Author(s): Angelo Verzoni. Published on August 9, 2021.

Eco Assessment

A new tool helps communities assess themselves using the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem—ideally, before disaster strikes. Plus, an Ecosystem Year in Review report for 2020.


RELATED PODCAST At 30:37, Policy Institute Director Meghan Housewright discusses the new Ecosystem tool and the 2020 Year in Review report.

How would your community fare if you examined it through the lens of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem™? Now you can find out with the help of a new online tool released by NFPA

Developers of the Ecosystem assessment tool hope it will drive changes to improve fire, life, and electrical safety worldwide. “It was designed to be applicable to a small town, a big city, and everything in between,” said Meghan Housewright, director of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Policy Institute, which helped design the tool. “It asks users a series of yes or no questions about each of the eight ecosystem components and provides a color-coded score, from red being the most in-trouble area to green indicating that everything is functioning really well. It tells you where the strengths and weaknesses are within the community.” 

Housewright said she hopes the tool will allow communities to correct safety gaps before they lead to disaster, and cited the Grenfell Tower fire, which killed 72 people in London in 2017, as an example. “There has been a lot of examination into what went wrong with that fire, and they have identified different shortcomings that contributed to it, from problems with a skilled workforce to code use to the inspection and compliance process,” she said. “With a tool like this, you would be able to address some of those weaknesses sooner rather than in a post-event inquiry setting.” 

While the first iteration of the tool—available in English, Spanish, and Arabic—was designed to apply broadly to any community, Housewright said future adaptations may address specific regional hazards, like combustible exterior walls in Europe and the Middle East or petrochemical facilities on the Gulf Coast of the US. 

The release of the new Ecosystem assessment tool comes on the heels of a recent report titled “The Year in Review: A look at the events of 2020 through the lens of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem.” Both the tool and report represent ongoing efforts by NFPA to provide stakeholders with the resources they need to understand and apply the ecosystem in their daily roles. 

Housewright said the 2020 year in review report is full of instances of officials failing to address potential problems until it’s too late. “One incident that stands out is the ammonium nitrate explosion that devastated Beirut, Lebanon, last summer,” she said. “In that case, the stored ammonium nitrate was a known hazard in the port and it simply wasn’t addressed.” 

That theme, Housewright said, carries into seemingly unrelated incidents like wildfire, where “there’s a distinct government responsibility to implement better polices … but the political will isn’t there to actually do it.”   

Both the assessment tool and report, plus many other Ecosystem-related resources, are available at

ANGELO VERZONI is a staff writer for NFPA Journal. Follow him on Twitter @angelo_verzoni. Top photograph: Getty Images