News Release News Release The City of Palo Alto
Communications Department
250 Hamilton Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301


PRESS RELEASE 02/02/2011
Subject :

City Council to Discuss Consultant's "Fire Department "Services, Resources and Utilization Study" on February 7
Contact : Pam Antil, Assistant City Manager    650-329-2533
Palo Alto, CA – The City of Palo Alto has released the report "Palo Alto Fire Department Services, Resources & Utilization Study," conducted by the International City/County Management Association and TriData. This comprehensive 190-page report is a result of a thorough review and analysis of the Fire Department in five key areas and includes specific recommendations for improving efficiency and cost-effectiveness in its operations. The report will be discussed in a City Council Study Session on February 7, 2011, that will begin at approximately 7:30 p.m.

"A third-party review allows us to benchmark our operations to other agencies and objectively assess what is working well and what needs refinement for us to provide responsive and cost-effective service to this community," said City Manager James Keene. "I believe this report is an important step for us to identify ways to enhance the effectiveness of the Fire Department and better position it for 21st century."

The consultants recommend changes to the fire department’s organizational structure and resource deployment (staff, equipment, etc.) based upon actual data from the City’s Computer- Aided Dispatch (CAD) tracking system. There are many recommendations related to improved training and development of staff, response and turnout times, workload analysis, and staffing changes, as well as sworn staff to civilian personnel-related recommendations. In addition, the report highlights the need to implement modern best practices and invest in fire station building infrastructure to achieve some of the recommendations. The report findings are discussed in more detail in the report and some are subject to meet and confer under existing union agreements.

A few of the significant recommendations being made by the consultants include:

  • Implement a new organizational structure. The current police chief would serve as public safety director over police and fire operations; support functions from each department would be merged (budget/finance, human resources, information technology, planning). Recommendation is due to significant staffing reductions that have occurred in the administrative and support functions needed to effectively manage the fire department. Combining resources would result in costs savings and efficiency as well as allow a new fire chief or chief of operations to manage the day to day activities within the fire department while the public safety director would focus on strategic planning, budgeting and other executive functions for both police and fire operations.
  • Combine emergency management functions. Hire a manager with qualifications specific to the field of emergency management to serve under the public safety director and lead this joint police/fire function. Recommendation is based on the need for a more coordinated emergency management effort.
  • Discontinue overtime staffing for Station 8. Staff the station only during high fire days as determined by Cal Fire through alternative staffing options such as contracting with Cal Fire or another agency as well as investigate the use of infrared technology to monitor hot spots in the area and deploy staff as appropriate. Recommendation is a result of data indicating that the high cost of staffing the station through overtime and low number of actual service calls do not match needs with current staffing levels.
  • Merge two fire stations. Consider locating a new station near the intersection of Arastradero Road and Hillview Avenue (infrastructure improvement would be needed to accommodate this recommendation) and merge Fire Stations 2 (2675 Hanover) and 5 (600 Arastradero) to this general vicinity. Recommendation is based on CAD data that shows significant overlap in service coverage not merited by current and projected demand and indications that existing locations no longer match current needs of the city as it has been built out since the stations were built in the1960s.
  • Discontinue minimum staffing requirements. Eliminate the practice of mandating the minimum number of on-duty personnel within the Memorandum of Understanding. Recommendation is because the minimum staffing requirement has led to decreased staffing flexibility as service needs change and to the elimination of many administrative staff positions, some of which should be reinstated such as the Geographic Information System (GIS) data analyst and a Battalion Chief to plan and manage the training program.

"There are a variety of recommendations provided in this study; some will be embraced by everyone and some will likely need to be clarified or modified based on the feedback received after the report is discussed at next week’s Study Session," stated Pam Antil, Assistant City Manager and the staff lead on this project. "We look forward to working with our dedicated fire professionals to maximize the department’s performance, based on the data analyzed and recommendations outlined in the report."

The scope of this project was to provide a third party independent review of the Palo Alto Fire Department such that the City could better understand how the current system of department operations was working and to determine if the department could provide services more efficiently, effectively, and/or reduce costs in some ways. Specifically, the scope of work required a focused, objective analysis of overall Fire Department emergency response operations that would analyze current resource deployment practices to assess the appropriateness of the department’s existing minimum staffing levels in the context of call volume, response times, use of overtime, deployment practices and employee safety.

Key areas evaluated during this study were:

  • Fire department response times (using data from the city’s CAD system);
  • Fire and EMS unit workloads;
  • Services and agreement with Stanford University;
  • Fire station and staffing locations/ concentrations; and
  • Fulltime staffing; use of overtime; auxiliary personnel.

Data was analyzed and a number of face-to-face and telephone interviews were conducted by the consultants to complete the report, findings and recommendations. Additionally, the findings and recommendations are based on that data, as well as information provided by all stakeholder groups of the study (Fire Department staff, other City staff, City Council, City Administration, representatives of the community). To view the full report, visit (

International City/ County Management Association (ICMA), along with TriData, a division of System Planning Corporation (SPC), was selected to conduct a services, resources, and utilization/deployment analysis of the Palo Alto Fire Department.