Things are working pretty good at the Naperville Fire Department. They receive a lot of recognition and awards. In fact, things are going so well with Naperville’s fire department, city officials are looking to see how they can change it. It’s being done in the spirit of cost effectiveness and efficiency, meaning it might be time to consolidate the number of fire department locations and trim the number of employees.
Naperville city officials have publicly said nothing about privatization of the fire department, but nor did city officials from the hundreds of other municipal fire departments throughout the country before the change became imminent. Naperville city officials should be applauded for seeking cost efficiencies but should those cost cutting measures be focused on the fire and police departments? Those are services of safety and well-being that can affect all residents and businesses in Naperville. Other than clean water and refuse pick-up, just about every service the city provides affects the good folks of Naperville to a far lesser degree than police and fire services.
Personally I can do with much less Carillon music than I can do with a lower response time from the fire department. When it’s time to review my home owner’s insurance, the insurance company wants to know the distance from my home to the closest fire station, and not whether or not I can hear the Carillon bells.
Currently Naperville’s arrival time is about six minutes about 90% of the time. Seems like a reasonable amount of time unless I’m the guy having a heart attack, or it’s my home looking like a huge Bunsen burner. Given the chance to reduce that time down to five minutes or having leaves removed from my yard by the city, I’ll go with the five minute response-time option from the fire department.
Naperville city manager Doug Krieger said that any reductions in fire department staffing to facilitate consolidation would happen via retirement and attrition. So that’s good news for job security within the fire department, but it’s not good news for the workload of those remaining, nor is it necessarily good news for the residents and businesses of Naperville depending upon quick response time in an emergency.
Many municipalities have moved to privatizing fire department services in an effort to combat unionization and the increasing costs of higher salaries, benefits, pensions, and defending lawsuits, so trying to control those expenses is understandable, but to what end? If the end is a reduction in service or positive outcomes, then even though city officials may come out ahead, it will be at the expense of the good folks of Naperville.
The good news is, if you live within the sound of the Carillon bells, and your home catches fire, you’ll be able to hear the bells a few minutes longer until a fire truck or ambulance arrives.