We Don't Lose "Non-Essential" Lives

A recent newspaper article reported on a major fire department in our country being faced with the challenge of submitting a 15% budget reduction to the city council for consideration in the 2010–2011 budget process. This was in addition to the nearly...


A recent newspaper article reported on a major fire department in our country being faced with the challenge of submitting a 15% budget reduction to the city council for consideration in the 2010–2011 budget process. This was in addition to the nearly 15% the department lost in 2007, 2008 and...


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These three components of the fire and life-safety system are all essential. If prevention and public education positions and programs must be eliminated, fire stations closed, fire companies eliminated, staffing levels reduced or response times increased, so be it, but let's not eliminate any of them under the guise of "non-essential" personnel and services. In the interest of public and firefighter safety, even if funding is eliminated, the fire department must create a model within which to deliver each of these three essential services to the fullest extent possible with whatever resources are available. The need doesn't go away because the money did.

Whether advocating for financial resources at the national, state or local level, it is important that the consequences of the decisions that are arrived at in these political processes are made clear to the decision-makers up front in a concise and accurate way by fire service leaders. Let's be careful how we use the term "non-essential." The people we serve and our firefighters never die in a "non-essential" way.

DENNIS COMPTON, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a well-known speaker and the author of several books, including the When in Doubt, Lead series: Mental Aspects of Performance for Firefighters and Fire Officers, and many other articles and publications. He is also co-editor of the current edition of the ICMA textbook Managing Fire and Rescue Services and the author of the soon-to-be-released book Progressive Leadership Principles, Concepts and Tools. Compton was the fire chief in Mesa, AZ, for five years and assistant fire chief in Phoenix, AZ, where he served for 27 years. Compton is the past chair of the Executive Board of the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) and past chair of the Congressional Fire Services Institute's National Advisory Committee. He is also chairman of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Board of Directors and the chairman of the Home Safety Council Board of Directors.