The Two-Platoon System Operated in Kansas City

The Two-Platoon System Operated in Kansas City

INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION CONVENTION

The topic assigned me, concerning the twoplatoon, or two-shift, system in the fire department has been the subject of much discussion in the different cities throughout the United States in the past few years, and is one which is of great interest to all of us. I will endeavor to give you an outline as to how it has succeeded in Kansas City since the installation of the system in our city. Along early in the spring of 1911 the agitation among the members of the department for a two-shift system began, and was kept up until the industrial council of the labor unions of our city took a hand in the matter. It was then urged upon the city council to have an ordinance introduced installing the two shifts in the fire department. The ordinance was introduced and passed by the council in September, 1911, to take effect April 17, 1912. When the date for the taking effect of the ordinance arrived the finances of the city would not allow of the same, and the installing of the system was postponed until July 9, 1912, when it was installed. On being notified to prepare an estimate of the number of men needed and the amount necessary for their salaries for the installing of the system, I endeavored to show in my estimate the actual number of additional men needed to properly man the companies so as to maintain the efficiency of the department as then organized, as I think it the highest duty that every chief owes to the public that he keep his department up to the highest standard of efficiency. The department formerly consisted of 315 men. On the installation of the system I asked for 171 additional men. necessitating an additional amount of $185,480 for their salaries. After considerable discussion with the city officials and the Board of Fire and Water Commissioners, it was agreed to allow the department 97 men, making the total 412, and to allow the additional sum of $63,000 for their salaries. The 97 men were appointed and assigned to duty. On October 5, 1912, on account of insufficient funds, a retrenchment policy became necessary and 65 men were dismissed. Since that time 43 of that number have been reinstated, bringing the total membership of the department up to 390 men, its present strength. The greatest weakness or difficulty that we encountered in the new system was that it did not provide us with sufficient men to maintain the fighting strength of the department on each shift as it was under the old system, and after the retrenchment the force was almost inadequate to cope with large fires. However, with the appointment of additional men since, the department has been materially strengthened and is now fairly well manned; and the efficiency is good, excepting in some of our companies in the outlying sections of the city, which could use another man on each shift to advantage; and I expect to have these companies fully manned in the near future. Under the single-shift system companies consisted of nine and 10 men, and, allowing for days off, meal hours and during the vacation term, left a minimum of six men on duty at these times. Engine companies are now manned with five, six and seven men on each shift. Hose companies consisted of six men, with a minimum of four men on duty. Hose companies are now manned with three, four and five men on each shift. Aerial truck companies consisted of 10 and 11 men, with a minimum of seven men on duty. Aerial trucks are now manned with five and seven men. Service truck companies consisted of seven and eight men, with a minimum of five and six men on duty. Service trucks are now manned with four men on each shift. The two-shift system necessitated an entire rearrangement of the membership of the companies and the inauguration of new rules for the government of the department. I had heard that in some cities where the two-shift system had been installed that the beds were taken out of the stations and the shift on night duty was obliged to remain awake and stay on the apparatus floor. This I did not think a good plan, as during the late hours of the night you would find them hiding away in some corner or behind the apparatus fast asleep in a chair, so in my opinion I would sooner allow them the use of the beds and make the turn out from the bunk room instead of coming from all parts of the station. Another thing 1 might mention is that the unmarried men are allowed to sleep in their respective stations at night when on day duty, so that in case of a second-alarm fire they can receive the notification and be on hand in a short time. In regard to the men on the off shift who sleep at home at night, they are obliged to make their own arrangements to report for duty in case they are notified for a second-alarm fire. Some of these men are notified by telephone, and some have made arrangements with messenger companies to send a messenger to their home to notify them. Up to the present time we have had only few fires where the off shift was called upon to supplement the shift on duty, but in these instances I have observed that many of the firemen who live long distances away cannot be expected to report in less than from one to two hours, especially during the late hours of the night, when the street cars are not running frequently, and by this time the fire is generally under control and they are really not needed. A few weeks after the two-shift system was installed I learned that some of the men who were on night duty had obtained other employment and were working at their trades during the day and on duty with their respective companies at night. Upon investigating this an order was immediately issued and this practice was stopped. I would also mention that at first much dissatisfaction was created in the department by the detailing of members from the off shift for daily drill, theater duty and other special detail work, but under the circumstances of the extreme shorthandedness of the companies on duty that was the only way possible to handle these details. The members of our department are on dutv for 12 hours each day, the shifts changing at 7 a. m. and 7 p. m. Alternate changes of shifts arc made monthly. No days off, meal hours or vacations are allowed. The members are obliged to eat their midday lunch in quarters. Full pay is allowed for injuries received while on duty, half pay for sickness. Members receive no pay when injured off duty. In this connection complications have arisen in the pension fund, and in one case, that of a member killed while off duty, the courts have held that the widow and family are not entitled to the benefits of the pension fund. After the installation of the new system, the infractions of the rules by the members became notedly more frequent. However, by the strict enforcement of the rules these matters have been gradually remedied until the discipline of the department has been brought up to its former high standard. Taking the diepartmtnt as a whole, there has been no apparent decrease of the interest of the men in their duties, and the majority of the members take pride in performing their work creditably. It will take time for the changed conditions to adjust themselves properly, but since the installation of the new system in Kansas City it has proven fairly successful, strict enforcemnt of th ruls ths mattrs hav bum

* Read at Convention of I. A. F. E., New York, Sept. 3, 1913.

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