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In the current environment, cookie-cutter studies are produced by certain consultants in cities across the country. I review many of these documents each year, and on more than one occasion, I have actually found the wrong city cited within their reports. Even the most novice reader can figure out that much of the content of the document is simply copied from previous studies with the names of the clients changed within the document.
The pre-determined goals of these studies revolve around cutting fire department staffing levels and eliminating fire stations through nothing more than a budget exercise – without regard to service delivery or safety requirements. The operational realities of their proposals are minimized and do not find their way into the management equation in the end. The same can be said of the risks posed to firefighters and the public by certain budget reductions. They too seem to be absent in far too many discussions.
On top of that, some fire service consultants, and certain public officials, have little respect for the national performance standards that have been developed to guide our industry. It would be hard to argue against the fact that our nation has experienced a concerted political effort (especially in recent years) to demonize public employee labor unions. It has become vogue in some places to publicly voice perceived disadvantages of employing paid union firefighters.
In your defense
The potential impact to a community of not adequately supporting and funding their public safety needs would be unacceptable, especially after the fact. For political reasons, and operational reasons as well, fire service professionals must be capable of successfully debating the types of assertions I’ve mentioned above. These debates may take place in various public and private settings. Within this process, leaders must keep in mind the importance of accurate data in making arguments during such debates.
Don’t get me wrong; there are credible fire service consultants out there for hire, but the biased consultants who exist are not going away any time soon. Let’s ensure that fire department leaders continue to “bone-up” on current issues going on nationally in the fire service before they are faced with a fire department attack that they are not prepared to deal with right in their own community. n