I have a couple friends on DCFD.

One very close friend, an acquaintance, and several Facebook friends (which is more like playing “six degrees of separation”)

I first read about the DCFD schedule shake up a few weeks ago, and now it looks like it will actually happen.

I’ve gotta say that the plan looks ok on paper, but I remember back in the day working those kinds of shift rotations and not enjoying it too much. Talking to my wife this morning, her question through the whole things was “ok, when do I get to work?”

I don’t think Chief Ellerbe thought this through. The effect on families with two incomes will be drastic, as spouses that used to be able to work on the off days will no longer be able to if the schedule works out that one stays home while the other works. You may find firefighters working days and nights back to back just to maintain the balance, which would be stressful if you can’t find the trades or swap.

Plus, Ellerbe wants the “cost savings” and lay off 400 people, which more than likely would be made from the bottom of the seniority list working up. Imagine if 400 people disappeared from the roster overnight? The overtime would be horrendous, and it wouldn’t be a short term cost until people could get moved around. People would quickly tire of being worked to death and held over until a replacement could be found (if at all) and just simply call in or quit. so the losses would probably extended BEYOND the original 400, and pretty soon you’d be depleted, and with DCFD’s reputation, hiring would be nearly impossible. It’s a slippery slope.

Decades of poor management and even poorer leadership and common sense have left DCFD a shell of what it’s former self, and that former self and even farther memory. Political hacks given a badge and a shirt and sent in to lead a department that was already in pieces, and hack it to even smaller pieces. Somehow only the people in the business and the people on the streets of DC see something wrong, the politicians fail to understand what will ACTUALLY happen if this goes through.

I know if we lost 400 people in Memphis, in the same way, we would lose pretty all our paramedics except for a handful, who would probably move on to something better. I am going to imagine that DC is in the same boat.


Category: Commentary, Fire

About the Author

Russell Stine is a firefighter/paramedic in a large urban system. He has been employed for 6 years as a street level provider and has delivered care as an EMT and a paramedic across the urban, suburban, and rural settings. He has been in emergency services for 15 years.

  • Too Old To Work

    Cost savings from moves like this, like cost savings when fire takes over an EMS system, are for the most part illusory or the result of creative management. The costs in terms of lower morale, increased sick time, loss of experienced medics and fire fighters, is never figured in because they are unintended consequences and hard to calculate in advance.

    Like Baltimore, the FD in Sorta Big City is on a 10/14 hour schedule. In reality most of the FFs do swaps so they actually work 24 hours shifts. That’s fine for a FD that only does first response (I guess), but it would be a killer in a busy system where the FD does EMS and transports. At least I think so.

    Of course if that blue ribbon panel had gone with the recommendation of one of it’s members and separated EMS and Fire into two separate agencies, this wouldn’t be a problem, but too many members of that panel were totally invested in maintaining the status quo and only appearing to make changes.

    Finally, I’d think that this would be  a subject of mandatory bargaining at contract time. At least in my shop it is, but of course contracts and labor law are different from place to place.

  • Too Old To Work

    My first line should have said “creative accounting” instead of creative management, because it appears that the only thing that DCFD management creates is problems.


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