NFPA has released its "Third Needs Assessment of the U.S. Fire Service", a study that looks at the current needs of America’s fire departments, as compared to those identified in assessments done in 2001 and 2005. The goal of the project was to identify major gaps in the needs of the U.S. fire service and to determine if the Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (DHS/FEMA) Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) programs are continuing to reduce the needs of fire departments.
The report looks at personnel and their capabilities, including staffing, training, certification, and wellness/fitness; facilities and apparatus; personal protective equipment, fire prevention and code enforcement; the ability to handle unusually challenging incidents; and communications and new technologies.
- Nearly half (46%) of all fire departments that are responsible for structural firefighting have not formally trained all their personnel involved in structural firefighting, down from 55% in 2001 and 53% in 2005.
- Seven out of ten (70%) fire departments have no program to maintain basic firefighter fitness and health, down from 80% in 2001 and 76% in 2005.
- Nearly half (46%) of all fire department engines and pumpers were at least 15 years old, down from 51% in 2001 and 50% in 2005.
- Needs have declined to a considerable degree in a number of areas, particularly personal protective and firefighting equipment, two types of resources that received the largest shares of funding from the AFG programs.
- Some innovative technologies that have not been identified as necessary in existing standards but are known to be very useful to today’s fire service – including Internet access and thermal imaging cameras – have also seen large increases in use.
- Declines in needs have been more modest in some other important areas, such as training, which have received much smaller shares of AFG funds.