A lot is being said and written about the negative impact our economic downturn is having on just about every (if not every) fire department in the country. My department is not immune though we are supposedly one of the richest counties in the country.
While times are tough my view is there are sometimes opportunities hidden during those time frames. Likewise, we should all be taking an honest look at how we do business and if we can conduct business more creatively and efficiently. If I were Chief for a day I would immediately form an Incident Management Team (IMT) comprised of all components of the department. This would include labor/volunteer/civilian staff as well as a couple of key community stake holders with unique business backgrounds and talents. The goal would be to develop an Incident Action Plan (IAP) to address the current and even future budgets (two to five years out) through creative means. Look at the department’s Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT’s) and address in an honest and bi-partisan manner. My feeling is this approach may limit the extent of any current painful mid-year cuts while also positioning the department for future growth.
One approach that may be somewhat controversial and frowned upon by most departments is the thought that some of the uniformed administrative positions could be transitioned over to civilian staff. Having been on both sides of the fence, I feel strongly that we need to start taking an honest look at what functions can truly be handled by civilian staff (which is cheaper to be blunt) so that we can ensure adequate operational functions by uniformed staff. Who knows, this approach may even allow you to have your cake and eat it too by saving a vital admin position (as there will be a significant cost savings in theory) and even maintaining, or increasing, your operational staffing! In the politician’s eyes, you have shown a way to reduce cost yet maintain staffing which is all good!
We can inflict our own pain in a way that works best for us or we can wait for others (read politicians) to inflict worse – and that will happen without proactive action on our part!
Just my two cents worth – which may only be worth a third of one cent by now. Am I eligible for a bailout?