Alameda firefighters have issued a 19-page rebuttal to an 81-page report about the Alameda Fire Department that the city received in May. The city commissioned the International City/County Manage-ment Association to operationally assess both the police and fire departments. In their rebuttal, the firefighters have focused on statements that the firefighters call “at least, misleading, and, at most, blatantly incorrect.” “Each has the potential to do irreparable harm to the Alameda Fire Department and must be addressed,” the rebuttal says.The firefighters have divided their 25 responses into seven categories. These include the executive summary; administration and finance; emergency medical services; fire prevention, public education and employee education; staffing and buildings and an outcome-focused department.
Among the IC/CMA’s suggestions is one that the city “realign functions to more fully utilize the available and paid resource time.” According to the report, the city pays for more than 180,000 hours of work time each year; some spent on calls for service and another on sleeping, which is part of the traditional 24-hour schedule. The report recommends that the city get production out of remaining hours and says that doing so “may alleviate service cuts that will likely take place in other areas.” In their rebuttal, the firefighters cite federal regulations that say that even if a firefighter rests, he or she is still working. The paragraph in the federal regulations that the firefighters cite in their rebuttal (29 CFR 785.15) explains that “a stenographer who reads a book while waiting for dictation, a messenger who works a crossword puzzle while awaiting assignments and a fireman who plays checkers while waiting for alarms… are all working during their periods of inactivity.” A firefighter is unable to use the time at work effectively for his or her own purposes. This time belongs to and is controlled by the employer. “Waiting is an integral part of the job and such time is to be considered working hours,” the firefighters say. The firefighters did not oppose all of IC/CMA’s recommendations, however. For example, the report suggests that the firefighters take a page from the police department’s community policing. “Fire staff should be calling community groups and seeing if there are any issues, if there are problems that can be corrected, and if they need further action on the part of the city.” The firefighters say that they are “not opposed to public education on fire safety and prevention, distribution of smoke detectors, CPR training, etc.” They do suggest that the community recognize that there are differences in the police department and fire department. The IC/CMA report to the city is available online on the city of Alameda’s Web site, www.ci.alameda.ca.us. The firefighters’ rebuttal can be downloaded at www.savealamedafirehouses.com.
Story by: Alameda Sun