Last week I discussed why the city of San Bernardino needs charter reform now and why Section 186 of the city charter, in particular, must be modified to allow city leaders and managers the ability to better manage the city’s business. I specifically focused on the city’s fire department, who along with the police department, comprise between 68 and 72 percent of the city’s total budget. I singled out the firefighters, in particular, because they have utilized Section 186 to demand pay raises while other departments have been forced to cut salaries. Even the police officers negotiated in good faith on “give-backs” during the city’s financial crisis. This week I want to explore how we use our fire department and fire department resources.
When it comes to 911 calls for service according to the latest Fire Department Incident Counts Report in 2013, 3 percent or 1,030 calls were for fires, 87 percent or 25,866 were for Emergency Medical Service, and 9 percent of 2,784 were for other issues. The numbers were almost identical in 2012.
The evidence is very clear that Emergency Medical Service with a steady number of 87 percent is in a greater demand by citizens of San Bernardino and in my opinion should operate independently of the fire department. It would be a cost savings to the city by not having a fire engine go out on a medical emergency call, when the medical technicians are going to be there anyway. It is the medical team with the training, equipment, and resources that communicate with local hospitals and ambulance services to transport the patient.
All 911 calls begin with the question, “what is the nature of your emergency?” This is so they can send the proper services to assist the caller.
It is clear from the data that the medical emergency technician with the ambulance is the one who gets the work. From my own personal experience of having to make 911 calls for myself, I did not need a fire engine with four firefighters to be there to stand around. During my emergency calls the responding firefighters did not provide any assistance to me. It was the EMS technician that took care of my needs and transported me to the hospital.
Twenty-five years ago, I needed the fire department services because of a gas spill in the garage and the fire department was needed to wash down the garage because of an explosion hazard. To me that was an appropriate use for the engines.
It is equally clear to me that charter reform is needed in order to give our elected officials and management the tools needed to operate the financial affairs and services expected by the citizens. In my opinion beginning with section 186 will help accomplish all three with other changes to follow.
Annual Expenditures for Fire Department
8% Admin Captain Pay
Lead Paramedic Pay
FF II Cert
Fire Officer Pay
Haz Mat Specialist
Breathing Apparatus Pay
1959 Survivors Benefit
Health Insurance Stipend
Information based on 127 employees
1% w/o benefits = $124,214
1% w/benefits = $176,475
* 1 shirt/2 pants/work boots