At least that is what the title to a piece by Chris Dovi in Style Weekly says. According to Dovi, Richmond firefighters will soon not have any calls at all. Meanwhile, the Richmond Ambulance Authority will be saving lives more and more.
Ok, I am exaggerating. Dovi does get it wrong though. Read the one sided article here.
In his attempt at dissecting Fire and EMS in one of the few Cities left who have separate services, Dovi misses the boat. The unfortunate part is that readers will not know right from wrong and ASSume that Dovi did his homework.
Here is the thing. I (The Fire Critic) worked for the Richmond Ambulance Authority (RAA) back in the day. The day was 1998. I worked for American Medical Response (AMR), Mercy Ambulance, or some other company name. I was never really clear who I worked for that year. My checks came from AMR, we wore RAA uniforms. The work was fun, the experience was good, the company (AMR) had big issues, the working conditions were pathetic, and the job was dangerous. There were some great people who worked there, some of them are still employed. I keep in touch with others who have moved on to work at FD’s in surrounding areas.
For a while now, there have been talks of a merger between the Richmond Fire Department and the Richmond Ambulance Authority. More recently the talks have heated up after RAA scrapped AMR for staffing and decided to do their own thing.
One thing is for sure, the system is working now. If budget cuts are the catalyst to merging the departments then I say BLAH! That is not a reason. Trust me, working in a department with remnant issues of a merge 15 years ago I can tell you that it has to be done right, for the right reasons, and most of all YOU HAVE TO HAVE EMPLOYEE BUY IN ON THE CONCEPT.
Please do not think that I am against change. I am all for Fire/EMS Departments. I just know that merges are not easy. You can already tell there is some tension at the top. You have the managers of two departments asking for everything to be laid out on the table. Let’s get to what they really care about…Who will be in charge?
I cannot help but think that this will end in misery. Misery for the firefighters and misery for the EMT’s and Medics. I do not know of a decent plan for merging. The firefighters aren’t going to want to ride the boxes, the EMT’s and Medics will want to work on the engines/ladders to get a break. I see it in my department.
One thing is for sure. I don’t think that RAA will be able to continue on with their bare bones staffing if they go into a merge. In order to staff Fire Stations with ambulances you will have to have more staffed. If I remember correctly, when I worked there RAA had 20+ ambulances. However, at night they only ran like 6 of them. During the day staffing swelled to accommodate for transports to and from home and inter-facility.
I just hope that the bean counters get it right if they entertain a merge….You have to take the boots on the ground into consideration!