The Results Are In: Size Does Matter

The recent NIST staffing study tells us old-timers something which we have known for a long time now: more people equal a better and safer firefighting operation.


The arrival of the new National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) deployment study is great news my friends. It provides solid, well-researched data that we can use to build our case for improved staffing levels. It has been able to tie the number of people needed to deliver verifiable operational efficiency levels. It provides a solid foundation for us all.

Let me also share an important tidbit of information with you. This study tells us old-timers something which we have known for a long time now: More people equal a better and safer firefighting operation. While this NIST study was limited to the high-rise fire environment, their findings are good news across the board for all of us. They can be extrapolated to all of the other operational areas within the firefighting world.

This is the type of study for which I have served as an advocate for a long time now. It has been a long and lonely vigil my friends. It is that what when you stand up and challenge the prevailing wisdom in your field. I can recall being hooted down at a major convention when I stood up to suggest that research was needed to determine if the things we are doing today are indeed correct. It has taken a long time, but now that the data is coming in from a variety of sources

I am pleased to see that a lot of us who have been wandering around in the wilderness for decades spreading the tale of the need for better staffing were on the right track after all. The basic support data has been there for a long time now, but it is only us old-timers who can honestly say that the new data is great, in that it confirms a lot of the old data with which we have long been conversant.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is at this point that I would like to officially identify myself to you as a real, honest-to-goodness old-timer. Those of you who know me should not be surprised, because you have known me for a long time now. Many of you have shared the last several decades of life with me in the trenches of the fire service. However, I believe it is important for me to explain myself to you younger and newer troops in our beloved fire service. What are some of the clues which have awakened my personal knowledge of my seniority, longevity and my mortality?

In the first instance, I can recall riding on the back step of a 1962 Mack B-Model pumper nearly 40 years ago as part of a five-man engine company in the Newark, NJ, Fire Department. Under the leadership of the late Chief Joe Redden, we were a well-staffed and highly capable firefighting organization.

Such does not seem to be the case any longer. Did you know that there are fire departments which send out one or two people on a pumper and have the gall to call that fire protection? People have been injured because of the penurious, penny-pinching people who populate our public-sector administrative leadership positions.

These are people with no idea of what it is we do telling us how to do it. 

I can also recall living across the street from the fire station here in beautiful, downtown Adelphia when I first was married back in 1972. In those days there were a lot of fire company members living in the village and I really had to hustle to make the first-out fire truck. These were the days when the turnout gear was all on the fire truck. You had to hope that there was something available in your size when you climbed up on top of the hose bed to don your gear. That is how it was in many volunteer fire departments of that era. To save time, I had my personal turnout gear on a clothes horse at the front door of the Church Parsonage house where my wife and I were living at the time. We had lot of folks on the roster in the fire company and we got out quickly.

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