A majority of fire departments call on neighboring communities to help them fight fires, most often because they need more firefighters. Another significant reason is for specialized equipment.
Those are among the findings of a survey of fire chiefs conducted by Opinion Research Corporation (ORC) of Princeton, N.J., and commissioned by ISO, which evaluates fire protection in more than 46,000 fire districts in the United States.
More than half the chiefs in the survey, 54 percent, said their departments always or almost always ask neighboring departments to respond to initial alarms for structure fires.
Among the chiefs who call on neighboring departments on the first alarm, 74 percent said their primary reason is the need for more responders, while 29 percent rated their need for specialized apparatus or equipment as very significant. Another factor cited as very significant by 25 percent of those chiefs is the fact that a neighboring fire station is closer to the response area than any station in their own district.
The findings, according to ISO, are based on a random sample of 500 chiefs and other ranking fire department officials representing jurisdictions of all sizes across the country. The margin of error was put at plus or minus four percentage points.
“The survey helps ISO, along with property/casualty insurance companies and the firefighting community, gain further insights into key issues,” said Mike Waters, ISO’s vice president of risk decision services. “We hope the results of the study will highlight the critical challenges facing fire chiefs as they manage their limited resources.”
Nearly all of the chiefs who responded to the survey – 98 percent – indicated their departments have the capacity to communicate by radio directly with fire departments of neighboring communities, according to ISO. Most said they can also communicate directly with local emergency medical services – 95 percent – and local police – 84 percent.
“This positive finding shows that local interoperability, the ability to connect emergency responders, is on the rise,” said Robert W. Cobb, ISO’s director of community hazard mitigation.