Fire Department struggles with injuries and costs
Updated 6:51 pm, Wednesday, May 18, 2011
"Our biggest culprit has been injuries on duty," Hennessey said. "We have had one person that has been out the entire year and, unfortunately, last week we had another firefighter slip on the stairs and break his shoulder."
In order to make up the difference, Hennessey said the department has had to cut back on unnecessary items.
"In order to try and reduce the overtime deficit as best we can, we are going to put things off that we really don't have to do," he said. "But we are doing everything that needs to be done. We're doing all the training that needs to be done."
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Hennessey said the department has delayed equipment replacement, repairs and supplemental training.
"All the mandatory training that we had to do, we did," he stressed.
The supplemental training included some advanced specialized study in schools and seminars across the state and country that the more experienced firefighters sometimes participate in. Repairs that have been put off are mainly cosmetic and have to do with the trucks that are getting older Hennesey said. However, he did reiterate that safety and operations have not been affected.
The board took some time to discuss the issue of injuries and what can be done to prevent these injuries and overtime costs.
"We know it's a high number," Hennessey said about the injuries. "We are not happy with it and we are going to do everything we can to prevent it."
Hennessey, citing CIRMA Insurance, said New Canaan's injury numbers are high when compared with other towns. However, he said it's difficult to compare because New Canaan's department has 24 staff firefighters while the departments they are compared to are much smaller in terms of staffing. So he believes the number will naturally be high since they have more staff. The problems in comparison come in because New Canaan has a unique number of firefighters. Most other towns are either well above that number or significantly below it.
Hennessey stressed that every department in the state also has severe overtime issues. He explained that is happens to be the biggest problem for most fire departments in the state and around the country.
"Still, we know its high and we want to fix it," he said. "We are working with CIRMA to identify as many ways as possible to lower risk for our guys."
The board will decide how to resolve this overtime issue at their next meeting before the end of the fiscal year.