Community Fire Defense Plan: Analyze Before You Organize

Over the past several months, we have discussed the development of a fire risk analysis program for your community. We have talked about how to assess risk. Now we will discuss your need to analyze your findings. This must be done before you can develop a...


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Over the past several months, we have discussed the development of a fire risk analysis program for your community. We have talked about how to assess risk. Now we will discuss your need to analyze your findings. This must be done before you can develop a true community fire defense program; one which plans for the future.

A progressive fire department must start to plan for the future today. The fire service has classically failed to understand that the future and all of its unwanted changes comes whether we want it or not. By developing a proactive approach to change it is possible to shape the future.

The roots of the fire service are mired in its reactive past, where firefighters sat around waiting for something to happen.

We have often heard Chief Alan Brunacini state that one of the greatest changes he has experienced during his tenure with the Phoenix Fire Department was its move from a reactive to a proactive stance. In a proactive posture, it is essential for you to anticipate what the future will demand. You will then have to ascertain how an organization might respond to those demands.

The development of a community fire defense program is a positive step which any progressive fire department should undertake. It is the step toward which we have been moving over the past several months. Based upon the needs which are identifiable in a community fire risk analysis survey plans for the future can be developed.

Think of developing a community fire defense program in terms of a series of problem solving steps, which proceed in an orderly fashion to a logical conclusion. Crucial to the success of such an effort is the development of a database of information on fires and their related effects.

To prepare for the future, remember that the past is an indicator of events to come. Gathering and analyzing historical information is a critically important tool for studying the future. It is important to point out that data must be factual, and must be interpreted accurately to be of use in developing a community defense program.

Be forewarned that the groundwork for a successful community defense effort lies in a thorough and accurate analysis of all available data. This is a most demanding task, but one well worth the effort. Only the truly successful fire service manager is able to analyze, interpret and properly use risk data to maximize the effect of fire department efforts.

Fire risk analysis is essential in beginning work on this project. Risk analysis must be done to determine the fire department's operational status as it relates to community needs. Fire protection problems must be identified which, when solved, will reduce community exposure to fire related problems. By uncovering fire protection problems that contribute to, or worsen community risk, a department can develop programs which address the needs of the real world.

What are some of the sources for data that might be used for comparison in the data analysis phase of a community fire defense program?

  • The National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS).
  • The National Fire Data Center of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
  • The insurance industry's Property Insurance Loss Register (PILR).
  • State fire agency reports.
  • Local fire department records:
    - log books
    - dispatch center records
    - local media files
  • A historical review of department personnel experiences.
  • Local information that's common knowledge.
  • The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in Quincy, MA.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau

Each of these data resources has a place in any overall plan to study a community fire risk profile. Be diligent and thorough in this search.

What is the importance of all of this data analysis? Why should you spend so much time looking at trends? It is done to discover real problems. Further, it is useful in predicting what might occur, based upon past experience. Where have the fires been burning? Where are the people being injured? Where are they dying; and most importantly find a clue as to what is behind all of these things? An understanding will then develop of what it takes to solve the problems identified, as a natural extension of data analysis.

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