Thursday, April 19, 2012

Fire station optimization: Part 1

Over the past several months, a workgroup at Lincoln Fire & Rescue has been studying potential changes in how and where the department deploys its resources. The study was publicly unveiled this week, and although it has been covered in the local press, I'm going to write a few posts summarizing the 78 page report in a little more detail than the news stories.

Since Lincoln last added a fire station (Station 14 in the Highlands, in 1996-97), Lincoln's population has increased by about 50,000 and its geographic area has grown by just over 20 square miles.  The past three fire chiefs have advocated adding new fire stations to deal with this growth.  New fire stations require buildings, apparatus, and staff. The real cost, however, is not so much in the capital outlay, but rather the ongoing cost of personnel.  It takes 12 firefighters to staff a new engine company, and that's about a million dollars in salaries and benefits. You build the building once, but if you add personnel the payroll is in perpetuity.

Chief Huff and I just don't think it is likely, given the fiscal realities of local government both nationwide and here in Lincoln, that the City will be willing to take on an additional two million dollars in annual personnel expenses needed to staff two new fire stations anytime soon.  So we asked a different question: if we re-position our current personnel and equipment by moving some fire stations, what increment of improvement could we achieve in our ability to respond effectively to the needs of a growing community?

When you think about it, this is an approach that the school system has used quite effectively.  There are many building in Lincoln that used to be schools: Willard Community Center, Hayward Park Condominiums, Whittier, the Cotner Center, come immediately to mind. To be sure, Lincoln Public Schools increased the number of schools as Lincoln's population grew, but they also dealt with changing population demographics by moving to where the customers were.  The fire department used to do the same thing, but hasn't relocated in the past half-century.  Nonetheless, there are several buildings around Lincoln that used to be fire stations, but were sold or re-purposed as the City grew and the fire department spread out decades ago.  Here's a great example: check out how the old fire station lives on, it's architectural detail quite identifiable in the facade of today's F Street Community Center at 13th & F Streets:

1 comment:

Steve said...


I'm curious, and I know this probably isn't anything directly under your jurisidiction as public safety director (perhaps more under public works), but I have to ask about the logic I'm seeing lately in the placing of cones and barricades around construction areas. Twentyseventh and South: signs indicate there is construction (perhaps even closure) on 27th St. south of South St., but why force all the southbound traffic into the lane that can only go straight south? If you want to turn right, you are forced away from the logical and legal lane to turn from, and if you want to turn left, you're going to move over into the left turn lane anyway. If you don't want people to continue southward, wouldn't it make more sense to block the only lane that continues south and force people to turn one way or the other?

Thirtythird and South: Same type of situation as the road is closed ahead as you proceed eastward on South St., yet they force traffic into what can only be an eastbound lane, even if you want to turn right on the planned detour on 33rd St. There are numerous other examples I've seen lately, including the area between Cotner and 48th on South St. (which changes every day and hasn't seemed logical in any of its configurations). Any ideas as to why it seems so counterintuitive?