Despite challenges, Roanoke Fire-EMS continues to answer the call

Published: Jul. 22, 2022 at 10:42 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Each year, Roanoke Fire-EMS presents its public safety report at City Council.

“I will tell you this year has been the busiest year this department has ever experienced,” Roanoke Fire-EMS Chief David Hoback told Roanoke City Council Monday.

2021 was the most active year on record for Roanoke Fire-EMS, with more than 30,000 calls. But Hoback already expects 2022 to top that.

“Volume in the city is up, we’ve had to make adjustments in staffing to accommodate that.”

But the staffing problems seen in the 2021 safety report are already carrying over into 2022.

“Right now we’re in a negative staffing profile. Every day we have anywhere from 3-5 overtimes and that’s 24-hour shifts. We have 25 vacancies, about 11 percent of our work force is out.”

The report also showed around half of Roanoke Fire-EMS’s current staffers have fewer than five years experience, something Hoback admits he’s never seen.

“What that means is we have people that are less experienced in the more severity of what we deal with every day, our structure fires and our critical calls and we have to really make sure we prepare them for that and get them education and experience.”

Despite these challenges, Roanoke Fire-EMS’s response numbers continue to be solid compared to previous years.

“It really is a testament to what they do day in and day out. And they are very passionate about serving the community and taking care of the community, and I can’t say how proud I am of them but we have to be able to infuse some relief into what they’re doing.”

Staffing isn’t the only challenge the department is facing.

“We’re in a very dynamic environment right now with staffing, with cost of equipment, with the fact that our ambulances and our fire engines are anywhere from 24 to 30 months delay getting them. We have to plan for that. We’ve never been in this situation but we’re not the only ones, everybody’s experiencing that.”

These needs are all outlined in Roanoke Fire-EMS’s 2022 Business Plan, which Roanoke Fire-EMS is continuously reviewing and updating. The good news is Hoback said they do feel supported by the city when it comes to helping in their needs.

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