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First, lets stop hurting our cause. We can't expect elected officials to understand our staffing issues if our own members continue to hurt our cause. Example: When a rig is taken out of service, do we "fill the bay" with another rig, a suburban, a car or something with the manpower? we distribute the manpower to other rigs? We can't continue to leave the bay empty. Those elected officials will get the idea that we don't need the missing rig. Additionally, on those rare days (usually in Jan. Feb and March) when we do have four members on the rigs, why are we so quick to give-up the "extra" man to run errands, go shopping or stay behind to cook. The fourth man isn't "extra"! Rather, we are finally getting closer to the manning we need to do our job more effectively and effectively. Let's stop hurting our cause. Don't leave the bay empty and don't be so quick to give up the "extra" man.

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Splitting-up the company is bad practice. I wish I could saddle a high-horse and say we never do it. I had a Batt Chief get sideways with me due directly to letting a member of the company take a station vehicle and run an errand (He told him it was okay, I did not know where he was) . If the basis of the fire service is the company, why do we split it up?
I have another example of hurting our cause. It is people that work for one municipality FULL TIME and then on their off days go work for another PART TIME. This practice has to stop. How can we tell our FULL TIME job we need more FULL TIME people when we are willing to accept doing it ourselves elsewhere? You can say these people don't effect staffing but I would say your head is in the sand. Municipalities talk. They can find out what is going on in other towns. It has come up in communities around me. And there answer was if the town next door can do it that way why can't we.
I agree with all of these comments. The fourth guy is definitely not "extra". Technically speaking, the fourth guy is the minimum! Unfortunately, we have become so used to not having the proper ammount of people in a company we see that firefighter as extra. Firefighters will do the job alone if we let them. We are a "get it done" kind of group. We are our own worst enemy in that regard. Jim is totally right about the full time guys working the next town over as a "driver". If a fire truck is going out the door without the proper staffing (4) it is at worst delivering 1-3 firefighters into danger and at best a shiny taxi cab. But we make that gamble everyday and mostly get away with it. If you've seen the movie "Into the Fire" and saw the scene with the brother from Gloucester, MA talking about arriving at a fire by himself and feeling helpless as a person died because he couldn't do anything alone. The brother did what he could and it wasn't enough and now he's an emotional and physical wreck. This is a "full time" department that allows this kind of staffing to go on. Absolutely disgraceful. About the "truck in the bay" issue; I'm nervous with the argument that if a piece of apparatus is in the firehouse, the city or town will staff it safely. I know a city where they run 2 firefighters on their ladder "companies". They argued that if we loose a truck we won't have that piece of equipment or that station. Well, what matters more staying alive or the convienience of working on a truck you like to drive and working in the neighborhood you want? If the city government sees a fire truck they may assume it is properly staffed, but if the staffing is moved to make the other companies safer and the bay left empty maybe the decision makers will get the point. I don't mean any disrespect Art, you obviously care a great deal about staffing, that is just my take on the "empty bay" concept. Who knows, maybe my take on it is wrong? The most important thing is that we need to work to get our fire companies properly staffed in order to keep our firefighters alive!

Thanks for your reply. Let me try to clarify my point on keeping the bay filled. My point is not really about staffing per company, it is really more about overall staffing and maintaining necessary companies. Let me illustrate with our situation. We run two truck companies with no reserve truck. When one is taken out of service for maintenance or breaks-down, until a few years ago we would leave the bay empty and move tha manpower to other comapnies. The other companies would benefit with the additional manpower;however, the "missing company" would not be replaced. It seems to me that elected officials can say "if you don't need that truck for a few days or weeks, maybe we don't need it at all". I understand and agree with your point, I just don't think I articulated my point.

I am aware that many departments leave the bay empty when breakdowns or maintenance takes a company out of service. We have gone as far as putting the manpower in a suburban so that thay can respond with their still engine and begin performing truck company functions immediately, prior to the arrival of another truck. Now, we replace the truck with a reserve engine and they function as the truck would and another truck responds as well.

My point is that we should be careful not to give the impression that companies are not needed by leaving the bay empty when conmpanies are taken out of service or break-down. Especially if it wil be an extended peroid of time.

Thanks again Chris, I believe we are on the same page.
Hey Art, Thanks for the clarification. You're totally right, without companies you can't get the job done. If I get your point, you are saying without the truck you may loose the company entirely and the firefighters that go with it thus further cutting your on duty staffing as well as your fireground capabilities by not having the apparatus. Overall staffing is definitely important. NFPA 1710 says that you should have your first due company on scene within 4 minutes 90% of the time and your full compliment on scene in 8 minutes 90% of the time. If you are "leaving the bay empty" not only do you threaten to miss that goal short term, but you may miss it long term because the politicians may eliminate that company altogether! It sounds like the elected officials are gunning for you guys. Good luck and stay safe.
Hey Chris,

Exactly right Chris. We recently conducted a deployment study. It took a great deal of time and effort to have our City Council agree to a benchmark response time of 6 minutes 90% of the time. We are currently at between 70 and 75%. Although this benchmark gets us closer to 1710, even the addition of two fire stations and relocating a third will only get us to 80-83%. The City Council remains unconvinced that NFPA 1710 is a realistic standard that they would like to meet. Thanks again for your reply.
We are fortunate enough in my department that we don't shut down rigs or redistribute staffing. We have 4 members on each of our career Engines and 1 for our Ladder. We have budget for minimum staffing and we have 2 members on the Ladder probably 30% of the time. We have in the past, made the mistake of using the "extra" member to run chores and other menial tasks like shopping. If you are looking to help your cause and not hurt it, I think the "extra" members should be used to (when not responding to calls) do company fire inspections, pre-incident site visits, pub ed school tours and other productive things like this to show "production"... something you don't hear much of in our job. Elected officials and City Managers can relate to measurable things like the number of inspections or kids who are taught fire safety whereas they have a difficult time getting their head around increased staffing for structure fires that happen occasionally. I think being able to sell "production" in the prevention of fires is one of the keys to increasing or maintaining staff.


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