Fire Department Needs and the Budget
The Editor’s Opinion Page
This is the time of the year that a fire chief ponders the question . . . what to buy? Or at least what to ask for when the budget hearings come up.
The simple answer is, of course, to buy what you need. But this in turn poses the question what do you really need?
Needs of a fire department are determined in the main by organizations outside the department. A department that seeks a Class 5 rating, for instance, must comply with the recommendations of the local rating bureau or the American Insurance Association. In fact, these recommendations must be met to get any kind of rating.
Basic recommendations call for an adequate number of engine and ladder companies to be provided and so distributed as to give complete coverage to the city or area in question. To give this adequate coverage, standard response distances for the first-due engine and ladder companies have been established. These distances in turn depend upon the required fire flow in gallons per minute and construction characteristics.
The recommendations of the AIA and the various rating bureaus are broad in scope, however, and for the more specific details we must turn to the National Fire Protection Association and its Pamphlet 19, “Specifications for Motor Apparatus.”
These recommended specifications spell out in some detail the minimum requirements for types of apparatus and the equipment they should carry. Since restrictive features designed to limit competitive bidding are avoided, the specifications provide that the purchaser may take advantage of bids from a number of manufacturers.
But the chief projecting his needs into 1968 has much more to consider than the basic needs.
Does he buy a beautiful show piece for the Decoration Day parade? Or does he buy a machine that provides maximum fire fighting efficiency at minimum cost to the community that supports his department? Following the latter course—and in the long run—he will build up respect and good will for himself by the city fathers, and will eventually get more equipment from the ever-shrinking tax dollar.
Assuming that he has given sufficient and proper thought to his needs, his next and final problem is to convince the city fathers of these needs. This can only be done by a solid presentation of the budget that is in effect a sales pitch.
Budgets are often rejected not for lack of money but because the chief preparing the budget did not establish the necessity for the items listed in the budget. He didn’t do his homework.
For those who want to know how to do this homework, we suggest you turn to page 42 of this issue. Our associate editor, Dick Sylvia, explains the process simply and completely.