Fire department risk-assessment program previewed

The Vulnerability Assessment Program will allow fire departments to assess levels of risk to firefighters

TAMPA, Fla. — The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation used its Tampa 2 summit to give a sneak preview a new online program for fire departments to assess and address their risks.

The Vulnerability Assessment Program was four years in the making and funded by a combination of federal money and private donations from Gore and Honeywell — $500,000 in Honeywell's case.

The free, web-based program walks fire departments through a list of questions; subsequent questions are offered based on previous questions' answers. Once completed, the program develops a report that identifies the department's risks and categorizes those into either high, medium or low risks.

VAP is still in beta testing and is expected to be ready for the fire service this spring.

Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran came up with the idea when he was U.S. fire administrator. Cochran said the goal was to adapt successful risk-assessment systems, such as predicting natural disasters, for the fire service.

The data entered by fire departments will help build both national and local strategic plans to reduce firefighter deaths and injuries.

The system is secured by password to allow each department using VAP to set its own privacy level and decide who has access to the report. The fire chief can also assign who within the department has access to the report.

Once the report is built, it can be modified as improvements are made, which will generate a new risk assessment.

Cochran said that having such a plan will arm fire chiefs the data to justify equipment and staffing needs and give them the ability to show that everything was done to keep firefighters safe in the event of a death or injury.

Cochran said that VAP was so valuable that it would make sense to have its completion a condition of receiving federal grant money.

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