Las Vegas Sun

November 22, 2017

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Study finds room for cost savings in Las Vegas Fire & Rescue



Las Vegas Fire and Rescue crews respond to a fire at a mobile home near Craig Road and Torrey Pines Drive on March 19, 2012.

A new report released Tuesday analyzing operations of Las Vegas Fire & Rescue details several recommendations to help the department save on overtime and improve the efficiency of its emergency medical services.

The department’s budget has grown from $77 million to $111 million since 2004 — at an annual rate of about 6 percent, nearly twice the 3.5 percent average annual growth seen by the city’s general fund over that same time period. That rate of growth, City Manager Elizabeth Fretwell, is not sustainable.

The 180-page report, produced by the International City/County Management Association, was commissioned by the city government in July and covers all aspects of the fire department’s operations, including its financials, response times, staffing levels and organizational structure.

The report listed 23 recommendations to improve the efficiency, level of service and financial health of the department.

Eight of those recommendations were described as “priorities” in the report.

They include:

• That the fire department establish a decision-making process for when its ambulances respond to emergency calls that are also being served by the private ambulance service American Medical Response. Currently, ambulances from the Fire Separtment and AMR respond to many emergency calls, resulting in a duplication of effort, the report said.

• The report further suggests the city consider one of two alternative EMS models, one in which the fire department handles all emergency medical services, which would generate between $12 million and $14 million in additional revenue. The other alternative is to discontinue the 21 rescue units currently operated by the city and turn all emergency medical services over to AMR, saving the city $14 million to $18 million annually.

• When negotiating the nonsupervisory collective bargaining agreement, the city should focus on balancing the number of staff granted vacation leave with the amount of staff overtime allowed in an attempt to more efficiently staff the department. The report found the current CBA restricts department management’s ability to cover schedule and unscheduled leave, driving up overtime costs.

• The department should consider a moving away from its current 24-hour staffing model and consider a mixture of 12-hour and 24-hour shifts, the report said. The report found that emergency calls are concentrated in different parts of the day and the current staffing model leaves the department with underutilized capacity.

To complete the report, a team from the ICMA’s Center For Public Safety Management made two site visits to observe the department and interview key staff and combined those findings with raw data on the department’s performance.

The report complimented the department for its state-of-the-art fire and EMS equipment, for being well staffed to handle a variety of different emergencies and for effective planning for future fire station locations.

Fretwell defended the $155,000 the city paid for the study.

“This study is an investment in the city’s future financial health,” Fretwell said. “Given the potential to realize considerable budgetary savings without jeopardy or impact to public safety, we believe the study is well justified. We are confident the recommendations line out a path we can follow to achieve our goal of creating a sustainable fire department budget that still provides excellent public safety.”

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