Tulsa Fire Department analysis comes in light of increase funding

An analysis of the Tulsa Fire Department made a series of recommendations, including cutbacks in staffing single-home house fires.

A major emphasis of the study is first response Emergency Medical Service EMS. More than two-thirds of calls for Fire dispatch are medical related.

To address current staffing shortages, 27 cadets will be funded by the SAFER grant, announced last week, and as tax revenues are collected and available, an additional 20 recruits will enter an April academy.

The Tulsa Fire Department will be getting additional funding beginning in January due to the $884,000,000.00 sales tax increase approved in April.

The report was conducted by the Center for Public Safety Management LLC, which is also affiliated with the International City Managers Association. The report evaluated response times, deployment and staffing, organizational structure and managerial oversight, workloads, support functions, facilities and equipment, working relationship with EMSA and future personnel additions and capital investment options that may be funded through the recent increase in sales tax.

“The report confirms that many of the things we are doing are right on target,” said Chief Ray Driskell. “The report includes smart recommendations for first response emergency medical service as zeros in on strengthening our public education program for more aggressive fire prevention programs

Here are some of the recommendations:

  • Adopt the TFD station plan to reduce response times in East Tulsa and close geographic gaps in service areas. The Fire Department’s plan calls for the construction of two new stations and realignment/relocation of four stations.
  • Consider reduction to three engines, one ladder and one command vehicle to initially respond to a reported single family structure fire.
  • Adjust the minimum staffing policy so that apparatus with four-person staffing are reduced to three-person staffing to help avoid callback of off-duty personnel on overtime. Driskell said that policy is already the current staffing minimum per truck due to attrition and staffing shortages. Discussions surrounding the new sales tax plan have focused on adding four trucks at stations on the city’s perimeters where the stations have a larger coverage area and provide mutual aid to adjoining communities.
  • Expand performance indicators and monitoring systems for periodic review.
  • Expedite the process of re-instating the Fire Marshal position to a civilian managerial employee who is appointed by the fire chief. The position currently is filled by deputy chief-level firefighter within the Tulsa Fire Department.
  • Implement an in-service fire company inspection program and publish an annual report detailing the fire occurrences in Tulsa, where they occur, the cause and the associated loss. Budget cuts recently led to the abolishment of a key position that recorded and reported data.
  • Adopt a risk management plan aimed at reducing the number of fires by using analysis from fire investigations.
  • Deploy additional two-person EMS squads that can respond to better manage workloads and keep the fire response apparatus available for fighting fires.
  • Hire civilians with permitting and plan review skills as fire inspectors.

Fire officials said the following recommendations have already been implemented:

  • The relationship, practices and processes between EMSA and TFD to provide consistent medical control, equipment, medications to achieve a seamless transfer of patient care.
  • Ongoing long-range management and strategic business planning annually since the late 1990s.
  • The squad concept to deal with higher call volume associated with emergency medical services.
  • Cross-staffing specialty units, including rescue operations and grass apparatus
  • Daily inspections of reserve apparatus
  • Fire station location/relocation plan
  • Number of units dispatched to calls
  • Turnaround time on permit issuance
  • Smoke detector program
  • Injury reduction efforts

Outgoing Mayor Dewey F. Bartlett said each of the 40 recommendations will be individually examined, but Bartlett praised the department on the report’s focus on 10 best practices that have already been implemented by the Fire Department.

“I commend Chief Ray Driskell for implementing best practices that keep the Fire Department operating efficiently and safely,” Bartlett said. “We will now begin the process of evaluating each of the 40 recommendations to determine what it would take to implement.”

Bartlett said he supports staff realignment recommendations, however, staffing changes may require negotiations with the IAFF Local 176 as part of its collective bargaining agreement with the City of Tulsa.

“Implementing any of the 40 recommendations will take additional study, time and could require more funding, but the report does give the Department and the Administration potential strategies for efficiency and smarter management of emergency and non-emergency responsibilities,” Bartlett said.