To Merge or Not to Merge: That is the Question - Part 2

There are a number of issues which must be considered in any situation where a merger or consolidation is being considered. In many cases a small group within one of the constituent organizations is driving the train toward what they perceive to be an...

  1. Ask a key question. Is this merger/consolidation really necessary?
  2. Conduct preliminary discussions among interested people to access the actual level of interest in such an action.
  3. Seek advice and guidance. This can take the form of a literature review, or you might contact an agency which has had a successful merger.
  4. Make the decision to begin a formal study of the process. In the business world this would be called doing your due diligence.
  5. Develop a formal study task force. This will include both officers and members from the affected organizations. It may include legal, financial, and consulting advisors. Be sure to appoint a single point of contact for all information.
  6. Create subcommittees of the task force to study such matters as station location, deployment strategies, staffing, personnel policies, and a new set of by-laws and standard operating guidelines for the organization which is being created.
  7. Conduct a SWOT analysis. Use the results to frame the starting point of your journey to a new organizational reality.
  8. Develop a new shared vision and then create a mission, goals, and objectives which will allow the new organization to move toward the newly-identified vision. Make the vision clear and communicate it widely.
  9. As Carter (2001) recommends, "…Communicate clearly, openly, honestly, and often … (These are) the four corners of a solid team" (p. 60-61).
  10. 10. Create the new organization in an orderly, step-by-step manner.
  11. Create a written agreement outlining the steps which have been developed and have the agreement reviewed by legal counsel.
  12. Develop the new operational procedures
  13. Set a date for the merger/consolidation.
  14. Train all members of the constituent organizations in the new procedures
  15. Do it.
  16. Conduct periodic evaluations at a time frame of your own determination. You ignore this step at your own peril.

It is important to remember that the road to future success will be bumpy and chocked full of pot holes. Your organization will also face certain people who take it upon themselves to assume the role of roadblock. These people will do all within their power to create failure. Confront them as needed. Never ignore them or let them get away with their unwanted acts of obstruction and negativity. Handling these folks will be perhaps the hardest part of the merger process. Worse yet, they may choose to take their shots from hidden areas, blaming others, or pointing fingers in your direction.

Do not expect overnight success. It took the individual organizations literally decades to arrive where they are today. In the final analysis, mergers and consolidations are change events of the first order. People who have invested many years into one organization are now being asked to dedicate themselves to a new entity. Be sure they have all had a hand in the creation of the new model.

It would appear that the time is fast approaching when fire departments in a wide variety of places may need to consider mergers, regional fire response agreements, and possible consolidations. Let me urge you all to be open and receptive to the new order.


  • Aakers, D.A. (2001). Strategic market management. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.
  • Bartels, J., Douwes, R., de Jong, M. and Pruyn, A. (2006). Organizational identification during a merger: Determinants of identification with the new organization, British Journal of Management. (Vol. 17 pp, S49-S67).
  • Carter, H.R. (2001). It's all about me. Conshohocken, PA: Lyons Publishing
  • Gleibs, Mummendey, A. and Noack, P. (2008). Predictors of change on postmerger identification during a merger process: A longitudinal study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 95, No. , 1095-1112
  • Ling, J.D. (2001). Fire department consolidation: A view from those effected. Ypsilanti, MI: School of Fire Staff and Command. Eastern Michigan University.
  • Reeger, J. (2008). Fire department mergers ahead. Pittsburgh, PA: The Pittsburgh Tribune Review. Retrieved on August 24, 2010.
  • Weidner, J.S (2010). Strength in numbers. Fire Chief Magazine, vol. 54, no. 5. p. 36-37.