"Do more with less." We're hearing that cliche a lot these days, especially in emergency services as elected officials have found ways to justify cutting core services - like fire protection - and making the claim that such cuts will not have an impact on public safety.
Take, for example, the recent story on CNN about cuts in firefighters and the impact it had in Flint, Michigan and Alameda, California.
Firefighting is dangerous and labor intensive work. Almost everything done on an emergency scene requires a team of four or five firefighters. Cutting down the size of the team has an impact. Elected officials can live in their denial if they wish, but it will show in the performance and in the consequences.
This is easy to see if you apply an example that is less emotional. In this case, a professional baseball team. The dialog goes something like this:
Owners: "Sorry guys, it's tough economic times. We're going to have to layoff some players and you're going to have to play the game with less players... 8 instead of 9."
Players: "Does the other team still get to have nine?"
Owners: "Yes, we're afraid so."
Players: "How are we supposed to win the game if we're outnumbered liked that?"
Owners: "You'll have to learn to do more with less."
This mentality assumes there are expendable positions on the team. Hmmm... who shall we cut.
The catcher? No... too important.
The pitcher? No... too important.
The first baseman? No... too important.
The center fielder? Yes! We'll cut the center fielder.
There won't be an impact. We'll just tell the left fielder and right fielder to run a little faster toward center field when the ball is hit there. We'll win as many games.
You know... and I know... this team is being set up for failure by myopic and dilusionary owners.
The problem is, baseball is just a game and no one is going to get hurt or killed if a team plays bad because they have less players. But firefighting isn't a game and there are real and lasting consequences when emergency services budgets are cut and firefighters are told to find a way to "Do more with less."
Richard B. Gasaway, PhD, EFO, CFO