Concerns Mount over Impending Firefighter Shortage and 911 Dispatch Delays in Baltimore City

Posted on 09/20/23 | News Source: WMAR2NEWS

From the status of fire apparatus to the people who use it, the Baltimore Fire Department gave a status update to the Baltimore City Council's public safety and government operations committee.

The most concerning comment came towards the end of the meeting as Acting Assistant Chief of Safety Member Services Thomas Tosh said the city could be dealing with a large firefighter shortage within the next few months.

"There's rumors abundant in the field right now that this January we're going to have a mass exodus of anywhere between 50 and 150 people which would cripple us if that happened," said Tosh.

Tosh went on to mention the efforts the department is making to fill the vacancies.

"We've been having classes, every time we have an opening with one class graduating, we're pushing another class in with the maximum amount of people. We're hoping to have at least a list of 300 when we're done with this recruitment and we want to put all of those through and we want to begin another recruitment drive starting in January," said Tosh.

911 was apart of the meeting as well and currently they're short about 2-3 people per shift," he added.

Currently 911 dispatch is not meeting the minimum requirement of calls answered within fifteen seconds.

As of now, only 83% of 911 calls in Baltimore City are answered within that time.

Tenea Reddick with the department's dispatch says they're short two or three people per shift which usually staffs eight people.

Firefighter Union president Matthew Coster sent a statement saying, "We should have a continuous recruitment effort until the fire department is fully staffed. Staffing the department with overtime just creates more opportunities for burn out and injuries. Our members who are working are dedicated to their job and failing is not an option, so they show up day in and day out to staff the vacancies working a lot of hours over what they normally would."

The department said there are limitations to how many recruits they can have in each class.