Science-Based Research Should Help

On April 28, 2010, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released an important report dealing with fire department staffing and deployment decisions. This first-of-its-kind research effort will not only be helpful to fire chiefs and...


On April 28, 2010, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released an important report dealing with fire department staffing and deployment decisions. This first-of-its-kind research effort will not only be helpful to fire chiefs and union officials when addressing these...


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The findings in the report provide great information and data that answer these questions. It is important that decision-makers (whether elected officials or others) are armed with the best information possible when making decisions regarding fire department staffing and deployment. This study does that and more. It provides explicit data and makes valid comparisons in critical areas such as:

• Overall scene time

• Time to water on fire

• Ground ladders and ventilation

• Primary search

• Hose-stretch time

• Occupant rescue

• Achieved industry standard

This NIST report is not the end of these research efforts; in fact, it may be the beginning. A sister study dealing with EMS should be completed soon, and studying a more complex fire incident is under consideration.

Like most things, it will be up to the end user (you) how useful this report really is. It's available online, and it is so important that leaders in our industry become familiar with its content and use it in a way that educates those in positions of decision-making. The future quality of fire and life safety services delivered by fire departments, the safety of the public and the safety of our firefighters can be positively impacted through the application of this study, but to some extent that is up to each of you. Get it, study it — and use it.

DENNIS COMPTON, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a well-known speaker and the author of several books, including the When in Doubt, Lead series: Mental Aspects of Performance for Firefighters and Fire Officers, and many other articles and publications. He is also co-editor of the current edition of the ICMA textbook Managing Fire and Rescue Services and the author of the soon-to-be-released book Progressive Leadership Principles, Concepts and Tools. Compton was the fire chief in Mesa, AZ, for five years and as assistant fire chief in Phoenix, AZ, where he served for 27 years. Compton is the past chair of the Executive Board of the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) and past chair of the Congressional Fire Services Institute's National Advisory Committee. He is also chairman of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Board of Directors and the chairman of the Home Safety Council Board of Directors.