First Due…With So Few

By Billy Goldfeder

Please take time to watch the below video. If there has been a recent example of how critical firefighter staffing is on the first alarm…this would be it. Keep in mind that’s not necessarily the fault of the firefighters-who like most firefighters, do the best they can.

Leadership. Be it at the political, administrative or the operational level have a responsibility to educate the community on what level of service they can expect…and what costs there are to impact the levels of service. 

This isn’t tough stuff, gang…but so many communities “rest assured” that behind those bay doors are a katrillion firefighters that will come running to save the day when their stuff is on fire. You know and we know, that isn’t always the case. In some places – and not just rural areas – but heavily populated suburban metro areas, the apparatus MAY or MAY NOT get out in time to matter. In some places, that’s almost always the case.

How many firefighters do you need on the first alarm? It depends on what you want to accomplish. If you want to wet down exposures and let the initial building burn- (if it hasn’t already by the time the FF’s arrive) -you can calculate that.

Sound stupid? Well-how many communities absolutely know that they don’t have the staffing …but act like, when there is a fire, it will all be ok. 

No worries, 

We don’t have that many fires anyway.

Talk about stupid.

In almost all cases of poor staffing or poor turnout, the outcome was totally predictable. And as GG says, if its predictable, its preventable. 

You absolutely know that if, in the case of an un-staffed volunteer FD, if your tones go off right now, how many members will show up. Look at your history. An immediate solution that some FD’s are using are systems such as -programs that tell you immediately how many members are responding…so you don’t wait…so you don’t set the tones off over  and over …pretty much knowing “they” ain’t coming…while someone or their stuff is burning up.

And about your members, those members who show up an hour later “to sign the book” – is bs-we are talking about qualified and trained members who can get the rigs on the road fast, with enough staffing to matter. What does “matter” mean?

OK-lets make this real easy…. pretend it’s your house on fire with your stuff in there and maybe even your family? Now what do you want to happen. What matters now?

Take time to watch this video as the Brothers and Sisters do their best-but at a fire where the staffing was predictable.

Interested in taking a look at how many FIREFIGHTERS you need on a first alarm? 

Take a look HERE:



A community (and the elected officials, the city hall dwellers etc) can and should grasp a real understanding of what their staffing and response will be. If it is known to be low, then develop SOP’s that cover that-as well as make public an explanation of what your community can expect when there is a fire-and what they should not expect.

However— for the bells, whistles, sirens, tones, beepers, horns and whatever else to go off and everyone act shocked and surprised that the response is slow, poor or anything less than whats needed, is a failure on all of us to educate those who call 9-1-1, on what to expect, before they ever have to call 9-1-1.

Maybe, through educating the decision makers and taxpayers with facts and not emotions-they might support whats needed to have a properly staffed and quick to turnout fire department. I said maybe. 

Billy GoldfederBILLY GOLDFEDER, EFO, has been a firefighter since 1973 and is a deputy chief of the Loveland-Symmes (OH) Fire Department. He is a member of the board of directors of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF), and the September 11th Families Association. He, along with Gordon Graham, hosts and co-sponsors, a noncommercial and free Web site dedicated to firefighter survival. His book Pass It On (Fire Engineering) will be released at FDIC 2014. All of the proceeds will be donated 50/50 to the Chief Ray Downey Scholarship Fund and the NFFF.

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