We all know the role that firefighters play in saving lives and reducing risk in our cities and towns. Or do we?
Increasingly, fire departments are expected to provide data to underscore their impact in communities. NFPA is well aware of this validation trend, because our research department often fields calls looking for metrics that will help fire leaders tell their story to bean counters and policy makers. No doubt, fire leaders can provide passionate perspective, but statistics and research are proving to be a game-changer when it comes to demonstrating the value of the modern day fire department.
Historically, authorities have looked at the number of incidents, deaths, injuries and damage to show why it’s important to have a professional, responsive fire department. Today, departments can also show environmental and economic data to reinforce their clout. Local fire officials, however, are not always equipped to pull together the right insights.
So, in 2015, NFPA sponsored the project, Development of an Environmental and Economic Assessment Tool (Enveco Tool) for Fire Events. The research was done by the Technical Research Institute of Sweden and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). NFPA then hosted Economic Decision Making in Fire and Electrical Safety – A Workshop on the Needs and Resources that same year. Findings from these two efforts were released in May and August 2016.
To keep things simple the Enveco feasibility study took into account fully developed warehouse fires in industrial areas where water was used for fire suppression. It looked at incident data and different variables so that a tool could be created that compares the economic impact of fire department intervention for a real study with a situation where there is no fire department intervention. The goal was to provide even more information that would show why it is prudent to invest in a strong local fire infrastructure.
Project leads and the technical panel recommended further research and suggested that the functionality of the tool be expanded. They felt this would not only bolster the worth of fire departments, but possibly benefit other interested parties. Efforts to enhance the tool are currently underway, using the Enveco version as a baseline. The new resource will include pilot studies and enhancements, and will be complete in 2018.
NFPA has been working on other economic impact initiatives in the 18 months since the Enveco discussions so that the fire service can provide relevant data during fire service budget and contract meetings. In the coming months, we will post a series of Economic Impact of Fire blogs highlighting new research, resources and tools that will be helpful as departments look to influence decision-makers. Here’s what’s in the pipeline:
- A total cost of fire report (direct and indirect costs, excluding wildfire)
- A look at the economic impact that firefighter injuries have on communities
- A data tool, using real estate data, to estimate the dollar loss associated with fire incidents
- Insight on the impact of fire sprinkler regulation on real estate costs
- Updates and enhancements to NFPA’s long-standing report on the total cost of fire analytics
- Outcomes from NFPA’s cost/benefit regulatory workshop
- Fire prevention economic impact information
Statistics tell a positive story about the tremendous progress the fire service is making in reducing loss from fire; however, our world and fires are different today. The fire service needs to validate their services in a different way too.