Huffington Post: Can D.C. do what Boston did?

This is verbatim from Huffington Post, to preserve consistency and accuracy.

(Sorry for the cop-out copypasta, but it's relevant.)

My only thoughts: I would feel more comfortable if the Mayor replied with a strong "yes, we are prepared," instead of his disconcerting use of a litote.

Also, with an increasing call volume, continued difficulties with both personnel staffing and apparatus maintenance, and the ever-dwindling numbers of ALS providers, I do not think it bodes well for the efficacy of the Department in the event of a large-scale or mass-casualty incident—and certainly not during the summer months, when everything tends to break down (both literally and figuratively).

I'm no Subject Matter Expert over here, but to quote Sgt. Joe Friday—"all we know are the facts, ma'am."



Can D.C. Handle A Boston-Like Attack? D.C. Mayor Says Yes, After Letter Suggesting Otherwise

WASHINGTON — Can D.C. handle a Boston-like attack?

The Washington Examiner reports that D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray suggests not in a recent letter:

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray has warned key lawmakers that the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department's staffing protocols are leaving the District at risk in the event of a Boston-style attack against the city.

"The existing shift structure permits many personnel to commute extraordinary distances to report for work," Gray wrote in a letter to two legislators. "Should a serious emergency situation impact the District of Columbia, as it did [on April 15] in Boston, it would be almost impossible for many off-duty FEMS workers, who would be desperately needed, to respond in a timely manner to meet the needs of our residents."

Firefighters currently work 24-hour shifts before receiving three days off, but the Gray administration has used contract negotiations to seek a new arrangement of shorter shifts.

Gray spokesperson Pedro Ribeiro told The Huffington Post that the letter — you can read a PDF of it here — was intended only to recommend a more flexible FEMS staffing protocol, but that Gray did not mean to say D.C. is currently unprepared.

"What we're saying is it would be easier if those folks were closer. However it doesn't mean we're not prepared. We are," said Ribeiro. "We respond to hundreds of incidents a day…To say that the District is unprepared is absurd."

The president of the D.C. firefighters' union told the Examiner that he disagrees both with Gray's proposed changes, which come as the city and the firefighters will be going into binding arbitration, and with the suggestion that D.C. is unprepared to respond to an attack:

Edward Smith, the union's president, said firefighters are sufficiently close to the District, and he dismissed Gray's contention that the current shift structure poses a public safety threat.

"I think he's playing on people's emotions," Edward Smith said. "I don't believe those claims at all."

Smith added: "We'd be able to respond initially to any emergency."

For more on the historical context of the administration's dispute with firefighters, see this recent Washingtonian article.

And more: Gray and Washington Post reporter Tim Craig exchanged tweets over the Examiner story today:


  • BH says:

    Sounds like he wants to set the stage for a residency requirement (which Boston EMS has; I don't remember of Boston Fire or Police do).  

  • MedicAbroad says:


    All Boston public safety workers fall under the residency requirement. That means BEMS, BFD, & BPD.

  • Kenneth Lyons says:

    DCFEMS is prepared for an emergency and a sustained effort if need be.  However its not the unexpected emergency that is of concern mainly because of the mutual aid that would come to bear when or if needed, it is the ability to sustain operational effectiveness outside of the emergency.  Currently firefighters assigned to ambulances work one day on followed by three days off while civilian EMS personnel work 12 hour shifts of 2 days 2 nights followed by four days off.  So those firefighters may respond to 24-28 EMS calls during their 24 hour shift which has been determined to be excessive and a detriment to patient care.  It is for these reasons that a remedy should be seriously considered and the status quo is no longer acceptable.

    • raisingladders says:

      Kenneth, so you’re admitting that there are shortcomings with the Department’s current state of affairs? I fail to see how a change to a six-day work week will be any less “excessive” or “detrimental to patient care.”
      Also, Why is it that DCFEMS seems to be the only organization advocating the 3-3-3 schedule? If it was a plausible and practical solution, wouldn’t other departments in the nation utilize it? 

  • Jon Levine says:

    Boston does have a residency requirment for all new employees ans annually moves out the an opt out date with each contract to accomodate vetran employees. But Civil service has a radius requirment of door step of residence to community border (NB this is somewhat contensious and is being examined in that traditionally it was from border of employment to border of residence vs community) But the truth of the mattter in a Boston like incident the critical high acutity need for staffing is almost immediate and short lived, thus residence I don't thinkk has anywhere near the importance of training,immediately available resources and realistic planning versus the highly complex chess game like procedures some  of the alledged experts concoct

  • 19262007 says:

    I find it odd that no one ever mentions the fact that changing shifts from the current 24-72 (4 shifts) to 3-3-3 (3 shifts) will reduce manpower within the department by 1/4.   I also find it odd that in Baltimore the city is trying to get rid of the Fire Department's split shift system and go to a 24 hour shift.  wtf.  I would like ONE, any ONE DC politician to stop lying (I know it's difficult, it's genetic with politicians) and say EXACTLY why they want to go to 3-3-3.  Why not push for 
    2-2-4?  Wouldn't lose 1/4 of your force that way.  Things that make you say Hmmm… 

  • Evidence Based Medicine says:

    Kenneth Lyons (AFGE1721 President)
    If the 12h shift that your members work is so much better than a 24 hour one, why is your local's absenteeism so high?  On new years eve, half of your assigned personnnel were off work, vs. less than 30 percent of the 24/72 personnel.

    Chronic fatigue is just as deleterious as acute fatigue, 2-2-4 guarantees chronic fatigue.  There is no good way to be awake all night and maintain a 100% cognitive response.  The workload needs to be managed so that all workers get at least 90 minutes (one sleep cycle) of sleep during their circadian lows (1a – 5a), whether they are at work or not, and not more than 1 night of nightwork in a row.  24 hour shifts, with sufficient staffing, accomplish this.  Moving all of the single role resources off those hours does not.

  • 19262007 says:

    It's not about reducing chronic fatigue or doing what might be best for employees or the citizens for that matter…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *