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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Roanoke Fire/EMS Apparatus and Staffing

WARNING...rant ahead.

Let us talk for a minute about our apparatus. In recent years, we have seen a trend of catching up in the purchasing of fire and ems apparatus in Roanoke. I commend the powers that be as well as the apparatus committee of finding funding for certain apparatus. Ladder 2, Engine 11, 13, and 1 are all new apparatus and have proven to be very efficient. All but Engine 11 are Pierce. Engine 11 is a M&W fire engine. All of the aforementioned apparatus were very well received among the firefighters in the City.

The ambulance fleet seems to be seeing a decent turn-around on replacement. Although, we still suffer from the constant strain put on these trucks from running up and down the street all day long. These trucks have witnessed a shortened life span, and it is understandable.

However, with all that said we still have significant issues in our fleet. Some of the issues are understandable ( some are nearing the end of their useful life and need replacement), some issues were preventable (overweight, under-designed, and poorly planned apparatus), and yet others are not acceptable.

I learned recently that the reserve ladder truck cannot drive up certain hills in Roanoke. Recently, the reserve ladder truck, could not drive up Adams Street in NW Roanoke. The ladder truck made the turn, and the street was wide enough, the problem was the truck stopped moving forward. That is right, the truck could not pull its own weight up a hill and subsequently had to be backed down the road and the crew had to find an alternate route. This is inexcusable.

This ladder truck is our only reserve ladder truck currently. The truck is in service for ladder 13 at Station 13 currently, because Ladder 7 is out of service. Huh? Let me explain. Remember when they got rid of engine 7 and began utilizing Ladder 7 as a quint, well if ladder 7 goes out of service then ladder 13 has to be moved to station 7 to fill in and ladder 13 gets the reserve ladder. Do you follow now? It is a tangled mess.

Administration has already planned on replacing ladder 13. Unfortunately it isn't soon enough. Now remember that ladder 7 and ladder 13 are only about 10 years old. The ongoing joke is that they will use ladder 13 as a "parts car" for ladder 7.

However, there is recent rumor that Roanoke City is thinking about purchasing a 100' aluminum ladder on a single axle rear end to replace ladder 13. Didn't they learn their lesson with the two quints we have now.

Here is a solution:

  • Float a bond to purchase enough trucks to catch up. 3 ladder trucks and 4 engines to replace ladder 1, 7, and 13 and engines 2, 5, 6, and 8. This will leave you with a decent reserve fleet and replace the trucks which need it.
  • Replace the ladder trucks with tiller 100' straight sticks.
  • Then make minimum staffing on all ladder trucks 5.
  • You can easily obtain this with the SAFER Grant. Roanoke City won't end up paying the full 100% of the increased manpower for 10 years (don't quote me on that). IF YOU THINK 5 IS TOO MANY WATCH A LADDER TRUCK WORK AT A FIRE. There are too many tasks left incomplete or unaccomplished due to lack of manpower. Case and point, there might still be a roof on the apartments on 13th Street. However, that might be a strategy and tactics issue as well.
  • While writing the SAFER grant application, ask for more staffing for the engines as well. A 4 firefighter minimum would bring our staffing to acceptable levels. If you are paying attention, one of the first recommendations by the panel in Charleston was to increase staffing to 3...then 4. It doesn't have to be overnight, but the change would make things a whole lot safer and more efficient.
  • Since I am on the know that problem with the medic trucks running too many non-emergency calls.
  • Well here are two solutions:
  • One: invest in priority dispatching, turning over the non-emergent calls to a third party transport company.
  • Or...Two: re-invest the transport billing funds back into the system and put more ambulances on the street.
  • ...but that brings up another issue; not enough ALS providers. I am not going to tackle that right now. I will however hit on it AGAIN soon.
I know I didn't hit on everything I wanted to, but I think this is a good list. Before you start jumping down my throat for saying that "they" or "administration" or anyone else doesn't do anything, re-read what I wrote. I just outlined how to continue the work that has been started and finish the job.

We have been so lucky for a long time. If you read current events across America, you will find incidents occurring everyday which require more firefighters than we have on all three shifts combined. While I don't expect us to suddenly inflate our staffing to absurd levels, it would be nice to know that we are starting the game with enough players.

Stay safe


Anonymous said...

Rhett you are right on some of this.bu wrong on some of your info.The new ladder 13 as of yesterday,they were looking at a 105 foot pierce quint with a steel ladder. The safer grant will never be put in by this city cause THEY think we have to many people now.Remember we are the best fire department in the country if you talk to one D-Chief.They will not be happy till they get the new station 5 built so they can disband anohter engine and put another medic unit in service.And you can take this to the Bank.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post Rhett. I look forward to your next installment. As a taxpayer I find your blog rather informative. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Rhett, you are always preaching to us that we need to stand up with the union on issues, well i am fairly new to this game and i read on hear all the complaints from other older members that the union does nothing for us....explain to me what some of us new members need to do to help "US" with this problem we face...

Anonymous said...

Is this something that the Union could take to Admin to look at? I mean the grants for staffing and trucks. They always say they could do so much if they had a bigger pie.

Anonymous said...

Rhett the safer grant does not cover 10 years.

It covers 4 years of salaries
100% 1st year
75 2nd
50 3rd
25 4th

After that the locality picks up 100% of the funding.

The city could however use AFG to replace engines and secure new equipment as needed. I wonder why they don't?

Anonymous said...

Rhett, Just as I am, you are a member of the apparatus specification committee. Have you heard of any meetings being called to discuss what should be considered for the new Ladder? I have been off on vacation. Maybe I missed something. Craig Sellers.

Anonymous said...

AFG= Thats how you are getting the exaust system in each fire house, It got us all new scott air packs a few years ago,it got us a new tech rescue truck with equipmenton it, It got us the rit gear and tic cameras, so i would say the city has done a good job with getting grants, You will not see a safer grant. i will bet on that.

Anonymous said...

If you want the Local to be a stong voice and have an impact on Admin. get invovled. If all of the top brass in the department hears the same complaints something will get done. Station 1 would be a perfect start. Could you imagine if everytime a chief walked into station 1 they heard the same complaint from numerous people. They would either fix it or stop coming around.