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Needs Assessment of US Fire Service

This Fifth Fire Service Needs Assessment Survey was conducted by NFPA beginning in 2020 and concluding in 2021. It follows earlier surveys completed in 2001, 2005, 2010, and 2015. A total of 2,969 fire departments responded to the survey, with approximately 75 percent responding online and 25 percent filling out the paper version. Overall, the response rate was 11 percent, ranging from a 7 percent response from fire departments protecting populations of less than 2,500 to a 39 percent response from fire departments protecting populations of 500,000 or more. The previous Needs Assessment report included additional state-level reporting. NFPA will be working in the coming months to produce these types of reports for selected states.

This report shows that while some fire service needs have been declining, many have remained constant or increased. Fire service needs exist for departments of all sizes and in every area, including staffing, training and certification, facilities, apparatus, personal protective equipment (PPE); and health and wellness. In general, the smaller the community protected, the greater the need.

Report highlights

  • More than half of departments have unmet need for training in structural firefighting.
  • Smaller departments are more likely to be responsible for traffic control, and there is a lot of unmet need for training in this area.
  • Most fire departments (87 percent) are responsible for wildland and WUI firefighting, particularly larger and smaller departments.
  • Overall, 78 percent of the departments that perform wildland and WUI firefighting operations have unmet training needs, and these needs are more pronounced in smaller departments.
  • One-fifth (21 percent) of departments neither test nor inspect their personal protective ensembles each year, and only 13 percent both inspect and test their ensembles.
  • Most fire departments (77 percent) engage in fire prevention (preparedness and mitigation) activities, but only 37 percent are responsible for code enforcement.
  • Nearly half (44 percent) of fire stations in the departments surveyed are over 40 years old.
  • More than half (52 percent) of fire stations do not have separate or private facilities for men and women.
  • More than half (56 percent) of fire stations do not have exhaust emission control.
  • The proportion of older fire stations has grown, but some progress has been made in equipping fire stations with backup power. However, the percentage of fire stations with exhaust emissions control has remained stagnant since 2015.
  • Since 2015, most departments have seen flat staffing levels across various roles.
  • Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of all fire departments in the United States do not have a behavioral health program. Larger departments are much more likely to have these programs, while only 14 percent of the smallest departments have behavioral health programs.

Interactive survey results

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