Recently, there have been some concerns raised regarding news coverage of overtime within the Fairfax County government specifically the Fire & Rescue Department.
We would like to provide you with some clarification and understanding on how the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue staffing model provides safety for our community and all our fire & rescue personnel. There are several key points that are attributed to the accumulation of overtime hours.
The Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department (FCFRD), with the full support of the Union, follows the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) 1710 standard regarding minimum staffing on apparatus and the emergency scene. We are fortunate and appreciative that our Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to allow for the application and receipt of Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants program. SAFER grants provide federal funding for additional positions increasing our minimum staffing on our ladder truck companies.
Minimum staffing levels within our department include 4 firefighters on a fire engine, 4 firefighters on heavy rescue squad, 4 firefighters on a ladder truck, and 2 firefighters on an Advance Life Support (ALS) ambulance. These units require at least one of the members to be an ALS certified paramedic. All our first responding apparatus provide ALS care in addition to their expertise in fire suppression, vehicle accidents, above and low grade rescues, active shooter situations, natural and manmade emergencies. Studies from various industry standards and Federal agencies have shown that utilizing this staffing model affords fire fighters the ability to perform their work in the most efficient and safe manner responding to the emergencies listed above. These staffing levels on apparatus were established to provide strategic coverage throughout the county based on call volume, call types, geographic location and response times. The intent is to “match the resources to the environment.”
If any vacancy occurs on these apparatus the fire fighter assigned to that position is held over from their previous shift on overtime until relieved by another firefighter either from a relief pool or on overtime from off duty. These vacancies occur due to military leave, injury leave, vacation leave, extended incidents, significant weather incidents and our Urban Search and Rescue deployments to name a few. We want you to understand that these overtime costs would be the same whether one firefighter works 10 days of overtime or 10 firefighters work 1 day each. The FCFRD provides 24/7 response by keeping all front-line apparatus in-service and staffed to respond to emergencies because our members sign up to work overtime. The overtime, once again, is there to keep the community safe while keeping our members safe at incident scenes.
Another reason that overtime is generated occurs when our world class Fairfax County International Urban Search & Rescue team is deployed by request of the Federal Government to assist those in need. The overtime incurred by those working extremely long hours providing rescue and humanitarian assistance as well as our firefighters back home filling the vital minimum staffing requirements to keep our units in service for the citizens are reimbursed 100% by the Federal Government at no cost to Fairfax County whatsoever. This overtime amount is added to a member's annual salary report again at no cost to the citizens of Fairfax County. The total return that Fairfax County enjoys because of these major responses is immeasurable.
The FCFRD has an aggressive recruitment drive to hire qualified personnel, however, we still have approximately 50 vacancies that need to be filled. These vacancies translate into overtime whether forced on our members or by those who choose to work on their days off. If these vacancies on our fire trucks or paramedic ambulances were not filled with overtime personnel fire trucks or ambulances would be placed out of service, or “browned-out” thus, jeopardizing the community who rely on our help during their worst day.
The Fairfax County Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics, IAFF Local 2068 are proud to have great working relationship with our Board of Supervisors in achieving a AAA bond rating as well as an Insurance Services Office, Inc (ISO) Public Protection Classification (or PPC) rating of 1 - the highest rating in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Fire Suppression Rating Schedule (or FSRS) under the PPC reviews emergency communications, fire department operational considerations, water supply, and community risk reduction. These components are critical in ensuring that residents and businesses may receive lower insurance premiums which equates to saving money.
The Fairfax County Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics Union, Local 2068, is a labor organization affiliated with the International Association of Fire Fighters. Local 2068 has over 1900 members, representing active and retired fire fighters, call-takers and dispatchers at the 911 Call Center, mechanics who service fire and EMS apparatus, and civilian fire inspectors. Our members professionally and tirelessly serve the citizens and visitors of Fairfax County – and we’re proud of that!