So, for the Camden, New Jersey, Fire and Police Departments a terrible day is upon us. I mentioned this yesterday, Camden is laying off 30% of their Fire Department and 50% of their police department today. The guys at Firefighter Close Calls have collected a good deal of information, here. (Link Not Archived)
Public Safety lay-offs have become politicians go-to tool for slashing budget gaps. “We will just have to do more with less!” is a rallying cry you can hear regularly during times like this. You cannot do more with less unless you have some kind of technological advancement. Henry Ford did more with less because he saw how to maximize the potential of the assembly line. A Boeing 777 has a cockpit crew of two (rather than the three person crew of the early days of commercial jets) because engineers figured out how to automate the monitoring of Engines and systems. A computer takes care of tasks that were once done by a flight engineer.
We cannot do more with less on the fireground. It takes human beings to force entry, stretch hose lines, throw ladders, and for God’s sake SEARCH for any of our neighbors who may be trying to get out.
The Village I live in I chose for two reasons: good schools and a career fire department with 4 person companies. Shortly after I bought the house my family lives in now the Village board at the urging of an anti-union Village Manager laid-off three firefighters and shut down my first due Truck Company; they made it clear they wanted to reduce staffing to three person Engines and rely on automatic aid for all Truck work. I went in with my wife to have a discussion with the Village Manager. That is 2 hours of my life I will never get back. The one thing that stuck with me was when he said, “You are the only person who will come into complain about this.” He was right.
We have to recognize that the political climate for Fire Departments has changed. We are often viewed as an expensive and unnecessary insurance policy. Do your part to change that view. Go to my article “Why We Need Firefighters” and write something like it for your local paper, or email the link to the editors and see if they will do something with it.
To the men and women of Camden, good luck. To my Brothers and Sisters there, keep your heads held high. To the politicians all over this country who are slashing staffing rather than taking a hard look at other poor spending choices, acknowledge you have delusions of adequacy and tell your citizens the truth. You will not do more with less, and they are more at risk then they were before.