OFM - 01-02-01

Comprehensive Fire Safety Effectiveness Model Considerations

Public Fire Safety Guidelines

Subject Coding

PFSG 01-02-01

Section

General

Date

January 1998

Subject

Comprehensive Fire Safety Effectiveness Model Considerations

Page

Under Review

Comprehensive Fire Safety Effectiveness Model Considerations For Fire Protection & Prevention In Your Community

Fire Protection & Prevention In Your Community

Every day, local elected leaders, managers and fire chiefs are faced with decisions relating to the provision of fire and other related emergency services for their community. Now, more than ever there are constant pressures of doing "more with less". Many government officials are hard-pressed to justify any increase in expenditures unless they can be attributed directly to improved or expanded service delivery in the community. This effort has often been hampered by the lack of criteria by which a community can determine the level and quality of fire and other related emergency services it provides to its residents. The Comprehensive Fire Safety Effectiveness Model is a document which can assist communities in evaluating their level of fire safety.

The provision of fire protection in Ontario is a municipal responsibility. The level and amount of fire protection provided is determined by the residents of the community through decisions made by and support provided by the local municipal council. Due to a wide variety of factors, the Ontario fire service finds itself in a period of change. Increased community expectations coupled with reduced financial resources are forcing all communities to critically assess their fire protection needs and to develop new and innovative ways of providing the most cost effective level of service. A refocus on fire protection priorities is providing progressive fire departments and communities throughout Ontario with an exciting opportunity to enhance community fire safety. There is more to providing fire protection than trucks, stations, firefighters and equipment.

The Office of the Fire Marshal has developed the Comprehensive Fire Safety Effectiveness Model which can be used as a basis for evaluating fire safety effectiveness in your community. This model looks at community fire protection as the sum of eight key components, all of which impact on the fire safety of the community. Deficiencies in one of the components can be offset by enhancements in another component or components.

Community Master Fire Protection Plan

Every fire department should be guided by a master or strategic plan. This Community Master Fire Protection Plan traditionally focused on the identification of fire hazards and planning an appropriate suppression force response. Today, hazard or risk assessment has expanded well beyond the fire problem in the community to include emergency medical incidents, hazardous materials incidents and many other emergency situations. Paradigms are being shifted to emphasize the concept of fire prevention and control systems as communities attempt to effectively reduce losses experienced. This document should include plans for human resources and program financial support as well as the many external influences that impact on the fire service. The information contained with the Community Master Fire Protection Plan should provide a clear and concise overview of the most recently adopted organizational goals and objectives, budgetary commitments, mission statements and assessments of organizational activity. The document should cover a long range planning period of five to ten years.

This chart shows each of the factors which make up the comprehensive model. Although the chart is divided equally, each factor will in reality contribute differently to the total level of protection provided to a community.

This chart shows each of the factors which make up the comprehensive model. Although the chart is divided equally, each factor will in reality contribute differently to the total level of protection provided to a community.

This chart shows how the comprehensive model can be applied to a typical fire department. The "gap" depicts the difference between the existing level of protection and the ideal.


Chart 2

This chart shows how the "gap" can be reduced by strengthening a number of factors in order to increase the overall level of protection provided to the community.

This chart shows how the "gap" can be reduced by strengthening a number of factors in order to increase the overall level of protection provided to the community.

It is critical that the fire department be guided by a written philosophy, general goals and specific objectives which are consistent with the legal mission of the department and are appropriate for the community it serves. These should all be integral components of the Community Master Fire Protection Plan.

Application of the Comprehensive Fire Safety Effectiveness Model will enable municipalities to make informed choices by providing an objective and innovative approach to public fire protection - a new way of thinking. Communities are able to determine if the level of service provided matches the risk in the community.

  1. Impact Of Fire:

The impact of fire in any community can be significant with far reaching consequences. Not only do fires result in deaths and personal injuries but they also cause substantial property and environmental loss. Often overlooked are factors such as the historical value of unique local properties as well as the potential for lost tax assessment. There are many communities in Ontario where the loss of a particular occupancy will have a serious impact on the local economy. Involvement in fire often has a negative psychological impact on those affected.

Every community should carefully assess the total impact of fire. This assessment should be used as a basis for a Community Master Fire Protection Plan that addresses all areas of community fire safety including fire prevention and life safety as well as the delivery of suppression and rescue services.

  • Does your community have a property whose loss would result in a significant financial burden to the community?
  • Does your community have a property whose loss would result in a significant impact of local employment?
  • Does your community have a property which if involved in fire would pose a significant environment risk?
  • Does the master fire protection plan adequately consider the impact of a major fire?
  1. Fire Prevention Program Effectiveness:
  • Perhaps the most important component of and community's fire protection services is the effectiveness of it's fire prevention program. Legislation, regulations and standards pertaining to fire safety focus primarily on fire prevention. Enforcement of these codes is one of the most effective ways of reducing the loss of life and property due to fire. In addition, public fire safety education programs have the potential to substantially reduce the loss of life and property due to fire.

Every community should strive to provide an adequate, effective and efficient program directed toward fire prevention, life safety, risk reduction of hazards, the detection, reporting of fire and other emergencies, the provision of occupant safety and exiting and the provisions for first aid firefighting equipment.

  • Does your community have a fire prevention and public education policy that adequately addresses:
  • inspections?
  • public education?
  • code enforcement?
  • investigation?
  • Does your community provide inspections upon request?
  • Does the fire department respond to complaints?
  • Does your community's fire prevention program address public life safety in structures from pre-construction planning until demolition through application of the Building Code and Fire Code?
  1. Public Attitude:

North Americans tend to be more complacent about fires and the resulting losses than other parts of the industrialized world. Communities often accept the consequences of fire and provide community support. Comprehensive insurance packages are available to mitigate damages.

Communities need to assess the resident's attitudes toward fire to determine what role it plays in determining the extent of fire losses. Properly designed public fire safety education programs will significantly improve public attitudes toward the prevention of fire. This will result in lower fire losses.

Every community should assess public attitudes toward fire and life safety issues. This assessment should be used to develop and deliver public fire safety education programs to enhance community fire safety.

  • Do the residents of your community demonstrate an interest in public fire safety?
  • Is there a general awareness of fire safety in your community?
  • Is there a sense of personal responsibility for one's own safety within the community?
  1. Fire Risk:

The characteristics of your community affect the level of fire risk that needs to be protected against. Older buildings pose a different set of problems than newer buildings constructed to current construction codes. High rise, commercial and industrial occupancies each present unique factors which must be considered. Construction, occupancy type, water supply, exposure risks, furnishings and the risk which the combination of these factors pose to the occupants must be assessed. The presence of effective built-in suppression and/or protection measures can reduce the fire risk.

36% of all structural fire alarms and 46% of all structural fire deaths in Ontario during the period 1990-1994 occurred in single family, detached, residential occupancies.

Every community should carefully assess its fire risk. The results of this risk assessment should be used as a basis for determining the level, type and amount of fire protection provided and should be a critical factor in the development of the community master fire protection plan.

  • Has your community assessed the fire risk?
  • Does your community have a master fire protection plan which takes into account the results of your fire risk analysis?
  • Has the fire department identified all the possible actions it could take to reduce the number of fire incidents that occur in the community?
  • Does your community planning process consider the impact of new developments and industries on the fire department?
  1. Detection Capabilities:

The presence of early warning detection capabilities notifies occupants and allows them sufficient time to escape. It also allows for earlier notification of the fire department. Communities who encourage the widespread use of early warning detection systems have the potential of significantly reducing notification time, which, when coupled with effective fire department suppression, results in a corresponding reduction of loss of life, injuries and damage to property from fire.

Every community should develop and implement programs that promote the use of early warning detection systems in all occupancies. These programs should be a fire protection priority.

  • Does your community have a program to ensure that all occupancies are provided with adequate early warning detection devices?
  • Does your community have a program to ensure that residents are familiar with the importance and proper maintenance of early warning detection devices?
  • Does your community promote the use of direct connect early warning detection devices in residential as well as commercial, industrial and assembly occupancies.
  1. Built-In Suppression Capabilities:

Traditionally, the use of built-in suppression has been limited to fixed fire protection systems associated with assembly, commercial, industrial and manufacturing occupancies. Application of this concept has been limited in the residential environment. These systems, particularly the use of automatic sprinkler systems play an important role in minimizing the effects of fire by controlling its spread and growth. This enables the fire department to extinguish the fire more quickly and easily.

Although effective in newer buildings, it is often difficult if not impossible to provide for built-in suppression systems that effectively control fires in wall cavities and concealed spaces associated with certain older types of construction or reconstruction.

The use of built-in suppression systems should be a fire safety priority in all communities. Programs should be developed and delivered that promote the advantages of built-in suppression systems for residential, commercial, industrial and assembly occupancies.

  • Does your community promote the use of built-in suppression devices in all types of occupancies  
  • residential?
  • commercial?
  • industrial?
  • assembly?
  • institutional?
  • Does your community consider built-in suppression devices and early warning detection as an alternative to traditional concepts of fire protection?
  1. Intervention Time:

This is the time from ignition until effective firefighting streams can be applied to the fire. There are many factors influencing this component of the model:

  • the time required to detect the fire
  • notification time from the public
  • notification time to the firefighters
  • preparation time for the firefighters to leave the station
  • the distance between the fire station and the response location
  • the layout of the community
  • impediments such as weather, construction, traffic jams, lack of roads, etc.
  • set-up time

Fire department intervention time is crucial in determining the consequences of a fire in terms of deaths, injuries and loss of property and damage to the environment. Effective fire prevention and public education programs can reduce intervention time which will result in increased fire department effectiveness.

Time/Temperature Relationship

Every community should develop and implement a range of programs and initiatives that reduce intervention time. These programs and initiatives should address all aspects of intervention time from the time required to detect the fire to the set-up time of the fire department. 

  • Are all occupancies in your community equipped with suitable smoke alarms and provided with fire emergency escape plans?
  • Do all residents in your community know how to report a fire or other emergency?
  • Does your community have a common fire emergency reporting number?
  • Is the fire department dispatched by an appropriate dispatch facility?
  • Does the community's master fire protection plan consider the different turn-out times for volunteer and/or full-time firefighters?
  • Has the department instituted an appropriate fire department training and education program?
  • Are all structures within the community clearly identified using an accepted numbering system?
  • Has the department instituted a policy of having the closest fire department respond even though that fire department may be from another municipality?

8. Fireground Effectiveness:

The fireground effectiveness of the fire department has a wide range of benefits for your community. Not only does the fire department's performance affect the degree of damage to the environment and property, it also has a direct relationship to personal injury and death from fire. Many factors influence the effectiveness of any fire department. Included in these factors are:

  • fire department organization
  • community support of fire department
  • firefighter availability
  • firefighter and fire officer training
  • adequate resources which are properly maintained
  • time effective response to emergency incidents

The fire department should strive to provide an adequate, effective and efficient fire suppression program designed to control/extinguish fires for the purpose of protecting people from injury, death or property loss.

  • Does your fire department have a comprehensive training program and evaluation system for all positions?
  • Does the fire department have a system to ensure that an adequate number of trained personnel respond to all emergencies within a reasonable time period?
  • Is your fire department provided with adequate resources to safely and effectively handle the risks it will be called upon to mitigate?
  • Does the fire department use standard operating guidelines to define expected fire department actions for the wide variety of situations it might encounter?
  • Does your fire department have automatic response agreements to guarantee an adequate level of personnel at all times?

The answers to the questions in this document will provide you with some indication of the level of fire safety in your community, however this is only the start. Application of the OFM Comprehensive Fire Safety Effectiveness Model will permit you to develop a plan for the safe, effective and economical delivery of fire protection services in your community.

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.

Further assistance is available from your local OFM representative