Fire Department Problem

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The problem in the fire department is that there is no agreement between the department and city officials regarding the alcohol and drug testing bill that the city is pushing for. Apart from disagreements on the processes involved, there is also a political conflict of interest because the mayor is running for a fifth term in office, and the fire department is supporting another candidate to compete with the incumbent mayor. Indeed, the drug and alcohol testing is necessary for workers involved in crucial public services such as disaster management and firefighting services. However, the mayor is using the situation discriminatively to gain political advantage. While it seems important for the fire department workers to be tested for drugs and alcohol, it should be done in good faith and indiscriminately across all departments in the city rather than just focusing on the fire department. This paper evaluates the steps that can be taken to resolve the issue between the fire department and the city officials regarding the drug and alcohol testing. It will also identify the various stakeholders that will help in the conflict resolution process to arrive at a solution that can be acceptable to all parties.

Analysis of the Problem

First, it is important to include various stakeholders in consultations and discussions to promote fairness and public trust. It would be unfair if the fire department is subjected to mandatory drug and alcohol tests while other public safety employees do not go through the same process. In this regard, the public participation should include various stakeholders such as: firefighters and their union, the city officials, the public and other public safety officers. The involvement of these groups in wide consultations and discussions enables the various stakeholders to share ideas and arrive at solutions that address the interests of all stakeholders in a fair and just manner (International City Management Association, 2000). 

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It is important for every public safety employee to undergo drugs and alcohol testing because past experience shows that drugs can cause detrimental effects, including death. Nonetheless, these consequences are not limited to firefighters. The principle of fairness requires all public safety officials to go through the same treatment from the city, state and national government (Boston Municipal Research Bureau, 2008). Any legislation or policy should be implemented fairly to affect all public officers. Therefore, all relevant stakeholders should be involved in the decisions to implement drug and alcohol testing so that a standard approach is used across all public safety departments including firefighters, the police and emergency medical technicians.

The discussions should also be streamlined with political processes because the current situation is affected by political interests. As the mayor seeks for a fifth term in office, he may make decisions that favor his political position so that he can go back to office. There is no doubt that the public supports the random drug and alcohol testing of firefighters, which is already approved in the national level. By pushing for the implementation of the random testing, the mayor creates a positive image among the electorates who may think that the mayor is committed to the changes they would like to see in public service delivery in the city. However, the firefighters also support a member of city’s councilmen for the position of the mayor. Like the mayor, he supports the random test for firefighters, but he wants the same test to be applied on other city workers. 

These political positions are likely to cause conflicts with other unions and departments in the city as the public puts more pressure on the city for service delivery. For the sake of fairness and public service, it is prudential for the different parties involved to sacrifice their political interests (International City Management Association, 2000). During discussions, the city officials, unions and the fire department should listen to the opinions, needs and interests of the public because they are the people who are most likely to be affected by the new policy. Public participation and discussions promote fairness, transparency and public trust.

As the town seeks to make presentations to the state legislators regarding its position on the new legislation, the firefighters would also like their interests to be considered because they are the most likely to be affected by the legislation. In this regard, the city officials should negotiate with the firefighters union and International Association of Firefighters to reach an agreement that will be acceptable to both parties (Ryan, 2010). This negotiation ensures that the fire fighters are satisfied. If the legislation is imposed on them without their approval, they may become dissatisfied, leading to poor performance at work. Imposing such legislations on the public safety employees without considering their interests may be counterproductive (Ryan, 2010). Instead of reducing the negative consequences associated with drug and alcohol abuse, they may lead to increased disasters because they may lack the motivation to respond adequately to disasters.

Boston city has held several unsuccessful negotiations with firefighters in the past. The two parties would not reach an amicable resolution or agreement due to conflicts of interests. The firefighters could not possibly be resisting the changes so that they can continue abusing drugs and alcohol. There are various issues at play, ranging from fairness, freedoms and constitutional rights, to inconveniences and working conditions at the workplace (Crowder, 2015). Sometimes the firefighters and other public safety employees go through very difficult situations which may cause psychological and emotional imbalance. As a result, they end up abusing drugs to adjust to their difficult situations. Before they are tested, they demand for other alternative mechanisms that would motivate them and give them appropriate work-life balance. Such alternatives include: better compensation, flexible work schedule, and training and counseling. To worsen the issue, other public safety departments are excluded from the random testing, making the firefighters more aggrieved and demoralized.

Based on these conflicting interests, the public and other public safety departments should be involved in the negotiations that will enhance faster and more agreeable decision making and resolution of the stalemate. It is important to carry out negotiations and consultations with an aim of achieving parity between firefighters, the police, and other relevant stakeholders (Boston Municipal Research Bureau, 2008). If the other public safety departments are not included in the random testing, it gives them an unfair advantage over the firefighters, which becomes a further cause for new demands of the firefighters in future negotiations. 

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The implementation of the random drug and alcohol testing requires an overall reform of public safety departments in the city. There should be a significant reform in the city to reflect all interests and motivation factors that affect public safety employees in the city (Boston Municipal Research Bureau, 2008). In this regard, the city council should accept to change its position, and the firefighters should also accept change. There is a general belief that firefighters departments are often resistant to change. In the next rounds of negotiations, the firefighters should reduce their demands and the city council should also involve other public safety departments to motivate firefighters, enhance fairness, and promote public trust. 


In conclusion, the problem facing the city officials and firefighters regarding random drug and alcohol testing can be achieved through open discussions, collaborations, negotiations, political conversations, and parity between different public safety departments. It is unfair to apply the new legislation discriminately on the firefighting department, but it is also inappropriate for the fire department to continue resisting change in the department. To serve the public successfully and manage fire disasters successfully, the firefighters should be able to reduce its demands and accept change. However, the city officials should forego some of their political interests and seek parity between various safety departments by engaging in sincere negotiations that put the interests of the public first. The public should also be involved in the negotiations to get their ideas and opinions for more effective decision making and solutions.

Did you like this sample?
  1. Boston Municipal Research Bureau (2008). Time for Drug Testing for Firefighters. Special Report, No. 08-1.
  2. Crowder, D. (2015). Inside firefighters’ money issues: City, union squabble over ‘second chance’ drug item. El Paso Inc, May 4, 2015.
  3. International City Management Association (2000). Managing Conflict in Combination Fire Departments. IQ Service Report, 32 (7), 1-15.
  4. Ryan, A. (2010). Drug test quid pro quo lacks a clear precedent.
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