Looking Ahead: the Fire Service on September 11, 2021

by on September 11, 2012

in News and Events

Yesterday Mike “FossilMedic” Ward asked Firegeezer readers, “What will the fire service look like by September 11, 2021?”

Scope Limited to Adjacent Life and Property Protection

With the increasing rarity of live victim rescues due to longer response times, a choice of taxpayers and policy makers, and an increasingly toxic fire and smoke environment, the insurance companies by 2021 will stop paying claims for firefighters injured or killed during rescue operations in actively burning structures.

Rescues will only be initiated for live victims that are located in doorways and windows that are unable to escape under their own power.

The focus of firefighting efforts will be on containing the fire, without entry into the fire environment, while preserving adjacent structures and evacuating or shielding nearby occupants from the fire.

Career Paramedics will Promote to Senior Leadership Positions

Throughout the fire service, in departments of all sizes leaders that entered the fire service as paramedics, enjoyed being paramedics, and worked diligently to be the best paramedics they could be will promote into senior leadership positions in the next 10 years. There interest in EMS, knowledge of EMS systems, and commitment to evidence based medicine will help their departments launch exciting and innovative programs focused on improving community health, preventing traumatic injury in children and young adults, and managing chronic disease conditions of patients that the hospitals are loathe to re-admit those patients.

The best leaders will be skilled communicators and experts at selling their services and cost savings potential to physicians, hospital administrators, and health insurance company executives. Paramedics if you want to be the leaders of the fire service in 10 years, today is the day to finish your BS degree and start planning your studies to earn an MBA, MPH or other advanced degree.

Less than Half of Today’s Fire Departments Will Still Exist

In 10 years all major and mid major metropolitan departments will have consolidated operations, leadership, training, dispatch, billing, purchasing, human resources, and other functions. Consolidations and mergers will start with unified training and automatic aid agreements. Next, hospitals and physicians will continue the push by urging that community paramedic practices be implemented throughout the hospital’s catchment area rather than the municipal boundaries of the fire department.

In rural areas the age of volunteer EMT and firefighter will slowly dwindle as small towns and villages combine services with their neighbors or figure out how to transfer what were once public services to hospitals and other types of organizations. Shifts in population growth, civic mindedness, and job opportunities will continue to shrink the pool of possible volunteers until all volunteer departments will simply disband from lack of interest (but not necessarily a lack of need).

Unfortunately many mergers and consolidation will be the result of mismanagement, absent leadership, and citizen indifference and malaise about emergency service (most people never think about fire and EMS until the time between when they call 911 and help arrives). The departments that emerge from consolidation stronger than they are today are already becoming experts in communicating their value to their communities through excellent face to face interaction, press releases and media events, and  exploration of new media.

Everyone Will “Do the Computer”

By September 11, 2021 all fire and EMS personnel will have used computers throughout their lives. Less than 1% of active duty paid or volunteer firefighters will be able to recall education and training without computers. The dinosaurs that currently are able to opt out of online training or electronic record keeping by saying “I don’t do the computer” will be long gone in 2021.

What’s an EMT-I? 

Finally, I have never understood how an EMT-I99 is different than an EMT-I88 and in some states an I99 is called a cardiac tech while the EMT-Intermediate in another state has been replaced with an EMT-IV Tech. In 2021 not only will we have completed the current transition of provider levels but that structure will have been tossed aside. Everyone working in EMS will be called a Paramedic. And like our friends in Canada there will be two levels of Paramedic – Primary Care Paramedic and Advanced Practice Paramedic. Or something similar, but once and for all we will all be paramedics.

What do you think fire and EMS will look like in 2021? 

Other EMS and Fire Bloggers look ahead:

Unwired Medic

EMS Patient Perspective

High Performance EMS


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