Technical Assistance and Information Resources
The Technical Assistance and Information Resources Division (TAIR), under the direction of my Assistant Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell, is responsive and accountable to IAFF affiliates in providing the data, skills and tools necessary to improve the quality of life for our members. This Division includes Fire and EMS Operations/GIS under the direction of Jonathan Moore, Labor Issues and Collective Bargaining under the direction of Michele Shaffer and Pension Resources under the direction of Ron Saathoff. In addition, this Division manages our Field Services program.
This Division is the research arm of the International, and the preeminent source of information and services dedicated to supporting IAFF leaders and members in their efforts to seek fair compensation for the work they do.
Since the last IAFF Convention, this Division has worked hard on many important projects.
The National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) Multiphase Study team completed the data analysis and fire modeling for the NIST High-Rise Field Experiments, and has written and submitted a full report and other materials for release to our affiliates and the media. The field experiments were conducted to assess crew size, alarm size, effective fire fighting force assembly, vertical response, potential fire growth and occupant tenability upon rescue. We participated in a press event announcing the results on April 10, 2013, in conjunction with the Metro Chiefs Meeting in Phoenix. At the same time, the report was posted on our web site at www.fireandemsdata.com, on the NIST web site at http://www.nist.gov/el/fire_protection/high-rise-fire-study-041013.cfm and on the study web site at www.firereporting.org.
The Multiphase Study team also completed the tool kit associated with the NIST High-Rise Field Experiments. Toolkit items (brochures, side-by-side crew size video, fact sheets, etc…) were completed for release at the 2013 Redmond/Barbera Conference. The tool kit contains various items including video, PowerPoint slides, fact sheets, news advisories, and press releases that have been prepared for use by affiliates and chiefs to present the information contained in the report to decision makers. All toolkit materials may be found on the IAFF website at www.fireandemsdata.com or http://www.iaff.org/et/deployment/index.htm, on the NIST website at http://www.nist.gov/el/fire_protection/high-rise-fire-study-041013.cfm, and on the study website at www.firereporting.org. Also, NIST Residential Fireground Experiment Tool Kits and EMS Study Reports are still available on the IAFF website at http://www.iaff.org/et/deployment/index.htm or by contacting the Fire/EMS Operations Department.
We also presented the study report to the NFPA 1710 Technical Committee and, as a result, high-rise language has been added to the standard, which is currently in the process of being revised for an anticipated release in 2015.
The Multiphase Study Team continues work toward the development of a National Fire Operations Reporting System (NFORS) to assure that local fire chiefs and labor leaders have access to the data necessary to justify system changes or assess the impact of proposed cuts. It is not intended to eliminate the Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), but should provide a path to better data in real time. Fire service stakeholder groups and their representatives have been assigned to various workgroups within the project.
In conjunction with the John P. Redmond Symposium in Denver last year, we conducted the IAFF Dominick F. Barbera EMS Conference. Post conference materials and select plenary and workshop sessions are available on the IAFF web site at http://www.iaff.org/events/2013redmond/coverageTHU.asp.
In light of continuing threats of terrorism, we participated in national meetings hosted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Transportation and Health and Human Services on ‘bystander intervention’ at mass casualty events in the United States where leaders in the fire, police and EMS arena discussed bystander response to events such as the Boston Marathon bombing. The consensus is that bystanders will help and that emergency responders should use bystanders to assist as needed in victim care and extrication.
Similarly, we attended National Joint Counterterrorism meetings hosted by the FBI, DHS, and District of Columbia government on organized terror events, including mass shootings and IED bombings, to discuss how response by local law enforcement, local fire departments, mass transit police and hospital employees (including doctors, nurses, and security). The IAFF stays engaged in national discussions to assure we can get the most relevant information to our members.
We are also engaged in many cities directly as we are invited to consult with city decision makers. For example, we participated in the Detroit Fire Department planning and reorganization meetings post bankruptcy. This included a GIS assessment for deployment, staffing and EMS response, wage comparisons, healthcare comparisons and promotion process information. We also consulted on pension negotiations for both active members and retirees. As another example, Lori Moore-Merrill was invited to participate in New York City Mayor De Blasio’s Transition Committee on Public Safety.
Additionally, the IAFF is involved in various aspects of the fire service with direct links back to our members’ safety and well-being. For example, we participate in the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) Board meeting to assure that all NIST study results and other relevant crew size and deployment materials are in fire fighter training textbooks and are involved Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant criteria development.
To assure that we are always on the frontlines for any information relevant to you, we also participated in the NIST Smart Firefighting Research Symposium, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)/NIST Joint Symposium on Fire Service Data, and acted as peer reviewers for the Assistance to Firefighters (FIRE Act) research grants.
As we continue to deal with the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), we conducted an Affordable Care Act (ACA) roundtable meeting to solicit input from affiliate leaders on how the ACA is affecting or will affect members. As a result, we prepared an ‘ACA Primer’ and launched our ACA web site (http://www.iaff.org/healthcare) and developed training curriculum for District Field Service Representative (DFSR) training and workshops at the Affiliate Leadership Training Summit (ALTS).
In addition, we conducted roundtable discussions on active shooter response and community paramedics at ALTS. These roundtables solicited opinions and input from affiliate leaders on these topics, and subsequently developed our position (policy) statements on response to active shooter events. We also worked with the Metropolitan Fire Chief’s Association to prepare similar policy statements and with the IAFC to prepare a revised Fire-Based EMS Toolkit that now includes resources on Community Paramedic programs.
And, collaborating with the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association, we prepared the second edition of the Community Risk Paper (otherwise known as the High-Rise Study implementation project) at the Urban Fire Forum in September 2013.
Affiliates throughout the United States and Canada are using our web-based GIS instrument to conduct basic GIS deployment evaluations without technical assistance from our staff. Evaluations include a four-minute engine capability and an eight-minute full alarm assignment capability. And now the enhanced capability includes full alarm assignment assembly.
Working with the National Weather Service and ESRI, affiliate leaders now have access to the Major Incident Awareness and Tracking tool (http://www.iaff.org/tech/ops/incident_tracker_secure.htm), which provides near real time information, 24/7, of large incidents throughout the United States and Canada. Several layers of incident data are presented in one easy-to-navigate mapping system. Through these mapping tools, affiliate leaders can see where incidents are occurring, along with the potential risk to IAFF members. In all major incident maps, data are updated directly by national agencies, including the National Weather Service, the National Hurricane Center, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Department of the Interior. Maps for specific incidents with major impact continue to be generated as needed, along with contact information for disaster relief assistance for those affected by major incidents. This mapping capability was most recently used for the Oklahoma tornados and the Calgary floods.
We continue to improve our online searchable Collective Bargaining Agreement and Wage Schedule Database. To date, we have more than 2,455 collective agreements and/or wage schedules available. Affiliates with expired agreements are notified and asked to submit a new agreement (or fee schedule), or to notify us that they are working under the expired agreement. Absent a response from affiliates following notification, we suspend access to the database.
The IAFF continues to work with the Commission on Fire Accreditation (CFAI) to encourage fire departments to undergo the accreditation process. And, with Kaplan University as a partner of the IAFF, our members can continue to gain EMS continuing education credits (CEC) online. Kaplan University’s EMS modules are available to eligible members and employees of the IAFF, as well as to their immediate family members and qualified domestic partners at a discounted rate of up to 30 percent. All EMS modules are accredited through the Continuing Education Coordinating Board for Emergency Medical Services (CECBEMS) and recognized by the National Registry.
Our Fire and EMS Operations/GIS Department has fulfilled more than 3,444 “off the shelf” requests and completed more than 225 GIS-based staffing and deployment studies with more than 526 projects in progress since 2012. We also completed more than 50 proposals for EMS enhancement or integration system designs in the last two years. The demand for GIS-related services to counter resource reductions continues to outpace opportunities to improve EMS systems and add to fire department resources and responsibilities. The priority continues to be preserving jobs and maintaining a safe working environment for our members.
In early 2012, requests for urgent EMS integration proposals designed to immediately protect existing fire department positions increased – some with the support of the respective local governments – but were soon outpaced again by requests for rebuttals to consultants that call for reduced fire department resources.
Local issues are becoming more complex, and the consultants have become smarter and decision makers have taken a more “information driven” approach to addressing the financial crisis in North America through creative staffing and deployment. Citizen involvement in local politics has forced decision makers to be more responsive to taxpayer needs and, as such, often propose budget cuts that reduce labor positions without including clear cost-risk-benefit details for any proposals and without detailing any changes in municipal vulnerabilities. In order for counter proposals to be entertained, a full cost-out showing improved savings is needed.
In order to provide improved support for our affiliates, we are preparing updated EMS response and transportation revenue recovery documents – including community paramedic work – to capture job-saving revenue that the private sector has already exploited with some success, such as billing for assessment only or treatment without transportation.
To successfully argue why a system should be exempt from resource reductions, analysts on our staff must continually enhance their own skills, as well the GIS tools, keeping their studies accurate and objective while developing clear concise reports based on available research and current industry standards and delivering the best possible products for IAFF members.
Recognizing the threat of resource reductions can occur at any time, our WebGIS team constantly works to improve the Internet-based self-help GIS application to better assist IAFF members 24 hours a day/seven days a week. The current WebGIS system provides basic coverage area maps using up to three travel time parameters simultaneously, based on fire station or resource locations entered manually by local leadership. The current WebGIS system provides Effective Firefighting Force (EFF) maps in addition to Distribution coverage maps so users can export maps to all graphic formats, as well as print them locally, and save their work for future WebGIS sessions.
Subsequent versions will be able to ingest station or resource list documents prepared in text or spreadsheet documents by local leadership, placing multiple stations in the system automatically, beneficial for larger response systems. The system will eventually address assessment of locally defined alarm assignment capabilities (apparatus combinations) as well. The next generation of web-based GIS tools include both staffing and deployment maps and storm/hazard tracking applications for our disaster relief program. We are working to make the maps cross-platform for use with a PC, Android or iPad/iPhone and incorporate two-way data exchange via the ArcServer software.
Since the last Convention, our Fire & EMS Operations/GIS Department provided in-house meetings, on-site expert testimony, or presentations in the following jurisdictions since the last Convention:
Other Department Activities
Since the last Convention, our Labor Issues and Collective Bargaining department has conducted more than 803 municipal financial analyses for affiliates. These financial analyses have become the cornerstone of survival during the economic crisis in the United States and for negotiations in Canada. This department has also processed more than 107 wage and benefit comparables for affiliates in negotiations
We are working with affiliates that continue to face attacks on health insurance benefits in the wake of annual double-digit increases in health care costs and following the implementation of the GASB Standard 45 on Post-Employment Benefits to analyze both current and proposed health insurance benefits and providing comparative health insurance benefits information. The following is an overview of assistance provided since 2012.
Cost out of Wages and Benefits
Meanwhile, our members’ pension benefits are in danger as lawmakers at all levels of government threaten to reform and reduce pension plans that our members deserve and have earned. Our Pension Resources Department has been assisting affiliates to provide comprehensive pension related analyses, including assessment of pension plans and associated financial documents to define or enhance retirement benefits during collective bargaining negotiations, arbitrations court proceedings or legislative action.
Customized Technical Assistance Requests
Actuarial Review/Reports & Pension Analysis- Local Affiliates
Actuarial Review/Reports & Pension Analysis- State Associations
Defined Compensation/Defined Benefit Plans
We continue to work with the National Public Pension Coalition (NPPC) to thwart pension threat advances from state legislatures, and the NPPC has agreed to provide grants to several jurisdictions. This year, NPPC has provided grants to state coalitions totaling $316,842, including Alaska, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Kansas, New Hampshire, New York, South Carolina, Virginia, Wyoming as well as the city of San Diego.
Our Pension Database has grown considerably since the last Convention. To date, we have collected and Summary Plan Descriptions and Actuarial Valuations for 49 state retirement/pension plans (Georgia does not offer a state sponsored pension system), as well as approximately 130 local plans. These plans – which include Canada – cover approximately 85 percent of IAFF members.
We also have developed a pension calculator that performs analysis and comparison on three levels: