In a major victory, Austin, TX Local 975 has successfully worked to pass a new city law mandating four-person staffing on every fire truck in the city. The new law makes Austin Fire Department deployment operations compliant with NFPA 1710, the national standard for safe fire fighting.
“With the passage of this ordinance, the city council put the safety of fire fighters and Austin citizens first,” says Local 975 President Bob Nicks.
In 2008, the Austin City Council, acting on an internal study that showed having four fire fighters per apparatus was effective and efficient, passed an “aspirational resolution” to make four-person staffing mandatory by 2019.
The IAFF worked with Local 975 in 2012 to apply for a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant in the amount of $5 million, which helped the department overcome its significant staffing shortage. But some council members raised concerns about the fiscal responsibility of maintaining the staffing levels.
“We began to include a question on the importance of fire department staffing in our city council candidate questionnaires,” says Nicks. “We knew we needed to support candidates who support this issue.” Knowing who its supporters were, Local 975 helped get those candidates elected.
Fast-forward to 2017, the IAFF worked with Local 975 to create an extensive response analysis that helped convince the city council to approve a $3.5 million budget increase to cover overtime costs to compensate for the continuing staffing shortage and to ensure four-person staffing. When the next fire academy class graduates, the department will be nearly fully staffed.
“It was finally the right time to put forth the staffing ordinance,” says Nicks. The city council passed the measure 9 to 1.
Local 975 worked with the IAFF to create a short video highlighting the necessity of the four-person staffing ordinance and its impact on community safety. The video was seen by more than 207,000 people and recognized the good work done by the city.