Poll: Should Firefighters Work 24-Hour Shifts?

A proposed change to town law would restructure the fire department, resulting in 24-hour-long shifts for firefighters.

, the Town of North Kingstown is seeking measures to cut costs. One such cost-cutting measure may be a radical restructuring of the North Kingstown Fire Department which would result in

According to Town Manager Michael Embury, the restructuring could lead to a savings in the neighborhood of $800,000 and $1.1 million. The idea for 24-hour-long shifts was brought up this past year during arbitration between the town and North Kingstown's fire union, Local 1651.

The new structure would move firefighters from working 10- and 14-hour shifts to 24-hour shifts (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.

Do you think 24-hour-long shifts for firefighters is unreasonable? Take our poll below and sound off in the comments.

The proposed law is set for a public hearing before the North Kingstown Town Council on Jan. 9.

Joe Smith January 13, 2012 at 03:23 AM
Clutch, According to the Federal Government Dept of Labor, "Work hours of fire fighters are longer and more varied than the hours of most other workers. Many fire fighters work about 50 hours a week, and sometimes they may work longer. In some agencies, fire fighters are on duty for 24 hours, then off for 48 hours, and receive an extra day off at intervals. In others, they work a day shift of 10 hours for 3 or 4 days, work a night shift of 14 hours for 3 or 4 nights, have 3 or 4 days off, and then repeat the cycle. In addition, fire fighters often work extra hours at fires and other emergencies and are regularly assigned to work on holidays. Fire lieutenants and fire captains frequently work the same hours as the fire fighters they supervise. This is from firerecruit and echoed by aspiringfirefighter.com, but I don't know who runs those sites. Most municipal firefighters work a 56 hour work week, rotating 24 or 48 hour shifts. There are some work schedules that are less, such as 42 hours per week and some departments work 8 to 12-hour shifts rather than 24-hour shifts. There are many "combination" departments in the East Coast that employ full-time personnel during the day and rely on their volunteers in the evenings. Work schedules for municipal departments can vary greatly, but the most common schedule in the country is a 56-hour work week, working 10 to 24 shifts per month in various cycles. The most common cycle is 24 hours on 48 hours off.
Clutch127 January 13, 2012 at 04:38 AM
@Joe Smith: Hi again. Of all of your research on firefighting work shifts, how many employ a system where full-time firefighters aren't compensated for all of the hours they work? Are you aware that many that work this work shift also receive accelerated time accrual for pension purposes due to the massive amount of extra hours worked? Are you aware that the Town officially disbanded the last of its volunteer operations here in NK because it was not cost-effective to maintain and caused exceedingly high risk of liability? I do appreciate your continued effort to discuss work schedules, but I’m curious as to your response to the action of the Town Council. You have not at all addressed their intent to ignore RI law and enact an ordinance that clearly violates state statute. I have attached two of the laws here: http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/statutes/Title28/28-9.1/28-9.1-4.HTM http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/statutes/title28/28-7/28-7-14.HTM Since the Town already pursued this through arbitration and lost, do you feel their next step should be provoking a long, expensive legal battle, when the firefighters have made multiple concession offers over the past two years? As I asked earlier, wouldn't you have to at least admit the possibility that this shift has serious flaws, and more importantly that this action by the TC will cause uneccessary and exceedingly expensive litigation?
Joe Smith January 13, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Clutch, My point was merely to indicate that 24 hour shifts/56 hour week seems more of the norm..or perhaps 24 hour shifts with "Kelly" days added to make it effectively something between 42 and 56 hours. The study done in Canada and even cited by the IAFF local in DC concluded the 24 hour was optimal. Now, I will also admit that changing to the proposed shift schedule without reworking the compensation aspect and other related impacts is a poor option. There should (and hopefully have been) be thoughtful risk analysis done. For example, suppose emergencies occurred on a predictable basis; then you could build a schedule that incorporated response, training, maintenance, sleep, and administrative duties. However, I suspect (and you would have better insight) that only looking at the aggregate statistics don't tell the other factors such as intensity, duration (which may be correlated), and frequency. So, the shift schedule, compensation aside, would seem highly contextual based on those factors plus the level of risk (since we can't afford to cover every set of worst case scenarios) the community is willing to accept. I also agree that throwing good money after bad -- that is pursuing an action that seems highly probable to be denied makes little sense. Although I understand during negotiations the union can't detail their offers, it does seem from an outsider's perspective that pursuing other cost-saving options first would be better.
Clutch127 January 22, 2012 at 10:11 PM
FYI: The NK Town Council agenda for tommorow night DOES NOT list the public hearing on the 56-hour work week ordinance for firefighter shift schedules. I wanted to pass this on for all of you that were planning on attending expecting a public hearing, and on behalf of your NK firefighters I thank you for your overwhelming and continued support.
B January 31, 2012 at 03:34 PM
It seems as though Firefighters and Police Officers continuously do what's needed in order to provide safety for the respective towns they work. Whether it be at traffic accidents, domestics, fires, or ever increasing calls for the sick that expose them to injury, disease, and basically everything that any "normal" person would run away from. And yet, when the budget needs balancing, it's always on the back of these people. Has anyone looked at the overall budget in NK? What percentage of the budget do the fire and police ACTUALLY take up? I think what everyone forgets is that these Police and Fire Men/woman ARE citizens as well. We are not invisible to the recessions/depressions. THEY ARE the middle and lower class people you conservatives are talking about. The services that they provide for the small portion of the budget they actually receive is a deal. And not you want MORE? NK taxpayers, you cannot get blood from a stone. When money needs to be saved, it should be equally on the backs of ALL workers, not continuously on Police/Fire. How soon people forget the sacrifices Police/Fire people make daily in this country. As I would expect, regardless the outcome of this ordinance, the finest and bravest in NK will continue to provide an outstanding service to its taxpayers. Thats the thanks they get for the sacrifices they make to themselves, and their families.


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