What Does Secretary Gate's Outgoing Message to the Military Mean to the Fire Service?
Fred Kaplan, writing in Salon.com, describes the message former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates shared at the military academies during his recent goodbye tour:
The Army needs to shift from a garrison peacetime force that's preparing for a possible head-on armored clash against a foe of comparable strength to a mobile force that's fighting actual "asymmetric" wars against rogue states and insurgents.
The Air Force needs to pull back from its traditional obsession with high-tech air-to-air combat and focus more on joint operations—surveillance, precise air strikes, cargo transport, and rapid rescue—that help the troops on the ground.
The Navy needs to focus less on aircraft carriers and more on vessels that can maneuver in coastal waters.
Not Mincing Words: On his way out the door, Robert Gates gives the military some refreshingly frank advice.
Thinking the Unthinkable
As we start our NINTH fiscal year with shrinking budgets, I am wondering if the fire service is having the same mis-match of old mission facing new community needs.
ICMA Press published "Making Smart Choices about Fire and Emergency Medical Services in a Difficult Economy" (November 5, 2010) as part of their InFocus bi-monthly subscription.
Written by Fitch and Associates consultants Jay Fitch, PhD and Michael Ragone; and Best Practices in Emergency Services editor-in-chief Keith Griffiths. Your municipal leaders will consider this a valid reference book.
Labor and fire administration should get the 22 page ebook. Go HERE for a four page executive summary that includes the 20 questions the city manager should discuss with the fire chief.
"Unthinkable" Factors: Fire Suppression trends 1986 – 2008
- The number of actual fire responses declined by one-third.
- While residential fires still account for 84% of all structure fires, responses have declined 30%.
- Deaths in residental fires declined 42%.
Drops in structural workload between 1994 (5621 fires) and 1999 (2367 fires) is what drove Baltimore to close four engines, two truck companies and a battalion chief in 2007.
I am sure there is a similar drop in structural fire workload that guided the 2011 Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) deployment.
Over a three year period Los Angeles has eliminated 228 firefighter positions from daily field assignment.
Workload is up
While structure fires decline, the number of events has almost doubled in the 22 year retrospective, with medical calls the biggest contributer to the higher response workload.
Los Angeles shows four dials that track current workload each day.
At 6:22 pm on July 4, 2011 LAFD handled 1022 requests for service, including 9 structural fires and 815 ALS/BLS calls since 0001 hours. Go HERE to see entire dashboard.
We still go to fires
Andy Fredricks took a detailed look at FDNY statistics from 1950 to 2000.
In his presentation, "Don't Worry 'bout that Nozzle, Kid, 'cause We Don't Do Fires.", Fredricks observes that the number of occupied structural workers (OSW) continued to climb every year, closely linked to the city's population growth.
Most civilian rescues came from OSWs, with prompt action by first arriving units making the difference. You still need to force entry, perform primary search, operate handline, achieve horizontal ventilation and all of those other basic fire suppression tasks.
We add new technology and learn from ongoing research by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Underwriters Lab (UL) .
For example, FDNY's latest Seagrave pumpers are equipped with 2000 gpm pumps, changing a 50 year old specification requiring 1000 gpm. The change increases ability to supply tower ladders and use alternative water sources.
Dave Statter's recent posting of the US Park Police video dramatically shows that we still go to fires. Elliot Goodman photo of 921 Decatur Street NW on July 1,
Click on Early raw video: U.S. Park Police chopper crew captures recent two-alarm DC rowhouse fire.
Do not have the "perfect" solution
When I was a company officer assigned to a "border" station, we would run every day with an engine company from another jurisdiction. They were still operating a engine company with two rigs … and a crew of three.
The guys said they were afraid if they went to single pumper engine company, they would lose another position and become a two-person, one pumper engine company.
Today we are challenged when sending a half-million dollar fire company with a crew of four as an ems first responder.
Up to 80% of urban engine company responses are for ems assists.
Syracuse implemented a "Mini-Max" concept in the 1970s, using a pumper with a 50' telescoping waterway and mini-pumper. At the start, the mini-pumper handled vehicle and rubbish fires, especially in hard to access parking garages and back allies.
As semi-automatic external defibrillators were allowed to be used by non-paramedics in the late 1980's, the Syracuse mini-pumpers became the primary ems first responders,
(PS, would love to get a copy of an 8000 word article about Syracuse mini-pumpers written by Lieutenant David Reeves from Station 7 in the 1990s. Update – District Chief Reeves runs the Maintenance Division )
Tom Shands provides a current perspective on Syracuse operations, they still link an ems first responder vehicle with each every engine company. (Photo credit Shapiro Photography)
Syracuse reports that 62% of alarms are EMS-related.
Click on the title to access the December 2010 Firehouse.com article: Innovative Rigs on the Street: Syracuse’s New Pumpers
Is there another configuration of suppression fire forces that provides adequate response to structural fires and covers ems first responder events?
Mike "FossilMedic" Ward