Many fire departments are working in earnest through their annual budget processes at this time of year. It's likely that facilities improvements, maintenance and other capital expenditures will be discussed with policymakers along with operating expenses like salaries (in career departments), benefits, fuel, etc.
As this story from Memphis demonstrates, firefighters, fire apparatus, and their facilities form a tightly coupled system where the failure of any component can contribute to a negative outcome. In this case, the Memphis Fire Department had enough resources available to safely and effectively handle the workload during this power outage affecting one of its stations.
Not every fire department, however, is as fortunate.
During times of fiscal stress, like those facing many communities across the United States right now, it can be extremely challenging to explain the costs and benefits of maintaining fire department facilities, equipment, and vehicles. In my experience, it can actually be "easier" to garner understanding about the need for new apparatus, than it is to describe the critical nature of seemingly mundane items that are generally "out of sight, out of mind" in our fire stations.
Everybody loves their neighborhood firehouse, but few of those we serve truly understand the 24/7/365 nature of these facilities, and what it takes to keep them operational through any type of environmental condition or external event. My guess is that, if you asked ordinary residents if their local fire station has a backup generator, they would quickly assume, and answer, "yes."
Absent a high-profile event like the one in this story, how do you help your community understand the need to adequately fund basic facilities maintenance and capabilities?
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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