Fire Risk Analysis

In our last visit with you, we began our discussion of fire risk analysis and its companion in life, "community fire defenses." We started to look at how a community needs to be broken down for a proper study of risk potential. We spoke of classifying...


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  • Required fire flow.
  • Life risk (firefighters/civilians).
  • Community consequences of a fire.

A true picture of a community's fire protection needs will come only after a meticulous study of each of these areas of risk. By developing a series of required fire flows for the target hazards in a community, that community can compare the needs of the hazards with the fire department's ability to meet those needs. It is also important to look at the level of personal risk to which people in the community are exposed in a given situation. A greater risk may require a greater commitment of resources, or the implementation of new fire prevention, code enforcement or public education programs.

Knowing the devastating effect that a fire may have upon a community can be crucial. It will assist the fire department in selling the need for additional municipal fire protection. And selling is what you will be forced to do in many cases. People want you to protect them, but they do not want to pay for it. Historical reference can be made to numerous instances where a community has been destroyed by the effects of a major fire. A good example could be the Chicago Fire. A more recent example might be the Oakland firestorm. No community can risk a disaster.

In our next column, we will look at the various factors you must come to know.


Harry R. Carter, Ph. D., a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a battalion chief with the Newark, NJ, Fire Department and past chief of the Adelphia, NJ, Fire Company.