Service demands and public expectations placed on local-level fire departments continue to rise as threats to communities from both natural and man-made disasters, including terrorism reach new highs. Historically, the fire service has been based solely on those activities related to fire prevention and suppression. Over the past three decades however, fire department response has expanded to include emergency medical services, terrorism response, hazardous materials response and mitigation, natural disaster response, specialized rescue and response to other community needs.
The ability of fire departments to design an acceptable level of resource deployment based on risks and service commitment and to provide tools for continual evaluation of emergency response systems is crucial in the enhancement of firefighter operational safety and occupational health. The adequate placement of firefighting resources also supports the reduction in civilian fire fatalities.
Using its Geographical Information System (GIS) data, the IAFF will study various fire departments throughout the United States to evaluate staffing and deployment against the national industry standard (NFPA 1710) for minimum staffing. Once this data is assembled, it will be used to recommend risk management models for staffing and deployment for fire departments serving populations of various sizes.
"Risk management is an emerging issue for emergency responders that impacts the safety of fire fighters and the communities they protect," says IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger. "Deployment of acceptable levels of staffing and resources based on risks in the community and service commitment is key in the enhancement of fire fighter health and safety.
The findings of this study could also be provided to the relevant fire service standards setting committees such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1250 Standards Committee, Recommended Practice in Emergency Service Organization Risk Management; NFPA 1500, Fire Department Occupational Health and Safety Program; and the NFPA 1710, Organizational Deployment of Fire Suppression, Emergency Medical Operations and Special Operations provided by Career Fire Departments standards committees – as well as other NFPA Firefighter Health and Safety and fire service operations and management standards committees.