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.