A word of caution is in order when evaluating unit utilization for emergency response personnel. The high-stress/high-demand nature of providing emergency services can take a toll on responders and down time is important so the responders can rest their bodies and their minds. Fatigue impacts work performance and the quality of decision-making. In emergency services, responders may only get one opportunity to get it right and the consequences of error can be catastrophic.
• Competition. Presumably, private entities are providing non-emergency transport services in any jurisdiction. As the fire department enters this market, private providers feeling the strain of competition may complain that government is encroaching on the private sector and, furthermore, the public provider has a financial advantage because the operation is being subsidized by taxpayer dollars. To compete with private entities is a policy discussion and decision for the elected officials.
• The role of government. This applies to the role of government as a provider of services. If a fire department provides non-emergency transportation, is it providing a service that meets the essential needs of citizens or is it providing a service to generate revenue (i.e., for profit)? Where would the line be drawn? Could the police department start competing with private entities to provide security at facilities? Could the public works department start plowing the snow from the parking lots of businesses or private driveways?
As the economy has made a fundamental shift that will be slow to return (if it returns at all), government is feeling strained to reduce costs or enhance revenues. Non-emergency transportation services may be a viable option. n