In the current economic realities, many communities are struggling with how to best provide the required number of first responders on scene to safely accomplish all critical tasks to successfully resolve the crisis at hand. They're looking for opportunities to leverage public-safety resources through collaboration.
As documented in NFPA standards and demonstrated through critical task studies, a specific concentration of first responders are needed within certain time parameters to extinguish fire safely and rescue trapped occupants before flashover occurs. What's more, the rapid rate of fire growth and flashover with modern construction and combustible content demands a rapid assembly of an effective firefighting force.
Meeting these requirements can be hampered by many factors, such as funding of adequate minimum staffing, apparatus and station deployment and concurrent call volume.
Consolidation exploration is often driven by the search for fiscal efficiencies. Most consolidations identify savings through long-range cost-avoidance strategies such as personnel attrition, support-function efficiencies such as procurement and other identified strategies.
Given fiscal realities, perhaps a greater opportunity is to view consolidation opportunities through the prism of force multiplier of responders. The force-multiplier synergy can take several forms, from automatic aid to full consolidation. However, essential components must be in place, such as seamless notification, communication and response.
Also essential to effective force multiplication is a common platform of standard operating guidelines, equipment compatibility and regular joint-training evolutions.
An excellent example of the need for force multiplication is the need to have an adequately sized rapid-intervention team that is well equipped, trained and ready in place. This proves to be a challenge in many communities and may be best approached through a consolidated effort.
When considering consolidation and force multiplication, careful analysis must be undertaken, with analytics being the foundation. System master plan, unit-resource deployment analysis and standards of cover all facilitate an objective analysis of system strengths, opportunities for improvement and collaborative potentials.
System performance reviews and policy discussions surrounding the same should be guided by system performance data and reliability, not by emotional or anecdotal drivers. The use of data-driven analysis will help decision-making efforts aimed at firefighter and civilian safety as well as limiting fire growth and property damage.
Consolidation is a local decision best driven by all stakeholders involved. However, it's incumbent on individual organizations to objectively and analytically evaluate baseline system performance and ongoing system-performance monitoring. This is essential in identifying system needs and opportunities and is critical to the safety of your fire service and the communities you serve. If your data analysis identifies system-performance opportunities, this will serve as a springboard for systems approach.