Lincoln Fire & Rescue Command Staff Reorganization First Year

Each year during the past two decades, LF&R requested funding for additional management positions. These included a third battalion (requiring three additional chief officers), a division chief solely for emergency medical services oversight, as well as other additional chief officers requested in the budget for regulatory compliance assignment, public fire safety education and other projects and programs, however, to date, none of these requested positions have been funded.

In the 2011-12 budget preparation, the fire chief was advised that the city would not fund one of the two assistant chiefs, exacerbating the challenge of being short chief officers. The department lacked adequate chief officers to efficiently and effectively manage all of the department programs/projects, and respond to and manage emergency incidents.

Recognizing the problem and in an effort to address these challenges, the fire chief implement a command staff reorganization that included an alternative work schedule for chief officers, similar to that used in Madison Wisconsin fire department (MFD).

LF&R chief officers were assigned to the duty shift, which results in them being off duty approximately 20 days each month. The LF&R chief officers solution to this schedule was to work extraordinarily long hours during their 24 hour duty shift. In addition, they also came in off duty for command staff or other meetings, and worked from home as needed to try to keep up with their responsibilities resulting in them being “at work” far more than the 56 hours that they were scheduled to be on duty. All of the LF&R chief officers are considered to be on call for greater alarm incident recall.

In the reorganization, the LF&R chief officers were tasked with specific areas of responsibilities. In the past chief officers were task with other duties however, the chief officer efforts were frequently interrupted by incident response, that after responding are found to be unnecessary for a chief officer to be present.

In the previous organization LF&R chief officers had seven fire stations and nine companies each with a Captain and responsibility for approximately 45 FTE. Each of the two LF&R battalion chiefs responded to approximately one-half of the city geographically. In the reorganization, chief officers were assigned according to their individual skill sets and areas of interest. Each LF&R chief officer is assigned broad functional areas of responsibility as well as three individual fire companies to serve as management oversight and liaison to the fire chief. In the reorganization plan, the LF&R battalion chiefs are responsible for three companies on each of the three shifts for a total of nine Captains each, however only three will be on duty at any single time. This will reduce the span of control from one to nine to one to three, which afforded improved management coordination and closer supervision.

Effective January 7, 2012 LF&R chief officers were re-assigned to an 8-hour day Monday to Friday with a rotating Officer in Charge (OIC). Eight of the ten chief officers (except the fire chief and the logistics chief) rotate through the OIC duty schedule. If the OIC duty falls on a Friday, Saturday or a Sunday, the LF&R chief officer will be off duty the following Monday. If the OIC duty day is Monday through Thursday, the OIC will have Friday off. This would reduce the average chief officer schedule from the current 56-hour average to approximately 48 hrs weekly.  This allows Tuesday thru Thursday when all of the chief officers will a common office day, facilitating better coordination and communications among them.

Whenever a chief officer is on vacation or other approved leave and scheduled to be the OIC, the OIC duty will be filled by an acting chief from the chiefs’ promotional list as is currently done.

A test/trial/adjustment period for the chief officers occurred September 5, 2011 to January 6, 2012. This period allowed the chief officers the opportunity to test the alternative schedule.

In the old organizational structure the two LF&R battalion chiefs while en route could easily be overwhelmed with driving code 3 to the scene, looking at the mobile data computer (MDC), developing the fastest response route listening to radio traffic including the report from the initial arriving unit, and giving direction via the radio to other units when the battalion chief arrives on scene. A chief officer could be easily overwhelmed when on the fire ground with the array of necessary duties and responsibilities that are required by an on scene incident commander. In the reorganization structure the OIC has an assigned support staff person, an Incident Command Technician (ICT) to assist with on scene incident management and documentation. During non-response time periods, the support staff person is tasked with other duties. This position is filled by the highest-ranking acting captain from the promotional test list in an effort to mentor future captains by including them in all significant responses on their duty shift.

The LF&R OIC respond to incidents that occur in the entire city. In 2009-2010, this list would have resulted in the OIC responding to an average of approximately two incidents during each duty shift instead of the previous average of six. This requires the first arriving company officer to assume incident command duties for a slightly longer period than the previous practice; however this practice is compliant with the National Incident Management system that LF&R has followed for many years.

The LF&R chief officers met to discuss areas of concern that have been raised since the initial discussion. In most instances, the chiefs agreed to solutions to the concerns and questions that were raised. After careful consideration of this plan over the two-month study period, Fire Chief John Huff determined it was in the best interest of L&FR and the community to implement the reorganization plan as currently revised.

This plan is flexible and dynamic and may be altered as needed to meet the needs of the organization once implemented, however it should be followed for a period to fully evaluate its effectiveness.

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