There is an increased interest regarding cooperative, or shared, service delivery options for fire and EMS agencies. Although often thought of only as “merger” approaches, cooperative efforts actually come in multiple forms. They may be as simple as enhanced mutual and automatic aid practices, or they may involve a myriad of shared functional strategies like collaborative fire prevention and training programs, common standard operating guidelines, or joint apparatus and equipment purchasing, to name a few. In other instances, cooperative efforts take the form of actual unification of the agencies into a single entity by way of annexation, merger, joint powers authority, or the formation of a new district.
The process of discovering the approach that works for your agency’s situation, and determining the feasibility of various shared services alternatives, is a complex one, requiring careful analysis. You need to make sure it is the right thing for your organization, it is financially feasible, and you avoid a course of action that turns out to be a mistake. After decades of experience and hundreds of cooperative efforts studies, the basic consensus is that shared services are generally very, very beneficial to the participating agencies.
Often the assumption is that some form of merger, consolidation, or shared service delivery will result in significant cost savings. Typical benefits include increased efficiencies, better use of limited resources, and future cost avoidance.
If you are ready to explore the many benefits that can be achieved from a collaborative service delivery approach, implement a careful, thoughtful, and analytical approach to getting started. Make sure that you understand and evaluate all of the options available to find the one that is best for your organization. Cooperative efforts strategies are big decisions—you need to be sure they are the right ones for your agency.
Emergency Services Consulting International has assisted hundreds of fire departments in successfully developing cooperative efforts initiatives nation-wide. For more information contact ESCI at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1.800.757.3724.