Risk Management Program Development for the Fire Service

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The United States Fire Administration (USFA) worked with the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) on a study to enhance the risk management capability of local fire departments. The goal of this initiative was to enable fire departments to design effective risk management programs based on community hazards and service commitment, enhance firefighter safety, and provide tools for continual evaluation of emergency response systems.

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.

This study examined critical issues related to adequate resource deployment, tying them to the development of effective risk management programs. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) computer simulations were used to develop staffing and deployment models that will be recommended for departments of various sizes serving different populations in varying geographic regions.

The first phase of the study analyzed retrospective data from the years 2000-2005 to identify and quantify the major factors that contribute to firefighter line-of-duty death (LODD) in the United States. The identified contributing factors were examined for frequency of occurrence and clustering with other factors. It is intended that the results are to be used to develop risk management programs for fire departments.

This first phase used data compiled from six years of verified firefighter on-duty fatalities from four reputable industry sources. Sources included the USFA as well as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and IAFF. For each LODD, factors contributing to the death were recorded from Federal investigations and eyewitness reports. The contributing factors were then analyzed for frequency of occurrence and clustering with other factors. Contributing factor clusters identified include the following.

Clustering information was used to develop risk management recommendations for local fire departments.

From the first phase of this study, the report Contributing Factors to Firefighter Line of Duty Death in the United States was developed by the IAFF.

This second phase of the project produced the IAFF report, Contributing Factors to Fire Fighter Line-of-Duty Injury in Metropolitan Fire Departments in the United States (PDF, 125 Kb). This study compiled and analyzed two years of data from nine geographically diverse metropolitan fire departments to identify and quantify the major factors that contribute to fire fighter line-of-duty injuries. The results of this study will help efforts to standardize data collection for firefighter injuries so that all fire departments collect the same data in the same way. The results of standardized data collection, analysis, and reporting will establish a knowledge base for firefighter injuries to further risk management and prevention of injuries in the future.