The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) board of directors issued a position statement reaffirming the association’s continued opposition to consolidating fire and emergency service and law enforcement agencies and the creation of public safety officers. The measure comes in response to a growing trend of some consultants to push consolidation as a remedy for local government officials faced with shrinking local budgets.
"As leaders in our communities, the fire and emergency service is committed to finding ways to help our communities through these difficult financial times, but not at the expense of public or responder safety," said IAFC President Chief Larry J. Grorud. "Proponents of consolidation fail to appreciate the unique role firefighters and EMTs play in both prevention and response, as well as the critical importance of assessing the specific risks and service needs of each community."
The position statement specifically addresses the association’s concerns stemming from:
- Vast differences in fire/emergency service and law enforcement mission and training;
- Erosion of the company unit;
- Exchange of the team concept for individual action; and
- Lack of understanding of both the broader community service and national context in which the fire and emergency service plays a critical role.
"Consolidation of fire and emergency services and law enforcement is still being offered as an easy solution to an increasingly complex problem," continued Grorud. "We need to leverage our current environment of cooperation and unprecedented resources for risk assessment and data collection, to create new and effective solutions that support continued quality of service at lower costs."
Fire chiefs are called upon to take a number of steps, including:
- Taking an active role in their community budget discussion;
- Immediately beginning to pursue the fire department accreditation process, which centers upon community-specific risk assessment;
- Establishing metrics to measure the quality of service impact of any structural, organizational or financial changes within the department; and
- Preparing to educate the public on any decisions regarding department service and consequences for those changes.
IAFC is working with the International Association of Fire Fighters, other fire and emergency service organizations and law enforcement organizations to provide resources for combating misinformation being circulated locally by public-safety consolidation proponents and to raise shared concerns at the national level.