Vulnerability Assessment Program
By Dr. Bill Jenaway, Ph.D, Vice President VFIS Education, Training & Consulting
The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF), in conjunction with Honeywell and the United States Fire Administration, developed, and is now making available, the Vulnerability Assessment Program (VAP), an online assessment tool that provides fire departments with a systematic process to evaluate risks and ultimately reduce the threat of firefighter injuries and deaths. At the end of the process, departments receive a customized report identifying areas of vulnerability linked to firefighter injuries and deaths. Each report contains suggestions for risk reduction alternatives specific to identified vulnerabilities and, when they exist, provides pertinent industry standards and guidelines to address the identified concerns.
Fire departments can then use this analysis to develop operational and strategic plans to implement the risk reduction recommendations necessary to minimize preventable line-of-duty injuries and deaths. The VAP has many advantages over traditional fire department evaluations—it is online, private, secure, customizable, easy to use and free. Unlike other fire department evaluations, which may run into tens of thousands of dollars to obtain, the VAP costs a department nothing to begin and complete.
The VAP exercise is composed of three elements.
Completion of a short profile of the department, capturing basic organization-type and HR attributes.
The actual assessment that is composed of nearly 400 questions. These questions were derived from an analysis of the root causes that the NFFF has determined are traceable to virtually every firefighter line-of-duty death.
A fire department and community survey that will reveal more in-depth information about the department than the initial profile. All responses are confidential, although the survey material may be used in the aggregate to learn more about the American fire service. Department names will never be associated with this aggregated material.
The VAP is not just a casual online survey. The issue of firefighter line-of-duty death prevention does not lend itself to 10 questions or fewer. The VAP is a thorough self-examination of an organization. It takes time and care to complete. It also takes knowledge about the organization and may not be able to be completed in an hour or two. But, as chief of a department or safety officer, the best resources possible will be available to complete the assessment—colleagues. The VAP was built to be collaborative and sections of the assessment can be assigned to others who will be of assistance.
Don’t let the demand of time be an excuse to avoid the VAP. The end result will provide resources to help address gaps in a department’s safety program and help answer the question that haunts most fire department leadership—“Am I doing enough to prevent a line-of-duty death?”
Dr. Bill Jenaway of VFIS played a key role in the development of the VAP. For the entirety of its four year development, Jenaway attended meetings and contributed insights from the VFIS point of view. Many fire service organizations with a stake in preventing firefighter injuries and line-of-duty deaths participated in this process. The VAP is a very useful fire service.
The NFFF suggests that every fire department in the United States go through the VAP exercise to discover gaps in resources and service capabilities. Why should there be a firefighter death because they are unaware of safety practices that could save their lives. Visit the VAP website https://www.firevap.org/ to begin the process today. For more information, email contact VAP@firehero.org.