Fire & Life Safety (Focus on Preparation and Prevention)
The Fire Prevention Office
- By Mike Halligan
- December 1st, 2014
While there is no single definitive
model that can be used to
benchmark the organization of
fire prevention programs, there is a set of components
which can help determine a successful
organizational and deployment structure for
inspections, plan review and educational objectives
for your school’s fire prevention program.
Authority, Budgeting and Record Keeping
To start, the Fire Prevention office should have the authority
to administer the program. This might require memorandums
of understanding with state and local fire officials that specifically define which functions can be performed by on-campus
fire prevention staff and which require notification to state or
city fire officials. Campus policy should have written statements
that establish the Fire Prevention office, define services the office
will provide and determine an organizational structure (including
staffing size). This organizational statement should provide
service delivery objectives for each major service component
as well as identify a leader that facilitates efficient and effective
management resources. Included with program administration
should be a management information system (MIS) that is capable
of providing data that indicate the effectiveness of the organization.
The MIS must maintain a history of services delivered and
performance outcomes as measured against established goals.
The leader of the Fire Prevention office should have responsibility
for budget development and administration. Records of funds
received/expended and data necessary for planning and budgeting
purposes should be aligned with the organizations goals, objectives
and expected outcomes.
The Fire Prevention office must develop and institute recordkeeping
practices in accordance with nationally recognized standards
such as NFPA or ICC, as well as any state or local requirements.
These records should be the basis for the information used
to publish an annual fire prevention report.
Risk Assessment and Reduction
Fire Prevention offices must conduct a campus community risk
assessment and review that assessment every five years, or more
frequently when changes take place that affect the original assessment.
Additionally, the program must develop a campus community
risk reduction plan. The development of this plan is based
on the risk assessment and must identify programs and resources
needed to reduce risk. The risk assessment plan should include the
- Demographic — Information describing the composition of
the population; age, gender, cultural background, language and
other information to describe the people.
- Geographic — Describe the physical features of the campus,
including barriers to response such as canyons, waterways,
highways and wild-land interfaces.
- Building stock — Include information related to different occupancies
and construction type.
- Fire incidents — Describe past fire experiences and trends for
the campus compared to peer institutions.
- Event response — Describe what types of emergencies the
organization responds to.
- Hazards — Discuss natural, human-caused and technological
- Economic — Include economic factors that when impacted by a
fire event are a risk to financial sustainability.
In order to determine staffing levels, scope of duties and time
demands for each duty must be completed. In addition, there must
be a commitment to ongoing training and education to ensure
competency is maintained.
Once administrative functions have been completed, the model
fire prevention program will identify resources for: Fire prevention
inspections and code enforcement in existing structures, plan review
and inspection of new and renovated buildings, frequency of
inspections based on occupancy (annual, biennial, triennial), and
public education activities that change behavior or demonstrate
Each of the above components have many elements. You can
find many resources online from codes and standards agencies,
as well as consultants that can help your organization identify
the model for the most effective fire prevention program for your
This article originally appeared in the December 2014 issue of College Planning & Management.
Mike Halligan is the President of Higher Education Safety, a consulting group specializing in fire prevention program audits, strategic planning, training and education programs and third party plan review and occupancy inspections. He retired after twenty six years as the Associate Director of Environmental Health and Safety and Emergency Management at the University of Utah. He frequently speaks and is a recognized expert on residence hall/student housing fire safety and large scale special event planning. He also works with corporate clients to integrate products into the campus environment that promote safety and security.