A fundamental element of public safety, fire departments have continued to see an ever-increasing scope of responsibility, including a broadening of services and needs demanded by
their communities. Fire departments in our modern era do much
more than simply fight fire; they also provide emergency medical
services, perform complex rescues, and assist the public with a wide
variety of emergency responses. The training and resources provided
to firefighters are important, as they must match the demands, skills,
and abilities required to perform these all-hazards responses and
conduct dangerous work.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has conducted
needs assessments to evaluate and assess the requirements of fire
departments, identify trends over time, and allow aid programs to
focus on areas identified by research. Recently, results from a survey
conducted by the NFPA in 2015 were released. This is a continuation of a study involving three prior surveys in 2001, 2005, and
2010. These surveys were initially conducted under grants from the
United States Fire Administration (USFA) and are tied to the Federal Emergency Management Agency grant programs, including the
Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate
Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants programs.
The true goal of this effort is to identify the biggest needs of the
fire service in the United States and compare what departments
actually have or do to requirements from the national consensus
standards or other government and national guidance. Essentially,
it is comparing current practice to recognized standards and identifying real-world gaps.
The study was undertaken as a census, which means that it was sent
to the broadest possible population by the NFPA, including 26,322 fire
departments in the survey. Of these, 5,106 responded, for a 19 percent
response rate. Of these respondents, 11 percent were from departments
with populations of less than 2,500, and 82 percent were from departments serving populations of greater than 500,000.
The report was organized into seven groups of needs: personnel
and their capabilities, facilities and apparatus, personal protective
equipment (PPE), community risk reduction, fire prevention and
code enforcement, ability to handle unusually challenging incidents, and communications and advanced technology.
The latest NFPA fire service needs assessment
is a valuable tool for our fire service and gives
us measurements of our service’s response to
the challenges that we face. (Photo by author.)
National Fire Protection