Proposed Budget Cuts
Update: There will be a story on WSLS Channel 10 at 5, 5:30, or 6pm tonight April 23rd. There will also be a story on Channel 7 at the same time.
The meeting on May 1st will be at 7pm in Council Chambers. The meeting is a public hearing on the budget.
Well, the news is out. Chief Hoback has been given the ultimatum to make budget cuts within the Fire Department. The plan he has proposed to Roanoke City Council is the following from what I understand (although I may have misunderstood some of it):
- Engine 13 will be taken out of service. -6 FF’s, 3 1st Lt.’s, 3 Lt.’s.
- Ladder 7 will lose the 4th firefighter minimum and be reduced to three. -3 firefighters
- The power medic truck will go to the Northside (most likely 13 or 14). 0 change
- A medic truck will be placed into service at Station 8. +6 firefighters
- Mary Thompson’s position will be terminated. (I believe she will still have job somewhere else in the City). -1 civilian position
- We will get a 2% raise in July and possibly another 2% in January.
This proposal is similar to several years ago when they tried to remove positions on Ladder 1. Much like that time, our response needs to be the same. We need to fill the Council Forum on the budget which will be on May 1st at 7pm.
Another firefighter mentioned the fact that when we merged the Fire Department with the EMS Department in 1995, the departments were 272 and 40 members strong respectively. Now we are down to less than 272 members.
It amazes me to sit here and witness more potential cuts to an already skeleton crew. What amazes me is that the 6 positions we have given the County weren’t the first to go, or the new position down in Administration (nothing personal against BC Dave Bishop). If you look at it close, Administration is adding personnel and Operations is losing personnel. That recommendation is only if we really had to cut personnel. Why don’t we start with the frivolous spending by Roanoke City Council for starters. Maybe if we hadn’t have given away $888,000.00 to millionaires we wouldn’t be in this predicament.
To say that the firefighters in Roanoke City are outraged would be an understatement. I have had more than one rookie ask me if they could lose their job. The answer is no.
It is almost like Roanoke is reinventing the wheel. We are using a little bit of the Quint concept and now we are creating the ambulance concept where everything is ambulances.
The sad truth is that someone will pay for all of these cuts we have seen in the past and will see in the future. That someone will more than likely not be a member of Council or a Department head, that person will be a civilian and/or a firefighter trying to save that civilian because we didn’t have enough people on scene quick enough to make an effective rescue.
Each year, more than 100 fire fighters die in the line of duty, and additional tens of thousands are injured. While it will never be possible to eliminate every death, many could be avoided if industry consensus standards for safe fire fighting were followed consistently.
Developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and other standards-making bodies, industry consensus standards address a wide range of issues, including requirements for protective equipment, safe staffing and fireground operations, training, fitness and incident command. Developed by all facets of the fire service, government agencies and interested private sector parties, these standards are widely respected as the gold standard for safe fire fighting practices and fire department operations.
To better promote compliance with such standards among local fire departments, Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) have introduced legislation to study the current extent of such compliance and establish a task force to make recommendations to ensure their broad adoption. The Firefighter Fatality Reduction Act, H.R. 5686 in the House and S. 2887 in the Senate, are currently pending consideration by the Congress.
Fire Fighter Safety Standards
• The failure to follow industry consensus standards puts both the public and fire fighters at risk. An independent analysis conducted by the Boston Globe found that response time to emergencies in fire departments throughout the nation rose significantly over the past two decades due to a failure to abide by industry consensus standards.
• Fire fighter fatality investigations conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health often cite the failure to follow specific consensus standards as contributing factors to a fire fighter’s death. Providing adequate training and proper equipment, establishing safe staffing levels, following safe operating procedures and ensuring the physical and mental health of fire fighters can help reduce fire fighter fatalities.
• Using an open, consensus-based development process, standards-making bodies such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) develop fire fighter safety standards in concert with members of the fire service as well as industry and government agencies. As a result, fire fighter safety standards are widely respected throughout the fire service, government and private sector.
• The federal government already places minimum requirements on fire departments through NIMS, OSHA and the EPA, but many of these requirements are outdated and are not fully consistent with modern fire fighting practices, placing fire fighters and the public at risk.
• The federal government relies on local fire departments to properly implement the National Response Framework in response to any large-scale disaster. Fire departments and fire fighters must possess certain minimum capabilities to ensure an efficient and effective response.
• Insurance companies use standards compliance data to price homeowner and commercial property insurance. Widespread standards compliance would result in significantly lower insurance costs for both consumers and businesses.
• Recent surveys by the U.S. Fire Administration have found that a significant percentage of fire departments were unable to effectively respond to many common emergency situations. A more thorough analysis on the status of compliance with consensus standards would assist policy makers in seeking to address these threats to public safety.
• The bill does not require municipalities, fire departments or fire fighters to comply with consensus standards, and would place no cost requirement upon such entities. The bill simply tasks the federal government with collecting data on standards compliance among local fire departments and studying ways to increase such compliance.