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Council to Consider 24-Hour Shifts for Firefighters

A structural change in the fire department could have firefighters working 24-hour-long shifts.

The North Kingstown Fire Department could be facing radical changes in the New Year if a proposed law is passed by the North Kingstown Town Council. The new law, which is set for a public hearing on Jan. 9, would restructure the department and move firefighters from 10- and 14-hour shifts to 24-hour shifts, effective Jan. 1, 2012.

The new structure would have firefighters work a 24-hour shift (10-hour on-duty day shift followed by a 14-hour on-duty night tour) with the following 48 hours off, averaging a 56-hour work week. Though this would be 14 hours more a week than what NK firefighters currently work, there would be no extra compensation for those hours. The structural change would also reduce the number of platoons in the department from four to three. According to Embury, the department is short eight to nine members. Under the proposed structure, there would be no new hires, just "floaters" that would help reduce overtime.

“This ordinance will save a very large sum of money for the town and it will introduce a structural change to the way the fire department is staffed,” said Town Manager Michael Embury.

It’s not the first time discussion of a 24-hour shift has been discussed..

“It’s bizarre and against the law,” said Fire Union President Ray Furtado. “We’re prepared to oppose it for the safety of our firefighters.”

Though the board found that the move would produce “a significant cost savings to the town,” it ruled that North Kingstown’s financial situation “does not mandate such a drastic change.”

But, with multimillion shortfalls expected for both the town and school departments, town officials are predicting steep cuts. According to Embury, $1.2 million will need to be cut from this year’s budget to next year’s. The proposed changes to the department could save the town anywhere from $800,000 to $1.1 million, he adds.

“Absent a contractual agreement that saves them the money we need, we need to have this implemented in order to get structural change and savings,” said Embury.

For Furtado, the introduction of this structural change as a law is ill timed as the town and fire union continue negotiations for this year’s contract. Furtado anticipates legal action if the measure is approved.

“The only beneficiaries in this process are the attorneys involved in the case,” said Furtado. “It’s a waste of money. It’s a shame.”

Jsri2190 December 24, 2011 at 02:58 PM
Why would you ever want to see decreased town services (fire and police)??? They are your first line of defense in protecting your life, property, and your loved ones' lives. When YOU pick up the phone and dial 911 wouldn't you want the best services possibly to show up at your door? If services get decreased there is the possibility that YOUR emergency may not be able to get mitigated the best and safest way possible for you. I don't know about you, but that's a gamble I don't want to take. Life's unexpectancies can happen at any moment in time. Like I said when you pick up the phone and dial 911 (which everyone usually does at least once in their lifetime) the local fire and police are your first line of defense!!!! Give me the best possibly! Also, I am pretty sure you eat food...well Firefighters have to eat as well and Daves=healthier cooked meals vs fast food. They are ready to respond whether they are at the station, Daves, training somewhere, or anywhere else their day may take them.
Wickford101 December 24, 2011 at 03:00 PM
After reading some posts, I think there is something fishy going on here with the lawyer, Dan Kinder, and his business relationship with the council president Dolan. Isn't this a huge conflict of interest that a decision is made that makes him richer? and in turn if she works for him, herself also? I think an investigation needs to be done into this matter.
Wickford101 December 24, 2011 at 03:05 PM
Shop Local! I think it's nice to see them spending money locally in our markets and not at Stop and Shop. I guess firefighters arent allowed to eat either? Lets sew their @$$e$ shut and yank out their toilets too. the town will save money in sewer bills.
NKRI Transparency December 24, 2011 at 03:22 PM
Must admit how certain individuals know all.....I wonder how many are or are relatives of FF. Am I looking for a fight; not at all. Am I afraid; not at all. In fact this dialog is good as it further exposes much. Let's recap shall we, I have had FF want to know where I live while another referencing me experiencing retribution....maybe time to again think about my initial comment. As they say, no one wants to hear the truth, I am appreciative of you confirming my thoughts while allowing others to see reality. I would like to continue chatting but I have to get to town hall and pay my taxes.
Jsri2190 December 24, 2011 at 03:53 PM
Are you for real??? I am starting to think that you either work for the town council or for Dan Kinder and Associates. Yeah pal we all pay taxes. I know of many communities with higher taxes than NK. The reality is (from my experience) the Firefighters are telling the truth. I feel that they have nothing to hide because they have done nothing wrong and apparently you feel you know all on the other side of the argument. Did you not hear that the Firefighters offered over 1 million in concessions and the town said no. Any comment to that?!?
NKRI Transparency December 24, 2011 at 04:21 PM
Definitely for real. My comment is to ask why would the town say no to concessions? It's not so much what you know as to what you don't know. Any comment to that? Will let residents decide for themselves as I post these comments on blogs. I am a concerned non public tax paying resident. Might suggest all take a look at the town org chart. Curious as to how many posting comments here are FF, relatives of or other public employee's?
Jsri2190 December 24, 2011 at 04:40 PM
The town DID say no to over 1 million in concessions last year and ending up spending 250K of YOUR tax dollars in lawyers fees! I think that's is where you should focus your energy and investigation. Come to the January 9th meeting and ask the council. As far as your other concerns...I think it's pretty much black and white. Your trying to expose what is already out there in the public. What did they do wrong? As far as who is posting comments...who knows?? Everyone has the freedom of speech and that's something your going to have to deal with. You can't pay your taxes on a Saturday because town hall is closed weekends, nights, and holidays.
NKRI Transparency December 24, 2011 at 04:51 PM
For some reason my questions are not answered.....makes me wonder even more. Like you said, it's pretty much black and white. Looking to peel the onion. Looking for root cause. Curious as to if you see / read only what you want to see / read. Curious as to if you hear only what you want you want to hear? Curious as to if you watched any of the pension hearings? So many questions, so few answers. FYI, taxes can be dropped anytime.....possibly there are other items you are incorrect about.
Chris Demers December 24, 2011 at 04:58 PM
NKTransparency - Why are you "curious to how many posting comments here are ff, relatives of or other public employee's?"? What does it matter? Are public employees and their family/friends not good enough to express their opinions? You should do yourself a favor and throw your keyboard/laptop into a pond because with every post you are moving youself closer to Troll status. I don't "rotate", so this post will be my last. Have a merry Xmas and a happy new year.
NKRI Transparency December 24, 2011 at 05:04 PM
Chris, Appreciate your kind words - Merry Xmas and Happy New Year to you also.
Jsri2190 December 24, 2011 at 05:07 PM
I know they can be. My point was they are closed. The fire and police never close. I can just imagine how much you know that is incorrect. Not sure as to what your trying to find out that isn't obvious. Peel away...have fun!
NKRI Transparency December 24, 2011 at 05:14 PM
Jsri - I feel like I'm communicating with Forest Gump.....enjoy your box of chocolates!
Jsri2190 December 24, 2011 at 05:18 PM
Show up January 9th, stand up, and get your questions answered. Your insults are unnecessary and that's very sad. I am not lowering myself to your status. Bye.
NKRI Transparency December 24, 2011 at 05:23 PM
Jsri, Appreciate your kind words - Merry Xmas and Happy New Year.
Jsri2190 December 24, 2011 at 05:24 PM
Merry Christmas to you too! Happy New Year!
Richard December 24, 2011 at 05:36 PM
General comments from my own personal life & work experiences. None of these comments are directed at any of the preceding comments. I have had 2 work experiences where the work schedules were as follows: (1)--8hrs on 4pm to midnight, 8 hrs off midnight to 8 am, 8 hrs on 8 am to 4 pm, 8hrs off 4 pm to midnight, 8 hrs on midnight to 8 am, 72 hrs off. To say the least it was a very taxing schedule both work & sleep wise. (2)--Midnight to 8 am, where it was a virtual certainty that 3 out of 5 days you would be required to work consecutive shifts. Midnight to 8 am then 8 am to 4 pm no sleeping time on the job. The disruption to family and personally in both cases was just intolerable. The end result was I left both jobs and found employment which was better suited. I made the choice. I offer this only for the following reason; we are all capable of making choices, once the choice is made it sometimes does not meet expectations. There are many people today, in America, who are making choices between heat or eat. As a longtime resident of NK I hope that both the FF & the TC can find common ground. I remember when the town budget was decided at public meetings in the old high school gym. Those meetings would go on sometimes for 3-4-5 nights, but decisions would eventually be made. Ultimately no good will come from the continuous acrimony which is being played out. The losers will be the good people of NK collectively.
NKRI Transparency December 24, 2011 at 05:49 PM
Thanks Jsri. In hopes of final clarification - a small part of me would like to be able to go back in time and start over as my words and post were at least somewhat misunderstood for which I will take 50% of the unintentional blame. To be honest, without fear - anger took over when I felt comments were directed at me in an unacceptable threatening manner. This will be my last post, have a good day.
NKtaxPAyerAlso December 24, 2011 at 06:14 PM
Happy Chanukah everyone ! I would like all of us to remember and pray for someone we lost. Including the two firefighters that died tragically just to our north in MA.
Dark star December 24, 2011 at 11:54 PM
Clutch, could you tell me what are the responsibilities of a firefighter when they are performing their 14 hour on-duty night tour? Is there a website or document that outlines this?
Clutch127 December 26, 2011 at 09:40 PM
@Tired of NK antics: I’m not entirely sure if I understand how to answer your question, but I will try. Fire and EMS services are performed around the clock; we never close. There is no reduction in coverage or services provided at night, since the unpredictable nature of call volume dictates that our fire/EMS be consistently maintained. We could have eight calls one night, five calls the next, followed by fourteen calls the night after that. Due to the large geographical area cover (56 square miles), coupled with only two (2) personnel on all but one piece of apparatus, we maintain unchanging levels of response under all circumstances, regardless of day or night shift. Proponents of cost-cutting measures or diminishing staffing levels of fire response for budgetary purposes sometimes consider proposals that are operationally unsafe or contrary to the overall public welfare. We know that the implementation of the 56-hour work week in our community would be such a measure. Additionally, the North Kingstown firefighters are quite cognizant of the role played by the ISO rating in determining homeowner insurance rates. For instance, our vigorous support of the effort to open the fire station in Slocum (Station 5) helped to significantly improve the ISO rating of the Town. In fact, related specifically to night responsibilities, we conduct periodic night shift training evolutions that are favored by the ISO, which can translate into additional taxpayer savings.
Clutch127 December 26, 2011 at 09:53 PM
Our website is www.nkffa.org. We periodically update the site with informative fire-related links on the local and national level, as well as local news of impact to the fire service. Due to recent developments, we will be re-visiting an area of our site entitled "Taxpayer Information". Check back in the days and weeks to come for updates. The ISO also has comprehensive data related to insurance information, fire service ratings and their potential impact; their site is simply www.iso.com. I hope this addressed your question; feel free to contact me anytime if other questions arise. Thanks for the dialogue….
steven corrigan December 27, 2011 at 04:40 PM
if the department is currently down 9 firefighters should the town run a application process and hire new firefighters ? i looked at the fiscal budget also and it looks like the fire department has 25 firefighters eligible to retire also ! that means this dedicated group of men and women are veterans in the late stages of their career and now they are gonna be forced to work up to 72 hours a week with no compensation and being forced to work for the vacancies !
Paul Christman December 27, 2011 at 07:17 PM
MeanE, You are joking right? There is a huge and undeniable difference then waking from a sound sleep jumping behind the wheel truck with three other guys and within minutes making instant life or death decisions about someone's life. Consider you are the one that needs to be saved. These two fields have no comparison. Lastly, the firefighting and EMS professions require constant training and re-training that never stops. Nobody can question that the ability to retain what is learned is remotely the same in the 2nd (12) hours as it is in the first. Would you want the truck driver on the highway next to you and your kids or the pilot of the jet your flying with your family on be in his 23rd hour when life and death decisions are made? Precisely why neither can be on duty more than (14) hrs with minimum of eight hrs. uninterrupted sleep. My family has a history in the firefighting field including myself as I am still a licensed EMT. Speaking from experience on all sides of this argument; I am much safer both myself and to the public driving my chair during the 2nd (12) hours than trying to save your life when it is you calling for help. In short, the issue is not that these men/women are better than us and are hung up on the hours. The concern they have is they would be at substantially more risk to themselves and the public they put it on the line to protect with 24 hour duty shifts. The "nature" of the job is the difference when comparing working hours to other fields!
MeanE December 27, 2011 at 09:14 PM
@ Paul Christman I was responding to Al's comment regarding compensation, not the differences between the "nature" of jobs. I have not once said that I prefer or agree with 24 hour shifts. I have simply stated that from my researching a little on the internet, that 24 hour shifts are not uncommon. We all know the inherent risks associated with the job. As Wickford101 pointed out, it is still a choice on where and what you do for employment. I understand that the economic times are tough and that switching departments or careers is not exactly easy. However, it is still a choice. If @Clutch127 is not able to win the battle that is on tap with the Town Council, many Firefighters in NK will have some very difficult choices to make. With a number of them eligible for retirement, there could be a mass exodus, with many slots needed to be filled. I don't think that the TC will be successful with this law, but I will be watching to see what happens. What I do know is that I don't want to see a repeat of what happened in San Francisco last spring when Police & Fire watched as a man drown because a policy strictly forbiding them from carrying out water rescues because of a funding issue and that they didn't have the equipment or the training.
Dark star December 28, 2011 at 02:46 AM
Let me frame my question another way: Do the responsibilities differ between the 10-hour on-duty day shift and the 14-hour on-duty night tour?
Paul Christman December 28, 2011 at 04:23 AM
@ MeanE My reply was based on your ? of whether ff's get to sleep at station and the notion it sucks to work more hours. All first responder's represent the 1st defense against any public hazard. It is not about compensation or total hours as much as it is about shift lengths and effectiveness. If TC had a clue what they were asking (assuming) they wouldn't think of it. RI's whole fire service in many ways relies on the statewide mutual system that is in place for any moderate/large scale incident now. Largely because most or all paid departments are understaffed now. Also, any sensitive position is regulated in terms of duty shifts and sleep cycles. These services are absolutely safety sensitive. It is about shift lengths not total hrs/week..
Dave December 28, 2011 at 01:39 PM
Kinder also recently represented the TC in filing suit against the SC with a 16 page complaint without even an attempt to discuss the matter and work something out with the SC....Judge told the parties to go away and try to work together (duh!)...Kinder got a nice payout.....i see a pattern here.
I have an interest in this December 31, 2011 at 08:28 PM
OK NOW I AM UPSET!!! SO the town of NK wants my husband to work an additional 14 hrs a week with no compensation. Let's just look at some numbers. . . Right his salary is based on 2,184(42x52) hrs. If he were to pick up an extra 14 hr shift every week, right now he'd be getting overtime(time & a half). That essentially is 21 paid hours or 1,092 hrs extra a year(21x52). YOU DO THE MATH: 2,184/2=1,092 1,092 is the EXACT amount that the town DOES NOT WANT TO PAY HIM FOR!! THIS IS HALF OF HIS SALARY NOT 1/3 AS I THOUGHT PREVIOUSLY!!!
Govstench December 31, 2011 at 11:55 PM
It is irresponsible to try to balance the books on the backs of the firefighters. If this town council and town manager thinks this is prudent management, then the taxpayers need new leadership. This will not work and will only lead to bigger problems down the road. The town needs to take the bull by the horns and start cutting the spending - on both sides - schools and municipal. All of the promises, sweet deals and other goodies are finally coming into clear view as the swamp continues to be drained. Forget bond issues unless you want to see the costs of borrowing to go up. Moody's will be tanking more towns on their irresponsible spending patterns and North Kingstown is no different. Get serious with addressing the budget but not at the cost of risking the lives of the public service employees - 24 hour shifts don't work.
Tom Crewse January 05, 2012 at 05:00 AM
This makes no "practical" sense. Hpothetically, yes but practically no. There are many many busy, large metropolitan fire departments around the nation that work 24 hour shifts. I work for one of them and you argument doesn't hold water simply because there are so many legitimate fire departments that operate within such a staffing model and do so very well. If your firefighters simply don't want to do it and feel they have the political might to control the direction, than so be it. However, the argument against must have merit.

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