The Norwegian Fire Service Regulations for organizing the fire and rescue service are under revision. RISE Fire Research has, on assignment from the Directorate for civil protection and emergency planning, assisted with evaluations in the context of the revision.
Maximum response time
Requirements for the maximum response time for fire brigades are set out in the regulations, stating the maximum time that is allowed to elapse between the time the fire service receives the alarm and when the first unit starts to “work at the scene of fire”. The requested use of time depends on how densely populated the area is. Through interviews with the fire service we have found that the understanding of some terms used to describe activities connected to firefighting operations differs considerably among fire brigades. Some fire brigades record the time elapsed between receiving the fire alarm and arriving at the scene of fire as the response time, while others record the time from receiving the fire alarm until there is water in the fire hose and the actual fire extinguishing has commenced at the scene of fire. One of our recommendations has therefore been to clarify these terms and to record the time elapsed between activities that are easy to define. The time when the first fire engine arrives at the fire scene will for example be easier to register than the time when the firefighters start their work – because there may be different opinions about how work at the scene of fire should be defined.
The size of the overall response unit and turn-out
There are indications that some smaller fire brigades are struggling to fulfil the requirements for the size of the response crew. DSB’s official statistical database offers no basis to say whether this is a widespread problem. The fire services in Norway are organized with part-time and full-time firefighters, where the part-time firefighters have another job when not on firefighting duty. There are fire departments that experience problems with recruitment of these part-time firefighters, one reason being difficulties in combining the two jobs geographically. Our analysis, however, shows that the fire brigades generally are able to find different ways to organize their staff to solve these problems and to obtain satisfactory fire preparedness.
Crew connected with “advanced units”
The application of so-called “advanced units” has become more common in Norway, and our task for DSB was to propose a definition of a type of organization that will provide flexibility using a crew of less than four people. This is a scheme that challenges the requirements to the organization of the fire brigades, as it means that a smaller group than the required response crew is the first force to arrive at the fire scene.
In our work we have proposed the following definition for the term “advanced unit”: Unit arriving earlier at the incident scene than an entire response crew with a fire engine. It can be located in the fire station or follow the crew.
There are a number of different versions of what an advanced unit can be physically. It can be one or more persons with different types of vehicles bringing different types of equipment. The main point is, however, to have a flexible and fast response.
Health, safety and environment must be ensured, and since using an advanced unit implies a different work method than a conventional response team; education and training will be very important. This is true both in terms of expertise and implementation, and also for how the firefighters cope mentally with the incidents.