Viral radio exchange reveals low morale, staffing challenges at Baltimore FD

“For the third time, we told you we are out of service,” an EMT is heard saying on a recording of Baltimore City Fire Department radio traffic

Read Lexipol Editorial Director Greg Friese's analysis of the incident and how EMS leaders should address morale and staffing woes. 

By Leila Merrill

BALTIMORE — “For the third time, we told you we are out of service,” an EMT says, repeating himself on a recording of Baltimore City Fire Department radio traffic. “I am completely prepared to tell my driver to disembark, and I will drive this thing in the Inner Harbor.”

“Okay ambo 24, that’s unnecessary, we have you out of service,” a fire communications employee responds in the recording, FoxBaltimore reported Tuesday.

The exchange being circulated on social media illustrates the stress some members are feeling, according to Rich Langford, president of the Baltimore Firefighters Local 734.

He said staffing issues are nothing new, the department vacancy rate is nearly 10%. Baltimore City is short over 40 paramedics and well over 100 firefighters, Langford said.

Response times and costs are affected.

“It costs the taxpayers overtime. It puts a strain on the fire department's budget,” he said.

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Fire companies have had to close.

“If the BCFD is a ship among the sea of problems staffing is looking like a tidal wave coming at us that we need to avoid,” said Josh Fannon, president of the Local 964 Baltimore Fire Officers Union.

“I think the additional work hours, overtime, it does take its toll on the mental health of our members,” Fannon said. “But one of the things with mental health is you have to address the problem or it’s going to continue so if the problem is brought on by additional work hours then we need to address that.”

The Baltimore Fire Department declined to comment. A spokesperson said they were unable to discuss as this as it is a disciplinary matter.



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