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Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

Cutback challenges we face

We can probably expect to see even more cases where budget cuts play out in the street

By Adam K. Thiel

Editor's note: With a drowning prompting an emergency response review in Calif., our Editorial Advisor Chief Adam K. Thiel take a look at the wider issues.

This story highlights a key challenge faced by local public safety departments that are increasingly forced to address budget deficits, or have already done so, by reducing the scope of services delivered to their communities.

When departments must choose between (sometimes barely) maintaining core services and providing "specialized" training, such as water rescue, the latter is often cut.

Unfortunately, the consequences of these choices, which are public policy decisions made by the elected officials who approve the budget, are not always grasped by the citizens who are ultimately affected.

At least, not until after a high-profile event like this one.

The challenge for department leaders (career and volunteer, management and labor) is being able to clearly articulate the community's needs, the available service delivery options, and the potential consequences of various funding alternatives before something bad happens.

Still, sometimes decisions will be made that result in service degradation.

With the current economic and political climate we can probably expect to see even more cases where budget cuts play out in the street.

Stay safe!

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel FireRescue1's editorial advisor is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

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Patrick Coughlin Patrick Coughlin Monday, June 30, 2014 8:52:43 AM Yes, we can expect to see more cuts, and budget deficits are not necessarily the reason. City leaders and taxpayers are looking for more efficiency in government in order to cap taxes and make cities more livable. Because fire suppression is man-power intensive, new technologies are not an option like they have been for other public services. The only option for fire departments is to cut personnel costs. There is a way to cut costs without compromising safety, and it is not a pie-in-the-sky idea. Fire departments are doing so by augmenting career firefighters with full-time temporary firefighters, college students who provide this vital public service while attending college and receiving free educations as their reward. I have written about such programs at

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