Author(s): Angelo Verzoni. Published on November 1, 2018.

Get Smart

Big-city fire chiefs urge involvement with smart cities, planning for shooter incidents, and more


In a world driven by big data, the term “smart city” has become a buzzword in the urban planning community.

And as more cities commit resources to obtain and employ technologies that collect and analyze data on citizens and infrastructure—information that can ultimately influence decision making—fire chiefs need to be key parts of the process.

That was the consensus of a group of prominent fire chiefs from cities around the country that met in September at NFPA headquarters. The group, the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association (Metro Chiefs), endorsed a position paper that outlines its smart-cities stance at its 2018 Urban Fire Forum. The paper was one of five the chiefs endorsed at this year’s forum.

“The safety of the public is one of local government’s highest responsibilities,” the Metro Chiefs’ position paper on smart cities reads. “Given the unique capabilities now available for harnessing and analyzing data, it is critical that the fire chief be directly and intimately involved in decisions related to the collection, analysis, and dissemination of data used for planning, decision-making, operations, and evaluation of the programs for which he or she is responsible.”

One way to achieve this, the paper says, is for chiefs to become involved in the development of codes and standards related to smart cities, such as ISO 37120, Sustainable cities and communities—Indicators for city services and quality of life, a standard from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Involvement in this particular document is crucial, the chiefs said, since they currently oppose the fire and emergency response indicators it contains, which use per-capita metrics “that have little or no benefit in portraying the reality of the quality of a fire department’s performance,” according to the paper. Instead, the chiefs want to see the document contain the same operational performance objectives outlined in NFPA 1710, Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Career Fire Departments, which is why they will seek representation on the committees helping to write ISO 37120. The paper urges other urban fire chiefs across the country to do the same.

Of the four other position papers endorsed by the Metro Chiefs, two address the growing threat of active shooters. Each refers to NFPA 3000™ (PS), Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program, as a tool that should be used by fire chiefs nationwide. “Jurisdictions should build sufficient public safety resources to deal with active shooter scenarios. They can do this by using NFPA 3000,” one of the papers reads.

Download all of the position papers, as well as presentations from the forum, online.

ANGELO VERZONI is staff writer for NFPA Journal. Top Photograph: Getty Images