Rurally Speaking: Strength in Numbers

By Carl J. Haddon

This is not the piece that I had intended for this month’s article. However, as I am here on assignment in southern Louisiana, I thought you’d appreciate the change.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you about the buying power that rural fire departments have when they band together and buy equipment in quantity. Some departments use this cooperative bid/purchasing system to realize substantial savings for the department while allowing for greater opportunities to obtain vital equipment and apparatus that they couldn’t otherwise obtain. But, have you ever thought about this same type of cooperative purchasing process for training classes?

Here in Louisiana, we’ve been given a rare opportunity to offer a week of live fire training. One of the departments that we do training for here has been “given” a huge middle school complex for live fire (NFPA 1403) training. The school is slated for demolition, and rebuilding immediately thereafter. The challenge for the department wanting the training is that they realize the cost of bringing in a team of instructors is cost-prohibitive for a single department to bear. Subsequently, it had the forethought to offer the training to surrounding departments in an attempt to defray some of the costs to bring trainers in for a full week of training. As things stand at the moment, there will be 11 departments attending the event, which has made the cost of bringing in 10 of our instructors affordable for all involved.

Additionally, as a result of the interest generated by these fire departments, the Parrish County Office of Emergency Preparedness has asked to be involved in order to exercise interoperability between fireground operations and their dispatch/communications center. The Sheriff and local police department has asked to participate by allowing them to bring their big mobile command bus to use as our incident command center for the training event, while allowing them to exercise a resource that they thankfully don’t have to use very often.

As fire equipment manufacturers and dealer/distributors learned of the training program, they were eager to offer new and innovative products for demo purposes, in addition to stepping up and offering to sponsor things like firefighter lunches and such for the duration of the training week.

It is unfortunately rare that we as instructors get to see a training job blossom into what this is becoming. That said, there is really no reason why this type of thing should be as rare of an opportunity as it is. In this case, rural fire departments came together to do the right thing, while being fiscally responsible to their budgets and their communities. Local law enforcement, emergency medical services, emergency preparedness folks and community leaders will all get the opportunity to be involved in a coordinated training event that will bring different disciplines together, allowing us all to “train like we fight.” Fire product manufacturers, distributors, and dealers win by being able to demonstrate their “latest and greatest” in real live-fire scenarios.

It is often thought that this type of cooperative purchasing is something reserved for larger/better funded fire departments. I share this deal in Louisiana with you only to illustrate that it just isn’t the case. There is no reason why departments of all shapes and sizes, can’t band together to afford vital training that often can’t otherwise be attained.

CARL J. HADDON is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board and the director of Five Star Fire Training LLC, which is sponsored, in part, by Volvo North America. He served as assistant chief and fire commissioner for the North Fork (ID) Fire Department and is a career veteran of more than 25 years in the fire and EMS services in southern California. He is a certified Level 2 fire instructor and an ISFSI member and teaches Five Star Auto Extrication and NFPA 610 classes across the country.

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