Executive Summary

Fire Prevention Effectiveness Model – Position Paper

Executive Summary

Background

In 1991 the Office of the Fire Marshal initiated a long-term research project to develop a Comprehensive Fire Safety Effectiveness Model. This public safety initiative is a holistic approach that will identify all factors that influence fire safety. The result will be a tool that will better enable all types and sizes of municipalities to make informed decisions on the provision of adequate and cost effective fire protection services.

In December 1993, the OFM published the position paper, Fire Ground Staffing and Delivery Systems Within a Comprehensive Fire Safety Effectiveness Model. This paper partially addressed fire ground effectiveness, one of the eight components of the Comprehensive Model. The other seven components are: impact of fire; public attitude; fire risk; detection; built in suppression; intervention time; and fire prevention effectiveness.

Research has also been conducted on another component - Fire Prevention Effectiveness.  In June 1995, a discussion paper was distributed to stakeholders for comment. Subsequent consultation and research has resulted in this position paper. The approach taken here differs from much of the work already completed on fire prevention. Most studies tend to focus on the methods for carrying out specific fire prevention activities. There is generally an assumption that a specific activity will resolve the fire safety issue. However, there is little material on analyzing fire risks and selecting and evaluating effective programs to address the risk. This document tries to take a more objective approach to fire prevention activities.

There has been significant consultation during the development of the discussion paper on Fire Prevention Effectiveness. The model is now being distributed to the fire service in the form of a position paper.

Method

The concept that the Fire Prevention Effectiveness Model is based upon is straightforward. It is basically a three step process to address fire safety.

The first step is to conduct a Needs Analysis. Following the process explained in the model will enable the fire service to create an accurate picture of the fire risk in their community in such a manner that they can be effectively targeted.

Second, effective programs need to be selected that are appropriate to address the risk and that fall within the resources that the community can assign to the problem. Once selected these programs must be developed and implemented.

The third step is to evaluate the success of the selected programs in achieving their stated objectives and in reducing the targeted risk. Evaluation of fire prevention programs will enable the fire service to make improvements to its programs, demonstrate program values and allow it to re-allocate available resources as the targeted risks are reduced. Evaluation is an essential and continual process.

Needs Analysis

Needs analysis involves compiling and reviewing all the available information and creating a clear picture of the community's fire risks. It should be done in such a way that the conclusions are based on fact, not perception. The result will be an objective and defensible fire risk profile that allows for informed program selection decisions and accurate evaluation.

The Needs Analysis method explained in this model relies upon the use of meaningful statistical information and input from knowledgeable fire safety experts in the community. Although it can be a laborious process to gather all the necessary information, the model allows for some interim steps so that decisions can be reached without undue delay. Smaller municipalities may find the data gathering task easier than many larger ones. Once an evaluation process is established, all subsequent needs analysis can be more easily accomplished.

Program Selection, Development And Implementation

Fire prevention encompasses a broad range of activities with objectives that are intended to reduce losses to life and property resulting from fire. Generally, fire prevention practices can be subdivided into three principal activities; code enforcement/inspections, public education and fire incident evaluations.

The Fire Prevention Effectiveness Model identifies the issues that need to be considered when selecting the most effective program to address the targeted risk. The selection process will depend on the nature of the risk and the resources available to the community. There may be some opportunities to generate revenue to assist in covering costs. However, fees would usually have to be quite significant to truly recover expenses.

Generally, fees should not be charged where failure to pay the fee will prevent the delivery of a fire prevention service which would benefit the community. For example, charging fees for conducting Complaint type inspections or for Routine inspections might reduce their success. The department must consider what action they will take if the fee is not paid. Will that prevent the inspection from being done? Such a result should not be acceptable.

Minimum Suggested Programs

These are the minimums that are expected from all communities, regardless of size. The amount of activity required for a small community may be quite limited. Also, the means chosen to deliver the required services may differ, depending on the local circumstances.

Municipalities are expected to use their available resources effectively and efficiently to provide optimal fire safety for the community. The more resources available, the greater the expectations of service. Consequently, communities with significant resources are expected to provide more services than the minimum that are defined here.

Inspections

It is strongly recommended that communities at least conduct Complaint Inspections and Request Inspections of properties within their jurisdiction, where such complaints or requests are the result of concern for fire safety (e.g. not for insurance purposes).

Municipalities need to respond when fire safety hazards or violations are brought to their attention. Failing to investigate a fire safety complaint may leave a municipality at risk from litigation. The municipality may be considered partially responsible for not taking steps within their authority to correct any hazards brought to its attention. Conducting Complaint Inspections and following up on any violations will help to address this concern, as well as ensure that any confirmed violations are corrected.

Requests for inspections to assist owners in complying with fire safety legislation should be fulfilled. When concerned citizens request assistance to assess their fire safety, it is reasonable to expect that the fire department will help. Conducting Request Inspections meets this expectation. Also, certain provisions of the Ontario Fire Code require the approval of the Chief Fire Official, (e.g. fire safety planning).

Where there are sufficient resources, a community should actively promote compliance with fire safety legislation by means of regular Routine Inspections or some other suitable program.

Violations noted during any inspections need to be corrected. Where necessary, the municipality is responsible to enforce compliance.

Public Safety Education

It is strongly recommended that fire departments provide an appropriate program that will improve the fire safety knowledge and awareness in the community. The fire safety of a community is dependent upon the fire safety knowledge and awareness of its citizens. The fire department should strive, within its means, to improve (or, at least, maintain) this knowledge and awareness. In general, the greatest fire risk is to residential occupancies, therefore, these occupancies and its residents should be targeted.

Fire Incident Evaluation

For all fires within a fire department's jurisdiction, an accurate evaluation and Standard Incident Report should be completed. The information gathered at fire scenes is essential to understand a community's fire losses. Improvements in fire fighting, legislation, equipment, education, construction and other factors that affect fire safety are dependent on fire incident evaluations. It is, therefore, extremely important that sufficient and accurate information is collected.

It is strongly recommended that additional information be gathered at fire scenes to help evaluate the effectiveness of fire department programs. For example, assessing occupant behaviour and reasons for that behaviour will enable a department to evaluate a public fire safety education program targeting those occupants.

Note, fire departments should consult with their municipal solicitors to discuss any legal concerns regarding program selection.

Program Evaluation

Evaluation involves a well-defined process to determine and measure a program's effectiveness. Implementation is not the end of the process as a program must be evaluated continually to ensure the best use of resources in the community. Evaluation should indicate the need to modify a program and whether its goals and objectives have been achieved. Accomplishing these will change the nature of the fire problem in the community. Therefore, an updated needs analysis may be required to determine how to maintain the improved situation and what priority to address next.

Any statistical or background information used in a program evaluation must be stated clearly and objectively to minimize the effects of factors unrelated to the actions of a fire department. For example, the number of fires per thousand population is an objective means to measure the rate of fire occurrence as it eliminates the impact of changes in population. Suggestions for evaluating fire prevention programs are provided below.

Inspections

Information should be gathered to demonstrate that the program has:

  • achieved compliance with fire safety legislation;
  • reduced the impact of fire on inspected properties;
  • been responsible, in whole or in part, for fire loss reductions; and
  • prevented fires.

Public Safety Education

Information should be gathered to demonstrate that a program has:

  • increased fire safety knowledge;
  • improved occupant knowledge and fire safety behaviour and that these improvements reduced the impact of the evaluated fires;
  • been responsible, in whole or in part, for fire loss reductions; and
  • identified potential fire incidents which were prevented as a result of public fire safety education.

Fire Incident Evaluation

Information should be collected to demonstrate that a program has:

  • provided sufficient data to allow for a proper needs analysis and evaluation of other programs; and
  • contributed to the reduction in fire losses due to the actions taken as a result of the information gathered through the program.

Conclusion

The overall concept of the Fire Prevention Effectiveness Model is very simple; identify the problem, select and implement the best available solution, evaluate the results.

Making the best use of available resources is essential to effectively reduce fire losses. Fire departments must plan their fire prevention activities properly to ensure that the community is provided with the most effective and efficient service possible.

Communities need comprehensive fire prevention programs to reduce fire losses to an acceptable level.

The significant human resources available to many fire departments must be used to provide the most effective fire protection to the community; this includes effective fire prevention services.

The process put forward in this document will assist fire departments in planning or reviewing fire prevention programs to meet the needs of the community. It will help to provide the best available solutions to manage fire risks through the most effective and efficient use of resources. A comprehensive, objective and defensible fire prevention plan will enable a department to address risk management, budget and accountability issues. Identifying the fire risks, planning appropriate solutions and implementing them reduces the possibility of the department being found liable for damages resulting from losses. A department can better justify the costs and benefits of its programs and be more accountable for its results. It will also help to ensure that the necessary services are being provided to the community in the most effective and efficient manner.

A well planned fire prevention strategy is essential for any fire department.