Friday, November 27, 2009

Silly Season at the K.B.F.P.D.

Much like NASCAR, it's that time of year when crew members jump ship and change teams. NASCAR calls it silly season, as do I. Drivers change teams in NASCAR, drivers change stations at the K.B.F.P.D. Crew chiefs change teams in NASCAR, captains change stations at the K.B.F.P.D. Like any process, it is not a simple one.

The K.B.F.P.D. has a bid policy for people to bid where they want to work. The bid process is an annual, multi-step procedure that starts in November and winds up when the transfers take place in the first few weeks in January.

There are a multitude of rules, only a few of which I will cover here:
1. It is a seniority based system.
2. No bumping. A senior member can't bump a less senior member out of a spot.
3. You can't bid into a specialty station such as HAZ-MAT, USAR etc. unless you have the certifications needed for that spot.
4. The district may refuse to honor a bid or move people who do not have a bid in for the "good of the district".
5. You may bid to another shift, or another station. Not both.

The first step of the process is for members of all ranks who want to change shifts. The requests open in early November and last for a few weeks. The appropriate paperwork is sent in, then the district commanders meet and determine which of these will be honored. Not too many people want to change shifts, especially in the engineer and captain ranks. Once these are approved, they are set aside for the meeting later on in the process.

Next, the captains bid. Captain's bids open the last week in November and are open for a few weeks. These bids are not approved and do not take place until the end of the process, but it gives the engineers and firefighters an idea where the various captains might be working for the next year. This information may or may not influence where they might bid. BTW,  Schmoe ain't bidding anywhere next year. I am happy where I am at. They don't call it the "Healing Place" for nothing. I need all of the healing that I can get!

Finally, everyone else bids. They open these the second week in December and again, they are open for a few weeks.

The process is completed on each shift by a captain's meeting which usually occurs the last few weeks in December. The meeting is called the "Winter Draft" and can be quite interesting. It has also been known to be potentially contentious.

All of the captains on a particular shift will meet, determine where the open spots will be, review the bids, and place the bidders in the open spots. Sometimes the meeting will take only 30 minutes or so, be low key and little movement will take place. Other times, it will be a long, drawn-out affair with many phone calls and much discussion. Occasionally, the district commanders will have to step in and settle an issue.

It is imperative that each captain attends the meeting or send an advocate to represent their interests and those of their crew. Even though I am usually on vacation during the winter draft, I still usually attend. I am not willing to leave may fate and that of my crew to others. My crew is relying on me to make sure their bid is considered and honored if possible.

Sometimes, a members bid may not be available, but another spot my arise. I make sure I know what is acceptable to my crew members before I leave for the meeting and I also advise them to keep their phones on and next to their ear during the winter draft. I may need to call and present different options.

Issues arise when personnel or personality issues arise and a move needs to be made "for the good of the district". These issues are compounded by the personalities of the captains, who often are somewhat strong willed and occasionally have sef-serving motives for their actions.

I once attended a winter draft meeting where I was in a verbal dispute with someone I really cared about. The dispute was over a problem child employee who wanted out of his assignment at a smaller station and wanted to return to a district HQ station where everyone wanted to kill him. We had alredy played that game, the results were disastrous. Even the nicest guy in the station had stood toe to toe with this individual. I held my ground, I would not let him return and disrupt my station. His captain wanted him out, stating "everyone here wants to kill him". That was a faulty argument as far as I was concerned my reply was would you rather have three guys who want to kill him or ten?

Most of the captains in our district saw it my way, but the other captin would not concede. Things got to the point where reolution was not going to be possible in that environment, so we called in the district commander, who was in an adjoining room. He was reluctant to make the call but we insisted, as that is what he makes the big DC bucks for. The DC made the call, the problem child stayed where he was.

Fortunately, recent draft meetings have been much less intense and have actually been pleasant. This year, two of my crew members are going to bid out. Both are younger. One is just off of probation and wants to go to a busier house to gain experience. The other wants to get promoted and is seeking more exposure.

As much as I hate to lose either, I will do my best to help them get what they want. It may not be possible, we will know at the end of next month.

I definitely will be at the draft, I don't want to end up at the "Big House of Pain" for the "good of the district".

Thanks for reading,



  1. Dear Captain Schmoe,
    This reminds me of the way graduating medical students get their spots for residency: the "lottery". You put in for where you want and then you pray they choose you.

    In practical terms, that means some plane trips and interviews, and a giant sucking sound in the offices of teaching hospitals all over the nation. Soon, however, everyone gets their dignity back.

    Ann T.

  2. Dear Capt.,
    I have one employee in my office who is a flat out disaster, in that she is just not any kind of smart. She is reliable & nice, but I keep whitling down her duties so she has less to screw up. Seems she can't even answer the phone because she uses her former employer's name as a salutation. I was reading your post and thinking that it would be nice if we had an annual trade and I could push her off on someone else; then it occured to me that being less than forthcoming could earn me a lifelong enemy. I guess she's mine forever. This managment bit is not my strong suit.

  3. Ann T. - All of that to get mercilessly abused. I have never really understood the residency process. I understand the need to check ones level of desire, mental toughness ability to work under pressure etc, but has the traditional residency program outlived it's functionality? I don't know. Maybe one of my M.D. readers has the answer.

    Mrs. Bunker - I have the answer. I know of a certain contractor in the mid-west who might need an inventory control clerk. You could pawn your problem child off on him. His inventory would be so screwed up, he likely would not notice the shrinkage of his valuable inventory and hopefully would not notice the fattening of your wallet.

    Of course, there would be a cost. You might have to take problem off of his hands. Like a frog lamp or something. I guess if you implimented my heinous plot and it were discovered, you might earn a lifelong enemy.
    It may be worth a shot.

  4. Well Captain, this cool-headed logical thinking just goes to show why you're The Captain. My problems due to her lack of skills can now be put to good & possibly even profitable use.

  5. I was put on this earth to make it a better place Mrs. B. Glad to be of service.