Historically, countless changes have been made in the interest of improving the delivery and services the fire service provides. We use diesels and wheels instead of horses and hooves. We deploy fire hoses instead of buckets. We established fire codes and fire-safety education programs to reduce fire damage and death. We expanded our services to include special response teams.
These were changes made for the better because the fire service kept asking, “How can I help you?”
That’s how the fire service has retained its relevancy for the past 200 years: we ask and we respond. We take something familiar and work to make it faster, better, safer. We never lose sight of our core purpose: community service.
In response to the Affordable Care (ACA) and statistics that declare fires calls are going down and medical calls are going up, it’s becoming evident that fire departments and fire-based EMS will have to make significant changes to the services we provide and how we deliver them to remain relevant and vibrant in our communities.
And it’s not familiar. The concept of the fire service as a primary stakeholder in the nation’s health care industry is still new and uncharted territory.
Further, the current and foreseeable political climate requires policy makers to reconsider every aspect of their budgets, and public safety services are not excluded from the budget scrutiny. To prevent downsizing or privatization, the fire service needs to innovate like a private corporation to adapt to our rapidly changing world.
For fire departments and fire-based EMS, moving forward and embracing the changes the ACA has brought about will require a thoughtful, conscious transformational approach to succeed. Transformation isn’t an enhanced version of yesterday; it’s an entirely new vision for tomorrow. Achieving that vision requires creativity, resourcefulness and collaboration among all members. We discover what’s needed in our communities and then deliver. In the process of change, we preserve our core purpose, which has empowered us to serve our communities for the past 200 years.
While holding fast to their founding core ideologies, successful private corporations often make radical, transformational changes in their business models, cultures, management and structures to survive. Nokia, a leading cellphone manufacturer, started in 1865 as a paper mill. Over 150 years, Nokia has transformed itself many times from a manufacturer of paper to cables to TVs to cellphones.
How many companies around the world have been in business since the end of the American Civil War without transformational change? Nokia Chairman Risto Siilasmaa said:
As a young entrepreneur one of my core principles was: ‘We want to be proud not only of what we achieve but also of the way we achieve it’. That fits perfectly with Nokia as well, and the Code of Conduct is our guideline to being proud of the way we do business.
It’s not just what we do, but how we do it. So regardless of the industry it finds itself in, Nokia is committed to excellence in what it does and how it does it. The company doesn’t pigeonhole itself into doing one thing, and the fire service shouldn’t either.
The new possibilities that exist for fire-based EMS have potentially profound effects on our communities. All we have to remember to ask is, “How can I help you?” And then we respond as we have for 200 years and make our services faster, better, safer. If we continue to ask, there will always be a fire service.