Staffing in Roanoke Part II

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Reading some of the comments from Staffing in Roanoke (the previous post), I realized that some of you want more information. I try my best to write on the basis of non-firefighters reading this and/or firefighters from other jurisdictions. Apparently I have fallen short. That is ok. I will elaborate further.

First of all, I want to say that the reasoning for writing Staffing in Roanoke was to shine light on apparatus being taken out of service almost daily due to the lack of staffing. My solution is to hire more firefighters and/or create more positions so that when these events occur, we will not be taking units out of service for the lack of 3 firefighters.

Although I have been a proponent of a minimum staffing of 4, the last post was not intended to develop cause for it, I have written about that in the past and will do so again in the future.

One of the commentors asked about information on what firefighters do and reasoning for needing 4 firefighter on the truck. The cause for the question was for ammunition to assist in writing council. I want to be certain that we are at least operating at par before attempting to increase staffing for the 4 minimum.

The issue at hand is that Roanoke Fire-EMS staffs its fire engines and fire ladder trucks with a minimum of 3 firefighters. When we do not have 3 firefighters for each truck we mark trucks out of service. This is not the intended result of having a minimum of 3. The minimum of 3 is to ensure that we have 3 on every truck. If we do not have enough then we need to call in overtime (quick fix) or hire more firefighters (long term fix). Surely, the Department cannot guess when members will quit or retire, however it can be proactive by over hiring to merely cover the gap.

Almost daily, an engine or two is marked out of service so that members can go to intermediate class, instruct at the recruit school, or occupational health for physicals and drug tests (random tests), and many other reasons. However, marking the trucks out of service is not the answer.

For years, Administration has attempted to decrease Roanoke Fire EMS down to 9 stations (currently we are at 12, in 1995 we had 14).

We have lost:
Station 12 – closed around 2000, Engine 12 was taken out of service and Medic 4 was placed in service. We also sent 6 firefighters to staff a county station (Clearbrook). The County is still counting the dollars it saves!

Station 3 – closed last year, Engine 3 and medic 3 are now Engine 1 and medic 1. This was a cosmetic change and no apparatus were taken out of service.

Engine 7 was taken out of service this year and Ladder 7 became a Quint. Medic 7 was put in place of Engine 7.

It should also be noted that in 1991, Engine 1 was taken out of service to put Engine 14 in service on 460 (Gus Nicks area). City Council decided at the last minute to delete the new firefighter positions needed to staff the new engine 14 and simply up and move engine 1 out there from downtown. The newly funded firefighter positions became police officer positions.

With the future of the Roanoke Fire EMS Department still up in the air, the 9 station department concept is still on the table. Some of which would include the combining of Stations 5 and 9 (northwest), 2 and 10 (northwest), and 6 and 11 in Southeast. This was laid out in the Tri-Data Study recently completed for the City.

What will happen? Who knows. But rest assured, the trucks that remain in service should REMAIN IN SERVICE. It boggles my mind that the department is run on a skeleton crew. We have been chiseled away to bare bones and the future looks like it will get worse.

So as for right now, the 4 firefighter minimum seems far fetched when we cannot even comply with the 3 firefighter minimum.

I have stuck my neck out pretty far on this blog. And so be it if my skeptics only remember the stuff they disagree with. However, I have seen this occurrence long enough. I feel that there needs to be change. Trucks being marked out has become commonplace. I want the firefighters to know that this type of behavior is not safe or acceptable. I believe that many of us have become numb to the fact that it happens so often and feel that it is ok. It isn’t.

I just don’t want to be the person to be on this same pedestal saying told you so after a firefighter fatality or civilian fatality because trucks were out of service.

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