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Needs assessment of U.S. Fire Service

The goal of the Needs Assessment project is to understand what is being asked of fire departments and if they have the needed resources necessary to carry out those tasks.

 The study includes questions on PPE, apparatus and equipment, training, health and wellness, and cancer prevention, among other timely topics impacting the fire service. Findings from the survey serve multiple, critical purposes, such as:

  • generating statewide reports that can serve as a powerful tool for understand and supporting a community’s needs (i.e., apparatus, staffing, etc.)
  • helping the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) and other fire service advocates create programs that best support communities’ needs.

The U.S. Needs Assessment survey, which is available to all local fire departments, will be mailed and emailed to every fire department for which we have contact information. If you would like to complete the survey online, visit If you are a member of a fire department that would like to participate in the survey but have not received it, please email with your fire department’s name, state, and zip code. We will promptly send you the needed information. The survey will run through the end of 2020; the results will be published in the second half of 2021. Reports and information from the previous U.S. Needs Assessment surveys 2001, 2005, 2010 and 2015 are provided below.

Fourth Needs Assessment report shows that while some fire service needs have been declining, many have remained constant or increased

Report: NFPA's "Fourth Needs Assessment of the U.S. Fire Service"
Issued: November 2016

This fourth Fire Service Needs Assessment Survey was conducted by NFPA in 2015 and follows three earlier surveys, which were completed in 2001, 2005 and 2010. Overall, 19.4% of the U.S. fire departments responded, with the strongest response rates among departments protecting communities with populations greater than 10,000 (i.e. greater than 40% of all known local fire departments in the United States).

This report shows that while some fire service needs have been declining, many have remained constant or increased. Fire service needs are extensive for departments of all sizes and in every area, including staffing, training, facilities, apparatus, personal protective equipment (PPE); and health and wellness. Overall, the smaller the community protected, the greater the need. 


Report highlights 
  • Forty-nine percent of all fire departments in 2015 have not formally trained all of their personnel involved in structural firefighting, up from 46 percent in 2010.
  • The greatest need for training in large fire departments protecting populations greater than 500,000 is in fire prevention and code enforcement.
  • The greatest need for training in smaller fire departments protecting populations less than 2,500 is traffic control and wildland firefighting.
  • Two-thirds (69 percent) of departments reported that some of the SCBA equipment was at least 10 years old, up from 55 percent in 2010.
  • More than two-third (72 percent) of departments reported that some of their PPE clothing was a least 10 years old.
  • Two out of five (43 percent) fire stations are at least 40 years old, up from 32 percent in 2001.
  • There is an increasing need for additional stations in both the largest and smallest communities.
  • Forty-three percent of all fire department engines and pumpers were at least 15 years old, down from 51 percent in 2001.
  • One out of five (20%) fire departments have a behavioral health program.
  • One quarter (27%) of fire departments have a basic firefighter fitness and health program.

NFPA has held three earlier Needs Assessment surveys, which were completed in 2001, 2005 and 2010.

2011 report

2006 report
2002 report