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It has been widely reported through several news outlets that the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) wants to make the more aggressive airline passenger pat-downs so unpleasant, that passengers will want to go through the Backscatter Security Scanners, which are full-body scans that leave nothing to the imagination.
That got me to thinking…
In a metaphorical sense; city governments are TSA screeners and public safety is getting the pat-downs!
So, if any city officials reads this blog (cough-cough), they may take offense, but as they say in the drilling business, “Oh well!”
Fire departments across our great nation have one goal and that is to complete their stated missions each and every time that they are called. They don’t want their departures delayed or their arrivals to be late; nor do they expect or want a delivery system for service steeped in heaping piles of “bureaucrap” (my word)!
It’s simple; fire departments need proper staffing, equipment and adequate funding as a minimum.
Some pundits in the fire service who have written articles about manpower reductions and budget issues have found themselves saying the oft-repeated, “We will have to do more with less”. I am sure that I can scare up an article or two from yours’ truly where I inexplicably said it.
I mean; if we continue to provide service, but with fewer boots on the ground, fewer stations that are open and less money in the fire department budget for training and equipment, then aren’t we doing more with less?
I thought that we were, in my narrow view, but then I read Bobby Halton’s recent article (http://community.fireengineering.com/profiles/blog/show?id=1219672%...), where he so eloquently describes the notion of doing more with less, stating, “…We are not going to do more with less. Only a moron would believe you can do more with less; we are going to do things differently. What those things are and how those differences are going to make an impact; I ‘m not completely sure…”
As fewer firefighters are on the fire ground, we may very well be doing more tasks, but collectively, less is getting done for the eventual outcome.
Is this acceptable?
Have we reached that juncture where it’s become acceptable to get to an airport at least two hours before departure so that a total stranger can see your body unencumbered, if you choose and if not, have a total stranger engage in “aerotica” by having them feel every inch of your body in plain sight of others?
Has the fire service become so weakened and permissive that, where we were once the sacred cows have now become the sacrificial lambs?
In my opinion, we have flipped “unacceptable” with “acceptable” and although I have described some fire service issues as unacceptable in the past, I have tried to avoid using the term “acceptable” for fear that it may appear that we are pre-disposed to the end results; whatever they may be. For me; THAT is unacceptable.
When we look at the potential of the budget issues to impact our segment, we look at LODDs, civilian casualties and property loss as possible indicators and this is where “acceptable” can NEVER be uttered in the same sentence or in the same ROOM, for that matter.
And to raise these issues in a discussion is not done as a scare tactic, but perhaps as a wake-up call. We have watched for years as large cities across the nation struggle to keep adequate fire services on the streets. Complaints of short staffing and longer response times coupled with increases in workers’ compensation claims by firefighters is nothing new, but now we have reached the summit on this mountain of gloom.
Citizens have a right to be safe; whether they are living in a community or visiting a community and perhaps, flying to get there.
If over-bloated governments have but one, true purpose, it is to provide for public safety; first and foremost. In the real world, new baseball stadiums and such, would have to get in line BEHIND public safety, but we are talking about the world of politics and funding.
We all look for a certain quality of life from where we live.
That is the reason that we live there. We come back to it every day after another unspectacular day in the work force and “it” is this wonderful and vital mosaic of fire departments, police, EMS, businesses, schools, hospitals, churches and civic organizations; the engines that power our quality of life.
So, why are we-public safety-submitting to these “TSA-style” pat-downs by city governments?
Many fire departments across the country have already been through the city-equivalent of full-body scanners in the form of very public budget meetings. It’s public money; there was nothing to hide. It was all there in plain sight all along for the community to see, if they had taken the time; because you would think that it would be HERE that any potential budget threat would be found; you know, sort of like identifying the “threat” BEFORE it gets to the airport!
But, since our city officials weren’t looking at the “intel”, then using it, they now want to blame fire departments for exploding the budget and blowing up local economies; so once again, they are relying on US to clean up the mess!
City politicians want their voters to see their efforts for fixing it by taking a closer look/closer “feel”, in the hopes of forcing fire departments “back in line”. Can you say “placebo”?
In other words; mayors and budget committees want to pat you on the butt and reach up the inside of your leg and into your “crotchal” area until they feel “resistance”; “resistance” being your genitalia. Again; they want to make it so uncomfortable and embarrassing that you will be willing to go out and try to do more with less.
As a result, government accomplishes their mission at the expense of the fire department failing at theirs’!
In my humble opinion, as a nation of committed fire service leaders, we need to resolve what is wrong, plan to never let it happen again, restore our communities to the level of public safety that they deserve and provide firefighters with financial security while working the greatest job in the world.
TCSS.
The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of any professional organizations that the author belongs to, fireengineering.com, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper.

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Comment by Art "Chief Reason" Goodrich on November 23, 2010 at 12:07pm
Michael:
Unfortunately, this is playing out over and over again across the nation.
City government, it would seem, can't establish their priorities. I don't know if it is their inner voices, but if it is, they need to end THAT conversation and get back to work at maintaining adequate level of services. It is times like these that I would usually draw on the garbage truck analogy but I won't.
Too damned easy.
And I read all the time about how firefighters don't want to deal with the politics.
What they don't understand is: they ARE the politics.
Thanks for your astute comments.
Comment by Michael Bricault (ret) on November 23, 2010 at 11:17am
-Someone once said that ultimately, the only reason people live in a society is not for the conveniences of the service but rather for the social contract that exists between the governing and the governed. That contract, at its bedrock, is the guarantee of the continued safety of all in the society. In todays world that safety takes the form of police and fire protection.
-And yet, it seems like the first one fleeced are those insuring the guarantor of their obligation to maintaining safety and security.
-In my own city here the fire and police depts have taken huge hits all while the city continues to try and build a sports arena downtown and creating new, make believe jobs for political flunkies with cush jobs and overinflated salaries.
Comment by Art "Chief Reason" Goodrich on November 22, 2010 at 12:16pm
Roger that.
Let's just hope that the mayors/leaders, citizens AND fire departments ALL understand the impact of reductions and resultant effects.
Comment by Bobby Halton on November 22, 2010 at 10:48am
Art
You say it very well, I find it absurd when I hear "do more with less" unless you are with the "Boss" 2000 years ago and dealing with loaves and fish feeding a crowd, you can not do more with less. When we are cut we need to translate those cuts into service delivery examples. Not fear tactics but stated realities. If we take away a firefighter on the fireground the delivery system is slowed, reduced, impacted it is that simple.

If the community mayors, leaders are willing to accept these reductions then we will operationalize our deployments accordingly, we can not do magic. Reductions will impact public safety where, how and when are not specifically known but are as predictable as sun rise and sun set. Given less we can only do less.

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