Sept. 25--SOUTH YARMOUTH -- Insufficient manpower has led to more firefighter injuries and paid overtime, and longer response times to emergency calls from the Yarmouth Fire Department, whose chief brought his concerns in front of the Board of Selectmen.
The board asked the department to conduct a manpower analysis, and acting Chief Philip Simonian presented his findings to the board Tuesday night.
There are 56 Fire Department members employed in Yarmouth, according to Simonian. In 2012, the department had 6,478 emergency incidents. That number is 273 incidents ahead of last year, with the same personnel, Simonian said.
The town's Fire Department is the "busiest on the Cape," he said.
Spread across three stations, the Fire Department must have a minimum of 11 staffers on at any given time, Simonian said, which his findings show is not enough.
This has led to response times to calls that are not on par with national averages, Simonian said.
The average emergency response time is four minutes and the three Yarmouth stations vary between six and eight minutes, according to statistics Simonian presented.
Those response times concerned Selectman Michael Stone.
"Obviously none of these are meeting that standard," he said.
South Yarmouth's fire station one -- which has five personnel per shift -- has a response time of about six minutes, according to Simonian. Stations in Yarmouthport and West Yarmouth -- each with three personnel per shift -- have times of eight and seven minutes, respectively, he said.
Selectman Tracy Post wanted to make it clear that the public should not be alarmed. While the department is "not perfect, they do a good job," she said.
Even with increased staffing, the locations of the three Yarmouth stations are such that they may not be able to meet that four-minute mark, Simonian said. "But it would definitely improve," he said.
"People should be alarmed," Stone said. If it takes 12 minutes to get across town, as Simonian said it can when there are multiple calls, and someone has a serious heart attack, "we know the results," Stone said.
Aside from increased response times, overworked firefighters are prone to injury, Simonian said.
While injury rates are on-par with similar departments, Simonian believes more staffing would lead to fewer injuries, less overtime from calling in off-duty firefighters and ultimately more money saved.
The situation is dire, Simonian said.
"We are constantly calling people in," he said of the increased overtime.
According to a 2002 study, the department should have 18 on staff between the three stations, he said. They generally have 14 now, but a few are out injured and that number currently sits at the minimum 11, he said.
"We'd like to get all 16, incrementally, of course," he said.
While no decision was made Tuesday, the board will begin the process of discussing "where they are going to go from here," Post said.
Copyright 2013 - Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.