Rural Area Fire/Rescue Staffing Standards



Provide guidance on staffing standards for coverage in the rural areas




Messrs. Tucker, Foley, Eggleston






October 6, 2004


ACTION:     X                        INFORMATION:   



  ACTION:                             INFORMATION:     X










Approximately 7 years ago, the County began providing fire/rescue staffing for Seminole Trail, Earlysville, and Stony Point Fire stations. Fire/Rescue staff worked with the volunteer Chiefs to design a schedule that provided staffing twelve hour per day between the hours of 6 am to 6 pm.  One to two career staff (depending on annual/sick leave) provided coverage from 6:00 am to 4:00 pm, while the other one to two staff provided coverage from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. This schedule worked well because volunteer assistance was usually available 6:00 am – 8:00 am and 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm to augment the career staffing to meet a three-person minimum staffing standard. However, over time, the availability of daytime volunteers declined. The reduction in volunteer staffing created a situation where one to two career fire fighters were responding to fire calls outside of the minimum staffing standard, putting our career staff at risk.


In addition to providing career staff at fire departments, as a result of the FY 2003/04 budget process, the County began staffing Scottsville Rescue with two Fire Fighter/EMTs 12 hours a day, 5 days per week.  Similar to fire department coverage, one career staff would provide coverage from 6:00 am to 4:00 pm and the other from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.  While this schedule worked well in the beginning, the current lack of volunteer assistance has created similar concerns with minimum staffing.  Without at least two certified providers on every call, career Advanced Life Support (ALS) providers occasionally are not able to provide a standard of care equivalent to their level of training and still be within the rules and regulations set forth by the State Office of EMS.


During the FY04-05 budget process, Seminole Trail, Stony Point and Earlysville Volunteer Fire Departments each requested an additional staff member to achieve the minimum staffing standard of three at all times. In addition, Scottsville Rescue requested staffing to provide coverage 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. In total, ten additional positions totaling over $500,000 were requested.  (Staff understands that Scottsville Rescue is again planning to request 24 hours coverage, 7 days per week during the FY05-06 budget process.)


Consistent with the County’s Community Facilities Plan, the Board approved hiring additional staff for Seminole Trail and Earlysville Volunteer Fire Departments because they serve the County’s urban areas, but not Stony Point or Scottsville because both departments serve rural areas. In order to address the minimum staffing standard, the hours covered by career staff at Stony Point and Scottsville were planned to be reduced from 12 to 10 hours per day.  Fortunately, up until recently, Scottsville has been able to provide enough volunteer staff to cover this reduction in hours.  As the Board is aware, Stony Point has not been able to provide additional volunteer assistance to ensure coverage from 6 am to 6 pm.


Staff and Board member Ken Boyd recently met with the members of the Stony Point Volunteer Fire Department to discuss their concerns regarding the reduction in hours. The volunteers outlined their need to have 12 hour per day, 5 days per week coverage using career staff. Staff also had the opportunity to explain the need to provide a safe working environment for employees by ensuring that the department meets its minimum staffing standard.  The general consensus at the end of the meeting was that a) due to the work schedules of volunteer members, career assistance is needed 12 hours per day, 5 days per week, and b) it is important to adhere to the Fire Rescue Department’s minimum staffing standards to ensure employee safety.



31. Make the County a Safe and Healthy Community in which citizens feel secure to live, work and play.



The decision not to increase career staffing at Stony Point Fire and Scottsville Rescue was based on consideration of the County’s policy regarding differentiated service levels between the rural and urban areas.  This decision was also made in the context of the total request for ten additional fire/rescue staff during the budget process.  At the time, staff’s recommendation to the Board was to not increase staffing for volunteer fire or rescue stations that serve rural areas. The decision resulted in a reduction from 12 to 10 hours of career staffing per day, five days a week. 


In addition to the concerns raised by Stony Point Fire and Scottsville Rescue, the Earlysville Volunteer Fire Department has recently sent a letter to staff (see attachment) requesting that the 12 hour per day, 5 day per week career staffing be maintained in Earlysville after the new Northern Station opens. While Earlysville currently serves the Hollymead development area, when the new northern station is constructed, first due response from their station will be limited to rural area responses because of their rural area location.  During the early planning stages for the Northern Station, the thought was to transfer at least one career staff from Earlysville (staffing times would change from 12 hrs/day to 10 hrs/day) to the Northern Station. If the Earlysville career staffing schedule were maintained, no personnel would be transferred and additional career personnel would be needed to staff the Northern Station.  For this reason, the Board’s decision regarding Stony Point’s request for addition staffing will also affect Scottsville Rescue and Earlysville Fire.  A decision to increase coverage from 10 to 12 hours per day, 5 days per week will, in effect, establish a rural area staffing standard that will require two additional staff now and a third when the Northern Station opens.


Supervisor Boyd has requested that this item be discussed with the Board.  Should the Board decide to change the staffing standard for rural areas to ensure coverage 12 hours per day, 5 days per week, the cost to hire two (2) career firefighter/EMTs will be $115,000 annually and $13,000 in one time start-up costs. As previously discussed, this would also establish on-going staffing levels at Earlysville Volunteer Fire Department when the Northern Station opens. 


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