Thursday, May 14, 2009

Vacant Buildings Fire Report: and Other Issues

The NFPA recently published thier Vacant Buildings Fire Report issued by the Fire Analysis and Research Division. From the Executive Summary, Fires in vacant buildings have become a matter of increasing concern as the economy has weakened. In 2003-2006, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 31,000 structure fires in vacant buildings per year.

These fires resulted in an average of 50 civilian deaths, 141 civilian injuries, and $642 million in direct property damage per year.

Based on annual averages for 2003-2006, the 31,000 reported vacant structure fires accounted for 6% of the 520,100 structure fires, 2% of the 3,125 civilian structure fire deaths, 1% of the 15,200 civilian structure fire injuries, and 7% of the $9.0 billion in direct property loss. These statistics are national estimates of fires reported to U.S. municipal fire departments based on the detailed information collected in Version 5.0 of the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS 5.0) and the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA’s) annual fire department experience survey. Take the time to look over the Full Executive Summary and NFPA report on the web site HERE

Start thinking about your policies and procedures related to vacant or unoccupied structures. It's NOT business as usually in these continuing times of economic hardships and flux. It beckons and reflects to the fire service demands of the late 1970’s and the mid 1980’s. I previously discussed issues surrounding Vacant or Unoccupied Structures: Is it Business as Usual? HERE.

As the escalating adverse trend continues, and more and more buildings become vacant and unoccupied, now is the time to focus greater attention on adequate risk assessments and effective strategic size-up with firefighter safety considerations remaining clear and distinguished.

There may be a lot of reasons why a vacant building turns into a structure fire, that ultimately involves our services; don’t let that contribute to an undesired injury or worst. Start looking over the emerging or self-revealing patterns of business or building vacancies, begin pre-planning and refining your strategic and tactical protocols. Remember: Bk = f2S , Building Knowledge = Firefighter Safety.

The NFPA provides the following additional information: InterFire has a number of resources related to vacant building fires and fire prevention on its website at http://www.interfire.org/features/vacantbuildings.asp, including a draft ordinance to address blight. The best way to prevent vacant building fires is to prevent vacant buildings.

The National Vacant Properties Campaign’s website
http://vacantproperties.org/strategies/tools.html describes a number of strategies to address the problem of vacant properties and provides examples of how these strategies have been used.
Based on the findings of the Urban Fire Safety Project, NFPA recommends that local fire departments and the national fire service partner with financial institutions and other organizations to prevent home foreclosures and home abandonment.

Vacant building arson is also addressed in the Arson Prevention PowerPoint Presentation developed by NFPA and Columbus Division of Fire. The presentation, intended for use by local fire departments and community organizations is available at http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files/PDF/Public%20Education/NFPAarsonpresentation.ppt.
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