It's Not Your Father's Fire Service

Here is a short list of those areas where changes have occurred: Everywhere!

Perhaps this advertising campaign made sense to the people within the walled city wherein the car giants live and labor to lure your money and mine to their pockets (Detroit). However, it apparently did not convince a sufficient number of consumers to flock to their local Oldsmobile dealers. The proof of my statement here is really quite simple. There are no longer any such things as Oldsmobile's or car dealers who sell Oldsmobile's.

Times changed, tastes changed, and their product did not keep up. Therefore, the Oldsmobile passed away from a lack of consumer interest. The product designers, marketers, and makers did not pay attention to the outside world and the ways in which it was changing. A failure to know their environment led to a series of catastrophic consequences for the people at GM who made Oldsmobile automobiles. The result was the demise of a GM division.

That, my friends, is the premise I will work with in this article. It is my contention in this commentary visit with you that the same thing can happen to you and me. If we fail to pay attention to what is happening around us, it is entirely possible that we will never notice that the world is changing and threatens to pass us by.

This would be bad enough in the regular world, but an ignorance of change and development in the fire service world can have serious, catastrophic consequences. If we do not keep up, we can die. That is the basic premise of this week's visit with you.

It is my thought that the world wherein you and I deliver fire protection has changed. Further, the many parts which make up the whole of the fire service have also changed. This may seem odd to you, but you must remember that none of us actually sees a lot of changes happening on any given day in the world around us. However, when you stop to add up the changes which have occurred over the past two to three decades, you can see that there is a great deal of potential for problems if we fail to keep watch on the world in which we live. Let me suggest that this will affect each of us somewhat differently.

Your ties to the past will be directly dependent on your chronological age. If you are in your teens and 20s, what you see is what you have always seen. However, as a person ages, they accumulate experiences, knowledge, and memories. Let me warn you right now that most things seem always to have been better in the past. This is because of the tendency of people to view the past through the rose-colored glasses of history. But were they really?

Things were a lot more dangerous in the days before we embraced the concepts of safety and technology. People fell from moving fire vehicles. People coughed up their guts because only sissies wore self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). People were burned while wearing rubber coats and gloves.

We have moved beyond all of that, or have we? Unfortunately, far too many fire departments are still being operated like some form of local mom and pop hardware store, laboring in the shadow of a world where giants such as Lowe's and Home Depot are out there, hard at work, to beat your brains in.

Let me be blunt. This is not your father's fire service any longer. Let me share some of the things which have changed. Here is a short list of those areas where changes have occurred:

  • Everywhere! Is that short enough for you?

I am sorry, that was the "wise-ass" in me jumping out. Perhaps that list was not definitive enough. Let me take a closer look and tell you what I see.

How about:

  1. Society
  2. People
  3. Operational Issues
  4. Technological Things
  5. Things We Do

That is a bit more specific, but perhaps you need for me to target it into those areas where you live and work.

Societal Issues

  1. People move around a lot more than in the past.
  2. People tend to volunteer less.
  3. There is a diminishing level of community involvement across the board.
  4. People seem less willing to come together for the common good.

People Issues

  1. Two income families and multiple jobs limit the ability of people to join our volunteer fire departments.
  2. The declining economy has ruled out the hiring of sufficient staff to provide a proper level of fire protection.
  3. People are unwilling to provide the funds for our fire departments (career, volunteer, or combination).

Operational Issues