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Well we cannot pick up the newspaper or turn on the television or radio without listening to discussions on the stock market or local economic issues facing all of our communities. It is worse in certain parts of the country than others but the US as a whole is facing tough economic times. In my community we have had to make some difficult decisions regarding our current and future budgets. At the same time, the economic climate in which we currently live and work has forced us to take a fresh look at our organizations and become more efficient and increase effectiveness at the same time. I am interested in knowing what your department is doing on all levels to successfully overcome the lean times in the fire service.

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Joel,

My fire district has had to drop back and put some of our 09 projects on hold till we see how our funding will be effected for 2009. I am very lucky that my board allowed me to purchase 2 new apparatus this year, we bought all new turnouts last year and my scba's are 3 years old. One of our main projects was to put 4 paid on duty during the day and an increase in our fire service fee per property. We are a Fire Improvement District and just dropped our I.S.O. from a 7 to a 5. We were looking at the savings our property owners were getting by the lower insurance rating to offset the increase in service fees.

We respond to 500+ calls per year and cover 18 square miles with a population of 3,500. We operate 2 engines, pumper tanker, rescue unit and brush engine with 15 volunteers. Hopefully the media, which I thank contributes to the problem, will back off and let the economy straighten itself out.
Many FD's in my area are looking at regionalization in order to save money on resources. Politicians are talking with safety directors who are talking with chiefs. Some say it will never happen due to culture, but I think that the economy will press the decision makers into making changes. We have FD's within 1-2 miles of one another with duplicate resources(ladders, rescues, etc...). Economically we have to change to survive.
We recently notified 6 of the 7 people that we had scheduled for recruit class to let them know that we would not be able to take advantage of the SAFER grant that we had won and, therefore, would not be able to bring them on. Current predictions have us loosing a million dollars from our budget in 2009 and three million in 2010. That puts us at our 2005 numbers in the second fastest growing county in the state. The Fire Chief is doing a good job of staying ahead and preparing for the hit, but I’m having trouble coming to grips with the fact that our service is going to suffer while our state carries a significant surplus in the budget.
We are doing what needs to be done, and that is to cut the fat. I hope that this gets worked out before we have to cut deeper, but the answer is simple. We will have to do a good job of differentiating our needs from our wants. The wants will have to go. Sometimes those wants deal with activities like public education and fire prevention, which we have come to think of as a must. We are in a position that may require us to return to our foundation, which will put us in a defensive or reactionary approach to public safety. I hope this gets worked out.
Unfortunately, on my job we've had loss of companies. During the last year we have lost our heavy rescue company and a paramedic Lt. position. The worst part about it is that these crucial companies went under the chopping block with barely a whimper. Not much noise from the union, the chief or the public. My point here is not to cast the blame around, because there is plenty to spread around in and outside of our department, but rather to say that fire chiefs and unions have to "step up their game" during tough financial times. Historically, the measure of a company was in its run numbers. The chief always justifies the company by citing the number of runs a company had. The union would rely on neighborhood support by leafleting and press releases. "YOU don't want to loose YOUR fire company!!" Over the past few years when city hall threatened cuts that was the tactic and it was successful in preventing the cuts from coming earlier. Not this time, though. The public and city counselors got tired of hearing the same old song from the chief and the union. After all, times are hard all around. The vague "Lives are at stake" argument falls on deaf ears when people are worried they are going to loose their jobs or homes. "Stepping up your game" includes careful, measured analysis of response times, work load and other data that tell the public in a measurable way what we do. NFPA 1710 is a scientifically proven document that spells out the national standard for the minimum of what career depts need to do to be effective. There are so many resources out there for chiefs and union officials to draw upon! The IAFC, IAFF, NFPA, American Heart Assn., NREMT, etc! When, as we know, lives are truely in the balance we owe it to ourselves to "step up our game" when our most precious resource, our responders, is at risk.
I can go both ways on this issue. I agree that we must take this time to re-evaluate the way we do business. Are we doing all we can to be effective and efficient? Are there ways to increase service levels without an increase in revenue? I don't know that we have to change just because of the economic storm we are in. I want elected and department officials to sit down and evaluate the actual situation of the community and make decisions based on facts not perception. I will also say that regionialization has worked in many areas of the country. Indianapolis metropolitian departments have began to consolidate into one department. This is a gruling process that takes some time to work out all of the different aspects in relation to personnel and equipment.

Shareef Abdu Nur said:
Many FD's in my area are looking at regionalization in order to save money on resources. Politicians are talking with safety directors who are talking with chiefs. Some say it will never happen due to culture, but I think that the economy will press the decision makers into making changes. We have FD's within 1-2 miles of one another with duplicate resources(ladders, rescues, etc...). Economically we have to change to survive.
Jim,

I am familiar with your situation and it looks like the next couple of years are going to be a challenge to budget. Fortunately you have a Fire Chief who is knowledgable in this area of financial management and involved in discussions with the elected officials. Brownsburg has an outstanding reputation and a long history of providing exceptional services to the community you protect. I look for the community to support your organizaiton and work along side you to resolve this crisis with little impact to service.



Jim Miller said:
We recently notified 6 of the 7 people that we had scheduled for recruit class to let them know that we would not be able to take advantage of the SAFER grant that we had won and, therefore, would not be able to bring them on. Current predictions have us loosing a million dollars from our budget in 2009 and three million in 2010. That puts us at our 2005 numbers in the second fastest growing county in the state. The Fire Chief is doing a good job of staying ahead and preparing for the hit, but I’m having trouble coming to grips with the fact that our service is going to suffer while our state carries a significant surplus in the budget.
We are doing what needs to be done, and that is to cut the fat. I hope that this gets worked out before we have to cut deeper, but the answer is simple. We will have to do a good job of differentiating our needs from our wants. The wants will have to go. Sometimes those wants deal with activities like public education and fire prevention, which we have come to think of as a must. We are in a position that may require us to return to our foundation, which will put us in a defensive or reactionary approach to public safety. I hope this gets worked out.
Chris I could not agree more. We must always remain passionate about the profession. When we (members of the department, not just the admin staff) don't give 100% to this issue it sends a bad message that those positions may not have been needed in the first place. It will very hard to get those positions back. I just received a document from the ICHIEFS on Weathering the Economic Storm. I have not read the entire document as of yet but this is an example of the resources that you have mentioned. The Fire Service as a whole must work together to limit the number of positions cut in these times. Departments must prioritize its operations in relation to our core mission which is to protect lives and property. Firefighter positions should be the last to be cut when we look to reduce our budgets. There is always areas of the department that can be trimmed. It takes hard work and time to find ways to meet the challenges of today's economic environment. I refuse to meet these challenges on the backs of the nations firefighters.

Chris Fleming said:
Unfortunately, on my job we've had loss of companies. During the last year we have lost our heavy rescue company and a paramedic Lt. position. The worst part about it is that these crucial companies went under the chopping block with barely a whimper. Not much noise from the union, the chief or the public. My point here is not to cast the blame around, because there is plenty to spread around in and outside of our department, but rather to say that fire chiefs and unions have to "step up their game" during tough financial times. Historically, the measure of a company was in its run numbers. The chief always justifies the company by citing the number of runs a company had. The union would rely on neighborhood support by leafleting and press releases. "YOU don't want to loose YOUR fire company!!" Over the past few years when city hall threatened cuts that was the tactic and it was successful in preventing the cuts from coming earlier. Not this time, though. The public and city counselors got tired of hearing the same old song from the chief and the union. After all, times are hard all around. The vague "Lives are at stake" argument falls on deaf ears when people are worried they are going to loose their jobs or homes. "Stepping up your game" includes careful, measured analysis of response times, work load and other data that tell the public in a measurable way what we do. NFPA 1710 is a scientifically proven document that spells out the national standard for the minimum of what career depts need to do to be effective. There are so many resources out there for chiefs and union officials to draw upon! The IAFC, IAFF, NFPA, American Heart Assn., NREMT, etc! When, as we know, lives are truely in the balance we owe it to ourselves to "step up our game" when our most precious resource, our responders, is at risk.
The Governor of the State of Indiana has announced a spending freeze and a reduction of services in most areas of government. The one area Governor Daniels refuses to reduce is public safety. He is calling for a reorganization of government throughout the state. Many elected officials are shaking in their boots because the position they currently hold may not be there in the future. The fire and emergency services has supported Governor Daniels and must remain a strong fixture in the statehouse as decisions are being made that greatly effect all firefighters and emergency responders whether career, combination, or volunteer. Let us stand together to weather this storm together and emerge stronger for it.
Our department is cutting back by limiting the spending on what is only absolutely necessary. We try to remind our members to keep the doors closed,turn down the heat and turn off the lighting when they leave. We are trying to come up with some creative and implement already proven fundraising ideas. A major problem that will soon be impacting our volunteer fire service, here in PA, is the opening of several casinos. The casino owners have such a strong financial stronghold on our politicians that will be impacting our fire service in the way of our fundraising. Reportedly, if some of what is rumored comes to fruition, we may no longer have the games of chance, other than bingos, to raise money at our carnivals. Again, I'm not sure this to be true. But having said that, we have to be the stronger voice politically to maintain a position with our politicians. Our State boasts about the $15,000 grant that they provide each fire company, if they apply for it, out of what the casinos are making. You and I both know that $15,000 does not last long if most departments. The casinos need lever pullers to make money. Yeah, no brainer. The politicians need financial backing to support their campaigns, because they need lever pullers too. My simple theory is that volunteer fire companies, in our State pale in comparison, financially to a politicians need to raise campaign funds, so they seek out the money makers. Also, it is unwise for any fire company to get involved in government politics when it comes to elections. Our power must come from our numbers, as it relates to our votes. We have over 2000 volunteer fire companies in the State of PA. Let's say for instance, each fire company has 20 members. That works out to be 40,000 votes. Could that impact an election? Maybe. What if each company had 40 members? It's not about making up numbers, though. My point is that we need to form a stronger bond of our masses, to support our fire companies, financially. Historically, volunteer fire companies save the taxpaying citizens money each year. We save the communities we serve a lot of money. Casinos, in my opinion, are good in that they will bring in jobs, spur the tag along businesses, like the restaurants, other clubs, and venues with more jobs, etc. The downside is that they want a near complete control of gaming. The gaming that has helped most of our fire companies survive for as long as we have. Another downside is if people are spending money to hopefuly obtain a windfall, what becomes or our donations, and our annual fund drives that most of us have? They potentially will take away our bread and butter if we do not pay attention. We need to form better a better bond as a firefighting force, much like we do when we fight a structure fire, and really communicate with our politicians. That includes phone calls, e-mails, rallies, speaking at their sessions, when applicable, and our respective votes. Make them hear us. Anytime there are cuts to be made in a government budget, it occurs more often than not in Public Safety. That isn't right in any fire department, career, combination or volunteer, or for any Public safety entity! We all give back to our communities in a way that no other other industry can. We put are lives on the line daily! We all "protect and serve", we all" volunteer because their lives depend on it", we all "save lives, protect property and preserve the environment". We do our jobs! Anyone of us who has saved a life, or did a courageous task, simply says, it's what we do, it's just part of the job. We got to get the message out there, that we need more to do what we do and to do our job. The message must come from us. How many of our communities know that when 911 is called, a volunteer fire department is responding? Many don't know, or don't care. I firmly believe that while the casinos have the financial numbers to support their cause and well being, we also have numbers to put up, found in our sense of brotherhood for each other, to support our cause and well being through the way we communicate and finally with our votes. We have so many firefighting organizations out there. Join one that lobbies the legislators and let's build up our numbers! I'm sorry for the length. Just how I feel. Again this is just my opinion. I really wish you all nothing but the best and hope we stick together before we just get stuck. Thank you.

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