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Residents asked to take fire service survey

Five departments going in on major study of operations

It's usually the fire department getting the call for help, but this month the tables have turned.

Five fire departments banding together for a study on collaboration and maximizing efficiency are looking to the residents of Bethlehem, Guilderland and New Scotland to contribute to a survey portion of that project.

Residents are being asked to go online and fill out what amounts to a customer satisfaction survey, said John Lutz, a commissioner in the Elsmere Fire District.

We're trying to make it simple, we're trying to make sure people have an opportunity for input, he said. "We're trying to make the process as transparent as we possibly can."

Though fire departments have for years had agreements in place to help one another in times of crisis, the Elsemere, Delmar, Elmwood Park (North Bethlehem), Slingerlands and Selkirk fire departments have more recently pooled resources to hire the services of Manitou, Inc. a Peekskill-based firm specializing in emergency services planning.

The consultant is also looking at data from all the fire departments on everything from equipment and personnel to call frequency and response times. Lutz described the process as a way for the departments to be proactive in addressing the changing needs of their communities.

"I think what we're really trying to do at the end of the day is improve what is already a pretty good system," he said.

There might also be some opportunities to save money, too. The districts have been talking about ways to better combine training and equipment purchasing with one another, and the study will hopefully highlight some of those chances.

Lutz said that while department mergers are on the table, one of the reasons fire departments don't often combine is that those changes can cause ripples that might affect municipal and residential insurance rates. Still, that doesn't mean the departments can't work as one.

"I think what we're trying to do is heighten the efficiency with which we coordinate our services together," Lutz said.

The study is expected to be completed by the end of September, and has an estimated price tag of $60,000 to $65,000, which the five departments will split.

Residents of the five fire districts are asked to visit firestudy.net to take the short survey, which will be open through the month of July.""

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