Fire Chief's Presentation March 30, 2010

 

 

       Fire Chief’s Talking Points

Special Budget Session of the Woodland City Council

March 30, 2010

Good evening Honorable Mayor, and Members of the Council, I am Tod Reddish, your Fire Chief

This scenario for the Fire Department is one that I created, under the direction of the City Manager, in the spirit of providing options in achieving 15% and 20% cuts to the Fire Department budget.  The level of cuts in this scenario are severe, and illustrate how deeply the Fire Department will need to be cut, and how low fire protection will drop, to get to this level of savings. As part of this exercise, I am presenting this scenario to you, but as a Fire Service Professional, I CANNOT recommend this scenario to you because of the increased risk to the community.

1.    First, we will eliminate a Fire Battalion Chief (1 FTE)

a.    In doing so, our 40-hour staff Battalion Chief/Training Officer position will be eliminated

                                          i.    This position is responsible for coordinating and scheduling mandated training for the department, and for managing contracts related to training.

                                        ii.    This position serves as our Safety Officer overseeing our OSHA mandated IIPP, and serves as our Infection Control Officer as mandated by OSHA through our Exposure Control Plan.

                                       iii.    This position has also inherited many ancillary duties caused by the elimination of the Deputy Fire Chief position in 2008

                                       iv.    This Training BC position will be moved to a shift assignment in our Operations Division, forcing the demotion of a less senior BC back to Captain, and a chain of demotions leading to the creation of 1 additional Firefighter position.

                                        v.    As a shift BC, our Training Officer will also be responsible for responding to multi-company incidents as the Incident Commander, for writing and reviewing reports, for shift scheduling, and for adherence to policies and procedures on that shift.

                                       vi.    Given the change in working hours, and the additional duties this BC will acquire on shift, his time dedicated to managing our training program will be reduced by more than 50% from his current assignment.

                                      vii.    The long-range impact of this move will likely result in an increase in the frequency and severity of Firefighter injuries due to less training and some degradation of Firefighter skills and abilities.    

2.    Secondly, we will eliminate our Maintenance Worker II (1FTE)

a.    This position is responsible for inspecting, repairing, maintaining and replacing our safety equipment such as our personal protective clothing and our self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) to meet mandatory standards.

b.    This position also provides or assists with the maintenance and repairs of our stations and facilities.

c.    Loss of this position means these functions will not be completed in-house, or in a timely manner, and we will NOT be able to manage our OSHA respiratory requirements in-house such as annual flow testing of our SCBA, and the annual testing of the face masks worn by our Firefighters.

d.    This mandated equipment maintenance and testing of our safety equipment will have to be outsourced at an estimated annual cost of almost $25,000, which reduces the overall savings from the elimination of this position.

3.    Thirdly, we will eliminate or reduce Overtime by $55,000 from Several Accounts

a.    In Administration, this will reduce our ability to maintain our department-specific software, our RMS, to maintain our MDC’s, and to collect or retrieve statistical data for reports and presentations.   

b.    In our Safety Program, which funds our MWII, we can eliminate this OT funding because this position is gone.  

c.    In Fire Prevention, this will reduce our ability to train inspectors and fire investigators

d.  And in our Training Division, this will reduce specialized and mandated firefighter training.

4.    And the most significant impact of this proposal, is the Elimination of the 4th Company

a.    This will reduce our daily firefighting force by 25% from 4 companies to 3, dropping our daily minimum staffing level from 12 to 9.  

                                          i.    A “company” is a team of firefighters assigned to a piece of fire apparatus (i.e., engine, ladder truck, squad or rescue). For us, a company is 3 Firefighters.

                                        ii.    As a matter of history, we have operated with 4 companies for many, many years, long before the Spring Lake Development.

                                       iii.    Prior to 2005, we ran 3 Fire Engines and 1 Squad (a heavy duty utility vehicle that carries manpower and heavy equipment) staffed with 3 Firefighters each.

                                       iv.    Then, in 2005, we:

1.    Moved the personnel assigned each day to the Squad over onto an engine, and called it Engine 4.

2.    We hired 12 more Firefighters to increase the staffing on each of our companies by 1 person, going from 3 people to 4.

3.    We did this because-

a.    We saw a rise in simultaneous alarms where more than one call was occurring at or about the same time drawing down our resources.

b.    We saw a new housing development being planned in Spring Lake creating more of a need for a 4th fire engine for possible house fires, than staffing a Squad.

c.    In doing so, we improved our chances by 25% that we could deliver water, hose, and firefighters with the first unit on-scene of a fire.  

d.    We also made it possible to meet the OSHA 2-In/2-Out requirement with a single company. In that requirement, we must:

                                                                                          i.    Have at least 2 Firefighters as a team to enter a dangerous atmosphere, such as entering a structure fire, and we must have at least 2 Firefighters equipped and standing by outside for the sole purpose of Firefighter rescue, or to assist with the removal of any rescued occupants.

                                                                                        ii.    With only 3 personnel on an engine, we have to wait for another company to show up before we can enter the structure and this can take minutes or longer if our other units are tied up on other calls.

                                                                                       iii.    This delay allows the fire to grow bigger, and become more dangerous for occupants, and Firefighters

                                        v.    Again, to emphasize, a 4th company was NOT created in 2005 as many believe – We merely changed the mission of our existing 4th company that we had been running for many years.

b.    This staffing reduction, created by eliminating a company, falls on the heels of a 25% reduction we have already experienced in our Firefighting staffing since 2006 due to budget cuts and attrition.

                                          i.    Those 12 Firefighter positions that were added in 2005 have ALL been eliminated. These are the positions that many associate with this phantom “Engine 4” that so many people believe we can do without.

1.    We are right back to 2004 staffing levels today, with 3 Firefighters on a company. 

2.    Those positions are already gone and the City is already applying those salary savings to other critical needs.

3.    We also lost our Deputy Fire Chief position that was created in 2005.

4.    These 13 positions lost since 2006, aside from the cuts in this proposal, equal a loss of over 25% of our firefighting force in the past 4 years.

c.    Eliminating a company will take us all the way back to 1982 staffing levels when the population of Woodland was 26,000 and we ran 1,296 calls for the year. Today we are nearly 56,000 people, and we ran 4,651 last year.

d.    Eliminating a company prevents us from meeting, or even coming close to meeting, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard for Career Fire Department Staffing

                                          i.    The NFPA outlines the minimum staffing standard for low, medium, and high-hazard occupancy fires.  

                                        ii.    Please understand, that despite the classifications, there is nothing “low-hazard” about any structure fire as firefighters are killed each and every year in this country in single-family homes considered “low-hazard” occupancy fires

                                       iii.    For example, the NFPA classifies a single-family dwelling of no more than 2 stories, and no more than 2,000 square feet, without a basement and exposures, as a “low hazard” occupancy.

                                       iv.    Last week alone we had a structure fire in a small single-family home where the fuel loading was so massive that firefighters were pushed back out the door using the largest hose line we carry, a 2.5” diameter hose-line, typically used for large commercial fires

                                        v.    As you can imagine, the manpower and resources needed for a medium-hazard, or high-hazard occupancy fire is much greater than that for a low-hazard fire.

                                       vi.    A medium-hazard occupancy would be a multi-family occupancy such as an apartment building or hotel, while a high-hazard occupancy would include a large commercial or industrial building, or hospital. 

                                      vii.    The latest NFPA minimum staffing requirement for a “low-hazard” occupancy fire is:

1.    13 Firefighters + 1 Chief Officer + Safety Officer

2.    If an aerial apparatus is deployed for an above-floor rescue, or an elevated master stream of water is needed to extinguish the fire, we must have 14 Firefighters + 1 Chief Officer + Safety Officer.

                                    viii.    We fall short of this standard for low-hazard fires now, and we will fall dangerously behind it if we drop to 3 companies and a 9-person daily staffing, not to mention the fact that we will never meet the staffing for a medium or high-hazard building fire.

                                       ix.    Our auto-aid and mutual aid agreements can NOT help us meet this requirement because our neighbors are too far away and their response is too slow.

e.    Eliminating a company will prevent us from meeting the 4-minute response time standard set by the NFPA and adopted by the City’s General plan, the FD Master Plan, and the Spring Lake Specific Plan. These documents will have to be amended in the same public process in which they were adopted.

                                        i.      Response times will go up as we will have fewer units to cover the 56 square miles we are responsible to protect in the City, and the SLFPD.

                                        ii.    For fire calls, increased response times will mean the fire will grow exponentially each minute making survival of occupants less likely, and firefighting more dangerous

                                       iii.    For medical calls, which is 70% of our workload, we will have fewer units to respond

1.    For those that don’t know this, the Fire Department responds to all medical calls as an industry-wide standard of care.

2.    In doing so, we beat the ambulance to medical calls over 67% of the time because we are trained in medical care, and we are strategically located throughout the community for rapid response.  

3.    With fewer fire companies to respond, the ambulance will be first on-scene to more calls and they only have to arrive within 8 minutes, 90% of the time, per contract. On busy days in this County, their response time can be be15-20 minutes or more responding out of Sacramento.

4.    This means a greater number of patients will have to wait that 8-20 minutes before any unit arrives to provide them medical care

5.    Brain death can occur in as little as 4-6 minutes when the heart stops beating due to a heart attack or trauma.

f.     Reduced staffing, and increased response times will increase risk to the  Community, and to the Firefighters

                                          i.    In the case of structure fires, we rely on our staffing to immediately perform critical, simultaneous tasks to reduce a very high risk situation to one where the risks are reasonable and manageable

                                        ii.    If we don’t have the staffing to perform these tasks and reduce these risks, Firefighter Safety must take precedence above all else.

                                       iii.    In most, if not all cases, we will no longer be able to enter a structure to fight the fire, and we will resort to attacking the fire from the exterior of the structure, and protecting exposed buildings.

                                       iv.    This is a huge step backwards for us because study after study has shown that aggressive interior fire attack is the MOST EFFECTIVE method of limiting property loss due to fire, and to improving the atmosphere inside a burning building so the chances of survival for anybody inside is improved.  

                                        v.    Reduced staffing will likely result in an increase in property loss and life loss in this community.  

g.    Eliminating a company will cause an increase in insurance costs

                                          i.    The Insurance Services Office (ISO), through their Public Protection Classification program, came here in 2008 to evaluate us on our ability to respond to, and suppress, structure fires. They looked at:

1.    Dispatch and communications capabilities

2.    Water delivery system capabilities

3.    And Fire Department capabilities.

                                    ii.        ISO rates communities on a 1-10 scale with1 being the best score. Insurance companies use the ISO rating to determine premiums.

                                   iii.        The City of Woodland has been a 3 and barely retained its 3 rating due to higher scores from our Dispatch Center and our water system.

                                   iv.        The FD, however, received a 4 rating due to deficiencies in:

1.    Fire inspections – which we have since improved

2.    Staffing - where ISO said we needed to have 5 companies to adequately protect this community due to the size and age of many of our buildings, rather than 4 companies.

3.    And Training where we were low on monthly training hours per person, and we lacked development of a training facility.

4.    We have made great strides to improve these deficiencies, but this proposal will erode those efforts.

5.    Moving our Training Officer to a shift position, and reducing Firefighter staffing here will cause the City’s rating to most certainly drop to a 4, and could drop it to a 5

6.    A drop to a 4 will likely impact commercial property owner insurance rates, but may or may not impact residential property owners

7.    A drop to a 5 would most likely negatively impact everyone.  

8.    This may discourage new businesses and companies looking to move to Woodland, or existing companies from staying in Woodland.  

h.    Eliminating a company will harm our Automatic and Mutual Aid agreements-

                                          i.    These aid agreements are reserved for infrequent and extraordinary events like mass-casualty incidents and structure fires, not for simple day-to-day operations

                                        ii.    We rely more now on our neighbors than ever before because our staffing on an engine or a truck has dropped back to 3 Firefighters, from 4 Firefighters in 2005.

1.    For example, in 2005 we could send 3 companies to a fire to meet the previous NFPA 12-Firefigher minimum on a fire, and leave one company available for additional calls.

2.    With us losing staffing due to attrition and cuts, we began sending all 4 of our companies to every building fire since 2008 just to meet the NFPA requirements and we call this our 1st Alarm

3.    Today, when we have a working fire, we have nothing left in the City for additional calls and we ask for an engine from Davis to move up to “cover” part of our City.

4.    If we have more fire, or the potential for a larger fire, than the 1st Alarm assignment can handle, we call for a 2nd Alarm which is essentially a duplicate of our 1st Alarm assignment meaning we should end up with 2X as many resources on a 2nd Alarm as we did on the 1st.

5.    Our 2nd Alarm is made up exclusively of resources from our neighboring departments because we depleted our own resources on the 1st Alarm

6.    The need for more assistance results in us requesting additional alarms to get more resources.

7.    We can’t get above a 3rd Alarm with the resources we have here in Yolo County, and we would have to call the State for help in coordinating assistance from neighboring counties

8.    Understand that these aid agreements with our neighbors are based on reciprocity meaning we can only receive help if we can afford to give help.

9.    Dropping to 3 companies will greatly limit our ability to provide help to our neighbors because we will have dropped dangerously low on the staffing we need to protect our own community

10. Remember- we can’t even get to a 2nd Alarm without our neighbors

i.      This reduction of an engine company will also cause an increase in overtime usage by an estimated $100,000 as we will need to call back our off-duty staff more to assist with call demands that we were previously able to handle with 4 companies

j.      And finally, this elimination of an engine company will displace 9 personnel, causing demotions, and extra Firefighter positions being created, in addition to the Firefighter position created by the elimination of a BC

k.    Of those additional Firefighter positions that are created, 7 will be laid-off.

l.      A total of 7 sworn, and 1 non-sworn position will be lost.

5.    Each element of this proposal, aside from the reduction in OT funds, will require Meet and Confer with the elimination of the Engine Company meeting the greatest opposition.

This proposal is a worst-case scenario. Please know that the Woodland Professional Firefighters Association and the Fire Mid-Management Association understand the severity of our situation and that they have already come forward to meet with the CM, and myself, to discuss alternatives. I will be working with these groups as we are all committed  to finding the best solution to helping with the budget shortfall without compromising public safety and Firefighter safety.

Thank you!

 

 

Tod Reddish

Fire Chief

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