Where did the '80s go? For that matter, what about the '90s? Remember when our normal call activity was an occasional house fire, a sick-case transport, a few public service calls, a car wreck, the "smell of something" and several cases of the "vapors"? Now, a typical day sees us responding to...
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Where did the '80s go? For that matter, what about the '90s? Remember when our normal call activity was an occasional house fire, a sick-case transport, a few public service calls, a car wreck, the "smell of something" and several cases of the "vapors"?
Now, a typical day sees us responding to multiple structural fires, vehicle crashes that require specialized extrication equipment, public service calls have turned into technical rescue and hazardous materials incidents, and the "vapors" are now medical incidents that require us to travel with a portable emergency room that we deliver to our customers' homes. If you are like most emergency service organizations, our duties have drastically changed with each additional responsibility requiring additional staffing, training and equipment to meet these ever-increasing calls for service. There is only one sticking point, and we all share this misfortune: someone needs to "show me the money."
We know money is not the end all, and simply throwing funding at a situation is surely not the complete answer. However, we need adequate funding to ensure that our organizations have the funding to provide firefighters and medics with the equipment required to meet our customers' ever-changing needs. In addition, we must secure funding to ensure that our members have the proper knowledge, skills and abilities to safely perform their constantly changing tasks.
In addition to all the responsibilities we have in managing an emergency services organization, we struggle daily with the fiscal challenge of running our departments and we must never lose sight of the importance of our organizations' fiscal strength. Depending on our organizational structure, funding could come from one or more of many sources. Most organizations no longer have the generous funding resources that were so abundant in past years. Money has become tighter, more scrutinized and less available. How many of us rely solely on tax dollars to fund our operations? How is that working for you? How about those of us that get no substantial funding from a tax base and rely on the community for support; is that working well for you?
There is no single reason for this funding decline, but it can be attributed to any number of factors. Local government budget cuts, fund drives that are not producing as they once did, and the sheer competition with other non-profit groups for donated monies are just a few examples. Another set of circumstances that has touched many communities has come in the form of a catastrophic event, which in many cases has devastated communities and taken a chunk out of funding resources. A catastrophic event could be anything from a major business shutdown, a natural disaster, catastrophic fires and severe weather events. Each of these examples eliminates jobs and reduces the potential tax base in your community. Unfortunately, these events are responsible for an increase in calls for service from this same community.
Another example of fiscal strain on your emergency service organization is the constant improvement of technology, which includes computers, terrorism response preparedness and apparatus costs that in many cases are closing in on seven-digit figures. This is a double-edged sword, as these improvements are developed to save the lives of our personnel and the customers we respond to. Unfortunately, they traditionally arrive with a large price tag that has not been budgeted for by our organization.
This series of articles will explore many time-tested options available to your emergency services organization in the arena of organizational alternative funding. These options will provide your organization with alternative-funding strategies to help relieve the financial stress we all seem to be facing. Many of these strategies will deal directly with the almighty dollar and several will deal with simple strategies your department can use to ensure your community knows who you are, what you provide to your customers and what a great investment you offer. Some of the alternative methods used to increase revenue are: