1. #1
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    Default Preserving Our Core - Retired BC Stewart McGehee

    I read this article with mixed emotion:

    http://www.firefighternation.com/art...der-new-models

    Regardless of the points presented in this article, the fire service is changing whether we like it or not. As I approach the 25-year mark in the fire service, I feel fortunate to have been a part of it when our people still valued the "good stuff", i.e. pride and tradition, and endeavored to maintain the respect the firefighters before us spent lifetimes trying to earn.

    Alot of the "leadership" in the fire service today appears to place an emphasis on "de-valuing" many of the hallmarks of our proud heritage. Maybe it is a sign of the times? Maybe the fire service of the future will not resemble anything that we are familiar with today?

    I hope not.

    Your thoughts?
    DFW



    "There's no such thing as a free lunch."

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    Our country of the future will not resemble anything close to what we know now,
    ?

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    I think there is a lot of truth in what he's saying. We won't see a stop in the attacks on our budgets, pay, pensions, benefits, etc. until the citizens we protect are back to work (in good jobs) and their homes have value again.

    If you look at our history, if companies and/or stations close, we frequently don't get them back. So I would suppose that a lot of what we've already lost or will lose before the financial ship is righted will likely be gone for good.

    We have to look at what we do and see if there's a way to do it at a lower cost and/or with better efficiency. We have to look at our situations and determine if there's a way to make the best of a bad situation. We've done it before.

    The controversial use of the "Quint" is an example of this. For example, (as I understand it) when St. Louis initiated their "Total Quint Concept" (TQC) about 2 decades ago, there were facing the need to cut their expenses which meant the loss of several companies and their staffing. To accomplish this under traditional "engine & truck" deployment you are looking at potentially closing single company stations leaving a neighborhood "unprotected" and cutting either the engine or truck in double houses which leaves you with 1 less aerial unit or a station without a suppression capable unit. All pretty much "lose/lose" options.

    Faced with these impending cuts that were not going to be avoided, the TQC arrived in St. Louis and all of their existing fire stations stayed open, had a suppression capable unit and greatly increased the number of aerial units available. Granted, dedicated company roles may be the most ideal way to respond, but they were trying to make the best of that bad situation and from a comparative standpoint, the only "loser" was "traditional" deployment.

    We're pretty much all facing that same need to change the way we have done business in some fashion in order to continue doing what we do. I'm sure we're up to the task again.

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    I think it boils down to one simple thing, the city officials see us as unskilled, low value laborers. Now granted we aren't rocket scientists, but I would put us on the same level as skilled craftsman and artisans. They won't support the hiring processes that seek to find good quality people, that can be molded into the skilled craftsman a fireman is. So we're going to see a constant degradation of the people we hire. We'll still get quality people, but we'll also get a lot of junk recruits. It also seems we attract a lot of EMSers who don't have an interest in being a fireman, but know its better than working for an ambulance. Just all these things seem to be coming together to give us crappy recruits to turn into firemen.

    Another threat is city hall loves to compare us to other professions (such as this article brings up garbagemen), they still try to tap into the uniqueness of the profession when it benefits them. They want us to be like other industries, but what city hall workers clean city hall, shovel the sidewalk, and mow the lawn? The janitors, not the staffers. They want to cut our staffing because "fires are down", but don't understand that fire is time sensitive and you need to bring people quickly. Unlike garbage cans or graffiti on the overpass, trapped occupants can't wait until tomorrow. As all of this is happening, we have no spine "leaders" that bow down to the demands of city hall. They don't care about fire protection or informing elected officials why the fire department is needed, they just say "yes I'll cut that and more" to protect their bugles.

    So to some it up, we have junk coming in and the current leadership trend is junk too, the fire service as we know it is doomed. So are any citizens that find themselves in need of our services.

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    The fire service is in the midst of a paradigm shift. "Paradigm shift" is a $10 word for "a complete change in the way a certain thing (or things) is/are done.

    I've read several articles that seem to paint a bleak picture of the fire service of the future. Those that continue to provide EMS will find that being the primary "driver" of their organization. Many FDs are there now. Unfortunately, the decreasing numbers of fires will likely lead to additional cuts regarding staffing, resource allocation, and etc. The problem we will face is that fires will always be an issue. All of the youngins' of today's fire service, however, will not have anywhere near the opportunities that those of us that came on in the 70's and 80's had. Unfortunately, those days are gone and are not likely to return.

    The fire service of the future will likely be very different than what we see now. Bean counters will likely be the "unofficial" Fire Chiefs of most organizations. Everything will be based on data - funding, resource allocation, staffing, and etc.

    EMS accounts for most fire department responses. Funding for resource allocation and staffing will likely reflect that. What does that mean? A double-company station with a four-person engine, a four-person truck, and a two-person ambulance will likely evolve into a stand-alone, minimally-staffed quint with outsourced EMS.

    That gives me heartburn.

    Most cities are trying to figure out how to reduce the cost of public safety. Many have determined that reducing the amount of resources for fire protection and "rolling the dice" with regards to the outcome is often, in the long haul, cheaper than operating a fully-staffed department on a day-to-day basis.

    I think I was born about 10 years too late. Had I made my debut earlier, I'd be near retirement and basking in how "good" things were for us "yesterday". Unfortunately, the future looks like it'll be radically different.
    Last edited by dfwfirefighter; 08-05-2012 at 01:42 AM.
    DFW



    "There's no such thing as a free lunch."

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    I agree with what he says...the fire service is changing and we have to change with it. We have to take a clean, unbiased, look at how we do everything and re-evaluate. Some departments are too resistive to change and therefore get cut. We are in tough times and we have to circle the wagons and protect our core skills such as fire suppression. I would much rather choose where I get cut than to have someone who has no clue run the knife.
    Jason Knecht
    Assistant Chief
    Altoona Fire Dept.
    Altoona, WI

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