Firefighters’ 24-hour shifts get close look

In the past few years, Clark County fire­fighters have seen their reputations tarnished amid accusations of abusing sick time, and they’ve responded by using 57,000 fewer hours.

Now county officials are considering taking a look at a firefighter tradition: the 24-hour shift.

Firefighters are one of the last occupations to still work a full day without guaranteed rest, even as health care workers and truck drivers have seen restrictions on work hours.

As cities become strapped for cash, some are wondering whether it still makes fiscal sense. The fire chief in Washington, D.C., said in January his department could save tens of millions by having firefighters work more, and shorter, shifts.

In Clark County, officials are conducting an extensive study of how and where it distributes firefighter resources.

Assistant County Manager Ed Finger said the 24-hour shift pattern could be part of that study, expected to finish this year. But “it’s not immediately obvious to me how 12-hour or other shifts would be cheaper,” he said.

He might be right. Although paying someone 24 hours of overtime can be costly, it still might be cheaper than hiring more firefighters, which might be required if the shift pattern is changed.

But there might be other reasons for changing. A growing body of evidence in other industries is revealing that extended work hours could be dangerous, leading to more mistakes. For firefighters, whose responsibilities are mostly devoted to responding to medical emergencies and car crashes, extended shifts could carry significant consequences.

In Ontario, Canada, fire departments have been moving toward the 24-hour shift at the urging of collective bargaining units. But in two extensive reports, the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs urges caution before making the change.

“There are lots of unanswered questions,” said Barry Malmsten, the association’s executive director. “Can it work? Yes. … We just owe it to the public to look after them and owe it to the firefighters that they’re healthy.”

HISTORY AND COST

The origins of the 24-hour shift date back to the birth of big-city firefighting in the United States, when firehouses were filled with people who didn’t work shifts – they lived there, according to Lori Moore-Merrell, a former firefighter and assistant to the general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

But in the early 1900s, as firefighting became a profession and employees wanted more time for themselves or their families, they started working full-day shifts with full days off. That became popular with agencies across the United States. In Las Vegas, the pattern has been used as long as people can remember.

In big Northeast cities, such as Boston and New York, that are prone to large, heavy fires, the century saw a move to shorter shifts. Those cities needed fresh bodies throughout the day to battle blazes that had the potential to last for hours, Moore-Merrell said.

“When they came to work, they were running fires constantly,” she said. “There was no recuperating time at all.”

Today, an estimated 70 percent of all firefighters at agencies big and small in the United States use some variation of the 24-hour shift. Las Vegas Fire Department firefighters work every other day for six days, followed by four days off. Clark County firefighters work every other day for 10 days, followed by six days off.

Firefighters for both departments work an average of 10 days per month. While firefighters can sleep in between calls, they get no guaranteed rest time.

Las Vegas Fire Department Chief Mike Myers is often asked by the public why firefighters work full days. He said it’s partly history, partly cost-effectiveness.

“When I researched other fire departments, most of them say it’s the least expensive way to operate,” he said.

That can be true. Staffing for more, shorter shifts could require hiring more firefighters. Firefighters work a minimum of 48 hours per week and don’t become eligible for overtime until after working about 56 hours in a week.

But when they do have to fill in for someone, the overtime costs are the equivalent of working two or three shorter days. D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe claims that moving to 12-hour days could make his department more flexible, cut overtime costs, and save more than $30 million annually by 2017.

That agency is more than twice the size of the Clark County Fire Department, where overtime helped push the average county firefighters’ salary and benefits to $189,000 in 2010. Amid scrutiny, it fell to $175,000 last year. The amount the county spent on overtime and callback pay fell from $18 million in 2008 to $10 million last year.

The 24-hour shift pattern also doesn’t allow for additional staffing during peak hours.

Paramedics with both private ambulance companies – MedicWest Ambulance and American Medical Response – work for 12 hours, and the shifts are staggered throughout the day. Employees bid for their ideal shift, based on seniority.

Michael Gorman, general manager for American Medical in Las Vegas, said he allocates more ambulances during the busiest times of day, typically when people are traveling to and from work.

“We’re very, very good at forecasting approximately what the volume is going to be,” he said. “We can correlate many different spikes in the volume to time of day … to the temperature.”

Clark County Fire Department Chief Bertral Washington said that because of Las Vegas’ 24-hour nature, fire­fighters often can be busy throughout a shift. At their CityCenter station on the Strip last year, for example, exactly a third of their calls came between midnight and 8 a.m. At Station 28, one of their slower stations, in the middle of Summerlin, 21 percent of the calls came during the same period last year.

For firefighters, the vast majority of their job involves responding to car crashes and medical calls, similar to paramedics with private ambulance companies. Last year, only one in every 50 incidents Las Vegas and Clark County firefighters responded to required them fighting an open flame. The departments responded to more than 220,000 calls last year.

IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP

Dr. Dale Carrison is now the head of head of emergency and chief of staff at University Medical Center, but he got a late start in the medical field.

He was a physician-in-training in a hospital at age 51. That was 22 years ago, when 24-hour shifts – or longer – were routine for residents in emergency rooms.

One day, he cared for dozens of patients over a 24-hour span. He was so busy, and had been up for so long, that when he stopped he couldn’t drive home.

“I knew that I was exhausted, and I knew I wasn’t safe to drive home,” he said.

He slept at the hospital for a few hours, drove home, and later told his supervisors he never wanted to work like that again.

That was the last time he worked a 24-hour shift.

Today, residents can still work for 24 hours, although in most places they are limited to 80 hours of work per week, with one guaranteed day off. And there is a push to limit those hours even more, since study after study shows the inherent risks in working for long hours.

A 1997 study published in the scientific journal Nature found that people who have been awake for 24 hours had the same cognitive performance as someone with a blood alcohol content of 0.10 percent. The legal limit for alcohol today is 0.08 percent.

A 2006 Harvard study found that one in 20 resident-physicians admitted a fatigue-related mistake that resulted in a patient’s death. Another Harvard study that year found that interns working more than 20 consecutive hours were 61 percent more likely to pierce themselves with needles or scalpels, compared to interns who worked less than 12 consecutive hours.

Studies of truck drivers and airline pilots have found similar issues. But there have been few studies about how extended shifts might affect firefighters.

Perhaps nobody has looked at the issue more in depth than the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs. Most departments there have been working normal shifts until the last decade, when collective bargaining units started pushing for 24-hour rotations. The association then issued two discussion papers, in 2006 and 2011, that culled much of the peer-reviewed research on the subject.

They cited sleep studies that showed that 24-hour rotations can be beneficial to firefighters’ sleep patterns. But also that the shifts could lead to more accidents and slightly slower response times.

They concluded that more research was needed. Until then, “fire departments should not commit to changing to a 24-hour shift pattern.”

Malmsten, the association’s executive director, said he didn’t believe that firefighters were immune to the effects of sleep deprivation shown by research in other industries.

“If it applies to a doctor or intern, if it applies to truck drivers … why would it not have the same impact on fire­fighters?” he said.

SERVICE SHOULD BE FOCUS

Malmsten said his organization didn’t find a significant difference in cost between the different shift patterns, which he said could amount to merely “re­shuffling the cards in the deck.”

And that shouldn’t be the concern, anyway, he said. The focus should be on whether the public and the firefighters are adequately served by the shift pattern.

Critics have attacked overtime costs, but not the quality or response of firefighters. Washington, the county chief, said his firefighters responded to calls within 7 minutes 77 percent of the time. While that has improved over the last few years, he said he’d like it to be closer to 90 percent and is installing better notification systems in fire stations to reach that goal.

Ryan Beaman, president of Local 1908, which represents Clark County fire­fighters, said the shift pattern is popular.

“It’s never been an issue brought to the union,” Beaman said. “The firefighters for the county like it.”

Changing shifts could be a long shot for officials, considering that it would be part of collective bargaining with the firefighters union.

Neither Beaman nor Myers, the Las Vegas fire chief, say they have experienced fatigue while working for extended shifts.

Washington said his supervisors often go out on calls at all hours of a shift to observe their firefighters and can pull them off a scene if they need to.

Both he and Myers said the shift pattern remains popular.

“I don’t hear any complaints,” Washington said. “I think it’s something that has been here. It’s something that firefighters have adjusted to.”

Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at lmower@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0440.

ad-high_impact_4
News
LVMPD Arrests Suspect in Sunset Park Shooting
Captain Robert Plummer held a press conference at LVMPD headquarters Thursday to provide updates on the arrest of Anthony J. Wrobel, accused of killing a Venetian executive and wounding one other in a shooting on Sunday.
Two Black Men Arrested at Starbucks Share Their Story
Two Black Men Arrested at Starbucks Share Their Story Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson sat down with ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’ on Thursday and said the Starbucks manager called the police two minutes after they arrived. Donte Robinson, to 'Good Morning America' Donte Robinson, to 'Good Morning America' The men were meeting with a friend for a business meeting at the store’s location at around 3:45 pm on April 12 and declined to make any purchases. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson issued a public apology and vowed to fix the issue by closing 8,000 stores nationwide next month for training on unconscious bias. Both Nelson and Robinson were released without charges after spending hours in jail, and the manager is no longer with the company.
Hero Southwest Pilot Was One of the Navy’s First Female Fighter Pilots
Hero Southwest Pilot Was One of the Navy’s First Female Fighter Pilots Tammie Jo Shults is being called a hero after safely landing the crippled Southwest Flight 1380 in Philadelphia. According to a spokesperson, Shults began her Navy career in 1985 and was one of the first female pilots to “transition to tactical aircraft.” She served for another eight years before moving to the Naval Reserve, retiring completely in 2001 with the rank of Lt. Commander. The Southwest flight, which was headed for Dallas from New York, was forced to make an emergency landing after one of its engines blew. One passenger was killed in the explosion when shrapnel flew through a window. Seven others suffered minor injuries aboard the flight, which carried 149 people. Passenger Peggy Phillips, to NBC News Passenger Peggy Phillips, to NBC News
Bump stock manufacturers under fire
The Justice Department said last month that it had started the process to amend federal firearms regulations to clarify that federal law defines bump stocks as machine guns.
Artist, Community Paint Winchester Skate Park
Andrew Schoultz, a Los Angeles-based artist with an upcoming exhibit at UNLV's Barrick Museum, painted the skate park at Winchester Cultural Center on Tuesday.
Prince death investigation coming to an end
Prosecutors in Minnesota plan an announcement Thursday on the two-year investigation into Prince's death from a drug overdose Prince was 57 when he was found alone and unresponsive in an elevator at his Paisley Park estate on April 21, 2016. An autopsy found he died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl. Search warrants unsealed about a year after Prince died showed that authorities searched his home, cellphone records of associates and his email accounts to try to determine how he got the drug. The county attorney has scheduled a morning announcement at which time charges could be filed.
David Copperfield executive producer testifies during the magician's civil trial
A British tourist is suing illusionist David Copperfield saying he was injured during a trick. Chris Kenner, executive producer for illusionist David Copperfield, was on the witness stand all day Tuesday, April 17. Kenner testified that a business manager for the show talked to the man after he fell. Kenner testified that the tourist, Gavin Cox, said he was OK moments after the fall. Cox later told the crew: “Maybe I will have this looked at.” Copperfield is the next witness in line for Cox’s attorneys. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
CCSD Teacher Is a Living Organ Donor
June Monroe speaks about her kidney donation to her brother and advocacy work with the National Kidney Foundation.
Shadow Ridge High School teachers protest
Shadow Ridge High School teachers protest. Teachers are upset over many things, including the fact that the district is fighting an arbitration ruling for pay raises. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Clark County commissioners debate getting rid of Henderson, North Las Vegas constables
Clark County commissioners are debating whether to get rid of the Henderson and North Las Vegas constables after RJ's story pointing out questionable spending by the Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
1 Dead, 7 Injured After Southwest Airlines Flight Makes Emergency Landing
1 Dead, 7 Injured After Southwest Airlines Flight Makes Emergency Landing Dallas-bound Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 out of New York, which had 143 passengers and a crew of five onboard, landed in Philadelphia on Tuesday. According to NBC10, a female passenger was partially sucked out of a broken window, which was a result of the plane's engine ripping apart. It's not known if the female passenger was the one who died. Emergency personnel met the battered plane upon its landing. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the blown engine resulted in a smashed window and a damaged fuselage. Southwest Airlines The FAA said that the NTSB will lead the investigation into what happened.
Single vehicle crash kills man
A man died Tuesday morning in a single-vehicle crash in northeast Las Vegas. The crash occurred Tuesday morning on the 1900 block of Pasadena Boulevard, near Lake Mead Boulevard and Mt. Hood Street. Police had few details, but Metro's fatal detail was on the scene investigating.
Sunset Park Homicide (update 2)
LVMPD gives update about suspect in homicide at Sunset Park (Blake Apgar)
Sunset Park Homicide (update)
Update from LVMPD on Sunset Park homicide. Releasing suspect's name (Blake Apgar)
Sunset Park Homicide
Police give details about Sunset Park homicide on Sunday, April 15, 2018. (Blake Apgar)
Parents of autistic child talk about their experience waiting for care
Parents of autistic child talk about their experience waiting for care. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Donald Trump Calls Out James Comey After Book Details Emerge
Donald Trump Calls Out James Comey After Book Details Emerge The President took to Twitter to criticize the former FBI director as information emerges from Comey’s new book, ‘A Higher Loyalty’. According to 'The New York Times', Comey describes Trump in the book as “unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values.” James Comey, A Higher Loyalty, via The New York Times A Higher Loyalty hits stores on April 17.
Big Bounce America visits North Las Vegas
Billing itself as "the biggest bounce house in the world," Big Bounce America visits Craig Ranch Regional Park in Las Vegas.
Endangered Devils Hole Pupfish numbers enough for concern, but not panic
Researchers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Death Valley National Park came together at Devils Hole, about 90 miles west of Las Vegas, for a biannual count of the Devils Hole Pupfish, an endangered species. Their count this time – 87. (Video by Patrick Connolly)
Hickey Elementary Students Put Harry Potter on Trial
Liliam Lujan Hickey Elementary School students learned how the judicial system works by putting Harry Potter on trial for the illegal use of magic.
David Copperfield in court after man injured during magic trick
The attorney for a British man who is suing illusionist David Copperfield said his client suffered serious injuries after being called on stage during Copperfield's show at MGM Grand.
The Clark County Museum Turns 50 This Month
The Clark County Museum has an extensive collection, dating back to prehistoric times in Southern Nevada up through the present day. It was first established in April 1968 and has had several locations before it's current home on South Boulder Highway.
Route 91 Artifacts Will Be On Display This October
Clark County Museum Administrator Mark Hall-Patton explains what artifacts will be on display in October as part of the museums Route 91 shooting memorial exhibit called "How We Mourned."
Bullet grazes woman's head
Las Vegas police investigating calls of a shooting early Friday morning found a woman who suffered a wound to her head. A bullet grazed the woman's head while she was inside her Village Square apartment on Nellis Oasis Lane. She did not have to be hospitalized, and police said she might have been an "unintended" victim. The shooting occurred around 4 a.m. Police are looking for the shooter.
Aces Host Draft Party
The Las Vegas Aces host a WNBA draft party at the Mandalay Bay for season-ticket holders, and have the number one overall pick.
Las Vegas man stands with president at White House
President Donald Trump delivered remarks in the Rose Garden Thursday about how the GOP tax cut plan helped working families across the country. To his left stood Richard Kerzetski, president of Universal Plumbing & Heating Co. in Las Vegas. Debra J. Saunders/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Transgender Man Running for Assembly District 42
U.S. Army veteran La Don Henry is hoping to become Nevada’s first openly transgender state legislator.
Erik Weihenmayer is the First Blind Person to Summit Mount Everest
Erik Weihenmayer talks about how he first got into mountaineering in 1995 with the ascent of Denali, the tallest peak in North America, and what he loves about climbing.
New Theater Coming to Neonopolis
Ken Henderson explains his concept for Notoriety, a 57,000-square-foot theater complex on the third floor of Neonopolis intended to host comedy, music and theater acts.
Local
Bump stock manufacturers under fire
The Justice Department said last month that it had started the process to amend federal firearms regulations to clarify that federal law defines bump stocks as machine guns.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Longtime Las Vegas attorney John Momot dies at age 74
Criminal defense attorney John Momot, who represented mob figures and even played himself in the movie “Casino,” has died.
David Copperfield in court after man injured during magic trick
The attorney for a British man who is suing illusionist David Copperfield said his client suffered serious injuries after being called on stage during Copperfield's show at MGM Grand.
5 things connecting Las Vegas and Marilyn Monroe
1. Marilyn Monroe, known then as Norma Jeane, obtained her first divorce in Las Vegas at the age of 20 on September 13, 1946. 2. According to some biographers, Monroe lived at 604 S. 3rd Street for four months during the summer of 1946. The house has since been torn down and is now the site of a parking lot. 3. In 1954, Monroe almost married Joe DiMaggio in Las Vegas but the wedding was called off last minute. The wedding was to be held at the Hotel El Rancho Vegas which was located on the southwest corner of Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. 4. Las Vegas has at least one road dedicated to the star. Marilyn Monroe Avenue is located in east Las Vegas and intersects with Betty Davis Street and Cary Grant Court. 5. There are currently more than 20 Marilyn Monroe impersonators for hire in the Las Vegas Valley.
Sir Richard Branson announces purchase of Hard Rock Hotel
Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, has acquired the Hard Rock Hotel with partners and plans to turn it into a Virgin-branded property by the end of 2019.
3 Centennial High School students killed in Calif. crash (Full)
Three Centennial High School students were killed Thursday morning in Southern California when their vehicle was struck by a suspected drunken driver while they were enjoying their spring break, according to a family member of one of the victims.
Retail Restroom Sexual Assault Suspect
Las Vegas police are asking for help finding a man they said groped a woman in a south Las Vegas Valley restroom. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Calvary Christian Learning Academy, “There was no fair warning.”
Samantha O’Brien, whose three-year-old daughter attended the Calvary Christian Learning Academy daycare, found out Monday night when her daughter’s teacher called about the school closing.
Mojave Max at Springs Preserve
File footage of Mojave Max at Springs Preserve. (Springs Preserve)
Companies bet their futures on cryptocurrency
Two Las Vegas entrepreneurs talk about finding their niche in blockchain enabled technologies and digital currency.
Solar panels reduce energy bill for CCSD
Wilbur and Theresa Faiss Middle School is one of 42 CCSD schools with solar panel installations, saving approximately $514,000 per year in energy costs.
Red carpet at MGM for Dan Reynolds Believer screening
Kats on the red carpet for the VIP screening of "Believer," the documentary by Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds about how the Mormon Church treats its LGBTQ members.
Driver dies in single-vehicle crash
One person is dead after an early Wednesday morning crash in the northwest valley. The single-vehicle crash was called in about 1:35 a.m. on Jones Boulevard just north of Deer Springs Way, according to Metropolitan Police Department Sgt. Robert Stauffer. The driver, who was the only person inside the vehicle, died at the scene.
Uber Health to Improve Patient Ride-Hailing Services
Uber Health to Improve Patient Ride-Hailing Services On Thursday, Uber launched its Uber Health platform for healthcare providers. Medical facilities, rehab centers, clinics and hospitals can book rides for patients from a centralized dashboard – no app required. According to Techcrunch, Uber Health general manager Chris Weber noted some 3.6 million Americans miss appointments due to lack access to reliable transportation. Uber’s endeavors into health care trace back to 2014, when Uber first offered on-demand flu shots in large markets across the U.S. Since then there have been similar efforts throughout the world, from diabetes and thyroid testing in India, to subsidized rides for breast cancer screening in the U.S., to many more. Last summer, over 100 healthcare organizations joined the platform during a private beta. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas firefighters put out blaze along Bonanza Road
Las Vegas firefighters put out a blaze that burned for about 15 minutes Feb. 20, 2018, along Bonanza Road, across from the Las Vegas Review-Journal. (Jeff Mosier/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cabana Market Shooting -- Persons of Interest
On February 3, 2018 at approximately 1:57 p.m., patrol officers were dispatched to a parking lot located in the 3900 block of East Owens Avenue to investigate a report that a man had been shot. Responding officers located an unresponsive adult male suffering from a gunshot wound. The victim was pronounced deceased at the scene. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Life
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Calvary Christian Learning Academy, “There was no fair warning.”
Samantha O’Brien, whose three-year-old daughter attended the Calvary Christian Learning Academy daycare, found out Monday night when her daughter’s teacher called about the school closing.
Companies bet their futures on cryptocurrency
Two Las Vegas entrepreneurs talk about finding their niche in blockchain enabled technologies and digital currency.
Solar panels reduce energy bill for CCSD
Wilbur and Theresa Faiss Middle School is one of 42 CCSD schools with solar panel installations, saving approximately $514,000 per year in energy costs.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Events
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like