Risk Assessment App for Depts. Being Developed

With budgets tight across the nation, fire and rescue chiefs are sitting across from those holding the purse strings trying to relay their departments' needs as they struggle to protect citizens.

But, just how does a chief go about determining the vulnerability of the community? Soon, that will be just a click away.

An app or tool is being designed for officials to use to evaluate risks as well as resource capabilities.

The Vulnerability Assessment Project concept came from Former USFA Administrator Kelvin Cochran when he was chief in Shreveport, La.

"As I watched a video of a funeral service for a St. Louis firefighter, I wondered if I was doing everything I should to prevent injuries and deaths," he told a group of fire service officials in Baltimore on Tuesday. Cochran said he took a step back, and realized things were being neglected, possibly due to the complacency of the fire service culture. Post incident analysis that should have been taking place weren't.

"I didn't know what to call it," he said, adding that fire departments needed to have a way to determine not only the risks but an idea if they have the proper resources to respond. Knowing where the gaps are, and prioritizing issues are vital to protecting firefighters.

Cochran said he kicked his idea around with Charlie Dickinson and Glenn Gaines, former and current USFA officials, who whole-heartedly agreed it was worth pursuing.

The concept stalled for a bit. However, Cochran said it was revived by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation which strives to prevent firefighter injuries and deaths.

"I'm excited where it's going," Cochran said. "The data exceeds expectation."

Funded by Honeywell, the first phase of the project -- research and analysis -- was explained by Adam Thiel, of FACETS Consulting.

It's imperative, he said, that the end product is credible. That's why they read over 3,373 peer-reviewed academic journal articles dealing with a myriad of issues that would be of value for inclusion.

Of those, 509 with potential VAP-applicability were included. In addition, they reviewed many doctoral dissertations and theses from the Learning Resource Center at the National Fire Academy.

Thiel said there's an overwhelming amount of information available. "There's good research going out there that needs to be incorporated."

They reviewed USFA, NIOSH and NFPA reports for statistics on firefighter injuries and deaths as well as contributing factors.

Throughout the process, Thiel said they're working to make sure the web-based product is user-friendly and contains the most up-to-date resources. He added they understand it has to be a tool for both small and large departments.

After answering a series of questions on a specific topic, the user will be given a vulnerability ranking as well as a list of resources, corrective actions, sample SOPs and other things.

The next phase will involve using the research to develop the software. More stakeholder input will be solicited as well.

NFFF Executive Director Ron Siarnicki said it's essential that firefighters embrace and use the vulnerability assessment tool to determine what they need to do to protect their crews from injury and death.

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