06/07/07 352 W - + 12 - 17 Staffing

This news article has a quote on the subject of Raleigh police staffing, noting the opinion that "another couple hundred officers are needed" in the system. For those that follow the fire department, the quote compels a similar question. Does RFD also need a couple hundred additional firefighters?**

Perhaps. It was recommended several years ago that the city have 10 ladder companies. Let's imagine 11, thus adding four additional five-person companies: 5 people x 4 ladders x 3 shifts = 60 positions.

Let's also increase all engine companies to five bodies. Presently, around two engines per battalion are staffed as such. That leaves, say, 20 four-person companies. Boosting to five means 1 person x 20 engines x 3 shifts = 60 positions, 120 total.

What else might be needed? We're probably not far from a fifth Battalion, so that's three more people. 123 total. Aides for the Bat Chiefs were requested but rejected this budget year, so that's another 5 people x 3 shifts = 15 positions, 138 total.

Full rescue companies someday? Add three more spots for each of the three rescues, or 3 people x 3 rescues x 3 shifts = 27 positions, 165 total.

On the back end, another mechanic for the shop was also requested and rejected this budget year. Now 166 total. The city has but a single fire and life safety educator. That's easily a two-person task. Now 167 total. What else? Three full-time fire investigators are in the budget this year, so we won't count those. What else? Add a full-time public information officer. 168 total. Add a full-time recruiter. 169 total. What else?

Okay, not quite a couple hundred, but still an impressive number. Are they really needs, or closer to wants? Don't know, we're just spectators. And there are probably plenty of other wants that the fire department has. Staffing just makes for an easy mental exercise. Oh, to have a magic money wand.****

**Yes, the first paragraph is a gross generalization of an apples to oranges comparison. But it's how the question originated.

****Or, rather, a magic revenue wand. Push a pile of money across the table, spend it on staffing, and guess what? You'll need another pile of money the next year. And the next year. And the next year...

The issue of staffing is a nationwide epidemic, as we all know. Some cities have systems in place to deal with understaffing (i.e. overtime). I think if they enacted an overtime program for staffing, you’d see a lot of people leave their part time gigs to pick up an extra shift for time and a half. I know it works well out west and up north, same with Charlotte and I think Greensboro has a program as well. Heck, even Wake EMS is doing it now.

Yes, many companies have 5 people assigned to them (on paper), but usually, especially during the summer you see 3 people on everything. I know if Chief McGrath had it his way, you’d see 5-man ladders and 4-man engines (a positive about having a union contract). We just graduated an academy and we’re still short, it seems never ending. With the growth going on, new stations opening and retirees, if we continue to just hire for retirees and new stations/companies then we’re never going to make a dent.

We need to overhire, so we can atleast be close to our goal. I spoke with a Captain from Greensboro a few years ago at a class, he told me the way they got their staffing was the 2-in/ 2-out standard. The Chief used it as a scare tactic to city council, and it worked!!! He told the council, we’re going to let them burn until we can comply to the standard and then make an attack, or if their is an obvious life safety situation. He wasn’t lying to them, that’s the way the standard is set up, he’s just going by the law.

I wish their was an easy solution. Now the Chief’s at RFD are getting laptops, which is great. However, now they have to drive, monitor and/or talk on 2 different radio channels, read a mapbook, answer a nextel and use a computer. We’re running a 3-man ladder company, it takes 4 to opertate (the right way) it if you’re operating in defensive mode (2 in the bucket, 1 on the pump panel and 1 at the pedestal) at a job. There’s no easy solution, but we’re out of sight and out of mind. It’s going to cost money, it just makes me sick though when I see millions approved for something crazy like “neighborhood beautification” or anyother waste of taxpayers money, especially in a high drug area.

Hey “concerned taxpayer”, that’s where you should turn some of your attention to, the priorities as a whole and how your money is being wasted on other crap.

In meeting with Chief McGrath (through the Ral. Prof. Firefighters Assoc.) he’s assured me that staffing will remain a priority so long as he’s around. He’s been a man of his word thus far, so I have no reason to doubt him now. He’s got a “master plan” I’m sure, it’ll just take some time to get it in place.

Our nature, though, is to make it work with 3. On our ladder company if we ride 3, 2 men are inside and 1 is out. We’ll do what we gotta’ do. If you’re riding an engine with 3, maybe consider having the driver assist in the initial stretch? It’ll take some sweat and training, but we’re going to do what we gotta’ do.
Silver - 06/08/07 - 12:15

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