A perspective: fire company consolidation and community communications

And what’s a “quint?”

The 77’ aerial ladder is clearly the most popular aerial employed by the fire service today. Ferrara’s HD – 77 delivers premium performance, flexible body configurations with the added benefit of extra reach. The HD – 77 is the tallest quint aerial available on a single rear axle. (SOURCE: Ferrara Fire Website)

Those who attended one of the two parts of last week’s Council “meetings-of-the-whole” recall there was some discussion about the issue of fire department consolidation and the purchase of a piece of apparatus.

Someone suggested the apparatus was a “quint” – others vehemently denied that.

At issue, in a much larger sense, is the community lack of awareness of the nature of the consolidation initiative. Some of the lack of awareness has to do with the fact that information is not easily available from the sources. We found this opinion on the Columbia Consolidated Fire Department Website. The Fire Chief’s concerns about openness and transparency are ours and maybe yours.

“While money certainly is a major concern for the new fire department, informing the citizens of Columbia Borough is an even greater concern.

“In any case, the focus of this rumination is intended to dwell more on the communication aspect that has been sorely lacking with the consolidation/merger effort taking place here in Columbia.  Case-in-point, while attending the Borough Meeting this past month, questions were raised in regards to the consolidation/merger progress.

“I addressed the Borough Council and the few member of the general public there and one of my final comments was that the meetings were in fact open to the public.  The room was silent except for someone stating that they were not aware of this fact.  The gentleman that made this statement has traditionally been involved in a lot of things going on in town and if he was unaware of the standing invitation to the public, it is a sure bet that the overwhelming majority of folks in town do not know about it.

“Another prime example of poor communications stems from one of CCFD’s monthly meetings back in the fall of 2011.  In summary, there was a lengthy and somewhat heated discussion about the current state of affairs with the consolidation; specifically many members did not like the idea of assuming such a large amount of debt without proper support from the Borough.

“Before the end of the week, it had turned into a rumor that CCFD was not going to participate with the consolidation at all. That simply was not what was said or decided by the membership of the department, yet the rumors and misinformation persists to this very day.

“Fast forward to the new year, CCFD has yet again held a special meeting, at the request of the Consolidation Committee, to make a decision in regards to using money set aside for the new radios required by the FCC re-purposed for the purchase of a new quint for Columbia #1.  This time around however, CCFD drafted a letter addressed to Columbia Borough Council with its answer so that there would be no mistake much less any rumors.

“But more importantly, the reason why the department voted the way it did needs to be made common knowledge to the fine residents of Columbia.  Home owners and business owners alike should be informed because it will affect them financially, however there has yet to be established any form of regular communication between the fire services of Columbia and the residents thereof.

“This could be accomplished in several different ways, as I have recommended more than once, quite easily with a little effort and at little or no expense.  For example, a website for the yet to be formed new department could be a central “clearing house” for information and rumor control.  This would serve to inform the public as well as the memberships of all three departments as to what is official and what is not.  Making use of social media integration with this proposed website would have a far-reaching effect and be considerably more economical than any other method available.

“Other methods could include a monthly or quarterly newsletter, press releases, “town hall” meetings, news media and so on.  In essence, the new department needs good marketing and public relations, which will also have the added benefit of increasing recruitment.  In fact, a combination of several of these methods would be the most effective way to reach as many folks as possible.  However anything at this point would be better than nothing at all.

“It would be remiss if I failed to mention that there has been information posted on the back of the Columbia Water Company bills, but the question has been raised often “how many people actually read their bill?”  I think the much more accurate question should be how many people actually read the back?

“Citizens of Columbia, it is your legal right to know what is going on and how it will affect you.  Get involved, get informed and let’s create a better fire department!”

Charles E. Snyder III
Fire Chief
Columbia Consolidated Fire Department

PLEASE NOTE: The opinions and views expressed in this article are my own and do not necessarily represent those of CCFD, Susquehanna Fire & Rescue #4, Columbia #1, Columbia Borough or Benjamin Franklin.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s