FF Schedules: DC Bucks the Trend

Amidst the growing tendency in some parts of the  US to approve 48-hours as the normal for firefighter duty shifts, the fire chief of Washington, DC, Kenneth Ellerbe, is taking an assertive step in the opposite direction.

According to the Washington Post, Ellerbe is promoting a schedule change from the current 24-hour system to 12-hour shifts of the 3-days, 3-nights, 3-off variety.

And, it’s getting some traction–the Post has written a measured editorial in favor of the change, lining up behind Chief Ellerbe.  They cite overtime reductions and safer work conditions through less fatigue as some of the motivating factors.

But the Post also acknowledged the turmoil such a change would create as firefighters have molded their private lives around the 24-shift though the editorial board comes out in favor of a pay raise as an inducement, as well as the need to make the change at the bargaining table rather than through legislative action.

There would seem to be little chance that IAFF Local 36 would agree to such a change in negotiations, which means that the battle could well take place in a City Council nearly fatally weakened by ethical shortcomings and rivalries.  Which, is, of course, great news for firefighters who like the current shift.

To their detriment, DC’s firefighters, outside of their emergency responses, are a largely invisible presence in the community.  They seem to be totally dis-engaged at the neighborhood level, a very serious problem indeed, when you may need activists calling their Council Member on your behalf.

Having strong community support means being part of  it and like it or not,  that takes more than effective emergency response.

 

13 Comments

  • Lee Hart Jr says:

    I work a 24 hr on, 24 hr off 24 hr on 24 hr off 24 hr on and the 4 days off with scheduled pdays and vacation and hollidays thrown in for good measure.
    Vacation and hollidays are 24 hr shifts….

  • Buck says:

    Pure politics…..period.

  • Jim Breslin says:

    Re-inventing the wheel?

  • Bill says:

    Next they will be talking about “taking out the beds”……can’t they be more innovative than that 12 hour shift thing?

  • BH says:

    You have to remember that this is the same department that deployed engines to street corners as crime deterrents. There hasn’t been a good idea to come out of DCFD admin in decades.

  • Anon says:

    “To their detriment, DC’s firefighters, outside of their emergency responses, are a largely invisible presence in the community. They seem to be totally dis-engaged at the neighborhood level, a very serious problem indeed, when you may need activists calling their Council Member on your behalf.

    Having strong community support means being part of it and like it or not, that takes more than effective emergency response.”

    Are you really making a comment like this, have you done any research into how involved we are in our community or are you just vomiting words?

    I invite you to actually do some groundwork, call the union about our great programs in the community. Find out that we have members attending nearly every ANC meeting, etc etc. You people put statements out here as fact, and then people think they’re true. Shameful.

    • Eric Lamar says:

      Dear “Anon”

      I have been a DC resident for 30 years.

      I have had a DC fire officer refuse to shake my hand as part of normal public contact. (He had no idea I was a former firefighter. His crew was embarrassed by his behavior.) He was OPENLY disdainful of citizens.

      I am an advisory neighborhood commissioner and I know about and pay attention to city services.

      By the way, I am comparing you to your public safety peers, the Metropolitan Police Department, who have excellent community outreach. (As does Alcohol Beverage Control.)

      It’s funny, telling and ironic that you want me to call Local 36 to get info. That’s the PROBLEM. You should be so well known in the community (both as a firefighter and as a proud member of Local 36) that people don’t need to call the local to know about you.

      As an example, I know my District Police Commander (The equivalent of at least a battalion chief) and the evening patrol supervisor. I have their cell numbers and they have mine. I can get a response within minutes. I have no idea who is in charge at 21 engine or nine’s. As a minor local community leader, I can tell you that is your problem.

      Let’s be honest, citizen contact with DC firefighters is staying out of your way on the street, and that’s a shame.

      Finally, think about trying to have the strength of conviction to identify yourself.

      Stay safe and warm out there.

      Eric Lamar

  • D-Man says:

    Mr. Lamar,
    While i agree with your latest post, the only thing that i would/could say about the officer and or officers at your local engine house is lack of respect for people period.As much as i hate to say this but as i have seen the younger generation is a me/me ,what can you do for me ? generation why am i here ? ring a bell.. One thing i have stated in our fire house and preach is that why we do have the best job in the world we have to remember why we are here as firefighters and its not just for ourselves (that is what we said in our oath).When we are asked to help a neighborhood child our elderly person we should do it with pride and let them know “that is why we are here” not ask for a medal or pat on the back like we just saved the Queen of England. this generation has lost all conception that we should feel privileged to help someone or shake a hand in the community we work in (we do call it our second home)

    D-man

    • Eric Lamar says:

      D-Man:

      You said it better than I could:

      “we do have the best job in the world we have to remember why we are here as firefighters and its not just for ourselves (that is what we said in our oath).When we are asked to help a neighborhood child our elderly person we should do it with pride and let them know “that is why we are here” not ask for a medal or pat on the back like we just saved the Queen of England… we should feel privileged to help someone or shake a hand in the community we work in (we do call it our second home)”

      Thanks for writing.

      Eric

  • William Simister says:

    Mr. Lamar
    I strongly disagree with your statement. I currently work at the Quarters of Engine Co. 21 on Lanier Pl. in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. The firehouse doors are always open unless it is freezing cold outside, and the citizens of the neighborhood always come inside to say hello and are made to feel welcome. I can’t believe you did not come out on Halloween night when Lanier Pl. was shut down and we “the members of Engine 21 and Engine 28” were out front giving out candy to all of the children that came over. We paid for the candy out of our pockets because we like the neighborhood we work in. Most of the families in the neighborhood said, “the Firemen giving out candy and showing their children the fire trucks was the highlight of their Halloween.” When Engine 21 had their 100th. anniversary it was a block party for the neighborhood. They have hosted at least one Open House at the firehouse for the citizens to come in and see what we do. I know for a fact that the Company Commander of Engine 21 goes to the ANC meetings for the neighborhood.
    I’m sorry for your bad experience with a member of the department and I am disturbed that he acted in that manner, but please feel free to stop by the quarters of Engine 21 anytime. I’m the Platoon Commander for Engine 28 on #1 Platoon. (Engine 28 is sharing quarters with Engine 21 until our firehouse is rehabbed)

    Lieutenant William Simister
    Engine Co. 28 #1 Platoon

    • Eric Lamar says:

      Lt-

      Thank you for taking the time to write. I think the Halloween idea is great and you should be commended for it. Overall, though, you guys don’t measure up to your peers in terms of community contact, outreach and non-emergency responsiveness, at least in my experience.

      Just so you know, I always tell my neighbors that unless there is some extraordinary problem, DCFD is going to extinguish a fire pretty quickly because in that area they are professional, systematic and aggressive. DCFD can be consistently relied upon to position apparatus correctly on the fire ground. Other departments should study your practices. I remember coming down MacArthur Blvd a summer or two ago, about 9PM. It was still light outside and I guess it was 29 engine that was running a call at an apartment building close to Foxhall. It was a single engine call and there was hose on the ground. Impressive.

      Just take that same consistent and professional approach and apply it to community relations. That takes leadership and training.

      Eric

  • Bird Chest says:

    Hey Anon, you my friend are bringing a knife to the proverbial gunfight….Eric is not only a retired Fire Fighter but one of the strongest Union guys you will ever meet, so he’s not throwing out potshots and certainly not “vomiting words” (which really does sound kinda nasty).

    You have the same problem as the rest of us, without a residency requirement, you don’t live where you work (this is Mr. Pot calling Mr. Kettle). The problem Eric is helping you identify is that you (Local 36/rank and file DCFD members) have a weak ground game when it comes to politics, and ultimately, this is a political problem for you. The fact that these drastic (and sometimes mundane—“FEMS” vs. DCFD”…really?) changes occurred without the Local’s buy-in is the proof in the pudding…you aren’t pertinent to the process so change is being put UPON you.

    If you take Lamar’s advice as a personal attack instead of constructive criticism that should be taken to heart then you’re still missing the point. Bottom line, this makes you a high percentage bet to be working some FUBAR schedule in the not to distant future, good luck and high scores.

  • FOBS says:

    I worked a 72hr shift for 26 of the 34 years I was in the fire service.

    The shift consisted of either a 2 on- 2 off with a 6 day kelly or a straight 3 on 4 off schedule.

    This schedule works out to 12 days a month.

    We are a state agency and opinions vary on the shift pattern depending who you talk to.

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