The Salisbury Fire Department (SFD) exists to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of our community in an effective and efficient manner. The SFD is comprised of three stations: Station 1 Beaglin Park, Station 2 Brown Street, and Station 16 “Headquarters” Cypress Street. Our current staffing model has Stations 1 and 2 fire apparatus staffed Monday through Friday with career personnel from 7 am to 5:30 pm. After 5:30 pm and on the weekends, the SFD relies on volunteers to answer calls for service. Station 16 staffs one engine with career personnel 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week, 365 days-a-year. They also have volunteer members who respond for calls and help to staff equipment. All three stations have a staffed ambulance with career personnel every single day. This system has worked for many years. However, the volunteer service model has become less sustainable; volunteer service has declined not only in Salisbury, but across the country. Salisbury had over 13,000 calls for service in 2016; volunteer response accounts for 10% (1,300) of those calls.
Over the past four years, the SFD has been tracking operational concerns. In tracking “turn-out time” and “on-scene time”, there was an increased concern based on the statistical data. Statistics show that the volunteer response in our current model has failed to meet acceptable standards on nights and weekends. “Acceptable” is defined as a 10% or less failure rate. Over the past four years, the Station 1 volunteers have averaged a 50% “acceptable” response time. Not only is this a disservice to the public, but it is a major safety concern for our personnel as well. The SFD’s Fire Chief was obligated to make some major operational changes based on the declining volunteer response.
Attempted Operational Changes:
- 4th station dispatch – The SFD added a fourth station to its fire response in hopes to get more personnel to the scene in a more timely manner.
- “In house staffing” – This program was design to guarantee a response for service. Each volunteer would be required to pre-schedule a couple station nights a month. The plan never got off the ground due to the resistance of volunteers from Station 1.
- “House man” – This program placed a career fire apparatus driver or officer in the station to assist with lack of personnel responding back for calls. This ultimately failed and had a negative impact on career staffing as one member was lost from a guaranteed response crew at station 16.
- Duty engine dispatched – The crew from Station 16 was now alerted for every call dispatched in the SFD’s jurisdiction. This guaranteed a response until a second call came in leaving that call to be covered in an untimely manner. Unfortunately, travel time to calls was increased as the staffed unit was covering the entire district from headquarters and not the geographically placed stations.
- Full time staffing – The SFD has now attempted to place a full time crew in service at Station 1 to guarantee a timely and effective response.
These operational changes occurred because of the above-mentioned failure rates of Station 1 volunteers. These operational changes ultimately caused the secession from the city to take place. Had the calls for service been handled properly, then the above operational changes would not have had to take place. With the growing demand for service, the model in which we serve must accommodate. With the full time staffing of Station 1, it will greatly improve the service and safety of the citizens in the SFD’s response area. The tax payers of the SFD’s jurisdiction deserve the best service we can provide.
The Salisbury Career Firefighters Union Local 4246 supports these decisions that have been made by Fire Chief Rick Hoppes and Mayor Jake Day.
SCFFA Local #4246