Reversal of Fortune?

HEADLINE: Johnson City to Explore Adding Volunteer Firefighters http://www.pressconnects.com/article/20091116/NEWS01/911160345/1112/Johnson-City-to-explore-adding-volunteer-firefighters

Is it just me or are two worlds colliding here?

At the same time many volunteer fire departments struggle to maintain their ranks, their career counterparts are being stripped to the bone in both manpower and operating budget by their community’s and our country’s fiscal crisis.

This is not the first article I’ve read recently with a recurring theme — career fire departments reverting (or in some cases, converting for the first time) to combination departments.

We have many communities in our county, currently supported by all-volunteer fire departments, where a part or full time staffed career fire department would be simply unaffordable. They would have to go without fire protection if it weren’t for the dedication of their volunteers.

Unfortunately, it seems that several communities with pre-existing career fire departments are coming to the same realization: fire protection is a much needed but costly service to maintain properly.

What’s the solution? I’m not sure but I have some ideas.

I do know that it will take a lot of creativity, imagination, and willingness to adapt to overcome the staffing challenges that virtually every community faces — regardless if emergency services are provided by volunteer or paid personnel. The need for employing the “3 Cs” has probably never been greater: Coordination, Communication and Cooperation.

I’ve said before that there are only two types of fire departments today: Those who have a staffing shortage — and those who are about to.

The only remaining question is: Whaddayou gonna do about it?

Let me know how I can help.

 

PS – Did you ever notice that you never read headlines threatening to lay off, furlow or have rolling blackouts of garbagemen, administrators, parks and recreation workers, etc.? What’s wrong with this picture?

I have nothing against any of these people as they provide a very important service as well. And some would argue that garbage pickup affects public health – and I can agree to a certain extent – but why is it that the first thing they try to slash and burn is public safety?

Furthermore, why is it that many volunteer fire departments have to beg, borrow and essentially steal to underwrite the cost of their operations instead of being adequately supported by the communities they serve – despite already providing their labor for free?

When was the last time the police department held a bake sale to put another police car or officer on the street? Has the highway department ever had to hold a chicken barbeque to get a plow repaired?

Some days I just don’t get it. I guess this is one of those days.

3 Comments

  • chiefreason says:

    Tiger:
    I would agree that, nationally, we are seeing alot of the same headlines, but something very strange and very close to me happened last week.
    A career department that I actually emulate in my fictional stories of Jake and Vinnie just accepted a new contract from the city. They received a modest increase in wages, but will pay for a portion of their insurance; something that they have never had to do. The retirees who are retired now will continue to receive their current level of medical coverage to age 65, but starting in 2010, new retirees will be paid a lump sum for medical coverage to age 65. Medical coverage is a huge portion of the expense to run a public safety department. I believe that contribution to retirement plan remained the same, I'm not sure.
    My point is that this fire department has never had a lay-off, but have increased the size of the department. They saw the writing on the wall and worked with the city administrator to create a contract that they could ALL live with. They are not over paid by any stretch, but they have been out in front of the community with their assistance programs and their community activism. The citizens appreciates and supports them. They aren't perfect little angels, but they remain mindful of their “status” in the community.
    Perhaps, we are witness to too much give from one side or too much take from another. Maybe it isn't even about money, but festering problems from the past coming back to haunt. Maybe some on the various city councils have been waiting for this moment to settle an old score. Maybe everything is lined up just right for a massive cut to services.
    Or maybe, public safety has gotten too damned expensive because of greed; on everyone's parts. Why is it that I can buy a fire engine peddle car from a vendor for $75 and the exact same peddle car advertised in a fire specialty catalog is $100? That is what is at play in the fire service; from fire vendors to firefighters. Go where the money is or in the case of some cities; go where it isn't.
    Your skills are going to be needed; now more than ever.
    I see it coming.

  • chiefreason says:

    Tiger:
    I would agree that, nationally, we are seeing alot of the same headlines, but something very strange and very close to me happened last week.
    A career department that I actually emulate in my fictional stories of Jake and Vinnie just accepted a new contract from the city. They received a modest increase in wages, but will pay for a portion of their insurance; something that they have never had to do. The retirees who are retired now will continue to receive their current level of medical coverage to age 65, but starting in 2010, new retirees will be paid a lump sum for medical coverage to age 65. Medical coverage is a huge portion of the expense to run a public safety department. I believe that contribution to retirement plan remained the same, I'm not sure.
    My point is that this fire department has never had a lay-off, but have increased the size of the department. They saw the writing on the wall and worked with the city administrator to create a contract that they could ALL live with. They are not over paid by any stretch, but they have been out in front of the community with their assistance programs and their community activism. The citizens appreciates and supports them. They aren't perfect little angels, but they remain mindful of their “status” in the community.
    Perhaps, we are witness to too much give from one side or too much take from another. Maybe it isn't even about money, but festering problems from the past coming back to haunt. Maybe some on the various city councils have been waiting for this moment to settle an old score. Maybe everything is lined up just right for a massive cut to services.
    Or maybe, public safety has gotten too damned expensive because of greed; on everyone's parts. Why is it that I can buy a fire engine peddle car from a vendor for $75 and the exact same peddle car advertised in a fire specialty catalog is $100? That is what is at play in the fire service; from fire vendors to firefighters. Go where the money is or in the case of some cities; go where it isn't.
    Your skills are going to be needed; now more than ever.
    I see it coming.

  • chiefreason says:

    Tiger:
    I would agree that, nationally, we are seeing alot of the same headlines, but something very strange and very close to me happened last week.
    A career department that I actually emulate in my fictional stories of Jake and Vinnie just accepted a new contract from the city. They received a modest increase in wages, but will pay for a portion of their insurance; something that they have never had to do. The retirees who are retired now will continue to receive their current level of medical coverage to age 65, but starting in 2010, new retirees will be paid a lump sum for medical coverage to age 65. Medical coverage is a huge portion of the expense to run a public safety department. I believe that contribution to retirement plan remained the same, I'm not sure.
    My point is that this fire department has never had a lay-off, but have increased the size of the department. They saw the writing on the wall and worked with the city administrator to create a contract that they could ALL live with. They are not over paid by any stretch, but they have been out in front of the community with their assistance programs and their community activism. The citizens appreciates and supports them. They aren't perfect little angels, but they remain mindful of their “status” in the community.
    Perhaps, we are witness to too much give from one side or too much take from another. Maybe it isn't even about money, but festering problems from the past coming back to haunt. Maybe some on the various city councils have been waiting for this moment to settle an old score. Maybe everything is lined up just right for a massive cut to services.
    Or maybe, public safety has gotten too damned expensive because of greed; on everyone's parts. Why is it that I can buy a fire engine peddle car from a vendor for $75 and the exact same peddle car advertised in a fire specialty catalog is $100? That is what is at play in the fire service; from fire vendors to firefighters. Go where the money is or in the case of some cities; go where it isn't.
    Your skills are going to be needed; now more than ever.
    I see it coming.

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