DC Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe now gets his say. His views on going to 12-hour shifts for firefighters. Plus the chief is getting a lot of heat. Read the comment cards.

Read entire opinion by Chief Kenneth Ellerbe

Previous coverage of Chief Ellerbe's plan herehere, here and here

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On November 30, DC Fire & EMS Department Chief Kenneth Ellerbe really stirred things up by officially telling DC City Council members he wanted firefighters to move from four platoons of 24/72 to three platoons on 12-hour rotations with three shifts of day work, followed by three shifts of night work, followed by three days off (3-3-3). Since then, there has been a lot written about this subject in the Washington Post.

It started with a Post editorial generally supporting the chief's plan. That was followed by an op ed piece by IAFF Local 36 President Ed Smith who supports the status quo of 24/72 and believes 12-hour shifts would not save the city money and would cause firefighter fatigue. Then Marcus Rosenbaum, the brother of former New York Times reporter David Rosenbaum, had an op ed piece saying both the 24/72 and 3-3-3 shifts were not compatible with having alert firefighters, paramedics and EMTs working the streets of the Nation's Capital. 

This weekend Chief Ellerbe gets his say in the Post. Here are excerpts:

Firefighters would work a 48-hour week, while EMTs and paramedics would continue to work 42 hours. Additionally, EMT and paramedic start times would be adjusted to increase the number of employees on duty to provide “peak load staffing” of ambulances during our busiest times.

The result would be more personnel available during each shift, reducing the need to pay overtime to fully staff fire trucks and ambulances during vacations, illnesses and training. Over several years, the department would be able to reduce staffing through attrition, eventually reaching the optimal number of personnel to meet our service obligations — without closing fire stations or cutting services. We think the savings from this strategy could exceed $30 million annually by fiscal 2017.

There are arguments to made regarding how 24- and 12-hour shifts affect job performance. But working 24 hours straight is too long for employees of the department, given our extremely heavy call load.

My priority as chief remains utilitarian: providing the best possible service at the best possible price.

Some of our employees may consider the changes we are discussing to be a hardship, but this department’s commitment to D.C. residents remains unchanged. I remain hopeful that executive managers and the labor organization can come together to accomplish this.

Chief Ellerbe received a lot of positive reaction from members of the City Council when his plan was first presented. But many firefighters continue to criticize the chief in comments sections of various websites and on Facebook about the shift plan, his banning of outerwear with the DCFD logo and other issues.

One of the most recent criticisms came from the blog, Raising Ladders. Written by a DC firefighter and paramedic, the latest column focuses on comment cards that are to be handed to patients the department comes in contact with. Below is the real card and below that a modified version posted on Raising Ladders. Click here for the commentary that goes with the cards


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