Posts Tagged Chicago Englewood Fire Alarm Office

CFD dispatchers go to permanent shifts (more)

Here’s more on the decision by Chicago’s OEMC to institute permanent shift assignments to Chicago Fire Alarm Operators (dispatchers and call takers).

This from Don Washington’s Mayoral Tutorial 

by Don Washington on 2014/01/13

Way back before Mayor Emanuel was elected the Tutorial did a show of fire safety and the 911 system and of all the shows we did this was the one that created the sleepless nights per audience member. So today when I read that the good people over at the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) were going to make some changes to save $9.2 million dollars what I mostly thought was did they ever get around to finding the $40 million in waste, fraud and ineptitude that IG Silent Joe Ferguson found way back… I don’t know three years ago? 

The Bad News

So the time to know that OEMC is mostly functioning well [is] BEFORE something catastrophic happens. On this score I have bad news and worse news. Here’s the bad news. It appears that nothing that was wrong in a report that uncovered over $40 million dollars in quantifiable waste, fraud and corruption has been addressed.

Yes, I am talking about the people who WHEN something bad happens you call and then they send help. What you may not know is that the OEMC has a history of corruption that would embarrass Clement VI. During the Daley Administration it was a seven ring monkey dance circus of graft, corruption and boondoggle. For example, in 2007 James Argiropoulos, First Deputy Executive Director of the OEMC lied to the FCC to shovel a $168 million dollar no-bid contract to Motorola. Who could forget the 2006 purchase of $23 million dollars of state of the art digital com-gear that never got used and that was supposed to make sure that when the terrorist came we’d at least be able to talk to each other? You might remember how after the center spent $6 million dollars to upgrade the system it just started dropping 911 calls that stacked up like cord wood.

The Worse Than Bad News
Today Gary Schenkel the OEMC Executive Director  explained that ending the rotating schedule for 86 fire communications officers, the people who get help to the helpless, was not that big a deal. Their union, IBEW Local 9 says it is a big hairy deal, and told the city that no other major city in the nation has straight shifts for fire dispatch. They predict an uptick in overtime, stressed out workers and sick time. They also predict that when times are the most “exciting” the least experienced dispatchers will be on duty. So to recap it will cost us more to get less service. This sounds exactly like a government run like a business.

A quick aside. Remember when I brought up the epic overtime a few graphs back? You probably wondered why such a thing would be and then thought about the idea of some guy working a 12th hour trying to remember if it it was 1244 W. Ainsle or 1422 W. Ainsle? Well, they’ll see the fire from wherever they are and SWAT teams don’t always go in guns blazing right? I mentioned it because last time out Mayor Emanuel bitch-slapped the hell out of the OEMC’s numbers.  He  cut 45 police dispatchers and cut the maximum number of over all dispatcher positions by 10. Overtime was inevitable.

What I can tell you is that there is no reason to believe that Gary has any idea what the hell he is talking about. You probably don’t know who OEMC Director Gary Schenkel is, in a professional sense. I wish I didn’t but let me quote myself for a moment. “If you were were to look in the dictionary for a guy who failed upward you will find Gary on such a steep ascent that he is approaching escape velocity.” That was true when he was appointed to clean up an agency whose inability to do anything right and tendency to steal things ranks right up there with JP Morgan Chase or Bank of America and it is true now. The fact that he is in charge of OEMC and is saying that he has studies that prove something is probably about the worst endorsement of the studies or our safety that one can imagine. It’s sort of like when some guy from BP says fracking is safe or there is no Global Warming… no, it is exactly like that.

A History of WTF – OEMC Director Gary Schenkel at Work
Once upon a time Gary was the Director of the Federal Protective Service (FPS) in the Bush Administration. That’s right he was a high level official in the Bush Administration… You probably already see where this is going. To say he did a bad job would be not give him enough credit. The word we’re looking for here is unspeakable.

Do you have any idea what a class 10 hurricane of a f#@k up you have to be to have the Bush Administration realize that you do not know WHAT you are doing? Here are the highlights: The FPS failed to adequately protect employees and visitors entering federal buildings under its control, screen employees and visitors or ensure that contractor guards had proper training and certifications. You can’t make up this level of don’t know WTF one is doing.

He’s been here for almost three years and already can’t find $40 million dollars and is going to re-arrange something that appears to be working against the sage advice of the people who make it work on the theory it will save the city money. If he had ever done something right before I’d feel better about this. If Mayor Emanuel had done one thing in regards to public policy that worked as advertised for the common public good I’d feel better about this. But we’re talking about a man whose policing and education policies have managed to both cost the city more money and deliver less quality public services so I’m going to go on record as officially scared.

So here’s a little something to contemplate. Gary said this to the media about his little plan to save less than a tenth of the money he still hasn’t been able to discover.

“The benefits outweigh the negatives. I told the union this. We don’t do anything with a blindfold on. Give this 90 days and see how it works. If we get results, we’ll continue it or make whatever modifications we need to make.” I bet when we check back in 90 days the chairs on the ship deck will all be on fire and not one media guy will have thought to check on Gary’s latest colossal screw up.

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CFD dispatchers go to permanent shifts

The Chicago Sun-Times has an article about a change in scheduling for Chicago Fire Department dispatchers.

Fire communications officers at Chicago’s 911 center have been shifted from rotating to fixed shifts to speed response times and reduce $9.2 million in annual overtime, despite warnings of employee burnout that could trigger dispatch “mistakes.”

For 70 years, fire call takers and dispatchers worked four straight days on the same shift, took two days off, then switched to a different watch and repeated the cycle. There are three watches — and those remain the same: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. and 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

The rotating schedule for 86 fire communications officers ended last week over the strenuous objections of their union, IBEW Local 9.

Starting Jan. 5, employees who field calls for fires and medical emergencies were assigned to fixed shifts, with the largest contingent assigned to the busiest, third watch.

Gary Schenkel, executive director of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, told the City Council during budget hearings he was researching an electronic scheduling system and had asked the Illinois Institute of Technology to do a “predictive analysis” to help him pinpoint key volume times. The new, fixed schedule is a product of both.

“On a regular basis, we get 30 percent or more of our calls after 3 p.m. That means we need to assign 15-to-20 percent more people to the third watch to better serve the citizens of Chicago and support the Chicago Fire Department,” Schenkel said this week. “What we have now is rotating shifts. After a week on days, those people move to a week on nights, midnights and back to days. We can’t assign personnel on a consistent basis to our peak call volume periods.”

Schenkel said he’s aware that 78 percent of fire alarm employees opposed the change in a recent union vote. But he maintained that the IBEW contract empowers the city to “make operational changes as necessary” without union consent.

Fire and EMS dispatcher Jeff Johnson, union steward for IBEW Local 9, argued that “no other major city in the nation has straight shifts for fire dispatch” and there’s a good reason why. “You don’t get burnout caused by high stress levels all the time,” he said. “Overtime is going to go up. This is going to end up costing the city more money. People will use more sick and vacation time to reduce stress and handle doctors appointments, family and child care emergencies.”

Noting that the union contract includes seniority bidding provisions, Johnson warned that public safety may also suffer. “The most experienced people pick first and fill up midnights and days. That leaves people with no time working some of the busiest times,” Johnson said. “What will happen at 5 p.m. on a Friday when it’s 90 degrees and a battalion chief is calling for a mayday? There’s a possibility for mistakes, sending the wrong companies or missing an ambulance that could have been closer.”

Schenkel said there’s a “ton of research” that contradicts Johnson’s stress argument. “People on rotating shifts suffer more maladies, sleep disorders and other afflictions than people who work straight shifts,” he said. “The benefits outweigh the negatives,” Schenkel said. “I told the union this. We don’t do anything with a blindfold on. Give this 90 days and see how it works. If we get [good] results, we’ll continue it or make whatever modifications we need to make.”

Over the years, the Chicago Sun-Times has done a series of stories about burgeoning overtime at the 911 center caused by a chronic staffing shortage. It’s prompted a handful of call takers to more than double their salaries in overtime.

Last fall, Schenkel told aldermen the problem had skyrocketed because of the logistical nightmare created by a $31 million remodeling project that overhauled the operations floor while 911 center employees continued to answer 15,000 emergency calls each day.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s first budget initially called for eliminating the jobs of 17 fire dispatchers, laying off nine others and shrinking the supervisory ranks from 13 to 8. After union negotiations, the mayor ended up eliminating ten dispatcher vacancies, demoting three supervisors and one dispatcher and laying off one call taker.

The jobs of 45 police dispatchers were also eliminated. So were four of 22 radio repair technicians.

thanks Dan & Scott

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