Cranston’s Fire Department – Staffing Levels

Under “Institutional Racism, Quotas and Cranston”, commenter EMT makes the following observation:

Actually, they need another station in Western Cranston (10-minute response times are unacceptable for a paid department in 2007), and NFPA-complaint staffing department wide. It would probably double the department, minus a few.

There are a couple of broad implications in this comment. The first is that the Cranston Fire Department is understaffed. The second is that all fire stations in Cranston are ideally located. Both of these are flatly contradicted by the Performance Audit of the Cranston Fire Department conducted in 2003.
Staffing level from a cost analysis:

The ICMA [International City/County Management Association] publishes data relative to average fire per capita costs for cities in specific population ranges. The per capita costs listed in the ICMA Municipal Year Book, 2003 for 2002 per capita costs are as follows:
126 cities with a population range of 50,000 to 100,000: $118.45
60 cities with a population range of 100,000 to 250,000: $125.53
17 cities with a population range of 250,000 to 500,000: $119.94
7 cities with a population range of 500,000 to 1 million: $127.42
The City of Cranston Data for FY2002:
Cranston-Rhode Island Web site (80,072 ÷ $21,134,085) $263.94
Caution is required in the interpretation of the data. The ICMA notes that its average per capita costs include retirement and medical costs.

Staffing level on a per capita basis:

The per capita staffing listed in the ICMA Municipal Year Book, 2003 for 2002 staffing is as follows
City Classification Total Uniformed/Sworn
73/69 cities in New England 1.70 1.67
7 cities with a population range of 500,000 to 1 million: 1.93 1.69
17 cities with a population range of 250,000 to 500,000: 1.42 1.42
81/79 cities with a population range of 100,000 to 250,000: 1.57 1.41
152/148 cities with a population range of 50,000 to 100,000: 1.52 1.35
The data for Cranston:
Cranston Authorized (202 Uniformed, 208 Total – 80,072): 2.59 2.52
City of Cranston – 2003 Estimated Population 81,674: 2.54 2.47

The audit points out not only that

If the Department equaled the fire staffing ratio of Uniformed/Sworn per 1,000 residents for the average of 148 cities with a population of 50,000 to 100,000 (1.35 x 81.674 -2003 estimate), Cranston would need 111 Uniformed/Sworn personnel, substantially fewer than the current 202

but that fire department staffing levels exceed those for the Cranston Police force.

In the Study Team’s experiences in 40 states, it is most unusual for a fire department to have a higher ratio or number of sworn personnel per 1,000 population than police departments in those … same cities. In Cranston, the Fire Department has 53 more uniformed/sworn positions than the Cranston Police Department.

As to the present location of fire stations within the city:

Fire Stations 1 and 2 are approximately .5 and .6 miles, respectively, from the borders with Providence and Warwick. The proximity to the city border means that these two fire stations, where currently located, will never have full service areas within Cranston as compared to the other fire stations. These fire stations have “half/partial pie-shaped” response areas which do not allow them to operate as efficiently as the other fire stations in terms of service for the dollars spent.
Moreover, Fire Stations 1, 2, and 3 are very close together, .9 miles between Fire Stations 1 and 2 and .8 miles between Fire Stations 2 and 3, via the closest response routes. When considering the 1.5 mile ISO coverage standard for engine companies, these fire stations are significantly closer geographically than necessary.
Fire Stations 4 and 5 are approximately .75 and .7 miles, respectively, from the border with Warwick. This proximity to the City border means that these two fire stations, where currently located, also will never have full response areas within Cranston as compared to the other fire stations. These fire stations also have “half/partial-pie shaped” response areas which does not allow them to operate as efficiently as the other fire stations in terms of service for the dollars spent. Moreover, the proximity of Fire Stations 4 and 5 to each other is 1.3 miles, and indicates that there may be up to 1.5 miles of over-coverage between the engine companies located at these two fire stations.

The audit addresses the over-staffing and uneven distribution of fire stations with specific suggestions, including the reduction and consolidation of staffing as well as the relocation of Fire Station 4 to the Oaklawn Avenue/Route 37 area. Focusing back on EMT’s call for a new fire station in western Cranston, it appears that the staffing of such a station could be accomplished in house, with or without closing Fire Station 4, but certainly without additional hires.

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Greg
Greg
13 years ago

It’s always enlightening to get BEHIND the lies the unions push forward, isn’t it?
“Our response time is bad…” is what they say. What they leave out is “…because our union supporters in government strategically located them in such a way that we need three times as many personnel to cover the same area…”

michael
13 years ago

Our “union supporters” who located the fire stations in Providence did so in the 1700’s!.
I’ve given up on the numbers game. For every performance audit paid for by mayors and city councils there is a counter audit paid for by the unions. The auditors are busy auditing away while common sense flies out the window. Comparing a city like Cranston to a quiet, middle class city in North Carolina with a similar population can be very misleading, just as comparing a city like Cranston to a city like Lawrence, Mass. is equally misleading. The number crunchers know just how to manipulate their data.
I wish we had a thousand firefighters in Providence but know that isn’t feasable. We make do with what we have and try to present our side of things when taxes rise. Choosing between which city service to cut is never easy, choosing to illegally take away negotiated benefits is a popular answer.

Greg
Greg
13 years ago

Michael,
Please explain what sense it is to Cranston to have fire stations located on the borders instead of inside the city with AOR that cover an overlapping circle instead of a half-circle?

michael
13 years ago

It doesn’t make any sense. Maybe the existing stations are what they have so they make the best of it. It isn’t cheap or easy to redesign and build more strategicly placed fire stations.

EMT
EMT
13 years ago

Of course. A “performance audit” PAID FOR BY THE CITY that plays with numbers to support the city’s point of view!
Amazing!
Look, I don’t expect you to understand how to run a fire department. Most taxpayers don’t, all they see is the money.
All I have to ask is:
Can you hold your breath for 10 minutes?
If not, you should be supporting another fire station in Western Cranston. Read the Journal- one person we know of has died because help didn’t get to him in time, and that wasn’t even in the Western end! Who knows how many lives have been lost or severely impaired by long response times.
As for the staffing, you can’t run a department on a per-capita basis. You have to run it by what’s NEEDED.
Who knows that better- NFPA, or a bunch of hired gun number-crunchers who knew what they wanted to find before they started?
But, if you really have no interest in safety, and are solely concerned with saving a buck, I don’t figure you’ll get that.
Ps- I live in Cranston. If those recommendations had been adopted, I’d have moved out. They are completely contrary to public safety.
PPS- Fire and Police departments are never going to make a profit, so stop trying to run them like businesses.

Mike
Mike
13 years ago

So when I said that Cranston has roughly double the national average staffing and double the average spending I was right and “EMT” who claimed I knew nothing on the subject was wrong?
Well, to quote Gomer Pyle-not to be confused with Duie Pyle-“Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!”
For a bonus question-How much do our pampered firemen contribute to their pensions? EMT-care to educate the marks?

EMT
EMT
13 years ago

So when I said that Cranston has roughly double the national average staffing and double the average spending I was right and “EMT” who claimed I knew nothing on the subject was wrong?
Most municipalities are severely understaffed. Cranston has 3 trucks with proper staffing (out of 9 total). Strange as it seems, yeah, they end up with, statistically, higher staffing than the average.
It’s just not practical staffing or safe staffing. WW runs an obscene 2 men per truck. If I lived in West Warwick I’d be livid that the town thinks so little of my life.
So yes. You’re still wrong.

For a bonus question-How much do our pampered firemen contribute to their pensions? EMT-care to educate the marks?

Leave it to an arrogant know it all to call men who run into burning buildings while you’re running out in your underwear “pampered.”
However, since I’m not a firefighter (union or otherwise), I don’t really feel qualified to speak about contract provisions, since I’ve never had one.

John
John
13 years ago

EMT writes: “PPS- Fire and Police departments are never going to make a profit, so stop trying to run them like businesses.”
The glib response is “and that is why so many businesses are leaving RI or not coming here in the first place.”
The longer answer is this. The performance of all organisms and organizations can be judged on three criteria: (1) Effectiveness: Do they achieve their most important goals? (2) Efficiency: How many resources do they expend, relative to others, to achieve their goals? And (3) Adaptability: Relative to others, how does their effectiveness and efficiency change in response to changes in their environment?
Using these standards, EMT, you can compare the performance of not-for-profits, unions, corporations, fire departments, political parties, state government, welfare programs, churches, and any other type of organization you choose.
By these standards, the Cranston FD appears to perform poorly: As you note, effectiveness is questionable (at least if you live in western Cranston), as others note, efficiency is miserable, and, as evidenced by the refusal to adapt to changing circumstances, CFD scores low here too. One way or another, CFD appears to be on a path that ends in crisis of one type or another.

johnpaycheck
johnpaycheck
13 years ago

i have observed 2 emt responses in cranston. i though they did a good job. it also seemed like there were 4 people on the run each time. i am not sure if 4 peopel are needed for a person having a health problem. i just dont know.
but i will say, there was an emt call up the street from me a few yearsa go. an elderly person.
there were 5 fire vehicles at the house. i am a little curious why there were 5. is this standard procedure??
again, i dont know.
but i have been in the emergency room at the hospital and seen them grossly understaffed.

Monique
13 years ago

EMT, numbers were not “played” in this audit. It was a simple comparison to other cities. And per capita and dollar-wise, Cranston’s fire deppartment was found to be over-staffed and expensive.
Two points for anyone to jump in on. Is it true that a fire truck is dispatched on every non-fire rescue run in Cranston?
Secondly, if there are objective, public safety circumstances which explain the high cost of Cranston’s fire department, please feel free to describe them. They should certainly be taken into consideration.

michael
13 years ago

In Providence, firefighters pay 9 1/2 % of their salary into the pension system, I assume Cranston is similar.
Fire departments respond to emergencies. When somebody calls 911 it is assumed that that person is experiencing some sort of life threatening EMERGENCY! Because people call 911 for rides to the hospital does not clear the fire department from liability. One person calls and says that have amputated their leg with a power saw. We get there and find a minor laceration from an electric pencil sharpener. (true) Another person calls and says they don’t want to bother us but they had a small accident and are bleeding a little. We get there and find an unconscious person hemmoraging with an arterial bleed. (also true)
If you need a ride to the hospital for an infection or cold or flu CALL A CAB! and stop blaming fire departments for sending too much help.

Greg
Greg
13 years ago

Michael,
As a former firefighter I know damned well that there is rampant waste in the system. Your unwillingness to admit that sometimes it’s excessive to send a ten ton truck with a full fire crew to an emergency call smacks of ‘you don’t know so you have no right to question why’ and as a taxpayer that answer is un-F*ing-acceptable.

michael
13 years ago

We send a rescue by itself on all BLS (basic life support) calls. ALS (Advanced Life Support) ie. difficulty breathing, chest pain, diabetic emergencies, maternity complications, gunshots, MVA’a get more manpower.
When was I unwilling to admit it is excessive to send a ten ton truck to anything?
There really is no argument here. Maybe Cranston sends a fire company on every call, I don’t know, I’m just telling things from my perspective.

Greg
Greg
13 years ago

Okay. That makes a reasonable amount of sense. In Cranston they’ll roll a whole company to a runny nose.
Hey, where can I get your book?

michael
13 years ago

Thanks for asking. It’s available at Borders, Providence and Garden City, Books on the Square, Providence and online.

Greg
Greg
13 years ago

Where can I buy it where you make the most profit?

michael
13 years ago

If you go to http://www.rescuing-providence.blogspot.com and go through the paypal stuff I do better than the stores. I’m learning a lot about publishing, one thing being that writers don’t make a lot of money!
Thanks.

Greg
Greg
13 years ago

I’ll go that route then.
Publishing, like music, is good for those at the top, not the talent.

EMT
EMT
13 years ago

The fire company is for manpower. In today’s fat-ass society, the help is needed all the time. In some cases, it’s because the rescue is coming from a distance and you never REALLY know what’s happening on the other end of the phone.
“Arm pain” turns out to be a cardiac arrest (true story).
“She’s not acting right” turns out to be a stroke (true story).
As for “inefficiency,” what’s inefficient is 2- and 3-man fire companies.
In any fire the people who are searching for victims come from the ladder trucks.
But they are also responsible for ventilation- removing windows and sometimes cutting a hole in the roof to prevent a buildup of gases that can lead to an explosion.
In Cranston, the ladder companies have just 2 firefighters.
One person can’t cut the roof by himself, and one person can’t be searching- the buddy system is an absolute MUST inside a burning building where anything can happen.
It’s disgusting the conditions Cranston firefighters are required to work under because of taxpayers thinking about their wallets instead of their lives.

kjr
kjr
13 years ago

I won’t even pretend I know anything about the CFD but 2 things hit me in this blog. #1 Don’t compare police departments to fire departments. There are 2 different service deliveries there even though they both have vehicles.
#2 The FD will usually have more personnel than the PD since we need how many ever people you have on duty X 4 shifts for complete coverage plus your admin positions. (Vs. 3 shifts for cops)
If you truly want to know about staffing you should look at ISO and NFPA, not the ICMA.

kjr
kjr
13 years ago

Almost forgot……..
An Assistant Chief at a seminar I attended had the answer for why fire stations are located in bad spots. Free land!

Mr.Cash
Mr.Cash
13 years ago

Well I don’t usually wade into these blogs but this one has my attention. First and foremost, there is not a city in the entire US that staffs it’s fire apparatus correctly anymore. Not even FDNY with all of its resources. A FULLY staffed fire company is staffed with 1 Fire Officer and 5 Firemen. However, due to financial concerns and budgetary restraints cities cut back staffing nationwide in the late 70s and early 80s. In todays fire service the absolute minimum staffing has to be 1 Fire Officer and 3 Firemen per Fire Engine, Ladder Truck, or Heavy Rescue/Special Hazards. Anything less is a diservice to the citizens and a recipe for disaster for the firemen. Todays fires burn hotter and faster than ever before and cities should not consider stretching response times or minimizing staffing. Yes fire protection costs. It always has and it always will. Cities need to look at the bigger picture and provide for Police and Fire first and foremost. Without both we have no civilization. ICMA is about city management but remember management is all about money. Leadership is about lives. Elect city officials based on their ability to lead your city to a higher quality of life not on their ability to endanger your life safety or property. Crantson Fire Department (and its IAFF Local) is known nationwide for being the best in RI and many view Cranston as a fine example of keeping priorities straight and always serving the citizens. It appears one of the reasons CFD is so successful is because the average Cranston Fireman appears to be compensated the minimum for his efforts whereas most other cities have been neglecting their firemen for years. For those of you who live in Cranston, be grateful for the top notch dept that… Read more »

Al CFD
Al CFD
13 years ago

I know this is posted well after the last one so no one will see this but here I go. First, as for the placement of stations; Station 1 was built in 1927, Station 2 in 1923, Station 3 in 1927, Station 4 in 1974, Station 5 in 1949 and Station 6 in 1984. IAFF Local #1363 wasn’t formed until the 1960’s SO DONT BLAME THE UNION. At the time the stations were built it was popular for the stations to be built on the borders of the town so all companies could work their way to the center of the city. Why are Stations 1, 2 & 3 so close together ? Look at the density of the areas. They are mostly 2 and 3 story dwellings on 5,000 sq.ft. lots. Station 1 is located in Edgewood. There’s only one way to Edgewood… the Park Avenue bridge. If something happens to that bridge to block it, there’s no other help available to the rest of Edgewood. Why is the Engine sent with the Rescue ? Because there’s an unknown situation ? A cardiac emergency ? Stroke ? An overweight person ? An out of distict rescue? A 911 hang-up ? Who really cares ? The firefighters are on duty anyway, they’re getting paid. Let them do their job. Its better to have too much help than have to wait for them to arrive when time is of the essence. How much do CFD firefighters pay into their pension ? Try 12.5%. As for manpower, it seems peculiar to me that the people that say Cranston is over manned do not mention the number of FFs on the trucks of the towns with half the manpower. They fail to mention the response times of these companies. They fail to mention… Read more »

Jane
Jane
12 years ago

Cranston taxpayers=whiners

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