Master Planning, Arson Prevention Discussed During IAFC Conference
Master planning and arson prevention workshops highlighted the 103rd annual conference of the International Association of Fire Chiefs at San Antonio September 19-23.
In his keynote speech to the conference, Howard D. Tipton, administrator of the National Fire Prevention and Control Administration, sharply challenged a charge by a Ralph Nader consumer organization that it may be possible for ionization-type smoke detectors to cause cancer in humans.
Tipton declared, “We’re going to make a very careful investigation of that charge. . . . We’re going to be very outspoken if they’re not right.”
Tipton voiced his concern over the lack of scientific documentation of the charge by the Nader group. He explained that the NFPCA is involved in a national program for the installation of smoke detectors in residences as a major step toward reducing the loss of lives in fires, and he indicated that he was distressed by the charge made without proof that could damage this program.
Judgment on abilities
Tipton also declared his opposition to any effort to create a split between volunteer and paid fire fighters.
He said of both volunteers and paid men, “A man should be judged by his qualifications and that’s the only way he should be judged.”
Tipton declared that it would be preferable to drop the “professional” term if it is used to differentiate between volunteer and paid fire fighters. He voiced the hope that when “we talk about professionals, it means a man is judged on his qualifications.”
In discussing the arson problem, Tipton commented, “The arson problem needs taking away all the incentive we can find.”
The NFPCA administrator suggested t hat instead of paying cash for fire losses, insurance company might take steps to actually replace the losses, thereby removing the possibility of cash profit from a fire.
At the same time, Tipton suggested that fire chiefs might look at the prospect of consolidating fire and building departments.
He said, “Fire departments years ago should never have given up their building code responsibility,” and he questioned whether there are so many codes that it is making the job of fire protection more difficult than necessary.
Comparing fire losses
in reference to data compilation, Tipton declared that a better job of reporting and comparison has to be done so people can understand what the fire service faces. He suggested that the average fire loss per capita may be an undesirable way of comparing the fire records of municipalities. He pointed out that the makeup of municipalities may vary considerably in regard to the ratio between industrial and residential properties. Therefore, he suggested that perhaps it might be well to divide only the residential losses by the population of the municipality, leaving out the industrial losses, to gain a more equitable comparison of municipal fire losses.
The administrator reported progress in developing the federal fire data system and said that the first seven states to participate in data collection are coming in on line.
Taking notice of the increasing difficulties fire departments face in obtaining funds, Tipton commented, “We have to be equipped better than ever for the budget battle.”
He expressed the hope that the National Fire Academy will provide information that will better prepare the fire chief for his annual budget battle.
Tipton announced that a contract has been signed for purchase of the Marjorie Webster College site selected for the National Fire Academy.
He said, “We signed a contract this week with all eight members of the Webster family.”
Master planning discussed
The basic principles of developing a fire protection master plan was outlined at the Metropolitan committee workshop sessions conducted by members of the NFPCA.
David M. McCormack, superintendent of the National Fire Academy, told the workshop that master planning requires community commitment, a great deal of staff time, many skills and money. The underlying methodology, McCormack continued, includes systems analysis, cost benefit analysis, management by objective and zerobased budgeting.
“In master planning,” McCormack explained, “we begin with zero-based budgeting.”
Systems analysis, he said, explains what would happen if one or more of the systems components were changed.
Nothing really new
The fire academy superintendent referred to management by objectives as “nothing new—things we have been doing many times.”
After the methodology has been developed, there must be validation followed by dissemination of the concepts and conclusions. Then there must be community support and, finally a report.
McCormack stressed the importance of “implementing modern management tools available” to fire chiefs and said of master planning, “It’s really a process of management—no secrets, no gimmicks.”
McCormack reminded the workshop that the Los Angeles City Fire Department is working on a master planning program under a grant from the NFPCA which also includes Mountain View, Calif., and Mission Research Corporation. He added that master planning concepts include not only local communities, but also rural areas, states and, under the newest enlargement of the master planning concept, even counties.
No end to planning
Battalion Chief William Neville, Jr., of the Los Angeles City Fire Department, who is on loan to the NFPCA, warned the workshop members, “You will never have a plan that is finished.”
He declared that if master planning is done just to get more dollars for the fire department, that is an entirely unsatisfactory approach. What a fire department should be doing, he declared, is developing master plans that will save lives and property.
Neville pointed out that master planning is done in a political climate in communities that have a complexity of fire problems and a variety of views for solving these problems. He said that in this political climate, there must be provisions in developing master plans to obtain impact from the various segments of the political community.
Other key factors in developing master planning, Neville explained, included obtaining the skills necessary for developing the planning, fulfilling the needs for pertinent data, and determining the scope of the master plan. He stated that those developing the master plan have to decide the number of years they will plan into the future and determine what areas they will enter.
Manual to be available
A self-teaching manual for master planning is expected to be available from the NFPCA by the first part of next year, said Dr. Joseph Clark, NFPCA associate administrator for research and technology. The manual will explain how to establish a typical team for master planning and it will describe the process from there to the final written plan.
Clark stressed the importance of the “preplanning” that must be done to obtain municipal approval to work on a master plan. Once this is done, then a master planning team should be formed. Clark emphasized that a typical team will include the assistants, rather than the top people, in municipal departments, including the fire department. For example, a typical team would have on it the assistant fire chief, the assistant city manager, a planner/analyst, a water department engineer, and an assistant from the city finance office. The major portion of the work would be done by this committee.
Clark also urged the formation of a steering committee which would include industry and education representatives, as well as representatives of other community interests.
Must include government
He pointed out that it may take almost a year before the plan gets into the written stage, then it is necessary to go to the community government to get implementation of the plan and to work out the definition of responsibilities of the various municipal departments involved in the plan.
The planning process, of course, involves the activation of the planning project as a start and then the fire situation must be defined and goals and objectives have to be established, Clark stated. Public hearings and meetings are considered vital to the process of establishing goals and objectives.
Alternative systems criteria should be established and the alternative systems should be defined. In addition, the functions and resources for the systems require definition so that eventually the best system can be selected for the completion of the master plan in written form.
Clark disclosed that master planning is now being validated in several communities, ranging from 3000 to 347,000 population, and these communities include paid, volunteer and combination fire departments.
Fire service can do job
McCormack suggested that if the people who know the problems do the planning, then they can do as good a professional job as can be done by outside consultants. The fire service will be the better for its participation in planning, McCormack commented.
McCormack also warned that “master planning might not be for you” for it might cause more problems than solutions.
Clark said that in preparing for master planning, it is necessary to have the proper resources in terms of people and money, and that sufficient data is required “to convince your management that you know what you are doing and you are going to do it better.”
The selection of members of the planning team, Clark stressed, “is extremely important.” Clark also advised fire service people to look at their budgets as their city managers would look at them. He said they should look at the fire data, which includes false alarms and private protection, as well as the population and land use. He also advised looking at fire prevention as well as suppression.
McCormack disclosed that the fire academy, which is responsible for training programs, is preparing to help fire departments develop master plans by providing the educational material they will need. The academy delivery system, McCormack added, will include an orientation package of information about master plans, a master planning package and a master planning library.
The fire academy training is expected to be offered in cooperation with the states at convenient locations, McCormack said. The programs will include systems analysis for the fire service, evaluation of fire service programs, forecasting the fire protection environment, data collection and analysis, budgeting for the fire service, management by objectives, and cost benefit analysis for the fire service. All seven programs will be offered by the fire academy although at present only the orientation program is available.
In a discussion after the formal presentation, Chief Francis J. Sweeney of New Haven reported that municipalities that have been testing master planning have reported learning things they never knew about their fire departments.
“Not only does government know of what is being protected or not protected, but so does the entire town. … If we have a salvation at all, it is master planning,” Sweeney commented.
Change in ISO policy
In response to a question, Kenneth Carl, director, public protection grading, Insurance Services Office, New York City, who was in the audience, stated that ISO is going to base its insurance ratings on the fire loss experience in cities of more than 500,000 population. As a result, he added, ISO may or may not continue to grade these large cities. Carl also said that ISO is now leaving recommendations out of its grading reports to municipal officials. However, the officials can obtain the recommendations by asking for them.
During a general discussion, Neville commented that there are many questions you could answer right away, but a master planning study can come up with different answers. He also expressed the opinion that citizens will accept the fact that fire protection is not just the fire department’s problem.
Neville also said that fire department planners may find that if a man with experience in planning can be recruited to head the planning team, “you will gain credibility.”
McCormack commented that one of the big problems in test cities was the obtaining of data pertinent to the fire service.
Chief Jerry Weissinger of Dayton, the workshop session moderator, suggested that chiefs are already doing master planning in some form and he suggested all that is needed is to become more expansive in the future.
At an urban workshop session devoted to a discussion of arson, Joseph Batchler of the National Fire Academy, described arson as “primarily a public awareness issue,” and stressed the need to gain publicity on arson arrests.
He recommended the use of fire academy programs on arson detection and arson investigation that are being developed and said that the academy was working on the training of prosecutors and the use of scientific equipment in the future. He saw the need to develop better reporting to provide more meaningful data collection and analysis.
He also urged updating the model arson law written many years ago.
Batchler proposed a review of state laws hampering arson investigations and urged research and development in this field. He saw a need to develop uniform terminology and uniform interpretation of laws by the courts.
“We suggest that you go home and review your detection procedures,” Batchler said in reference to combatting arson.
In discussing invest igation procedure, Chief George Williams of Spring Garden Township, York, Pa., advised taking sufficient time to investigate and cautioned his listeners, “Don’t be in a hurry to turn property back to the owner.”
He reminded them that there should be no hint of coersion—eit her physical or psychological—in any confession obtained. He also noted that investigators must follow the rules of evidence when their questioning turns from investigative to accusatory in tone. He pointed out there are three types of evidence: (1) direct, in which the witness has observed with one of his senses; (2) real, which is physical evidence; and (3) circumstantial, in which inferences are logically drawn from facts.
Fire fighters, he said, can assist the arson investigator by avoiding the use of solid streams which toss material about—including evidence—at suspicious fires. He also said that the use of water should be limited at such fires to avoid washing away any residual traces of oils. Arson plants, he cautioned, should be left in their original position until they have been photographed and a guard should be posted on the premises. Williams also said that the marks of tools should be preserved along with the tools themselves because they can leave identification marks that are comparable to fingerprints.
“Successful prosecution of arson,” Williams cautioned, “depends largely on how well you preserve the evidence.”
The possibility of murder should be considered, Williams declared, if a body is found after a fire in any position on the floor other than face down with the hands protecting the face.
In discussing the recognition of arson, Fire Marshal Albro Rile of Los Alamos, N. Mex., stated that the fire fighter is “asked to be responsible for detection, not investigation.”
He compared an arson fire to a jigsaw puzzle in which some of the pieces will be destroyed by fire while others will be left.
In referring to the fire fighter arriving on the scene, Rile said, “At this point, I would like to suggest that you should become pessimists” and consider arson.
After obtaining facts, Rile advised, it is a good idea to sleep on them and see whether you feel the cause is the same the next morning. He cautioned investigators not to be rushed by news people into announcing the cause of the fire.
“(lathering of evidence must commence with the arrival of the first fire fighter,” Rile stated.
Rile said that fire fighters should notice autos driving away from the fire scene upon the fire department’s approach, they should note the intensity of the fire and the rapidity of its spread, they should observe the color of the smoke, and they should remember the odors encountered.
“Every fire fighter should remember the various jobs he did at the fire and the order in which he performed them,” Rile advised.
He said that fire fighters should ask themselves at every fire if the contents are normal for the occupancy and in their normal places.
“A good rule to remember is don’t give out information—get it,” Rile declared.
“Apathy from the fire service,” said Reynold Hentges, Iowa assistant state fire marshal, is the reason arsonists get away with arson.
Hentges decried the attitude of both police and fire departments that the other should investigate arson and he commented, “To me, that’s just a copout.”
The only way to stop arson, according to Hentges, is to determine the cause of all fires. Investigation is the basis of a good fire prevention program, he asserted, and the determination of all causes of fires will discourage arsonists.
Hentges said that Iowa fire fighters are told that until they can determine the cause of every fire, 25 percent of all fires will be arson.
Iowa detection course
He described the Iowa program in arson detection principles that was presented in-service for paid fire fighters and in two three-hour night classes for volunteers. The course included a discussion of fire causes, information on detecting arson and training in handling evidence. Hentges said that the purpose was to train fire fighters to recognize and protect evidence and then call in a law officer to carry on.
Hentges pointed out that if fire fighters and law officers cooperate with each other they actually will have an arson squad.
A final phase of the Iowa fire detection course consisted of a discussion of court procedures so that fire fighters would be able to testify more effectively under rough cross-examination.
The result of the courses, started in 1964, was that the number of undetermined cause fires dropped from 14 percent in 1964 to 6 percent in 1975. Furthermore, when the state fire marshal’s office sent men to the scene of a fire, fire fighters knew what information was needed and they reported it.
Hentges said that the fire marshal’s office now has a 63 percent conviction rate on arson arrests.
The work of the Illinois Advisory Committee on Arson was described by Chief Don Corey of Des Plaines, Ill. He said that the committee has a number of subcommittees, including legislative, education, internal communications, finance, publicity, fire service, law enforcement and insurance.
The committee has published pamphlets directed at both fire fighters and policemen to motivate them to do more about arson detection and investigation. Other pamphlets have been published by the education committee to motivate claims agents and underwriters.
Meanwhile the legislative committee is looking into the legality of establishing a clearinghouse of information on persons who have had fires. Corey said that they are trying to pass an Illinois version of the Ohio immunity law that forces insurance people to give information to arson investigators.
Corey said insurance companies are seeking to get involved in the arson problem because the fire losses are increasing and forcing premiums to rise.
EMS in San Antonio
The work of the 150 paramedics in the San Antonio Fire Department emergency medical service was described by Dr. Charles A. Rockwood, Jr., director of emergency medical services at a general conference session. He said that the paramedic is needed because the 115,000 accidental deaths annually in the United States are the leading cause of death of persons under the age of 40.
The report by Rockwood said that the training of paramedics is done with the cooperation of the Bexar County Medical Society and Bexar County Hospital. One of the offshoots of this program is that paramedics in turn teach nurses and other hospital personnel in effective emergency care.
Rockwood reported that the basic concepts of CPR have been taught to the members of all San Antonio fire companies and he added, “We think this will increase significantly the number of cardiac saves in San Antonio.”
In answer to a question, Rockwood said that the Texas attorney general has ruled that while they are under physician’s orders, paramedics can do anything for a patient that nurses can do.
EMT training in San Antonio, said Dr. Jack Williamson, an orthopedic surgeon, was started with revenuesharing funds allotted in 1973. The training actually began in January 1974. Williamson emphasized that it was necessary to get community leaders interested in obtaining funding, and he added that physicians must become involved in the program, which has to have a written plan.
Dr. Robert Schnitzler, a cardiologist, put together the course to train San Antonio Fire department paramedics to handle emergencies when they are out of communications with physicians. He explained that the training is done to the level “where we feel comfortable when they have to act on their own.”
Schnitzler commented that as this type of service progresses, the participants will find other needs that were not anticipated and he noted that in San Antonio, these included caring for snake bites and drug overdose cases.
Cost of service
Assistant Chief Roger Penrod, director of the San Antonio Fire Department EMS division, said that the EMS program has a $997,000 budget this year without any federal funding.
Penrod pointed out that the paramedic service is costing about $3.30 per capita this year compared to $35 for fire service and $50 for police service.
He saw an advantage in using fire department personnel in the paramedic service because not only are they dedicated and rescue-oriented, but the fire service is also their career and they do not leave it.
The chief also pointed out that “public support is paramount” to a successful emergency medical service. There are 15 EMS units in the San Antonio Fire Department and they average about 10 cardiac problems a day.
To discourage people from making unnecessary demands on the service, charges of $35 for transportation and $15 for aid at the scene are made. However, Rockwood said, it is costing more to send out bills than the income received. He felt that the answer to the unnecessary calls lies in “educating the public in using EMS but not abusing it.”
The volunteer workshop was themed to “Fire Prevention for the Volunteer Service” and was presented by members of the fire prevention committee of the IAFC which is chaired by Chief Matthew Jimenez of Hayward, Calif. Moderator of this program was Chief James L. Grote of Chester, Conn., who proudly announced that he was attending his 54th consecutive annual IAFC conference -an unmatched record, and one that brought down the house.
-Ronalds. Huter photos
Chairman Jimenez, who opened the program, told the audience that the purpose of this workshop was to initiate the development by the IAFC of a publication on fire prevention for volunteer fire departments and that the proceedings of the workshop would become part of this publication. Speakers who each made a 10-minute presentation were drawn from several areas of the country and include men in the paid and volunteer service.
Jim Casey of Fire Engineering, who led off the program, addressed himself to “Reaching the Media With Your Fire Prevention Message.” In his opening, Casey made the point that a fire department’s image “depends on how strongly, frequently’ and recently you have brought this image to the senses of the public you serve and who in turn supports you.” On this image, he added, depends any public relations effort and fire prevention is a public relations effort. Public relations, he said, called for a policy set up by the fire chief and then placed in the hands of a public information officer.
The PIO should then make a careful study “of what appears on the local press and emanates from the local radio or television -and then try to match the material in style, slant and content.” Armed with this knowledge the PIO can then cultivate the acquaintance and trust of all the men in the local news media. Without, making himself a pest, the PIO should be in regular contact with these people, Casey said, and not just once a year for some special project.
Grade school fire prevention
Fire prevention education for grade schools should be high on the list for volunteer departments, according to Chief J. H. Taliaferro, of Charlottesville, Va. Taliaferro said that a volunteer department has considerable resources available to them, particularly in schools where teachers can not only give fire prevention education but are in a position to assess the results. A reduction in false alarms, juvenile fires, playing with matches could be part of such results.
“Visual aids are almost mandated for grade school fire prevention programs,” Taliaferro noted, and added that the fire department could prepare a fire prevention manual that would make a teacher’s job much easier. If you don’t now have a fire prevention program, start one,” he urged, “and get the whole community involved.”
Others on this workshop program included Chief Kenneth Long of the Los Angeles City Fire Department, Chief Ben Dancy (ret.) of Oklahoma City, and Chief Vernon B. Rucker, Killeen, Texas.
Long discussed master planning for fire protection and declared that the master planning work book which is being prepared by a group that he heads, will be available to the fire service by the end of this year.
Role of instructors
In a brief talk discussing the functions and objectives of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors, Louis J. Amabili, president of the society and director of the Delaware State Fire School, said, “Basically, the objective of the society is the professionalization of the instructor…. The society, I believe, identifies the fire service as a professional.”
Amabili pointed out that standards now exist for the fire fighter, the fire officer and the fire service instructor, and he commented, “Without qualified instructors, we just aren’t going to meet these standards.”
In reporting as chairman of the membership committee, Chief Myrle Wise of Denver, who was elected president of the IAFC, said that total membership was down about 1 percent. He felt that some of this loss could be blamed on dropouts after the recent increase in dues.
Wise referred to “the lack of retention” of our older members as one of the problems to be solved in the coming months when an effort will be made to re-enroll these members. Wise said that the IAFC has a total of 7,198 members of all classifications, of which 4,492 are dues-paying members.
In the voting on changes in the association bylaws, all changes were approved except the proposal to allow past chiefs to run for office.