Study Proves Four-Person Fire Crews Faster

The first study to quantify the effects of crew sizes and arrival times on lifesaving and firefighting operations, it was conducted by NIST with help from fire service organizations.

The International Association of Fire Chiefs and the International Association of Fire Fighters hailed a major study released April 28 that showed four-person firefighting crews completed 22 key tasks at a single-family residential fire 30 percent faster than two-person crews and 25 percent faster than three-person crews. The study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a Commerce Department agency, indicated four-person crews put water on the fire faster, completed laddering and ventilation faster, and finished a primary search and rescue of a non-ambulatory person from an upstairs bedroom faster.

"The results from this rigorous scientific study on the most common and deadly fires in the country –- those in single-family residences -– provide quantitative data to fire chiefs and public officials responsible for determining safe staffing levels, station locations, and appropriate funding for community and fire fighter safety," Harold A. Schaitberger, IAFF's general president, wrote on the union's Frontline blog. "This study comes at a crucial time for the fire service. Public officials considering resource cuts cannot ignore the results of this unbiased study," he added.

NIST and fire service organizations worked on the study for more than a year. It is part of the Multiphase Study on Firefighter Safety and the Deployment of Resources and is the first study to quantify the effects of crew sizes and arrival times on lifesaving and firefighting operations, according to NIST.

"Fire risks grow exponentially. Each minute of delay is critical to the safety of the occupants and firefighters and is directly related to property damage," said Jason Averill, a principal investigator on the study who leads NIST's Engineered Fire Safety Group within its Building and Fire Research Laboratory.

The study was done on a "low-hazard" structure according to NFPA 1710, a standard on the deployment of career firefighters. The two-story, 2,000-square-foot test facility was built at the Montgomery County Public Safety Training Academy in Rockville, Md., and fire crews from Montgomery County, Md., and Fairfax County, Va., responded to live fires inside it during more than 60 controlled fire experiments.

The 104-page "Report on Residential Fireground Field Experiments" is available here.

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