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PICA releases study, Fire Department has some challenges

PICA releases study, Fire Department has some challenges

Updated:

The city asked the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority in October 2010 to fund an independent study to assess the Fire Department's management, operations, structure, system performance and service.

According to the study released today, the Philadelphia Fire Department does a reasonably good job of serving the city, however the department's response to medical incidents falls far short of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) which suggests that first responders arrive within five minutes 90 percent of the time, in Philadelphia that happens only 45 percent of the time.

The study also noted that problems exists within the Fire Department including the relationship between management and labor which is poor, issues of racial and gender equity, some groups including paramedics do not feel valued and supported by the department -all of which may affect the quality of service.

Furthermore, the study states that those issues are hard to address due to a culture in the Fire Department that is "extremely strong and resistant to change," paramedic morale is "extremely low," management systems are weak, the current organizational structure tends to reinforce the status quo and resources are limited.

 

For more information check out the press release below and read the full report here:

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 18, 2012

PICA Releases Efficiency and Effectiveness Study of the Philadelphia Fire Department: Proposed Recommendations Would Improve Service and Save $10 Million Annually

Philadelphia – The Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA) today released a management study on the Philadelphia Fire Department (PFD) which highlighted challenges facing the PFD and made several recommendations to improve service delivery for the citizens of Philadelphia.  The report estimated that its recommendations could realize savings in excess of $11 million.  The study recommends that some of those potential savings, once realized, should be reinvested in the PFD to help achieve many of the goals outlined in the study. 

The comprehensive study of the management and operations of the PFD was conducted by Berkshire Advisors, Inc, (Berkshire) and focused on the future design and direction of the PFD to ensure that it is meeting community fire service and medical needs and expectations while recognizing opportunities for innovation, improved efficiency, and effective operations.

The study had several desired outcomes, including establishing a baseline of current performance; suggesting mechanisms for facilitating change within the PFD to bring about greater efficiency; determining if adequate controls are in place in critical areas; and, making realistic and practical recommendations for increasing organizational effectiveness and efficiency.  A complete copy of the study is available on the PICA website at www.picapa.org.

Sam Katz, Chair of the PICA Board, noted that “PICA is pleased to be able to serve as a neutral party to help overcome some of  the history of distrust between firefighters and the Department so that this type of analysis, which was urgently needed, could be produced with all of the stakeholders engaged.” 

The study reviewed several facets of PFD operations, including organizational structure, funding, staffing and deployment, labor management relations, and management systems.  The study utilized numerous interviews with individuals and focus groups; benchmarked PFD performance against national standards; identified best practices; and, made use of the significant expertise of various consultants who are associated with Berkshire.

The recommendations in the study cover a wide range of policies and procedures, some of which are purely in the purview of management, others of which will fall under the purview of labor-management negotiations.  In accordance with the guidelines established by PICA, the recommendations include a comprehensive implementation evaluation which ranks the proposals by criticality and probability of success.

Katz noted that “PICA is not interested in one day news coverage of a report that gathers dust on a shelf.  The recommendations are laid out in a comprehensive manner which identifies their importance and ease of implementation.  As PICA reviews the PFD’s budget and performance over the coming years as part of our regular review process, we will monitor how and when these recommendations are implemented.”

Katz continued that “while the challenges highlighted in the study should be recognizable to all, the recommendations are not a to-do list – PFD labor and management will have to work together to make the recommendations their own, and work together to implement the solutions necessary to deliver the most efficient and effective services to the citizens.  The PICA Board well understood that the first step towards achieving this condition was the cooperation of all sides in the development and completion of this management study.”

When the PICA Board first approved conducting the study in November 2010, the Board directed that the project should proceed with the involvement of all stakeholders.  Under the guidance of PICA Executive Director Uri Monson, every aspect of the study was undertaken with input from the City Administration, the PFD, local and national representatives of the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), and City Council members and staff.

Monson particularly singled out those individuals who had served on the Steering Committee, which provided continuous feedback to Berkshire throughout the study process.  “These six individuals representing the City, national and local labor unions, and the PFD, dedicated a considerable amount of time and energy while dealing with challenging issues in a professional and courteous manner.  They deserve the thanks of the PFD and the City for their efforts.” 

In addition to Monson, the members of the Steering Committee were: Lloyd Ayers, Fire Commissioner, Everett Gillison, Chief of Staff, Michael Kane, Battalion Chief (ret.), Jonathan W. Moore, Director, Fire & EMS Operations/GIS, IAFF, Diane Pellecchia, Fire Service Paramedic, Eryn Santamoor, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Office of the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, Berkshire Advisors, Inc., was chosen after a public RFP process which yielded five different proposals.  After a careful review, Berkshire was selected as the best combination of proposed work plan and competitive cost.  The total cost for this study was $219,000.  Monson noted that “Berkshire designed a comprehensive project specific to Philadelphia’s needs and concerns, with a transparent process involving all of the stakeholders, and which considered all of the subject areas that need to be reviewed.  I believe the final product is worthy of that project design and provides a blueprint for moving the PFD forward.”

 

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The Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA) was created in 1991 to assist the City in overcoming a severe financial crisis.  The role of PICA is a combination of cooperation, assistance and oversight.  Detailed information on PICA and its work can be found at www.picapa.org

About this blog
Chris Brennan, a native Philadelphian and graduate of Temple University, joined the Daily News in 1999. He has written about SEPTA, the Philadelphia School District, the legalization of casino gambling, state government, the mayor, the governor, City Council and political campaigns. E-mail tips to brennac@phillynews.com
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Jenny DeHuff is a 2005 graduate of the University of Rhode Island, where she cut her teeth in journalism. A South Philly transplant from New England, she joined the Daily News City Hall Bureau in 2013. For the past several years, she has worked as an investigative reporter exposing corruption in suburban politics, covering sometimes ghastly criminal court cases and following the people’s money and how its spent. In addition to being a dogged news hound, she enjoys reading and writing about travel, animals, Irish whiskey and aviation. E-mail tips to dehuffj@phillynews.com
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