Prince William Fire and Rescue System Acting Chief Tim Keen presented the Board of County Supervisors with an overview of the improvements to operational coverage and response times in Prince William County attributable to the new Fire and Rescue Restructuring Plan. The plan was announced in October 2018 following months of planning and discussion by the Fire and Rescue Executive Team, which is an advisory group comprised of career and volunteer chiefs who presented recommendations to the System Chief. Elements of those recommendations are included in the final restructuring plan, which is scheduled for full implementation on July 6, 2019 according to Keen.
As part of the Board's efforts to enhance levels of service and to improve community safety, the restructuring plan improves response times, increases the take-home pay for career fire and rescue personnel and assures continuity of operation throughout the Fire and Rescue System. The two most integral components to this restructuring are the implementation of a 56-hour shift schedule for all career fire and rescue personnel and a flexible staffing structure that allows our professional volunteer service members to determine which apparatus they wish to staff during their shift.
"We are the second largest jurisdiction in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and yet we continue to have gaps in service," Keen warned. "However, with the leadership of our career and volunteer members, this plan eliminates all gaps in baseline service, allows us to offer substantial enhancements to current levels of service and improves our response times throughout the county."
The new model addresses these gaps by redeploying existing personnel through a 56-hour shift schedule, which increases both effectiveness and efficiency of the system according to Keen. This plan guarantees that, at a minimum, every engine will be staffed 24/7 with no gaps in coverage, and provides greater flexibility in the event scheduled personnel, whether career or volunteer, are unable to complete their shift.
Particular improvements highlighted include:
8-minute geographical response times for key units
Advance Life Support (ALS) improves 15% to 88.5%
Heavy Rescue improves by 18% from 24% to 42%
Tankers, which are needed in the rural areas of the county, improve 22.5% from 38.8% to 60.3%
Guaranteed staffing for all engine companies 24/7
ALS travel time to incidents within 8-minutes improves to 90%
Mutual aid requiring neighboring jurisdictions to run calls in Prince William County reduced throughout the county
"We can either keep doing what we've been doing, or we can dramatically improve our response times," noted Corey Stewart, Chairman of the Board of County Supervisors. "The great thing about this restructuring plan is that the Chief increases the level of service without having to add any additional staff thanks to innovative solutions that assure a robust combined system of career and volunteer personnel."
Keen reiterated the importance of the combined system in Prince William County. "Our volunteers are professionals, and they are just as committed to this community s our career staff. Collectively, as a combined system, we are able to provide the highest level of service possible because the men and women of our Fire and Rescue System work alongside each other with a shared purpose of protecting our community."
Stewart reiterated the importance of this restructuring plan noting, "We owe it to our citizens to keep them safe, and this plan provides the greatest improvements in response times that I have ever seen in my 15 years on this Board."