Overtime cuts and better planning; Vernon fire department launches new project

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VERNON - The Vernon fire department has launched a pilot project that aims to cut overtime, increase response times and free up 2,000 hours firefighters spent taking emergency calls.

A media release from the Vernon Fire Rescue Services says the project launched earlier this month will run until November and aims to improve service throughout the city. Cutting overtime and streamlining resources to be better positioned throughout the community are two key components within the project.

“A heavy reliance on overtime is unhealthy for organizations and their employees,” said Chief Lind in the release. “In the long term it is not cost effective and our people need breaks from work to rest and recover. When the opportunities for time away are reduced we are really doing our staff a disservice. Overtime should be a leader’s tool of last resort and not a daily go to.”

The release says contracting out dispatch services in 2018 gave the department the ability to re-allocate four previous positions to firefighter positions. Prior to contracting out dispatch services, firefighters covered dispatches when they were away, taking up roughly 2,000 hours per year. Freeing up this time is the equivalent of five full-time firefighters hours.

The pilot will keep a minimum of four firefighters at Fire Station 1 downtown. When more than six firefighters are scheduled, the extra staff will work from Fire Station 2 on Okanagan Landing Road. Between two and four staff will work from this station. The City says travel time between the stations is 11 minutes and having firefighters at this station will help provide a more consistent level of service across Vernon.

The pilot involves new assignments and the adaptation of work practices, as well as an increased time commitment from paid-per-call members. The release states 2018's budget received increased funds to cover the paid-per-call volunteer firefighters and projections call for an additional two full-time staff by 2021. This would mean the Okanagan Landing Road station would have two full-time firefighters most of the time.

The fire hall at Predator Ridge, which is currently only staffed at high hazard periods and for special events, will receive new fire apparatus.

“I am proud of how our team has pulled together with the implementation of this deployment pilot,” said Lind. “We share a common vision and our folks have approached this with a focus on improving service for the public.”

The release states the implementation of the Vernon Fire Rescue Services Strategic Plan 2018 to 2025 will provide a more consistent level of fire rescue for the city "while capitalizing on the agile utilization of resources."


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