Inspectors looking at a building

How Well Does Your Community Support Safety? Use The New Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem Assessment Tool to Get Answers that Can Help Identify and Address Gaps, and Advocate for Safety Improvements in Your Area

In the rush to assign blame after a tragedy, we’re often drawn to the most obvious culprits. After the devastating 2017 Grenfell Tower fire in London, attention quickly focused on the exterior cladding, which allowed flames from an electrical fire in a single apartment to wrap around the entire building in minutes. That spectacular failure revealed fatal weaknesses in the enforcement of the referenced test methods that were supposed to keep flammable material off buildings. More broadly though, the years of subsequent reviews and inquiries have found under-skilled workmanship from design to execution that allowed safety flaws to creep in. They also found impossibly over-worked inspectors, and residents who did not have the right information to save themselves from the fire. It was more than just the cladding that led to the deaths of 72 people, and the injury of scores more.

It’s never just one thing that fails to go to plan. We rely on integrated systems to keep us safe. To illustrate this, NFPA developed the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem. The Ecosystem explains the eight necessary functions—Government Responsibility, Development and Use of Current Codes and Standards, Enforcement of Referenced Standards, Code Compliance, Investment in Safety, a Skilled Workforce, Preparedness and Emergency Response, and an Informed Public—that must work together to support safety. To push this concept further, the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Policy Institute created a tool to enable users to assess the state of the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem in their own communities. Is your community’s approach to safety green, yellow, orange, or red?

NFPA Fire and Life Safety Ecosystem

The Assessment Tool is designed to help gauge the capacity of the community to support safety. Capacity helps us understand strengths and weaknesses. To assess this, the Tool asks a series of questions that probe whether the right rules are in place; are they enforced? Is there any effort to educate the public on ways they can reduce their own life safety risks? Is there a planning process to avoid development in hazardous places? These questions, and more, focus on the baseline of what’s necessary to support safety and reduce risk, regardless of whether the community is small, medium, or big, urban, rural, or somewhere in-between.

Assessing something as complex as the systems that support safety can be challenging. The Ecosystem Assessment Tool breaks this complexity down by looking at the pieces that support each Ecosystem component. Leaders in the fire service, the construction industry, and city officials are likely best suited to spend 30 minutes or so answering the Assessment Tool questions. After you’ve submitted your answers, the Tool provides a rating from green (excellent support for safety) all the way to red (poor support for safety) along with a more detailed, downloadable report that can be used to understand and address the gaps found by the assessment and advocate for improvements in the community.

The Ecosystem Assessment Tool is available in English, Spanish, and Arabic. We invite everyone to log-on, choose their language, and assess their community. With use of the Tool, and your feedback, we can better understand safety capacity around the world and advocate for a stronger commitment to strengthening all the systems that manage risk and keep tragic outcomes at bay.Visit nfpa.org/ecosystemtool to start your assessment today.

 

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Meghan Housewright
Director, Policy Institute

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