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Fire Department Task Force Open Forum

The Fire Department Task Force Study Committee invites all town residents to join the dialog at an open forum at the Groton Center Fire Station, 45 Farmers Row, on December 11, 2018 at 7:00pm.  During the FY19 budget process, Chief Steele McCurdy requested 4 full time firefighter/EMTs be added to the force to establish a fire department that is functionally staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  In response to this request, the Select Board appointed members to a Fire Department Task Force charged with engaging the community to establish a desired level of service, analyzing the costs and benefits of potential options and recommending a plan forward based on the findings.  The Task Force committee is impressed with Chief McCurdy’s competent management and his commitment to both efficiency and economy; the committee and the Chief support the continued deployment of a mix of On-Call and FT personnel.

This summary provides a baseline understanding of the Groton Fire Department circumstances, and considerations for ongoing dialog.   Additional data gathered and analyzed by the committee is available online and will be shared at the forum, and may provide helpful insights for residents.  We seek input from all Groton residents and invite residents to attend Task Force meetings or the forum.  Meetings are posted on the Town of Groton home page (http://www.townofgroton.org/Home.aspx).

What does the Fire Department do?

·         Responds to approximately 1,150 emergency calls per year.  All calls are responded to with a presumption of truth and emergency

o   4-5% are fire emergencies

o   60-65% are medical emergencies

o   20-30% are other, good intent, and alarm responses

·         Community education, home and building inspections, equipment maintenance, trainings for certifications

How does the Department currently operate?

·         Staffing: 5 career firefighters and up to 4 on call, standby during a given shift

o   Career firefighter/EMTs are present at the station from 6am-6pm (highest call volume ~70% of calls)

§  Career personnel expense: $794k; of which overtime expense is ~$95k

o   2 additional career firefighter/EMTs were approved at Fall Town Meeting and are expected to begin in early 2019

o   On call firefighters/EMTs are on duty at home from 6pm-6am when the fire station is unstaffed (lower call volumes ~30% of calls)

§  Total expense $233k

§  On call personnel must report to a fire station in order to get uniformed and equipped before responding to an emergency

·         Response times:

o   6am – 6pm: Average response time during staffed hours is 6:05 (mm:ss)

o   6pm – 6am: Average response time during unstaffed hours is 11:37 (mm:ss)

·         By regulatory mandate, firefighter/EMTs cannot respond to an emergency until at least 2 emergency personnel are present.

·         Factors impacting staffing schedule and availability: injuries, vacation, illness, medical leave, mandatory trainings, family leave, and burnout

How has the community and fire department changed?

2000 2010 2018
Population 9,547 10,646 11,482
Number of buildings 3287 3671 3885
# of fire calls 256 449 512
# of medical calls 366 686 783
Fire Dept Operating Budget $370,276 $756,649 $1,049,000

·         Volunteerism has decreased nationally and Groton experienced a similar decline

·         GFD was fully on call until 2003 when 2 full-time career members were hired; 2 more were hired in 2011; 5th full-time member was hired in 2013

·         Fire and EMS services combined in 2005

The Committee acknowledges that the information contained in this memo only scratches the surface of issues.  In addition to the upcoming forum and future Task Force meetings, the community is encouraged to review Chief McCurdy’s request for 24/7 coverage and the reasons for the request.  His request and other supporting documents, including additional data can be found at http://www.townofgroton.org/Town/BoardsCommittees/FireDepartmentTaskForceStudyCommittee.aspx.

Questions to the community

1.      Is the current level of service and staffing strategy sufficient?

2.      What concerns, if any, rise to a level of urgency?

3.      How important is it to have 24 hour a day coverage?

The Fire Department Task Force Study Committee Members:  Peter Myette (Chairman), Jenifer Evans, An Hee Foley, John Kane, Ryan Monat, Chief Steele McCurdy (non-voting), and Town Manager Mark Haddad (non-voting)

Public Forum

·         Date/Time: December 11, 2018 at 7:00pm

·         Location: Groton Center Fire Station, 45 Farmers Row