Another member of heady daze of 1970’s Democratic power has passed and his friend Jim Powers reminds us of his friend Robert Sivertson.
Just before Powers started his September 16, 2016 scheduled Sioux Falls Democratic Forum on talk, he reminded us of Sivertson’s place in South Dakota legislative history.
Cameraman Bruce spent many hours campaigning with Sivertson and his Democratic majority partners back then. We all should appreciate what they tried to do to move the state out or the scandals and problems of the past.
We have Open Meetings and Records laws, an updated, less confusing SD Constitution and something I know looking at the mess it is in now, a more streamlined state government bureaucracy.
Sideras stated in the article that “many SFFR members are paramedics”. This ‘may’ be a change from the last contract held by Rural Metro, the fire department paramedics were PROHIBITED from using any of their skills within the city limits.
Was that ban lifted under this contract? Was any Advanced Life Support (ALS) equipment added to the fire trucks for the paramedics to use?
If not, Sideras’s statement is misleading because the paramedics cannot perform any skills other than their EMT-level training (under the old contract).
If the Ambulance company (Paramedics Plus, Rural Metro under the old contract) is in system overload, only they could approve other ambulances to enter the city (such as volunteer service ambulances from surrounding communities, like Med Star, Sanford or Avera) to transport patients to hospitals.
Did this change in the new contract? Wouldn’t this be better than people driving themselves to the hospital? Why wouldn’t the fire department have this decision-making power instead of the company that profits from transporting the people?
Like Mr. Lonneman said, in a tornado or some other major disaster, should we need a private company’s decision to bring in more ambulances? Maybe language has changed in the new contract, I don’t know, but a good question to ask.
It would be in the patient’s best interest to have the ability to call in an ambulance whenever one was needed, Paramedics Plus losing a transport shouldn’t be the City’s concern. If they lose too many transports, they’ll put another ambulance in service.
On a side note. REMSA, should be determining what calls will and won’t count against the ambulance service for that 90% of the time number they have to meet. For example: If the ambulance has to go through construction traffic because 12th street is torn up, the Q/A person has decided in the past that isn’t the ambulance company’s fault, the construction was caused by the City, so that delay didn’t count against their numbers. Another example: All of their ambulances were out on calls on higher than expected call volume due to a multiple vehicle accident.
The fire department counts these types of calls and doesn’t take them as exceptions for their accreditation and as you probably guessed, Rural Metro always was in compliance with their required 90% times.
It would be interesting to see how many things are now in the new contract that could benefit the SFFR by allowing them to charge PP back for services like fire stand-bys, equipment, code 5 calls, etc.
I have often scratched my head why the SFFD just doesn’t run a public ambulance service that they could set up as an enterprise fund (all the money paid into the service could go in to improving it instead shareholder profits). The Fire Department is already beating the private ambulances to these calls, it is a majority of their calls, and we are already paying for it through our taxes, so why not find a way to save the city money by charging for the service while providing better service then what our private ambulance companies are doing. The city of Los Angeles figured it out, why can’t we?
One thing that has disappointed me is the City’s unwillingness to admit there’s flaws in its mental health programs for firefighters. Its wellness programs are great. They are far above what most other employees receive I’d imagine, but the reality is firefighting is not like other jobs and fitness/wellness coordinators do not have the training to identify, diagnose, and treat mental health issues.
The fact that the City is in denial became quite clear in the Argus Leader article published on June 5, 2015. Where the fire chief, Jim Sideras listed several “fail-safes” he said are in place to help those who struggle with mental illness, because it is considered part of fitness for duty.
Some of the highlights from the article were:
• Annual medical evaluations to National Fire Protection Association Standards: These physicals are supposed to determine physical and mental fitness for duty. Two years after I was fired and no changes have been made to add the listed mental testing as required by the standard.
• Post Incident Analysis (P.I.A.): This probably sounded great to the public, but any firefighter knows this was pure B.S. to stretch out the list. P.I.A.s have nothing to do with mental health, they are conducted by fire personnel and are a review of fire incidents to ensure policies and procedures were followed and the correct strategies and tactics were used. They make certain all operations were performed safely and are used as learning tools to critique incidents to see if anything could have been done more effectively.
• There is only 1 test on that list done by a person qualified to identify and treat mental illness and it is done at the time of hire.
• Comments Sideras made include “We can’t twist someone’s arm and make them go…” and “If they do not share their information of issues… …the proper level of care or referrals cannot be achieved.” So, translation: expect the person with the mental health issue to self-diagnose that there is a problem, and blame them if they don’t?
So since it was clear to me the City was more interested in defending its actions than making change that might actually help people, I wrote the linked article that was recently published in Firehouse Magazine.
The emails I’ve received from firefighters around the country are all basically the same form of question/comment: “The fire service is a brotherhood, how could your chief prosecute you like that?” Once I explain the perfect storm of us both being up for the fire chief position, him convincing himself I was out for his job, the ethics investigation I submitted*; they understood better: payback.
Criminally prosecuting you is one thing, but when your former employer leaks your case to the media to ensure you are publically humiliated and discredited? Considering the ethics complaint was never fully investigated but instead “swept under the rug” you might call it whistleblower retaliation.
*Warren filed an ethics complaint against Sideras for undocumented vacation time. Nothing came of the complaint.
The devil is in the details. Literally when it comes to fire safety.
There is this little document called the ‘Fire Hazardous materials review letter’ that should be drawn up before any building is constructed. The city decided to draw up the letter after construction began on the Aquatics Center? Why?
I (Bruce) asked for this to be sent to me in February. It had not been completed until after I asked for it. Last night before the Council (4/5) meeting I asked Dean for it and here it is today (4/6). Look at the meeting dates. It confirms they only had the meeting AFTER my February request.
More short cuts by the administration? Laziness by the fire department? Hazardous materials storage should be addressed before dirt is even moved for a foundation.
Another fine ramrodded project by the Huether administration.
Fire Division Chief, Patrick Warren accepts the Accreditation with the Center for Public Safety Excellence representatives.
As you may well know, Fire Division Chief, Patrick Warren was terminated almost two years ago for misconduct while suffering from mental illness. But after two years, his accomplishments still keep popping up. In fact, the mayor went as far as claiming a couple of the Top Wins for 2015 were due to such great leadership at the SFFD;
Sioux Falls Fire Rescue was presented with ISO Class 1 designation and accreditation with the Center for Public Safety Excellence.
Patrick Warren was the accreditation manager on the department for 8 years and successfully got the department reaccredited twice – including this last time they’re counting as a win. When Pat went to the conference in Henderson, NV to accept the award, Sideras supposedly ASKED to him “Do I really need to be there?” Pat told him no, technically he wasn’t required to be there but he was the only fire chief that chose not to be there out of the dozen or so departments that were being accredited or reaccredited. So the Commissioners set up a conference call and made Sideras sit on the phone during the reaccreditation board hearing.
One of Pat’s other duties was ISO compliance. On the City’s last review, the SFFD missed getting an upgraded rating by just a couple of points. Pat knew that opening a new station would be enough to improve our rating. When Mayor Huether finally allowed construction, Pat arranged for the land purchase, made it through station design, and the week after the ground breaking Patrick was terminated. But the ball was rolling, and we were going to improve our ISO rating once the station opened.
One of the items accreditation is based on is response times and improving those response times. In 2013 and 2014, the fire department responded to 90% of its emergency calls (travel time) in 5 minutes 0 seconds and 5 minutes 3 seconds respectively. With the addition of a new station and and another crew, they should be able to at least hold steady on that number if not improve it slightly.
But in a strange twist, Chief Sideras set a goal of 5 minutes 12 seconds. In the accreditation manual it states that is the slowest time you can meet and still be accredited. But what he seems to not understand is the self-improvement process of accreditation. If the department is meeting 5m3s, and he sets a goal of 5m12s, the department will be deemed “not credible” and be required to change that goal to realistic goal. Accreditation is about setting new goals when you reach the existing ones, not setting ones you’ve already met so you can easily meet them and boast about your easy victory.
The chief did the same thing with the ISO measurement of fire loss. In 2013 there was $2.5 million in property damage/loss and in 2014 $3.1 million in property damage/loss. So what did Sideras set as a goal for 2015 and 2016? Less than $4.4 million. That’s a pretty big increase. Once again another easy goal for another easy win.
If they’re going by ISO and accreditation, I feel like a couple of people mentioned above owe the former fire division chief a big THANK YOU on some very BIG WINS!
Other people besides Warren worked on accreditation also (Battalion Chiefs and the Data Analyst). One of the Battalion Chiefs also happened to be the only other one who knew anything about ISO and helped Warren with it, Mark Bukovich. He’s also the only one who would have known to call ISO and have them come back for the re-scoring the department after the station opened. But I guess when you’re the CHIEF/MAYOR you get to take all the credit.
Former Fire Division Chief Patrick Warren contributed to this article.
According to this Argus article, it would appear the Homebuilders Association knows more about fire safe materials then actual fire fighters. And why wouldn’t the council listen to them? Our fire department was practically dead silent about amending the provision.
Why didn’t Fire Chief Sideras come and speak about the importance of this issue? A Brandon firefighter died because of this exact problem. I can’t even fathom a fire department being absent from a discussion as important as this.
“Ron Bell said last month the added layer of drywall would add between five and 10 minutes of structural life to floor trusses in the event of a fire.”
Either one of them could also have reminded the council that many cities do not opt out sections of the International Fire Code when it is updated, they adopt it as is. (I.E., they don’t let the Homebuilder’s Associations run the show with scare tactics like “people won’t be able to afford houses anymore or it will add $3,000 on to the cost of a house (Notice they didn’t mention the square footage of that house).
“Putting that cap up, there is still going to be areas that will be exposed to those trusses and the airflow will go up in there,” said Council Chairman Kenny Anderson Jr. “I just don’t feel there’s enough data to show … that this will be effective.”
Airflow isn’t the problem, it’s when the flame gets to the metal gusset plate on the floor truss itself. Example: Take a hot pan on the stove on high heat. Put your hand above the pan 2” away. You can feel the heat, but you aren’t being burned. That’s airflow. Put your hand on the pan. You’re being burned, eventually to the third degree. (bet you wish you had that piece of drywall about now) See the difference?
The fire department, Sideras, and the union have the data to show floor trusses are extremely dangerous under direct flame contact – that is why the fire code was changed to cover the trusses. They will fail within 5-10 minutes of direct flame contact. In some cases that’s before the fire department is even on scene. Changes to the fire code aren’t made lightly, they’re just as political and fought against at the national and international levels.
So did Sideras put his career ahead of the life safety of the 200+ firefighters under his “protection”?
“Citing cost concerns and a lack of effectiveness, councilors rejected the proposal Tuesday.”
They made the only decision they could come to considering they only had half of the facts – the ones provided by the homebuilder’s association and the incorrect ones provided by the building services director. Where was Sideras and what are we paying this fire chief for? But it also proves that our city council does very little research of their own relying solely on the shills that run the different departments.
(Note: A former firefighter/inspector contributed to this post)
Both Sioux Falls Fire Rescue Chief Jim Sideras and Police Chief Matt Burns said it would have a “chilling effect” or worse on civil servants weighing the pros and cons of accepting a promotion.
“I would have to go through potentially two mayors, three mayors. Do I want to put my family at risk if things didn’t work out?” Sideras said, referring to the factors a candidate for his position would have to consider without a bump back clause. “There isn’t another fire department in town. There isn’t another police department in town.”
Maybe you should have thought of those concerns before you fired and prosecuted a mentally ill assistant fire chief. Instead of helping Patrick Warren with his mental illness and allowing him to continue his job with treatment and a possible demotion, you threw the book at him and fired him with no recourse. I don’t believe Jim is concerned one ioata about his fellow fire department directors, this is about kissing the mayor’s ass and how he looks and if he can secure some more investors for his lakefront resort in Charles Mix county.
Sioux Falls Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Mark Bukovich said “the event center, a great facility, but one of the issues that we have with that facility is the setback, where we can park the fire trucks, in order to reach the roof. This ladder truck will give us a great advantage of getting to the roof, if we ever need to.”
At a cost of nearly one million dollars, the 125 foot tall ladder is a big investment for Sioux Falls, which should last a long time.
Oh, there is probably so much water behind the siding that you don’t have to worry to much about the EC catching on fire.
Does mold burn?
I heard rumblings about this truck about a month ago and the main reason it had to be purchased was because of the EC. It is no coincidence that the EC is 122 feet tall and the ladder is 125 feet.
I’ve told people if you think the $180 million + investment in the EC is the end of the bills coming in, you are crazy. The operating subsidies and maintenance each year will be a drain on the taxpayers for years. The economic impact of the facility will never equal the subsidies.
The graphic from this year’s budget proposal shows that of the fire department’s total $26.2 million dollar operating budget request, that $22.7 million of that is for wages and benefits, or approximately 86.4% of the total budget. Only 13.6% or $3.5 million goes toward buying or repairing equipment, paying for fuel or repair on trucks, or paying for utilities or minor repairs on the 11 fire stations. Some larger repairs could be in the capital budget. If finance used a pie chart or bar graph it would look bad and be more obvious how much of the budget the wages are. They managed to cut what they are requesting to buy in supplies, equipment, and repairs, so even though the employees are getting a 3% wage increase, the “other” operating request is down by $200,000, so the department’s overall request for 2016 is only up by 1.95% I know it’s tough to point this out because whenever you pick on firefighters there is always public outcry about what they do and how much they risk their lives, but someone needs to start asking them about their call volume: • It’s about 70% medical (EMS). Paramedics make a lot less money per year – ask any working for Paramedics Plus • You wonder how many fires they respond to in a year, I think it averages around 300+. How many of those required hooking up a hydrant? (this means there was a large enough fire the firefighters had to mask up and actually work as firefighters in smoke). It takes the waste paper basket fires and prank dog poop fires out of the statistics. • You wonder how long the crews are out of the stations each day on calls? The crews work 24 hour shifts but probably average 3 calls per day. If you take false alarms into account, the average is probably under 20 minutes. So if you look at all the factors, the actual time spent is probably about 1 hour in 24 responding to fires (hazards). No doubt, I’m sure other work is being done – business inspections, yardwork, station cleaning, tours, etc., but is that the kind of work that requires “hazardous duty” pay?
Maybe some questions the city council should be asking during the budget hearings.
An example of one of the lots on Higbee Cut, Lake Andes, SD on Lake Francis Case (not one of the lots owned by the firefighters).
Through public records (both the city of Sioux Falls and Charles Mix County) I have found that the Fire Chief for Sioux Falls, a Captain, a Division Chief, a Battalion Chief and a former Battalion Chief (5 total) have invested in approximately 25+ total lots in the Higbee Cut area near Lake Andes, SD in Charles Mix county. They all own their OWN set of lots, and NOT together as a group, according to county records.
Not sure what I think about public employees, that work for the same municipality, investing together. At least they had the common sense to NOT invest in Sioux Falls or Minnehaha or Lincoln county and to buy the lots individually instead as an investment group. Private employees, who work together, often invest together in land or other investments. Many people have made great friends through their employment, and often spend time together outside of work recreating. Some times that means investing in that recreation together as a group, outside of work.
Three of the supervisors under the fire chief have received promotions since 2010, the 4th is no longer with the Fire Department.
I totally understand the ‘brotherhood’ firefighters have with each other, and I encourage the camaraderie and involvement in each other’s private lives, especially people who are in charge of saving lives and property for the public, they HAVE to work as a tight knit team!
What do you think?
Personally, I don’t get involved to much with my fellow employee’s lives. Whether that is investing money, dating or other private matters. One of the main reasons is when problems arise in such arrangements, you have to work with these people, and it can cause issues at work (especially when it comes to love and money 🙂