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Friday, February 14, 2014

Waves of Change and Preparing for the Future

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.John F. Kennedy

The traditional roles of police and fire are evolving.
Change is unsettling to many of us who work in public safety and risk management, and Minnesota’s public safety community is facing waves of change. The waves will be coming often, and the future may be a bit uncomfortable for a while.

The changes in the PERA police and fire retirement plan could cause as many as 15 percent of senior law enforcement personnel to retire between now and July 1. In addition to the loss of knowledge and experience, this will create a large workload for many background investigators and field training officers as new officers are hired and trained. Some departments may be operating shorthanded until the new recruits are on their own.

Retirement, demographics, and new tech are causing change.
The state’s firefighters are facing more change in the next five years than they have seen in the last 20. A number of issues, including the retention and recruitment of volunteer and paid on-call firefighters, is sparking new conversations about how to deliver fire services. Conversations about fire department mergers, consolidations, fire districts, and “auto aid” are increasing as they look at options for staffing their operations and even asking “does it matter what it says on the door of the truck?”

Population change and technology
Intermixed with all of this are the demographic changes occurring in the state. As Minnesota’s baby boomers retire, it is not only impacting the workforce but it is also affecting the call loads. For many cities the number of crimes and fire calls are down, but calls for service and medical emergencies are up.  As new cultures continue to gravitate to the state, reaching out to new populations requires different approaches to communication.

Technology and research continue to influence tactics and policies. The ongoing research into how structures burn is driving changes in firefighting tactics. I recently heard the phrase “hit it hard from the yard” as a new method of exterior attack was being discussed. New information technology and analytics for police will require increased diligence and time while these tools are assessed and new policies, procedures, and training are implemented.  

It is interesting that President Kennedy’s quote from June 1963 applies so well today. Change is the law of life. It may sound trite but departments that actively manage and prepare for these waves of change will best be able to benefit from the opportunities that are in the future.


                                            Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next ... A large fire, 17 fire departments, 130 firefighters and no injuries: Perham’s potato warehouse fire.

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


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