Report: Firefighters need more training

QUINCY, Mass. - The New England-based National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) last week released a study that looks at the current needs of America's fire departments as compared to those identified in assessments done in 2001 and 2005.

The goal of the project was to identify major gaps in the needs of the U.S. fire service and to determine if the Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency's (DHS/FEMA) Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) programs are continuing to reduce the needs of fire departments.

The report looks at personnel and their capabilities, including staffing, training, certification, and wellness/fitness, facilities and apparatus, personal protective equipment, fire prevention and code enforcement, the ability to handle unusually challenging incidents, and communications and new technologies.

Selected study findings:

Nearly half (46 percent) of all fire departments that are responsible for structural firefighting have not formally trained all their personnel involved in structural firefighting, down from 55 percent in 2001 and 53 percent in 2005.

Seven out of ten (70 percent) fire departments have no program to maintain basic firefighter fitness and health, down from 80 percent in 2001 and 76 percent in 2005.

Nearly half (46 percent) of all fire department engines and pumpers were at least 15 years old, down from 51 percent in 2001 and 50 percent in 2005.

Half (51 percent) of all fire departments cannot equip all firefighters on a shift with self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), down from 70 percent in 2001 and 60 percent in 2005.

Two out of five (39 percent) fire departments do not have enough personal alert safety system devices to equip all emergency responders on a shift, down from 62% in 2001 and 48 percent in 2005.

Most communities do not assign at least four career firefighters to an engine or pumper and so are probably not in compliance with NFPA 1710, Standard for the Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Career Fire Departments. The rule requires a minimum of four firefighters on an engine or pumper.

The full report can be viewed at www.nfpa.org\Needsassessment.

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