Research Agenda Symposium Report Issued

The Second National Fire Service Research Agenda Symposium

A new report identifies seven critical areas where more research is needed to further reduce the number of firefighters killed or injured in the line of duty. These priorities were developed during the Second National Fire Service Research Agenda Symposium sponsored by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF).

Download the 2011 Report: May 20 – 22, 2011 – 2nd Research Agenda Symposium

More than 70 representatives from a broad range of fire service-related organizations met over two days at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Their goal, to update the current Research Agenda, a guide for research projects within the fire service.

In doing so the following seven areas were identified as research priorities: Community Risk Reduction; Wildland Firefighting; Data Collection; Technology and Fire Service Science; Firefighter Health and Wellness; Emergency Service Delivery; and Tools and Equipment.

More than 70 representatives from a broad range of fire service-related organizations participated


The 2nd National Fire Service Research Agenda

The Second National Fire Service Research Agenda Symposium was conducted on May 20 -22, 2011 and was also hosted by NFFF at the NFA campus in Emmitsburg, MD. The project was funded by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. The purpose of the second Symposium was to produce an updated edition of the Research Agenda, based on current relevancy, as a guide for future research efforts. Following the model that had been established six years earlier, more than 70 individuals, representing a diverse range of interests participated in the 2011 Symposium.

The participants (who represented 55 different organizations) were asked to self-determine where they would best be able to lend the greatest expertise and guidance, selecting among seven different discussion groups.

Each group was assigned a range of subject matter as their primary area to focus upon; however, it was recognized that the individual domains were broad and the boundaries could not be precisely defined. The groups were encouraged to approach their task with a broad perspective and to seek broad consensus as opposed to narrowly defined priorities. Each group produced a set of recommendations that were reported back to the full assembly for further discussion.

The research areas and the facilitators assigned to each research domain are listed below. The facilitators were chosen based upon their reputations as leaders in their respective areas. They provided leadership for discussion within their groups, and wrote the reports. Kevin Roche of the Phoenix Fire Department was the general facilitator.

  • Community Risk Reduction (Vickie Pritchett, Shane Ray)
  • Wildland Firefighting (Stan Gibson, Nelson Bryner)
  • Data Collection (Lori Moore-Merrell, DrPH)
  • Technology & Fire Service Science (Gavin Horn, PhD, Daniel Madrzykowski)
  • Firefighter Health and Wellness (Murrey Loflin, Sara Jahnke, PhD)
  • Emergency Service Delivery (Christopher Naum, Victor Stagnaro)
  • Tools and Equipment (Bruce Varner, Robert Tutterow)

Participants were divided into discussion groups based on their expertise within one of the seven areas to develop specific research recommendations for each of the topics. Out of this process came 41 recommendations for potential investigation projects.

“The first Research Agenda Symposium was an outcome of Firefighter Life Safety Initiative #7 which directly links a national research agenda and data collection system to firefighter safety,” said Ronald J. Siarnicki, executive director of the NFFF. “The second symposium was convened to assess the changes and advances that had occurred within the fire service over the previous six year and identify new needs and priorities for potential study.”

The updated Research Agenda is intended to provide a reference source and a starting point on where to direct efforts and funding.

The Symposium planning team asked each group to develop a maximum of ten recommendations for presentation to the plenary session on Sunday morning. The groups were also asked to keep their recommendations broad enough so they could be approached from a number of research perspectives and to include the rationale for recommending those particular subjects as research priorities. This proved to be an efficient process reflecting the high level of expertise represented in each group.

The Sunday session began with a discussion of grant programs and funding sources, led by AFG Branch Chief Cathie Patterson. The recommendations of the seven discussion groups were then presented by the respective facilitators for discussion by the full assembly. All of the 41 recommendations that were presented to the plenary session are included in the 2011 Research Agenda report.

The 2011 edition incorporates one significant departure from the 2005 Research Agenda report; the overall ranking of projects on a Priority 1-2-3 scale was omitted and only the priorities established within the individual discussion groups are included. This decision reflects a consensus of the assembled participants that it is extremely difficult and probably unrealistic to apply this type of prioritization process across such a wide range of subject areas.

There was also concern that a 1-2-3 prioritization might encourage researchers and funding organizations to limit their attention to only the highest priorities and thus to overlook the lower ranked topics. The participants wanted to emphasize that all of the identified projects merit attention and should be considered on their own merits. After considerable discussion the group voted to set aside the overall 1-2-3 ranking and asked each group identify one project that should be recognized as an immediate concern.

The number one recommendations are:

  • Community Risk Reduction: Creation of a community-scale model that evaluates fire prevention and response programs and quantifies their ability to produce a potentially positive outcome. This may include (but is not limited to) data pertaining to: occupancy types and numbers of each, fire prevention, codes adoption, mitigation, response, and recovery.
  • Wildland: Development of safe and reliable aircraft operations for suppression and team transportation to reduce Wildland firefighting injuries and fatalities.
  • Data Collection: Identification of cultural perception of data collection / Identification of barriers to capture of quality data.
  • Technology and Fire Service Science: Development of data, implementation of transfer mechanisms and updating of standards that will enable firefighters to learn the science and utilize the technology required to respond to the changing fire conditions in our modern built environment.
  • Health and Wellness: Effectiveness of intervention and screening for health and disease related to firefighter wellness and fitness.
  • Service Delivery: Development of a scientifically-based community risk assessment tool.
  • Tools and Equipment: Assessment of current PPE (entire ensemble) performance, functionality and related safety features for today’s fire environment.

Ultimately, the 41 recommendations contained in this report should serve as a roadmap for all researchers and applied scientists who are interested in firefighter safety and survivability. These recommendations must not be limited for use as AFG guidance only, but should serve as a guidance tool for all who seek grants within their various disciplines. It is also hoped that with these recommendations in hand, other potential research sponsors can be identified and successfully petitioned.

The Report of the Second National Fire Service Research Agenda Symposium is available through the website.

A comments section has been added to the site to collect recommendations for future research from members of the fire service.


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