ELY: LESS EMOTIONALISM
The word “consolidation” should probably be changed to some word that has less emotionalism attached to it. Every time it is mentioned, the hair on the back of the neck of many fire chiefs raises considerably. Most often it means some specific past experience, and they are usually against it, whatever “it” is.
Yet a lot of people who are “against” it have been “for” some types of consolidation and have acted accordingly. Recognize any of these?
- For better service and public relations, some city EMS programs were started, some by fire departments, some by police, and some by both.
- For quicker response of vehicles, a consolidated first-response system between several departments was initiated.
- For a better fire code inspection program, line fire fighters were given basic inspection duties. Consolidation of line and bureau personnel was accepted and was successful.
- For a more efficient investigation program, several different fire departments
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- consolidated and formed an investigation team. Same for public education programs.
- Mutual aid and automatic aid have improved manning and equipment levels.
- Dispatching of police and fire units has been consolidated. Dispatching of several fire departments has been consolidated by contract.
- Training of recruits of several departments by one department on contract and/or by the state.
- Consolidating building and fire departments for better fire control features and code coordination.
- Improved manpower responses with the addition of a public service officer.
- Purchasing from a central source (i.e., county-state) or group purchasing.
- Consolidating vehicle maintenance by several fire departments.
This list could go on and on. You surely recognize a iot of them. Maybe you are involved with some. And all of them are some sort of consolidation. If that word bothers you, call it something else. For the most part, fire chiefs are the people who proposed them.
Consider these questions: “Are you for an efficient operation ?” Or, “Would you be interested in better fire protection for your community?” And, “Would you be interested in a program to keep your fire department operational costs from growing too rapidly?” Even the hair-raisers would probably answer yes to all of these questions. These are the same questions city managers and mayors ask. The big question is how to accomplish these things.
It has been my observation over many years that we in the fire service do a fairto-good job in telling each other what our problems are and the solutions to those problems. But we run fair-to-poor in telling the public or our administrators the problems or solutions. There are obviously some exceptions to this.
I’m not trying to imply that all consolidation programs have worked. When we’re sure a particular consolidation program will not work, however we should be mentally and physically ready to propose an alternate delivery program that we know will work.
We should stop being reactionary and defensive about the general category of consolidation. Instead, we should be proponents of any idea that will help our operations to be more efficient and cost effective. We have the know-how and many of the answers.
After all, that is all our municipal administrators are looking for.