at least some measure of backup on the scene with you.
    Ironically minimum staffing becomes more important as response times for second and third due companies increase due to firehouse closings.
    The loss of promoted positions is tough to swallow but in the long run the minimum staffing is more important.
    Voluntarily discarding an arbitration award is sure sign of weakness to your adversaries.Hang in there.

    Regards from California.

  10. #10
    Forum Member Dave1983's Avatar
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    4 on a rig is better then 3 anyday of the week. Even with less rigs.
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  11. #11
    EuroFirefighter.com PaulGRIMWOOD's Avatar
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    This is a most interesting topic and it is one that will become relevant to many of us in future .... even if the cuts aren't hitting your area yet

    DetroitFF - Can I ask ....

    1. What is your current structure fire response? (companies and staffing)
    2. What are the average response times of first, second and third dues?
    3. What primary tasks can a three person crew NOT achieve on the first due in comparison to a four person crew in your area? (I am not being sarcastic here)

  12. #12
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    From DetroitFF:
    "Somehow, even after our mayor was named by Time magazine as one of the nation's three worst -- along with your mayor and the mayor of San Diego (I think) -- he was re-elected in November despite scandals too numerous to name. Did your mayor face re-election? If so, how'd he do?"

    Well, honestly, the article came out after his re-election. He rallied his "support" after a listening device placed by the FBI was found in his office during his campaign. He played it as if "Whitey" was after him and circled the wagons. Never mind the numerous "pay to play" scandals that have resulted from the wire taps, bugs, and document seizures all with guilty verdicts. The guy is a clown, mismanaged this city to the point of being bankrupt, has chased away new business and the city population has continued to decline. Its a mess, I feel your pain.
    Just another one of the 99%ers looking up.

  13. #13
    MembersZone Subscriber E229Lt's Avatar
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    3. What primary tasks can a three person crew NOT achieve on the first due in comparison to a four person crew in your area? (I am not being sarcastic here)
    With all due respect Paul, I wish you WERE being sarcastic.

    For a three person crew, and I hope that DOESN'T include the officer you can't:

    For an engine company:

    Effectively stretch, break, hook up and supply a line with a positive water source in a timely manner. By timely I mean an acceptable amount of time as judged by firefighters, not polititians.

    Maintain a 2 in 2 out mandated attack.

    For a truck:

    Just forget it, forced entry and a primary search of the fire area is about all that can be done with the exception of throwing up an aerial device. No ventilation. No outside survey. No secondary entrance. No roof operations.

    All of the above assume members are not working alone. Please don't ask if THAT matters.

  14. #14
    FIREMAN 1st GRADE E40FDNYL35's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave1983
    4 on a rig is better then 3 anyday of the week. Even with less rigs.
    5 on a rig is better then 4 anyday of the week. Even with less rigs.
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    Look at it from the viewpoint of the average citizen.

    I don't know if a fire truck is supposed to have 2, 3, 4 or 10 firefighters on it. All I care about is having a fire truck respond as quickly as possible from the nearest station. If the city closes that station, I will call city hall and demand an explanation.

    Don't let them cut manpower per unit without a fight.

  16. #16
    Forum Member RLFD14's Avatar
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    On the other hand things could be worse. Not saying you shouldn't fight (you obviously should), but the local career department adjacent to our district runs nine engines, three ladders, one heavy rescue and one Chief. Three of those engines have only two personnel, one of them has only one, all other rigs (including rescue and ladders) have three, and I think the Chief drives himself. There are no four-man rigs at all. For medicals it works out OK, you can handle most of those with two and therefore it cuts EMS response times compared to consolidating. I am sure if they consolidated to get a few four-man rigs, the City would just cut personnel on the reduced fleet.

    Grass is always greener.... and all that. Keep up the fight.
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  17. #17
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    oooops double post.

    FTM-PTB
    Last edited by FFFRED; 02-20-2006 at 04:24 PM.

  18. #18
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    [QUOTE=E229Lt For a three person crew, and I hope that DOESN'T include the officer you can't:[/QUOTE]

    Actually it does include the officer.

    FFFRED said,
    "Last time I checked...Detroit doesn't run EMS at all. They run more than enough fire to keep busy. It is better to justify your staffing using needs on the fireground rather than needs for EMS runs".

    You are right, Detroit runs no EMS. In 1998 the administration wanted us to take EMS runs. We stated that if they gave us more apparatus and a 5% pay increase (Detroit is the lowest paid in the state) we would do medical runs. The city refused and presented their own plan with no additional apparatus or pay. An arbitrator told the city that unless they were willing to add at least 10 more companies that the firefighters couldn't take on 85,000 more runs (this is the number the city gave but the actual number would have been higher and didn't even touch on personnel numbers) with the apparatus and fire runs they presently had.
    Last edited by FireLt1951; 02-20-2006 at 04:49 PM.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by RLFD14
    On the other hand things could be worse. Not saying you shouldn't fight (you obviously should), but the local career department adjacent to our district runs nine engines, three ladders, one heavy rescue and one Chief. Three of those engines have only two personnel, one of them has only one, all other rigs (including rescue and ladders) have three, and I think the Chief drives himself. There are no four-man rigs at all. For medicals it works out OK, you can handle most of those with two and therefore it cuts EMS response times compared to consolidating. I am sure if they consolidated to get a few four-man rigs, the City would just cut personnel on the reduced fleet.

    Grass is always greener.... and all that. Keep up the fight.
    Last time I checked...Detroit doesn't run EMS at all. They run more than enough fire to keep busy. It is better to justify your staffing using needs on the fireground rather than needs for EMS runs.

    And Lt229 sums up the situation nicely.

    FTM-PTB

  20. #20
    EuroFirefighter.com PaulGRIMWOOD's Avatar
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    Lets keep this in perspective .... correct me if I am wrong DetroitFF

    Yes the four includes the officer but these are temporary closures that have been operated for the past 3 years that only come into effect where on duty staffing has dropped to a level that won't support 4-person crews as standard. To curtail excessive overtime used to cover sick leave, the plan closes up to five pre-determined companies based on an optimised logistical assessment of risk and resources.

    Doesn't/didn't something similar to this also happen in NYC?

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