SIDNEY — Since 1857, the Sidney Department of Fire and Emergency Services has provided excellent service to the community. Their professional staff is the backbone and foundation of this service. In 2022, Sidney Department of Fire and Emergency Services returned to their full, authorized staffing (11 personnel per shift). This brings the department’s current roster to 38 uniformed personnel and one civilian administrative assistant. The department last boasted these numbers in early 2009 as the Great Recession forced staffing reductions through attrition. As the department has returned to full staffing, the focus is on the appropriate staffing models for the future of the community.
Currently, department and city staff are finalizing work for the submission of a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant. This grant, which is administrated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), provides funding directly to fire departments to help increase or maintain certified “front line” personnel in their respective communities. This program’s goal is to see departments work towards compliance with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 1710 which outlines the necessary staffing for response to various emergencies. NFPA 1710 suggests that a minimum of 16 personnel are necessary to arrive on the initial alarm assignment for a structure fire in a single-family dwelling.
The SAFER grant that is slated for submission within the next week, requests six additional personnel for Sidney’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services. If awarded, this would bring the daily shift strength to 13 personnel per shift (44 total uniformed personnel). The SAFER grant program fully funds the salaries and benefits of the positions awarded for a period of three years. After that time, the financial responsibility returns to the department. With anticipated commercial, industrial and residential growth in the community, the SAFER grant funds would allow for these positions to be added now and not require the department to wait until income tax collections grow with the expansion of city development.
The final component of our staffing plan, which would allow for the operation of a third station, would be the creation of three additional company-officer (lieutenant) positions. Currently, each shift has one assistant fire chief and one lieutenant. The assistant fire chief supervises the entire crew, but has direct supervision of personnel assigned to Station 1. The lieutenant is assigned to Station 2 and is responsible for the personnel, apparatus and facilities at that location. By adding an additional lieutenant per shift and along with the additional SAFER grant positions, the department would have the necessary staffing to operate three stations while maintaining current station staffing levels (minimum of five personnel at Station 1 and three at Station 2). In this scenario, the department would have a minimum daily staffing of 11 personnel. This is obviously still short of the NFPA 1710 goal of 16, but it is a tremendous step forward towards this compliance.
“As the community we serve continues to grow, so must the infrastructure to support it. Our public safety professionals provide exceptional service and these additional staffing positions will only serve to allow our department to serve and protect the community more effectively and efficiently,” wrote Fire Chief Chad Hollinger.