Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Depends On How You Define "Busy"

Engine 1 Pomeroy Lane Cooperative

Although the Amherst Fire Department had to rely on "mutual aid" only once over the past weekend that doesn't mean they were not stretched dangerously thin. 

On Sunday night four calls came in close enough together to tie up the entire minimum staffing level of 8 on-duty professional fire fighters.

So when a trauma call came in at 10:35 PM for someone who had taken a fall, that person had to wait until a mutual aid ambulance arrived from another town.

But another incident, which is pretty much considered routine, occurred earlier Sunday afternoon when four calls occurred almost simultaneously -- one of them a fire alarm at The Arbors, a large capacity nursing home on University Drive.

Engine 3, with four Student Force responders handled that (potentially catastrophic) call, with one veteran full-time fire fighter in command.

If your beloved wheelchair bound grandmother was trapped in a large structure fire, would you prefer a crew of fully trained professional fire fighters to arrive first on the scene or a crew of student volunteers?

Fire is a most formidable foe.  Sometimes, even the pros don't return home. 

Because of the recently ratified Collective Bargaining Agreement AFD will have a minimum staffing of 8 professional firefighters 24/7 from August 15 through May 31st (excluding academic Winter and Spring Break) up from a previous minimum staff level of 7.

So now four ambulances can be staffed simultaneously, up from three.  But that leaves Central Station abandoned.  With our institutes of higher education back in session, AFD is now staffing 9 on busy Friday and Saturday nights through Spring Break.

After Spring Break, when party season picks up steam, staffing will swell to 13 on Friday and Saturday nights, partially subsidized by UMass.  That extra $80,000 pays for 4 additional firefighters (thus two extra ambulances) during the beginning half of the fall semester and the second half of the spring semester.

Or what high-tech business service providers might refer to a "surge pricing."  


Anonymous said...

IF the students were not in service, would you prefer for your wheelbound chair grandmother to wait 10-15 min AT LEAST for off-duty member to come in-- IF they come in. To be a firefighter in Massachusetts, the minimum age requirement is 18yrs old. Theres many towns throughout the state that operate as a norm with 18yr old FF on the trucks. They make rescues, they fight fire. They train regularly. These student firefighters, although not "professional" and may not have the experience fulltime guys do, they try. They train and they try. They very well could opt not to give this service to the town and be out boozing it all weekend to beef up your stats. But they are doing what they can, and what they are allowed to help the community. I don't believe this slam is warranted towards the Engine 3 crew. There is no "professional vs students". yes there are differences, they are far from the same... however they are there to help, and guarantee you any one of them would give their life for another if need be.
signed- Anonymous for fear of google repercussions.

Larry Kelley said...

It wasn't a "slam" of Engine 3 crew.

Obviously I would prefer them to arrive at my house with a quarter million dollar apparatus, rather than wait 10-15 minutes for off duty personnel to come in.

Heck I'll even provide hot coffee.

Anonymous said...

"Amherst Regional School District would cut 12 full-time staff positions to meet budget gap"

Maria- Stop creating new positions in Central, get off TV and blogs, close the family center at ARHS

Be fiscally responsible!

Focus on the students in classrooms!

Anonymous said...

Amherst College number of calls is big in relationship with the small numbers of students.

Larry Kelley said...

Yes, but they also pay us $90,000 to $120,000 per year as a "gift" towards those calls.

I emailed the Town Manager yesterday to inquire what the amount will be this year.

Anonymous said...

Don't waste your breath trying to complain about Supt. Geryk. This women is single-handedly ruining the Amherst school system but no one cares. She's never taught a class in her life and yet she now runs a school system, she earns more money than the Massachusetts Governor, and couldn't accurately spend $100 in Big Y if asked.

The school system just announced a nearly $400k gap for the year and again they are blaming it on the declining enrollment in the school system rather than the reality of their spending habits and lack of any independent and accurate oversight whatsoever. It's the equivalent of saying you are broke because you spent your million dollars but it wasn't your fault because you aren't making as much money as you used to. Clueless fiscal planning.

As for declining school enrollment they will tell you all sorts of tall tales except for the truth, parents are pulling their kids out of the system left and right because there are much better options than the poorly run public schools of Amherst.

Ms. Geryk's day will come but not before she's done irreversible damage to Amherst and the students future.

All the town blowhards ignore reality because those in education are that way. They will see incompetency and say nothing because they wouldn't want anyone to say anything about them if they were in that situation. It actually trumps their kids getting a descent education.

Larry Kelley said...

Okay, once again we are getting a tad off topic.

Working on a SCHOOL related story now; and if my normal sources would bet back to me, should publish by tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Im not the above poster, but it got me wondering about something. Wouldn't declining enrollment mean there is less reason to spend? Wouldn't costs go down?

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't declining enrollment mean there is less reason to spend? Wouldn't costs go down?

Depends if you work from a "per child" or "incremental cost" model.

In other words, is the number of administrators -- actually the total number of employees -- tied to the number of students or not?

The Juggernaut said...

Amherst College has the luxury of buying off the town, as it is a "not for profit" institution. Because they throw money at the problem, they get no negative repercussions despite having a terrible ratio for fire department calls.

UMass has the burden of actually trying to educate everyone. The price must be as reasonable as possible, as it serves to educate the masses rather than just who it wants. This buying cannot, nor should not, be done by UMass.

It seems to me that the only difference between Amherst College and UMass handling their problems to the town folk is money. I better call up the Occupy folks.

And definitely a snub towards the Engine 3 kids, I don't see any other groups volunteering life and limb to help their town from any other institutions (be it education or not).

Larry Kelley said...

But calling them "kids" is not a snub, eh?

The Juggernaut said...

Well if you want to debate semantics, you can substitute kids with volunteers.

The fact the rest of my comment goes unaddressed, while that was criticized, speaks volumes.

Larry Kelley said...

Depends on how you define "volumes". Can you hear me now?!

Anonymous said...

And definitely a snub towards the Engine 3 kids, I don't see any other groups volunteering life and limb to help their town from any other institutions (be it education or not).

Larry, reality is that the ideal firefighter is aged 27-29 -- old enough to have years of experience, young enough to still be in the prime of his life, with all the physical resources of youth.

You can say what you want about the inexperience of the Engine 3 firefighter, but the flip side is that the 40-year old (or 50-year-old) professional firefighter can have a massive heart attack right there on the scene.

That happens, a lot, and then you've got two victims -- and then it doesn't matter how much that professional firefighter knows because he's just cut the available resources in half.

And how exactly do we expect people to get the years of experience you so value? And for that matter, might there be a reason why fire departments have a paramilitary command structure where the oldest & most experienced firefighters tend to be the ones giving orders to the younger and less experienced ones?

Larry, neither of us can do what we could do when we were 19 -- I'm willing to admit that....