Firehouse Chat

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I have always enjoyed the discussions held at the various firehouses. The discussions vary depending on the personalities in the room. We have some great personalities. We also have some great discussions. One of the hottest topics everywhere I go is the state of affairs within the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department. Whether it is scrutinizing of ideas, tactics, or policies that affect our daily work environment or talking about the way things should have been done. After all it is very easy to arm chair quarterback.

Let us look at all the big changes we have witnesses recently like the Consolidation Plan, the study and it’s 35 recommendations, the new ambulance at #3, and all the other things which aren’t on the tip of my tongue.

The Consolidation Plan talks of closing stations 1, 3, 5, and 9 and building two new stations. It also incorporates moving the suppression companies out of #10 into a new fire station and selling #10 to the Airport which houses the ARFF crew.

Correct me if I am wrong but I believe that the closing of #12 was brought up in the plan as well and occurred shortly after the plan emerged. This entailed getting rid of an engine company, replacing it with an ambulance at #4, and giving two personnel to the County to run mutual aid into the City.

The new study and recommendations (in my understanding) detailed a Quint concept which would get rid of at least two more engine companies. After all, a fully staffed Quint can only really perform the functions of a Ladder OR and Engine at one time. Our apparatus is staffed with 3 personnel, with the occasional day in mid March where we have 4 on an engine.

Then you have another Medic unit at #3 (medic #7). Was this planned for? Not in the long term. I do not know of many who will say we don’t need the additional medic truck. But do we have the manpower for it. Maybe we should have hired some more Medics to staff the truck before actually putting it into service. Basically the additional truck was put in service to replace the ill-fated Medic 1 at REMS. But this isn’t something that happened over night. Ever since I have been here REMS has had a hard time staffing the truck with volunteers. This is a national trend, fewer people have less time to volunteer.

Maybe we should recruit more Paramedics. But that is another story all together.

If you sit down with firefighters you will hear many great ideas. There are plenty of ideas on ways to correct some of the plans that the firefighters don’t agree with.

I know from experience that it is more common to hear what you did wrong rather than what you did right.

Do you know why most firefighters point out who made most of these decisions, because it was not them. Nobody ever asked what the firefighters wanted. I don’t they expect every idea to be presented to them. However, some of these decisions which will effect the workplace environment of our firefighters need to have the firefighters input to give them a sense of OWNERSHIP. There is a big difference between compromise and having something shoved down your throat. If you want the firefighters to be proud of what they do, who they work for, and where they work they have to have a stake in it.

Is there light at the end of the tunnel? Well it depends which tunnel you are looking down. The study recommended a committee that to my understanding would address this lack of communication. The idea behind the committee is to allow firefighters and administration to meet and discuss changes, plans, and ideas. The success of the committee depends on which firefighters, and which types of firefighters are involved.

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