Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cell Phones

Just a short one today.
I heard some people talking about the 'Cell Phone Ban' earlier today. As a fireman I cannot agree more with it. I've had enough trouble getting to emergency scenes without adding another threat on the roads.
What could be so important (or is it self-important) that it cannot wait? Honestly, most people aren't good enough drivers that they can have most of their attention and one of there hands off the road.
A year or so ago the TV series 'Mythbusters' did a segment on this. ("Killer Brace Position" June 22, 2005) The myth tested was is driving while on your cell phone as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. The results were YES.
So the next time you want to know whats for dinner, consider if it is worth your life, or explaining to a grieving mother that your business was more important than her child's life.
Enough preaching,


Saturday, April 24, 2010

What citizens DON'T know

Firefighters' Warning in Wilkes-Barre

October 5, 2004

Firefighters' Warning in Wilkes-Barre
It's not too comforting when you get a warning about fire protection from your firefighters but that's what firefighters in Wilkes-Barre are telling homeowners. They are using fire prevention week to make a point.

Firefighter union leaders launch a campaign against city officials. An ad in a Sunday newspaper was the start. "At a time when we should be focusing on prevention we have to justify the job that we do," said union president Tom Makar.

On Tuesday firefighters hit the streets, putting flyers door to door. They worked through the area surrounding a house that had been torched by an arsonist. "Public safety cannot be gambled with. There is a level that should be maintained, must be maintained and hopefully will be maintained," said Makar.

He thinks 17 firefighters are needed per shift. The city cut the mandatory staffing level to 14. Makar wants people to call city council and the mayor to complain.

"It's a shame the firefighters have the time to go door to door. I have only received one call that was negative. I received six calls that were positive," said Mayor Tom Leighton. He said the city doesn't have cash to pay for extra staff but he said more than enough people are scheduled.

He said according to the numbers, two-thirds of the time more than 14 people are working. He said firefighters simply want more overtime. "Our fire chief and assistant fire chiefs think we are adequately protecting our residents. I would never, never gamble with the safety of residents visitors or guests," the mayor added.

Leighton estimates nearly $90,000 was saved in four months. The firefighters insist safety shouldn't have a price tag.

Copyright © 2010, WNEP-TV


March 13, 2006

Fire on South Welles Street in Wilkes-Barre
UPDATED: Tuesday, March 14, 5:37 p.m.
By Rosa Yum

The mayor of Wilkes-Barre is defending the response time of his fire department after two fires broke out Monday night around the same time. Some people were critical that firefighters didn't arrive fast enough.

Residents in the Heights section of Wilkes-Barre said they want more fire-fighters, especially with the kind of fires that happened Monday night.

There was little left of two homes on South Welles Street after they caught fire around 7:40 Monday night. The damage was so bad they were being torn down by Tuesday afternoon.

The Wilkes-Barre fire chief said the fire was caused by a boy playing with matches.

Fire victims were going through the rubble hoping to find some precious memories, such as a photo or a religious statue.

"I think it's because the firehouse up the street was closed. Response time was terrible, lacking of men. If it weren't for Kingston and Edwardsville, it would have been twice as bad," said fire victim Bill Maloney.

Just 25 minutes before the fires on South Welles Street, a vacant house on Carey Avenue caught fire. That fire is still under investigation.

Residents said the two fires almost at the same time stretched crews too thin.

"I'm not blaming the firemen, I'm blaming the politicians for not hiring, for not putting another crew on. We should have an engine on the hill, at least a little alley truck if need be," said neighbor Fred Buss.

Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton disagrees. "I must emphasize that with their help, and the professionalism of our fire department we're able to save the entire block both on Carey Avenue and South Welles Street."

"There are four minutes response time to both fires, more than acceptable," said Fire Chief Jacob Lisman.

He added the city, if needed, can also count on getting help from fire fighters in five surrounding communities.

Copyright © 2010, WNEP-TV

Now for the kicker, yes we can ASK for help from the surronding communities, but they can ask for our help also. Being a full time dept. we are much more likely to be available and that means W-B will have ONE engine covering the city!
DO NOT FORGET the cities own study said 17 firemen were needed per shift for Wilkes-Barre!
The city will not get a new study because NFPA standards would NOT lower that number but would raise it into the 20s!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Press Reactions (Times Leader)

City Council meeting

March 26

W-B firefighters blast cuts
Members of the city’s fire department tell Mayor Leighton force reduction is dangerous.
BILL O ’ BOYLE boboyle@timesleader.com

WILKES-BARRE – The battle between city firefighters and the mayor continues to heat up.

More than 70 members of Local 104 of the International Firefighters Association walked in protest around City Hall Thursday before city council’s meeting.

Most of them, wearing bright yellow T-shirts with the words “No more fire/EMC department cutbacks” emblazoned across the back, filed into council chambers for the meeting.

Dan Emplit, a city firefighter, addressed council as a resident and took Mayor Tom Leighton to task for his recent decision to reduce the minimum number of firefighters per shift from 14 to 12.

Leighton said he made the decision to cut down on escalating overtime costs in the fire department.

The mayor has said the city has already paid out more than $100,000 in the first two months of 2010. He said that if that continues, the overtime will reach $600,000 or more and would bankrupt the city.

Emplit said that when Leighton was elected he asked all the city unions to help the city financially in their contracts. Emplit said the fire union did agree to concessions that represented about $3.5 million over seven years.

He said the mayor, in October of 2008, said, “With the location of three city fire houses – Hollenback at the city’s north end, headquarters near center city and the Parrish and High Street station on the city’s southern border – the department can respond promptly to all calls.”

The decision to reduce the minimum number of firefighters per shift has resulted in shutting down one of the three city fire engines at different times. Emplit said that decision has raised concern about the safety of residents living in the area of the High Street station because response times are longer for trucks coming from headquarters on Ross Street and Hollenback in the city’s North End.

“So he was already aware that there will be delays with only two engines,” Emplit said.

Leighton said he has raised taxes to meet costs and has purchased new equipment for the fire department, including three new engines.

“Equipment doesn’t put out fires, Mr. Mayor,” a firefighter shouted from the audience. “Firefighters put out fires.”

Leighton asked the group if they were aware of the terms of a “handshake agreement” that was struck between the city and four of the union’s negotiators at the end of 2009 and later rejected by the union leadership. The firefighters refused to answer, saying that would be unethical.

The current contract expires at the end of 2010.

“Talk to your leadership,” Leighton said. “Look at the offer that was on the table; let me share with you what we offered.”

Emplit said fewer men and slower response times could result in increased property damage and risk human life. He said fewer men also endangers firefighters who have more duties and other tasks to perform that normally require more personnel.

“Ultimately this will increase injuries due to one firefighter trying to do the work of two, which will also increase overtime,” Emplit said. “The mayor likes to say that our response times are below national standards but then ignores those national standards which say there should be 16 men per shift; the city’s own study says 17 men, our mayor 12.”

Emplit said police, fire and EMS are the city residents’ insurance policy.

“Would you cancel your insurance policy if your personal finances were tight?” he asked. “No, you would look to other ways to save money.”

Council Chairman Bill Barrett said council members could not discuss ongoing negotiations.

Press reactions (Citizens Voice)

Firefighters, Leighton reignite dispute over downsized on-duty staffing
By Matthew Harris (Staff Writer)
Published: March 26, 2010

WILKES-BARRE - Dan Emplit stared at Mayor Tom Leighton after resting his case Thursday that city hall turned back on its word to firefighters and residents by lowering minimum on-duty staffing.

Once again, the firefighter played the role of prosecutor. Over six minutes, Emplit read past statements by Leighton lauding firefighters' bravery, expressing his unwavering support and touting their performance.

With each quote, Emplit offered his own rebuttal amounting to a would-be indictment. For all the mayor's warm words, Emplit said Leighton and the city's actions showed an administration asking a department to do more with less by closing two firehouses, failing to replace 19 members who retired and taking three engines out of service.

"Police, fire and EMS are residents' insurance policy," Emplit said. "Would you cancel your insurance policy if personal finances were tight? No, you'd look for other ways to save money."

His argument finished, Emplit closed a folder, crossed his hands and waited for Leighton's reply.

For the second city council meeting this month, firefighters and the mayor revived their dispute over a decision this month to lower minimum staffing to 12 firefighters from 14 for each shift. Two weeks may have passed, but the basic outline of the disagreement remain.

As before, Leighton said the city could not afford to pay overtime costs on pace to reach $800,000 this year, almost double the amount of 2009. Along the back wall of the room, roughly 40 firefighters clad in yellow shirts hectored the mayor. Sitting before council, Emplit said hiring men as they left would have prevented the problem and residents are at risk when the engine at South Station goes out of service during minimum staffing.

Leighton stood, his own brown leather folder in hand, and repeated the city's expenditures were below the $40.9 million budgeted in 2009, but not enough revenue was coming through the door to cover spiraling overtime costs or hire more men.

"We were running out of money in December," Leighton said, throwing his hands in the air. "We had no money in the bank. How was I gonna pay you guys. We were very close to a payless payday."

Before the meeting, union President Thomas Makar handed out a copy of a city budget from 1996, when Tom McGroarty sat in the mayor's office, he said showed the city has consistently budgeted less than needed to pay for overtime. At the time, the city employed 87 firefighters, budgeted $60,000 for overtime and spent $204,614 over nine months.

"This gets me discouraged when people who are doing the budget every year make it say what they want it to say," Makar said. "If the number should be higher, put that in there and budget for it.

Behind Makar, firefighters continued their 16-day-old protest of the cuts outside with a picket around the City Hall building before the meeting, their ranks bolstered by members of departments from Scranton, Kingston, Nanticoke and four other departments.

The political theater and flaring tempers come during early negotiations between the city and the union for a contract to replace the pact set to expire next year. The sides have met twice and are set to sit down next week when Christine Jensen, the city's human resources director, returns from vacation.

"We've just discussed each other's proposals," Makar said. "That's probably the best thing to say about that."

Those efforts to reach an agreement are tinged with their own frustration, though.

In late December, the city approached the union's board with a deal, reaching what it considered a hand-shake agreement that staved off cuts to minimum on-duty staffing. Yet Makar turned down the plan, claiming it was inadequate, and returned with a plan the city considered extravagant.

Last night, those lingering frustrations also found their way into the chamber when Leighton told upset firefighters responsibility for the cuts laid at the feet of the union board.

"Is Tom Makar here?" Leighton asked, craning his neck to look around the room.

"No," several firefighters yelled.

"Tom should be," Leighton said. "Talk to your leadership and them to (let you) look at the proposal that was on the table."

"It's unethical," Emplit shot back.

"Know what? Get permission for me to share it," Leighton said. "Let me show it to you."

Standing next to his green Dodge Caravan, Makar said his presence would cause more harm than good.

"Me being there would be like throwing gasoline on a fire," he said.

mharris@citizensvoice.com, 570-821-2110

Council speach March

When mayor was elected he asked all the city unions to help the city financially in their contracts. the fire union did (concessions = approx 3.5 million dollars over 7 years). Mayor Leighton said "By making (these) substantial concessions, the firefighters' union has agreed to become partners with the city in its revitalization plan" The Fire Fighters Union did their part and who gets cut back?

Now I would like to further Quote our Mayor:

"The new station will cover the north end of the city. Headquarters will cover center City and the other station will take care of the south. In turn, the residents of the city and firefighters who protect us will be safer and better equipped" & "I would love to have a fire station in every neighborhood but you have to remember, this is neglect of the past" June 8, 2005. Whos neglect is it now? (WNEP)

March 13, 2006 about 2 simultaneous fires "I must emphasize that with their help, and the professionalism of our fire department we're able to save the entire block both on Carey Avenue and South Welles Street." What would happen now? (WNEP)

Oct 27, 2008 "With the location of three city fire houses - Hollenback at the city's north end, headquarters near center city and the Parrish and High Street station on the city's southern border - the department can respond promptly to all calls" So he was already aware that there will be delays with only 2 Engines! (The Times Leader)

Oct 5 2004 "I would never, never gamble with the safety of residents visitors or guests," (WNEP)

May 31, 2008 "just how important the safety of each firefighter was to me." & "I have great respect for the fire department. They do a great job and their safety is my number one concern" (The Citizens' Voice)

1. The Monroe St. fire facts:

10 min response with E2 vs. 2 to 5 min with E3 because of this:
E1 ran out of water
the line chief who should be directing efforts had to hook up 5 in hose
paramedic should be treating pt or getting info had to hook up 5 in hose
one man had to carry & foot a ladder that requires 2 men minimum
Not enough men on the scene for an effective search in a life saving amount of time

2. Ultimately this will increase injuries due to one FF trying to do the work of 2, which will increase overtime and what did the Mayor say about "their safety is my number one concern"? June 8, 2005 (WNEP)

3. The Mayor likes to say that our response times are below 'national standards' but then ignores those 'national standards' which say 16 men a shift, the City's own study says 17 men, our mayor 12.

4. 6 fire engines were in service (now 2),3 firehouses closed (South station wont be far away so call it 4) and 20 men have not been replaced. and taxes were raised 23 milsin 2009 and, if I am not mistaken, taxes were also raised in 2005.

5. Police, Fire, and EMS are the residents insurance policy. Would you cancel your insurance policy if your personal finances were tight? No. You'd look to other ways to save money

6. I'm paying for the services. Police protection, fire protection, and clean neighborhoods. WE ARE NOT GETTING WHAT WE ARE PAYING FOR!

7. 1002 Dispatches for E3 last year. most of these will fall on E1 (an engine which already has memos out about its wear and tear.) the rest will be on E2 both will have a long delay in response time.

8. E3 had 430 EMS calls last year. Can YOUR loved ones hold there breath 8 to 10 minutes? I can't.

9. $322000 last year. No new hires in 8 yrs. means approx. $322000 this year, It's quite simple ask a Dodson school child to do the math, it's their engine out of service.

10. There was a proposal for a 3rd medic unit (our Mayor said "cant afford it" even though the chief paramedic proved it wouldn't cost the city anything). Result: thousands of dollars to an ambulance company reported to be owned by disgraced ex-judge Conahan. And There was NO BID!!!

*11. City council should stand up for the people who put them here, You are letting us down

*12. $50 fee to take test, no intention to hireif W-B does not get the grant. The people should demand their money back

*13. Councel, Why did you approve a budget of less than half of last years? Hire more men or pay the bill. I believe, The budget was due last Sept. you knew this would happen. It happened with the police a few years ago, and then more police were hired reducing the overtime.

*14. Stop spending this year's tax increase on pet projects instead of replenishing essential personnel.