Fire department preparedness and response to non-fire emergencies

The public relies on first responders during emergencies, and the more substantial the incident or the disaster, the greater the need for assistance delivered by the fire department and others with public safety missions.

The resources on this page will help enhance your fire department’s level of preparedness and response to non-fire emergencies and natural disasters.

Natural disasters and weather emergencies

Our latest report: Operational Lessons Learned in Disaster Response

A study of after action reviews from major disasters of the past decade to gain insight into lessons learned.

While after action reviews produce valuable lessons, lessons alone are not the end of the story. In fact, lessons learned should rightly be the beginning of a new chapter in a fire department’s operational behaviors. Lessons without a corresponding change in operational behavior are not lessons learned.

Operational Lessons Learned in Disaster Response

This report identifies gaps and needs in first responder training and resources and presents solutions that serve to better prepare local-level fire services for all-hazard events and to interact with federal resources. The disasters studied were weather-related events that required responding firefighters to assume duties for which they were unprepared or for situations they never anticipated.

Download "Operational Lessons Learned in Disaster Response"

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Topics covered include:

  • Resource and logistics management.
  • Training, testing and exercising.
  • Warning and notification.
  • Assessing staffing requirements.
  • Mutual aid.
  • Large-scale event incident command issues.
  • Critique and evaluation methods for organizational learning.

Fire service operations during the 2011 Southeastern tornados

On April 27, 2011, a devastating series of tornados struck Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. An estimated 336 lives were lost in the region’s tornados and related events. At least 10,000 homes were heavily damaged or destroyed and dozens of public facilities were rendered inoperative.

A series of meetings was held in the summer of 2011 to look at fire department and EMS organization activities. Over 50 representatives of impacted departments attended and each had an opportunity to respond to specific questions as well as provide a free range of their own inputs.

This report condenses those meetings and inputs and provides an insight into the routines, challenges and needs of local fire and EMS agencies during preparation for, response to and recovery from, natural disasters.

Use of Geospatial Information Technologies

Geospatial Information Technologies (GIT), like Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Global Positioning Systems (GPS), facilitate critical decision-making before a disaster impacts an area. In the early, crucial stages of a disaster or emergency and throughout the disaster process, responders, emergency managers, public works and utility entities, and the general public use geospatial technologies and products (maps) because they provide important information quickly and in easy-to-understand standardized formats.

The U.S. National Grid (USNG) standard was adopted to reduce confusion among GIT manufacturers, GIS/GPS users and map producers. USNG is required for integrated operations and a common operating picture. It ensures interoperability of geospatial information among different response organizations and their equipment.

The following documents provide an overview of GIT and how the USNG works.

See also: Coffee Break Training (Community Risk Reduction series) – Understanding Geospatial Information

Active shooter and mass casualty incidents

Active shooter and mass casualty incidents are complex and may be beyond the traditional training and experience of firefighters and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) providers. Use this guide to support fire and EMS planning and preparation for active shooter and mass casualty incidents.

Pandemic influenza

A pandemic influenza presents significant challenges to fire departments, other public service response organizations and the communities they serve. Plans and procedures need to be developed, tested and refined to ensure responders remain healthy and essential capabilities to protect communities remain viable and available in the event of a pandemic. It is equally important to address the business, individual, family and community impacts of a pandemic and to prepare for those accordingly.

This document provides guidance for developing best practices and model protocols for use by state, local, tribal and territorial personnel in the development of pandemic influenza plans, preparedness activities, training and exercises.

More information on preparing for and responding to non-fire emergencies