Can you really do more with less?

I mentioned earlier this week that I submitted an article on automatic aid to the International Association of Fire Chiefs. For my non-fire service readers, automatic aid is when two or more fire departments respond to emergencies in each others communities without having to be specially requested. It is an awesome concept in the Phoenix Valley where regardless of the name on the truck, if you need help, the closest truck will be there. Talk about customer service! All 26 agencies participate equally protecting 3.9 million people in 2,036 square miles.

I start to get a little heart burn when local government starts using the phrase “do more with less”. I’m finding out pretty quickly that it simply isn’t possible. You can do less with less or you can do what you did but not as well with less but not more. The federal government shows us that as they continue to trim billions of dollars we, the average citizens,  don’t really see or feel it. The bigger you get the less efficient you are. Think about your waist line, the bigger you get the less you can do without a little strain. You can also starve yourself resulting in malnutrition and simply move through your day not being exceptionally productive and just getting by. A number of federal agencies have duplicated efforts to serve the same population need but local government is, by its nature, not able to grow that big or be that inefficient. Elected Officials at the local level hold the purse strings a little tighter than congress does – thank God!

My point is this, we can’t do more with less and it may be time for the fire service to stop pretending that they can. Automatic aid can help fill the gaps on emergencies but can we do more together on other levels? Can we partner in administrative functions? If we can’t, perhaps its time to start talking about what we can’t do anymore because we have less instead of trying to hold on to what we have always done. There are always efficiencies to be found, that was all done a couple of years ago. Now we’re faced with trying to sustain a 40″ waist on a 32″ budget; you can only suck it in for so long before you blow the button off and kill someone.

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