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Arson Awareness Week: May 2‑8, 2021

Arson During Civil Unrest

Review these actions for a safe response to potential arson-related fires during civil unrest incidents.

Arson Awareness Week 2021 (May 2-8) highlights critical actions that first responders must take to help ensure a safe response to arson fires during civil unrest incidents.

The dangers involved during a civil unrest incident put everyone's life in peril. Innocent bystanders, occupants, first responders and those committing these acts all have a chance to receive debilitating injuries or worse. The aftermath of these intentional acts can create a devastating fiscal loss for communities.


Arson During Civil Unrest — An Unjustifiable Crime

Join the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) and our partners for 4 presentations that include discussion on historic civil unrest responses, mutual aid agreements, risk management, civil unrest response strategies, federal arson statutes and sentencing, and dealing with multiple scenes.

In partnership with:

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Coalition Against Insurance Fraud
International Association of Arson Investigators
International Code Council
NAMIC® Association Services
National Association of State Fire Marshals
National Fire Protection Association
National Volunteer Fire Council

First responders: review these actions

Prepare for the unknown, especially during civil unrest.

Normal response routes may be blocked. Ambushes may be set up. Hydrants and other fire protection equipment may have been tampered with.

Pre-plan with mutual aid agreements.

The number of simultaneous incidents can quickly overwhelm an emergency response force. Pre-established mutual aid agreements are critical to safety and success.

Practice interagency drills.

The familiarization achieved by pre-incident interagency drills is invaluable in a department's response to civil unrest.

Embrace resource management practices.

The sheer volume of incidents requires fire agencies to scale their response packages to meet need and reduce risk and exposure to their members.

Mental preparedness is key when the public you serve turns against you.

Keep in mind there are people behind the civil unrest participants who still need your protection.

Be ready to adapt to quick changes if people at the scene become aggressive.

Have an exit strategy developed before arrival. Recon an area prior to entering to know where the escape routes are.

It is your duty to respond and return safely.

Even in normal times, a safe response and return policy promotes first responder safety. The responsibilities of drivers and officers in the cab during civil unrest include good communication, vigilance and mutual risk assessment.

Make note of all information that may help fire investigators with the outcome of the scene investigations.

If you are cognizant and aware, you can play a vital role in preserving clues for the fire investigators. Learn how you can play a role in a successful fire investigation.

National Fire Academy courses can help prepare first responders to mitigate civil unrest threats to our communities.

Knowledge is power. The time to prepare for a civil unrest response is most appropriate when the community is not in an agitated state.

Arson statutes, sentencing offenders from previous incidents and public awareness of criminal penalties may help to deter future arson incidents during civil unrest events.

For more information

Best practices for fire and EMS civil unrest response

The USFA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Office of Emergency Medical Services worked together to compile best practices to assist you with response to civil unrest incidents in your community. Fire and emergency medical services (EMS) personnel should review these best practices to prepare personnel, the station, apparatus and the community for emergency response in a challenging environment.

Review best practices

Civil unrest may occur as a period of social upheaval during heightened community tension or at mass gatherings such as sporting events, concerts and political conventions. The safety risk for fire and EMS personnel responding to these fluid incidents may be elevated.