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Fire departments are action-oriented organizations. Since the days in the past, they have played a primary role in the safety of the public. They respond to emergencies to protect lives and property of citizens. Their Primary purpose is to protect the citizens from emergency-related threats that have potential to be catastrophic. The threats can be earthquakes, floods, terrorist bombing, fire and many more that happen to be a threat to humans (Massey, 2). There is an increase of pandemic and natural calamities and this places new demands on the departments. The rising issue to meet new causes of disaster requires support from the government financially.
Other than the natural disaster, there are other factors that can affect the future generation. The economy of the state is the crucial factor that affects the general public. It has many impacts on the public like the homeland security of the State. Homeland security's fire departments rely on funding from the federal. They rely entirely on the State's foreign capital to finance their expenditures and deficits. The departments pay the annual interest payments on the public debts and also spend on national defense (Massey, 2). The U.S economy not only affects the homeland security but, the state stability and the whole world's economic systems.
Tax revenues of the State that fund most fire and emergency service organizations can be affected by not only the local market, but also the nation or global economy (Smeby, 63). Taxes that support the fire service agencies are taxes from property and sales. When the local economy declines, then there will be an impact on the economy of the states and their budget. Influences and financial trends of the globe particularly affect the United States economy. Stock markets issues from other countries have a significant effect on the United States economy. For example, the attacks from terrorists and individuals from other countries globally had an enormous negative impact on the economy. This made the State make drastic decisions.
According to Bennet, the federal government has been infusing funds into homeland security. This has had fundamental effects on the United States' fire service. In the past, small funds assigned for the departments led to fewer fire stations, tools and the desperately needed equipments. The September 2001 tragedy of firefighters made New York City focus on fire service more than in the past, considering the dangers fire fighters face daily. The government eventually passed a Fire Act to provide financial assistance to fire service. The financial assistance program provided for certain areas where the fire stations could apply for funding like purchase of new equipments, vehicles, normal operations, safety for firefighters, gears and other reasons. The federal provided this financial aid to the service (152).
Currently, according to Bennet, the fire service has faced a considerable drawback on the financial program offered by the government. This is because of the problem the state is facing financially. With the decline in the economy and increase of disasters, the fire service has a serious problem since it cannot manage to raise funds on its own to acquire more resources that they still need. Coming with the financial crisis is the budget cut which made on some programs within the state. Programs like fire service are cut from the budget (152).
The U.S economy deficit has reached an estimated total of more than a trillion dollars and, if the trend continues then U.S will end up bankrupt. Based on Massey's statistics, if the current State's economy continues with the imbalance over 100 years, then no money will be set for the homeland security and other federal discretionary departments. The government will only concentrate on social security, medical care payment and its net interest on the national debt (4).
A drop in the United States economy is a serious problem to the nation as well as the fire service. Any interruption to money put in for the fire service may lead to significant effects especially their ability to maintain their service to the public. During this crisis in the economy, the government makes tough decisions even though they are not the best options. According to Bennet, the issue of the state economy has been there, and it is proving to be serious currently (153).
Having a budget cut on the fire service is not the best choice to respond to the falling economy. The agencies of fire service have been preparing themselves in preparation of any attack like a terrorist attack. No one knows when it will happen and, so the fire fighters have been preparing themselves and, they still should do it. Funding for the same is provided to the fire service to put down all the foundations and prepare. If the State cuts the fire service from budget to stop the work started years ago, then this will be crucial. Everything that has long been there needs to be maintained and the fire fighters should continue to be trained, or else everything will be lost. He explains further that, funding for the fire service should, in fact, be increased to allow the flow of the progress made so far. The government should not allow the skills and equipments invested in to fail now (153).
According to the report given by Oberg, a reporter of Eyewitness News InFocus, Houston city lost more than 1,000 employees in the Houston Fire Department due to the budget cuts. The department made changes like reducing the Emergency Medical Service system so that the number of people working in a day reduces in turn reducing daily expenses. Despite this, the department hopes to deliver their services to the public as usual. It has also reduced on the dollars spent on training at the academy. The department hopes that the action does not have a profound impact on the new trainees. Another action the department took due to the economy impact is the reassignment of firefighters out to fire stations from the headquarters hoping their services do not change. Some fire fighters who had worked for long for the department had to be mere rescuers and those who worked in office had to work out in the field. These steps helped the Houston Fire Department to save the Houston City an average of $500,000 for the 2011 budget. These budget cut keeps the academy of Houston Fire Department from hiring new trainees in order to develop its level of service delivery. In turn, the rate of adding more new staff is also affected. The Fire Department in Houston hopes in correcting the changes made in the coming years when the economy and the budget are favorable. The Current budget crisis has made changes to everyone.
According to Waters (Vice President of Risk Decision at ISO), due to the crisis in the economy, some fire service departments with problems of funds in the United States have resolved to shutting down the fire stations; cut down in the number of fire fighters; or establish a temporary way of closing down fire companies in a progressive way (1). He also explains that the major concerns in the fire department include the lack of budget, old equipments, and the rate of recruiting and retaining its staff. According to him, if the crisis continues then this will strongly affect the departments' ability to serve the public and volunteer departments may lose member who will opt for paid jobs. Based on the ISO research findings, most of the fire stations had no adequate apparatus, personnel, equipments and training to handle fire emergencies (2). With the problem of recruiting and retaining staff, the departments will deliver poor services and the response to fire emergencies will be poor too. He also points that if the number responders to fire drops below the states standards, then the ISO withdraws the station's protection credit for up to six months to allow the community put into place the necessary improvement on staffing. According to Waters, the community can also assist in solving some issues like personnel and equipments.
According to Marinucci; an editor of the article Economic Forces Drive changes in Fire Service, in the Fire Apparatus and Emergency Equipment Magazine; Planning for the future is essential to the fire departments' success. He explains that the best ways of predicting the future economic trend is look at the past events and read or listen to warning of stock brokers and financial advisors. The changes that will happen to the fire service in the future will be driven by the stability or instability of the economy.
Within the fire service department, many options can be selected. For example, reducing the number of employees can, unfortunately, cause inefficiency and expose fire fighters to dangerous risks. With this problem, some politicians may choose to focus on public safety and decide that it is an unnecessary exhaust on the finances. To stop such perception that the fire service departments are a cost to the community, best efforts must be implemented. The impact the economy has on fire service department, based on the current economy trend, will continue to be there even with the coming years.
With the economy crunch, the Fire Departments are encouraged to join forces with other departments. Mutual aid will be the best option to be used in this crisis. However, there is a caution to this since; the departments involved in the mutual agreement must understand that, for the outcome to be successful, they have to agree. This will help in saving the costs that come with the purchase of apparatus and equipments. This step requires willingness, trust and cooperation between the departments. The key elements that the departments should do include the establishment of the groups, planning on the departments' purchases, and contributions from the staff.
With the advance in technology, the fire departments are to take advantage and continue offering the best services even with the crisis the economy is facing. When the staff is aware of how information can be sent all over, then individuals will continue to perform. The internet is also another technology that helps the cadets. Training can be done over the internet and, new updates and information exchange can help the fire fighters to learn and improve in their skills.
Marinucci, an editor of The Economy and Equipment in the Fire Apparatus and Emergency Equipment Magazine explained how the economy has a significant effect on fire service departments. He points that this will continue to affect it in the coming years. Fire service department requires intensive labor and much of its budget is used to pay these personnel. When the economy goes down, the fire departments try to reduce all expenditure of their budget except personnel. In addition to personnel, there are other items to be considered. This may include the bills for utilization, the apparatus fuel, cost of insurance and many more. At the end, there is less leaving no option but cut on some items to save.
Most of the items that are slashed from the budget are the equipments and apparatus essential in providing of quality service by the fire department. There is a high consideration on personnel and mandatory items than the nonessential. The nonessential are those items that can be replaced and, the department tries to extend their usefulness. The department can have a replacement schedule for these items even though this can pose as a challenge to the fire department service.
Whenever the fire department is called upon to attend to a new emergency, the public expects the fire personnel to offer appropriate services. In most cases, public awareness regarding the fire department's budget is also is not to the expected levels. The public has very scanty information regarding the financial implications accrued by a formidable fire department. For example, fire department has to bare the financial responsibility of hiring qualified personnel who are familiar to operating the apparatus and equipment.
Some fire service departments receive funds from other sources besides the government. This puts them in a better position to maintain and significantly improve the quality of services on offer to the American public. However, they still face the challenges that come with a crunch in the economy. This has a huge implication on the fire department's having no other options of implementing their funding requests. As a result, this may lead to a delay in terms of local replacements. Thus, the fire department may decide to eliminate the unnecessary items, by buying used equipments. In some cases they are asked to provide better reason in order to justify new equipment purchases. Should the exchequer not be in a position to access funds immediately, the fire department may be asked to look for other funding programs.
Delay of purchases can have several effects on the department, depending on its status at that moment. If a department is almost at the end of the usefulness of its equipment then delaying the apparatus and equipment purchase will be the option. However, this could have a significant effect on its service delivery and reliability. This could also increase the cost of maintenance. For departments that are constant in making purchases, then delaying for a while will not cause so much of a problem.
During these times of economy crunch, analysis is made concerning the purchases to be made. Here several approaches can be pursued. First, fire departments can be asked to get the essential equipments and apparatus. Second, the need to have the items is also considered. The third criterion is if the department has existing equipment, is there a need for it to buy new equipments for the purpose of rescue or not. The other criterion is if the existing items can be used until the economy is stable. As the economy worsens, every department is asked cut back and be reasonable when making requests.
At some point, when there is the need to buy apparatus and equipments and buying used ones becomes the best available option. In as much this seriously hampers the quality of service being offered, the fire department ought to closely asses the quality of the used items being bought in the present circumstances of the economy. This may severely impact the reputation of the fire department as a safety provider. Marinucci advices departments to select safe and practical equipments and apparatus to protect the fire service department's reputation. He further advises that the federal state passed the fire Act program to fund fire service departments that are there to support the fire service financially (Marinucci). Therefore, the departments should continue to apply. Such legislative provisions may be a positive move but may not sufficiently cushion the fire department from external economic impacts.
Marinucci also explains that there is one way that the department can use to save. He explains that purchasing of items in groups could save. This means that, the departments should cooperate and be willing to compromise. Most departments make purchases of certain brands and they are extremely particular. In the case of group purchasing, the departments should be willing to go against the issues of brands since this is the only option to save money (Marinucci). In this economic conditions, Marinucci advices the fire service to be more creative to survive it until things go back to normal.
Leaders of fire departments are advised to plan on how their departments will deal with the recession. The current poor economy seems to take more years for it to bounce back, therefore, preparation is key face it. Understanding the department's expenditure also helps in providing strategies for the department that will support their work within the poor economic market.
Another measure that fire leaders can use to deal with the lean economy is talking to the elected leaders. The elected leaders have no idea about the business. It is the responsibility of the chief leaders and the community to make them aware and ask for assistance and help them with the solutions of dealing with the problems. The fire chiefs should come up with a plan and be ready to educate them.
The economic crisis in the coming years will have a significant reduction on the work force within the fire departments and Emergency Medical Service. Based on Markley's report on Atlanta, it was not its choice to reduce the work force but, the economic problem had deepened, leaving them with no choice (Markley). Hence, due to the perceived reduction in the number of competently hired staff in the respective fire departments, it implies that service provision is bound to be affected
Markley reports further that economic crunch will have a significant impact in the big cities. For example, the lean economic had a serious impact on the Upper Midwest and based on the survey conducted, the poor economy has been there for long. The same applies to Baltimore, San Francisco, San Diego and New York (Markley). Another effect is the response to fire emergencies. This will be compromised especially when there is a cut on staff numbers and closing down of fire stations. When the number of fire fighters, support staff, equipment and resources, are reduced, this is bound to have a negative impact on the firefighter's safety.
In conclusion, I strongly believe that, with the recent state of the economy, fire departments should look at ways of increasing their revenues. This can be through Emergency Medical Service (EMS). They can charge for first response fees and membership program of Emergency Medical Service. With these, funds can be generated and increasing revenues collected over time. In the coming years, the fire fighting departments will continue to hold onto what they have hoping that the economy will bounce back. A lot of things that are lost because of the economy will be harder to restore, therefore, excellent plans will be crucial at that point. With no hope of immediate rise in the economy, the fire service will continue to find new ways to survive the crunch in order to provide services to the public.