Grand Jury Validation

In the past, I have written about how fire services are deployed in San Jose with an emphasis on the data that shows the overwhelming ratio of medical calls to actual fires. In addition, I have shared that San Jose’s minimum staffing contract requires four people per fire engine while every other city in the county requires three firefighters or less.

The Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury, which investigates waste, fraud and abuse, released its report last week on fire services in the county including San Jose. They found that “these agencies remain entrenched in old service and old cost structures” and that “taxpayers can no longer afford to fund the status quo.” The Grand Jury wanted to make a distinction from the 1970s by stating, “it is extremely important to separate the iconography of shiny red trucks and Dalmatians from the reality of today’s firefighting.” Inevitably all organizations need to change as the touch points that engage them change over time.

The Grand Jury interviewed all fire chiefs and public safety chiefs in Santa Clara County responsible for fire departments plus city managers. They, “generally agreed that fire department operations as currently configured are unsustainable.” Unsustainable in that, “it is common to see fire departments over-deploy multiple firefighting apparatus in response to non-life threatening emergencies, seemingly a waste of taxpayer dollars.”

Each extra staffing position on a fire engine equals three police officers or approximately six librarians based on covering all the shifts in a month based on the historic 24-hour shift.

Restructuring fire services has zero to do with the actual fire department employee but everything to do with the allocation of resources based on demand and budget. Some of the interviewees described firefighting as “the best part-time job in America” and said “firefighters are paid for 23 hours of sitting around for one hour of work because that is how insurance works.”  Fair point on the insurance analogy but can this cost be maximized or do we want to increase our insurance premium for police instead?

Also from the report: “Fire departments can be more successful and cost-effective when fire chiefs have the latitude to assign and manage staff according to the situation.” San Jose does not have this latitude. Interviewees “describe union pressure to retain minimum-staffing contract clauses, also known as ‘entitlement operations.’ Yet Fire Chiefs pointed out that there are clear peak and low demands for service on any given day, day of the week or season of the year, such that a more flexible staffing model would make much more sense both administratively and economically. Those cities [like San Jose] with fire contracts mandating minimum staffing levels and crew size are at a disadvantage compared to those with the discretion to staff as needed.”  It would make sense to have more resources during peak demand time and less during non-peak demand time but not below a certain threshold.

The report also examined consolidation of fire departments across the county to reduce costs by cutting management while maintaining service levels. Consolidation would also look at sharing expensive fire equipment between cities, the cost of maintenance and personnel training.

I believe allowing fire chiefs more flexibility on minimum staffing and length of shifts would enable staffing per peak demand and at the same time produce costs saving for other city services like police.

Follow this link to review the Grand Jury report.

On a related note, council approved the ambulance contract with the County last week. State law give the County authority over the ambulance contract. Unfortunately our fire department will continue to respond to the jail for medical calls even though the jail has medical personnel on staff and it is the ambulance that actually transports the inmate to the hospital. This is totally unnecessary and an unnecessary risk to firefighters which I tried changing a few years back

In addition, the San Jose Fire Department under the County contract will still have to respond to sprained-ankle calls. There is a re-opener on the contract which I hope will allow SJFD to stop responding to both the jail and minor injury calls.

100 Comments

  1. How many front line firefighters did the grand jury speak to?  Zero

    How many unions did the grand jury speak to? None

    Who responds faster to emergencies?  Fire Departments

    Who responds slower to emergencies?  Ambulance Companies

    How much does a Fire Department Charge for EMS responses?  Zilch

    How much does ambulance companies charge for EMS responses?  Thousands of dollars

    Just after voting to raise sewer rates, storm drain rates, garbage rates Mr. Tax and Spend Oliverio wants to impose another burdensome “Secret” tax increase on those unfortunate to need emergency medical attention.  Oliverio was an average bartender but he is an excellent spinmeister that loves to tax.

  2. The Railroad Trainmens’ Union once was the paradigm of featherbedding.  Looks like SJFD now has that dubious distinction.

    I work in DTSJ.  There are several multi-storey senior facilities near my office.  Fire engines respond there frequently, but there is never a fire. They are all medical calls. Deploying a single ambulance makes more sense.  The EMTs can keep the cops company who stand around at construction and road repair sites doing nothing.

    • Ironically, Mr O’Connor, it is your profession (lawyer) which is the reason cops are at traffic construction sites. It is the parasite lawyers, who have have filed endless personal damage lawsuits for friviolous and bogus reasons, that have driven construction and insurance companies to hire off duty cops (not being overtime by the way) as a cya thing in case they are sued by one of your cronies.

      • And, the city mandates that any construction that is being done anywhere near an intersection, or where the roadway will be impeded, hire a police officer to do traffic control.  Again, driven by lawyers who have sued for damages when somebody is too stupid to drive within a designated cone patter, drives into an obvious hole, runs over a construction worker, or drives into a fresh laid strip of asphalt steaming in the air and obvious to anyone with half a brain.

        And as said, this is an off-duty job that doesn’t cost the taxpayers directly.  Although, the construction company does have to hire the cops and no doubt passes along the costs to whoever they are working for, even the city.

      • I don’t do that kind of work.

        Your accusation is like accusing a cardiologist because a person died of cancer.

        The requirement for cops comes from the city.  And the SJ City Atttorney’s office(and many others I’m sure) has a bunch of spineless lawyers who won’t try a case where the plaintiff was the primary cause of his/her own injury; e.g. the whack job they just paid $250k to who threatened his roommate with a knife and failed to obey the responding officers’ commands.

        Lawyers don’t issue verdicts.  Juries do.  The problem is idiot jurors believe a bullshit story spun by a lawyer.  If we had smarter jurors, OJ would have gone away for a double murder, instead of for stealing memorabilia.

        But the bottom line re the cops on construction sites—they don’t do shit.  They just stand around at $80.00/hour.

        • Mr. O’Connor,
          I don’t know what kind of law you practice. From anecdotal experience, most lawyers don’t do shit, and get paid a fortune for not doing it and overcharging their clients. Lawyers as a whole are a very dishonorable and slimy lot. Of course, there are exceptions. By the way, please get your damn facts straight instead of bilging hyperbole; off duty cops DO NOT get overtime directing traffic and make nowhere near $80 an hour. Hopefully, you are more accurate in your lawyering than you are in this blog. Now get back to work overcharging a client.

        • You are right for the most part. The cops are worth their dough when they are actually directing traffic which is about 5% of the time.

          So just let the contractors spend the money on the UNNECESSARY police that stand there on the side of the road drinking their coffee or sit in their cars making phone calls and watching videos !!! Or even WORK HARD JUST STANDING THERE LIKE SCARECROWS TALKING TO EACH OTHER WATCHING CARS GO BY.

          Easy money.

          San Jose is the laughing stock of the bay area.  NO CITY USES OFF-DUTY COPS AS OFTEN AS YOU DO FOR TRAFFIC CONTROL. NOT BY A LONG SHOT. YOU COULD SAVE TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS ON CONSTRUCTION CONTRACTS. BUT YOU BIG SHOTS…….NEVER LISTEN. The liability issue for some reason is only an issue in San Jose. Funny how none of the other cities find it a problem.  Sort of like your pension problem.  There must be a black hole time warp centered in San Jose.

          The rate is closer to $50 hour Mr. O’Conner.  You don’t know squat about this racket.

    • Better triple the amount of ambulances then because they already take an average of 15 minutes or more to get on scene. I’ve waited 45+ minutes more than once in my career for the ambulance to arrive. The private companies are for money making-less ambulances+less employees+responding to more calls=more profit. The new company coming in July 1st,will have even less paramedics responding than AMR, causing SJFD to send their paramedic to the hospital more often, causing more out of service time for the engine company which in turn, causes empty holes in YOUR community, with the next engine company coming in from further away. I know I can’t hold my breath for 15 minutes-can you? Hope no one dies in your family because you will be waiting a long time.

      • AMR will try to drag a dead body out of a crime scene so they can collect the transport fee even if they are DOA.  The policy for most private ambulances is to get the body into the rig as quick as possible and get moving.

    • It’s a bit disturbing to see anyone, especially one of my city’s councilmembers making comparisons between public safety and public libraries (1 ff= 3 cops or 6 librarians). Seriously???
      Why are library hours such a big topic? My kids are in elementary school and have already been taught and sometimes required to research on the Internet. The library system made sense in the 70’s but it is out of date. Notice how the city is using them as de facto senior centers and after school unsupervised hang outs for teens. How did SJ get sooo far off track? Why in the world have we laid off even one police officer yet our libraries consume vast resources? It’s unconscionable.
      This is NOT the year to fund so many social programs. Incidentally the county maintains an enormous social services department for social programs. Why is the city even involved?
      Remember, “a poor man can have food or art.” let’s ditch the art till we have more money down the line. Stop the madness.

  3. Oh well.  I was hoping to get here quickly to warn of the impending ad hominem attacks, from people who seemingly can’t handle the message, and instead choose to shoot the messenger.  However, Spinmeister appears to have beaten me to the punch.

    Is it too much to ask for civil discourse?

    Is it possible to debate issues without resorting to namecalling?

    Do people understand that personal attacks are usually viewed from as “last-ditch” efforts from the losing side?

    It sounds from the post (and the grand jury’s report) like there are several opportunities to make our fire department(s) more efficient.  And, with greater efficiency, we could increase funding to other desired city services (police, libraries, etc.), or we would be able to reduce the tax/regulatory burden elsewhere.  While we can debate the specifics of what to do with the gains from efficiency, who wouldn’t want to pursue the gains themselves?

        • Broken Promises,

          Sorry I disappoint you so much, but unlike most people on here, I talk to people I disagree with, and I don’t hide behind a computer. I met with Pierluigi and discussed my concerns. We came to an understanding and have moved on.

      • Kathleen: have you noticed how many comments you get that are negative towards you? Maybe you are uninformed or maybe you are just plain stupied. Your comments are so out of touch that it appears you are living on another planet. How many ride-alongs have you done on a downtown fire engine? You have absolutely no business commenting on the fire department when you so obviously know NOTHING about it and how it runs. You are out of your league here so why not quietly read the posts, visit a downtown fire house and educate yourself so that you don’t look so stupied.

        • fire-d up,
          If there’s one thing you union guys excel in it’s telling other people to shut up. Does that come naturally to you or is it part of that elite training you guys are always telling us about?
          By the way, it’s ‘stupid’, not ‘stupied’, stupid.

        • fire-d up,
          I guess I’ll have to tell the three Fire Captains, and the Fire Chief the information they are providing with is stupid, and that they are out of touch with reality…

        • Oh All Mighty John: thank you so much for the spelling lesson. It doesn’t surprise me that you know how to spell “stupid”… Looking for anything to pick on rather than looking at content? I am sorry for you-you must be like 100 years old-I see your posts go back to before I was born. How many opinions do you think you have changed in all those wasted, angry, bitter years? We are all employees and yes we ARE the union-and proud of it, thank you very much. And yes, I have had lots of training so that I can give back to old people like you that need help getting up after they fall down.

        • f.u.
          It’s touching that you’re proud of your union.
          But how do you decide when to be loyal to your union and when to be loyal to the SJFD?

  4. > How much does a Fire Department Charge for EMS responses?  Zilch

    > How much does ambulance companies charge for EMS responses?  Thousands of dollars.

    Were you born a lunkhead? Or did you have to go to a special elite academy of some kind to learn how to be a lunkhead?

    Just because the Fire Department doesn’t “charge” for EMS responses doesn’t mean that they don’t COST anything.  Everything has a COST and someone, somewhere (undoubtedly the taxpayers) eats that cost.

    The lunkheads who ran the Soviet Union had the theory that people who worked for the government didn’t cost anything, because under socialism, they were being paid by the government just for living.

    Thus, having a mammoth army was free, as well as having mammoth government tank factories to build zillions of tanks for the mammoth army.  All free.

    The government was never “charged” for the army or the tanks.

    All the “free” stuff that the government relied on ultimately led to the collapse of the system, because nobody paid for anything, and nobody worked for anything.

  5. The fire department is an insurance policy.  If you as citizens don’t want to pay for it I can guarantee that a private insurance company will charge you more for the same coverage.  You want flexible staffing?  Go for it. See what happens when an earthquake hits. See what happens when a big fire starts in the east hills. See what happens when you call 911 for a family member whom is not breathing and you have to wait for a private ambulance coming from Sunnyvale. 

    Who is going to pick up an elderly person who is unable to get up?  A private ambiance?  Of course they will for $1000.  Who is going to cut amn injured person out of a car?  Oh, a private ambulance. Sure.

    On the surface we may provide a lot of services that seem silly, but who else is going to provide them?  Nobody without charging. 

    You want the lowest cost, you will get the lowest level of service.  Go ahead.  Disband the gang task force and see what is happening now? 

    Cut, cut, cut the fire department and I will affect the citizens.  It may not affect them today, it may not affect them tomorrow, but it will affect them.  The city’s ability to protect its citizens is being eroded and council members like Pierluigi are leading the charge.  It’s time to stand up to this crap.

    • First, if there is an earthquake the majority of fire fighters do not live in San Jose by choice due to the part-time schedule.

      Second, how does every other city in the county pick up an elderly person with only 3 fire fighters instead of 4? Are other fire departments more physically fit?

        • What a crock.  The other City Fire unions take good care of their members better than San Jose, the 4 person staffing has been in San Jose since th early 1970’s.  The strength of the San Jose Fire union was killed by the last President who was around for 15 years and never changed with the times.  His hunger for power was never satisfied and he sold his membership out.  Just look how much San Jose firfighters pay in dues and special assesments and compare to Santa Clara, County Fire, Milpitas etc.  Good luck to the new union leadership, but they have a lot of mending to do.

      • I can not comment on the personal reasons why some of the firefighters that protect us don’t live in San Jose so I won’t try to but with the way you are attacking the very people that on a daily basis are willing to put their lives on the line to make sure you, your family, and your friends lives and property are safe during their watch is surprising but might explain some of the reasons why they choose to live elsewhere!

        When did it become okay to do this? 

        It is very sad and upsetting to see/read such disrespect for the those that are here to make sure we are safe and cared for during our most vulnerable and desperate moments in our lives. 

        Have we as a society become this self absorbed and messed up that those that protect us are no longer good enough and are made out to be villains?

        Please stop attacking these people that are actually doing positive and constructive things with their lives and are actually willing to “die” for you and me while at work to make sure our lives are better!

        Enough already!!!!!!

        • What Happened,
          Very well stated. I couldn’t agree with you more.

          You asked, “Have we as a society become this self absorbed and messed up that those that protect us are no longer good enough and are made out to be villains?” Apparently the answer is YES. Money seems to be more important than paying a fair wage to those heroes in the field.

          It is the ignorance of those making these comments that offends me the most. They have no real idea of the kind of job these public servants do. They don’t think about all the missed holidays, birthdays, graduations, births, and family responsibilities put on hold to serve us.

          They never feel gratitude until that Fire Fighter pulls their wife, or loved one out of a burning building, or that Police Officer who stops a rapist from killing their wife, daughter, or sister. They are too busy buying into the BS being reported by a media looking to sell ad space in their papers, or TV commercials to businesses in an effort to keep their HIGHLY paid jobs, or politicals looking to get re-elected. 

          They don’t see how many 25-30 year old Police Officers or Fire Fighters limping along in pain, or their hunched backs, bad knees, and broken fingers because their bodies hurt from performing their duty to we members of the public.  You see they are too busy worrying about increased taxes, and they are too lazy to hold electeds accountable for getting us in this mess in the first place with their pet projects and overspending.

        • Kathleen: I’m truly confused, sometimes you contradict yourself. Above comments-thank you for your support, comments above that-not helpful! Please, come see us at the fire house and take a tour, ask questions. We welcome those who come in with an open mind and want to learn. You will be amazed!

        • Actually, I have toured the Fire House on Alum Rock, and went before the Mayor and Council to fight for it’s rebuild. I have supported Fire and Police for many years now. I guess you must be a lone Fire Fighter not to be more educated on my involvement in supporting the SJFD. I campaigned against V and W as well.

          Please feel free to join us for the community meeting I put together at City Hall Council Chambers, Wednesday, June 29th, from 6-8pm. Captain Gutierrez, and Police Chief Moore will be giving us a presentation on illegal fireworks, and fire prevention.

        • Kathleen: no, I am not the lone Fire Fighter that doesn’t know about your involvement-MANY of us do not know who you are. I just know you from your blogs. However, I do thank you for the support you have given us over the years and my apologies for the previous insult (sometimes I get a little fire-d up).

        • fire-d up,

          Thank you for your service to our community. I know your job is not any easy one. I can understand your anger and frustration with all of this. Please stay safe out there!

      • The elderly are not the only persons we pick up. Rule of thumb-when large persons fall down where they live is in proportion to their weight by 300 lbs. For example-1st floor=300+ lbs, 2nd floor=600+ lbs, etc. I’ve been on calls where it took 10+ firefighters to remove a person from behind a toilet (we had to REMOVE the toilet)onto a salvage cover (stretcher was too small) in order to get them out of the house and to the hospital due to their size. Hopefully that answers your question. All of us have bad backs, it just goes with the territory. Reducing staff is only going to cause more injuries, which will cause the tax payer more money and possibly even the death of a firefighter-or have you forgotten the recent deaths in SF of 2 firefighters who died thinking they were trying to save the trapped family.

    • Not everything that comes out the sides of PLO’s mouth I disagree with.

      Sometime last year, we had a really huge fight at the 7 Bamboo. Did my usual “doorman” thing and got the parties to go break heads outside (instead of tables and chairs inside)  I hit “record” on my camera phone and dialed 911.

      It was about 10 Mexican guys, and 2 black guys going at it.  The black guys had size, the Mexican guys had numbers.

      The biggest Mexican guy had a build (and a haircut) like Bam Bam Bigelow.
      http://www.accelerator3359.com/Wrestling/pictures/bambam2.jpg

      It was like watching Zeus VS Bambam.  Bambam had Zeus in a choke hold, pinned up against a wall.  Zeus was telling him “PUT ME DOWN, OR IM GONNA WOOP ON YOU”  The choke pin was sort of infective, since Zeus has a good 2-3 feet in height on bambam.

      BamBams arms started to tremble as they gave way to Zeus immense frame and mass. His arms gave out, and as soon as Zeus hit the floor, his fists started wailing on BamBam like windmills.

      One of BamBam’s friends started stalking the duo as they danced in mortal combat beneath the moon lit sky. Wait.. There’s a bottle in his hand, he was slowly creeping up towards Zeus when…

      BIRDMAN COCO BEWARE JUMPS IN WITH HIS OWN BOTTLE, and smashed it in his face.

      By this time, one of the Mexican guys starts running at me.  “HEY WHAT YOU DOING RECORDING THIS WITH A DIGITAL CAMCORDER?” He was looking ready to throw a chingaso my way.  I put 911 on speakerphone and simply said, “You’re doing this on OUR property, we’ll record what we want, don’t like it, get off our property, don’t come at me being all menacing”

      “SIR THIS IS 9/11 DISPATCH, IF YOU INTERFERER WITH THIS CALLER IT IS A FELONY”

      The guy pulls his jacket over his face (think of the old Belgosi dracula films, where he pulls his cape over to hide from the sunlight)  He runs back, starts telling his crowd what’s going on, and they all start doing the Dracula hiding from the sun thing as they all scurry out of our parking lot.

      Phew…. Long windup, and now here’s the pitch Jeff.

      So sure, one guy got a bottle smashed in his face and needed an ambulance, but why did the fire department show up for a simple bar fight?  I mean, unless they’re going to turn the hoses on them (that would have been entertaining as hell… Ya… Maybe we should let the FD be a “Non lethal deterrent)

      I was on the phone, I made the call. I was very calm, clear.  I didn’t say “There’s a burning building” or “Someone is trapped in their car”

      Yet the FD rolled up with their big ass truck AFTER the police and ambulance got there.  They just stood around while AMR(I think that was the company) patched up this guys face and loaded him in the meat wagon to go off to whatever hospital he went to.

      (note, guy with bottle in face, was walking around)

      See, it’s dead on when it comes to the FD.  All this was happening right in the middle of the heated V & W campaign.  I lurked in the shadows and overheard the police officers saying, “This is why they’re going to fuck it up for us”

      Compared to the FD, getting police assistance is very very hard.  Dispatch is always hesitant to send out support, and will qualify as much as possible before doing so.  FD just seems to watch for whatever calls are going on, and just “show up”  No fire, no trapped elderly persons, no “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”  No kittens stuck in trees.

      While PLO and the council is dead on about the FD over-responding I fear them using this issue as a catalyst to really fuel the overall anti-public employee campaign that seems to rolling out against our city employees.

      Sure some departments have bad apples.  I hear of all kinds of crazy stuff that goes on (I hear one councilmember never leaves her house except for council meetings a few hours a week,(heard this from one of her neighbours sons) hardly deserving of a “full time” salary)

      That is the problem.  Not so much the department itself, but there’s a lot of city employees that were pulling that when the money was rolling in, because nobody was scrutinising it.  Some, still want to get away with it, and pointing their fingers at the PD/FD is a great way to keep themselves off the microscope.

      The FD does not help its own case (and if you guys are reading this, please take it to heart)  You get paid if you stay at the firehouse, or roll out on the truck, so just “keep a low profile” for now.  Might be too late, who knows.

  6. Councilman,

    Once you’ve successfully cut and pasted our fire department into a more efficient service please make sure to post the changes online so that your dollars/service equation can be appreciated by a grateful public…

    … and mourned over by the perhaps hundreds of San Jose families who will annually watch a loved one expire while waiting and waiting and waiting for paramedics.

    The simple truth is this: SJ Fire gets there first—by a good margin, and within that margin lies the difference between grandpa surviving or succumbing to a heart attack, or your toddler living or dying after a swimming pool accident.

    • I don’t think this council as a whole really cares if people live or die as long as services are cut. Every police officer knew exactly what was going to happen once the gang unit was disbanded last year and it didn’t sway our esteemed mayor or city council. Same thing with this issue. People are fooling themselves if they think ambulances are going to get there quickly. I have seen them take forever if it is a busy night, and if not for the fire department someone would be dead.

      • > I don’t think this council as a whole really cares if people live or die as long as services are cut.

        Observer:

        I think you are attributing to the council the motives of the Malthusian left.

        Paul Erlich (Professor of Ivory Tower Social Theories at Stanford University and author of “The Population Bomb”) preaches that there are too many people on the planet and that the really smart people need to “thin the herd”.  I.e. from perspective of Ehrlich and the wacko environmentalist/population controllers, there are too many of “them” and not enough of “us”.

        I’m sure that Ehrlich and the Sierra Clubbers are perfectly content to see the council cut services, ESPECIALLY if it causes people to die or just go away.  It’s good for the planet.

        • “I’m sure that Ehrlich and the Sierra Clubbers are perfectly content to see the council cut services, ESPECIALLY if it causes people to die or just go away.  It’s good for the planet.”

          BB, you are usually way off base but on this we can agree.  The left would prefer to see far fewer people “desecrating mother earth” and would undoubtedly love to reduce population.  Provided the “right people” are the ones left standing.

        • > BB, you are usually way off base but on this we can agree.

          That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said about me.

          I feel like a regular human being.

    • > … and mourned over by the perhaps hundreds of San Jose families who will annually watch a loved one expire while waiting and waiting and waiting for paramedics.

      BS Monitor:

      I think you’ve been monitoring BS for too long.  You have finally become infected.

      There are already too many alarmists, scam artists, con men and charlatans whipping the public into a permanent frenzy of FEAR! FEAR! FEAR!

      We don’t need you piling on as well.

      Everyone needing a paramedic will undoubtedly have to wait some amount of time.  How much is it worth to society to reduce the wait from nine minutes to seven minutes? 

      A dollar?
      A thousand dollars?
      A hundred trillion billion gazillion dollars?

      You are simply preying on the ignorant masses’ FEAR that they will DIE if they have to wait nine minutes for a paramedic, and ignoring how many other people might die if we impovershed society by spending the hundred trillion billion gazillion dollars needed to guarantee everyone a paramedic in seven minutes.

      Society’s resources are limited.

      Resources necessarily must to allocated and deployed on the basis of rational analysis.

      Screeching that “YOU’RE GOING TO DIE IF YOU DON’T DO IT MY WAY” does not foster rational analysis.

    • BS Monitor,

      For once we agree 100%!

      At both Candle Light Vigils for Victims of Violent Crime I held, citizens expressed gratitude to our Police and Fire Fighters for saving their lives, or the life of a family member/friend. I’d hate to have our next vigil be filled with citizens mourning the loss of family members or friends who couldn’t get assistance in time because an ambulance service was refused by an insurance company, or the ambulance got there too late.

      • > At both Candle Light Vigils for Victims of Violent Crime I held, citizens expressed gratitude to our Police and Fire Fighters for saving their lives, or the life of a family member/friend.

        Kathleen:

        If the cheap taxpayers had given the Police and Fire Fighters another hundred trillion billion gazillion dollars, they would have saved more lives.  Right?

        Why didn’t you support this?  Why didn’t you LEAD the movement to help save more lives? What do you have against Police and Fire Fighters saving lives?

        • The Fifth Column Of Common Sense,
          You might want to re-read my comment.  I do support Fire and Police! I don’t support getting rid of OR reducing either. Fire Fighters/Police arrive on a scene LONG before any ambulance I’ve seen!

        • The Fifth Column Of Common Sense,
          If only their jobs were that easy. And YES, I’d pay an increased tax to keep them paid a fair salary.

        • >  I do support Fire and Police! I don’t support getting rid of OR reducing either. Fire Fighters/Police arrive on a scene LONG before any ambulance I’ve seen!

          Kathleen:

          A courageous and heroic position.

          No one will ever be able to blame you if a kitten gets caught in a tree or if a wave of doughnut shop robberies sweeps the city.

          But, are you confident that the citizens can bear another hundred trillion billion gazillion dollars in taxes to pay for rescued kittens and doughnut shop security?

  7. Of course there is a cost to everything, the fire department included, we are certainly not free, but I know that we are some of the cheapest.  SJFD is by far one of the cheapest in the county. 

    An ambulance ride costs at least $1000, and many times even insured people have to foot the bill for that service.  Now, if you have a private ambulance provider responding to perform the many services that the fire department performs, it’s not going to be free and the citizens will still end up footing the bill, a bill that is going to be higher than the cost that each citizen pays for fire service per year. 

    Now it’s up the citizens, which would you rather pay for?

  8. What was the logic behind having the fire department respond to emergency calls?

    After they arrive do they actually do anything?  For example, if grandpa had a heart attack does the FD do anything other than wait for the ambulance?

    I have never needed these services so I have no idea what occurs.  Obviously, if the FD adds value then we need to continue.  Although, it might make more sense to send a pickup truck instead of a fire truck.

    • Yes the FD does more than wait for the ambulance.  They most ofen arrive first.  They have a paramedic and three EMS trained persons. They begin life saving measures.  As a reader below stated: “During a CPR case, it takes 1 person to breathe for the victim, 1 person to do chest compressions, 1 person to administer heart drugs, and 1 person to document the times and the event for legal matters.”  The ambulance arrives simply to transport and to provide ongoing care to the hospital.  It is the Fire Department that most often reaches you in the critical time window and saves the life.

    • “A little more detail please”-thank you for asking, I also encourage ANYone who wants to know what we do and how it all works, to go visit your fire station and ask for a tour or ask them questions. In answer to your question, we respond to the emergency and begin treatment of grandpa who is having a heart attack. We carry all the drugs that any emergency room would give in the first 10-20 minutes. We will shock grandpa and get his heart beat back, then we will give him medicine and put him on our machines to keep his heart beating-all of this will be done BEFORE the ambulance gets there since it will take them at least 15 minutes more to arrive. Our paramedics and crews usually have twice (if not more) the experience of the ambulance crews, who hire new paramedics out of school. Once these ambulance paramedics get experience, they usually go on to be nurses, doctors or paramedics in the fire department because working for the private, money hungry private companies burns them out. Again, please come by your community fire house for a visit so you can become more informed-you will be amazed!

    • Thank you for the responses.

      So, my next question is, wouldn’t it make more sense to have ambulances based at the firehouse, rather than these third party groups?  Individuals could still be billed for the services, but it would seem this would save money in the long run.  It would at least save on wear and tear on the fire trucks.

    • Randy: it isn’t all about you…great that you have fire insurance and don’t care if it burns down. However, most people DO care about their homes and their possessions that they can’t replace. Also, fire insurance doesn’t pay for the family member that dies in that fire. I have been on more fires than I care to remember, that people have burned and died. These are not images that will ever go away and go with me to my grave.

  9. Dear Councilman: One would expect that you would have made the effort to correct the false statements about SJFD in the grand jury report and investigate its accuracy before touting it as gospel and relying on it for your faulty conclusion regarding minimum staffing. The report lumps all agencies together, but clearly not all of their findings apply to SJFD.  For example, SJFD has the leanest department of all departments and the sparsest number of stations per square mile (1/6sq.miles vs. 1/2ish sq.miles). Thus, fewer FFs on an engine may work if there were more stations nearby like the other departments. But if the next station is 6 miles away it is hard to get the personnel there if there is an emergency needing more than just an ambulance.

    Also, minimum staffing is not just for the citizens’ protection but for best practices and safety of the FFs.  You should not malign a union for supporting its very charge—safety of its members.  Did you not read the report after the two Contra Costa FFs were killed in the line of duty?  One of the recommendations to prevent such future tragedy—four man engines not three. Yet you ignore the basic safety of your employees. Uninformed citizens should not be making decisions about safety and best practices. You will see in the report that they do not consult any of the organizations governing best practices and safety. You and the Mayor did this same thing when you asked citizens if they wanted 5 FFs on a truck instead of 4. How can a citizen provide any educated guidance on fire department safety and staffing. If it takes 5 persons to be available to vent a roof and ensure safe rescue and FFing, how would a citizen know and so of course they said they did not care if it was a 4 or 5 person truck. of course as a concession, FFs agreed to 4 person trucks but at cost that only time will reveal. 

    The report is also wrong in that it says that only 1 FF on truck or engine is traned in EMS. Actually all four FFs responding are trained in EMS—1 ALS and 3 BLS. They all have a specific job to perform on a medical call. Again, why not review the report and identify the inaccuracies so your constituents have all of the facts. I personally would prefer to pay my $143/person in SJ (as compared to 250-400/person in other cities) to ensure that if there is an emergency there are the appropriate number of people there to assist me in a timely manner. For example, if I were overweight, I would not want just an ambulance coming for chest pains as they could not get me on a stretcher and down the stairs safely. But if that is all that showed up, I would then have to wait 8 more minutes for the FD to come and help. I’d be dead. Many times you need more than just four hands.  For $143/year, I’ll “insure” that I have the best care even if sometimes it means not everyone is needed. 

    Also, the finding of the report that the job is 23 hours of relaxation and 1 hour of work is absurd for many of the SJFD stations.  Have you not spent time at Station 2?  Maybe you should try it before you support the findings instead of blindly ensuring their accuracy. 

    The absurdity of the report is also found in the proposal (and which is the only one you propose to adopt) to have higher staffing at times when an emergency is more likely to occur. How can a fire chief ensure that just because 2pm on Tuesdays are generally slow and he staffs the department with less people that an earthquake won’t hit, or a fire won’t break out, or a medical emergency requiring more than an ambulance won’t occur. Then the hurting citizen or burning building has to wait 8 more minutes for personnel to come from 6 miles away (and that is only if that station is not on another call). The whole idea of emergency response is that emergencies are unexpected and not predictable. All SJ citizens should want to ensure that the City is prepared at all times—not just those times an emergency might occur.

    If there are specific efficiencies that can be incorporated without risking the public and FF safety then those should be specifically identified. But staffing based on predictions of emergencies is absurd.

    Finally, the generalizations and maligning of persons dedicated to helping the public in their worst times of need are not helpful. The rhetoric does not solve anything. By not identifying the useless and false rhetoric in the report you are supporting it. SJ should expect more diligence,and accuracy from its council members.

  10. It is probably too much to expect that SJI comments actually address blog topic – Civil Grand Jury Report rather than resort to personal attacks, name calling, and scare tactics ( grandpa, toddler, home burn down etc ) when all other fire department are faster, 3 per truck, use smaller 2 person EMS vehicles and are less expensive

    San Jose should implementing 65 miles housing limit for firefighters so that they can respond in any emergency to city If they don’t like 50 miles then go find a job closer to home because 1000’s fire fighters want to work for San Jose and affordable housing is within 65 miles ( SJ to Tracy 62 miles and Salinas 60 miles )

    San Jose firefighters union has used political pressure so highly trained expensive firefighters on expensive fire trucks respond rather than less costly EMTs on smaller 2 person vehicles

    Firefighters union has fought using city owned smaller 2 person EMS vehicles to respond to EMS calls for years costing taxpayers unnecessary millions

    SJPD and AMR fight each other and any changes to improve system or reduce costs because both benefit financially.  AMR has very high profits for slow EMS response rates and SJFD has very high pay, pensions and inflexible staffing rules   Neither are good EMS solution

    If fightfighers union for years has been MOST of PROBLEM by delayed, fighting ANY changes and HAS NOT told Council how to come up with better, faster, less costly EMS solution since would reduce their pay, overtime, sick / vacation payout and pensions

    FD has for years used Fight and Delay any proposed Fire Department changes

    Council should in next 6 months develop better less costly Fire / EMS system as Civil Grand Jury recommends

  11. Finally you have a reasonable thought and approach to this problem.  The truth is FIRE is always first on scene, along with Police.
        I find it amusing that P.O. hasn’t used his influence with the grand jury to determine the safety of the city with Police Staffing.  For years everytime the city brought in an independent auditor for the Police Department they were told (CITY) your way under staffed.  So P.O. what are you going to do with the POLICE?  When the Jury comes back in with a need for 2,400 officers. Will you be standing tall and demand public safety for the people?  Truth is you will be a pick and choose and ignore the facts.  Who cares people will say.. Unless their lives or property are in imment danger.  Dial 911 is different than calling a roofing contractor for a leaky roof.

  12. Pierluigi,
    You had a bad fire at a school in your neighborhood last year. I’d like to know how you personally felt about the way both the SJPD and the SJFD handled it. I’d also like you to attend this meeting to hear how citizens feel about how illegal fireworks are affecting their neighborhoods. It’s easy to sit behind a desk and cast stones and solutions, but it’s another thing to listen to citizens who are grateful to Fire Fighters who have saved their life, a family member’s life, or a neighbor’s life.

    Also, many insurance companies either won’t cover ambulance service, or make you jump through hoops while you are waiting for them to approve one. I know this first hand because Carl’s Mother died while waiting for such an approval. So are you saying, money is more important than a life? 

    Meeting invitation:

    The 4th of July is almost here. Due to a large volume of complaints about illegal fireworks resulting in fires, and citizen concerns about the San Jose Police Department’s response to calls from the public reporting illegal fireworks:
     
    The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Association of
    Santa Clara Valley and
    Co-Sponsor San José Council Member Kansen Chu
    would like to invite you to our next community meeting on:

    Firework Safety & Informational Community Forum
    Presenters:

    Chief of Police Chris Moore San José Police Department
    &
    Captain Mary Gutierrez San José Fire Department

    Wednesday, June 29, 2011
    San José City Hall in the Council Chambers
    200 East Santa Clara Street, San José, CA 95113
    6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

    Parking tickets will be validated at the meeting, so please bring them with you.

    Come and learn from the experts about how we as a community can work with both the Fire and Police Department to keep our City a safer place, and what to do in case of a fire.

    For more information please contact Kathleen Flynn at [email protected], or call 408-861-5323.

    I hope to see you there Councilmember, and I hope you send this flier out to your District, so they can educate themselves on what to do since our Fire and Police Departments are being cut.

    SJI readers, I hope you’ll join us because NO ONE is immune to getting injured or dying in a fire.

  13. Fifth Column,

    Your call for a strictly rational, albeit cold, approach to the allocation of resources is betrayed by your analysis and hyperbole. Is there is any rational explanation for your equating my genuine concern, one validated by decades of evidence, with the work of “alarmists, scam artists, con men and charlatans?” I think not. Did my post contain even a hint of evidence of “screeching?” Of course not. Is your post more about assailing me and defending someone else than it is about the subject at hand? It sure looks like it.

    The level of fire service that I and tens of thousands of other citizens have appreciated over the years, one that is now being portrayed at excessive and wasteful, has in decades past never once put the city budget at risk. It was fire service at a level the public expected, as evidenced by the universal (and expensive) adoption of the 9-1-1 emergency system—a system packaged and sold to the public as a critical component of a life-saving service in which life and death is measured in seconds and minutes.

    But now you and the councilman are saying seconds and minutes don’t matter. Well, maybe they don’t when posting on a blog, and maybe, for Mr. Oliverio, they don’t when its all about dollars and cents, but believe me, those minutes and seconds are going to matter to Mr. Oliverio when the media jumps on the first compelling story of a life not saved, when his political career gets buried along with that of a dead “beneficiary” of his cost-cutting measures.

    A city that can provide land for a baseball billionaire, afford upgrades for its public buildings, and continue to subsidize the celebration of a foreign culture, shouldn’t be adding minutes to the delivery of lifesaving services to its citizens.

    • I do find it amusing that PLO and others are now discounting response times as a measure of needed staffing for public safety.  For years the city council has routinely asked the Chiefs of Police and Fire to keep them advised of response times.  In fact, one of the reasons a lot of money has been budgeted for the computer aided dispatch system was to insure that when the public calls for help, public safety arrives as quick as possible.  Locally, county-wide, and state-wide response times are considered critical in every aspect of police and fire staffing, policies, procedures, and budgeting.  Now all of a sudden it is in vogue to decide that money is more important than saving lives?

  14. San Jose actually has far fewer firefighters/capita compared to surrounding cities.  Yes, we do have 4 firefighters per apparatus, but we have far fewer stations per square mile.  That is one reason we staff with 4 people.

    • Exactly right. The statistics attached to the grand jury report reveal that all the agencies to which SJFD is compared have stations within a mile or two of each other which allows them to be more leanly staffed on each piece of equipment.  If SJFD builds more stations and staffs them, then maybe reducing staffing might be appropriate to discuss.

    • The local jails have their own trained fire response teams.  They do the job until the real Fire Fighters show up!  When thing are on fire you really don’t care who pays for what.  My best guess is that the taxpayers pay for the police and fire response.

  15. I would like the Grand Jury do a validation of the Police department.  EVERYTIME the city has sent an auditor EVERY finding has stated WAY UNDER STAFFED!  P.O. will you be beating the drum for more police.  Of course not.  You just pick and choose.  Anything to attack the public safety of the city is your destiny.  Sorry I feel if I dial 911 I want all the resources they can send.  The most valuable possession we have is our lives.  The lives of all.  No price tag.  911 isn’t used for a leaky faucet, a leaky roof power out etc.

  16. PLO, I understand much of what you are saying and some of it makes sense.  We should always be re-evaluating our service models and use best practices where it can be proven that policies and procedures are outdated.  However, there is a dangerous premise hidden within your proposals.  As mentioned by others, much of public safety is simply an insurance policy.  Statistically, if you leave your door unlocked at night you will probably go for months, perhaps years, without being burglarized or worse.  Nevertheless, most people lock up at night to decrease the odds of it happening.

    In fact, knowing that sooner or later the odds are somebody will attempt to break into a person’s home, many people not only lock their doors but invest in camera systems, a good fence, perhaps even a firearm.  Will they ever use it?  Many times no, but sometimes yes.  And those that are prepared usually fare better than those that are not.  Having good staffing at the FD and the PD, even during slow times, is really no different.

    I remember reading Chief Figone’s staffing audit and seeing the absurd recommendations by bean counters when it came to police staffing models.  They actually based the shift times and personnel count solely on reported crimes and free patrol time.  As a result, they came up with this ridiculous plan to have 8 or more shift start times.  They completely discounted span of supervision, sick call ins and vacation, the need to provide scheduled training, the value of briefings for dissemination of information and training, which districts and beats would have officers in them and when, and last and most important, the occurrence of major events.

    Right now the PD has a serious problem just getting enough people to staff a patrol watch with sick call ins, people of on training, vacations, disabilities, etc.  With multiple start times and minimal staffing during certain hours of the day, it is possible that should a major event occur like a multiple homicide, major fire, giant demonstration, etc. the police would be so overwhelmed that they would have to stage somewhere else and not even respond until other agencies could contribute to the staffing.  No PD is going to send in too few officers into a dangerous situation.  While officers recognize the inherent danger of their jobs they aren’t going to foolishly throw themselves into a losing battle.

    The fire department is in the same boat.  Yes, there can be improvement and reducing the amount of fire personnel on medical only calls should be looked at as a possibility.  But, when it comes to having staff available you are playing a dangerous game of roulette gambling that in the event of a large scale call out the city could muster up enough people to handle it.  Any cost savings now might be lost in lawsuits against the city to the tune of millions of collars.  San Jose is self-insured and paying out a multi-million dollar lawsuit because there were no cops or firefighters to respond doesn’t seem wise to me.

    I say keep looking at ways to cut costs and use better methods but be wary of gambling on scheduling models that shift personnel around leaving gaping holes in coverage.  Sooner or later Murphy’s Law says that the fecal matter will impact the oscillating metal wind generator and it will land on the city, no doubt.

  17. EMS (Emergency Medical Response), Its just one of those things that you don’t want to contract out to the low bidder.

    Now if you want to buy an amublance for every fire station and staff it with 2 paramedics then have at it but that model will cost you in rolling stock.

    What will you pay your medics? Again not something you want to go low bid on.

  18. Geez Pier, Once again your bias shines bright.

    If you will simply do your research (which you won’t) you’ll note that other fire departments have 3 on the Engines because they have more fire stations per square mile….. Additionally, you state the fire chief should have more discretion in staffing requirements…  He does, The chief of SJFD has stated numerous times that he is a propionate of 4 person staffing in San Jose due to the call volume that we experience here.  (85,000 calls for service last year)

    But, I suspect that you already knew that but simply chose to omit that little factoid. 

    Again, your “watchdog group” which sits in yours and Debra’s pocket did little to interview any firefighters or union officials for this report.  I challenge you to come on out and ride along at one of the downtown or Eastside firehouses to see if there is ” 23 hours of sitting around for one hour of work”.  I think you will find it is the other way around.

    Lastly, your statement of “Each extra staffing position on a fire engine equals three police officers” is misleading…. On the city’s own website it shows the cost of firefighters to be roughly the same as police…. Not 3 times as much (again, not the whole truth) 

    Thanks for putting all that energy into not having fire respond to the Jail though, that sure was a positive outcome and noting that nothing has changed a COMPLETE waist of time.  I guess you should have paid more attention to the spending habits of the city and maybe we would be in this “Fiscal Emergency”.

  19. PO why didn’t you compare SJ to Santa Clara City? They have 3 person Companies? Could it be because they have 2.55 firefighters per 1000 capita? SJ has 0.6 going to 0.5 firefighters per 1000. To match Santa Clara City’s staffing, San Jose needs to have over 100 Firestations or build about 70 more fire stations! Lets do that then reduce out staffing to 3.
    As for reducing the staffing at night during slower times, everyone but you knows that the deadliest and the biggest fires happen at night when they grow undetected! During a CPR case, it takes 1 person to breathe for the victim, 1 person to do chest compressions, 1 person to administer heart drugs, and 1 person to document the times and the event for legal matters. If SJ goes to a 3 person team, pick which 1 person job you eliminate! You can’t because every person has an important job. Keep rolling the dice and sooner or later death and destruction will be greeting you and your family. What a disgrace. No wonder why no one wants to live in this City! It’s full of fools!

  20. to sit behind desks and dream up stuff when they have no idea how things really work. Makes them look like they are actually working, or something, so they have to continually come up with dumb ideas.

  21. Okay if Pier want to continue to compare SJFD to other county fire departments than lets compare the number of council members we have as compared to other county cities;

    San Jose 11 council members
    County Avg. 5.5 per city

    Let start lowering staffing there since comparing and wanting to be like the other cities seems to be the thing to do.
     
    The difference in the council comparison and the fire department comparison is our council has the highest staffing level and the fire department is the lowest…interesting.

  22. Have you ever been to mexico? Try calling 911 there. You will wait forever to receive medical attention from the ambulance. Have you ever had to work up a full arrest with only 2 people? Not going to work so well. Why do you think when you see a trauma PT on a tv series have a ton of doctors and nurses helping out. Take a ride along with one of the busy engines in SJFD and see the crap they see everyday. Then you will appreciate them when you finally call 911. Just because you don’t use them it’s a matter of when not ‘‘IF”!

  23. Councilmember Oliverio,

    I’m open to hearing more. But “4 vs 3” doesn’t make much sense to me either way. So lets set aside the issue of firefighters per apparatus.

    How many firefighters have you determined should be on duty at any point in time for the City of San Jose?

    Whether they are 6 firefighters in 100’ ladder trucks or 1 firefighter in a golf cart with a fire extinguisher. Any of those could be right in a given situation.

    But I’d be interested to know what you have determined the correct total number on duty daily for this city would be correct, and any type of analysis or studies that support your conclusion.

  24. # per Apparatus   X # of Apparatus = Fire Coverage

    The Grand Jury relied on the LAFCO report. If I use that same data…

    These “3 person” engine cities thoroughly cover their cities with engines. Palo Alto has one engine every 9,700 residents with one engine covering 2.9 square miles. Santa Clara has one engine every 11,470 residents with each engine covering 1.93 square miles.

    San Jose has one engine every 30,500 residents, with each engine covering 6.03 square miles.

    If you want to use their model to justify 3 person engines, then you MUST use their model to determine the total number of engines to place in service.

  25. So the Grand Jury says…

    San Jose went to 320 structure fires last year, out of 70,892 total calls? While Mountain View went to 1,109 fires out of 7,749 total calls? So three times as many houses and businesses burned in Mountain View as did in the entire city of San Jose?

    According to the report, there were only 1,949 structure fires in the entire county… and Mountain View had 1,109 of them. 57% of fires in the entire county happened in Mountain View?!

    This report is a joke.

  26. Did everyone miss the cost info in the same Grand Jury report? Here is the Cost Per Resident to provide fire services (Table #1, Page #2).

    Los Altos Hills         $871
    Palo Alto         $419
    Saratoga Fire District   $375
    Santa Clara         $289
    Mountain View         $278
    CCFD               $275
    SCFD               $240
    Milpitas         $213
    Sunnyvale         $178
    Los Altos         $177
    San Jose (city pop)    $162
    Campbell         $160
    Gilroy               $156
    SAN JOSE (served pop)  $148 <<——
    Morgan Hill         $143

    *The report states SJFD is $162/resident, then tucks away later on page 25 that San Jose Fire Department serves many than just the city itself… through paid Auto Aid agreements. The population served by SJFD is 1,037,567. The correct cost per resident is $148.

    • After further investigation, i found out that Morgan Hill city pays 143. per resident is not true. The author of this statement forgot to include Cal-Fire which provides half of the fire protection for Morgan Hill,Which means, “San Jose is the lowest cost at $148.00 per resident. Thanks a lot Council! What an embarrassment!

      • There is an economy of scale when you serve larger populations so you expect the numbers to be smaller for large metropolitan cities.  Even when you look at staffing numbers per thousand, metorpolitan cites average about .90 FF’s per thousand while smaller departments average over 1.3 or so.  The fact is there are more efficirent ways to repond to some of the more minor medical emergencies and increase the avialblity of Fire Engines for the more significant medcial calls and Fires.

        • I agree with your premise. So comparing San Jose to, say, Gilroy is a joke of a comparison. That is but one reason why this whole report is completely ridiculous. It should have started with a comparison of San Jose to comparable cities and looked for best practices.

          Following your appropriate logic, let’s compare San Jose (the 10th largest City) to the top TWENTY-FIVE cities in the US. Where does my city rank?

          Dead LAST in spending (or cost) per resident on fire services. Dead LAST in firefighters per resident. Dead LAST in firefighters per mile. Less than cities half our size.

          The fact is, San Jose has significantly under-served its residents by investing far too little in fire services (or Police, or EMS, or other core city services) and far too much in unimportant frivolities.

          There are more efficient ways to send respond to EMS calls. Let’s explore those. Put Paramedics on golf carts for all I care. But a city of 1,037,000 people is WAY under-served by a paltry 150 firefighters on duty every day. Whether as a percent of city budget spent on fire services, or as a dollar amount per resident, San Jose ranks last and puts its money into “do nice” projects to win political favor rather than serving its residents.

          We all knew this was going south when the City Council set the priorities as “everyone takes a 10% cut”. That is absolutely not any kind of priority setting. Cutting everything equally is abdicating responsibility and preserving areas that should be cut to $0 in the midst of this budget situation.

  27. The Civil Grand Jury says that THE ONLY research they did to make these incredible conclusions and recommendations is:

    1) Interview the fire chiefs;
    2) Read the county LAFCO report;

    No independent consultants. No industry experts. No review of CalOSHA laws. No outside analysis. No independent data collection. No surveys. No ride-alongs. No station visits. No district familiarization. No review of protocols. No review of industry standards. No interview of the ambulance county provider. No input from departments outside of the area. No interview with county EMS. No review of prior Santa Clara LAFCO reports. No review of other county LAFCO reports. No review of ISO standards. No evaluation of alternate deployment models used in other parts of the countries. No research into the huge failures experienced when other cities tried identical recommendations.

    Really?

  28. The DEMANDING requirements to sit on the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury…

    Be a citizen of the United States of the age of 18 years or older who shall have been a resident of the county for one year immediately before being sworn. Be in possession of his or her natural faculties, or ordinary intelligence, of sound judgment and of fair character. Possess sufficient knowledge of the English language. Desirable qualifications for a grand juror include the following: Open-mindedness, with concern for the views of others. Ability to work with others. Genuine interest in community affairs. Investigative skills and an ability to write reports.

    That’s right… 18, a resident and “BE IN POSSESSION OF HIS OR HER NATURAL FACULTIES”. Would you qualify?

  29. Who exactly are the people on the Grand Jury? What qualifications do they have to investigate and make comments on proper procedure and what it takes to abate an emergency? Everyone seems to hold a Grand Jury report as this in depth study and professional opinion about an issue but in this case I really have to wonder what makes them qualified to comment. If they are just the average citizen picked for a Jury then this is crazy. Would you hire a bunch of average citizens to evaluate Google or Apple’s operations and then actually try to use that to make the company better? I guess not. So then why is this ok to have people that have no in depth knowledge in an area who simply interviewed some people and made a report. DId they ever go on any calls to see what really happens or what it takes to run an EMS call?
    This whole report is so biased and filled with inaccuracies that it is essentially useless.
    Pier, since you are using the report as gospel then you must have noticed that the SJFD is 2nd from the bottom for staffing per capita and our cost is almost the lowest in the County so I would say we are very efficient.
    For people that think you can run an EMS call with just an ambulance, you obviously have never been on many calls. Are there a few that you could do this, sure, a few but certainly not most. The problem is you never really know what you are walking into. We get a report of an unconscious person and find a shooting victim, we are told the pt is having trouble breathing and we have a domestic violence issue when we arrive, we are told a car is on fire and we find a whole house fire, etc, etc. You really do not understand the over simplistic views that you and others have because you do not do the job, you just sit back and sharp shoot things you really are not an expert in commenting on. That is what makes you and others like you so dangerous is that you do not understand what you are doing and the ramifications of your decisions.

    • Pier, pier, pier-it was just a matter of time before you attacked us again(I guess you are done attacking the police for a while). This article is similar to ones you have posted in the past. How can you report on half-truths. You already know that you are NOT comparing apples with apples and oranges with oranges. How many times have you been informed (but I think you already REALLY know) that other city fire departments have more stations and MORE fire fighters per capita that we do here in SJ. You already know, that the tax payers pay MORE than they do here in SJ for those services. And you already know, how many calls we have and how we are stretched to the maximum-I just hope with the brown outs that are scheduled to begin in July, that we don’t break and end up losing our brothers and sisters like contra costa county and San Francisco. We talk about safety for our citizens but what about our safety as well? We can’t save anyone if we become victims ourselves.

    • So in a democracy, we believe that the average citizen is indeed capable of reason and good judgement.  That’s why we have jury trials and popular elections. 

      Fascist Systems, Monarchies, and some other systems believe that the people are stupid and helpless and must be led by an elite who are superior (by breeding, education etc.)  It’s funny because the folks in power always assume they are the smartest ones around and everyone else is stupid.

      We have tendencies towards this in our society where we tend to buy bull-shit from well-credentialed fools but at the end of the day, its still a democracy and it doesn’t matter how rich your daddy is or which Ivy League schools you went to, the people are the bosses and can vote you out of office.

      There is nothing wrong with a grand jury system that has some ordinary folks spend some time looking over the shoulders of the “experts.”  Sometimes a little debate and attention from outside the little closed loop of policy experts, unions leaders, politicians and lawyers and the rest can force a second look at not just how we do things but also why.

      Don’t like having someone not on the payroll looking at and raising questions?

      • Scrutiny by every day taxpayers is a good thing.  We should be watching our government officials very closely, especially as they spend our money. On the other hand, we as citizens should recognize where our expertise lies, and where we are completely in the dark.  I wouldn’t presume to demand to stay awake during an operation so I could instruct my surgeon on what to do.  I should have the right to scrutinize his credentials before hand and do my homework before I write a check.  But once I have placed my trust in his abilities, I don’t see the benefit of then trying to second guess his every action during the operation.  If I have done the proper homework, the results will speak for themselves.  But, as you say, the public has a propensity to buy BS from slick politicians.  Hell, look at the White House….

  30. Pierluigi,

    Once again I’m heartened to know that We The People have at least one person representing our interests. So on behalf of the few of us who are able to recognize the wisdom of your proposals and on behalf of the many others who are blinded by personal self-interest and are no longer able to discern common sense, I thank you.

    One of the common tactics that unions use in order to boost their own pay and benefits is to use their political clout to get lawmakers to legislate elevated ‘minimum staffing requirements’. We routinely see DiSalvo arguing for smaller class sizes hence more teachers. We’ve seen the nurses union lobby Sacramento for laws dictating higher staffing levels in hospitals. This sort of legislation creates a government assisted automatic shortage which is exactly what the union wants.

    Unions, with the assistance of the politicians they help place in office, deliberately create an artificial demand for their services not solely because of a desire to provide superior service to the public, but mainly to give themselves increased leverage at the bargaining table which then naturally translates to higher wages and benefits.
    After all, as I’ve been schooled many times here by you unionistas- ‘unions exist for one reason and one reason only- To fight for better compensation and workplace conditions for their members.’

    In this local, immediate instance, it’s pretty clear that the cost/benefit equation of keeping the union recommended 5 man trucks is grossly weighted on the side of the firefighters’ financial interests with practically no increased benefit to the public interest. 

    Is this ‘bashing’ firefighters? Is there any level of criticism allowed by members of the public? Or are we all expected to just pay them whatever they want and as one of my fans keeps telling me, “just STFU”.

    • You sound like you want to be in the know, but your facts are wrong. SFJD already agreed to have 4 person trucks instead of 5. This is true despite best practices saying it is not as safe both for the firefighter and public. Interestingly you show your true colors when you only focus on the alleged and unsupported claim of nominal increased public benefit without regard for the safety of the FFs. Shouldn’t the safety of the FFs come into play too? Moreover, minimum staffing of public safety cannot be compared to that of other jobs—such as teachers as you do—because safety is not at issue in other professions.

      You also ignore the fact that SJFD has fewer fire stations (1/6sq. mile vs. 1/2sq mile) of other agencies.  Thus, other agencies can afford more leanly staffed engines and trucks because there are other FFs to provide support close by.

      Finally, why attack the unions. They are doing what they are designed to do—fight for safe working conditions (which necessarily means maintaining safe staffing levels) and benefits/pay.

      • You’re right. 4 FFs per truck is what I meant.
        Last week Mrs. Galt and I witnessed an unusual accident, called 911, and stood by to assist if needed. The ambulance came first, then about 5 minutes later came the fire truck which was a huge long affair with 5 SJFD guys who stood around for about 20 minutes, laughing and joking then rudely and arrogantly dismissing my wife’s inquiries as to the baffling details of the incident before they piled back into their truck and drove away. So my mind mistakenly jumped to my recent 5 FF real world experience rather than accurately processing the 4 FF stuff I’m reading here and in the papers.
        Sorry. My bad.
        Other than that, I stand behind my criticism of the unions. WHY ‘attack’ the unions? Just reread what I wrote. I think they naturally abuse their political power. And besides that, it’s evident that their existence creates an atmosphere of divided loyalties among the employees and fosters grumbling and discontent. Grumbling and discontent leveled ultimately against their employer- me. The existence of unions promotes a destructive ‘us vs. them’ mentality that, despite the earnest and angry claims of members, is NOT in the public’s best interest.
        And if preserving your own safety is of such overriding importance then perhaps you’d be suited to another line of work.

        • Maybe I should make up a story about how I saw a small handful of firefighters who nearly died and couldn’t deliver needed services due to short staffing to support the other side of the argument.  Bottom line, you don’t like unions and will twist every fact to support your preconceived notions about those evil unions.  Your opinion is set in stone and no amount of actual facts are going to change it.

        • “So on behalf of the few of us who are able to recognize the wisdom of your proposals and on behalf of the many others who are blinded by personal self-interest and are no longer able to discern common sense, I thank you.”

          Right…. ??? No blinded personal self interest…. Looks like Mr. Galt got an earful by his boss Mrs. Galt and immediately turned off his Self Interest and activated his common sense…. Mr. Galt, Here is the INDEPENDENT report on fire department staffing and why the levels should be what they are…

          Happy reading and hopefully Mrs. Galt was able to get her questions answered about the “baffling details” as to why cars crash….

          http://www.nist.gov/customcf/get_pdf.cfm?pub_id=904607

          http://www.iaff.org/et/modules/1710/index.htm

        • It was about a week ago.
          NW corner of Capitol/Almaden interchange.
          Parking lot of Century 21 real estate office.
          My guess is the Pearl Avenue firehouse was the nearest one.
          A BMW slammed into a parked SUV. It looked deliberate to us and the driver just sat stunned and/or high behind the deployed airbag as the engine continued to run. When the ambulance showed up the driver fled on foot. The reaction of the owner of the parked car seemed all wrong so it really seemed there was more going on here than a simple traffic accident.
          The firetruck that showed up looked just like the one pictured at the top of this article. My memory could be wrong, but I believe there were 5 guys- 4 in the cab and 1 driving the back of the truck. Maybe one of you fireguys can confirm whether these trucks carry a crew of 5. I’m happily willing to admit if I was wrong on this point.
          But I’m quite certain of my story regarding the demeanor of the firefighters when Mrs. Galt, despite my warnings to her of the sort of reception she’d likely receive, had the temerity to walk over and address their Holy Presences.

          As concerned citizens we’d like to keep tabs on what’s going on in our community and educate ourselves on how our public safety reacts and responds. Here was a real world ‘teachable moment’- an ideal opportunity for public official and private citizen to communicate and form a meaningful connection.
          But of course, rather than sharing with Mrs. Galt what they’d learned about the incident, they adopted that imperious, stingy with information, you’re just a lowly citizen and we’re not going to talk to you attitude, quickly started retreating to the cozy cameraderie of the cab of their truck, and got away from the oh so threatening 110 lb. Mrs. Galt just a fast as they could.

          I don’t have to make up stories. And all you have to do is open your eyes. When you finally do take off the blinders, you’ll be amazed at the amount of lazy and rude behavior exhibited by our well paid city employees.
          As Yogi Berra put it, “You can observe a lot by watching.”

  31. Who exactly are the people on the Grand Jury? What qualifications do they have to investigate and make comments on proper procedure and what it takes to abate an emergency? Everyone seems to hold a Grand Jury report as this in depth study and professional opinion about an issue but in this case I really have to wonder what makes them qualified to comment. If they are just the average citizen picked for a Jury then this is crazy. Would you hire a bunch of average citizens to evaluate Google or Apple’s operations and then actually try to use that to make the company better? I guess not. So then why is this ok to have people that have no in depth knowledge in an area who simply interviewed some people and made a report. DId they ever go on any calls to see what really happens or what it takes to run an EMS call?
    This whole report is so biased and filled with inaccuracies that it is essentially useless.
    Pier, since you are using the report as gospel then you must have noticed that the SJFD is 2nd from the bottom for staffing per capita and our cost is almost the lowest in the County so I would say we are very efficient.
    For people that think you can run an EMS call with just an ambulance, you obviously have never been on many calls. Are there a few that you could do this, sure, a few but certainly not most. The problem is you never really know what you are walking into. We get a report of an unconscious person and find a shooting victim, we are told the pt is having trouble breathing and we have a domestic violence issue when we arrive, we are told a car is on fire and we find a whole house fire, etc, etc. You really do not understand the over simplistic views that you and others have because you do not do the job, you just sit back and sharp shoot things you really are not an expert in commenting on. That is what makes you and others like you so dangerous is that you do not understand what you are doing and the ramifications of your decisions.

  32. I actually like having fast first responders, but don’t like the racket with the private ambulance company showing up later and billing the heck out of the insurance for a transport.

    Ambulance contract and system stinks as bad as garbage contracts and cable tv franchise deals.  Let’s change the state law and fix the problem. 
    Does anyone know an Assemblymember or State Senator willing to champion some reform to benefit local communities?

    I’d also “buy-in” to having city fire / county fire ambulance service created with some cost recovery built in.  A bad thing, however, would be to make people scared to call for emergency services because of the bills after service.  We already pay taxes for basic services…but the private ambulance companies have such a good racket I’d like to put them out of business and take some of that revenue for the fire department.

    Worth having a thoughtful discussion about.  Could we have a South Bay round-table to examine ideas, best practices and obstacles?

    • Good luck changing the system-the county EMS holds all the decision making. When our paramedic system in the FD first came into being, we purchased several ambulances/rescues, with the hope that someday we would be able to provide the citizens with transportation-quicker and cheaper than the private company. However, we have all kinds of rules from the county handcuffing us. We respond to the emergency scene with these expensive ambulances and are told that we CANNOT transport the patient UNLESS they are life threatening. One example, years ago we responded to a football player with a broken leg but had to sit on scene and WAIT for the private ambulance to get there for the transport. The family was rightfully super angry but we had been forbidden to transport.  Frustrating to say the least for us and bad for the patient who had to lay there in pain. Frustrating as well is that we do all the work-responding, treatment and lifting of the patient and the private ambulance sends you the bill for everything that WE did as well as what they did while enroute. Now the county approved a new contract with a new company. Great idea for us to do the treatment and transport but will be an act of God to get it to happen.

  33. Council members: Answer this; Why is the Fire Department response time set at 8 minutes 80% of the time? In San Francisco they set it at 4 minutes 90% of the time? You know that if you stop breathing you are brain dead in 4 minutes or so. Also Fires multiply themselves 9 times every minute. Do a study on how many SJ residents have died (medical and fires)because YOU set the standard at a stupid time that saves no one! Are YOU afraid to find out? Will it be embarrassing and concerning? DO it! I dare you! Lets see how much YOU do care about us residents!

  34. US News World Reports had stroke comparison study a few years ago and San Jose was worst than Oakland and San Francisco and many other US large cities on stroke survival rates primarily due to
    1) less residents knowing CPR and
    2) slow response rates to start CPR becasue of shortage firefighters, less stations per population and greater distance between stations than most other large and small cities

    If you survived delay and got to hospital Santa Clara County had a very high survival rate due to great after stroke hospital care

    SJ Resident makes a good point the difference between SF / Oakland response rates is huge and San Jose sloooow response rate AVERAGE – 8 minutes at 80% average with many parts of city 8 1/2,  9,  9 1/2 or 10 minutes depending on distance from the fire station is responding to you not always your nearest station

    If you are in high rise building add 2-4 more minutes since response time is measured to curb not to injured person – again many die unless volunteer gives CPR until Fire or AMR arrived

    If you are at risk for strokes or major medical emergencies better
    1) have family, co workers and friends trained with on-hand medical equipment ( breathing tube, oxygen and automatic defibrillators, ) to keep you alive until SJ Fire or AMR get to you
    2) live or work near ( less 1 mile ) from fire station

    What happened to Stroke CPR classes that Fire Department was giving neighborhood associations and community groups ? 

    Shortage of Firefighters will be with San Jose for years maybe decades and many people could be saved rather than dying unnecessarily
    1) with widespread resident CPR and medical training
    2) automatic defibrillators in businesses, stores and high risk people in homes
    3) SJ Council direct SJFD use more 2 person smaller EMS truck as first responder to improve response rates for 80% + calls rather that 4 person fire trucks or combination small and large trucks as many other cities do with faster response rates and higher survival rates

  35. I feel compelled to comment on this issue since I see no input from our perspective. Occasional professional rivalry aside, the reality is that the Fire Department almost invariably arrives first and – especially in the cases where a person needs lifesaving treatment, they are absolutely necessary. I responded to a report the other day of a person non-responsiive person down with no vital signs. The FD arrived well before the ambulance crew. The FD crew provided CPR and got workable vitals back, before AMR, and the FD rode WITH AMR in the ambulance to continue to support life-saving care.

    I think that, as with the PD (and the associated total costs of compensation and per capita staffing vs. other cities in the area) San Jose has been getting world-class service for bargain basement pricing. However, we have been on the bubble for awhile in terms of being able to continue to provide the same level of service. We now no longer rest on the bubble and have teetered to the side of decline. We are seeing that with the rising crime rates and with the monthly fines levied against the FD for various staffing-related violations.

    Unfortunately, Mayor Reed and others have been dispensing the ‘too expensive’ Kool-aid. like he was Jim Jones’ spiritual successor, leading the cult of fiscal responsibility.

    The irony here is that Mayor Reed absolutely has made choices and decisions which can only be described as hypocritical, backing of Larry Pegram (as Jim Unland once pointed out) being least among them. The reality is that, regardless of how anyone feels about the ‘total cost of compensation’ safety and Reed’s role in approving them, Reed has made numerous other decisions which have sewn the seeds of San JOse’s fiscal downfall and has never taken ownership or responsibility for them, or even acknowledged them. And, even in the face of all his rhetoric about needing to get costs under control, he remains firmly entrenched in his hypocrisy, making decision after decision which adversely affect San Jose’s ability to fulfill its charter obligations.

    • As a police supervisor I have routinely monitored fire calls via my MDT in the patrol car just to be aware of what is going on in my district.  I like to know if the FD is going on a call that ultimately will result in the police being called as well.  I can’t count how many times I’ve seen the FD go to a medical emergency or other call and arrive long before AMR or even a requested police response. 

      Sometimes the most innocuous call can turn into something more.  I remember one call where a male adult in his 40’s was having some kind of allergic reaction to some medications.  As fire was arriving he became delirious and attempted to hurt his loved ones, destroy his property, and was extremely violent.  Fortunately there were at least 4, perhaps 5 very well conditioned firefighters there who were able to contain him until we arrived.  We were not initially called but received the call for assistance when things went south.  I can’t imagine what would have happened if only two AMR paramedics, who may or may not have the same level of physical conditioning as a firefighter, would have been confronted with a very violent person.

      As it was, it took the FD members and three police officers to secure the person on the gurney for transport to the hospital.  The person was properly treated and had no idea what he had been doing until later.  I could tell dozens of stories like these that I’ve seen over my nearly three decades of working the streets.  There are some who will whine no matter what the circumstances but I guarantee you that when you are calling for help in an emergency, you want everybody and the kitchen sink coming to your aid.  You don’t want critical help doled in in small increments by a bean counter who is adding up costs every time a person responds or a piece of equipment is put into use.  Fiscal responsibility, yes.  Placing lives in danger due to costs, foolish.

%d bloggers like this: