Saturday, October 23, 2010

Kangaroo Court

Be a critical thinker. In contemporary times, in a seemingly unregulated digital age with terabytes of unfiltered information and multiple perspectives, it is very difficult to discover the bedrock facts of an issue. And even then, there are different interpretations and definitions to be understood. Information overload.

No one should sit back and accept injustice, nor should they grab pitchforks and torches. Both are ugly extremes of the spectrum. There are many delusions of grandeur being played out by local bloggers and former political players in an attempt to placate their sense of significance and attempt a political comeback with the integrity of a sand castle.

Ask questions, even more importantly, ask the right questions. Our police department, fire department, parks and recreation, waste water, city garage, human resources, general employees help maintain and safeguard our city. This does not make them heroes, or deserving of special treatment, but they do deserve the basic respect of the honest citizen. Because of the economical climate we are in, many want answers. Residents have screamed "the civil servants are not worth the money we pay them," with no clue about their qualifications, responsibilities, duties, and sacrifices; simply by job title. A squawk was recently made about a janitor making over 40,000 a year in El Segundo; "how can someone who cleans toilets and mops floors make 40K a year?" An elementary school mentality emerges, alarmists satisfy simple prejudicial arguments and the uneducated judge based on an arbitrary understanding of how things should be. They are disrespecting the person and the profession.

Let us agree there is a point that is too much and there is a point that is too low. From there, one can establish a norm relative to surrounding areas, including cost of living and revenue. This translates into how one cannot compare a job here in El Segundo to a job in Idaho. It is called economies of scale. These unfair comparisons are the crux of many unfounded arguments. Also, it is important to realize that comparing a small department to a large department does not equate either. In fact, a member of a smaller department more often than not has a larger workload, broader responsibility, and requires an extensive skill set.

There are those who would like you to believe there is a great conspiracy and that El Segundo is worthy of a Hollywood rendition of a political scandal...hardly. There are those who claim foul, that the city is an incestuous family of incompetent fools, well, I can make up stories too. In fact, I heard through my sources that the City Council is a puppet of Scientology and has been secretly embezzling general funds to make monthly donations and that is why El Segundo is in the red. Take it and run L.A. Weekly...

Consider the decisions made by our elected council and city management; are they erroneous or are they a convenient move to save money now. Just because someone collects a pension and gets paid a salary doesn't make it wrong. Universities throughout the state are asking retired professors to teach for an additional five years while collecting their pension and getting a salary...why, because it is cheaper and they utilize their experience. But they're double dipping...who cares? This model is cheaper for the State School System. Is this model cheaper for our city and its citizens? Maybe. Again, ask the right questions. We don't need circus tent preachers trying to convince us that our city is tainted in order to boost their credibility and garner political attention.

It seems that many are willing to judge before they understand. A kangaroo court has been fostered amid frustration along side scape goat mentality. We cannot allow ourselves to be caught up in this generic attack on institution. If there are problems then they need to be dealt with, if there is abuse then it needs to be addressed and stopped. I am not trying to steer you away from the truth, but to expose a bigger picture from both sides. Beware of those who have put their ego above appropriate interpretation of the facts.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

L.A. County is the Better Option

Simply put, L.A. County Fire Department is the better option for the City of El Segundo. The current understanding is that El Segundo staffs 19 firefighters per day. This standard no longer exists. Due to budget cuts and a "run short" mandate from City Council, the staffing level has dropped as low as 14 firefighters per day. This should be a major concern to the resident and business owner. The benefits of L.A. County services far outweigh those of the local El Segundo Fire Department. Here are some main reasons why L.A. County is the right choice.

"L.A. County has more paramedic services available to El Segundo."
  • This is true because on top of the paramedics that will be staffed in the city of El Segundo, there are more available from the surrounding districts ready for immediate move-up if the rescue squad is transporting out of the city. Currently, if both rescues are out of the city, then a private ambulance or another city's rescue has to be called into the city which is a huge delay factor. With the County model, there is no lag-time in communication for additional resources.
"By transferring service to L.A. County the City WILL save money."
  • There is about a 5 million dollar savings. The cost of doing business with the County can and most likely will rise over the next ten years, but have you realized that the city is no longer responsible for worker's compensation claims, pensions, overtime, equipment maintenance, etc... And...the cost of living rises as well, it is not as if the 16 million dollar budget for our local department today will be the 16 million dollar budget in 2020 if we stay El Segundo. The cost of running our own local department will rise as well over the next ten years. L.A. County Fire is cheaper service because of the scale of economies, not because they lack skills or training. They are an efficient economic model that works, which has been constructed around a recession proof structure. Whereas our city is struggling to provide the expected equipment and staffing, and are now willing to levy dangerously low staffing and reduced service to its residents.  Not only is it a savings if we contract with the County, but El Segundo would receive equivalent and in some cases better service.
"L.A. County is a more efficient service to the community."
  • The County model is more efficient because of the contiguous training and communication throughout the district. This allows for better functionality, service and quicker responses. 
"L.A. County has more personnel available for any type of incident."
  • Referring to my earlier post, L.A. County seemingly has an endless supply of resources. With El Segundo being a high target hazard and possibility for large incidents, the L.A. County Fire Department is the best choice for protection. Many like to think we live in a bedroom community but we are surrounded by highly dangerous hazards from jet fuel pipelines under our streets, Chevron, high rises, etc...
"There are more L.A. County Firefighters that live in El Segundo." 
  • Many like the notion that their firefighters live in town, and I can understand that mentality. It instills a sense of citizenship and vested interest. There are many L.A. County Firefighters that live in El Segundo and would most likely transfer to this city.
    "Other services in the City can be revived with the immediate savings to the City."
    • Parks and Rec, Streets, Fairs, Parades, etc... all can be revived with the monies saved with County service. Jobs are also saved; saved services means saved jobs.
    "If there's a natural disaster or terrorist attack, L.A. County has the resources to protect the city."
    • Some speculate that if there is a major natural disaster or terrorist attack, that L.A. County Fire would leave El Segundo and aid other cities. This is a farce and most likely a scare tactic from opposing views. L.A. County has the appropriate resources for such an event and in fact they are more prepared than our current department; not training wise, but equipment and personnel wise. El Segundo will receive the same if not more attention in the event of a disaster.
    "County provides the very same department culture that the residents are used to, there is always an open door."
    • The County Fire Department adapts to the community they are serving. They continue to do the pancake breakfasts, Richmond Street fairs, CPR Saturdays, etc... They make it their mission to involve themselves and adapt to the community they serve. L.A. County is not a generic substitute, and there has been nothing but praise and satisfaction from other cities who have contracted with the County.
    Let me be understood that I have always loved our local fire department. It is made up of some the best individuals around and I believe they do not deserve the criticism they have endured from alarmists and arrogant bloggers. County is the best solution NOW. It will allow the city to thrive and build through this beleaguered economy, it lifts the burden of pensions and workforce liabilities, it reduces political entanglements, and simplifies local government. 

    There are pros and cons in every decision, the point here is that the reasons for transferring service are more important than holding on to our local department. L.A. County's attitude is not to take over but to work harmoniously with the city they serve, just like every firefighter, anywhere, believes.

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010

    Ambulance Fees

    One of the biggest issues that many residents have is the concept of ambulance fees. El Segundo residents have always benefited from an unofficial city policy not to pursue remuneration beyond what the resident's insurance is willing to pay. If a resident calls 911, the response to the residence or business is free. Any medical services administered on scene of the emergency are free. Once the patient is transported, then the billing starts.

    Ambulance transport billing rates are regulated by the L.A. County EMS Department, ordinance 7.16.280 and 7.16.310. These  rates apply to all public and private entities, which they cannot exceed. The current ambulance transportation billing rates in El Segundo are broken up into 5 parts:

    1. ALS (advanced life support) service = $1,146 (1,232.50 maximum rate)
    2. BLS (basic life support) service = $802.75 (863.25)
    3. Code 3 (lights and sirens) Transport = $109.75 (118.00)
    4. Oxygen Therapy = $55.00 (59.25)
    5. Mileage = $15.75/mile (17.00)
    You are either charged for ALS or BLS, never both together. You only get charged "Code 3" if they transport you "Code 3."

    The city outsources to a billing company to handle and generate invoices. Once payment is received by the city from the billing company the process is finished, no matter what percentage of the bill was paid by the insurance company. And, if the resident has no insurance, the city will not pursue payment and subsidize the cost. Plainly stated, whatever the city does not receive from the insurance company it will subsidize the remainder. This is not true for non-residents. The City will pursue non-residents for full payment.

    For the time period 8/01/09 through 7/31/10, the city subsidized $84,000. This number has relatively been the same through the years. 

    The major issue for concerned residents is they are worried that if L.A. County were to take over jurisdiction they would use private ambulance companies to transport to the hospitals, thereby voiding the unofficial contract with the city to subsidize any individual costs. I completely understand this plight shared by many residents who frequently rely on transport to the hospital. If suddenly they are forced to pay the remainder of the ambulance bill then it would dramatically effect how they are able to survive, and may even put them under.

    The concept is, the city already subsidizes the ambulance fees. If they currently factor this into their budget, why can't the city simply continue to pay the resident's portion of the bill? The rates for public and private are regulated the same. McCormick will bill your insurance then send you a bill for the remainder. Simply send the bill to the city, and they should be willing to continue to pay for your ambulance fees.

    This should not be a hard concept for the City Council to understand, nor should it be a platform for them to argue against L.A. County and private ambulances. It is merely a different way of doing business to reach the same objective: do not charge El Segundo Residents for ambulance transport.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010

    Meeting the Standards

    The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) was established to answer the questions asked by cities on how to run a fire department. It is a compilation of standards that are recognized by the American National Standards Institute and are regarded as a legitimate blueprint for local government. "Most importantly, it will provide the body politic and the citizens a true picture of the risks in their community, and the fire department's capabilities to respond to and manage those risks." - NFPA 1710.

    NFPA 1710 is the Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Career Fire Departments.

    Why is this standard important to me?

    This standard clearly defines what type and how many personnel are needed to perform certain operations safely and efficiently. As residents, we have certain expectations from our local safety organizations. We expect the best quality employees and expect that our city meet and exceed the minimum standard of safety.

    As El Segundo expanded throughout the years, so did its hazards and complexity. Therefore, the fire department expanded as well; not just staffing levels, but scope of practice and training requirements. Currently El Segundo houses 21 high rises buildings, an oil refinery with over 150 fuel storage tanks, Aerospace, Boeing, Northrop, Raytheon, an Air Force Base, multiple hotels, a dense industrial row nicknamed "smokey hollow", scatter-good plant, an energy plant (NRG), and all adjacent to one of the largest target hazards; LAX Airport. Can anyone really compare our city to surrounding cities?

    We may call it Mayberry, but the farms and strawberry fields are gone. El Segundo is a potentially volatile city with many liabilities. These factors dictate how a city determines its fire personnel staffing levels. Under the current circumstances, the El Segundo City Council has decreased the staffing level of your local fire department. This is unacceptable and burdens the citizen and firefighter for reasons that are unfounded and can be construed as political malfeasance.

    NFPA 1710 clearly outlines in of the code that "On-duty fire personnel shall be comprised of the numbers necessary for fire fighting performance relative to the expected fire fighting conditions. These numbers shall be determined through task analyses that take the following factors into consideration:"
    • Life hazard to the populace protected (17,000 to 100,000 people)
    • Provisions of safe and effective fire fighting performance conditions for the firefighters
    • Potential property loss (billions of dollars)
    • Nature, configuration, hazards, and internal protection of the properties involved (listed above)
    • Types of fire ground tactics, apparatus and results expected to obtain on fire ground.
    With this understanding the code continues to define how many firefighters should staff certain apparatus. through states:
    • Engine companies shall be staffed with a minimum of 4 on-duty personnel
    • Truck companies shall be staffed with a minimum of 4 on-duty personnel
    Furthermore, section outlines the minimum initial full alarm assignment, (a first alarm in El Segundo):
    • This determines that a minimum of 15 firefighters shall constitute a first alarm assignment (a basic single family dwelling structure fire would require a first alarm assignment; a commercial or high-rise fire require much more personnel)
    The current City Council wants to reduce the daily staffing to 14 firefighters per day, thereby condoning substandard working conditions, jeopardizing the safety of its employees and citizens.

    So your next question might be, how do Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach get away with having low staffing levels?

    Lets compare them:

    This graph indicates the size of the city as well as its residential, commercial and industrial zones as a percentage of that size.

    El Segundo is primarily commercial and industrial, housing some of the most dangerous radiological, chemical and biological contaminants within its borders making them prime terrorist targets. The percentage that is not displayed for any of the cities is attributed to parks, open lots, beach, religious buildings and schools.

    This graph compares the personnel level with the number of high rise buildings and target hazards within the corresponding city. A target hazard is defined as "any occupancy type or facility that presents a high potential for loss of life or serious impact to the community resulting from fire, explosion, or chemical release."

    El Segundo is at a higher risk for disaster. With more than two or three times the target hazards and 21 high rise buildings, El Segundo demands a heavier work force. These are direct reasons why the El Segundo Fire Department is staffed higher than the neighboring cities. In fact, Manhattan and Hermosa Beach Fire Departments have publicly stated that their staffing levels are below standard.

    Appropriate staffing is the argument. Whether it's L.A. County Fire or El Segundo Fire, the city needs to be adequately staffed to meet the level of fire fighting conditions. In my previous posts I laid out the numbers for L.A. County Fire. Even though they would staff El Segundo with 12 firefighters, their efficient integrated response system allows them to staff an area with less personnel because they have a greater pool of nearby firefighters to pull from. El Segundo, as an isolated municipal city, needs to compensate for the lack of resources and meet the necessary standards of fire protection.

    Sunday, September 5, 2010

    County Personnel and Apparatus In Relation to El Segundo

    The two graphs convey L.A. County personnel and apparatus resources within a specified distance from the city of El Segundo. These visual aids should give a clear understanding that by buying into the County system, we are acquiring more than just our local staffing. El Segundo would be covered by a more comprehensive insurance plan for a cheaper price, without sacrificing service or response times. Both graphs do not include the 12 firefighters that would be staffed in El Segundo. Again, these numbers are a statistic of what would be available to the City if under the County system.



    Response Numbers: A Big Difference

    Graphs compare personnel response to types of emergency calls between El Segundo at 14 and L.A. County Fire Department. The numbers denote how many emergency responders arrive on scene to the emergency. Realize that El Segundo's numbers for a 2nd and 3rd Alarm require mutual aid from neighboring cities with different communications, equipment and training. Whereas, L.A. County is one contiguous agency without the above delays, increasing efficiency and response times.


    Sunday, August 29, 2010


    Misconception #1:
    "El Segundo firefighters shouldn't make more than firefighters from a larger city like San Jose."

    The size of a city has no correlation to compensation. It is not as if San Jose has 18 firefighters protecting an estimated 1,000,000 people. San Jose has 201 sworn personnel on per day. That equals 1 firefighter for every 4,975 residents.

    I already talked about El Segundo staffing in an early post. El Segundo has a fluctuating population; 17,000 to about 100,000, with a maximum of 18 firefighters on per day. So, lets understand both: 18 firefighters for 17,000 population, comes to 1 firefighter for every 944 residents. 18 firefighters for 100,000 population, comes to 1 firefighter for every 5,555 residents.

    The Fire Chief and the City decided, taking into consideration the high volatility of El Segundo, to staff at 19 to meet the demand (according to this math one may even wonder why more firefighters are not on duty). Due to El Segundo's unique nature and well documented influx of population, a prudent person can understand why 19 fire personnel is recommended. (Currently, the fire department has been slashed to 18 per day and running down to 14.)

    Just because San Jose is a bigger city does not make it a more demanding job and deserving of higher compensation in relation to a smaller city. Anyone who says different is selling nothing more than cheap propaganda with malicious intent.

    Misconception #2:
    "San Diego residents don't pay for trash either."

    "In a memorandum released Friday, Goldsmith (city lawyer) laid out how the city could get out of the trash collection business at a savings of $34 million each year.

    That cost would be shifted to single-family homeowners, who under an antiquated city law do not pay trash-collection fees — a law that doesn’t apply to condominium, apartment and business owners.

    With private companies taking over the service, Goldsmith said citizens “would have to do what other cities have to do: Treat their trash (service) like the cable bill.” - San Diego Union Tribune

    San Diego shares the same problem. They are in the process of making their residents pay for trash as well.

    Misconception #3:
    "The 1% increase in the UUT (utility user tax) tax adequately addresses the deficit."

    Not even close. The tax will be mostly paid by Chevron, who in my opinion is the real political heavyweight in town. This meager increase from 3% to 4% will generate about 2 million a year and it has a sunset clause (in 2 years it will revert back to 3%). The residents are not expected to contribute, and the remaining 11+ million will come from the wages of city employees. This tax increase should be considered more of a political gesture than an answer to the problem.

    Misconception #4:
    "City labor groups demanded high salaries and that is the reason why El Segundo is in the state that it is in, they should take the cuts."

    People want to demonize the city labor groups and use them as a scape goat for the city's revenue loss. What excessive salary demands? I am aware that the Fire Association's last contract was settled for an annual raise of 3.75 percent, but many conveniently leave out the fact that incentive pay was considerably reduced in 2008 saving the city thousands of dollars. The Fire Association gave up percentage based incentives for flat dollar amounts. The City has already realized this savings and will continue to do so.

    AND. It is also known and recorded that the Fire Association approached the City Council to give back their 3.75% raise in 2009 but it was flatly denied by the City. Recently, the Fire Association was the 1st group to agree to the 5% concession.

    Misconception #5:
    "Past Council's created this mess, only the current Council can solve it."

    Carl Jacobson, Eric Busch, Bill Fisher, and Don Brann. 4 out of 5 were on the last City Council. However, Don Brann was the only council member that voted against the contract raises for the Fire Association, Police Association, Police Management Association, and Fire Management Association. 

    Misconception #6:
    "For nearly 10 years, the city's safety unions have asked for, and received nearly 100% salary increases with base salaries now close to or exceeding $75,000 annually.

    It wasn't very long ago that El Segundo was one of the lowest paid departments in the South Bay. Over the years, through the 'meet and confer' process with the city and using comparable salary charts from neighboring cities, the El Segundo Fire Association worked with City Councils to bring up income, benefits, and morale.

    75,000 is an average salary for firefighter here in the South Bay, it is nothing out of the ordinary.

    Misconception #7:
    "Seniors have a fixed income; any increased fees can have a major impact on quality of life."

    Yes, I will agree on that singular point. But, regarding the insinuation to trash fees, I am pretty sure the Council said that trash fees could be waived for citizens on Social Security or if they meet other financial constraints.

    Misconception #8:
    "The fire union agenda seeks to abandon the city entirely."

    This is the biggest misdirection and an absolute lie. The El Segundo Fire Association did not ask the City Council to merge with L.A. County Fire. The option was brought up by the Fire Chief (who is not in the Union) as a way to save the city money and maintain appropriate fire protection. The City Manager agrees that this is the best way to solve the problem now. The reason the merger is backed by the Fire Association is because the City Council wants to reduce the firefighters in the City from 19 on per day to 14. This means losing a fire engine completely, and jeopardizes the safety of the community.

    This translates into reduced service and protection for the city as well as a more dangerous working environment for the firefighters (as explained in my first post). L.A. County Fire provides a better service than El Segundo at 14 firefighters. This was clearly stated and presented by Deputy Chief Osby and Fire Chief Kevin Smith. Why are the experts being ignored? Their concern is not control or political agenda, it's providing the best possible service for the City as a whole, and with the inevitable proposed cut of fire staffing, the better choice for the City and its' residents is to go County Fire.

    But, many would have you believe that the firefighters want to leave because County benefits them individually. This is false. In fact, the merger may effect the majority in a negative way. Many will lose seniority, most will not get an increase in salary, many members may lose medical benefits that they have invested in for the last 20+ years, and for many it may mean being stationed farther away from home. So I don't buy this argument made by local spinsters. As the Fire Chief stated, L.A. County Fire can provide a better service to El saves 94 employees from being laid-off adding to the 12% California unemployment rate, keeps services and activities up and running in the city, and saves the City over 5 million a year. It seems like a no-brainer!

    Misconception #9:
    "The firefighters are making high salaries."

    Since October of 2009, the City mandated that the Fire Department "run short" from 19 to 14 firefighters per day. This means that if a member calls in sick or has scheduled vacation, their position is not filled and the remaining members on duty are arranged accordingly to staff the apparatus. This was done to reduce 'leave replacement' (overtime) spending, which is the main topic of concern for many regarding the 2009 year end compensations.

    Leave replacement pay has been practically wiped out. This means a 25% average drop in income for the firefighters since last October, 2009. They have currently agreed to give back 5% more August 1st, 2010. People have asked for 20-25% cut in firefighter pay. Well, they got it, and then some.

    Many claim that the city unions are to blame for this financial mess we are in. This is typical behavior in times of crisis. I understand the issues from the inside and as a citizen I see them from the outside. I do not enjoy engaging in verbal warfare, but someone has to stand up to the falsifications, exaggerations and complete and utter misinterpretation of information. I am asking for a more prudent citizen to see through the blatant attacks; the finger pointing has to stop.

    Monday, August 23, 2010

    City Council Demands

    The El Segundo City Council recently met in a closed session meeting last Friday, August 20. Entering this emergency meeting with the intention of balancing the budget without the benefit of the L.A. County Fire merger, they decided to ask all city labor groups for an additional 12.2% concession. This brings the total proposed concession to 17.2% for all labor groups.

    In previous council meetings, the council has stated that to "correct this ship" all 3 elements that make up this city, need to contribute; residents, businesses, and city employees. So far, it would seem to a prudent person that the City Council is balancing the budget on the backs of the city employees.
    • Residents have had roughly a 4% increase in their water bill.
    • Businesses have agreed to accept a 1% increase in the UUT (Utility User Tax), from 3% to 4%, pending a ballot vote in November. (Still lower than the area average)
    • Employees of the city have given a 5% concession (or its equivalent in layoffs) and are now being asked for an additional 12.2% of their compensation.
    Does this seem like a balanced approach? Are there other sensible revenue streams that have not been discussed or for that matter understood? Why is the City Council trying to "correct this ship" by threatening to lay off 94 employees and/or impose hefty pay cuts? What kind of standard will this set for neighboring cities?

    Saturday, August 21, 2010

    Debunking Myths and Recalibrating Perspective

    Some things you should know about your Fire Department and your City.

    Why is appropriate staffing important? Not only does the right staffing level mean more services and a safer community, but it also means a safer work environment for the firefighters.

    Why do so many firefighters show up at my front door when I call 911? 
    • When you call 911 the fire department gets a dispatch telling them the address and incident. Even the most basic medical or fire call requires multiple trained professionals. Fortunately, not many residents have experienced a 911 call. Not many have witnessed CPR being performed, or watched a patient being extricated from a mangled vehicle, or know what it's like running hose and equipment up 17 flights of stairs. These tasks demand teamwork.
    • By removing firefighters from the equation the work load is spread out amongst the remaining. This means it takes longer to do the same tasks, or in some cases certain tasks have to be omitted, which is inefficient, when every second counts.
    Fewer Firefighters = Longer It Takes To Accomplish Tasks = Less Efficient

    Why did the City decide to increase the fire staff?
    • El Segundo is no longer strawberry fields and local farms. Raytheon, Boeing (highest insured building in the world at $1 billion), Northrop Grumman, U.S. Air Force Base, multiple hotels, "Smokey Hollow," International Rectifier, 20+ high-rises and Chevron are just some of the most hazardous, volatile and dangerous target hazards that surround our community. These businesses along with the homes and apartment buildings are the fire department's responsibility to protect.
    • In 1998 OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) required fire departments throughout the nation to abide by the "two in/two out" rule. OSHA 1910.134 (g)(4) states that a minimum of 2 employees enter the IDLH (immediately dangerous to life or health) atmosphere and at least 2 employees remain outside the IDLH atmosphere for rescue purposes, if one or both firefighters inside need to be rescued themselves. (An IDLH atmosphere is a fire, hazardous material, confined space, any incident that requires respiratory protection). 
    • The national average is 1 firefighter to every 1000 residents. If El Segundo was truly a bedroom community of just 17,000, 17 firefighters per day would meet the national average. However, El Segundo is not average. With the undulating population (up to 100,000 during the work week) and the fact that El Segundo is a high risk city, the 19 firefighters, to some, might seem low. Over the years, fire management, the fire association and the city have worked together to give the citizens and businesses a fire department that can effectively protect the city.

    Chevron and Northrop have their own small fire response. They each have 3 fire suppression members on per day. They rely mainly on the city's fire protection services. When El Segundo Fire responds, Chevron and Northrop relinquish incident control.

    El Segundo Firefighters work what is called a 48/96. 48 hours (2 days) on duty and then 96 hours (4 days) off. Firefighters work 10 days a month or a 56 hour work week. The average job schedule is 5 days a week or a 40 hour work week. Firefighters on average work 80 more hours a month. That is 960 more hours a year. All the south bay city fire departments (manhattan, hermosa, redondo, torrance) work the 48/96 schedule. This allows for better interoperability. Regardless of a fire department's schedule (there are many variations) they all work a 56 hour work week.

    Why then, do our firefighters work 48 hour shifts? The main reasons are:
    • 48 hour shifts actually reduce overtime costs.
    • 48 hour shifts decrease administrative costs (cost effective because administration only needs to keep records and deal with employee requirements for one shift per day rather than three shifts per day). 
    • Helps reduce commute times and allows employees more choices on where they can live and raise their families.
    • Increased productivity and project follow through on duty.
    • Reduces sick leave.

    To dispel a common misconception, all firefighters pay for their own food, condiments, coffee, etc...

    Currently there is no charge to call 911 or for any type of response to your home or business. There is a fee for TRANSPORT to the hospital. The city bills the patient's insurance (if they have it) and accepts whatever the insurance company will pay. If there is a monetary difference, the city does not bill the patient for the remainder and subsidizes the cost.

    The El Segundo Fire Department has Captains and Engineers and even one Firefighter that carry a paramedic license, and they get compensated to keep that license valid. This is a great tool for the city because it allows them to activate an engine and their truck as paramedic assessments.  What this means is, when both rescue ambulances are on other calls, paramedics are still available for calls with appropriate equipment. We all know paramedic support is very important to us here in El Segundo. The more paramedics the better. There have been many instances where a captain or engineer have started ALS (advanced life support) procedures which led to positive patient outcomes when time was of the essence. Many departments, even ones in the South Bay, not only employ paramedics but require all their fire personnel to be licensed as paramedics.

    ANNUAL FIRES (Calls)
    Many have been given the wrong impression. The Fire Chief even admitted he mis-spoke when he said El Segundo only has one fire a year (he meant "BIG" fire, when it requires multiple resources or jurisdictions). This coincides with the staffing issue. At 19 they are adequately staffed to handle multiple calls. They are able to respond very quickly to fires, keeping many fires small and under control. We take for granted the benefits of a very well trained fire department. Listed below are the annual fire calls for the past 7 years according to NFIRS (National Fire Incident Reporting System):
    • 60 fires, $53,155 estimated loss (2009)
    • 69 fires, $977,981 estimated loss (2008)
    • 75 fires, $697,195 estimated loss (2007)
    • 63 fires, $716,275 estimated loss (2006)
    • 57 fires, $669,750 estimated loss (2005)
    • 57 fires, $11,010,683 estimated loss (2004)
    • 58 fires, $379,719 estimated loss (2003)
    On average El Segundo has 62 fires a year (averaging the past 7 years), and on average has lost over 2 million dollars a year in estimated loss(I realize the spike in 2004 and the dip in 2009). Realize that most of these fires are not big, but are contained and kept small with a quick response and effective staffing (in addition to daily fire prevention). The 19 firefighters are your insurance policy. 

    A 24/7 workforce, and the citizens expect that their fire department is always at the same staffing level everyday, every hour, all the time. Why? For the obvious reason that disaster can happen anytime (another reference to the City's insurance policy). The agreed staffing level for El Segundo was determined at 19 after examination of previous years' call volume and potential for major emergencies. On any given day a resident can be reassured that 19 firefighters are protecting the city. Because of this "constant staffing," overtime is a necessity. Firefighters call in sick, take vacation, get injured. These are inevitable occurrences. Therefore, a firefighter must be called in to replace the empty position. It is important to understand this applies to the fire profession as a whole with any type of schedule arrangement. Overtime is a direct result of the 24/7 service with a constant staff of firefighters.

    Now the city of El Segundo has decided to "run down" from 19 to 14 firefighters. This was decided because of the economic deficit that the city faces. If the city does not have to back-fill a position then overtime is drastically diminished. Most of the money saved by the city up to this point has been from the savings from the reduced overtime in the fire department. My point here is to educate the reader that overtime is not a device created by firefighters to make more money. It is an obligation of the city to provide a consistent fire department force. It is a natural product of the system.