By Ray McCormack
Terms such as “stakeholders” and “customers” in fire service parlance have similar but not identical meanings. “Stakeholder” is a richer, more descriptive term than bland, old “customer”. I’m not sure which one is sillier as a way of describing people who interact with the fire service, but until the fire service business majors come up with a new term, progressives use this.
The problem with assuming people in your response area are your customers is that, although it’s a cute adaptation of a business term, the fire department is not a customer-gathering type of business like that of a plumber or video store. The fire department already has the widest-possible population base to serve, a monopoly if you will. We do not need to run ads or commercials offering 20 percent off on your next fire. While thinking of people as customers might push some firefighters to provide extra pampering, are people complaining about us because we didn’t do more? All people get the same package of service regardless of where and who they are.
Stakeholder is a much broader term and subliminally conveys the image of people sitting around a boardroom. Invariably, perhaps because it sounds so much like stockholders, it has been adopted as a new fire service business term. One big difference is that stockholders decide what direction the corporation should move to further enrich their holdings. Fire department stakeholders, while hailing from many diverse areas of society and business, receive no dividend checks. We serve all the varied interests or stakeholders equally and without favor. We always have. it’s nothing new.
A fire department must encompass prevention, suppression, investigation, and assistance, covering the life cycle of emergencies. Honorably serving all those that need our assistance–customers, stakeholders, even civilians– will keep your fire business portfolio balanced. Tactical safety is a service you provide for your personal stakeholders.
Thanks for reading.
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RAY McCORMACK is a 30-year veteran and a lieutenant with FDNY. He is the publisher and editor of Urban Firefighter Magazine. He delivered the keynote address at FDIC in 2009 and he is on the Editorial Board of Fire Engineering Magazine.