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What You`re Telling Us: 2014-15 IAFC Member and Leadership Survey

The IAFC issued a strategic direction survey in late December/early January and a total of 595 members and 97 IAFC leaders responded. The information helped the board of directors revise the IAFC Strategic Direction document in late January. Here are some key findings.


  • 87% of members and 92% of leadership have 20+ years of fire service experience.
  • 56% of responding members are fire chiefs, 31% chief officers, 6% company officers; among leadership, 69% are fire chiefs and 20% chief officers.
  • Among members, 47% are with career departments, 39% combination and 11% volunteer; for leadership 47% are with career departments, 44% combination and 4% volunteer.

Firefighter Safety

  • Most members (50%) say the IAFC should focus its efforts foremost on behavioral change, followed by expanded safety training programs (40%) and additional research on using new technologies to improve safety (36%). Among leadership, 53% ranked behavioral change first, followed by additional research (41%) and expanded safety training (31%).

Officer Development

  • Members ranked a “very high” need for leadership training for company officers (64%) and chief officers (52%).
  • 52% of members thought it “extremely valuable” for the IAFC to offer officer development training through regional, in-person events; 47% for online training. Among leadership, 46% ranked regional training as extremely valuable; 36% for online training.

Image of Fire Service

  • 50% of members (51% of leadership) felt the IAFC should focus on the fire service image at all levels (regional/state/global); 26% of members said the focus should be on a combination of regional/state (24% leadership).
  • In the open-ended question on this topic, both general membership and leadership say that the fire service cannot rely on the “hero” image any longer.

Succession Planning

  • Only 22% of members reported that their department has a formal succession plan (28% of leadership).
  • The need for succession planning for chief officers was identified as most critical – 57% among members (66% of leadership reported the same need).

Community Relevance

  • 45% of members say their departments have a community engagement/outreach plan (63% of leadership).
  • Only 30% of members say their departments regularly conduct citizen satisfaction surveys (41% of leadership).
  • 51% use a data management system with GIS to assist in reviewing incidents to determine needs and gaps (58% of leadership).

Budgeting and Funding

  • Within the organization, members say chief officers are the most frequent contributor to the budget process (92%).
  • 70% of members say having a budget template specific to the fire service would help them in determining budget needs.

Fire Prevention

  • 86% of members report their department has a formal fire prevention plan.
  • 79% of members want to see the IAFC be a clearinghouse of best practices on this issue: (88% of leadership)

Other Challenges

  • Even though budget matters were addressed earlier in the survey, the general membership group often sited money concerns in the other challenges faced open-ended question (Q30).
  • Members want help with grants. This includes finding grants and assistance writing grant applications. The importance of training is often promoted, but there is little funding to seek additional training.
  • While the leadership group is also concerned about money, their responses to this question more often cited forward-looking matters such as recruitment and retention, generation gaps, emerging technologies passing them by, and coping with long-term job stress.
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