The issue of privatizing municipal services still brings debates over its efficiency. This paper discusses the advantages and disadvantages of fire prevention efforts of the private sector in the United States and the reason why the fire prevention system in some countries is still controlled by the government.
The main advantage that can be mentioned when speaking about the privatization of public services in general and fire prevention, in particular, is the cost reduction. “Fire protection switching to private contract firefighting saved 20% to 50%.” (Savas, 2000, p. 156)
As the fire prevention services can be characterized by long periods of downtime, one of the means of cost reduction is the use of a mixed force of full-time and reservist firefighters (so that fewer full-time salaries need to be paid). The disadvantages that the privatization could bring are mostly connected to the services’ quality as the cost-reduction approach must be always in balance with the quality of such vital services. Therefore the potential disadvantages could include:
- Decrease in Service Quality
- Loss of Control
- Higher Cost of Financing Privatization
- Depreciation of Assets
The reasons that some countries keep total control over the fire prevention systems could be various. One of the reasons that could be mentioned is the fear of monopoly by large private corporations, due to the absence of competitiveness in which the government could lose control over the quality of the services delivered or the prices that could be established. On contrary, another reason that could occur when the government controls the municipal services, in general, is due to the lack of local economically developed private sector and at the same time the reluctance of the government to involve foreign companies in this process.
Guardiano, J. R., Haarmeyer, D., & Poole, Jr, R. W. (1992, October). Fire Protection Privatization:A Cost-Effective Approach to Public Safety (Vol. 152).
Savas, E. S. (2000). Privatization and Public-Private Partnerships. New York: Chatham House.