As Firehouse Sees It: Starting Over

At a recent meeting in Washington, DC, it was noted that the fire service always steps up to the plate when something has to be done, a task undertaken, or an emergency or situation that needs to be resolved. The opinion was that maybe the fire service...


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At a recent meeting in Washington, DC, it was noted that the fire service always steps up to the plate when something has to be done, a task undertaken, or an emergency or situation that needs to be resolved. The opinion was that maybe the fire service needs to do less with less. That’s the position the police take. They say they can’t do a particular function with reduced manpower. If governing bodies across the country want the fire service to respond to certain situations, they need to find the funds to allow us to do what they want.

Many believe the fire service must to start over and redefine our mission. At that same Washington meeting, we were reminded that “manual firefighting isn’t a growth industry.” Fires are burning hotter, because of the materials inside homes and buildings, and fires now flash over before we can arrive on the scene. We need to sell the public on who we are. If we need to do blood pressure checks, install and inspect smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, undertake safety checks and do whatever else it takes to stay in business, then that must be our new focus.

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IN ANOTHER STAY-ALIVE SCENARIO FOR THE FIRE SERVICE, a segment of the emergency services seems to be on the move, with many having an eye directly on the fire service. Gary Ludwig reports in his EMS column on page 46 that American Medical Response (AMR), which claims to be the largest private ambulance company in the country, announced in February that it was being purchased by a large private-equity firm. In March, the ambulance and fire protection provider Rural/Metro announced it too was being acquired by a global private-equity firm. As Gary notes, for some reason, private-equity investors are pouring money into for-profit ambulance companies. Apparently, they see an opportunity to make lots of money in EMS.

When a city in California recently wanted to look for other possibilities in running municipal services, including the fire department, a private East Coast firm apparently said it could offer fire protection in that community cheaper. The county fire department said it could run the department with fewer personnel. It’s a whole new beginning in managing municipal governments. Terms like outsourcing, reinventing municipal government and privatizing city services are just the beginning. Fire departments around the country should take note and watch what is beginning to happen, and then start over and prepare for their survival.

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INCLUDED IN THIS ISSUE, we present the preliminary program for the Firehouse Expo in Baltimore, MD, July 19-23, 2011. A special tribute to the events on 9/11 will be presented, including the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Shanksville, PA, as the 10th anniversary approaches. See www.firehouseexpo.com for the latest details. Added this year is a special training opportunity to join Chief Alan Brunacini and his Fire-Rescue Leadership Institute at Columbia Southern University. For more information, please go to www.ColumbiaSouthern.edu/Fire-Leadership.

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We are proud to announce a new book being published by Firehouse® to honor the 10th anniversary of 9/11. A book titled In Their Own Words will be available beginning at Firehouse Expo. In the book, numerous FDNY firefighters tell their stories about operating at various parts of the 16-acre site. Many of these stories have not been told before. Together with photographs, diagrams and facts, this book captures the emotions and dangers of that day. From those first-due to others who operated in the towers before they collapsed, the stories tell it the way it was for those lucky to survive the terrorist attack. For information on a pre-publication special offer, see page 83.

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FOR COMMENTS AND SUGGESTIONS, please contact us at comments@firehouse.com.