Part of our jobs as company officers is to identify the tools, equipment and resources that our crews and departments need to better serve our customers. Those items can range in size, complexity and value to the department and may in some cases overwhelm not only the budget but human resources required to procure the items to begin with.
It has been my experience that many company officers bring forward those needs, expecting someone else (anyone else) in the department to then take their recommendation and run with it. While it’s pretty easy to go out and talk to the crew and gather a large volume of ideas on what we need, it’s another story altogether when it comes to helping the department find the additional resources to actually purchase the items.
Here’s an approach that may help you and your department acquire some of those needs if you’re willing to take on some of the work instead of waiting for someone else to do it.
What’s a Need and What’s a Want?
First, learn the difference between a need and a want. There are lots of things we want, either to make life a little easier or because it happens to be the cool tool of the day, but do we truly need it?
Chrome wheels on fire apparatus look great, but as far as I know, we can still get the truck to the call in the same amount of time with regular old wheels that cost much less. I know I’m treading the line of blasphemy here… But once you have identified a true need, you’ll want to do a little more research to make the remaining process flow more smoothly.
What Does the Cost-Benefit Analysis Tell You?
Second, do a little cost-benefit analysis. It’s not as hard as it sounds; just try to see if the amount of money you’re planning to spend on this item is justified against all of the department’s other needs. Will the item you’re looking to purchase save time, reduce injuries or improve lives?
What’s the Funding Source?
Next, look for a funding source outside your department’s budget. Yes, you! Don’t wait for someone else; see what you can find.
Many states offer fire protection grants on a yearly basis, which sometimes very few agencies apply for. There are federal grants through FEMA, like the Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG), under which you can apply for apparatus, safety supplies, training, etc., as well as the Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) program, which allows you to request funding for career staff or Volunteer recruitment and retention programs.
How Can You Be Part of the Process?
Ask if you can either write or help write the grant request. While this can be somewhat of an arduous process, it can also be very enlightening about how your department works at a higher level. If nothing else, maybe the effort is another feather in your cap come promotion time.
Where’s the Best Price?
Finally, should you be fortunate enough to get the grant or be able to purchase the item out of the existing budget, shop for the best price and help the purchase go through the procurement process. Anyone who has dealt with government purchasing rules will attest that this can be an arduous and time-consuming process. However, it can also be a valuable learning experience.
In the end, you may be successful in obtaining the grant, but then again, you may not. Either way, you’ll be able to report back to both the troops in the field and the command staff that you put forth the effort to try and get it done.
We all want to make our departments the best and make sure our guys and gals have the tools and equipment they need to perform safely and at the highest level possible. Taking a little initiative just might make the difference.
So do it! Yes, you!