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.