Fire department issues in municipalities
I have written about this a bunch.
-- A different way to address the DC fire department staffing problem (May 2013)
-- Fire and emergency services (in DC) (March 2013)
-- Rationalizing Fire and Emergency Services (2011)
-- Here's the person to hire to manage the EMS department in DC (2006)
-- The "recent" failures of the DC Fire Department are indicative of much deeper systems failures than people realize (2006)
In DC the problems are multi-fold.
First, there is a scheduling system that favors workers over managing costs--people work 24 hour shifts every four days, which allows some firefighters to live hundreds of miles away from DC and/or to hold second jobs. The workers are fighting proposed changes to the scheduling system.
Second, the agency has a difficult time managing both firefighting and emergency services. And has come up with what seem to be cockamamie proposals--like not having access to the most specialized vehicles during the overnight hours.
Third, the DC Inspector General (which I think should be an elective office but that's another story) came out with a report and City Council has had a bunch of hearings.
One of the findings is about inadequate amounts of equipment. I find that hard to believe because under the Williams Administration the department bought so much apparatus that they had too many. How could it change so quickly?
Fourth, Los Angeles has had big problems with their fire department and emergency services too, which has been exacerbated by budget cuts. Among coverage and analysis by the LA Times was an analysis of all the service calls, which discovered incorrect reporting on response times. Yesterday's paper has an important editorial, "Fixing the Fire Department," asking why hasn't the municipal firefighting profession produced transformational managers comparable to the impact of William Bratton on policing.
The editorial is long, and every paragraph is full of important insights or questions. It seems applicable to the DC situation and worth a read.
Interestingly, in Ann Arbor (around 1985) I knew someone whose sister worked as a special assistant to the DC fire chief to help fix the emergency services function. The problems have been present here for more than 30 years and seem to be unchanging.