THE SPRINGFIELD DEPARTMENT ON THE TWO PLATOON SYSTEM
The accompanying diagram, prepared by the Springfield, Mass., fire department, shows in a graphic manner the workings of the two-platoon system in that city. The explanation which accompanies it is signed by Captains J. F. McEnroe, C. S. Taylor, H. C. Feltham and A. H. Strong, and is partly as follows:
The black portion designates the time each platoon is on duty, and the white the time off. On the first three days the first platoon is on duty from 8 a. m. to 6 p. m., while the second platoon or opposite shift is on front 0 p. m. to 8 a. m. On the fourth day the first platoon, instead of going off at 6 p. m., continues on duty until 8 a. m. the following day, thereby allowing the second platoon 24 hours off duty and changing the night shift to day shift, and vice versa. The second platoon is now on duty each day, from 8 a. in. to 6 p. m., and continues so until the eighth day, when, by working 24 hours, it allows the first platoon the same amount off duty and brings the shifts as they were at the start. This allows each platoon one day off in every eight, and each is on duty the same length of time. There has always been a cry for more leaves of absence, which has been met from time to time, with increase in number of days off and extra leaves of absence until we have arrived at a point where a more scientific and humane adjustment of the fireman’s time off is absolutely necessary. The department to-day is lacking in available man power, and at a time when it should be at the highest possible state of efficiency. It is hard to get good men to take the entrance examinations, owing to the better hours of labor in other fields of employment.
At the present time there are a dozen vacancies and practically no one on the eligible list, with only eleven men, some of whom arc on the present eligible list, taking the recent Civil Service examination. The Fire Commission has asked for 63 men, in order to remedy conditions that arc admittedly serious if not actually dangerous. We will endeavor to show by the following figures that instead of adding 63 men and continuing with the present system of days off and meal hours, by increasing the 63 to 84 and adopting the two-platoon system the department will be greatly strengthened and made more efficient.
Present Conditions—Continuous Duty System.
Practically 165 officers and men belong to companies actively engaged in fire-fighting and are divided as follows:
165 men receiving one day off in every five means 33 men off duty at all times. 33 men from 165 leaves 132 men. 132 men going to meals in 3 shifts means 44 men off duty 9 hours each day or 37½ per cent, offtime. 44 from 132 leaves 88 men. 88 men on duty, divided among 21 companies, 62J4 per cent, of time, gives 137 days of 24 hours each, out of 365. 132 men on duty, divided between 21 companies, 62½ per cent, of time, gives 228 days of 24 hours each, out of 365. 8 is the maximum number of companies responding to alarms, and 4 is the minimum number. 1 piece of apparatus generally goes on telephone calls. Many alarms during meal hours. Each man is allowed 1091/2 days out of 365 for meal hours and days off.
The above figures are, of course, averages, and the actual strength of companies varies on the different days, owing to more or less men on days off, and to the various methods and time of sending men to meals, but the fact remains that each of the 165 men is not immediately available for fire duty during 1091/2 days each year. Men report during meal hours to fires sooner or later, but it is the first efforts that count and decide whether the fire is to be controlled and extinguished with small loss or develop serious proportions. To the above figures could be added church leave and other leaves of absence which would not be necessary under the twoplatoon system.
Proposed increase, 63 men under continuous duty system.
63 men receiving one day off in every five = 12 3-5. 12 3-5 from 63 leaves 50 men.
50 men going to meals in 3 shifts = 16 2-3. 16 2-3 from 50 leaves 33.
33 men divided among 21 companies on duty 9 hours each day, or 37½ per cent, of time, and
50 men divided among 21 companies on duty 15 hours each day, or 621/2 per cent, of time.
Proposed Two-Platoon System.
Increase of 82 men and 2 district chiefs.
On duty at all times: Hose companies, 5 men; engine companies, 6 men; Indian Orchard, 10 men; ladder companies, 6 men; squad companies, 6 men. Four engine companies, 6 men each, 24 at all times.
One engine company, 10 men each, 10 at all times.
Eight hose companies, 5 men each, 40 at all times.
Six ladder companies, 6 men each, 36 at all times.
2 squad companies, 6 men each, 12 at all times.
Total: 21 companies, 122 men.
122 trained men on duty and
122 trained men as an available force in reserve and subject to call.
Continuous System at Present:
21 Co’s=132 men on duty 62j4% of time
21 Co’s= 88 men on duty 37½% of time
Adding 63 men:
21 Co’s=182 men on duty 62½% of time 21 Co’s=121 men on duty 37H% of time
21 Co’s—122 men on duty all the time. Number could be increased to 244 in case of necessity.
List of cities that have adopted the two-platoon system for their fire departments: Chicago, Ill.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Buffalo, N. Y.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; San Francisco, Cal.; Scranton, Pa.; Los Angeles, Cal.; Newark, N. J.; Berkeley, Cal.; Bayonne. N. J.; Tacoma, Wash.; Atlantic City, N. J.; Seattle, Wash.: Paterson, N. J.; Kansas City, Kan.; Elizabeth, N. J.; Omaha, Neb.; Orange, N. J.; Lincoln, Neb.; West Orange. N. J.; Colorado Springs, Col.; Plainfield. N. J.; Pueblo. Col.; Irvington, N. J.; Topeka, Kan.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Yonkers, N. Y.; St. Paul, Minn.; Butte, Mont.: Duluth, Minn.; Great Falls, Mont.: Kansas City, Mo.; Anaconda, Mont.; Hamilton, Ohio; Billings, Mont.; Superior, Wis., and Bridgeport, Conn. Cleveland, Ohio, has adopted the eight-hour shift or threeplatoon system.
The council of Wilmington, Del., has passed an ordinance curtailing the authority of the chief of the fire department. The new act takes away from the chief the right to suspend any fire company for an infraction of the rules or disobeying his orders, but it gives him the right to impose a tine. A fire company, however, may appeal to the fire committee of the council, and, if its decision is not satisfactory, an appeal may be made to the whole council. Mayor Lawson refused to sign the ordinance because there is no provision for the right of appeal on the part of the chief and because he said such a law tends to disrupt the department and cause turmoil and dissension among the companies. It was, however, passed over the mayor’s veto.