The current economic situation has eroded tax bases, compressed fire and emergency service budgets and thus forced many to examine the benefits of regional collaboration. Potential synergies of regionalism have never been greater, with both fiscal and operational efficiencies the potential outcome.
Maximum-risk and special-risk events, whether they’re natural or manufactured, typically don’t know regional boundaries, but they require that responding assets not be overwhelmed. But even the most robust resource departments will be taxed by responding to a significant or maximum-risk event. Such has been demonstrated time and time again, particularly in response to large-scale weather events, such as a hurricane landfall or tornado touchdown.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security takes advantage of collaboration and obtains these possible efficiencies by positioning regional, federal task force urban search and rescue teams throughout the country. From this, the fire and emergency service can learn that being best prepared requires regional collaboration and that if doesn’t occur on a daily basis, it’s less likely to occur seamlessly during times of crisis.
In many areas, opportunities to leverage a regional fire service approach are abundant. Regionalized policies and procedure development, equipment specification and subsequent cooperative purchasing, standardized training programs and resource sharing are just a few areas where benefits can be found. In addition, preestablished regional-aid agreements are critical as a force multiplier.
Regional collaboration is even more important in communities that have conducted a community risk and hazard assessment and have identified areas of significant risk that will require a robust response of both personnel and equipment. Regional planning for such responses ahead of time ensures the greatest certainty of success; prearranged resource-sharing agreements allow for a capacity surge of additional resources and staff. The power of planning before an actual incident is that it allows resources to prepare together for such a response.
Regional collaboration also offers great best practice sharing and networking opportunities. The challenges and opportunities your department faces are mostly likely those that others in your region are also facing. Sharing problem-solving and decision-making processes may provide unique perspectives and organizational learning opportunities that can be applied across boundaries; the ability to interact, share information, solve problems and innovate is a tremendous value to regional collaboration. Regional chief meetings, trainer/instructor sessions and idea collaboration even on an occasional basis provide many more beneficial opportunities.
They so no man is an island; the same can be said for emergency-response systems. The time to lay the foundation for collaboration in all areas of potential resource- and idea-sharing is now and not when a crisis is at hand!
Todd LeDuc, MS, CFO, CEM, MIFireE, is an assistant fire chief for Broward County (Fla.) Sheriff Fire Rescue. He’s also a director at large for the Safety, Health and Survival Section and a member of the IAFC On Scene editorial advisory board.