The National Fire Protection Association released a state-by-state fire service needs assessment based on findings from its "Third Needs Assessment of the U.S. Fire Service," a study that looked at the current needs of U.S. fire departments compared to the findings of its 2001 and 2005 studies. The report found that federally funded Assistance to Firefighter Grant programs were the main catalyst for resource improvements from the previous studies.
The report assessed personnel and their capabilities; facilities and apparatus; personal protective equipment, fire prevention and code enforcement; the ability to handle challenging incidents; and communications and technologies.
In part, the data showed that fire departments’ needs have significantly declined to a considerable degree in a number of areas, particularly in personal protective and firefighting equipment, two resources that received the largest shares of funding from the AFG programs, said Dr. John Hall, NFPA division director for fire analysis and research.
“You can see a lot more improvement in resources like personal protective equipment, which were the subject of a great larger share of grant dollars that went out that year,” he said.
There is evidence of impact from the grants but also considerable needs that still to be addressed like training, which received a much smaller share of grant funds. Hall said there other areas of need include apparatus, stations and staffing required to support station operations.
“There is a lot of need still there,” he said. “That’s the single finding compared to previous studies.”
Hall said the data are organized so fire-service leaders can have access to reader-friendly statistics to use in presentations to decision-makers, including a fact sheet for every state that accompany the state reports.
“We have encouraged departments to compare themselves to other departments of the same size … and put that data in front of budget decision-makers to be able to make a case about your department’s needs,” Hall said.