Statement: “The city is paying half-price for quarter-service,” Alan Arrollado, president of San Diego’s firefighter’s union, wrote about the city’s two-person emergency response crew in a Dec. 1 op-ed.
Analysis: A key part of the pitch for the new, two-person emergency response crew serving Encanto is that it’s cheap.
Two firefighters operating out of a pick-up truck responding to 911 calls costs roughly $700,000 a year and allows the Fire-Rescue Department to get to emergencies quicker in a neighborhood long underserved by first responders. A city consultant recommended experimenting with the crews because they could handle emergencies in some neighborhoods at significantly less expense than building a new fire station. New stations staffed with a full four-person engine crew cost about $12 million.
Firefighter union president Alan Arrollado makes a different argument. He says the two-person crews are actually a raw deal for taxpayers.
The two-person crew, Arrollado said, costs about half as much to run as a four-person engine. But it only operates for 12 hours a day, instead of full time like four-person crews do.
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Your facts are wrong regarding the salary and benefits for a four person crew. It is actually $1.7 million not $2 million. Check again with the Fire Chief and correct. Thanks.
I don't know enough about the issue of two vs four man teams to respond intelligently. But I do know that public sector salaries and benefits are breaking the backs of cities. We must find innovative ways to reduce them. For example, in the city I live in, La Mesa, the AVERAGE salary for a full time fireman in 2012 (last year for which data is available on the State website) was about $110,000. When you add in the generous and costly benefits it is just too much. Surely there are ways to let market forces work (instead of having artificially high wages and benefits and work rules dictated by unions) and be more considerate of taxpayers - most of whom don't enjoy the same salaries and almost none of whom enjoy the generous pensions. The two man team concept needs to have an honest and fact based hearing.
As I see it a two man crew is useless unless it is a medical emergency. Even then in a pickup truck there isn't much they can do besides hurry up and wait. If the city wants to increase medical services than put an ambulance there. If the goal is to provide a full range of services than a 4 man crew with the right apparatus is in order.
"A key part of the pitch for the new, two-person emergency response crew serving Encanto is that it’s cheap."
It may be relative but it certainly is not Cheap.
$700 thousand for a 2 man crew. Think about it. That is a great deal of money for a 2 man crew.
We pay too much for these services and could certainly do better as Richard has attempted to point out by being creative and flexible.
Problem is there is no political will to do so
One reason cited for fire fighters responding to medical calls is that the contracted ambulances only have one paramedic per unit. The other person is the driver. Why aren't the ambulance contractors required to have two paramedics on board? Another issue is that the fire team can usually get to the scene quicker than the ambulance. Again, the question is why is the contractor not required to get there sooner? During the brownouts of the fire stations there were deaths that might have been prevented if help had arrived sooner but no one ever questioned why the ambulance crews did not get there in a timely manner.
Firefighters respond because the contracted services do a poor job of staffing in the city. We don't actually have a firefighter shortage, we have an ambulance and crew shortage.
Mr. Rosche: The paramedic ambulances in San Diego originally had two paramedics on board when the service was initiated in the late 70s and early 80s. The reason this changed has much to do with another point you make, that firefighters are often on-scene prior to the ambulance. This doesn't always happen. It often happens. As a result a decision was made to place one paramedic on each engine and one in each ambulance. Thus, whichever unit arrives first, there is a paramedic who can administer a higher level of care than the EMT firefighters (or second ambulance staffer). This also acknowledges the fact that one person has to drive the ambulance to the hospital and there is little need for that person to be a paramedic, since they cannot provide patient care while driving. I was an EMT for about 29 years and I can assure you that in a medical emergency you want a paramedic there as fast as possible due to the substantially higher level of care they can provide. You also asked why the contractors are not required to arrive on-scene sooner. To my knowledge the contract with the current ambulance providers (and past providers) includes certain benchmarks, which include average response times. Bids for ambulance services are based on the number of staffed ambulances it will take to achieve the benchmarks. The city can choose to lower the required average response times, but then the cost to the city rises as the contractor calculates the additional staff and ambulances they will need to provide.
This fact check lacks breadth. Capital expenses for fire stations are part of the picture, but just a part. Personnel expenses are part of the picture, but just a part. What’s needed is a full overview of the relative cost of all of the personnel and non-personnel expenses. Only then can there be a meaningful discussion about the value or lack thereof of this concept.
What about volunteers? In the old days almost everybody had them but I suspect that after years they either got hired or let go...why? Perhaps because they began to eat into the regular firefighters pay? There are hundreds of men and women out there who would love to be volunteer firefighters and EMT's so why not use them?...the rest of the country does. Also, why is there an engine AND a paramedic sent on many calls which would only require a paramedic? Seems like a waste of time, money and liability.
@Gary Vineyard GARY, a fair question and here is the answer.
Time is life. Literally. How long are you willing to wait for volunteers to respond from their jobs or the barbers chair as so many movies depict, to assemble at the fire station then get on the engine or ambulance and come to your house while your having a hear attack or you house burns?
Training is another reason. We train every day, and we are at the ready every moment of every day we are in the fire house. What if a firefighter showed up and to your home and only received training once a week or even once a month which is the norm for volunteer fire departments. Now this less trained person makes a mistake and some sort of litigation comes of it. Who pays that bill? The city does thats who, and some mistakes cost lives. A better trained fire department is like a better trained army. Which do you want protecting you, a well trained army or a rabble of well armed militia?
As for the fire engine and ambulance on many calls. Don't mean to get personal but how much do you weigh? We don't send people who are all built like Atlas to your home. Imagine only two people showing up to your home to carry you out on a stretcher, carry the 90-110 lbs of equipment and provide you with the high level of medical care you deserve. Just not possible. Also the ambulances in the city have an EMT driver and 1 paramedic. The fire engines have a paramedic as well. It takes two highly trained paramedics to effectively provide pre-hospital care. Think Johnny and Roy from that old TV show.
Mr Vineyard, I am glad you asked this question because I think most people wonder the same thing. I hope that I have been able to shed some light on your question and believe me when I say that San Diego Fire Rescue personnel are the best in the world.
@Erik Windsor @Gary Vineyard Erik, thanks for the reply. I'm not sure I made myself perfectly clear so let me give it another shot. I am in no way suggesting that "regular" firefighters/EMT's be replaced. My point is to supplement them with volunteers.
I'm an old cop so I have a bit of insight on what goes on in emergency calls. In the old days we didn't even have paramedics, only ambulances and more often than not the police were called for the emergency and an ambulance dispatched to transport. Fire rolled only if there was fire or the threat of fire.
Again back in my day we were all male, most were veterans and we were bigger so we handled just about whatever came up...and before any libs start bitching, I'm just saying that's the way it was. Period.
Nowadays, because of discrimination lawsuits many responders from all emergency services are smaller and weaker Having said all of that I'm glad we have modernized, cut down response times and come into the 21st Century but if you give me (or most people) the choice of having no response or volunteer assisted response I'll betcha that they'll take the volunteer assisted.
As to liability; the volunteers I've known over the years went to a great deal of training and some jerk can sue a regular firefighter just as easy as a volunteer...why?...because there are just too many scum sucking, bottom dwelling, ambulance chasing attorneys out there looking for work.
Hope this clears it up and nothing but accolades for all of our emergency service responders.
Mr. Vineyard: What's your view of and experience with volunteer cops? Regarding volunteer firefighters, in my observation this tends to work in small towns where enough people live and work close to a fire station to be able to respond to the station, then respond in the fire apparatus. In large cities it's impractical I think, since people don't live and work near fire stations and thus are not immediately available when needed.
There's a further innovation to this 2 person crew concept that needs to be adopted -- but the ff union will fight it to the death.
We need to have the 2 man (well, usually men) satellite crew housed in a residential home in the neighborhood they are stationed in, so the response time is good 24/7. A modest 2 bedroom home can be purchased for $400,000 or less - or rented. The "pick up truck" can be housed in the garage (perhaps with minor modification).
Moreover, if the shifting demographics later dictate the home is no longer the optimum location, it can be sold "as is" -- an abandoned fire station usually has to be leveled for some other use. In addition, if a new fire station is needed, the housing needs for firefighters would be cut in half, somewhat reducing the construction costs.
But the ff's consider their fire station camaraderie sacrosanct. This well-paid band of brothers (and sisters) relish the together time. This is the line in the sand they will go to the wall for. Given the fear of politicians of firefighter ire, it's hard to imagine this reform being adopted.
This 19th century fire station hangout tradition is today both expensive and dangerous -- the slower response times cost lives and property.
This public safety approach would never happen if this was in neighborhood of La Jolla. It's just sad that SD City is always looking for the least expensive way to provide public services. This fire protection issue in Encanto has never surfaced until the past year. This neighborhood dates back to the 1920's too. Why?
Good discussion. However, you should fact-check that $2 million figure. According to the FY15 Adopted Budget, the salary cost, not benefits, of a 4-person engine is $967,845. Over a million in benefits is huckster propaganda.
Not surprising the city would give you that kind of number. They aren't exactly transparent when it comes to this stuff. Yes, it frustrates us as well as the taxpayer. We are taxpayers as well as first-responders.
Additionally, for years we heard the city had money to build stations but couldn't afford the staffing. Now we hear just the opposite. Again, the double-speak frustrates us as well.
@Alan Arrollado Hi Alan. Thanks for continuing the conversation. The $2m figure came from SDFRD yesterday.
@Alan Arrollado -- You assert that "We [firefighters] are taxpayers as well as first-responders."
But actually, most of you firefighters are NOT taxpayers -- not in the city in which you work. Indeed, because you commute to work only 6-7 times a month (double shifts), many of you live outside the COUNTY -- Temecula is a favorite hangout, as you well know. Of all city employees, you firefighters push the hardest for city tax increases (likely because you have the most time off) -- and are least likely to PAY the taxes.
Actually a very small percentage of "us non tax paying firefighters" live in Temecula as you so wrongly assert. It is true that many of us live "outside" the city limits but we pay taxes as much as anyone else does . So lets clear up some of your inaccurate statements.
We work on average 10 twenty four hour shifts a month. 240 hours a month, where most civilians work 40 hour work weeks maybe a little more ,but not 240 hours a month. We do have to work overtime, sometimes mandatory overtime (which is a cost saving to the city) which means we work even more than the average person. We don't complain about it and in fact we do it professionally and provide the tax payers and non tax payers the best service anywhere.
We don't push for higher taxes anywhere, mostly because we pay all the same taxes you do. I don't want taxes to go up anymore than the next guy. You make it sound like we firefighters are some sort of secret society that pays no taxes and sits in some place on high just spilling the ol tax payer dollar out of our gold wine goblets. Soo not the case .
What we do time and time again, is try to hold the people who make the financial decisions to their word. When a politician campaigns on the platform that they will improve city services during an election run then we expect them to keep to that word.
What we do is ask that the citizens we struggle to protect are given a fair shot by having us stationed around them so that we can arrive in a timely manner and save lives and property. I wish I could convey to you how tragic it is to see someones grandparent, parent or child suffer a negative outcome or even die because it took us longer than 8 minutes to get to their side. Imagine the body going without oxygen for 8 minutes. Just that simple.
What we do Mr. Ryder is work with less and less, accept more risk all the time, provide the best EMS and FIRE protection anywhere in the U.S. and yes WE PAY TAXES.
@Erik Windsor @Richard Rider @Alan Arrollado Eric, your comments are insulting and as usual without merit.
To claim one is a taxpayer is to claim one pays taxes in the jurisdiction where one is advocating higher taxes. It makes as much sense as you saying you are a taxpayer, hence you are as concerned about Chicago taxes as those who DO pay Chicago taxes.
You make the common bogus firefighter claim that you WORK 24 hours per shift. No, you are ON CALL each 24 hour shift. You WORK maybe half that time, if that. You get paid while you watch TV, eat, sleep and browse the Internet -- including to engage in these discussions.
It would be interesting to know how many city of San Diego firefighters live outside the county (Temecula or elsewhere). 20%, perhaps? Maybe higher? At any rate, less than half of you live INSIDE the city -- probably a lot less. Feel free to present the figures with a city source -- I don't know if the city tracks this.
"We don't push for higher taxes anywhere"??? You forgot to add "LOL" or a smiley face.
You firefighters were big supporters of Prop D, the San Diego city sales tax increase. Your union supports EVERY city tax increase -- certainly it opposes none. It actively supported Prop D, as did the individual firefighters.
Our city firefighters provided most of the manpower to try to block city reform propositions, falsely trying to scare petition signers away with false "identity theft" claims. Honesty is not your strong point.
I'm sure it's a sad thing to not get to a sick or injured person in time -- I couldn't agree more. But for you it's a matter of priorities. Given the choice of:
1. Getting to the health emergency within 5 minutes by implementing inconvenient (for you) reforms of 2 man crews, or
2. Arriving EN MASSE with 4 firefighters after 8 minutes so you can all be together in the fire station --
it's all too clear which is more important -- to firefighters.
Have you NO shame?
@Richard Rider @Erik Windsor @Alan Arrollado Mr Rider, as much as you LOVE to punch firefighters (been at it since 2003) with demeaning commentary, you might want to take a breath and think before you type.
To be honest, who cares if the SDFD personnel live in San Diego or San Dimas. If it's such an issue then how much of any workforce lives within the city limits? And why does that affect the price of tea in Hong Kong? It doesn't.
As a former Naval Officer, did you not enjoy the company of your fellow officers, or were you "that guy", and once again, why is it that the fact that a crew becomes "tight" and a more effective unit an issue that you must stab at? It is not "Sacrosanct" but a fact that when you live with and encounter stressful situations with the crew you are assigned to, you become close and a extended family. Why this is an issue? You tell me.
If the current model of firefighting is incorrect, then the firefighting forces in all continents have it wrong also. I fail to believe that stationing firefighters in a structure made for that purpose is "outdated" as you put it in another commentary section.
"Have you no shame"...Wow,to accuse us (again on multiple occasions) of usng our job to "hang out" and fail to serve the public. Such accusations have no merit as does your "Rider Rant"
@William Waugaman @Richard Rider @Erik Windsor @Alan Arrollado - William, applying your firefighter thinking to the military (as you vainly try to do) -- you seem to think that a unit in a combat zone should all hang out together -- all the time. No dispersal, no forward scouts, no two-man foxholes. You could have lost WWII with that policy!
You might want to take a deep breath and think before you type.
@William Waugaman @Richard Rider @Erik Windsor @Alan Arrollado William, who cares where you firefighters live? I do!
And I'm glad you made your bonehead assertion that it makes no difference if a SD firefighter lives in San Dimas --2.5 hours away from the San Diego city limits if the roads are uncongested. Amazed, but glad. You ably demonstrate how incredibly self centered too many firefighters are about such matters.
Two reasons I'm concerned:
1. You claim you pay taxes, so you are in the same boat. you DO pay taxes -- but not taxes where you work (more often than not). You are in a DIFFERENT boat.
2. It DOES make a difference where you live. The call up RESPONSE TIME is crucial. We lost 330 homes in my Scripps Ranch subdivision in the 2003 fire. Most were lost in part because of the slow call up time. Those ff's who live in up I-15 can and ARE cut off if the Interstate is closed to traffic -- yes it happens. It took HOURS to man the reserve trucks with full 4 man teams and get to the fires. HOURS.
In the 1990's there was an LA department scandal because a group of the firefighters commuted to work by plane -- from IDAHO. They'd work 4-8 shifts back to back, and then fly off for 20 days. Their response time in a call up was abysmal. Reforms changed that to some degree, but ff's who live 100 miles away are slow to return to work when called.
You might want to take a deep breath and think before you type.
@Richard Rider @William Waugaman @Erik Windsor @Alan Arrollado Mr Rider, I have been a Marine for over 24 years and have served with units in combat and peacetime operations and do know that you can have a cohesive team that performs to a higher level if they spend time together. The kneejerk assertion of "no dispersal, no fwd scouts and no-two man foxholes" can be readily dismissed by anyone who has served in a line unit.
If I may reference Easy Co 1/506th who were a tight unit down to the fire team level (4 persons). And they helped win WWII.http://www.amazon.com/Band-Brothers-Regiment-Airborne-Normandy/dp/074322454X
@Richard Rider @William Waugaman @Erik Windsor @Alan Arrollado Mr Rider, I know the proximity of a city in Los Angeles to the City of San Diego. Thank you for the geography lesson, now let's debate the topic at hand.
In any disaster there will be delays in gaining the appropriate resources to a large scale event. Yes there were delays in getting the firefighters back to be assigned, yes, there were delays in getting engines back in service to be staffed. There is more than one freeway that traverses the County of San Diego so that assertion that if the 15 is cut off no one can respond is null.
Now to address the LAFD "scandal" which wasn't a scandal at all. It was the ACLU finding that most LAPD not fire do not live in Los Angeles, and thus did not reflect the community in which they serve. Further findings state that this has been corrected and the numbers do not reflect the same as they did in 1994.
Why does this happen? is it the fact that they price of housing in the city limits are too darn high? Is it the fact that you can get a better more affordable house outside San Diego? Yes you can.
@William Waugaman @Richard Rider @Erik Windsor @Alan Arrollado William, Of COURSE you must spend time together to become a team. Firefighting it a team effort -- so the 4 man team should train together, but they don't have to live together -- any more than SWAT police officers have to live together.
SWAT officers are usually spending most of their time out in 1 or 2 person patrol units, and they seem to get both jobs done just fine. They don't have to eat together, sleep together and watch TV together to be a top flight performing team. You can too!
You are raising a red herring issue, and I understand why. You are desperate to somehow justify full-time hanging-out together. And sadly that camaraderie is more important to most firefighters than the crucial response time for your PRIMARY function -- medical emergencies.
@William Waugaman @Richard Rider @Erik Windsor @Alan Arrollado William, you airily asserting that it's just fine for a firefighter to be 2.5 hours or more away when a call-in is initiated. Amazing. Downright AWESOME! I watched homes burn in my neighborhood while you out-of-county ff's took your sweet time coming into work. And apparently you don't care.
As to the housing prices -- we could pay you a million dollars a year and you'd STILL live outside the city -- for the simple reason that rural housing is cheaper. You can ALWAYS buy a bigger, more luxurious home outside a city -- the further out, the bigger bang for the buck you get. Always.
Most people can't afford to live so far out, because they commute to work 22 days a month. You commute to work 6-7 days a month max, so a longer drive is not a big deal. THAT's why ff's live so far from work.
It's not the high housing prices that cause you ff's to live far away. National City has very low housing prices, and only ONE of their 41 firefighters lives in the city limits. Most live in North County, East County or north of San Diego County.
@William Waugaman @Richard Rider @Erik Windsor @Alan Arrollado One point we agree on is that the SD city fire department was woefully ill-prepared for the mobilization in the 2003 brush fires. Indeed, it flubbed the 2007 effort as well -- the equipment wasn't "combat ready." It's the scandal that the press never picked up on.
This was a MANAGEMENT problem, not a ff problem. The trucks simply weren't ready, and homes burned. The management and fire chief never were held accountable for this disaster. Personally I felt it was criminal negligence.
@Richard Rider @William Waugaman @Erik Windsor @Alan Arrollado Mr Rider, I not deasparate to to justify my time spent on duty and once again you flatly accuse me and my crew of dereliction of duty, which is a strong accusation, sir, one which I do not take lightly.
I cannot speak to the effectiveness of a SWAT operation and I believe you don't either. I have made the point that many of the units in which I have served do the same day to day duties as found within the fire service. While on board ship we ate, slept and watched TV together, hmmm got a lil similarity there don't we. You did serve on a ship Mr Rider, or were you shore duty your career?
I'm trying to see the reasoning you have against a crew that is expected to complete a task within the set national guideline is a friction point.
And a point of order for you, I have not insulted you once during this debate, but yet you make it very obvious to insult me. I highly doubt Mr Giffin will come to my rescue as he did for you, but birds of a feather eh?
One point to make, both major fire events were weather anomalies that while similar, were very different in the speed of each event.
You don't know if I live in the city, the county or the very same neighborhood as you, but guess what...I do. I live appx 3.5 miles from you and my home borders the Western fire boundary from 2003. In 2007 I almost lost my residence in RB. Do not make broadstroke assertions, they have a tendency to get you in trouble like "You took your sweet time". Mr Rider, I was on my third (3rd) campaign fire when the Cedar broke. We drove like madmen to get into those sub-divisions, but you are still blinded by management decisions and thus choose to crucify the first firefighter who stands to challenge you. In both fires firefighters lost their own homes while attempting to save those in SR.
Look at how many people in general moved to Riverside County when the SD market became too untenable. Not just firefighters, not just cops and not just white collar workers who saw a better deal. I fail to understand why you demonize those who search for the better deal? Why is this bad? Just because they don't live behind you doesn't mean they don't have your back.
Why don't you live in National City? the housing prices are lower there, and so is the quality of home there. They are older requiring work and maybe folks don't want to put a ton of money into a home that's substandard and pay high taxes on it.
No firehouse means no sleeping on the job which is an amazing perk. I can't think of another job where you get paid while sleeping and cooking dinner, browsing the net, eating, playing games, showering, etc. And you can day you worked overtime and make extra money! Sweet.
This allows for 12 hour shifts or longer so fireman can work 3-4 days a week and put this days together and then qualify for weeks off at a time.
If you were to add in the opportunity cost of capital, you could upgrade the "misleading" verdict to either "true" or "false". But that would open up some financial questions that the city might prefer not to answer.