I really question that education will help. People *know* what fire departments are for and *know* who to call when *they* need help. It's not like fire departments exist in a vacuum, it just so happens they they've become an acceptable whipping boy.
The economy sucks, granted, but there have always been good times and bad. What I see is a creeping ignorance. People are willfully, or willfully being mislead into thinking that cutting fire (and police) services will save them money. And it may, in the same way that dropping your home and auto insurance will save you money...for short term (if you're lucky).
It is the politicians that approve the union contracts and, like the article at firehousezen pointed out, the concessions (which they truly are) weren't just handed out, they were hard won and compromised (in most instances.) When these agreements are approved they are little more than a footnote in the daily business of the local government.
But recently a new approach has been seen. At public hearings where the budget is (supposed) to be discussed, radical segments take over the hearing, shouting down all that disagree with them, demanding that taxes be cut, that (local) government be reigned in and that their community live within its means.
Existing union contracts as well as upcoming ones are waved about as a sign of runaway government spending. These radicals harass, intimidate and threaten elected officials with ouster if they don't *do something.* And then a likely target is picked; the fire department. Every aspect of the contract, every run, piece of equipment and personnel is examined and dissected and cut to the bone, the argument being that firefighters sit around all day, make too much money and live better than the rest of the community. Of course, what they don't acknowledge is that most firefighters work more than 40 hours per week, may work a night shift but with no guaranty of sleep, miss meals regularly, never have a shift canceled due to weather and regularly miss important family events.
But the counter argument runs: They knew what they were getting into when they applied for the job.
Indeed they did. They likewise knew that they would have union protection and they would earn a fair wage for risking their lives on a daily basis.
But again the radicals ignore it all. To them a firefighter spending his shift training, in a classroom, on the rig doing inspections, educational programs or even digging out hydrants is a glorious waste of money. After all, most other people don't get paid to play with apparatus and equipment, take classes and visit classrooms, most other people have to WORK every day and by jebus, work harder than ever before. They don't have it easy like firefighters.
Another good example of the willful ignorance of the voters is seen on the volunteer side. Statistics clearly show a dramatic drop in people willing (and able) to be a volunteer firefighter. The arguments are always the same: Family and work takes up too much of their time. Training is too long and too demanding. There just isn't enough time in the day for them to do everything. In other words, let someone else worry about it.
Communities with VFDs have them because they typically can't afford to pay for a full time (or even combi) department. So whatever minimal funding they throw at their volunteer fire department is far less than the necessary taxes to fund a paid department. Want to bet the taxpayers are happy about that? But knowing that their fire department is volunteer, do you think they're ready and willing to jump in and help their own community? Nope, too busy, too many other things to take care of and deal with. But the reason they live in that community is lower taxes, and probably moved from a city with higher ones, that included a paid department. Ahhhhh....the luxury of lower taxes and STILL have a (volunteer) fire department. Kind of like they found a way to beat the system.
Funny, people in the cities WANT a fire department, they just don't want to pay for one. In the suburban/rural communities, they WANT a fire department, they don't want to pay for it and don't have to and couldn't care less how it's staffed or works; so long as it's ready when THEY need it.
Naw, education ain't gonna work. Look at clip on youtube with people screaming and shouting at town meetings. There's no rational thought at work. It's all emotion wrapped in ignorance and surrounded by tea bags.
If any education was going to work, it would be to educate the *taxpayers* that if they don't want to fund an appropriately staffed and funded, career department then their option is to revert back to a volunteer one. Show them how the numbers of volunteers have dramatically dropped off, how the response times will increase and ask for a show of hands of people ready right now to join up and be a volunteer firefighter.....or accept an increase in their taxes.....only crickets.
"... people in the cities WANT a fire department, they just don't want to pay for one. In the suburban/rural communities, they WANT a fire department, they don't want to pay for it and don't have to and couldn't care less how it's staffed or works; so long as it's ready when THEY need it."
Until we can change this, we are stuck with the problem.
I agree with Jack, so I won't repeat what he said, but will expand a little. There is reference about the guy hauling the boat, etc, etc....well it sure is easy to jump to conclusions isn't it? Most people have no clue about what it takes to land the job, nor that most such jobs are a pay cut (especially at initial hire) and does take some time to build up funds or how they did fund such "toys". Bottom line should it matter? No, it shouldn't, but the "I pay your salary" mantra is old and outdated.
The public has been drinking up the rhetoric and lies being perpetuated by the same politicians who did agree to such contracts, etc.....but moreso it is the big banks, Wall Street, etc that are also funding many of these rhetoric spouting politicians to thus shift their responsibility from them to that of the public worker. Should it be the fault of unions and people who look for the common good of all to be the "enemy"? Why aren't more people looking to unionize to better their own plight, vs pointing fingers. I have asked this question before, especially when someone asked about EMS being the lowest paid branch of emergency services.....with a comment later on of "Just happy to have a job". Well if just happy to have a job, then why complain about someone else, what are you doing to bring yourself up, rather than see others be brought down?
Education is one thing, but the reality is, that most people are too selfish to really care. There is no reason we should be going out of our ways to "market" ourselves, but to give some hard facts. It doesn't take much to take a typical tax bill, break down the amt paid for the city, break down number of depts and find how much one really does pay for fire protection. In most cases, much, much, much less than one pays for insurance, or even things like cable/satellite TV, cell phone, internet, and so on. Then it doesn't take much to break down that number by number of employees to really see how much "I pay your salary" crowd really is paying for me....ironically it is a matter of cents. I did the math and had a neighbor who liked to pull that line and it shuts him up everytime I ask if he wants his 15 cents he pays me for the year back.
Education is only a small thing, but the focus should be placed on a sense of ownership of the service. As it is, most folks just see the public services as a "necessary evil" they must pay for, but like to complain about. However, talk about the actual cuts in service and the general consensus becomes a "don't cut MY service" stuff. If anything the approach should be to emphasize the low cost that one does pay for the services they have. There is no reason that firefighters have to go out and do all sorts of PR and other fell good events just to promote what we do, but instead to illistrate what our job does entail and ask the public as to why they would pay the same price or even more for a service and get less in return? Give them that sense of ownership rather than rhetoric they keep hearing. The rhetoric is out there, we can't afford to sit back and take it any more, but we also don't need to go "crazy" with taking on more duties or going out of our way to "market" just explain the realities of what we do and how much it really does cost the taxpayer. When one sees they are paying a few cents for an individual, the rhetoric become moot.
Some of the folks that moved from the big city 30 miles out to our little community are shocked when they find out we have a volunteer department. Then they are shocked again when they get the bill for their first insurance premium. But Jack is right. That'll never change. Everything is a trade-off. I recall the motto we had on the wall in my division when I was in the Navy: "We have done so much with so little for so long we can now do anything with nothing!"
I am just a unpaid voulunteer, but I am a union worker. I make good $ for where i live in tenn. We have ISO rateing's for fire dept't here. People do not think about what a good dept save's them on insurance. Just today , my boss said he was talking to his insurance co. about what he was paying. He lives on the city & county line . They told him if his house was just across the line , in the county , his insurance would be about $1200 more than it is now. Most don't think or even know that. My dept. got a 5 rateing ,so my insurance went down about $200 a year. So i dont mind the fire tax that I have to pay.
The funniest thing about the I pay your salary montra thing is this. Technically every paid firefighter that lives in their own protecton district pays their own salary. How many other professions do people actually have to pitch in for their own salary.
Absolutely Wade, I bring that simple fact up all the time. It is so easy for someone to use that stupid line, but when I say I pay my own salary as well, I never see an adequate comeback and just more ignorance being touted. Funny how so many people just must seem to think because you are paid by tax dollars that you are at their beckon call and somehow must not pay taxes yourself. I also like to break down how much they really do "pay my salary" and when I ask if they want their dime or quarter back for the year, they don't have an adequate retort either.
I think it's one of two things: The person is either jealous that you have suck a dicked job or; they just hate ALL public/government employees. I think the best thing to do is just throw tea bags at them.