The Pride of the S. E. Thurston Fire Authority Fleet
Photo courtesy S. E. Thurston Fire Authority
Our local fire departments are experiencing change and being pressed like no other public service institution. They deserve the public’s understanding as to what is happening and what to expect in the future.
What Is The New Normal?
“Over the past 48 months, many in our profession have observed that the fire service has experienced a transition unlike any we have seen. Only ten years ago, in the wake of 9/11, the fire services reputation was untouchable, respected and revered, a profession often used in national advertisements due to the trust and honor people associated with the fire service. Now, the fire service is no longer an untouchable in local government.
It used to be that the fire service was almost sacred in the budget process, but that is no longer true. In fact, the fire service is now getting hit by budget reductions just like other city and county departments. In the past, the call to action by local unions made to the citizens was an effective tool, but today is having an adverse effect upon the constituency as well as the elected officials.
So what has happened?
In a very short period of time, many factors have come into play to create the shift we are experiencing and witnessing today. The economic downturn has hit people very hard. Additionally, the rising cost of fire service pension and health care cost for our profession is often front page news in many jurisdictions. Reduced revenue, coupled with these increase costs, have forced many fire companies to be taken out of service, firefighters to be laid off, and staffing reduced through attrition to meet this new budget reality.
The environment that the fire service and local government has been accustomed to has radically changed; yet, as a profession, we still approach this new dynamic the same way we always have. In fact, I think the fire service has experienced a paradigm shift.”
“A must in todays environment is the ability to frame and deliver our message in a way that elected officials and the public can understand, as well as linking it to performance-based outcomes for those that we serve.”