Roswell, GA Fire Dept. Transitions to Full-Time Staffing following CPSM recommendations

Fire Dept. Transitions to Full-Time Staffing

To better serve its growing community, the City of Roswell will transition the Roswell Fire Department (RFD) over the next five years from a staffing model that has relied on part-time employees to one that will be staffed entirely by full-time employees. The first phase of the transition to a full-time staffing model will begin this summer with the recruitment and hiring of 21 full-time fire captains.The transition was discussed during a Mayor and Council Work Session on Monday, June 13, 2022, during which the City’s consultant, Center for Public Safety Management (CPSM), presented the results of a gap audit/analysis of the fire department conducted this spring.

After a thorough evaluation and analysis of RFD’s staffing levels, workload, service delivery, and performance, CPSM’s findings suggest that the current part-time staffing model is not adequate for a city of Roswell’s size. Over the past decade, the Roswell Fire Department has experienced a more than 40 percent increase in calls for service and has added approximately 75 additional part-time firefighters. With an expanding population, increased call volumes, and the growing complexity of public safety incidences and large-scale emergencies that may occur in a modern suburban city, a full-time staffing model will best serve the Roswell community.

“As a city of 100,000, the current staffing model can no longer meet today’s challenges,” said Mayor Kurt Wilson. “Our current part-time staff are excellent, but realistically, there are limitations to this model. We are often stretched too thin. The bottom line is that this is a safety issue—and public safety is the number-one priority for this Mayor and Council. We must have a full-time fire department that is able to respond at full capacity to the needs of our community.”

Public Safety: Roswell’s #1 Concern

CPSM’s gap analysis highlighted a top area of concern for the City of Roswell: the potential lack of sufficient fire department staffing in the event of a regional emergency, such as an extreme weather event or a natural or manmade disaster. In these situations, Roswell’s part-time staff would be obligated to report to their primary/home department, leaving the City of Roswell understaffed and vulnerable.

The gap analysis reveals that inconsistent and/or insufficient staffing levels are a common challenge for RFD. For more than 60 percent of the time in 2021, fire shifts were not staffed at full/ideal capacity (35 personnel). In fact, staffing levels were below minimum operating levels (28 personnel) 10 percent of the time. Low staffing negatively impacts services due to increased response times and decreased service capabilities. In fact, there have been many instances where RFD emergency response vehicles such as rescues, ladder trucks, and specialty apparatus are out of service due to lack of staffing.

The Current Part-Time Staffing Model

Since its inception in 1937, the Roswell Fire Department (RFD) has enjoyed a legacy of brave and talented firefighters. As the City has grown, so has the department. It has transitioned from an all-volunteer force, to compensating the firefighters based on calls for service, to the part-time model it has now.

Although the department does employ 21 full-time employees serving as senior staff, battalion chiefs, and support staff, the majority of the RFD team are part-time. Currently, Roswell is the only city of its size and complexity in the state of Georgia that relies on a part-time workforce.

Most of Roswell’s part-time firefighters work full-time for one of 21 neighboring fire departments and report to their part-time job in Roswell after already working a full shift at their primary/home department. As reported in the gap analysis, this staffing model comes with a variety of limitations and challenges, including scheduling difficulties; fatigue/sleep deprivation related to working both primary and secondary (Roswell) jobs; lack of consistent, full-time supervision in each station; and limited ability for training on Roswell-specific apparatus, policies, and procedures.

The current staffing model also requires approximately 60% more employees compared to the 138 staff required in a full-time staffing scenario. This requires dedicating copious administrative staff time toward recruiting, outfitting, and onboarding new firefighters, as well as a higher operating budget in order to provide all staff with the necessary gear, uniforms, and other resources.

Scheduling is extremely complex due to RFD’s current staffing model. It requires several processes, including collecting employee availability and making assignments using a tiered process based on certifications, tenure, and other factors. If even one part-time staff member’s availability changes due to professional or personal obligations, such as being held-over at their primary fire department, it can complicate the entire schedule. None of the available fire department staffing software solutions readily accommodate Roswell’s unique part-time staffing model, which requires the process to be handled manually by a part-time administrative fire captain.

Benefits of Moving to a Full-Time Staffing Model

The transition to a full-time fire department will take place using a gradual, phased approach over a five-year period. The first phase starts in summer/fall 2022 with the recruitment and hiring of 21 full-time captains. The next phases will see the addition of new full-time field battalion chiefs, lieutenants, apparatus drivers/engineers, and firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics.

By transitioning to a full-time staffing model, the Roswell Fire Department will be able to:

  • Depend on full, consistent, and predictable staffing levels for all stations and emergency response vehicles.
  • Improve response and efficiency, as a cohesive, coordinated, well-rehearsed team.
  • Improve and enhance training, both for individuals and for entire crews.
  • Increase accountability, supervision, and administrative oversight with the addition of full-time captains.
  • Provide opportunities for full-time promotion and career paths within the department.
  • Strengthen familiarity with Roswell-specific policies, procedures, locations, and equipment.
  • Increase the department’s Insurance Service Office (ISO) score, which may positively impact residents’ home insurance premiums.

🔗 Learn more about the transition from the Roswell Fire Department

📚 Read the CPSM Strategic Plan and Gap Analysis for the Roswell Fire Department

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