New Jersey’s Need For Fire Uniformity
Each year, fire claims close to 7000 lives nationwide. More than 100 of these fatalities are suffered by fire fighters in the line of duty.
Each year, fire-related injuries affect an estimated 30,450 civilians and approximately 46,000 fire fighters.
Just by the nature of the profession, fire fighters are more prone to injuries and accidents. In fact, according to statistics from the International Association of Fire Fighters, fire fighting is the most hazardous profession in the United States.
Despite this, New Jersey, a state that houses heavy chemical industries, major transportation corridors and more than 7 million people, requires no specific amount of training as a prerequisite for active fire fighting.
In addition, New Jersey lacks a statewide fire reporting system, making it impossible to determine how many New Jersey residents and fire fighters are hurt each year.
Also lacking is a uniform statewide fire prevention code, leaving fire safety measures to individual discretions.
According to a report by the New Jersey Fire Safety Study Commission, headed by Senator John P. Caufield, a problem exists for New Jersey’s fire service in the areas of training and education.
The only minimum training requirements in New Jersey are those needed to obtain a license as a fire protection subcode or inspector under the Uniform Construction Code. Of course, many New Jersey fire departments have stringent requirements for both basic and in-service training; but other departments allow new members to fight fires with little or no training at all.
There is no common approach to fire training among the state’s various municipal fire departments. Although New Jersey offers numerous fire programs, there is no common standard governing what these programs should contain, nor are there commonly accepted standards for instructors or for certification of fire fighters.
A planning council, made up of representatives of 14 statewide fire organizations, has recommended that New Jersey institute a focal point for fire education and training to develop minimum qualification standards that will improve the effectiveness of fire departments, reduce fire fighter injuries, and develop leadership within the fire service.
Knowing the number and variety of fires (residential, industrial, chemical, etc.) that occur in the different municipalities as well as understanding how the incidents start is a necessary step to developing corrective action. Therefore, the Fire Safety Study Commission has recommended that a central clearinghouse of information on fire-related issues be established.
The recommendations of the Fire Safety Study Commission were submitted to the New Jersey Legislature in November 1982. At presstime, the bills had passed in the Senate but were still pending before the Municipal Government Committee in the General Assembly.