Discussing and debating ideas are paramount to improving services and moving the industry forward. Much has changed in the past year because of the pandemic, and new resources have been added to the arsenal of available learning opportunities. Because in-person classes and trainings have been either eliminated or greatly reduced, virtual meetings have become the only way to interact and gain new knowledge and discuss issues. Zoom has taken over. But there are some deficiencies and limitations to using the technology. We must not accept this as the new norm once the pandemic has subsided enough to return to more in person meetings. There is no doubt the temptation to take the easy and cheap route will pressure some organizations to forego trainings and education that happen face to face. But the sooner we can return to the old tried and true methods, the more improvement in performance we will see. Yet the virtual learning will not go away and will offer another option for times when it makes sense. Hopefully, it will be viewed as an addition and not a replacement for the human interaction that is needed.
During a recent discussion with a policy maker, I was a bit surprised that without any provocation or questioning the topic of regionalization was raised. I was equally surprised that this individual was dead set against this concept—his from a person in a community grossly understaffed and under resourced and very reliant on mutual aid. Here, local control is much more important than improving service. Some of this opinion comes from limited knowledge of some previous unsuccessful attempts to merge services. We had a brief discussion regarding my thoughts on why these mergers did not work. The discussion didn’t go to far but hopefully gave a reason to think a bit more on the topic. There is no doubt that many communities don’t have the resources to deliver the highest quality service and rely on their neighbors. This does provide a patch to the problem but does not address issues related to qualifications, training, policies, procedures, apparatus, and equipment, just to name a few. There is also the challenge of getting qualified candidates to fill positions. There are parts of this country struggling to get a good pool of applicants to fill slots. While regionalization and/or mergers may not be the answer for everyone, there should be critical discussions so that it can be evaluated logically, not emotionally.
Progress does not always happen as quickly as one may like it to. But, there are times when we personally witness improvement to the point where it gives hope that things are getting better. I recently had someone talk to me about some mental health issues he was having. I am not going to get into the details, but I want to talk about how it was handled and the acceptance of the need to take positive steps to help the individual. I was told that the department responded very appropriately and positively to offer assistance and support. But more important was the acceptance outside of the department. In previous times, human resource departments and workers’ compensation may have pushed back on this as a diagnosis such as this is not as clear cut. Departments have done a much better job of “taking care of our own” across the spectrum of physical and mental health. While this is only one incident and anecdotal in nature, I am encouraged that those not in the business are also getting on board.
FDIC International has once again moved the date of this great show until August 2021. I know the folks who run the show don’t like to do this, but I certainly understand. While I miss the training opportunities, I miss seeing folks that I only get to see once a year at the show. I hope and pray this is the last postponement and we get to do what we enjoy doing. Looking forward to seeing many of you there.
RICHARD MARINUCCI is the executive director of the Fire Department Safety Officers Association (FDSOA). He retired as chief of the Farmington Hills (MI) Fire Department in 2008, a position he had held since 1984. He is a Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment and Fire Engineering Editorial Advisory Board member, a past president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), and past chairman of the Commission on Chief Fire Officer Designation. In 1999, he served as acting chief operating officer of the U.S. Fire Administration for seven months. He has a master’s degree and three bachelor’s degrees in fire science and administration and has taught extensively.