I am the wife of a Philadelphia Fire Fighter. I can’t sit by anymore and let Mayor Nutter and the Fire Administration put my husband’s life on the line, not to mention the citizens of the city of Philadelphia. The Mayor and the Fire Department Administration have not been giving the proper facts to the citizens of Philadelphia!!! The reason the city doesn’t know the truth is because the media is reluctant to tell the public the facts. Please help me get the truth out about the disgraceful way our firefighters are being treated and how the Mayor and Fire Administration are dismissing our firefighters and the lives of the citizens who pay taxes and their salary.
For starters, and at this point this is the least of the problems, firefighters have been working without a contract for 3 years, no cost of living raise, NOTHING! What other work place would tolerate this. Firefighters can’t strike so they are being taken advantage of. Like I said, that is the least of the worries, but wanted to mention that. The Mayor has made cuts to this department that are killing and injuring firefighters and citizens. Their blood is on his hands. There’s a recording of Mayor Nutter bashing Mayor Street when he was mayor, yelling at him to why making cuts to the fire department would be detrimental to this city and he would fight him until the end so that Mayor Street wouldn’t make the cuts. What happened to that….. hhmmmm, Why the change of heart Mayor Nutter, already elected? The brownouts that they claim aren’t dangerous, have been the reason for many injuries and deaths in this city. I have to explain why these brownouts and closings kill people.
It’s very important for citizens to know that fire spreads drastically in minutes, but smoke kills in seconds. Smoke detectors are very important, but they don’t save lives, firefighters do! In most instances, by the time a smoke detector goes off, the smoke in your house is so thick, you can’t see your hand directly in front of your face. Not only that, but you get so disoriented in a your own home and although you think you know the make up and design of your house, and you may think you could find your way out, you’re wrong. You get confused and disoriented so quickly. I know this from experience. I had a fire in my house. I couldn’t see a thing and was very confused to which direction I was standing, let alone where a door or window was. Imagine a firefighter now, going into a stranger’s house and not know where anything is. An alarm clock wakes you up, but it doesn’t get you to work. So although smoke detectors will alarm you, they can’t rescue you. Commission Lloyd Ayers seems to think they are more important than fire fighters.
Now, tax payers need to know when there is a brownout in your neighborhood, or if your local firehouse has been closed, the chances of firefighters getting there in a reasonable time or being effective, is unlikely. There may be an Engine Co. that shows up, but no Ladder Co. or there may be a Ladder with no Engine. The reason you need both is because and Engine Co. has the water, and the Ladder Co. strategically ventilates and rescues and puts the ladders up. Also, if a Ladder Co. shows up first, they don’t have water, so although they’re there, they can’t put the fire out. An Engine Co. cannot put water on the fire without proper ventilation and all fires have different ventilation requirements that only ladder firefighters have the tools for. They could start wetting down the property, but it could kill the residents or the firefighters because proper ventilation has not taken place. There could be flashovers or back drafts. Fire spreads so quickly, it wants to kill, it’s a monster! For instance, there was a fatal fire in Tacony a few weeks ago. Engine 38, which was closed a couple years ago, would’ve been so close to that apartment, they would’ve been there in less than 2 minutes, they were located 5 blocks away. The closest firehouse now is now Engine 52 on Harbison Avenue in Wissinoming. Engine 52 is now covering Tacony, Wissinoming and Frankford because not only did the administration close Engine 38, they closed Engine 14 in Frankford. There was a death in Frankford a few weeks after the closing of Engine 14 when the brownouts were first initiated. Engine 14 was up the street from the house where there was a death. The problem is, even though Engine 52 would do their best to get there as fast as possible, there could be fire in Frankford that they’re putting out or a medical run. The next Engine Co. would have to respond, which is in Brideburg, Engine 33. Then, what if Engine 33 out on a fire or medical run. Maybe a Ladder Co. could be there quickly, but they have NO WATER, they rescue and ventilate, but have no water. An Engine needs a Ladder, A Ladder needs an Engine….they need each other. In the meantime, while one is waiting for the other, the residents, who pay taxes for properly working fire department, are burning and choking and trying to find their way out. Are their lives worth these cuts? A huge reason properly staffing and having working fire houses where they were designed to be is so dangerous is because by the time the firefighters get there the monster has been roaring through that building making the conditions they’re working in deadly!! That’s why fires have been destroying homes, injuring and killing people more since the cuts. The fire has gotten so out of control because of the time that has lapsed. The response time might be 2 or 3 minutes, but now you understand that if it’s just a Ladder or Engine and not both together, it doesn’t matter unless they are both on site. The administration also counts the chief’s car response time and they can’t do anything without the Engine or Ladder. I also need citizens to realize that firefighters don’t only respond to fires, that’s why I mentioned medical runs. When someone has a heart attack, fall etc., and they call 911, and Engine Company is dispatched to the emergency. They work on the patient until the paramedics and ambulance gets there. Because of the cut in paramedics and ambulances, those response times are ridiculous as well. I have a friend who is a nurse and she saw a woman have a heart attack on Holme Avenue in Northeast Philly. She had to start administering CPR and said it was 20 something minutes before the ambulance arrived. When it did arrive, the citizens were yelling and screaming at them. They continued to work on this woman while being berated. I don’t blame the citizens for being upset, but it’s not the firefighters or the paramedics’ fault. The paramedics were coming from West Philly because of the understaffing of the department. Citizens should be complaining to City Hall, not the firefighters and paramedics.
I now want to talk about firefighter’s injuries. A memorandum came out a couple months ago stating that firefighters will be disciplined and transferred for facial and neck burns. The administration says that this will teach them a lesson to wear their gear properly. They claim after these injuries, the firefighter will be transferred and disciplined while they investigate if they were properly wearing their gear. First off, their gear is NOT FIREPROOF, so even if it was worn properly, it could’ve been burnt through. One other problem with this policy is, when firefighters are battling a fire, it is war, and although they may have went into the fire wearing equipment properly, things happen in battle. Perhaps they fall or were knocked over or into. Their gear could be moved or knocked off. They’re bumping into things in 1000 degree heat. Of course, the firefighters want their gear to stay on, but sometimes things happen. How can they investigate what happened in a fire they’re weren’t in. I have a friend whose glove fell off during a fire where she was trapped in a bedroom with a brother firefighter. Just so you know, her glove didn’t properly fit her because she’s a woman and the gloves are too big for women. The city stopped buying gloves with elastic on the wrists because they’re too expensive. Her glove fell off while frantically feeling for a window for her and her brother firefighter to escape from after being trapped. They were trying to save a disabled retired police officer. When has disciplining employees used as a teaching tool. Maybe they should start with training them when new gear is issued. If firefighters aren’t trained to how to properly wear gear if they’re not told. I always thought being proactive was the best policy. Maybe THEY should do their jobs properly before they start punishing firefighters for their own incompetence. Further more, now firefighters will have the fear of being transferred and punished in the back of their minds while they’re fighting the fire. In a profession such as firefighting, second guessing your attack shouldn’t be the second thought in your mind, it should be the first. Also, I’m sure the residents whose house is on fire, want the firefighters they’re depending on, to have fighting the fire the ONLY thing on their minds. If a piece of their equipment does fall off and they know there’s a child or anyone upstairs wearing only their pajamas, waiting on the firefighters to save them, should the firefighters really go outside to fix their gear before saving them? I don’t know one firefighter that would even think of doing that, even if their job IS on the line.
There is also a major racial issue in the fire department. A department that used to not see color is now obsolete. The men and women who used to be a family and work cohesively as brothers and sisters, are now strained due to the unfair practices due to racial discrimination. They actually get paranoid around each other and this makes decisions that used to be without thought, nerve wracking. THE ADMINISTRATION is to be blamed for this. There are many problems with many areas besides race in the department. There was recently a survey taken by Philadelphia firefighters and the results speak for themselves. Here are some of the results from that survey: A recently commissioned study of the Philadelphia Fire Department has been released.Read the survey results below.
A few statistics concerning senior management..
and how their policies are viewed by the rank and file:
Senior managers are the commissioner and deputy commissioners.
Strongly agree Strongly disagree
Senior managers work to eliminate barriers that make it difficult
for staff to perform their job responsibilities
11.9 % 71.4 %
Senior managers provide constructive feedback on performance.
12.5 % 70.8 %
Senior managers encourage staff to improve their performance.
20.0 % 59.6 %
The Department has effective approaches to developing new senior leaders
10.4 % 70.9 %
Race or ethnicity does not affect how staff are treated by senior managers
within the Fire Dept.
17.9% 66.8 %
Gender does not affect how staff are treated by senior managers within
the Fire Dept.
23.4% 52.1 %
Fire Dept. leaders are held accountable for the decisions they make.
15.4 % 52.5 %
Fire Dept. leaders are open to new ways of doing business
3.3 % 90.1 %
Fire Dept. leaders encourage employees to find new and better ways
3.3% 88.1 %
Department members (administration, management, supervisors,
and field staff) work well together to address issues facing the PFD
12.0 % 70.2 %
F.D. managers and supervisors are willing to consider points of
view that are different from their own
17.0 % 65.5 %
Human Resource practices
The hiring process is fair
15.4 % 70.2 %
Persons who are hired (by the PFD) are competent
15.0 % 59.1 %
The PFD hires the best available job candidates
10.9 % 74.2 %
The hiring process is timely
Hiring decisions are made without regard to race
or ethnic background.
12.4 % 73.3 %
Hiring decisions are made without regard to gender
18.7 % 60.0 %
The promotion process is fair
15.8 % 68.1%
The best candidates for promotion are selected
The promotional process is timely
15.9 % 61.3%
Promotional decisions are made without regard to race
or ethnic background
15.5% 70.4 %
Promotional decisions are made without regard to gender
18.5% 60.4 %
The factors that are considered when making promotional decisions
are clearly articulated
The discipline process is fair
Discipline is consistently administered across the FD
Discipline is consistently applied across divisions,
offices and units
Discipline is consistently applied across shifts
Decisions relating to discipline are timely
Discipline decisions are made without regard to race
or ethnic background
Discipline decisions are made without regard to gender
The grievance process is fair
The grievance process is timely
9.5 % 62.3 %
The steps in the grievance process are well articulated
16.8 % 51.9%
Surveys don’t lie! Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said on a news clip that some of these issues weren’t true in his Department. How can they not be true, Your Department were the people answering the survey!!
I also want to talk about the DROP program which was designed for Police Officers and Firefighters. It was designed to make the city money. At a certain point when police or firefighters are ready to retire, they would stop paying into their pension and start paying that same money, their own money, into the DROP account. The city would then put the firefighter’s money into an interest bearing account that had fluctuating interest rates. Police and Firefighters would receive 4% for every dollar they, themselves put into this account. The city would keep the difference percentage of the interest for themselves. The reason the DROP was losing money for the city is because it was decided that all city workers would be offered the DROP program. The problem arised when other city workers who are allowed to retire and then come back on the job with the same salary joined the Drop program. Firefighters and Police can’t retire and come back to work. The DROP also worked in favor of the city when restricted to only firefighters and police officers, because at all times, the city knew, four years in advance, how many members would be retiring. Knowing this would determine how many new recruits they would need to hire at a fraction of the retired officer or firefighter’s salary. This would also have eliminated overtime. When it was open to city council and other city workers, who are permitted to retire and come back the next day, is then and only then when it starting costing the city money. They would retire, collect their DROP money and then come back the next day with the same salary they retired with.
I have to speak up!! The citizens need the truth. They need to realize that the cuts that are necessary for our city, need to be taken from other places. When a family has money troubles they wouldn’t cut their medical insurance or there homeowner’s insurance, they would cut their cable, or the cell phones. In this city, they cut in places like the fire department, police department and schools, all of areas that affect people’s lives, but hire a poet for our city???!! Citizens, please wake up and call the Mayor, Commissioner Ayers, city council and your representatives. This all needs to change. My husband took this job because he wants to help people, it’s certainly not for the money. He made an oath to put his life on the line for people he doesn’t even know, and he loves doing it. But, when these decisions are just making the job extremely more dangerous than an already dangerous job needs to be, CHANGE NEEDS TO OCCUR. I will not bury my husband because of these horribly thought out cuts!
A Concerned Loved One ( I’m afraid to use my name because my husband WILL be punished some how for it)