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What’s the environmental impact of fires? It sounds like a fairly simply question, but finding quantifiable answers isn’t quite so easy.

Yes, we know that fighting structure fires often requires an average of hundreds of gallons of water, generating run-off that includes toxins released from byproducts of burned household items, and that those toxins are also released directly into the atmosphere. But knowing how to accurately measure and quantify fire’s environmental impact from these and related factors has yet to be identified.

Gren leaf

Through its Environmental Impact of Fire project, the Fire Protection Research Foundation is working to figure all that out. Phase One of the project, which was recently completed, serves as a gap analysis/literature review that documents the data and methodologies currently available to measure environmental impact of fires primarily in structures, but looks at Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) fires as well. The report also reviews cost-benefit, risk-based and life-cycle methodologies, examining the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Phase Two of the project will start to fill knowledge gaps, while the project’s final goal is to quantify the actual environmental impact of a single fire, as well as fires over a period of time.

Ultimately, the findings from the Environmental Impact of Fire project will help better quantify the immediate and direct costs of fire, providing a metric for understanding the social and economic impact of fire and for assessing progress in fire prevention and protection.

“It’s not hard to find any of us being seemingly annoyed that the NFPA doesn’t listen to what FIREFIGHTERS have to say. Actually, they do – and more than ever – especially since input via the internet makes it easy for NFPA committees to truly represent what FIREFIGHTERS need… not just the few at the table.”

Fire engine

That’s from a blog posted on last week's, home of The Secret List. The post came at just the right time, as NFPA launches a new campaign, “Standards in Action: Your Voice Matters,” in an effort to increase fire service participation in our standards-making process.

“Standards in Action: Your Voice Matters” features quick, easy and free online access to public input and comments on NFPA standards. We’ll also be more consistently reaching out to the fire service to make sure they’re aware of opportunities to participate in our standards as they arise. In addition, we’re encouraging firefighters to get involved in NFPA standards in other ways, such as participating in committee meetings.

If you’re a firefighter, let us know what’s working for you within NFPA’s standards and what isn’t - visit our Standards in Action page to get started. Your voice matters, and we want to hear it! (A special thanks to Chief Billy Goldfeder with The Secret List for pointing that out.)

NFPA’s research team completed a two-day fire data summit last week to collaboratively develop plans and strategies for enhancing the upcoming “Needs Assessment of the U.S. Fire Service” survey.

Stakeholders who attended the summit and are actively participating in this initiative include:

The next edition of the survey is scheduled to be released in the summer of 2016, and represents the fourth edition of the document. The first was released in 2001 with great success, and was published by the U.S. Congress’ Joint Council on Foreign Relations.

Fire engine

The “Needs Assessment of the U.S. Fire Service” survey is distributed to all U.S. fire departments, and works to capture a wealth of data. Widespread participation from the fire service helps accurately identify the needs and gaps of departments nationwide, and ultimately serves as a benchmark for making essential changes and improvements.

“I’m incredibly excited about the direction the needs assessment survey is taking,” said Lori Moore-Merrell, IAFF’s assistant to the general president. “We’re working toward a real transformation from what the data offers right now, and expanding it to be a powerful tool that more robustly and actively supports the fire service, along with related NFPA standards.”

As part of this week’s summit, the stakeholders discussed methods for improving survey distribution methods and response rates; capturing more data from fire departments; and generating sub-reports at the state and local level that fire departments can use to further their community goals and efforts.

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