National fire database project seeks to improve fire safety

A cheque for $149,500 was presented to the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) on August 8, 2011, kicking off research into a national database that could lead to fewer fires and more effective and efficient fire-service delivery across the country.

“This is a great example of the way faculty members at UFV and community partners are bringing teaching, research and service together in meaningful and productive ways,” said UFV president Dr. Mark Evered. “We are delighted to be working with the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs on a project that will lead to safer communities across Canada.”

UFV will conduct the research on behalf of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) to explore the development of a web-based database of fire statistics that would be available to fire departments and organizations across Canada. Funding for this project was provided through the Canadian Police Research Centre (CPRC), a Government of Canada program administered by the Defence Research & Development Canada (DRDC) – Centre for Security Science (CSS).

“We’re thankful for the opportunity to pursue a project we see as being essential to enhancing the operational effectiveness of Canadian fire services,” said CAFC President Rob Simonds. “By collecting and analyzing fire data, the database will provide fire services the information they need to effectively target their resources, operate more efficiently and increase their fire prevention capacity. Ultimately, that means safer communities.”

As examples, data collected through the database could be used by fire departments to strategically deploy resources, or to amend buildings codes in response to fire trends.

CPRC Executive Director Steve Palmer said the project is a good fit with the DRDC-CSS’s mandate, in that the data gathered will help Canadian fire services prevent fires and spare Canadians from their devastating effects.

“We recognize the tremendous value in the development of a national fire incident capability as it will generate an evidence-based approach for decision-making, which will help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of fire services,” Palmer said.

“At the end of the day, this project will help the responder community save lives, reduce injuries and work more efficiently, and have tools they can use to help plan their future.”

Beginning this summer, the year-long project will outline the scope for a national system, including types of data to be collected, hardware and software, partner roles and contributions, funding sources, and resources required to set up and maintain the system.

The research will include consultation with fire services across the country, review of international best practices, and investigation of existing Canadian data management systems, such as FDM software and the Canadian Police Information Centre.

Heading up the project for the CAFC is Len Garis, Fire Chief for the City of Surrey and President of the Fire Chiefs’ Association of B.C. Research for the project will be conducted by Dr. Darryl Plecas, Director of the Centre for Criminal Justice Research in UFV’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, and by Dr. Paul Maxim, Associate Vice-President of Research at Wilfrid Laurier University.

“Evidence-based decision-making allows professionals to be more effective in the service they provide, but also the hard data helps convince the government or general public about the need for funding,” Maxim noted. “You want to make sure what you’re doing is providing the best value for the taxpayer dollar. You want maximum impact.”

A key focus of the research will be ensuring the proposed database will meet the needs of Canadian fire services.

“At the end of the day, if the individual departments and regions aren’t behind this, it’s not going to work,” Maxim said. “We’re hoping to do a major consultation across the country to try to gauge the amount of buy-in, what they are hoping to get out of it, and what is the gap between what they have now and what they would like. Obviously not everyone’s ideal can be met. But we’re looking to close that gap.”

Information and updates about the National Fire Incident Database research project, including consultation sessions, will be posted on the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs website, www.cafc.ca.

The Canadian Police Research Centre (CPRC) is a Government of Canada program whose mission is to harness science and technology (S&T) knowledge to strengthen police, fire and emergency medical services across Canada through investments in research, development of standards, product evaluation and technology transfer. CPRC is managed by the Defence Research and Development Canada – Centre for Security Science, a joint endeavour between the Department of National Defence and Public Safety Canada to strengthen, through investments in S&T, Canada’s ability to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from accidents, natural disasters, or terrorist and criminal acts that impact the safety and security of Canadians.

For media inquiries and questions about the project, please contact:

Len Garis
Fire Chief
City of Surrey
lwgaris@surrey.ca
(604) 543-6701

For more information on the Canadian Police Research Center (CPRC), please contact:

Danya Vidosa
Communications Advisor
Defence R&D Canada – Centre for Security Science
Tel (613) 944-8167

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