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Have we reached a point in the fire service to better serve our communities and cities, we should regionalize our resources to respond to the increasing need for manpower to fight fires ,money for budgets and equipment, by eliminating borders and creating a response area supported by a regional tax ? I believe the Idea has merit. Your Thoughts.

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Hey Dennis,

Good point, regional assets are organizations where resources are shared between organizations in a common response area for specific functions. Consolidation is where organizations merge physical resources like human resources, apparatus and stations into one authority or organization.

Big difference!

The advantage to regional resources is that only requires mutual and automatic aid agreements for staffing, training, apparatus, resources and logistics.
Dennis, you are on the mark with the concept of shared resources, inclunding staffing...and yes it is going to take formal agreements with written SOGs by all participants. But consider this, there has to be a funding mechanism for the individual departments to obtain funding for support of these services. Understand that with "home rule" as we have in the north east, each individual village, city, fire district and contract fire protection district fund their individual activities. There needs to be a mechanism to obtain funding over a larger tax base so that the support funding is equitable. This is the challenge that needs to be overcome, and yes there are ways to do it that will be part of the negotiations and agreement phase of the process. Pre-determined response areas, breaking down jurisdictional boundaries would provide a big jump start to the process. Image, to provide the best service to the public based on response time! That is what we are here for, but lose sight of.
I'm in the north/northwest suburbs of Chicago and we have had varied levels of regionalization for years. One way is with EMS-a resource hospital controls the EMS SOPs and con-ed delivery which is stadardizeds across 2 dozen departments. Another way is our regional fire/EMS-only dispatch. We run (for the most part) closest units go. My department runs a tanker (tender for NIMS) and is the only tanker between us and Lake Michigan, Chicago and points west and north. We make runs with our squad and engine every day into neighboring towns. Our own district is 19,000 folks and 6 sq miles but our second due area is about 30 sq miles and 150,000+. Our primary mutual aid area (where we might go on a second or third alarm) is 500,000+ and more than 100 sq miles. Our MABAS mutual aid system gets us what we need when we need it with a single call and our highly trained and experienced, professional dispatchers (who only talk to cops on the phone) make it happen. Our dispatchers handle 13 departments and 30,000+ runs a year giving them plenty of experience. Oh, and we basically pay for that by the call - about $50 per alarm. Based on my runs per year I could nto pay one man 24/7 to do the job! The last regionalization thing we do is semi-annual hands-on training with our mutual aid region. The region hold a spring and a fall drill, each a half day. Every company and every shift in the region is scheduled for a half-day. We do a moring and afternoon session on Tues-Wed-Thurs for 3 weeks. We run 70+ companies X 3 shifts through the drill and hit about 800 brothers and after doing this for several years we have had only a few minor injuries (bumps and bruises) and ONE brother who had a heart attack but was quickly cared for by an army of brothers who are paramedics too. Our drills have been live fires, RIT scenarios, a mock-up of a tornado hitting a school with a bus on it side and a dozen manikins trapped.
If you want it to happen someone needs to make it happen. Start small. Don't try to get into each others pockets for the $$$ - just set an objective of what you want and go for it. I think why our system works is that no one is trying to capture another chief's turf. The region respects the political entities and works at the operational level and we end up scratching each others back.
Hey Tom,

You are so right about the challenges and the fact we lose sight of our responsibility to provide a professional service with an adequate response time and budget ! Most fire districts are either under funded or over funded. If you regionalize the tax base and tax everyone based on regional needs (very simular to a county tax rate) you have already broken down home rule. Now you can start to focus on a budget that is equitable to not just the taxpayer but the regionalized fire department. If an requires a budget as an Eng Co it should not receive the funding of a Rescue company, If your a Squad Co your budget is based on your response as an Eng that provides EMS and light rescue. This will eliminate the toys that we are so overly burdened with in the fire service and bring us in line with taxing to create a budget based on NEEDS. The results of this will give you what we are all looking for, Better response, better equipment and a better fire service. Its like Grants, If everyone got a piece of the pie we would be that much closer to our goals! But thats another topic !!

Stay Safe !! Dennis
Thank you for helping distinguish the difference between regionalization vs. consolidation.
I really like thie idea, it just makes good sense. Mutual aid is great but it can be severely limited by the resources availalbe that day from the department you are relying on for the mutual aid.
You mentioned about the details being limited only by open or narrow mindedness, do you know of any current systems that utilize manpower from one jurisdiction to help anothers fully staff apparatus?
If you guys are looking for a model or blue print on how to regionalize, services, the people to talk to are in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. They have regional Haz Mat TRT and dive teams that all the Departments are a part of. They all got together and bought gear and trucks that all share. This was done threw MABAS and though I don't know how much that stuff cost, I'm sure that we all saved money this was. An I think you can get grants for this,
I just left a Post on another blog covering this topic less that an hour ago.

I am attaching an Asbury Park Press Article and my cities official position statement to this post. I would love to hear anyone's feed-back.
Hey Chief,

Good to here from you ! I could not agree more with the press article in reference to where we need to move in the Fire Service. You know from our conversations at the fire academy addressing this issue we are far behind where we need to be. I am a big proponent of Regionalization and believe the sooner we make the move, the more responsive we as a fire service will be in our obligations, to the communities we serve and ourselves as Firefighters. The fire service is a full time job, not a part time job as many see it that creates the roadblock that stops us from achiving needed goals to provide a better service. As a Volunteer I believe that Desire, Commitment , and understanding the future of the fire service are the integrity of reaching these goals weather you get a paycheck at the end of the week or not !!! The future of the fire service will not get any easier unless we make it happen. How many more must we lose before we see the light? The question we should all ask ourselves !

STAY SAFE !! Dennis
I lived thru the merger in North Hudson in NJ. 5 depts (Union City, Weehawken, North Bergen, West New York, and Guttenberg)While they took 5 understaffed depts and made one larger understaffed dept, the response of personnel on a reported fire went from 10-12 to 25-30. We also have a heavy rescue capability and a marine unit now. Fireground-wise, it is a home run. Comparing it with other depts who have 60,000 people a square mile, we are lagging behind. We run 3 man engines and mostly 3 man ladders (that's 2 FF's and an officer) We have 12 engines, 5 ladders, a rescue, and a safety officer spread over 3 battalions all commanded by a division chief
our response time is well within the limits of the standards even though the streets are area is extremely congested. There is never a fire without a major exposure issue
the only real issues have been contracts, especially the unification contract whcih took 5 yrs to settle and still is not totally a partiy issue. the officers are about to settle our second contract -- 6 years at 4% a year. it is a good contract, but we still have issues regarding service differential which some "old" dept members have and some don't. In addition, any one hired under the regional is under a different set of longevity and service differential rules. Given the economic climate, we opted not to go to arbitration over the differences -- we might not get what we are getting now - how many depts are getting the 6yr / 4% contract?

The big push to regionalize came about when then gov whitman threw sick amounts of $$$ at the politicians, giving them an offer they couldn't refuse. One unintended advantage -- no mayor wants to close a house in his town.
On our worst day in the regional, we are better tthan our best day in the old depts
we do about 30,000 responses. Lasdt year we had 138 workers and 47 multiple alarm fires -- it was a busy year
geographically, we are located directly across the Hudson from Manhattan (Lincoln Tunnel is in North Hudson)
Nothing is impossible. We've been NHRFR for almost 10 years now. If it can happen in Hudson County, it can happen anywhere
Hey Chief,

As we have met at the MCFA during a confined space operations class, it is nice to here from you again ! The first seven lines of your reply speek volumes of the success of regionalizing the resources around you to provide the services the public deserves. The question I have is who bought into the concept of regionalizing, the chiefs, who saw a need to provide a better service due to shortages and budget constrants ? or the politicains whose only thought was to save money ? Yourself as a Firefighter/Chief who has lived regionalization, was there a specific format followed to come to a common goal. It appears the biggest problem talked about on this subject is how to start and deal with the issues of those who do not want to see it work. As a Volunteer who firmly believes in the concept, we have tremendous herdles because of the lack of insight to the benefits of change. Change is a small group in the fireservice that has been corraled by those in numbers who no longer particapate in todays level of fire service. You have written books for the fire service, would one of interest be about regionalizing? I have a "vision" in my area if the minds to be sat at a table with an open mind to the needs and the benifits of regionalization we would be called BayShore Regional Fire Rescue ! What a noval concept and I wear Glasses !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks for the reply, it's a touch of reality !!

STAY SAFE !! Dennis
Small world Joe ;-)

Regionalization is a topic that I wrote about decades ago in Fire Engineering (October 1993?) as part of my EFO project. It certainly is an idea who's time has long come. I put in one caveat though- consolidation is good only if it is used to bring everyone up to an equal or higher standard, NOT drag down several 'haves' to the lowest common denominator.

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