Wake County Fire Service – Staffing & Deployment Study Presentation

Change log will go here, as this posting is edited with any corrections or clarifications.

What does our county-funded fire service need, both now and going forward? That’s a question that Wake County Fire Services and the Wake County Fire Commission have been trying to answer for some years now.

Strategic Planning Starts – 2013

It began as an initiative under Fire Services Director Mike Wright, after his hiring in 2013. And with roots going back to 2005, with the adoption of the Fire Service Tax District Long Range Business Plan (read plan).

Through his tenure in 2014, Director Wright’s office developed a strategic framework for analyzing the needs of the county-funded fire service. (Or, more specifically, the county fire service tax district.) That framework was a big beast, with such prominent pieces as Cost Shares, Standards of Cover, Apparatus/Equipment/Facilities, Efficiencies/Cost Savings/Consolidations, and Revenue/Tax Rate. Read this blog post for some background.

Cost Share, Funding, and Service Delivery Report – 2014

The study on cost shares was completed in the fall of 2014. Read blog post about the preliminary report, and then this blog post (scroll to bottom) with links to the final report, and recommendations therein.

Wright retired on December 31, 2014, and this strategic planning was shifted into idle, while an interim director filled that position. 

Staffing and Deployment Study – 2015 to 2017

Things resumed in mid-2015, with the hiring of Fire Services Director Nick Campasano. And work started on another big piece of the puzzle: staffing and deployment. e.g., what resources are needed to effectively fight fires in the fire tax district, and what does the data show therein? 

Last night, the first round of results from the Staffing and Deployment Study were presented at a special-called fire commission meeting. Director Campasano gave a two-hour presentation about the study, its sources, its methodologies, assorted data points, and eight recommendations.

(Unlike the Cost Shares Study, conducted by an external firm, the Staffing and Deployment Study was conducted and created entirely by county staff, and with participation by each fire department. And overseen by a Steering Committee, comprised of fire commission members. Believe that’s right.)

In April, the complete report–with all the data, and all the explanations–will be presented to the Steering Committee, to receive their inputs. Then a combination of both will be presented to the fire commission in May, for their approval and transmission to the County Commissioners. Got it?

View the Presentation

For now, here’s a PDF of the slides that were presented last night. Plus a few things that Mr. Blogger noted. We’ll get a transcription of the presentation at a future fire commission meeting, maybe the regular one planned in two weeks. Watch this space.

Read, read again, interpret, and examine. It’s all fabulous interesting and begs numerous questions and thought exercises about where to go, and what will happen next.

The Study’s Recommendations… And Some Notes

As noted on slide 93, the study’s recommendations are:

  1. Utilize NFPA 1720 for Guide to staffing and deployment.
  2. Work to ensure 3 man staffing 24/7. Collect assembly time data.
  3. Work to ensure adoption of fire dispatch standards in RWECC ILA.
  4. Implement a county-wide NFIRS reporting system.
  5. Develop an organizational structure template for future growth.
  6. Take advantage of fleet consolidation opportunities.
  7. Continue to work to address “donut hole” coverage areas.
  8. Consider long range station locations needs.

Here are some notes about the survey, and the recommendation:

About the study:

  • Slide 6 – From 2005 to 2015, the county lost 63.16 acres (or 11%) of unincorporated land, due to annexations. Thus the Fire Service Tax District was reduced by that amount. 
  • Slide 7 – The population projections in the 2005 long-range business plan didn’t entirely pan out. They estimated 273,514 in 2015. Actual in 2016 was 188,135. Also a good cautionary reminder about such forecasts.
  • Slide 8, 9 – “Non-Cost Share” and “Cost Share” departments. What does that mean? The former are departments that don’t share budgets with municipalities (BLFD, DHFD, EWFD, FFD, HFD, SHFD, SCFD, WNHFD, WFD, WWFD). The latter share such budgets (AFD, CFD, FVFD, GFD, HSFD, MFD, Rolesville FD, WFFD, ZFD). Basically, only Raleigh and Knightdale aren’t contracted by the county for services.
  • Slide 8, 9 – Ten-year change in calls. Fires are down, EMS calls are up. Overall, calls are up. 
  • Slide 13 – Comparing projections of call volume, with actual call volume, ten years later. Note that Western Wake had 735% more calls than projected! Other projected amounts are far, far lower. Some over, some under. But its another cautionary reminder about forecasting.
  • Slide 24 – Percentage of total calls by non-cost share FDs, as aid responses, outside of their insurance district. e.g., how much of their call volume is mutual aid, to help others?
  • Slide 26 – Concurrence = Frequency that a second, third, fourth, etc., call occurs for the department, while the first one is working.
  • Slide 36 – “The fire service within Wake County continues to maintain rural fire service characteristics.” Meaning, it’s still moderate or mid-level, with call volume and service needs. It hasn’t evolved into mostly suburban or outright urban characteristics. 

About the recommendations:

  1. Utilize NFPA 1720 for Guide to staffing and deployment.
    Slide 37+ – Use as a guideline, to establish goals for (a.) first-due response travel times and (b.) the assembly (arrival) of a full assignment of people and trucks. And use instead of NFPA 1710. (Need a good explanation for that reason, as I didn’t transcribe.)
    Slide 39 – Note that majority of the county fire districts are “rural” as classified by NFPA 1720, and four (BLFD/SFFD, FFD, DHFD, SCFD) are “suburban”. Note: The insurance districts are listed by their names, which don’t always map to their departments. Alert = EWFD. Furnia = FVFD. Ten Ten = FFD. Hipex = AFD. Wakelon = ZFD. Wakette = WFFD. 
  2. Work to ensure 3 man staffing 24/7. Collect assembly time data. 
    Slide 65 – To make this happen, 66 additional personnel must be hired, county-wide. 
    Slide 66 – But a couple facility concerns to check. Can BLFD Station 3 and DHFD Station 2 support added personnel?
  3. Work to ensure adoption of fire dispatch standards in RWECC ILA.
    Slide 68 – As explained in the presentation, pursue reducing the call-processing time for fire calls. One cited factor was the automated dispatching at the RWECC. And if a fire call is queued for Locution, and certain police calls are added to the queue, the fire calls can be bumped below the police calls. Which adds a delay. 
  4. Implement a county-wide NFIRS reporting system.
    Slide 69+ – Some huge issues here, such as data accuracy and consistency, when officers manually enter fire report information. Better would be auto-entered information, pulled directly from CAD. Also need some standardized reporting requirements. And more training on using mobile status/terminal devices. The RWECC no longer records milestone times, as communicated over the radio. It’s “deck box or nothing,” if you will.
  5. Develop an organizational structure template for future growth.
    Slide 72 – How are the number of Chief officers determined? How are equivalences between full-time, part-time, and volunteer positions determined? What’s needed for span of control? Etcetera. 
  6. Take advantage of fleet consolidation opportunities.
    Slide 73+ – Explore the implications and costs savings, of consolidating fleet apparatus.
    Slide 77 – Six engines/pumpers/tankers county-wide have been identified as “could be reduced,” for example. Departments not identified. Retired rigs would be retained, as reserves. 
    Slide 77 – Also, consider smaller vehicles as “people movers.” It’s far less efficient to use the big rigs as such. 
    Slide 81 – Rescue trucks. Nearly every county department has one. Recommend four regional heavy/large rescue trucks. Then smaller rescue trucks (or rescue pumpers), at other departments, for a tiered response. Smaller unit arrives first, and begins work until larger regional rescue arrives. 
    Slide 81 – Prior slides analyzes number of extrications in recent years. But “rescue trucks” are used for more than just MVCs. They serve as service trucks, with ISO credits for some departments. They’re used as support vehicles, for lighting or power, or special equipment on the fireground. 
    Slide 81 – Also, all four regional rescues should have breathing air systems, for refilling SCBA bottles. 
  7. Continue to work to address “donut hole” coverage areas.
    Slide 83 – Refers to unincorporated areas on the edge (or inside of) the city limits, that could be effectively protected by the Raleigh FD.
    Slide 83 – Continue talking with the City of Raleigh, about their assuming the contracted coverage, of portions of four fire districts: Bay Leaf Station 3 (old Six Forks FD), Durham Highway Station 2, Wake Forest Station 5 (old Falls FD), and Wake New Hope Station 1.
    Slide 83 – Talked with state OSFM. The city could use LDH supply lines and relay pumpers, and would not need tankers. Adding a rural district would not affect its ISO 1 rating, either. Subsequent slides show different models they’ve explored, for “cost per call” amounts.
    Slide 87 – And what would happen if, say, those four fire stations were just closed? Well, first and foremost, Raleigh would continue to send auto-aid, and probably be first on scene, in most cases. That wouldn’t change. But the property owners would suffer a hit on fire insurance. And if you exempted them from paying the fire tax? They’d still suffer a hit. So probably not an option. 
  8. Consider long range station locations needs.
    Slide 88 + – From comments, data doesn’t show a need for new fire stations in the near future. (Though this already includes the Wendell Falls fire station as a coming attraction, I believe.)
    Slide 92 – For service needs on the edge of the county,  instead of building new stations, recommend contracting with departments in the adjoining counties.

See a PDF version of the presentation slides.

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