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What is a 'brownout'? The answer impacts residents' safety

Cincinnati city leaders are proposing measures to essentially eliminate fire department brownouts. Brownouts are a practice implemented for budgetary reasons with the consequences impacting resident's safety. What should citizens know about this practice? Read these frequently asked questions about brownouts:

What is a fire department brownout? A brownout is when companies are shut down to save money, stretch resources, and compensate for budget shortfalls. An entire firehouse does not close – just certain engines or ladder companies rotating on a daily basis.

Who is affected by a brownout? Anyone in an emergency can be impacted by a brownout. If the nearest fire company to a fire or medical issue is browned out, another crew will have to respond, meaning a longer amount of time before crews arrive to the scene.

How many brownouts is Cincinnati having? The city averages five brownouts per day. That means five of it's 40 fire companies are closed daily. Thanks to a new recruit class and if overtime budgets remain the same, the city hopes brownouts to be reduced to one to two per day.

What is the current budget for fire department overtime? The city allocates $2.5 million for fire department overtime.                      

If department overtime is cut, how many brownouts will there be a day? Mayor John Cranley says a cut in the overtime budget will lead to three to four brownouts per day.

How are browned out locations determined? District chiefs, the leaders out in the field managing the firefighters, determine which units will be browned out each day based on staffing requirements. They rotate browned out locations throughout the city so that no community is hit harder than another.

Are Cincinnati Fire Departments at full staffing? No, according to union leader Matt Alter, full staffing is 879 people. Prior to the recent class of 41 recruits, the department was 100 firefighters understaffed.

How will new recruits help? Thanks to the new recruits, there are 14 new firefighters on each shift. Sunday was their first day on the streets and there were only two brownouts that day. According to Alter, Monday will only have one brownout.

Are brownouts a normal practice for cities? Brownouts are taken by cities to stretch resources but because they limit responding units, they are intended to be a temporary measure.

Related Content:

City leaders propose plan to reduce fire department 'brownouts'

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