Chief’s we see time and time again at fires when the news is looking for a quote you fail to mention staffing. Chiefs are there some words of wisdom how other chiefs can tactfully mention staffing at these fires to help the cause?
Wow, its been over a month and I am the first comment? I guess its not looking good for a solution to this question. I would certainly be pleased if one of our leaders (Chief's) could supply some advice though. I must admit, its a tough spot to be in, sticking up for what's right, and keeping your job at the same time.
I guess this goes to show what some fire chiefs think of the staffing issue! Very unfortunate, because proper staffing is the cornerstone for just about every fire department issue. Most importantly, it has a direct impact on life safety of civilians and firefighters.
After fires we always see the dept representative (Chief?) talking about smoke detectors, or 911 operators but staffing never gets brought up. If a fire goes well say that it's a tribute to the firefighters since they are understaffed. If a job goes poorly, say that the firefighters did the best they could with the staffing they have. One of the things that sticks in my head is that there is one section of the population of every community that is most threatened by fire and that is the firefighters! Strategically we consider firefighters part of the life hazard at a job, but they are the ones who don't get supported in their effort to stay alive at a fire. Across this country we are increasing the danger a firefighter is exposed to EXPONENTIALLY because they are responding without proper staffing on their rigs. This isn't just for fires, it applies to every call. If a fire chief is truly an advocate for fire and life safety in his or her community they need to be an advocate for proper staffing. It effects everything a department does, so the chief should really be able to hammer the point home every chance he or she gets.
Did you see the article about the brothers in Omaha? During the interview the Assistant chief talked about how staffing is what saved the lives of the firefighters who were in the "fire event" (the article calls it a "Back flash" wtf). I guess the city council there is trying to reduce their staffing from 4 to 3 per rig. According to the article it's been a pretty nasty debate out there. The fact the A/C came out and addressed the issue is highly commendable. I wonder if he'd consider I job where I work???
I know I am getting in on this very late, which means it may not be read, but I have an idea. Have the Chief appoint a information officer who carries the message to the media. When it "offends" the powers at large, the Chief can exact some form of discipline.(and by discipline I mean a very stern look in the general direction of the info officer) Assuring the power elect it will never happen again. I know this is a sarcastic answer but it may have some merit in the hands of a well spoken Chief.
A plan we worked in our city, which is based in a small town. Where we know our Mayor and council. We staged drills using them at thier house. We had them simulate a fire, some with rescues needed. The Chief explained the timelines of the first alarm assignment. As they stood in thier own house we explained we could not perform several fireground task, as we waited on second due. This seemed to really peak the interest of several council persons, who asked to don some gear and experience the work load for themselves. All in all it worked out well for us and we had new auto aid contracts in place in short order. I know that most of the staffing issues mentioned on here lends itself to paid departments, I am just relaying our ideas and hope it helps.
I guess I'm really late joining the discussion but since they haven't removed the group, I thought I would add my 2 bits.
I'm an A/C in a small-mid size combo department with 92 career and 70 POC in suppression. We run (4) 4 member Engine companies and a B/C as well as one extra member to bring one of 3-4 other units when called for. I know how tough it is to get staff especially in current times and I consider our department fortunate to have enough staff on the initial Engine to perform an interior attack and comform to our local laws of entering an IDLH atmosphere. With a 3 engine response to a structure we usually end up with 15-16 members... almost meeting 1710. We are fortunate to have what we do.
I dont know the ranks of all participants in this chat but as we all know, its easy to fire off a witty comment or suggestion when you're not the poor guy with the camera in his face. I don't know a Chief out there who would ever say he has enough members during the day to day business. As you come to realize in our job as you go through the promotional process, the more trumpets and stripes you wear... the bigger the bulls eye is on your back and the more critics you collect. A firefighter can say anything and it usually means nothing. A Captain's words mean more but when the Chief makes a comment (especially a negative one) you may as well paint the quote on the coffee room wall because it's there forever.
I think it's important to PLAN how to increase or maintain staff. Involve your risk management division of city hall. Involve the union or association and their 101 programs and the like. Review other fire department strategic and business plans. Do your research and educate the politicians in terms that they understand. You can easily convince me how difficult it is to get it done at a single family structure fire with (2) 3 member Engines with RIT, attack, search, vent ........
The trick is putting that in a language that the council can get their heads around. Invite them out to the fire station to meet members and ride along.
Unless your Chief has a couple weeks to go and is pensioned out to the max, don't expect him to cross that political line in front of a camera or recorder ... he isn't expecting his firefighters to search or attack without a partner or a RIT.
Either way, Grandstanding will cost your department dearly.
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