Mansfield Firefighters Local 1820
Guide to Answering Frequently Asked Questions:
Understanding the complex issues regarding the fire department and the way it operates takes a thorough understanding of a broad range of topics and information. Mansfield Firefighters Local 1820 compiled this information to assist you with fire department specific questions.
All statistical information was taken from the Town of Mansfield budget, the Mansfield Fire Department’s Annual Report or other statistical reports, and the collective bargaining agreement between the Local 1820 and the Town ofMansfield. This or similar information will be posted on our website, www.mansfieldfd1820.com, very soon.
Please feel free to speak to any member of the executive board of the Mansfield Firefighters Local 1820 if you would like any further information.
1. Why do we need a fire department?
A fire department is a key element of the basic infrastructure of any community. As a community grows and prospers it seeks to attract businesses to that community. These businesses provide jobs and pay a large share of the municipal tax base.
A well-equipped and properly trained municipal fire department plays a vital role in attracting businesses to the community by keeping the cost of insurance lower. Lower insurance rates equals more profits for businesses. Private property owners benefit as well with lower insurance rates.
It’s more than money that underlies the need for a fire department. The fire department’s first priority is saving lives – protecting the citizens of the community by the best means possible. This has broadened the mission of the fire department over the past 20 years from only extinguishing fires to a wide range of disciplines: emergency medical services, hazardous material response and mitigation, water and ice rescue, trench rescue, high angle and confined space rescue, vehicle extrication, terrorism response and more. Lives are also saved through proactive measures: fire prevention programs in local schools, fire inspections of businesses, plan reviews of new construction to ensure it meets fire codes, and life safety programs throughout the community that address far more than fire.
2. What is ISO and how does it affect my insurance rates?
Whether we like it or not, paying for insurance is a fact of life. Homeowner and business insurance companies use many factors when determining the cost of your premiums. One major factor is the level of fire protection. Most insurance carriers use what is known as ISO to determine the quality of fire protection available and therefore establish insurance rates.
ISO stands for Insurance Service Organization. This is a group of trained, professional evaluators that assess almost every fire department in the U.S. ISO uses a consistent set of guidelines to evaluate a fire department. ISO bases a fire department’s rating on many factors including the number of personnel on duty, training level of personnel (paid or volunteer), the amount of water the fire department can get to a fire, and the amount and quality of equipment used (such as fire engines and hand tools). The purpose of ISO is to give insurance companies a uniform system on which to base their insurance premiums.
For an insurance company knowing the capabilities of a fire department is important. The better the fire department, the better protected a building is from fire damage and loss. The higher the level of protection, the less likely an insurance company will have to reimburse a claim for fire damage. The fewer number of claims, the lower the cost for the insurance provider. Of course fire protection can work the opposite way. A sub-par fire department will experience more fire losses. More fire losses means more insurance claims filed. In order to make costs meet, the insurance companies raise the premiums you pay.
ISO gives a ranking of 1 through 10, with 1 being the best and 10 being no protection at all. Currently the Town of Mansfield Fire Departmenthas an ISO rating of 3. The Mansfield Fire Department could easily achieve a better ISO rating with an increase in staffing and equipment. The cost in tax dollars to increase staffing and improve the ISO rating would be offset by the cumulative reduction in insurance costs to local homes and businesses.
3. Why do firefighters work a 24 hour shift?
The bottom line - firefighters working a 24 hour shift saves the public money. It is the most efficient way to staff the fire department, which is why it is done nationwide. No schedule for firefighters is more predominant locally or nationwide.
The Fair Standards Labor Act (FLSA) exempts firefighters from certain overtime rules. These exemptions allow firefighters to work their usual 24 hour shift at straight time wages. Other professions receive overtime any time an 8 hour work day is exceeded. Firefighters do not receive overtime wages during their normal 24 hour work period.
24 hour shifts provide the most personnel on duty with the fewest number of actual employees, saving personnel costs on health care and retirement.
24 hour shifts also enable the members to complete projects without a daily deadline. For instance if we had a shift change at 6pm all activities such as, training, physical fitness, inspections, emergency pre-planning and vehicle and building maintenance would have to cease to ensure the members would get off shift on time.
How is the department staffed?
There are 4 groups of 8 members each. During a normal fully staffed day the staffing is as follows:
Engine 3 @ N. Main St staffed with 2 Firefighters
Rescue 33 @ N. Main St staffed with 2 Firefighters (ALS Level)
Engine 4 @ Plymouth St staffed with 2 Firefighters
Rescue 34 @ Plymouth St cross staffed with the 2 Firefighters from Tower 1 (if available)
Tower 1 @ Plymouth St staffed with 2 Firefighters (If shift is Full)
If both ambulances are on calls that only leaves 4 firefighters to cover the entire town. If an additional call comes in we utilize mutual aid from the surrounding towns.
5. Is the Mansfield Fire Department very efficient?
Your firefighters are cross trained as paramedics, EMTs, hazardous materials technicians, rescue technicians and much more. This “cross training” makes very efficient use of personnel.
Also, the 24 hour shift worked by Mansfield firefighters is the most efficient method of scheduling to maintain the most firefighters in the station, utilizing the fewest number of employees.
6. What is the difference between EMT’s and Paramedics?
All pre-hospital emergency life support providers start at the Basic level. An EMT-Basic course is approximately 140 hours inMassachusetts. Massachusetts has chosen not only to adopt the DOT recommended curriculum for EMT-Basics, but to add several topics of study.
The next level of EMT is the EMT-Intermediate, which 41 states recognize in some form. In Massachusetts, an EMT-I course is approximately 80 hours of classroom time, and after classroom study, students are required to spend a minimum of 80 hours doing ride time in an ambulance. During this ride time, the EMT-I student must initiate certain emergency procedures in the field under the guidance of another Intermediate or Paramedic before the student can take the exam.
In Massachusetts, an Intermediate can initiate IV's and employ advanced airway devices to deliver Oxygen to patients. In over 30 states, Intermediates are also given the training to administer some medications that the EMT-Basic cannot.
The highest level of EMT, recognized in all 50 states, is the Emergency Medical Technician-Paramedic. The classroom time and clinical time required to become a Paramedic varies from state to state, but not by much: most programs run from 1,400 to 2,000 hours of study. To put things in perspective, it has been said that in the first ten minutes of a cardiac arrest, there is little difference between what a doctor can do and what an EMT-Paramedic can do. EMT-Paramedics are trained in the use of numerous emergency procedures that other levels of EMT are not. In addition, EMT-Paramedics are trained in the administration of scores of medications that lower levels of technician are not authorized to administer.
The scope of practice differences between EMTs vs Intermediates and Paramedics can be summed up by the ability to break the skin. Most states do not allow basic emergency medical technicians to give shots or start intravenous lifelines. Paramedics, on the other hand, can give shots as well as use more advanced airway management devices to support breathing. Basic EMTs are usually restricted to using oxygen, oral glucose, asthma inhalers, and epinephrine auto-injectors (a common exception to the no-needles rule). Paramedics are trained in the use of 30-40 medications, depending on the state.
7. How much money do firefighters earn?
As town employees our wage is considered public information. Unfortunately the numbers often quoted are inaccurate and inflated. The wages of individual firefighters are divided by job position, with increases for qualifications (such as paramedics) and longevity. Wages are set by a negotiated contract between the Town ofMansfield and the Mansfield Firefighters Association Local 1820. A new hire or recruit firefighter starts at $21.34 an hour. The most senior and highest ranking individual (Fire Prevention Lt.) receives $30.98 an hour. The average hourly wage of the fire department is $26.16. Hourly wages are the fairest way to compare employees, and Mansfieldfirefighter’s wages are consistent with many other technical professionals and skilled labor.
In the past annual salaries have been published in some local papers to show how “overpaid” members of the fire department were. The numbers published belonged to the highest paid individuals (Chiefs with 20 years on the job) and included overtime and the dollar value of benefits such as healthcare and retirement. This created a misleading and inflated salary seeking to incite a negative public reaction.
One other component that makes a firefighter’s annual wages appear high is that on average firefighters work 42 hours a week, all at a straight time wage. Firefighters do not receive overtime during their normal 24 hour shift due to an exemption in the Fair Labor Standards Act (See question #1). This means a firefighter works 2184 scheduled hours a year. Someone working a 40 hour a week job works 2080 scheduled hours per year. The difference of 104 hours accounts for the annual wages of firefighters appearing much higher than other professionals.
Example: A firefighter makes $21.34 per hour X 2184 hours = $46,606. A retail employee makes $21.34 per hour X 2080 hours = $44,387.
Now if that same retail employee worked an equal number of hours those additional 104 hours would be at a minimum overtime rate of $32.01. This would result in additional $3329.04 for the retail employee, for a total of $47,716.04. This is $1110. more than the firefighter for the same hours worked.
8. Why don’t we use volunteers?
Unfortunately, most people equate the word “volunteer” with free. Most of the area volunteer and combination departments have large budgets also. The Town of Mansfield handles 3,000 calls a year plus performs building plan reviews, fire inspections and numerous other public services - for just over $2,500,000.00 annually.
Volunteers are an asset to their community and fill an important role in some areas. It is important to note that all Mansfield area fire departments maintain paid staff. Unfortunately, the demands of everyday life on the average citizen preclude them from volunteering. It has been extremely difficult for area departments to recruit and maintain a sufficient consistent volunteer corps. Many fire chiefs are struggling to find sufficient numbers of volunteers to handle a few calls a week, especially during the daytime when people work and on holidays. People understandably prioritize their jobs and families first, leaving little time to volunteer.
To meet the minimum requirements of a Mansfield firefighter a volunteer would require 160 hours or more of basic firefighter training, 120 hours of emergency medical technician training (not including the 1,200 hours or more required to become a paramedic), 40 hours of hazardous materials technician training, a minimum of 80 hours of various rescue technician training, and annual federally mandated training in HIPPA, blood borne pathogens, and various other refresher classes. These are just the initial training requirements, now how many additional hours can they contribute for emergency calls and shifts at the fire station? To be effective they need to be available in the station to guarantee enough responders 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Finally, let’s address the expense to the taxpayers. ISO requires 6 volunteers to count as equal staffing as one career firefighter. With 32 current suppression employees, to maintain similar staffing would require well over 192 volunteers. It would be cost prohibitive and almost impossible to recruit, train, and manage this many volunteers. The level of service the public currently enjoys could not be guaranteed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Additionally, it costs more than $2,000.00 dollars each to equip a volunteer, not including the $4,000.00 radio, required medical examinations, and training expenses.
There is an additional cost to transitioning to a volunteer fire department. The Town’s ISO rating would fall from its current class 4 to an 8, with potential improvement to a class 6 over multiple years. This would cost Town residents and businesses collectively more through increased insurance rates than the current fire department budget.
9. How does the fire department get all their new equipment?
Some of the capital equipment our fire department has was purchased in part with grant monies from the State of Massachusetts or the federal government. This equipment includes engines (pumpers), aerials (ladder trucks), ambulances, training for firefighters, protective clothing (turnouts) for firefighters, and lots of fire and rescue equipment. These grants have greatly enhanced our capabilities at minimal cost to Town residents.
10. Why do so many fire trucks go on a car accident and why does a fire truck go to a Medical Emergency?
The Mansfield Fire Department uses a nationally recognized and accredited dispatching system. This system determines what type of a response from the fire department is necessary based on information given to us by the person who calls 911. This system errs on the side of caution, ensuring that every resource that is needed responds to the emergency in a timely fashion.
Often times, things are not as “simple” as they look. To ensure each member of the public receives the best possible care, we always anticipate the worst case scenario and hope for the best. Each fire truck has a specific purpose and carries specialized equipment.
For a motor vehicle accident you will see one ambulance (perhaps two if multiple injuries are reported), 1 or 2 fire engine(s) for manpower and in case the car catches fire, and possibly a Deputy Chief to supervise the scene.
For a medical emergency the personnel on the fire truck are also trained at least to the EMT level and are often needed to help with patient care and also in lifting and extricating patients from their home.
This may appear to be a lot, but each is necessary to provide the consistent, professional service you expect and deserve. When it is a life and death scenario, and seconds count, you want all of the equipment immediately available.
11. Why do fire trucks sometimes turn off their lights and sirens after going through an intersection?
Fire trucks and ambulances use lights and sirens to warn the public and clear traffic while en route to an emergency call.
There is an element of risk every time a fire truck or ambulance drives through town with their lights and sirens on. Accidents while going to and from emergency calls are the second leading cause of death for firefighters. When a fire department representative arrives on the scene and finds the situation is not as serious as they were led to believe, they will cancel the rest of the fire department response, reducing the risk to the firefighters and the public. This also reduces the disruption to normal traffic flow.
12. Why is there so much overtime?
The largest factor in creating overtime is understaffing. The town has historically maintained the minimum number of employees it can, instead of what they need to provide the best service. It should also be recognized that often paying overtime is cheaper than the cost of hiring additional employees and paying the associated retirement and health care benefits. In short, overtime can be a net savings to the Town and its taxpayers.
Also the taxpayers are paying for the level of staffing that is set. To lower the level of staffing on a daily basis due to sick outs or vacation time is not only unsafe for the residents of the town but also unsafe for the firefighters to perform their job duties.
13. Why do I see firefighters at stores while they are working?
Remember that not all the firefighters you see at area stores, coffee stands, and restaurants are from the Mansfield Fire Department. Many other fire departments come into the Town to shop and are often mistaken for Mansfield firefighters.
Firefighters work a 24 hour shift and must remain in the station or in a fire department vehicle available for emergency response at all times. Therefore, all of the firefighter’s meals are eaten in the station. They usually bring their own food in to cook and eat. Sometimes in the middle of their cooking they may get a call rendering the food un-consumable. Therefore the firefighters using their own money are permitted to go to the store during the day to purchase items needed for these meals.
Firefighters also routinely shop for needed fire department supplies and equipment.
Take advantage of this opportunity to interact with the firefighters and ask questions. Just don’t be offended if they have to rush off.
14. What are some of the ways Mansfield Firefighters are active in our community?
The union firefighters of the Town of Mansfield Fire Department are active in our community in many ways. Numerous members are active in local churches, youth sports and other local organizations.
The firefighters are also very active with local charities and initiatives;
• They raised approximately $4500.00 in 2006 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association during their annual “Fill the Boot” campaign.
• The Mansfield Firefighters Association (Firefighters Union) budgets some of its annual union dues and fundraising activities to be used for charitable donations.
• Many of the firefighters participate in the annual St. Baldrick’s charity event. Firefighters shave their heads for donations to raise funds for children’s cancer research.
• They visit the many public and private schools with the S.A.F.E. program
• They cook breakfast for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life
• They volunteer at the annual TRIAD pasta dinner
• Some of the firefighters volunteer their time to join and be trained on the FEMA Massachusetts Task Force Team to be deployed to emergencies all over the US and Internationally
15. How do the Mansfield Firefighters spend their days? Are they just sitting around waiting for emergencies?
Remember, the MFD responds to far more than fires. The fire department responds to medical emergencies, they go on hazardous materials responses and all types of rescues. They even assist Town residents and businesses to stop property loss after a ruptured pipe, water leaks, or flooding.
In addition to responding to over 3,000 calls per year, or over 8 calls per day, the fire department keeps busy with many other activities. When not responding to emergencies you may find us testing hose (many miles of it), testing our fire trucks, taking training classes, doing training scenarios, pre planning response to high risk occupancies such as apartment and condo complexes and certain businesses in the industrial park which have hazardous materials, cleaning the fire stations, washing the fire trucks or out conducting fire prevention activities in the many public and private schools we protect.
The Fire Prevention Division performs building inspections and construction plan reviews.
“The Fire Prevention Division experienced its busiest year since forming in 1988. The development of the “Golden Triangle” and the construction of a large apartment complex on West Street have consumed the majority of the office’s time. Over 150 plan reviews and 950 inspections yielded revenues of approximately $32,000. These inspections included over 300 smoke detectors, 90 fire alarms and acceptance tests, and 90 annual life safety inspections. We conducted over 1,300 fire alarm service calls and 50 fire code violation investigations. This office is also responsible for numerous administrative duties, including the S.A.F.E. program. S.A.F.E. uses specially trained firefighters to teach fire safety topics to approximately 4,800 Mansfield school children per year. In 2007, the program awarded its thirteenth “Young Hero” award to Paige Prevett, a fifth grader at the Jordan-Jackson School, who dialed 911 calmly and
clearly guided rescuers to her mother, who had fallen unconscious. When asked how she was able to perform to this standard, she replied, “Because Firefighter Kevin (Fontes) and Firefighter John (Brunelli) taught me what to do”. This program is funded through a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services and has been credited with the reduction in loss of life to children by fire in the Commonwealth. In October, the Fire Prevention Division teamed up with the Fire Suppression Division to conduct 12 visits to pre-school and kindergarten classes, speaking to over 360 youngsters.”
16. Why do the Paramedics sometimes ask me to go to a different hospital than I have requested?
The paramedics are highly trained to triage you and make a decision on which medical facility would be most appropriate for you to be transported to depending on your specific condition.
For example, if the Paramedic determines that you may be having a heart attack it is most appropriate for you to be transported to the closest hospital which has a Cardiac Catheterization Lab with interventional capabilities. So if you had requested the Sturdy Hospital they may advise you that due to Sturdy not having a Cath Lab it would be more beneficial for you to go to either Miriam, Good Sam, or Norwood hospitals.
The other reason may be that the hospital that was requested is on divert and is not accepting ambulance patients at that time.
17. What Hospitals will the ambulance transport me to?
Our Medical Director has authorized us to transport patients to the following hospitals:
• Caritas Norwood Hospital (Norwood, MA)
• Caritas Good Samaritan Hospital (Brockton, MA)
• Sturdy Hospital (Attleboro, MA)
• Brockton Hospital
• Morton Hospital (Taunton, MA)
• Hasbro Children’s Hospital (Providence, RI for serious pedi calls only)
• Rhode Island Hospital (Providence, RI For Level 1 Trauma and Cath Lab)
• Miriam Hospital (Providence, RI for Cath Lab)
For certain Priority 1 calls we are prohibited by State Law from bypassing the closest facility which is usually Sturdy Hospital or Caritas Good Samaritan.
18. Why do some fire trucks park down the street from a fire?
Citizens may see fire apparatus parked down the street from an incident for two primary reasons:
a. In situations when an EMS scene is deemed unsafe due to a potentially violent patient or family member, or there are dangerous drugs involved, engines carrying paramedics may “stage” until members of the police department have secured (made safe) the scene.
b. On fire calls, engine and truck companies may stage until they have been provided an assignment by an “incident commander.” Because firefighters work as a team, it is critical that they communicate where their resources are best used. This cannot take place until a “triage” of the building has been completed to identify the hazards associated with the fire.