Survey: Fire Chiefs Overmatched By Development

October 2, 2003

Seventy-three percent of U.S. fire chiefs say residential and commercial growth is already straining their departments’ ability to protect the communities they serve, according to survey conducted by Opinion Research Corp. International (ORC).

What’s more, 81 percent of the fire chiefs say growth is likely to put even more strain on their departments’ resources during the next three years, according to the newly published findings of the Princeton, N.J.-based research group. The respondents cite two major reasons:

— 77 percent say they expect most future growth in their communities will occur in areas where water mains, hydrants and hauled-water services must be improved.
— Half (51 percent) say fire stations will be needed in areas of their districts where most of the growth is likely to occur.

By an overwhelming 91 percent, fire chiefs say getting necessary funding is a significant obstacle to making needed improvements to their communities’ fire-protection services. The chiefs see other serious obstacles to improving service:

— 79 percent noted difficulty recruiting and retaining firefighters, whether career/paid or volunteer.
— 69 percent expressed difficulty in accessing adequate water supplies.
— 46 percent cited a lack of cooperation from local water companies.

The survey was commissioned by Insurance Services Office Inc. (ISO) and conducted independently by ORC July 7-16, 2003. The survey includes responses from a random sample of 500 fire chiefs, fire marshals and commissioners representing fire-protection jurisdictions of all sizes across the United States. The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus four percentage points.

The impact of reportedly overstrained fire departments on property insurance rates is unclear.

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