The fire service shows all the signs of an industry that is about to consolidate.Slow budget growth, increased costs, a change in the basics (moving from volunteer to career labor) are among the big picture issues facing the fire service today. Communities facing larger costs of providing fire fighting will have no alternative but to change the economics and efficiency of their fire fighting.
So, what can the fire service learn from other industries that consolidated?In other words, what can you and your department do to be the surviving department for your community?
First, be operationally impressive. Winners look like winners. Are your fire fighters better trained? Do you have better maintained equipment? Are you perceived to be the "best" department around?
Second, be financially impressive. Money is a resource. And it takes more money for larger responsibilities. So, do you handle your money well? Do you fund most of what you need? Do you maintain a proper rainy day fund?
Lastly, be politically impressive. Fire departments function in a political environment. And if your department doesn't engage with the politicians well, they may make a decision without you.
SummaryThe current environment makes consolidation a highly likely event. And it will be made by people outside your fire department. You can argue your case but your department must be ready to be the surviving department. And that means being impressive in 3 key areas.
John R. Hill