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  • #16
    Excuse me if I step on a few toes.

    I will state the same thing I have told many firefighters over the years. If I hurt your feelings or tick you off with something I say in the future when I am trying to motivate you, then hear this now, because you will never hear it after the fact.... sorry, nothing personal.

    I'm not on board with this consolidation idea. I'm also not a "private entities can do it better" believer on all things.

    It is true that the free enterprise system can produce businesses that can operate more efficiently than government in many things. But municipal firefighting is not always one of them. EMS is quite possibly a toss up; I have seen good and bad.

    These types of services are usually dependant upon taxes or subsidies of one form or another. By the time you include benefits, vacations, overtime, contracts and FSLA, the properly operated municipality or county fire department will win hands down, most times. Unfortunately there are many that are not properly operated and make quite a lot of news.



    BUT>>>

    In the matter of volunteer (corporate or quasi-government) departments, there is no cost savings when you begin to consolidate and convert into county or multi-municipal departments. The underlying belief is by eliminating redundancy, it will lead to better service at a lower cost.

    I have been involved in a few of these first hand both as a Chief and a Technical Advisor, and here is usually where it leads.

    The JHA must hire an administrator. That usually washes with the closure of one or two districts or departments. The adminstrator requires an assistant or clerk. There goes another district. Then due to the need to have people in the right places to check the apparatus and stations that now are under single control, the administrator needs several additional people to do the field work. The department may still be volunteer with a paid admin staff, but you have effectively cut the heart out of the communities that had local volunteers that provided a service to the best of their ability because they believe in what they do, and they live there.

    It is a fact... when you have a vested interest in something, you work harder at making it succeed. This is true when defending your country, or fighting a fire.

    I will state that in many areas, the thinking must change or they will become extinct. Many need to change the way WE do business. WE need to quit thinking that we are better than the other departments and work harder to get along. WE need to concentrate on pooling resources and standardizing operations, equipment and training. WE need to quit believing we are alone in the woods and start thinking about who has the closest station right now that WE can depend on. WE must toss out the pride and not hesitate to call another station for assistance. Hell WE do it in our city everyday. I don't have enough people or equipment in one station to mount a full assualt or solve every issue that arises. WE send what WE need from 2, 3 or 6 stations if WE must. WE need to think of the neighbors station as OUR second or third due station. If it is my party, I get to lead the parade. If it is THEIR party, I provide what is requested and do as instructed. ICS guys.... it applies to the biggest of us, and the smallest. We don't need consoladation to accomplish this. We just need cooperation. We must get over ourselves and not take US so seriously. I don't care if I can't stand the Chief next door, he puts his TOG on the very same way I do. Right now he might be MY best friend.

    There is nothing more efficient than a full volunteer force that provides the little things that the big guys can't.

    When you begin to do the math, the cost savings are amazing. There are still places in this country that simply cannot pay for full time firefighters and must depend on the volunteers. Government is not good at providing this.

    One can argue that you get what you pay for. You sure do... but recently I have seen more metros in trouble, laying off full time people and cutting services, than volunteer departments laying off volunteers and reducing services. Matter of fact, the volunteers usually do a better job of tightening their belts and stretching their funds. They may be short staffed most of the time, but they don't whine about it like the metros do. Safety is safety, we all agree. But you just cannot solve every damn issue by getting government involved.

    We are simply talking about two distinct sets of dynamics. The small volunteer departments may not have the newest, prettiest, and badest apparatus available. But their people can usually use bailing wire and duct tape in ways that many of us wouldn't think of. Many build their own trucks and make things operate that we might not want to get caught dead in.

    Response times may not be great, saves versus losses might make you think there was no one there. But I have seen things that more than offset those losses; compassion, determination, 'never accept defeat' attitudes with people that just never quit, and never let their neighbors down. You cannot place a value on that.

    Fire is a destructive force. We talk about the rural guys that can't save a slab.... well we also hear about the metros that can't save everything. Even those of us on very good progressive departments have our bad days. We lose stuff everyday, but our losses may be worth millions where the rural areas lose a couple hundred thousand each year. Ok, we have more population per square mile. We protect more STUFF. Big deal. Do we throw the rest of it away because it does not concern us?

    Are there a few bad apples out there. Sure, but you can say that about all aspects of the fire service. Is there waste and misguided purchases. Yep, but again it applies across the board, even despite the checks and balances. I know this first hand since I'm one of those guys that moves from place to place cleaning up the mess in medium sized fulltime departments. I have no desire to move to a metro... been there and still have the t-shirt. I spend a lot of my off-time providing help to the smaller departments that have found themselves in a mess, or others that just want to do a better job. That isn't about a paycheck to me... it is about doing what I believe to be the correct thing.

    I have seen many small volunteer departments that are quite impressive. It would be a shame to close them when many of them have better PPC ratings that their city cousins. We are not talking about 1, 2 and 3s.... but there are lot of 4, 5 and 6s. They took care of the homeowners, and that may be all they need to. So everything is relative. They don't have multi-story buildings. They don't have to deal with heavy industry or airports. But their single family dwelling fire is pretty much the same. They know how to solve logistical issues that the metros don't worry about... water. They know where every stream, spring and pond is. They move massive amounts of water with 40 and 50 year old trucks. I have never seen a government outfit duplicate this effort.

    I started in a small town in the volunteer department. I was proud of what I did. I became frustrated everytime our meagar department couldn't save a house, or a life. I moved to what I thought were greener pastures. It was the same. The paycheck sure made me believe that I was special. I thought that I had finally become a real firefighter. I was wrong about that. That paycheck didn't really have any effect on how I thought, how I trained, or how I did the job. It just paid the bills and raised 5 kids.

    I began to two-hat, spending a lot of time with the volunteer department where we moved. I was permitted to move my family outside of the zoo. My kids attended smaller schools where they were not treated like a number, and still treated like a person. That was more important to me than if they had access to 55 different language and art classes. All of them attended college and 4 are in the fire service today, all full-time ranked positions. It runs in our family. And they have not forsaken their roots. My son (FT Deputy Chief) works with me from 1000 miles out when we team up to help departments solve problems. One of my daughters two-hats: FT Captain with a Metro, and volunteers in the community she lives in. Another daughter (FT LT) teaches FFI and Technical Rescue, often helping volunteers secure books, even if she buys them herself. They understand that if you empower people, it is like planting a tree. It branches out and grows.

    My wife and I work in different States doing similiar jobs. She recently made a move to a new department as I did. I fix things that are broke, she tries to prevent the thing from getting broken. She has made her reputation in her own right and many times we competed for the same job. She made the decision to join the club when I was away on an exchange program. When I returned, she had taken my position.

    Consolidation... no, I can't support it. It might work on some things, but not here. Not this. I have seen the ugly side of where it leads. I will not debate or disagree that there have not been success stories. There certainly have been some. Most of those only succeeded where the community rapidly outgrew the local capability of the volunteers. Massive amounts of money had to be poured in... but during a building boom, when revenue is growing faster than they can bank it... they do stupid things.

    Unfortunately, I helped to kill off several volunteer stations. It was my job at the time, but it is also my worst guilt. Should I describe the distrust and pain in the eyes of many of those fine people as I did my job and brought their purpose to an end? Was the county safer. I can't say... they are very broke today. It is one thing to do what you think is right at the time, it is quite another realizing you should have walked away from that one. In a couple of years, the fire service was destroyed twice in that county. Now the discussion is geared to we tried to grow too fast. We need our volunteers back. Would you go back? I know this... if they are called, they will step up.

    I might be a paid guy, but my heart is very much a volunteer. It is in my blood and heritage. I cannot properly state in words the amount of respect I have for those of you that don't do this for the paycheck. You do it because someone must, and it is the right thing to do. Without you, there would be no one, or government doing it poorly.

    Carry on....
    HAVE PLAN.............WILL TRAVEL

    Comment


    • #17
      Originally posted by BLSboy View Post
      Bones, of all people, I would have thought you and the other NJ guys would see. How many VFDs are trying to "keep up with the Jones's" in the next town, or even next Fire Co. over?
      They got a 75ft Quint? We'll get a 100fter. How many towns have multiple Companies with multiple pieces of apparatus?
      Take a look inside an MICU lately? You need a degree in radio engineering to communicate.
      Don't get me started on Communications. How many different systems, frequencies, and local "comm rooms" with one dispatcher per town, borough, township, or city does there need to be?

      Mama /\/\ LOVES Jersey.
      I guess that is something more prevalent in the areas of NJ that you were in...it's not a common thing around here. We buy what serves the needs of our area. In my small town, we have an aerial and 3 engines. These are housed in 2 stations. Why? Neither station is big enough. Both stations are wholly owned by the companies themselves, not the Town. What sense in building 1 new station that would house the 4 apparatus? Do we need those 4? Yup.

      Dispatchers. We have 1 that handles Fire, EMS, and Police. Our County dispatch (that we don't use) is a mess. Most agencies that are on it are trying to get off it. Ya, we could save money by going to the County system...but why risk the lower service?


      Funny thing is...those of us that live in these little towns are never the ones looking to consolidate. We like our own little towns. We work well with our neighbors. If we wanted to be a big city or township, we would choose to move there. Don't tell us how we should be living...we chose to live where we did.
      "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

      Comment


      • #18
        Originally posted by Bones42
        I guess that is something more prevalent in the areas of NJ that you were in...it's not a common thing around here. We buy what serves the needs of our area. In my small town, we have an aerial and 3 engines. These are housed in 2 stations. Why? Neither station is big enough. Both stations are wholly owned by the companies themselves, not the Town. What sense in building 1 new station that would house the 4 apparatus? Do we need those 4? Yup.

        Dispatchers. We have 1 that handles Fire, EMS, and Police. Our County dispatch (that we don't use) is a mess. Most agencies that are on it are trying to get off it. Ya, we could save money by going to the County system...but why risk the lower service?


        Funny thing is...those of us that live in these little towns are never the ones looking to consolidate. We like our own little towns. We work well with our neighbors. If we wanted to be a big city or township, we would choose to move there. Don't tell us how we should be living...we chose to live where we did.
        Bravo...

        I just have to play this part again...


        Originally posted by Bones42
        Funny thing is...those of us that live in these little towns are never the ones looking to consolidate. We like our own little towns. We work well with our neighbors. If we wanted to be a big city or township, we would choose to move there. Don't tell us how we should be living...we chose to live where we did.
        My guess is the town management does not want to be in the fire business either.
        HAVE PLAN.............WILL TRAVEL

        Comment


        • #19
          Knight ...

          Bravo!

          The point you made about the requirement for full-time administration as you merge departments is a point often lost on those who yell for consolidation.
          The savings that these positions eat up is significant, and in many cases, leads to a further "need" to begin hiring down the chain.

          A volunteer department is often a very efficiant operation which, as you pointed out, will solve problems at a much lower cost than a career department.

          You said everything else that i wanted to say, but in a much smoother form.
          Train to fight the fires you fight.

          Comment


          • #20
            Correct me if I am wrong - but La didnt you say your fd took over an area that was too small to function efficently ?
            ?

            Comment


            • #21
              Originally posted by slackjawedyokel View Post
              Correct me if I am wrong - but La didnt you say your fd took over an area that was too small to function efficently ?
              That's why consolidation is a case-by-case deal. Sometimes it's the wrong idea, and sometimes it's exactly the right answer.

              We just had a small fire department close entirely, with protection of that area taken over by a neighboring department.
              Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

              Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.

              Comment


              • #22
                Also -I am a little confused - my interpation of consilidation is not elimating volunteer depts. In my area we have 4 depts respond automatic aid. Four NIFRS to be filed - 4 depts calling dispatch for run times - 4 chiefs - 4 different (or none) SOGs - 4 different levels of training - 4 different membership standards -(physical -training excepted) -3 different scbas-
                one department runs rescue 3 dont -4 different numbering systems for the engines and personel - (some personel have the same last digits as apparatus in other departments)- four different accountability systems -
                I know many of these issues COULD be addressed without consilidation - but unfortunatly - too many fiefdoms -one other big issue - no wants to get beat in their district - so some depts respond driver only , forcing the next in (possibly better staffed) to hike in -and operate off an engine that may not meet their needs (1-1/2" VS 1-3/4") different pre connect lengths - etc
                Consilidation would help iron these problems out.
                ?

                Comment


                • #23
                  And tree -I agree 100% -I am not advocating a blanket action. Some places it could be a win win situation.
                  ?

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Originally posted by slackjawedyokel View Post
                    Also -I am a little confused - my interpation of consilidation is not elimating volunteer depts. In my area we have 4 depts respond automatic aid. Four NIFRS to be filed - 4 depts calling dispatch for run times - 4 chiefs - 4 different (or none) SOGs - 4 different levels of training - 4 different membership standards -(physical -training excepted) -3 different scbas-
                    one department runs rescue 3 dont -4 different numbering systems for the engines and personel - (some personel have the same last digits as apparatus in other departments)- four different accountability systems -
                    I know many of these issues COULD be addressed without consilidation - but unfortunatly - too many fiefdoms -one other big issue - no wants to get beat in their district - so some depts respond driver only , forcing the next in (possibly better staffed) to hike in -and operate off an engine that may not meet their needs (1-1/2" VS 1-3/4") different pre connect lengths - etc
                    Consilidation would help iron these problems out.
                    No.... cooperation would solve these issues.

                    I have seen your world. It happens in the career department as well. We just don't throw our mud in public as openly. We save that for those important things like contract negotiations when we climb a mountain and beat our chest and cry we're not being treated fair. Just because someone decided to select a dangerous occupation does not mean your are being mistreated when the raise and benefit package doesn't improve when the city is literally going down the tubes. You can play the blame game all day, but it does not pay the bills and it does nothing to fix the damn thing. I have seen some classy chiefs lately step down and retire early to save a few jobs for his guys. If you still cry about your issues, then his generosity was in vain. It is very difficult for the public to grasp paying more for firefighters when they are losing their jobs, homes and dreams. We are in the big boat together so we better cooperate if we want to ride out the storm.

                    I stated that there are problem children out there, volunteer and career. I also stated that WE must Do better to coordinate our efforts, again both sectors. I do agree that there are some very bad departments that should be put out of their misery.... you can apply this to both a well.

                    I'd be out of work if every department was perfect. I have plenty of work, I assure you. Maybe I will be at your station one day either as a Chief or Advisor. Maybe I have already been there and you didn't know it.

                    We are our own worse enemy when we start these type of debates.

                    The word 'fiefdom' does describe the reality in many areas. We need to get over that 'pride' and competition thing because that is what gets guys hurt or killed. Choosing to not call for help because you are afraid of what others may think is nothing more than Dereliction of Duty.

                    Ok... there I said it.

                    The public good and life safety is not being served. The failure of a department to put the safety and protection of its firefighters as well as the citizen first deserves to be closed down.

                    So if this describes your department, get over the damn pride and call some damn help friend. I doubt that anyone will judge you, since they will need you next week or next month. You will be judged if you are irresponsible and get someone killed.

                    We have to start somewhere or the small rural volunteers will only exist in the history books. Is that the kind of change we want to force?




                    __________________________________________________ _____________________________

                    May God be with you guys in Detroit... I'm praying with you.
                    Last edited by PaladinKnight; 08-13-2010, 03:23 PM.
                    HAVE PLAN.............WILL TRAVEL

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      Originally posted by slackjawedyokel View Post
                      Correct me if I am wrong - but La didnt you say your fd took over an area that was too small to function efficently ?
                      Yes, we did, at their request.

                      The fact is it had no real impact on our operations as it was less than 12 square miles with a population of less than 800, and does 20-30 total fire and EMS runs a year.

                      The manpower pool was not there for volunteers as most of the population is elderly and the revenue could not sustain even a single-engine company operation. The district has only been around for 5 years prior to being absorbed by our department.

                      There was no need to hire any additional administrative or operational personnel because of it.


                      On the other hand, the National Guard facility that we were asked by both our parish and the neighboring parish's Police Jury (County Commissioners to the rest of the world) to cover 4 years ago has not worked out that way.

                      Several years before the facility had abolished the fire department, and was contracting with a small city department 2 fire districts over for fire protection at $1,000 per run. The facility was in-line for over $100M in federal dollars to build a regional National Guard training facility for LA, east TX, MS, ARK and AL, and they needed permanent, not contract per-call fire protection to get the $$$$$.

                      It's an area of 24 square miles, and rarely has fires. However, the administrative, standby, testing, pre-planning, briefing and meeting and other needs have been difficult to perform with our limited staff, and often take myself and the Deputy Chief out there for extended periods, often on short notice.

                      We receive no compensation with the exception of being able to use the 2 engines and brush truck off-facility at our incidents. We do have a 50K budget for operational needs from the facility so that we do not have the utilize the slow military procurement system. That was instituted last year after having our local state reps and the State Fire Marshal intervene.

                      We have told the facility that, based on our current operations, and the anticipated need for even more activity on our part once the Training Institute is complete, they will either have to operate the department themselves or pay us to staff at least 2 members on a minimum of daytime basis at their station.

                      At this point the residents of our parish are paying for the manpower required to provide fire protection at the facility.
                      Last edited by LaFireEducator; 08-13-2010, 05:14 PM.
                      Train to fight the fires you fight.

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        We took over seven cities during my career. The savings were typically in the elimination of middle and upper management and some of the support staff.

                        There were indirect cost savings to the city in that there were costs for HR issues (hiring, firing, representation), mechanics, payroll, and workers comp. The price to the city was all inclusive.

                        None of the cities we took over in that time frame had more than three stations.

                        I don't know if that model would work anywhere else. But it did seem to work in OC.
                        They told me if I voted for Hillary Clinton the president would be emotional, impulsive, and unpredictable. They were right. I voted for Hillary Clinton and got a president that is emotional, impulsive, and unpredictable.

                        I'm not saying you're stupid. I'm saying you have bad luck when it comes to thinking.

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          Originally posted by scfire86 View Post
                          We took over seven cities during my career. The savings were typically in the elimination of middle and upper management and some of the support staff.

                          There were indirect cost savings to the city in that there were costs for HR issues (hiring, firing, representation), mechanics, payroll, and workers comp. The price to the city was all inclusive.

                          None of the cities we took over in that time frame had more than three stations.

                          I don't know if that model would work anywhere else. But it did seem to work in OC.
                          The trick is that in all likelhood, all the savings were in labor.

                          in a situation where a number of volunteer departments consolidated, labor would be a significant additional cost as it's unlikely that the new department could still be effectively managed by volunteers. As Knight stated, any limited savings in duplicate apparatus or bulk purchases would likely be eaten up, and then some, by the newly required command, training administrative and operational staff.

                          Completely different models when discussing a career-career or volunteer-volunteer consolidation.

                          Of course the real issues come when it's a career-volunteer consolidation.
                          Train to fight the fires you fight.

                          Comment


                          • #28
                            Well............

                            Knight is one he11 of an act to Follow. And he's Right. We have 38 independent Volunteer Corporations operating 45 Fire/Rescue Stations in a County and approximately 30 Municipalities in that County. And we operate seamlessly like one County Wide Department, and we've done it that way for many, many, years. IT'S ALL ABOUT WORKING TOGETHER. The same thing can be said for almost the entire State of Maryland. Fire Apparatus and EMS is Dispatched by a Countywide FIRE Dispatch Center, one in each County. BY LAW, 911 is the only number to call in an Emergency, and each County gets the calls that originate in their area. All EMS is "Fire Based" even though there are some Volunteer Ambulance/Rescue organizations in seperate stations. When you need help, you get it. 4 Engines, 2 Trucks, and a Heavy Rescue Squad is the Normal assignment for a Structure Fire in my County. That assignment comes from those Stations that are closest to the Emergency, regardless of any Political Boundaries. Town, County, even State lines are meaningless, you need help, you get the closest help. We have a System that works well for us because we want it to. Many Years of work with the State Legislature has resulted in Maryland being a very "Firefighter Friendly" State..... And we like it that way.
                            Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
                            In memory of
                            Chief Earle W. Woods, 1912 - 1997
                            Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

                            IACOJ Budget Analyst

                            I Refuse to be a Spectator. If I come to the Game, I'm Playing.

                            www.gdvfd18.com

                            Comment


                            • #29
                              Thank you Harve... you are too kind sir. You have been known to raise the bar from time to time and establish new standards yourself.

                              @SC: The suggested merging or taking over of small full-time town departments is entirely a different matter. This model can effectivily reduce costs by the elimination of duplicity. You have my support on these... and in light of the fact that many can't get their act together, this is where you need to throw out the baby, the washtub, but keep the water, it is still valuable.

                              I stated before, I never back up so see my first post on this. I have lived through these and the only winner or loser that counts is the public. Everything else is just noise.

                              But as I and other have stated... there is alot of that pride and fiefdom going on. Use some common sense here. If you're going to call yourself a fire department, then act like it. The Mission comes first. What we want for ourselves should be way down on the list of priorities. The only race is with ourselves, not each other, but I have seen departments that race each other to the fire.... since the first due will be in charge.
                              Last edited by PaladinKnight; 08-13-2010, 11:58 PM.
                              HAVE PLAN.............WILL TRAVEL

                              Comment


                              • #30
                                I agree with most everything Paladin Knight has posted. What I have heard from fire service vendors is that many of the consolidations have not turned out as hoped. Problems arose. For many volunteer departments, the problem is trying to keep up with all the codes and regulations. Trying to solve that be consolidating does nothing to change the problem and when they try, they realize that somebody is going to have to end up paying more for their fire protection. And that usually ends up being the one that got eliminated. I have been told that very often that creates hard feelings afterwards.

                                Someone mentioned what happens when schools consolidate and we know how that is working out for us.

                                But back to keeping up with the state and federal demands. We have known for a while that there was going to be a breaking point where fire departments where not going to be able to afford to keep up. The affordability factor. State and Federal agencies each want to impress upon everyone that their reason to exist is more important than the other agencies. The important part of that is that was pointed out is that it isn't one department trying to 'keep up with the Joneses department'. Its one regulatory agency trying to jump ahead of another regulatory agency which passes that regulation down to the end of the line. Which is the local government or fire department.

                                These agencies have got to stop. I mean it. How much more safe can a fire apparatus be? Pretty soon we are gonna have apparatus that when break down to cost per call or cost per resident that are going to become unafforable just because of the required codes.

                                Every firefighter in the nation is going to be required to have FF1, FF2,FF3,4,5,6, and so on just to be able to touch a hose. And each one of those requirements costs money. AFG for 2010 didn't ask what your plans were for your department to reach NFPA 1001 FF1, in one year they wanted to know about your plans for every member to reach FF2.

                                This is done without real logic behind it. they forget there are other state and federal and insurance requirements that have to be met and nothing, I mean nothing is being done to address this.

                                Consolidation? Why, it usually turns out bad for a government to charge a neighboring one for its fire protection, but the problem all stems back to government agencies being out of control.

                                Comment

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