NIST Firefighter Safety and Deployment Study to be issued Wednesday

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The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is scheduled to issue the results of a multi-institutional landmark national study on the effects of firefighter staffing levels and crew arrival times on residential firefighting operations. This landmark report will provide scientific data that will help inform fire chiefs and public officials in making decisions on firefighting budgets, crew sizes and placement of fire stations. The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program and will be released Wednesday April 28, 2010 in Washington, D.C., before the start of the annual Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) meeting. Speakers will include principal investigators from NIST, the U.S. Fire Administrator, representatives from NFPA, IAFC, IAFF, Metropolitan Fire Chiefs, CFAI, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The Press Event will take place at the Washington Hilton, Jefferson East (Concourse Level) 1919 Connecticut Avenue NW. Washington, D.C. at 9:00 a.m. EDT

The significance of this much awaited study is certain to provide critical data and benchmarks that will influence operational deployment, firefighter safety and strategic and tactical considerations related to combat fire suppression. I recall a series of studies and evolutions that were last dome in the mid-1980’s that looked at cursory functional deployment considerations related to engine company efficiency for six, five, four and three personnel staffed units.

The NIST Firefighter Safety and Deployment Study is a multi-year project, being conducted jointly by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), whose purpose is to establish a technical basis for risk evaluation and deployment of resources by local fire departments and create tools the departments can use to better assess the risks and hazards in their communities; plan adequate resource deployment to respond to and mitigate emergency events; and measure their effectiveness in responding to and handling events.

The first two phases of the study were to establish a technical basis for risk evaluation and deployment of resources by local fire departments and to create tools fire departments can use to better assess the risks and hazards in their communities. This would allow the Fire Department to plan adequate resource deployment to respond to and mitigate emergency events. The final phase of the NIST study will assist departments to measure their effectiveness in responding to and handling events.

Study Details
Within the past fifteen years, studies have advanced in the sophistication of their methods but nonetheless have continued to support the finding that crew size per piece of apparatus clearly affects the effectiveness and safety of fire department personnel during emergency response and fire suppression. In an effort to supplement the scientific evidence available, the intent of this study was to determine how well the fire service decision makers match resources to risk and what factors are important in making better decisions about these matches in the future recognizing that decisions must be made in light of available funding in the community and the level of service the community expects.

The overall goal is to reduce firefighter injury and death by making better decisions about resource deployment in a risk filled environment. The study is delineated into three phases.

  • Phase I – Develop a scientifically-based community risk assessment and resource deployment model;
  • Phase II – Conduct field experiments to assess resource deployment including crew size and time to task analysis;
  • Phase III – Develop performance evaluation tools to be used by departments to assess how well they match their community risk level to resources deployed.

Based on analysis of data collected in phase I, investigators will address three outcomes; 1) firefighter injury and death, 2) civilian injury and death; and 3) economic impact. They will work to identify the most important factors in determining appropriate deployment to varied levels of adverse risk events occurring in a community. It is their hope to use those data to program a predictive model to be converted into software.

We’ll issue and update this post with the latest information as it’s released Wednesday.

Progress Reports Issued

A series of program progress reports were issued and are available from the following links;

  • Project Year One, Progress Report, HERE
  • In September, 2008, the Two-Year Progress Report was issued; The Multi-Phased Study on Firefighter Safety and the Deployment of Resource, HERE
  • DHL, Phase II Report, HERE

Other related links for further insights;

  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), HERE
  • Firereportingsystem.org, HERE
  • Field Experiment Photos, HERE
  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute, HERE
  • Live Fire Experiments Provide Data on the Effects of Fire Resources, HERE
  • Fire Service Leaders to Conduct Study to Improve Fire Fighter Safety and Deployment, FFN 2009; HERE
  • STATter911 and WUSA9 Postings,HERE and HERE
  • Commandsafety.com, HERE

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