Yesterday, I got my most recent reminder of the ignorance of the general public when it comes to what we do. Let me explain . . . .

Currently my fire department, is trying to get our town to purchase a new ladder truck. Our current ladder truck is a 1982 American LaFrance which has had a very successful run, but is now or course, 26 years old, and has seen a lot of miles, and fires.

The truck now has extensive rot damage, (I wish I had thought to take pictures), and the aerial device itself has mechanical problems. Also the truck has mechanical problems too. This truck in the past 18 months has been out of service a total of 5 months!!! The cost of keeping this old ladder truck certified for use is getting worse every year, not to mention the down time when the truck is out of service, and the costs of the services needed to repair it!

Our department 4 years ago requested a new ladder truck from the town, and the cost would have been $750,000 back then. It was declined. Last year it was requested again, and that same new truck would have cost $1 million, it was again declined. This year if the truck is purchased, it will cost the town $1.3 million!

Last night I attended the town meeting along with several other members of our department to show our support at the meeting while the town voted. We were there to answer questions regarding why the town needs a new ladder truck.

This is the attitude of our town:
One gentlemen in particular didn’t understand why we needed a new ladder truck. He felt that the extensive body rot was minor, and easily repairable. He also felt that if the truck was still in operating condition, then why can’t we “just use it until it dies?” He said that if we were doing our job currently, then there was no reason to spend money on something that we didn’t need!!!

During the town meeting, the chief played a 911 recording of a structure fire that happened in town during one of the periods where our ladder was down and out of service. We called for mutual aide from one of the surrounding towns for a ladder. It took 20 minutes for them to respond because they had to come from so far away. There were people in the building on the 2nd floor during the fire!

Another town resident said that they didn’t see why it was a big deal it took 20 minutes for mutual aid to respond! Do people really not understand the significance of this?!?!

Another example of complete and utter ignorance is when one gentlemen actually said to the ladder truck captain: “Let’s say I vote yes to buy this new truck, and over the next X number of year, neither myself, friends or family has a fire in their home, that would mean that, I helped vote yes to purchase something that didn’t benefit myself in any way directly or indirectly . . .why should I do that?”

These are examples of some of the attitudes in our town folk think. IS EVERYTOWN THIS BAD?!?!?!?!?!?

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What are you getting for 1.3 million. I ride on a 450K E-1...
Everytown is not that bad, but everytown doesn't spec out a 1.3 million dollar ladder truck. What are the genral specs that your department set up? Straight stick vs. Tower. Pump vs no pump. Mid mount, rear mount, tiller. All can affect the price. Your leadership may have to adjust the specs or features to get it to a managable / swallowable figure.

Aerials can be aweful expensive, and many communities have difficulty spending the bucks. I wish you luck.
Do you have this unit checked and certified on an annual basis? If it's in as bad a shape as you lead us to believe, then it should be out of service completely. We have a company come in and check our ladders, turntables, frames, etc., for cracks and faults once a year. If you guys had a company do that with your Truck, perhaps there would be no other alternative but to replace it.
Is it public ignorance for not understanding or fire department arrogance expecting them to understand what it all means?

They have the right to question this in any way they see fit- it's up to the department to respond and educate them so as they understand the issues so as they can make an informed decision.
Yes Tim, some are. I live in central KY and the ruling council (County Judge Executive and magistrates have no use at all for Fire Departments. The county water company will not put in fire hydrants saying that it is not their responsibility to provide water for fire protection. Our DES coordinator doesn't think that it is her job to provide sever weather warnings to the community. So in answer to you problem, YES.

We went out on our own and purchased an new rescue truck in 03 and a new engine in 04. Did not even bother asking the county government for help. Their idea of a new truck is to buy a used truck from another department that had the forsight to buy a new truck.
I'd suggest that if the department deliberately put the truck out of service to force the issue, will not win any confidence votes with anyone in the community.

I'd argue that it's underhanded and unethical to the tax paying public and those that are meant to support the department.....
the last comment that was made was utterly mind blowing that someone would say that. my council is the same our primary engine is a 1992 mack it still holds its wad but lately we have had to make some costly repairs on it i mean i guess its still good for a few more years. what worrys me is that our only other backup engine is a 1967 mack r model convertable. when our primary is out thats all we have and all firefighters know you cant just "wait" for mutual aid on a working fire with entrapment. i dont understand how sick in the head some people can be.
Yes... Most have no idea what is going on and don't care the only thing they see is the money we are spending. We only 3 Township Trustee's to deal with and it took us 3 yrs to get a new Rescue which was in dire need. the old Rescue was an old budwiser delivery truck if that tell's ya anything..
Just remind them ISO ratings. Insurance premiums, the truck will save the town and people money. We got a FEMA grant that payed half of the bill on a bucket
Tim,
A couple of things come to mind as I read your post.

1. "the ignorance of the general public when it comes to what we do" You are correct. the general populations idea of what we do is largely shaped by the media. News reports and movies paint a very limited and usually biased picture of what life is about. We sit around the station playing ping pong, watching TV and eating. The general public does not see the months and days and hours of training we do. A fire truck is a fire truck, is a fire truck. The public never thinks about the fire department... until they need them. Why is that, and who's fault is it? When I teach a history and traditions class to a group of cadets, I stress the four fundamentals of the fire service - Life safety, Suppression, Prevention, and Education.

Education is the area we (the fire service) fails miserably. In order for any business to be successful, that business must market themselves to show why you need their product. Even though the fire service is the only game in town, WE must still market ourselves. Show the public that what we do requires not only their support, but that it cost money. There once was a commercial with the slogan, "you can pay me now, or pay me later". Maybe it does cost now, but what are the savings not only in money later, but more importantly, the peace of mind knowing their money is well spent. Good marketing and public relations are essential.

2. $1.3 m for a truck will make most people choke. Why so much? Do you have to have every bell and whistle, all the gold leaf, and the ability to tuck the men in bed at night? Or would the department be able to operate effectively and safely with a little less truck? Again, how it is presented to them has a lot to do their anxiety. Why buy a 105' tower when your in a town of single story dwellings and 1 split level dog house? Of course these are exaggeration's, and I have no clue what your area is like.

3. What other services might suffer if this money is spent on this truck. When money is allocated for a large project like this, there has to be cutbacks in other areas. Are the residents going to have to put up with bumpy uneven roads, to get this equipment? Is law enforcement going to have to increase the number of tickets they write instead of issuing warnings to help make up the shortfall? These are things John Q Public worries about.
Yes we all have constant reminders of some of the ignorant people that make big decisions in our community. I curse everytime some one does not want to pull over when they hear us!!! Back to the subject I agree you must take things in your own hands educate the community about the imporatance of that. You should show some initiative to make the money also. I mean hold car (even if it is a little)...No one considers fire a priority until thier house, car or garbage burns.
Tim,

This is from the apparatus study on the Spencer, MA Government Website, dated 2003:

The third vehicle that should have money put away every year to replace will be Ladder 1, a 19 year old, 1983 American Lafrance Ladder truck. This truck is quickly showing its age. The body is pulling away from the frame. Compartment doors no longer close correctly. The front doors have been replaced due to rotting through. The ladder during its recent inspection in July of 2002 failed due to numerous defects. The costs to repair the ladder were approximately $1000.00 to get it to pass certification. There are still defects and to the ladder itself which does not cause it to fail certification but will weigh on itself later on. Dents and rot on the body of the truck, which does not cause a failure but are noted on the report. Unfortunately this truck cost $213,000.00 in 1983 but to replace it today would probably be in the range of $700,000.00.

With inflation, the $1.3M is about right...given you're specking an "aerial scope type of truck." Why not spec-out a Quint, or an aerial within the budget the town is willing to spend?

You sound like you're leaning towards a new piece of apparatus, but given the condition of not only the aerial you wrote about, but the other trucks mentioned in the report which need to be replaced, even a used apparatus is better then a "dead" apparatus. Right?

Right now, your department can find a used Quint which is less than 10 years old and meets certification for $385K. How about a 100' Platform for $250,000?

If our goal is to serve the public, sometimes we need to aim for what works, versus what we desire.

That said, how many grants has your department written? If you really want the new Truck, then you need to explore "Creative funding options.

Just my 2cents.

GM

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