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The Guts to Go Green: Environmental Sustainability in the Fire and Emergency Service

November 1, 2010

IAFC On Scene: November 1, 2010



The growing Green Movement is challenging community leaders around the world to reduce their impact, or “footprint,” on the environment.

The fire and emergency service isn’t exempt from this responsibility; serving our community includes reducing the potential negative impact of our future buildings, equipment and practices.

Where Do You Start?

To date, there is very little expertise, information and support for local chiefs wishing to develop environmentally friendly services and technologies. To meet this challenge and help lead the Green Movement, the IAFC has established the Environmental Sustainability Committee.

The committee is made up of chief officers from around the United States who will examine a typical fire agency and determine appropriate areas to target for evaluation and inclusion in the Green movement.

At Fire-Rescue International in Chicago, the committee outlined its work plan and reported on several initiatives to help departments implement green practices. These included both new and retrofit options for station and building construction, vehicle operations during normal and emergency events, emergency-scene management and hazardous run-off, and the financial impact of green initiatives, including best practices.

Comments from the audience at FRI included a need to communicate experiences from fire agencies throughout the country. To answer this need, the Environmental Sustainability Committee will collect both positive and negative experiences associated with going green. This information will be captured and reported on the committee's forthcoming website.

Committee Chair Mike Duyck, fire chief of Tualatin Valley (Ore.) Fire and Rescue, envisions an online resource for fire chiefs that also helps with the purchasing and implementation process. “This is new territory for many departments, and experiments and experiences should be captured for other fire chiefs to learn from.”

Duyck added, “This online resource will help departments make thoughtful decisions about the operational and financial impacts of going green.”

A Few Examples

The first step in going green can include simple procedures and practices. Building features such as sensor-controlled lighting that turns off when everyone has left the room can make an enormous impact.

Larger projects, such as building a new fire station or the complete retrofit of an existing location, must weigh the cost benefit of green technology. Were you aware that the simple orientation of the building can make a dramatic impact on the future cost of utilities as well as improve comfort for personnel? Some issues can be cost neutral when included in the initial plans.

Emergency-response deployment is another area in which a department can go green and derive cost savings. Chief Duyck’s department recently added a car to its deployment. This single-person, 40-hour-a-week unit provides response to the lowest acuity calls, thereby keeping its traditional units (engine, truck) available for the more critical emergencies. The new unit provides fuel, maintenance and staffing cost savings.

We Need Your Input

The IAFC’s Environmental Sustainability Committee is now calling for your experiences and ideas for its website, currently in production, so others may benefit. Let’s help each other in our journey to becoming more green. Send your information to the committee’s staff liaison Lucian Deaton.

Members of the IAFC Environmental Sustainability Committee wrote this article; Lucian Deaton is the IAFC staff liaison to the committee.