By Larry Grorud
Published Sunday, November 30, 2008
| From the December 2008 Issue of FireRescue
Like you, I’ve thought pretty hard about what this current economic trouble will mean for the future of fire and emergency services. The challenge is not simply finding ways to tighten our budgets; it’s finding ways to expand our thinking and our professional networks. After all, having a strong network means that when tough times strike, you will have resources from which you can get ideas to help your community weather the storm.
Planning for the Future
Many of us have already found some innovative solutions to meet our departments’ needs. With state levy limits in place, my department has managed to trim costs even as we maintain our most critical services, emphasize safety and training and educate the community about fire prevention. For example, we recently secured long-term notes for our capital equipment expenditures, spreading the economic impact over more years.
We’ve also kept our strategic plan alive, even if we can’t do everything we had hoped to do. This economic climate may slow our ability to achieve all our goals, but it’s essential to continue to keep current on our plans.
As I’ve met with IAFC leaders and members from around the world in the past few months, I’ve been impressed by the tenacity of the fire and emergency service community during these troubling economic times. In late October, a group of these leaders gathered in Washington, D.C., to plan the future direction of our association. We finished our work just before the election, knowing that the IAFC had already reached out to President-Elect Obama to build his team’s knowledge of the fire service and its needs. The leaders who invested time and money in the IAFC community have given the IAFC a plan to thrive even in tough times, and that will benefit everyone in the fire and emergency service.
Dialogues spark New Ideas
Most of us have several important professional networks. Have you been involved in your community’s service clubs? If not, I recommend you get involved. They give you the opportunity to network with other leaders who are finding innovative solutions despite the hard economic realities.
The IAFC provides value to you all the time, but the association is especially valuable during challenging times. There’s no broader, stronger network of leaders and emerging leaders. I often hear of chiefs and company officers who’ve used their IAFC network to find new perspectives and solutions for their local challenges. I know I have.
The IAFC Web site, www.iafc.org, offers members a portal to online discussion forums where they can interact with members anywhere in the world. When I checked the site while writing this column, I found discussions about various topics, including fuel costs vs. service delivery, alternative or light-duty SOPs, random drug and alcohol testing, ambulance staffing, mutual aid agreements, the 48/96 work shift and pending legislation in several states.
The IAFC contributes to our local communities through helping to secure federal funding for the FIRE Act grants. I’ve reviewed the grants to get ideas for my own department’s requests. For example, I read that a community in New York had received a grant for signal light preemption technology. That inspired me to seek a grant for preemption technology in my community. The result: We received the grant and will have the technology, thanks to the FIRE Act funding that the IAFC advocated.
When the going gets tough, your professional network becomes more important than ever. I urge you to get involved in professional communities and invest time and resources. Your professional network will give you a brain trust of other leaders to share ideas and solutions now and in the future.
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