Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Can I have more in my allowance now?

Well it's a new day and the day after election shows a new direction in the future.....or does it?

Both President elect Obama and candidate McCain, promised great things for the country but as only one branch of government how much can actually be accomplished? Further how much can be achieved in the first term.

I remain very hopeful, but very concerned for those local fire chiefs and labor organizations throughout the country who may be in some pretty tough economic times right now. Different states and different parts of the country are in different forms of the "R" word.....recession.

There are fire chiefs from major city's with reduced apparatus manning, reduced total shift strengths, rolling brownouts, layoffs etc. This translates into some pretty difficult decisions being forced on fire departments that were already operating at the bare bones level.

In my own department now manpower is lower than it should be, and we may be forced (not yet, thank God) to make cuts. Certainly not my idea, certainly not my labor organizations idea, but really a fact of the economy itself. My title for this post might have seemed a little silly but the fire service is really asking for it's share of the "allowance" from the available funds of the city or town they are in. Of course I know we are a vital service, but in many communities throughout the country some taxpayers on fixed incomes, the elderly, and others just don't have it to give. They want firefighters, they want paramedics on their ambulance, and they truly believe that we provide a noble and necessary service, but their personal economic decision might be food, or heating oil, or prescription medication.

I truly believe we are in for a difficult 18 months to two years ahead of us as a national fire service. I see that there could be some losses in large and small departments alike in various parts of the country.

The challenge for us at the kitchen table level is great. I have some thoughts while we sit here and have coffee on this shift.
  • Labor and management have to work as close together as they can during difficult times. Focus on the short and long term problems.
  • Members should chat be open and communicate, but in difficult times we need to provide rumor control and not speculate about layoffs, closing companies and all of that stuff which spreads through an organization like wild fire.
  • Turn your frustration into some positive action and remember that we have to continue to protect, those that support us, and those that do not support us.
  • Every member has to be the positive spokes person for our agency so that folks will want to give us that extra "allowance".
  • Firefighters can do anything. There is not a tougher group of people who will come through when the chips are down, then us. We just need to remain focused as the internal tension within our organizations rise. Tensions internally and externally as we argue for what we know we need.
  • Chief's need to make sure that citizens know and are educated as to what cuts in dollars, relate to in cuts of service. This is not to scream that the sky is falling, but it is to be professional and clinical and let those we serve know that cuts in dollars have a direct impact on service delivery.
  • Chiefs need to realize that items obtained with grant funding, still need additional funding for maintenance and replacement. Often we get grants for items that do not appear presently and they increase our capability, but they will need to be repaired, maintained and replaced. You should not count on that grant always being funded at the same level as the last time.
  • Chiefs need to be steady and strong under fire from the city management, from their frustrated troops, and from the angry electorate at large. This can be difficult (trust me on this one), but heck if the job of chief was easy everybody would be doing it!

The tough economic times we are in will get better. It may be a tough ride and we will come out OK on the other side, but they have the right folks on the job.....the American Firefighters!

Stay safe, until the next shift.

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  1. Heard today that the FDNY is making big cuts. I do fear this is just the beginning. We're gonna be hearing the same thing at departments all over the country in the next few months.

  2. How about departments get chartered as a bank, make some bad loans, declare a crisis, then look for a bail out worth millions of dollars..?!

  3. I think we're just seeing the tip of the Iceberg for now. On Monday, a Noted TV Anchor commented that "If McCain Wins, the Dow will top 10,000 in a few days. If Obama wins, it will drop anothe 2,500 -4,000 in the next month or two. Here we are on the day after, and the Dow dropped 486.01 to close at 9,139.26 today....... Thing is, I don't see the Economy improving anytime soon, regardless of who is in the White House or Congress. We've always been the "Do more with less" folks, and we'll stay that way. I would offer that maybe we should be exchanging advice, in forums such as this, on how folks manage with shrinking budgets. By learning from each other, we can avoid reinventing the wheel over and over. Good Luck Guys, it's gonna be tough out there.

  4. I would have to wonder how committed the new president-elect is to our nation's fire service when he is not even a member of the Congressional Fire Service Caucus.
    320 members and Obama's name is conspicuously missing from the membership list.
    At least Biden took the time to join.
    In fact, he is a co-chair; right there alongside of John McCain.
    If it weren't for fire departments, Obama would have had fewer neighborhoods to organize.
    He needs to get on board and join the Caucus.

  5. Chief Woods,
    Seems it is the tip of the iceberg. Philadelphia is the latest facing cuts, with the mayor claiming they'll be able to cut 5 engine companies and 2 ladder companies while
    "maintaining overall safety."
    As well as the folks visiting The Kitchen Table sharing their ideas here, we'll be working to put something together on FR1 on how to manage with shrinking budgets.

  6. In 1736, Benjamin Franklin started the first fire department ever. Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, it was called the Union Fire Company. One of Mr. Franklin’s famous quotes is "We must indeed all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately."
    The times that are approaching may or may not be financially fruitful. Either way, we as the Fire Service must stand on what built our inheritance. The protection of life and property. If our communities feel their fire departments are apart of their basic needs for existence then we are in a better place when it comes to financial stability. The time to think outside of the box is now! How can we the local fire department apply ourselves to the communities we serve? Most definitely shelter falls under a basic need. How many of our departments are doing regular door to door home inspections? This is something that you hear is available but, we wait for the phone call from Joe citizen before we act. How many departments have a weekly, monthly, or quarterly news letter that is sent to their customers? Sure there is a cost in this endeavor but, the fruits may be more! If we just stand back and watch what the economy hands out, then we must play the hand we are dealt. Let us get in front of the economy so if harder times come, we have the support of our customers. In 21 years as a member of the fire service I have found there are two prevalent views of the fire service. The first view is one of admiration and respect. The second view is a condescending checker playing obese good ole boy. Both of these view’s especially the latter need to be continually worked on. To improve both views, action is the only way to success. I believe in our mission, “protection of life and property.” I believe the times ahead will only forge a better stronger fire service. We as Americans have always thrived when faced with adversity and firefighters are American’s first and have more than enough of what it takes to survive!

    Corey Harned
    District Chief
    South Walton Fire District

  7. Heard today that the FDNY is making big cuts. I do fear this is just the beginning. We're gonna be hearing the same thing at departments all over the country in the next few months.


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