Open Thread: What’s the Best Way to Schedule a Fire Department?
Valley Breeze publisher Tom Ward has written an apology for a previous column where he described changes in the Woonsocket Fire department platoon structure and scheduling as being correctives to “overtime abuse”…
My column this week went over the line in its tone, and for that I apologize to our readers, especially the firefighters of Woonsocket and their loved ones. I regret using the term “overtime abuse” to comment on the $1 million in annual overtime pay that Mayor Leo Fontaine is now trying to remove from the 2012 budget.At issue are changes that were unanimously approved by the Woonsocket City Council on March 20. According to Russ Olivio of the Woonsocket Call, the Woonsocket Fire Department currently uses a schedule where a firefighter works two 10 hour days — where “day” actually means a substantial period of time when the sun is up — followed by two 14 hour nights, followed by four days off.
Mayor Fontaine and the City Council are proposing changing that to a system of 24 contiguous hours on duty, followed by 48 hours off.
Also, I’ve come across discussions on the internet about a 48/96 system (two days on, four days off) in regular use or being tried by some departments. It seems to be more popular in the Western half of the US and is used in some places with populations as large or larger than Woonsocket (though their population densities may be very different, along with their density of triple-deckers).
Mayor Fontaine and the City Council have also approved changing the structure of the fire department from four platoons to three. I’m not sure if that is directly related to the scheduling change, or a separate issue altogether.
The two questions to kick off the open-thread are…
- How do the various scheduling structures impact a firefighting department’s operations and effectiveness, and
- Given that, under all three systes, a firefighter is on duty for 48 hours and off duty for 96 hours in a six-day block, how exactly does this relate to overtime?