In 1998, the mayor of Youngstown challenged the Fire Department’s policy of allowing firefighters to grocery shop while on duty. The mayor believed that this practice did not “project a good public image” while the Fire Department Union argued that “it was a matter of safety and visibility.”
When all was said and done, the policy was allowed to continue citing that it boiled boiled down to safety, economics and visibility. This policy is in line with the majority of other major fire departments policies throughout the United States.
Safety – Firefighters could not send 1 person to the store to shop because that would drop the safe staffing of the truck below the minimum and cause the piece of equipment to be out of service during that time. With the entire crew going to the store, if a call came in, the unit could respond from there with all staff.
Economics – It was argued that forcing firefighters to shop before their shift would cost city grocery stores in excess of $30,000 in sales a year. One condition of the shopping policy is that units are not permitted to leave the city limits and must use a grocery store in the city.
Visibility – Fire Apparatus are on display for anyone to see when they are out. Given that a firefighter must remain with the truck at all times, this allows the public to see the equipment and talk to the firefighters. This makes for good public relations.
Read the full Fact finding report – 98-MED-04-0431 [PDF]