Monday, January 9, 2017

Busiest Year Ever

Expensive machines are not much good if you can't properly staff them

To anyone who has been paying attention over the past year it comes as no surprise that 2016 was the busiest year on record for the beleaguered Amherst Fire Department:  6,513 total call or a 30% increase from ten years ago when the department last had a staffing increase.

 Click to enlarge/read

EMS runs made up 78% of total responses so it's no wonder the Ambulance Fund is well ahead of schedule to intake the $2.4 million projected by the Town Manager last year.  As of January 1st, with FY17 exactly half over, the fund has generated $1.6 million in revenues.

In other words AFD ambulance receipts cover more than half their $4.5 million total annual budget.

 Click to enlarge/read

If the ambulance fund does intake a hundred thousand or so over the initial projection this year why not reinvest that back into the "business" by hiring more firefighters?  Last year Dispatch had to issue 423 calls for "station coverage".

 This could have been a disaster

On January 1 Holyoke FD had to respond to a major structure fire with one less engine company because of a "brown out" brought on my budget cuts.  Three people died in that conflagration.

That same day Northampton FD had to respond to Amherst town center to transport a citizen who fell on the ice because all our firefighters were tied up on other calls.

 NFD on scene Amherst town center 1/1/17

Bare minimum staffing, a problem statewide, is playing Russian roulette with public safety.  Overly educated Amherst should be smarter than that.


Anonymous said...

So it looks like the data is clear and not debatable. The demand is exceeding the capacity of the service and the service is somewhat essential.

Other communities have dealt with this in many different ways - we can combine all or stick with none like I think we have now.

1. Volunteerism - you would think that Amherst would be all over this - very common in PA. Umass already does wildland fire classes. Work with UMASS to create a urban fire class and have the strapping students get a certification to assist. You an even have nominal pay for them and it can help quite a bit. These are folks that in many cases can design satellites that will make it into orbit, surely they can be trained to help the EMS and Fire There are literally 1000s of them.

2. Increase budget and staffing - but the community is already struggling with expenses....perhaps this means that some non-essential programs need to be cut so that the funding can be diverted to essential services like this. Perhaps schools can go back to $20k per year per student or we can do less events or limit library funding or other things that are less important than saving lives. I know folks don't want to give this stuff up, but it looks like folks now have to decide between things vs. having all of them.

3. Private companies to assist or perhaps private EMS with public FIRE (not uncommon. Private companies, like private plow operators, only need to be paid when they provide the services.

4. An insurance based system, can be public like unemployment insurance (as we know every employer buys this from the state) or private, which is common in Oregon. When they respond, you get a bill and if you bought the insurance from the town, you pay little or nothing based on your plan, no insurance and you will pay quite a bit, but the EMS and fire get the funding. There can then be subsidies for the poor.

5. More public education about the things that are causing the calls. We can educate people as we have in the past to be safer, having less fires, build better, etc. This would be like conservation in the energy world. The thing that is the cheapest, easiest and therefor avoided at any cost.

6. We could limit the activities that seem to cause the demand. Amherst could go dry or could significantly increase the punishments for underage drinking. If many calls are associated with events, we could limit events, as long as they are not constitutional protests. Kids could be trained better at school about fire and health risks that cause calls. Parents could be trained better. There could be more nutritional programs in town so that people are healthier. Liquor licenses could be reduced or eliminated. The size of homes could be limited. Electricians in town could be better qualified and or you could require annual home inspections for dangers. You could have more crimes associated with causing calls so people make better decisions and call less or end up punished.

What to do, it cannot just be nothing and it cannot always just be more taxes, the people are tapped. Seems like it is time for trade-offs and to decide what is less important and give it up.

Larry Kelley said...

Or we could just hit up Hampshire College to pay their fair share.

Anonymous said...

I was suggesting that all callers pay their fair share, not that the students subsidize local parents even more. If this was just about fair share, Emergency services would just send out bills.

I think if you looked at a Hampshire students actual financial numbers as they interact with the community vs. a family with one kid that the hampshire student makes the town money overall (contributes more than they extract on average) and the family costs the town money overall (cost more than they contribute on average).

If we are talking folks paying their fair share, the parents are the group to go after, not the colleges or their money dumping students. The parents consume far more than they pay. How about a low $1000 annual surcharge per student in the public schools for families that are not poor? That could help quite a bit and would address your fair share concern and if they are not poor, why do they need a hand out anyway?

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:06 has left yet another dopey post!

Gavin Andresen said...

Do we know what is causing the increase in medical calls? Aging population? More underage drinking? Are people more 911-happy than they used to be?

Anonymous said...

The medical calls have had a steady increase to go along with our rise in population and local activity. The only thing not growing is the staffing.

Anonymous said...

Whatever: all good until you need an ambulance…or a cop for that matter. Hey, screw it! Just have a cop do CPR until Hamp shows up. That'll be fine/sarcasm

Anonymous said...

it wasn't an issue until the FF union went to their new shifts
24 hrs on 4 days off …now all the fireman have other employment and use amherst job for benefits

Anonymous said...

Actually 5:19 you are wrong on two counts. First, it was an issue way before the schedule change.
Second, that's not their schedule. They average more than a 40 hour work week on a rotating schedule. The same amount of hours before the change. The biggest problem with the 24 hour shifts is that they are slammed the whole time and too damn tired to come in off duty for station coverage. Add in that most don't live in town and you get the problem with why we need more on duty.
Why isn't anyone comparing the overtime costs with what it would cost to hire more permanent staff?

Larry Kelley said...

I believe the FD work schedule is 24 hours on, 24 hours off, 24 hours on and 5 days off.

Anonymous said...

Here's a lightbulb- pass an excise tax for all law-related ambulance use like public intoxication-create a fee shedule for events serving libations-and yes-DWI crashes cost society billions for death/ injury-no-someone's life is not worth a few quid for beer money-make the hot spots pay a local excise- everybody else is expected to clean up they're act-why not eateries that break the law like recidivist-then some poor soul gets mowed down to death out front by a drunk truck driving terrorist ?!!! What gives -honestly?! Do the crime-serving drunks-pay forward the time !?!!!

Dr. Ed said...

Hey 12:41 -- why not just ban alcohol sales in Amherst and let Hadley get what's left of Amherst's commercial tax base.

The comment someone else made about "word salad" is valid, did you suffer a head injury?

Anonymous said...

I don't think firefighters should be allowed to work more than 12 hour shifts.

Not in Amherst, not in 2017 -- and not with what they are being paid.

This is not a "sleep-in" position anymore, not if they are expected to be paramedics.
Actually, not in general, it's way too easy to make a mistake when sleep deprived.

Larry, a tired driver is worse than a drunk driver -- you essentially have drunk drivers driving your fire trucks, which I believe weigh over 26,000 lbs and would otherwise require a CDL to drive. CDL is 10 hours/day max.

Anonymous said...

As a crippled for life DWI victim-I not only suffered a serious brain damaging injury-which slows-slurs my speech at moments-like critical junctures-but I was left legally dead-flatlining-for over 45 minutes in the snowy pavement of a legal sidewalk-the perp returned-but did not report-45 minutes later-I was transferred two hospitals-and 60 miles lifeflighted-Larry is right on the money-this is how the publically intoxicated abuse emergency services-It's such a " Gift" to have survived- to hazard Alcoholics Anonymous nitwit denier TROLLS !!!! Thanks-dudesters !?@&$$$

Anonymous said...

Would you have been any less injured had the perp merely been exhausted?

Hint: you would have received even less were that the case.

And regardless, there is the case to be made for suicide.

Anonymous said...

You might be surprised to know they often work more than 24 hours at a time. Due to the low staffing they are often held over the next morning if someone calls out sick. Add in another 10 hours. Talk about tired.

Anonymous said...

If they are working more than 24 hrs, that is truly a concern and piss poor management by the fire management!!
This is where Ed's chiming in about a lawsuit truly makes sense

Anonymous said...

Another troll fell off the wagon-the alchemy personality mental disorder of lack of empathy brain damage from excessive drinking-is well documented health science.heads up- try a saparilla-next time you get to trolling online...all mixed up-Eh ???!&@$$

Anonymous said...

Deny if you want, but the biggest problem with the fire request with more manpower is, their current schedule allows for full time employment elsewhere, (they have two who are fire chiefs in other towns) and Amherst is 2nd fiddle so they don't want to work extra, etc etc etc

Anonymous said...

Salty because you couldn't pass the test?