11/19/11 989 W - + 16 - 2 Update #3 - Guilford County Fire Services Study

November 19
FireNews.net is reporting that the final report has been released. The 229-page document is available here. They also make an editorial observation about the word "inefficient." It appears in the headline of this MyFOX8 story: "Guilford Volunteer Fire Departments Inefficient, Final Consultant Report Says." Notes the FN Editor, they searched the entire report and the word "inefficient" appears only once, and as a comment about a single department and by that department.

What does conclusions does the report draw? The authors make recommendations as prioritized into five categories:

Read the report.


November 4
Read much of the draft report yesterday. Exceptionally interesting document, though (for me) more for its methodology than its findings. Guilford County's fire departments-- their equipment, facilities, staffing, administration, and even governance documents-- are compared side-by-side, and then folded into a systemic analysis. There's no executive summary yet, as the consultants are still in the process of finalizing the report. The November 3 public comment period was one part of that process. Looks like they're also reviewing for accuracy. 

Looks like news reporting on the report/reactions to the report is coming largely from WFMY news. Browse or search their site for more. Haven't found many reader comments, yet. There are a few on the WFMY pages. And a few on this FireNews.net story. Wonder if it's being discussed on Facebook? But imagine the breadth and depth of dayroom conversations that have been happening! And there's both the study to parse, and everything about or surrounding the study. Reminds of the reactions to a 2004 study done in Wake County. (There was also one done in 1994.) Feelings run strong because passions are strong. Would you (could you?) have it any other way?


November 3 update
Here's a copy of the report draft (PDF, 189 pages), as contained in this WFMY story on the morning after the public meeting. Nearly 300 fire service members and citizens attended the public forum. They expressed themselves and passionately, as the video clip shows. Next question, does the news (does this blog?) do a service or disservice by both sharing and reporting on such drafts? Particularly when officials aren't ready to talk about them? What do you think?  


November 2
There's an interesting situation unfolding in Guilford County, where a county-commissioned fire service study reportedly contains recommendations including the consolidation of independent fire districts into a single agency. The 200-page document was produced by Emergency Services Consulting International (ECSI) at a cost of $100,000. There's a public meeting tomorrow night to receive comment on same. FireNews.net reports on this WFMY story, and with numerous intriguing quotes and citations.

This one's as good a key quote as any of them: "'The county currently spends a significant amount of money on twenty layers of administrative oversight and support," states the report. "Numerous chief officers and support staff are required to keep the multiple independent corporations and fire districts operating. A single fire department could eliminate much of this redundancy, permitting these precious resources to be reallocated to improved service delivery."

What are the independent fire departments in Guilford County? Google doesn't find a handy list, so let's eyeball this Carolinas Fire Page list of county fire stations: Alamance, Climax, Colfax, Fire District 13, Fire District 28, Gibsonville, Guil-Rand, Julian, Kimesville, McLeansville, Mount Hope, Northeast Guilford, Oak Ridge, Piedmont, Pinecroft-Sedgefield, Pleasant Garden, Southeast, Stokesdale, Summerfield, and Whitsett. Who did we forget?

Guilford County measures 649 square-miles and has a population of 491,230 people, says Wikipedia. Served by a mess of small departments, and two large ones: Greensboro and High Point. Can't help but get you thinking about Wake County, which measures 857 square-miles but with almost double the population at 900,993. Again, says Wikpedia. We have a healthy mix of municipal and private departments. Totals 23, including Raleigh, if my math is correct. Not including airport.

But so what. Wake County isn't Guilford County, which isn't New Hanover County, where we last heard about efforts at consolidation. What works in one place-- or is recommended in one place, with however seeming similarities-- certainly automatically doesn't work in another. Both Wake and Guilford-- along with other North Carolina counties-- have seen smaller fire districts impacted by municipal growth. Some have joined force or merged into larger (or much larger) entities. Guilford College FD into Greensboro FD in Guilford, Six Forks FD into Bay Leaf FD in Wake, for example.

Sounds like the impact of the report in Guilford County is just starting. Heck, it doesn't appear that the actual report is yet available for public consumption, and current reactions-- including the WFMY story-- are based on a draft version that was obtained. But it's certain to start conversations or continue discussions already started, both there and elsewhere. Cost. Savings. Efficiency. Those things look great these days. Myself, the concept of right-size fire services is more compelling. Best-est, not cheapest. And even that's not quite the right word. Most efficient, maybe? 

And there are other rhetorical questions we can ask, in the context of this issue. What's the best way to have conversations on this subject? Who are the best people to make decisions regarding fire services? Maybe I will have some thoughts on those at a later time. Hopefully readers both here and on the other news site will offer their perspectives and challenge mine. I look forward to learning. Best to our friends to the west, and the many way that the report's impact will be worked through.

Here’s a next-day story on this, http://www.digtriad.com/news/article/197..

Notable are some clarification on the report draft’s recommendations. They describe three tiers of major overhaul: no consolidation, regional cooperation; full consolidation, with multiple contractors; full consolidation.
Legeros - 11/02/11 - 19:52

I guess some are currently reading the report and “circling the hook” for now. At first glance (and in my opinion), all fire chiefs and administrators in Wake should review this report. It appears logical and similar to many of the 2004 Tri-Data recommendations for Wake Co. Unfortunately, the recommendation of any form of deconstruction is emotional though (hence the news report video). In reality, there are elements of this report that bear a serious local focus such as the contractual elements related to performance and the overarching determination (as we say…) of the “right size.” I must read a little more though.
A.C. Rich - 11/04/11 - 11:37

I can not see the 2004 report about Wake County. Was it taken down? Anywhere else we can see it?
Gitto (Email) - 11/04/11 - 14:15

Pete, thanks for reporting the broken link(s) on the prior postings. I have restored both the 1994 and 2004 reports, which were previously deleted to save server space. (Thanks for the remote assist, AC.) There’s a summary presentation from 2004 that is still absent. I’ll work on that one over the next couple days. I also deleted our back-and-forth comments on this, to keep the thread clean.
Legeros - 11/04/11 - 23:43


Do you have a copy of the 1999 EMS study by Tridata for the county


Gitto - 11/05/11 - 17:17

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