Strategic Planning: How Much Fire Department Do We Need?

  Over the past several years, I have seen a certain diminution in the level of fire protection that exists in a number of areas. I have seen this in communities of every size. I have seen this in career, and combination, as well as volunteer...


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 Over the past several years, I have seen a certain diminution in the level of fire protection that exists in a number of areas. I have seen this in communities of every size. I have seen this in career, and combination, as well as volunteer departments. Far too many appear to be taking a hit from their political and administrative leaders.

As an observer of the fire service scene, I have chosen to take a close look at the reasons why fire departments appear to take a disproportionate hit at budget time. We must all recognize a number of things:

·      Crime pays (at least for police budgets)
·      Fire departments are unaware of how big they should be, how many people they should utilize, or how much equipment they need
·      The average fire person does not seem to care about the larger picture of protection within their community
·      There are those who fail to see the fire service as a multi-service discipline (This amplifies the above statement)
 
One can only marvel at the amount of money which is available for police departments, and that seems to flow in an endless stream from sources that seem almost mythical to a poor old fire service slug like myself. It is tough to find a culprit to pin this one on.
 
I guess each of us must share a bit of the blame, because we have not fought to establish grants programs with the same intensity as our colleagues in the police world. We are working to address that problem in Congress, but there are a host of other places, both public and private, that we need to cultivate. 
 
Hell, why not say what every one is thinking. The federal government is taking our FIRE Act money and siphoning it into that vast reservoir of terrorism money. Terrorism my aunt Hanna, I am sick of hearing about terrorism. Most people I know are responding to car wrecks, heart attacks, and house fires.   However, I suggest that rather than crying foul, we need to refocus how we do business.
 
Enough crying over past tankers of spilled milk. If we are to take our place in the world of government affairs, we must begin to operate in a far more organized fashion. Here is where we need to demonstrate that we can operate like a business.  If we are all to be in a position that allows us to develop fire departments truly representative of the communities they protect, we must become intimately familiar with risk analysis and community defense fire plan development. 
 
We must adopt a system that allows us to assess the need for fire department, in terms that are readily understandable. We must discover just how many people, pieces of fire apparatus, stations, and the like, are right for our community. 
 
Development of a fire risk assessment of the hazards within any community requires that a determination be made regarding those events that might occur in that community. If a department fails to give this potential emergencies due consideration, their ability to respond to them, should they occur, will be limited. It may also reduce the effectiveness of their overall level of municipal fire protection. 
 
Every fire department should consider adopting a pro-active approach to planning for those potential incidents that may happen in the future. You cannot expect that the future will always be kind to you. You must envision that bad things that could happen and prepare for them.
 
A great deal of what I exists in each community is there as a result of past practices. More time needs to be spent in planning for future operations. A number of variables exist that can serve as the basis for various potential emergency scenarios. Each must be consciously considered as a part of the planning process. They are as follows:
 
·        Population
·        Geography and topography
·        Demographics
·        Transportation mediums
·        Level of industrial development
·        Level of residential development
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