RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A memo addressed to all members of Richmond’s fire and emergency services department shared the city’s contingency plan in case of a staffing shortage.
The memo, uncovered by 8News on Monday, revealed that the city’s fire stations don’t have enough personnel, at times, to meet minimum staffing requirements.
The goal of the plan is to keep Station One and others at safe staffing every day, but with retirements, employees calling out sick and others leaving for new jobs, the department decided to adopt a plan so public safety isn’t compromised.
The President of the Richmond Fire Association, Keith Andes, spoke with 8News about the staffing concerns for the city.
“What we are trying to do is fix an existing problem that has gotten worse over a period of time,” said Andes.
The memo shows the minimum daily staffing requirements of 103. If the number drops to 101, Engine One would operate with three firefighters instead of four.
“If we are cutting these companies to three, have we been trained to run with three? And that has been kind of our question,” Andes told 8News. When asked if fire stations train with three people, Andes replied: “Not that I know of.”
If staff numbers fall to 97, Engine One would be out of service.
“We now have 14 folks that are getting ready to graduate from our fire training on Friday,” Andes explained. “That will have a slight impact. And he’s looking at lateral transfers hiring up to 24 people come this month of September.”
At this moment, Richmond Fire has almost 30 vacancies. This high number equals a full battalion and has drained the overtime budget.
“That is a number in my 35 and a half year career I haven’t seen it at that level,” Andes admitted. “Yes, we have lost folks. We have had retirees.”
As the plan goes into effect, the fire department assured to 8News that the public is their priority.
The President of the Richmond Fire Association, Keith Andes, told 8News that Richmond Fire Chief Melvin Carter plans to address sick time as well as reveal a new policy on July 1.
Residents who spoke with 8News said that while they appreciate the plan, some feel it should have started sooner.