Oxnard Fire Dept incident response times officially a mystery- more important now that budget cuts will hit Dept.

... Well, a mystery to the public anyway

By George Miller

Rapid response by the fire department is vital for public safety. City Council has requested Fire Department incident response time numbers repeatedly. A Fire Dept response time survey was pulled off  the 3-4-14 City Council meeting agenda due to lack of agreement on its accuracy. Those numbers showed that, overall,  only about 60% of responses were on time. Firefighters Association President Jeff Donabedian says that was incorrect and that their number is actually as low as 35% for some categories.

OXFDSta8

New Oxnard Fire Station 8 in South Oxnard may not open. Photo: Oxnard FD

 

City Council 3-4-14 AGENDA

G. TRANSMITTAL OF INFORMATION ONLY ITEMS

View Item (pdf 226 KB)

  Fire Department
1. SUBJECT: Fire Department Response Statistics. (001)
RECOMMENDATION: Receive Report.
Legislative Body: CC Contact: James Williams Phone: 385-7700
ACTION: Removed from agenda.
 

Some documents to support the Firefighters’ Association assertions:

OXFDResponse3-4-15

This is from the official report, which was never presented

 

 

FireDeptResponseTime 004

 

 

FireDeptResponseTime 005

Response time calculations by Oxnard Firefighters Assoc. Source: Jeff Donebedian, President.

 

FireDeptDriveMap 001

Zoomed section of “Oxnard, California Proposed NFPA 1710 Fireground Assembly of 15 Firefighters in 8 Minutes with the Addition of Station 8” map. Source: Jeff Donebedian

 

What is “on-time?”

According to generally accepted national standard NFPA 1710, which specifies a “turnout” time of 60  seconds and transit time of 240 seconds (4 minutes), for  a total of 5 minutes, 90% of the time, for single engine company responses.  Structure fires require a multiple engine turnout and at least 15 firefighters, within five minutes and 20 seconds for the first engine on scene and all equipment and personnel within 8 minutes.  The equipment must also reach its destination with a specified complement of firefighters and readiness as well.

For those wanting a more detailed, authoritaive explanation of the response time issue by Mr. Donebedian, who has a Bachelor’s degree in emergency management from National Labor College, read this:  Response Time Info- OXFD

When asked why it was so low, Mr. Donebedian, gave a compound response, which included:  Lack of equipment, personnel/engine manning/fire station placement. Also, NFPA 1710 says that engines should go out with 4 firefighters. Oxnard goes with 3. EMT responses were best, but even there, they run out of ambulances and have to bring them in from Thousand Oaks or other locations sometimes. In the meantime, we hear, unofficially, via back channels, that the City plans to lay off some firefighters (breaking: see Fire Fighters Association  news release on cuts). Oxnard Fire Department is already one of the most undermanned, under-equipped organizations for its city size.

The department made some fine tuning improvements and trains regularly to bring down response times. Even small things can make a big difference, For instance, even the replacement of old printers with laser printers and directly loading calls to computer subtracted about 20 seconds. Seconds can save lives. A little known fact: calls received from cell phones must first go though CHPS (California Highway patrol) before being relayed on to Oxnard 911 dispatch. Once dispatch releases a case, it goes directly to the Fire department.

LaDolceVita

Advertisement- Have a good meal and support Oxnard downtown!

 

So, what is the point of all this?

The Firefighters Association is concerned that manning cuts to respond to the projected $10.6 million deficit in the General Fund could harm the department’s performance even more and jeopardize residents. On the other hand, the city MUST cut spending by $10.6 million and public safety (police and fire) account for 65% of the general fund. Obviously, they have a concern for the continued employment and welfare of their members. But it’s also evident that significant cuts will have a negative effect on response times and public safety.

The stated cuts could result in a “brownout” eliminating 2 fire companies daily in various locations. It is questionable whether the new $24 million Fire Station 8, which was placed to reduce driving time to areas in South Oxnard with poor coverage, will open at all.  The cuts would likely also violate terms of grants used to increase staffing.

 

What do do?

There are several options. One would be to make the cuts as judiciously as possible, attempting to minimize public safety reduction, increase efficiency of remaining resources. Since 65% of the general fund is for public safety, there is little alternative than to make some of the reductions in Police and Fire Depts.  Mr Donebedian also raised the dreaded “T” word (Taxes). He said that the current per capita cost of Oxnard firefighting services is only 21 cents per day from the General Fund. There are some additional funds via Measure O 1/2% sales tax increment and the so-called “Carman Overrride” funding, which is now said to be exhausted and is said to account for over $6 million of the projected $10.6 million deficit.  The Fire Dept. General Fund budget is about $15.7 million. With additional funding from Measure O and “SAFER” grants, its more like $20 million. Donebedian said that the city/residents might decide to raise more money (via taxes) for the city budget for public safety.

Donebedian is skeptical about the magnitude of the projected deficit, which he feels may be exaggerated via the efforts of what he terms “anti-labor” consultants and actuaries; Management Partners, Renne Sloan and an actuary engaged by Management Partners, John Bartel, were cited. In response, he said, Police and Fire Depts. have engaged their own auditor to look into the numbers going back a decade. He claims that Bartel has performed similar work for San Jose, LA, San Diego, Stockton, Modesto and Sacramento and that some of his credentials have been challenged (status/outcome unknown).

We discussed another major deficit generator: pension expenses. I asked Mr. Donebedian how receptive the firefighters were to pension concessions. The Fire Dept. has a very generous pension arrangement in the form of high payouts, which are  essentially guaranteed by the city, unless it was to declare bankruptcy, which is a possible outcome. He said that firefighters already pay 9% of pension contributions and that this is slated to increase to 50% in 2018. He said that negotiations with the city have been underway since March, 2014 and that no real progress has been made. Sounds like the residents should put both sides’ feet to the fire and demand some progress. Full discussion of the city pension systems is a complex subject, beyond the scope of this article, but worthy of future exploration here. Readers, your input is solicited on this ([email protected]).

Finally, another possibility not addressed by the city is greater use of volunteers/reserves. Many communities rely exclusively on volunteers for firefighting. Donebedian acknowledged that as a possibility, but noted that they should be kept out of certain duties, such as entering burning buildings and that personnel availability and training/fitness levels would fall short of full-time, trained, dedicated professionals.

~~~

 

Also see:

Budget Crunch is here: Oxnard City Fire Station Closures

Budget Crunch is here: Oxnard City Fire Station Closures

6/4/2015 Official Press Release Oxnard Firefighters Association Local 1684; President Jeff Donabedian RE: Oxnard City Fire Station Closures Oxnard City Manager Proposes to Close Fire Engines The Oxnard Firefighters Association learned today that the City’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2015-2016, includes the Closure of a Neighborhood Fire Station, and that Fire Station […]

 

Council meeting Tuesday June 9, 4:30 PM- AGENDA

____________________________________________________

George Miller is Publisher of Citizensjournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant, active in civic affairs, living in Oxnard.

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