Fire Fighting in Canada

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National survey results

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National survey results
See the data from our national survey of fire departments, available only online.

February 18, 2009
By Fire Fighting in Canada | Readex Research


Contents


Purpose    

Method    


About Readex Research   

Advertisment

Findings

Fire Department Profile    

 

Calls

Fire Department Equipment   

Budgets    

Public Education/Fire Prevention    

© 2009 Readex Research

 

Purpose


The findings cited in this report are based on a survey sponsored by Annex Publishing & Printing, Inc. on behalf of their publication, Fire Fighting in Canada.

Through the use of a mail and electronic survey representing Fire Fighting in Canada’s circulation, the purpose of this research project was to determine levels and ages of staffing and equipment in the Canadian fire services to help ensure the ongoing safety of firefighters and Canadians in their homes and workplaces.

Specific areas of inquiry included:

• number of fire stations and population served
• number of firefighters and their ages
• number of calls responded to and response time
• number, type, and age of fire department equipment
• fire department budgets

Method


A 4-page survey was designed jointly by Fire Fighting in Canada and Readex Research.  The survey was bound into all of the approximate 5,300 copies of the September 2008 issue of Fire Fighting in Canada.  Materials production, addressing, and mailing were handled by Fire Fighting in Canada; tabulation was handled by Readex.

Data was collected via mail and electronic survey from September 19 to December 10, 2008.  The survey was closed for tabulation with 490 usable responses—a 9% response rate.  As with any research, the results should be interpreted with the potential of non-response bias in mind.  It is unknown how those who responded to the survey may be different from those who did not respond.  In general, the higher the response rate, the lower the probability of estimation errors due to non-response and thus, the more stable the results.

The margin of error for percentages based on 490 usable responses is ±4.2% at the 95% confidence level.  That is, 95% of the time we can be confident that percentages in the actual population would not vary by more than this in either direction.  The margin of error for percentages based on smaller sample sizes will be larger.

(Please refer to the Appendix for details of the survey method.)

About Readex Research


Readex Research is a nationally recognized independent research company located in Stillwater, Minnesota.  Its roots are in survey research for the magazine publishing industry, but specialization in conducting high-quality survey research (by mail and/or the Internet) has brought clients from many other markets, including associations, corporate marketers and communicators, and government agencies.  Since its founding in 1947, Readex has completed thousands of surveys for a lengthy and diverse list of clients.

As a full-service survey research supplier, Readex provides in-house processing of all phases of each project (traditional mailing, broadcast emailing, and data processing) to ensure complete control over project quality and schedule.  Analytical capabilities include a range of multivariate statistics and modeling techniques, in addition to the more traditional stub-and-banner tabulations.

This survey was conducted and this report was prepared by Readex in accordance with accepted research standards and practices. 

Findings




Fire Department Profile

Most respondents indicated they are either fire chiefs (68%) or deputy fire chiefs (12%).  1% indicated their job title/function as interim/acting fire chief, and the remainder indicated they were in some other category, including captain, fire fighter, training officer, or some other mention.

On average, respondents indicated a total of nearly 55 firefighters are in their fire departments.  The number of firefighters are evenly split between full-time (27.0) and volunteer (including part-time, paid, on-call, etc.) (27.7) .

However, despite the equal composition of full-time and volunteer firefighters, more respondents reported their fire departments have at least one volunteer firefighter (85%) compared to at least one full-time firefighter (39%) (among mail respondents only).

On average, respondents indicated over half (53.3%) of their fire department’s firefighters are under 40.  27.7% of their total firefighters are between the ages of 40 and 49, and comparatively few (19.0%) of firefighters fall into the ages of 50 or over.

readex-1
 
Averages based on mail respondents only.  Online respondents were presented with a different set of options and are not comparable.


 

Number of Firefighters
readex-2  
 base:  91 mail respondents (multiple answers)


 

Fire Department Profile


Respondents generally work for small fire departments in terms of number of stations.  Well over half (61%) work for fire departments that have only one individual fire station; an additional 14% work for departments that have two fire stations.  Comparatively, only 7% work for fire departments with ten or more fire stations.  On average, respondents works in a department with 3.4 fire stations.

There are differences by the composition of firefighters in fire departments.  Fully three-quarters of respondents in volunteer fire departments have one fire station within their department.  On average, respondents in full-time fire departments have 7.2 individual fire stations within their departments compared to 2.8 from volunteer departments and 3.6 from composite departments . 

Respondents work in fire departments that serve a large geographic area.  Over half (54%) indicated their fire department serves a 100 square kilometre area or more.  27% serves less than a 50 square kilometre area.


2 Full-time fire departments are defined as respondents indicating on the survey they work in fire departments with only full-time firefighters; volunteer fire departments are defined as respondents indicating on the survey they work in fire departments with only volunteer firefighters; composite fire departments are defined as respondents indicating on the survey they work in fire departments having both full-time and volunteer firefighters.


Number of Fire Stations
within fire department by type of fire department

readex-3  
 base:  490 total respondents; between 30 and 269 respondents in each segment


 

Fire Department Profile


Two-thirds (67%) of respondents indicated their fire department serves a rural area.  41% indicated their fire department serves a small town (under 10,000 population). 

Much smaller proportions of respondents in full-time fire departments serve rural areas and small towns.  These departments are dispersed more in smaller (33%) and medium-sized cities (33%).  Respondents in volunteer fire departments are heavily concentrated in rural areas (84%).  The majority (51%) of respondents in composite fire departments indicated their departments serve rural areas; however, sizable proportions indicated they serve small towns (43%) and/or smaller cities (33%).

Respondents work in fire departments that serve smaller population sizes.  Two-thirds (66%) of respondents indicated their fire department serves a population under 10,000, including 44% who serve fewer than 5,000.  The typical respondent indicated their fire department serves a population of 6,310.

In general, respondents in full-time fire departments and in composite departments serve larger population sizes than do those in volunteer fire departments. 

readex-4  
 base:  490 total respondents; between 30 and 269 respondents in each segment  


Areas Served
by type of fire department

 readex-7  
 base:  490 total respondents; between 30 and 269 respondents in each segment (multiple answers)  

Calls


The typical respondent indicated his fire department responded to 89 calls in 2007 .  In fact, three in four (75%) indicated their fire department responded to less than 250 calls in 2007.  One in ten (10%) responded to 1,000 or more calls. 

readex-8  
 base:  91 mail respondents  

On average, respondents reported less than two in five (38.2%) of all calls responded to in 2007 were for fire related reasons.  The nature of the remainder of calls were either medical related (24.7%), motorized vehicle accident (21.5%) or for some other reason (15.5%).  Respondents in full-time fire departments responded to a higher proportion of medical related calls, on average, compared to respondents in volunteer and composite departments who indicated their departments responded to higher proportions of fire-related calls.

On average, respondents indicated it took 5.6 minutes per call for trucks to roll from the station and 10.3 minutes to arrive on the scene.  These averages are much faster among full-time departments—2.5 minutes to roll from the station and 5.3 minutes to arrive on the scene. 


3 Percentages based on mail respondents only.  Online respondents were presented with a different set of options and are not comparable.

Reasons for Calls

readex-9  
 base:  those answering (fill-in responses


 


Fire Department Equipment


In order to determine the specific equipment needs of fire departments, respondents were asked a series of questions about the number and age of several different types of equipment in their fire departments. 

With most types of equipment, at least a small proportion of respondents indicated their fire departments do not have each of the types of equipment asked about.  Aerials are not as common; 70% indicated their departments do not have them.  One in five (22%) indicated their departments do not have tankers and only 2% indicated they do not have pumpers.

The typical respondent indicated his fire department has three pumpers, two tankers, and no aerials. 

readex-10  
 base:  490 respondents  

Respondents indicated that substantial proportions of these three types of equipment in their departments are more than 15 years old.  Between 35% and 39% indicated their pumpers, tankers, and aerials are more than 15 years old, on average.  One in five (19%) indicated 100% of their tankers are more than 15 years old. 

Percentage of Equipment Over 15 Years Old

readex-11  
base:  490 respondents
*not included in mean calculation


 

Fire Department Equipment


Numbers and age of these types of equipment vary by fire department type. 

Typically, respondents in full-time departments indicated their departments have more pumpers and aerials than do those in volunteer and composite departments.  Nearly all (91%) respondents in volunteer fire departments indicated their departments have no aerials.

readex-125  
base:  between 30 and 269 respondents in each segment  
 readex-12  
 base:  between 30 and 269 respondents in each segment  

Percentage of Equipment Over 15 Years Old
by type of fire department

 readex-13  
 base:  490 total respondents; between 30 and 269 respondents in each segment  

Fire Department Equipment

1% of respondents indicated their fire departments do not have bunker suits and no one indicated their fire departments do not have self contained breathing apparatus.  The typical respondent indicated their department has 33 bunker suits and 16 self contained breathing apparatus.

readex-14  
 base:  490 respondents  

Respondents indicated that notable proportions of these two types of equipment in their departments are more than 10 years old.  On average, 32% of their bunker suits  and 35% of their self contained breathing apparatus are over ten years old.  12% indicated 100% of their self contained breathing apparatus are over 10 years old.


 4 Mail respondents only.  Online respondents were presented with a different set of options and are not comparable.


Percentage of Equipment Over 10 Years Old

readex-15  
base:  490 respondents (*91 mail respondents)
*online respondents were presented with a different list of options

 


Fire Department Equipment

Respondents in full-time departments indicated their departments typically have more bunker suits and self contained breathing apparatus compared to those in volunteer and composite departments.  60% of respondents in full-time fire departments indicated their fire departments have 100 or more bunker suits compared to 4% in volunteer fire departments and 17% in composite fire departments.  Similarly, 23% of respondents in full-time departments have 100 or more breathing apparatus, while respondents in volunteer and composite fire departments have relatively few (0% and 4%, respectively).

On average, fewer in full-time departments indicated their departments have self contained breathing apparatus over 10 years old compared to other types of departments. 

Percentage of Self Contained Breathing Apparatus Over 10 Years Old
by type of fire department

 readex-16  
base:  490 total respondents; between 30 and 269 respondents in each segment  




Fire Department Equipment

39% of respondents indicated their fire departments have one thermal imaging camera; 36% indicated their fire departments do not have any.  The typical respondent indicated his fire department has one thermal imaging camera and that the average age of their cameras is three years old.  Respondents in full-time departments typically have a greater quantity of thermal imaging cameras than do respondents in volunteer and composite departments.

 readex-17  
 base:  490 total respondents; between 30 and 269 respondents in each segment  

Respondents were asked to indicate the quantity of heavy hydraulics and hand hydraulics in their fire departments.  22% of respondents indicated their fire departments do not have any sets of heavy hydraulics (cutters, spreaders, etc.) and 35% do not have hand hydraulics.  The typical respondent indicated his fire department has one of each. 

18% of respondents indicated their fire departments have hazmat teams; 81% indicated their fire departments do not.  However, the proportion of respondents in full-time departments having hazmet teams is significantly higher.  83% in full-time departments indicated their departments have hazmat teams compared to 7% of respondents in volunteer and 23% of respondents in composite fire departments.


Number of Hydraulics

readex-18  
 base:  490 respondents  


Fire Department Equipment

Nearly all respondents indicated at least some percentage of their fire departments’ on duty firefighters (both full time and volunteer) normally carry a radio at an emergency scene.  However, only 11% indicated everyone carries one.  On average, respondents indicated 46.2% of on duty firefighters normally carry a radio at an emergency scene. 

On average, a significantly higher proportion of respondents in full time departments carry radios—81.0% compared to 41.8% and 46.8%, respectively, for those in volunteer and composite fire departments.

About half (49%) of respondents indicated their fire department’s radios can communicate with an ambulance. 

readex-19
 
 base:  490 respondents (multiple answers)
*“other” includes mutual aid partners, other fire
departments, dispatch, public works, each other/base,
DNR, and any other mention

 

Percentage of On Duty Firefighters Who Carry Radio

readex-20  
 base:  490 respondents

 


Budgets



The vast majority (90%) of respondents indicated the budget relationship between their fire service and the emergency medical services are separate organizations with different budgets in their municipality.  Very few co-exist within the same budget (3%) or have the same budget (2%).

readex-21
 
 base:  490 respondents  

These proportions are fairly consistent between respondents in different types of fire departments. Only respondents in full-time departments exhibited a slightly higher incidence of co-existing within the same budget in comparison to respondents in volunteer departments (10% and 3%, respectively).

The typical respondent reported a fire department’s 2008 operating budget as $237,000. 80% of respondents in full-time fire departments indicated 2008 operating budgets of $1 million or more compared to 2% of those in volunteer and 32% of those in composite fire departments.

2008 Operating Budget
by type of fire department

readex-22  
 base:  490 total respondents; between 30 and 269 respondents in each segment


 

Budgets

The typical respondent reported his fire department’s 2008 capital budget as $57,600.  13% indicated capital budgets of less than $10,000 in 2008.  As can be seen in the graph at right, capital budgets in 2008 were reported as higher among respondents in full-time fire departments compared to those in other types of departments.

2008 Capital Budget
by type of fire department

 readex-23  
 base:  490 total respondents; between 30 and 269 respondents in each segment


 


Public Education/Fire Prevention



Just over half (58%) of respondents indicated their fire departments have a fire prevention/public education officer.  Fewer volunteer fire departments have fire prevention/public education officers than full-time and composite departments.  The typical respondent indicated their 2008 public education/fire prevention budget was just under $2,000.  In fact, 30% reported budgets of less than $1,000.  Respondents in full-time fire departments reported higher budgets to work with in this area in 2008; 63% reported budgets of $30,000 or more compared to 3% and 16%, respectively, in volunteer and composite fire departments.

 readex-24  
base:  490 total respondents; between 30 and 269 respondents in each segment
*Due to the high proportion of respondents answering in the top category, the sample statistics cannot be calculated


 

Using a 5-point scale, where 5 = very well and 1 = not well at all, respondents were asked to rate how well their fire department’s 2008 training budget is funded.  40% of mail respondents indicated a 4 or 5 on the scale, 27% a 3, and 31% as not well (a 1 or 2 on the scale).

Although the scale for online respondents was the opposite of what mail respondents saw, similar comparisons can be made.  45% indicated their fire department’s 2008 training budget is funded well (a 1 or 2 on the scale) and 23% as not well (a 4 or 5 on the scale).  31% gave them a rating in the middle. 

Proportion Having Fire Prevention/Public Education Officer
by type of fire department

 readex-25  
 base:  490 total respondents; between 30 and 269 respondents in each segment  


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