FIRE RESTRUCTURING REPORT OUT
The city has just released a consultant’s report on restructuring its fire department that recommends shuttering a station, cutting jobs, training fire staff to take on a broader variety of jobs and shuttling non-fire administrative work off to other city departments.
The 81-page report, authored by the International City Manager’s Association, also recommends strategies to prevent fires from happening in the first place, and it suggests other departments – specifically, the city’s building department – be placed under fire’s command in order to implement them.
The report does not recommend combining the city’s police and fire departments. A separate study on the police department conducted by the consultant is pending.
The city has already acted on some of the report’s recommendations, cutting 11 positions through layoffs and shuttering Fire Station 5 on Alameda Point.
The report recommends shuttering one of the city’s fire stations and cutting staff to 86. It says individual fire command “silos” should be dismantled and that fire personnel should be able to take on a wider variety of departmental jobs. And it recommends the city cut per-shift staffing to a minimum of 21, with full staffing set at 26 plus a captain.
It notes that employee benefits average at $50,000 per employee but does not offer a specific recommendation to address that cost.
It also suggests looking at whether the department can operate its ambulance service with a blend of paramedics and lesser-trained (and cheaper) emergency medical technicians. I think all the ambulance folks are currently trained as paramedics.
Other suggestions in the report include:
*A focus on fire prevention, rather than firefighting, that includes installing and cataloging sprinklers in buildings, more routine building inspections and citations for owners with repeat false alarms and code violations.
*A cost-recovery strategy that includes setting up a subscription service for responses to accidents and medical calls that could be covered by victims’ insurance.
*Sharing personnel with other city departments, like finance, to do administrative work.
Even the name “firefighter” is up for review (they’re recommending “safety specialist”). The report acknowledges that the vast majority of fire department calls are for medical calls, with just 5 percent for actual fires.
The consultant collected dispatch data from December 1, 2007 to November 30, 2008.
I’ll have a full story for you on this first thing Thursday morning. Stay tuned.