In 2014 NFPA published the “Total Cost of Fire in the United States”, a landmark document that captured all the available information on the economic cost of fire loss and fire protection in this country. The document is still frequently referenced today as one of the few sources of information on a topic that is increasingly on the agenda of decision makers in our community. Those decision makers include not only policy makers at the national level, the target of the 2014 report, but also regulators at the state and local level who are increasingly requiring an assessment of cost/benefit for regulation, and local jurisdictions who are making decisions about fire protection resources in their community based on cost.
Recognizing the need, in 2016, the Fire Protection Research Foundation convened a workshop of stakeholders to explore what other tools are available and what are the gaps. The workshop report called for additional data resources and additional tools to be developed for use at the national policy level, the regulatory arena, and at the local level.
The Foundation has published one such tool, Enveco. which is a tool for fire departments to demonstrate the impact of their intervention on reducing the economic and environmental impact of an warehouse fire event in their community. Another project is underway – an assessment of the impact of home fire sprinkler legislation on the cost of housing.
As a result of the workshop, we are revisiting the 2014 Total Cost of Fire Report. Working with the State University of Buffalo, we are taking a more comprehensive look at the direct and indirect costs of fire loss. This information will serve as the basis for additional modeling and tools for the community. We also hope to do more in-depth work on the cost of firefighter injury and on the environmental impacts of fire, in collaboration with DHS and the Swedish Fire Protection Association, respectively.
Last week, Amanda Kimball from the Research Foundation attended an international workshop on regulatory reform which focused on this topic; we have also been providing resources to the World Bank as they build the case for resilient (and fire resistant) development. All this means that we are not alone: dollars and cents are the new metrics for decision making in fire and life safety around the world.