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Tags: 2023, ESO, forecast

Budget restraints and staffing shortages: ESO gives 2023 predictions for the fire service

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ESO has released its predictions for the year ahead for the fire service, including economic challenges looming and a still-uncertain supply chain, anticipating that fire departments will again have to navigate staffing, budget, and equipment challenges

Budget restraints

With economic indicators similar to 2008 which impacted fire service budgets and resources, ESO has predicted budget restraints and considerations will cause a ripple effect across many of the services agencies provide today: “We will see a change in deployment models, with fewer engines on the road and a greater increase in commercial-type vehicles (SUVs). Staff will be asked to do more across a broader geography as resources become tighter. For the long term, we expect to see a more significant impact on budgets in 18 months as cycles get discussed and finalized in 2023 for 2024.”

It advised departments to manage current resources more efficiently and implement more controls and practices for efficiency, including managing medication rotation to control expiration dates, avoid critical shortages while eliminating excess inventory ordering, and ensure testing and routine maintenance of units and equipment is completed as recommended to decrease significant repair costs.

ESO also suggested taking advantage of grants and grant-writing services and making sure to highlight the need with the required facts – not just anecdotes.

Staffing shortages

Staffing issues are likely to remain a challenge with indicators that the number of individuals applying for public service roles has fallen significantly over the last 3-4 years, making the applicant pool smaller. ESO pointed to evidence showing that around 40 percent of new recruits last about three years, creating high turnover rates that impact morale and institutional knowledge.

It advised departments to identify new recruitment partners as more traditional draws to the fire service such as maintaining family legacy or chasing firefighting aspirations as a child are not effective with the current workforce, and so to help address this, departments should work with new partners and groups to create potential employees and to consider partnering with high schools to introduce public safety development programs as part of the base curriculum or working with community colleges to support intern programs from all types of degree plans.

ESO also suggested trying to understand why people are leaving and to diversify the workforce to reflect the community, building a culture that reflects their priorities and communicating those benefits in outreach events or recruiting collateral.

Supply chain and logistics issues

Global supply chain issues are likely to continue to affect the fire service, with challenges ordering and receiving fire trucks, self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), personal protective equipment (PPE), and more. Safety concerns for firefighters will also be on the rise as gear breaks down and needs to be retired, particularly for rural agencies.

ESO said departments should be proactive and not reactive when it comes to the basics by stocking up on routinely changed-out and high-use items, evaluate annual use, and set minimum on-hand items higher to get an earlier lead time for orders. It also advised to diversify vendors and track any  assets.


Finally, ESO predicted that technology will play an increased role in all aspects of the fire service, including response, education, safety, recruiting, and more, such as the presence of more affordable mounted thermal-image mask cameras with heads-up displays, an improved ability to monitor body temperatures of firefighters assigned to interior operations, and enhanced fire by-product monitors for firefighters (which will create a need for more data collection and analysis).

It advised departments to take advantage of on-demand learning opportunities and also to ensure data are actionable for first responders: “As technology provides more valuable information, we run the risk of overwhelming first responders with too much data during critical situations. Imagine initial command is trying to track response status, accountability, and remote air monitoring while simultaneously watching a remote screen for an interior thermal imager camera. Be sure any impractical workflows and “flashy” data are eliminated. Keep the amount of information simple, relevant, and actionable.”

About ESO

ESO (ESO Solutions, Inc.) is dedicated to improving community health and safety through the power of data. Since its founding in 2004, the company continues to pioneer innovative, user-friendly software to meet the changing needs of today’s EMS agencies, fire departments, hospitals, and state EMS offices. For more information, visit

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