Ministry of the
Solicitor General

OFM - 01-01-01

Fire Protection Review Process

Public Fire Safety Guidelines

Subject Coding

PFSG 01-01-01




January 1998


Fire Protection Review Process


Under Review


To provide a description of a simple and practicable system to enable decision makers to make informed choices.
It ensures formal interaction between council with its policy setting responsibilities, the municipality with its corporate management objectives, and the fire department with its operational expertise.


  • The overall objective of any fire protection program is to provide the optimum level of protection to the community, in keeping with local needs and circumstances.
  • Extensive research has demonstrated that there are a variety of factors that will have an impact on the fire department's capacity to fulfil this objective.
  • Conversely, there are many different options that a municipality may pursue to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its fire protection system.
  • Local circumstances will have a profound effect on which factors are most important for any one municipality, and what options are available for its fire protection system.
  • Selecting among these options is an extremely complex task.
  • Success will require a combination of specialized expertise in fire protection, and a thorough appreciation of your municipality's economic, social and political circumstances.

Graphic outlining Optimizing Public Fire Safety


Stage 1: Set Policy Parameters
Stage 2: Determine Local Circumstances
Stage 3: Status Report
Stage 4: Determine Fire Protection Strategy
Stage 5: Develop Master Fire Plan
Stage 6: Monitor, Evaluate and Revise
Stage 7: Performance Measures

  • Every municipality operates under a specific set of policy parameters -- basic tenets that define the role of the municipal government in the community.
  • In essence, it is the political philosophy of the municipality.
  • These parameters reflect the culture of the local community and will have a profound impact on the fire protection strategy that you develop.
  • Policy parameters include, for example:
  • Public Expectations -- does the public expect the municipality to address its needs or is there a fairly high level of personal self reliance?
  • Service Delivery Strategy -- how open is your community to alternate forms of service delivery and financing such as out-sourcing or fee-for-service?
  • Level of Satisfaction -- are you satisfied with the level of fire protection in your community, and the efficiency and effectiveness of the fire protection system?
  • Funding Policies -- what impacts do your funding policies and practices have on the services you deliver? How do you account for capital expenditures? Are you prepared to issue debentures?
  • Competing Priorities -- what priority does public fire safety have in your community in comparison to the other services that you provide?
  • Receptiveness to Change -- does the public recognize the need for change, and would they accept the implications of such change?
  • It is extremely important that you work through these questions from a fire protection perspective, and that you include all of the key participants in the process.
  • It need not be an excessively formal process, but everyone involved in the review should have an opportunity to discuss the broader context within which the fire department must operate.
  • The results of this discussion should be reflected in the "terms of reference" for the review.
  • It will help to ensure that the review remains focused.

It will also encourage participants to be open to innovations, and conversely, it will help to ensure that staff involved in the review do not spend unnecessary time and resources analyzing options that are not viable.

Stage 2:

Analyse Local Circumstances

Separate guidelines are available that address each of the three main issues that define the local circumstances of a municipality:

  • Assessing Economic Circumstances from a Fire Protection Perspective (PFSG 02-03-01)
  • Assessing Fire Risk (PFSG 02-02-12)
  • Assessing the Existing Fire Protection Services (PFSG 02-04-01)

The following is an overview of the issues that these three guidelines address.

Economic Circumstances

  • What are your expectations for economic growth?
  • How much development do you expect to occur?
  • What type of development do you expect?
  • How is your population changing? (Demographics)
  • If the fire department receives the bulk of its financing from the tax base;

• is the tax base increasing, shrinking, or relatively steady?

• is the tax base shifting?

  • Describe the assessment
  • A review of your economic circumstances should involve more than just an assessment of future demand and available resources:
  • A growing community creates new demand for emergency services, but the type of growth you are experiencing may require a very different kind of response. For example, growth resulting from an in-migration of newly retired residents will create very different demands than growth resulting from the recovery of the local resource industry.
  • There are many more ways in which your fire protection system can address new residential development than there are for older neighbourhoods. An initial investment in sprinkler and/or detection systems when new developments are being planned can reduce the need for new fire stations in the future.
  • Economic development and expansion may have a significant impact on the availability of resources for fire protection. It tends to be easier to attract volunteers in a self-contained community than in a similar-sized area that serves as a bedroom community for a large city. Is the make-up of your community changing?
  • This stage of the review is the first opportunity for you to co-ordinate your planning strategy with your fire protection strategy. Accordingly, it is very important for both fire and planning officials to work closely together on this aspect of the review, perhaps by way of a sub-committee

Fire Risk

The Fire Risk in your community is a function of:

  • Potential for Loss, which depends on the extent to which buildings comply with relevant fire and building codes, how buildings are used, the public's attitude toward fire, and the use of special measures such as automatic detection and/or suppression systems.
  • Consequences of Fire, such as the effect of a fire at a major industry on local employment, assessment and economic activity. This also includes social impacts resulting from the loss of an historic or recreational facility, or the impact of fire on a sensitive environmental area.
  • Local Infrastructure, such as water supply, communications, the quality of roads, and physical barriers such as rivers or railroads.
  • Building Stock, including the age of buildings, the density and type of construction, their height, and the mix of commercial, industrial and residential uses.
  • Since there are so many factors that affect fire risk, it tends to vary considerably from location to location. In fact, fire risk in one part of a municipality will often be very different from in another, particularly in rural areas. Accordingly, there is no need for the fire department to provide a uniform level of service throughout the municipality. The service you provide should be tailored to the risks faced.

A thorough risk assessment can also avoid invalid comparisons between your fire department and others. A municipality with a similar population may have very different fire risks, and therefore very different fire protection needs. A good risk assessment will ensure that such comparisons are valid. By providing a valid basis for comparison, a good risk assessment can also provide confidence that innovations introduced elsewhere can be successfully applied in your municipality.

Existing Fire Protection System

  • Examining the existing fire protection system is perhaps the most time consuming component of the assessment process. The objective is to obtain a clear picture of the nature of the fire protection system as it exists today. The following broad areas should be examined:

Role and Mandate -- What range and scope of services is the department expected to provide (fire suppression, rescue, hazmat, etc)? How does it relate to neighbouring fire departments (mutual-aid, automatic aid)? How does it relate to other sections of the municipality?

Structure and Organization -- What type of department is it (full-time, composite, volunteer)? What is its total staff, facilities, apparatus and equipment? How many layers of management?

Services and Support -- Briefly describe the services provided by the various functional sections of the fire department and describe the support mechanisms for these services.

Emergency Operations -- Describe the types and extent of emergency operations conducted by the fire department and include such things as incident command systems and operational support.

Financial & Resource Analysis -- Describe in detail the funding, budgeting and resource allocation of the fire department, including the individual functional divisions.

Fire Protection and Prevention Act - indicate whether or not the department/municipality is in compliance with this Act.

Stage 3:

Status Report

  • The purpose of this stage is to assist in the preparation of a report to council outlining the findings of the analysis of the following:
  • economic circumstances
  • risk assessment
  • capabilities of existing fire protection service
  • The report will include details of the existing circumstances
  • The report will also include and identify strengths, limitations, threats and opportunities respecting the existing fire protection services.
  • The purpose of the report is also to elicit the expectations of the decision makers, and confirm their commitment to proceeding to the master planning process.

Stage 4:

Determine Fire Protection Strategy

  • This stage of the process involves a review team assisting council in making a determination of the future fire protection strategy.
  • The procedure involves analyzing economic circumstances, risk assessment and the capabilities of the existing fire protection service (including core services). This is accomplished in three levels, as follows:
  • council considerations
  • administrative considerations
  • fire department considerations
  • Your review should consider, and perhaps emphasize the need for residents, industry and others to accept increased responsibility for the improvement of public safety.
  • The review must look beyond the fire department's fire fighting capability in fulfilling its responsibility to provide for public safety.
  • Today's economic conditions - evidenced by reduced budgets, revenues, hiring freezes, reductions in staffing levels through attrition or otherwise, delayed apparatus and equipment purchases - forces the making of hard decisions about the resources required for local fire protection.
  • Options and alternatives are therefore essential. For example, it may be considered appropriate to re-focus on developing fire prevention and public education programs rather than expanding fire fighting forces, or consider resources in surrounding communities and how those resources might be utilized to meet your needs.
  • Determining the future fire protection strategy of your municipality is accomplished by way of providing options for the consideration of council.
  • For this process to be successful, it is imperative that there be full and open consultation with all of the stakeholders.
  • Stakeholders are the people and organizations with an interest in the fire service, including:
  • fire department staff and management
  • municipal staff and management
  • municipal administrators
  • council
  • residents
  • business
  • industry
  • planning and co-ordinating agencies and organizations
  • provincial government ministries
  • county/district/regional organizations
  • other municipalities
  • Schematic diagram of the model: Optimizing Public Fire Safety highlighting Stage 3.
  • police
  • ambulance
  • other umbrella organizations:
  • firefighter associations (full time and volunteer)
  • AMO
  • OAFC
  • CAFC
  • Consultation with stakeholders during the development, assessment and operational impact of various options is necessary for three reasons.
  • First the review team will obtain expert advice on key elements of the various options.

Obtaining expert advice from all stakeholders ensures that all parties to the process:

  • fully appreciate why the process is being carried out
  • clearly understand the strategy, initiative or option that will be evaluated
  • participate in identifying potential evaluation questions or issues, and
  • help shape the options
  • Second, it will help ensure a surprise-free environment for all parties to the review process.

Ensuring a surprise-free environment is necessary for the review team facilitator(s) to create a receptive, productive environment for the option evaluation process. Except in extremely rare cases, stakeholders should be aware of the option evaluation process. Nothing is more damaging to such a process than to spring it on stakeholders. They will usually react suspiciously and defensively, see the process as an intrusion, find fault with it, and actively lobby to circumvent its recommendations.

  • Finally, the stakeholders will use the consultation as an opportunity to market the various options.

Marketing the various options and their potential is essential if it is expected that they will lead to program or service changes, particularly significant ones. Change is not an event, but a process, and usually a slow process, and conditions generally needs to be cultivated. Like a building, the foundation for change needs to be laid well in advance of its construction. Stakeholders must accept the need to change before it can occur. For the review team and its facilitator(s), creating this comfort level is an essential ingredient of success.

  • The review team and facilitator(s) usually consult with the stakeholders through established committees. Primary discussions between the facilitators and the stakeholders are usually conducted on an individual basis, with the committee acting as a clearinghouse. Facilitators, who almost always shun formal committees and attempt to consult by only using individual or team interviews, enjoy limited success. While individual consultation may provide a more direct and confidential input into the process, this practice has drawbacks. It often results in stakeholders seeing the process as the product and possession of the facilitator. Stakeholders often feel that they have not participated fully and equally in planning the study. And, there is the chance they can complain that the facilitators have filtered their concerns
  • This review process will result in alternatives for your existing fire protection services, and options and considerations for council's vision of the future of the fire service.
  • All options will be prioritized, assessed, costed where appropriate and clearly indicate the operational impact.
  • Then council will be in a position to make better informed decisions for creation of your master fire plan.

Stage 5:

Develop Master Fire Protection Plan

  • Master fire plans, properly introduced, are a valuable tool in identifying management options for providing desired fire protection levels to a community. Ultimately, a good plan will lead to a more fire safe community.
  • A master plan, pared to its essentials, presents the programs or projects, the costs, and the schedules for developing and maintaining the fire protection system that has been accepted and approved by council on behalf of the community, based on a price which the public can afford.
  • Master planning itself is not a new concept. Many municipalities are involved in the process with varying degrees of success.
  • Master planning for fire protection allows each community to determine the best allocation of resources to achieve an acceptable level of fire protection.
  • An appropriate plan can only be developed under the following conditions.
  • Schematic diagram of the model: Optimizing Public Fire Safety highlighting Stage 5.
  • The plan forms the basis for the fire protection budget, through identification and description of time-phased programs and projects to be implemented throughout the planning period.
  • The plan considers the following factors.

• The current and future fire protection environment by establishing and maintaining a comprehensive data base.

• The acceptable life and property risks by setting goals and objectives.

• The fire protection system that provides the level of service commensurate with the level of accepted risk.

• The funding required to implement the plan.

• The assignment of authority and responsibility.

• The procedures for carrying out and updating the plan.

• The master fire plan defines the community fire problem and provides the future direction of the delivery of fire protection services.

• The plan will require continuous updating to provide a current picture of the needs of the community.

• There are several benefits to developing a master fire plan.

  • Supports the risk management program by identifying programs and levels of service.
  • Improves public relations and promotes interest and direct involvement within the community.
  • Sets standards of service the fire department is capable of providing.
  • Potentially decreases costs, for fire protection and/or insurance coverage.
  • Contributes to a reduction in the number of fires, fire deaths, fire injuries and property loss.
  • Makes best use of available resources.

Defines by policy of council the types, level and quality of fire protection services to be provided to the community.

Stage 6:

Monitor, Evaluate & Revise


This stage of the municipal fire protection review process involves three parts:

  • Monitor
  • Evaluate
  • Revise
  • Just as the type and level of fire services provided are a municipal responsibility, so are the evaluation, monitoring and revision of such services a municipal responsibility.
  • They may, however, be subject to outside scrutiny.


  • The objectives of the municipality, as mirrored in the fire department master plan, are the starting point for any evaluation.
  • These objectives should be consistent with the review process mission statement and express what the process is to accomplish.
  • The objectives should be both specific and measurable.


  • The activities are the operational aspects of the identified objectives.
  • Activities should be logically related to objectives.
  • Immediate Outcomes are the effects that are expected to occur as a direct result of activities. These outcomes may include changes that affect people or processes. For example, an immediate outcome might be the improved delivery of a specific service.
  • Ultimate Outcomes include the larger societal level changes that are expected from the activities. An example would be an expected improvement in compliance with the Fire Code. Ultimate outcomes are often dependant on immediate outcomes. In this example, success might be dependent on providing an appropriate public education program.


  • Notwithstanding it is considered prudent for municipalities to monitor programs, services and activities, the Fire Protection and Prevention Act includes the following:
  • PART II (7) "The Fire Marshal may monitor and review the fire protection services provided by municipalities to ensure that municipalities have met their responsibilities under this section and, if the Fire Marshal is of the opinion that, as a result of a municipality failing to comply with its responsibilities under subsection (1), a serious threat to public safety exists in the municipality, he or she may make recommendations to the council of the municipality with respect to possible measures the municipality may take to remedy or reduce the threat to public safety." and,
  • PART III FIRE MARSHAL 9. (1) The Fire Marshal has the power, (a) to monitor, review and advise municipalities respecting the provision of fire protection services and to make recommendations to municipal councils for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the services.".
  • Program monitoring is a systematic attempt to measure both of the following:
  1. program effectiveness -- are the programs and services reaching their intended marks?, and
  • Program delivery -- does the service being provided match what was intended to be delivered?
    Program monitoring need not always be complicated and complex, as it often can be as simple as keeping track of the activities involved
  • Program monitoring concentrates on program service outputs rather than program outcomes


  • Programs adopted and implemented through the master fire plan should have built-in evaluation procedures
  • Evaluations are not simply the responsibility of municipal politicians and or administrators, but additionally, is an administrative function of the fire department.

Internal Evaluators

  • as employees of the fire department, internal evaluators have intimate knowledge of the department's policies, procedures, politics and people
  • they know both the formal and informal channels for communicating and accomplishing tasks.
  • this knowledge permits them to select methods that fit the unique situation of the department
  • internal evaluators long term commitment to the fire department can lend credibility to their efforts and help forge positive working relationships with managers and staff
  • they can build trust over time that helps reduce the anxiety normally associated with evaluation activities
  • because they are employees, internal evaluators are available as an on going corporate resource
  • this puts internal evaluators in an excellent position to communicate relevant information in a timely fashion
  • it also permits internal evaluators to participate actively in long-range planning by making crucial evaluative information available for strategic planning and policy decisions
  • it affords internal evaluators the opportunity to consult with and provide information to various management levels within the organization, enabling them to enhance the utilization of evaluation information
  • internal evaluators are often responsible for correcting problems and advocating change rather than only identifying difficulties and making recommendations
  • the focus of internal evaluation often includes not only program outcomes and processes, but also the factors that influence program performance, such as structure, operations and management
  • the use of internal evaluators, some of whom could conceivably be part of the problem, then can become part of the solution

External Evaluators

  • are usually perceived as being more objective because they are not fire department employees and are therefore not subject to all of the pressures of organizational life
  • Internal evaluators now often work in partnership with external evaluators to obtain the external evaluators' specialized skill and objectivity while retaining the internal evaluators' knowledge of the department
  • All evaluators, whether internal or external, have their biases.


  • Consider the benefits and results of the foregoing monitoring and evaluation processes to assist in determining if any revisions are necessary.
  • Some of the principal benefits are:
  • any gap between goals and performance
  • cost effectiveness and efficiency of the program/service
  • how is the program operating/functioning?
  • issues that could jeopardize the program/service
  • program/services strengths
  • program/services weaknesses
  • to what extent are the citizens being served
  • whether desired and/or undesired outcomes have taken place
  • This information is useful for:

• clarifying the mission, purpose and goals

• describing the programs and services

• facilitating the refinement and modification of program or service activities

• fulfilling accountability requirements

• guiding allocation of resources and personnel

• maintaining quality of services and programs

• program decision making, such as continue, cancel, cut back, change, expand

• setting priorities

• weighing costs and benefits of alternatives

Stage 7:

Performance Measures


  • The purpose of this section of the guideline is to assist in developing and using performance measures.
  • The guide answers the following questions:
  • What are performance measures?
  • How can they be used
  • What is the best way of doing this?
  • Where does one start?


  • Data and information collected and used by managers in the public sector usually pertain to inputs, outputs and processes.
  • Examples of these measures are as follows:


Amount of money spent on training
Number of staff assigned to fire prevention
Number of staff assigned to training


Number of firefighters at O.F.C.
Number of days to complete a project
Length of time to conduct an inspection


Number of training manuals produced
Number of inspections completed
Number of plans reviewed
Number of emergency responses

  • Many managers judge their effectiveness by counting and tabulating these inputs, processes and outputs.
  • These are measurements of the process rather than the measurement of performance
  • They measure what was done, rather than the impact of the action.

Without meaningful performance measures that directly link the impact of your actions to clear goals and objectives, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to provide a sound and supportable justification for the continued existence of your program or service

Goals and Objectives:

  • It is imperative that there is a clearly stated goal and objective for every program, service, and activity.
  • Once the goals are clarified in a meaningful way, specific objectives can then be made to operationalize the program.
  • For example, the vague goal of improved fire safety can be made more meaningful and specific as follows:
  • "Increased number of working smoke alarms in the home"
  • With the goal specifically defined, it provides direction and guidance as to what objectives must be achieved in order to reach this goal. For example:


Increased number of working smoke alarms in the home


Public awareness of the value of smoke alarms through media advertising
Promotional campaign as part of Fire Prevention Week
Provide quality smoke alarms to the public at a reduced price

Measuring Performance

  • There is merit in linking the results of programs, services and activities to clearly defined objectives.
  • It is not sufficient that the goal be achieved; it is necessary to show that the activities of the program were responsible for the achievement of the goal by establishing cause and effect.
  • The key questions to determine the impact of actions are:

Do you have the resources to achieve the goal?
Why are you doing this?
Are you achieving what you are supposed to be doing?
How do you know? "

  • Managers must develop meaningful performance measures and report on their success by measuring performance.
  • Decisions on program direction can then be made based on this information

What are Performance Measures?

  • The quantitative and qualitative measures which assess the effectiveness and efficiency of a product, service or process
  • They are the key indicators of success.
  • Performance measures generally fall into six primary categories:

• Time

• Effectiveness

• Quality

• Efficiency

• Costs and

• Productivity Safety
To clarify these six categories of performance measures, each is defined on the following page.
Time :

• Time it takes to complete a process (cycle time) or deliver a service or product

• Effectiveness: Doing the right things, meeting corporate objectives and strategic directions

• Quality: A measure of the extent to which a thing or experience (service) meets a need, solves a problem or adds value for someone (client, stakeholder, taxpayer)

• Efficiency: Outputs relative to inputs; doing things right every time

• Costs & Productivity: Cost to provide a product or service; the relationships among costs, inputs and outputs

• Safety: The extent to which important assets (personnel, property, records) are safeguarded so that the organization is protected from danger of losses that could threaten its success, credibility, continuity, etc.


Why do you use performance measures?

  • To demonstrate success
  • To identify problems
  • To evaluate goal achievement
  • To determine whether or not there is performance improvement

Codes, Standards and Best Practices

Codes, Standards and Best Practices available to assist in establishing local policy on the delivery of this service are listed below. All are available at Please feel free to copy and distribute this document. We ask that the document not be altered in any way, that the Office of the Fire Marshal be credited and that the documents be used for non-commercial purposes only.
See also
02-04-01 & 23 Capabilities of Existing Fire Protection Services
02-03-01 Economic Circumstances
02-02-12 & 03 Fire Risk Assessment
03-01-13 Preparation of Draft Report
04-39-12 Fire Prevention Effectiveness Model