The Vulnerability Assessment Program (VAP) consists of five separate surveys which will assist fire departments in identifying vulnerabilities in organizational culture, including practices, policies and procedures which could lead to a firefighter injury or fatality. Once a survey is completed, the organization will receive a series of recommended sources to help reduce or eliminate the identified risk. The five surveys which compose the VAP are the Fire Service Comprehensive Risk Survey, the Quick 100 (geared toward smaller departments), the Company Officer VAP, the Cardiac Disease Prevention VAP and the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Prevention VAP. A fire department may onboard the VAP with the survey of its choice, but it is recommended that every fire department complete the Comprehensive Risk Survey.
Vulnerability is a term used in the insurance and technology industries, and refers to an aspect of an organization’s culture or operations that is likely to result in a negative outcome. When we use vulnerability in discussing fire service operations, negative outcome can be of the highest order—firefighter injury or fatality. A vulnerability assessment is the process of identifying, quantifying and prioritizing the vulnerabilities within an organizational system, such as a fire department.
The VAP assessment surveys and results are online, confidential and free of cost. Unfortunately, many fire department assessment tools conducted by outside agencies can cost in the many thousands of dollars. If a department decides to engage consultants or a review agency, taking the VAP surveys will help narrow contract priorities.
The fire chief, designated officer or assigned team will answer a series of questions online about their fire department. Their responses will then be assessed against a risk profile database. The VAP will identify those risk factors present in the department that might lead to a firefighter injury or fatality. These factors will then be compiled into a report that can be downloaded and shared. Within this report, risk factors will be categorized as high, medium, and low. Links will be provided to ameliorate each risk vulnerability consisting of educational resources, primarily training programs, reports, videos, articles, etc. from the NFFF, USFA, NFPA and other organizations. Data collected from departments during the VAP assessment will be analyzed and made available in the aggregate for future study. No department will ever be individually cited.
Register your department at www.fireVAP.org. You will need to complete a brief department survey. When this information is submitted reviewed. In order to receive your risk report(s) and resources, you will need to complete a community survey at the end of the process.
If you look on your dashboard, you will see a section labeled Library. Click on Library for your report and recommended resources.
Yes. The quality of each VAP assessment will depend largely upon the accuracy of the data that is entered by the end user. Questions on the VAP will address staffing levels, response capabilities, department policies and standard operating procedures, training, equipment (including age and condition of apparatus and PPE for example) and non-tangible factors such as levels of accountability and the safety culture within the organization. The individual(s) assigned to completing the VAP will need to have access to all of this information before or during the process of completing each survey.
In general, yes, we like to have the fire chief desirous of having the VAP reviews. In the onboarding questions the applying person will be asked to identify their name, department and rank. If a person other than the fire chief (or a deputy fire chief) applies, VAP staff will contact them to get the chief’s approval.
The VAP was created for fire departments—volunteer, career, industrial, fire/EMS, and combination services. In general, we do not approve non-fire service entities. If your organization is not approved, you may appeal this decision by contacting the VAP administrator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Most of the recognized major fire service organizations participated in the development of the VAP, including the International Association of Fire Fighters, National Volunteer Fire Council, International Association of Fire Chiefs, International Association of Arson Investigators, Fire Department Safety Officers Association, International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters, International Association of Women in Fire &Emergency Services, National Association of Hispanic Firefighters, National Fire Protection Association and North American Fire Training Directors. Insurance companies and trade organizations, municipal risk managers, emergency equipment and manufacturers, fire science educators, and regulatory and standards-making bodies including OSHA, NIOSH, ICMA and CPSE also participated. Specialized health and wellness VAPS were developed by organizations specializing in these areas within the fire service, such as the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance.
Yes. Active and retired fire chiefs, company officers and firefighters shared their experience and expertise during every phase of VAP development.
There are multiple reasons for completing a VAP Assessment. First and foremost, the VAP will enable you to identify and correct the risk factors within your department that may lead to the injury or death of one of your members. The VAP will provide the necessary justifications, and in many cases the resources, to ameliorate risk factors.
Firefighter deaths and injuries bear a huge cost—physical, emotional and financial—to individuals, families and fire departments. As a budgeting tool, the VAP will be a credible, nationally-recognized risk assessment that can be used to leverage available resources in ways that positively impact the health and safety of firefighters. The VAP assessment will provide powerful justification to municipalities to support budget requests for training, staffing levels, equipment and other resources that have been credibly proven to prevent tragic outcomes. The VAP will also clearly identify gaps between community expectations and current and anticipated resource allocations. During difficult economic periods time, budget cuts for many fires departments have resulted in inadequate maintenance of apparatus and equipment, reduced staffing levels and lower standards of training, rendering levels of service unsustainable. When the resources are not there to support them, the VAP will identify these gaps, and recommend aligning community expectations with what the department can safely provide. The VAP provides an excellent starting point for any strategic planning a department may undertake.
Maybe. Chiefs, company officers and firefighters may already be aware of some of the risk factors that will be identified through a VAP assessment. This vulnerability may be the result of budget reductions, or in other cases, it may even be the culture of the organization or unrealistic community expectations that have created a situation in which high risk maneuvers or behaviors are accepted, or even encouraged. In any case, the VAP will provide solid, credible justification for rectifying the vulnerability.
There is no punitive or mandatory aspect to the VAP. However, there is a high degree of individual and organizational accountability implicit in completing the VAP, and following through with the recommendations. One of the most important functions of the VAP is in raising awareness of risk factors within the department. If a chief is made aware of a problem that may result in the injury or the death of a firefighter, he or she is personally and organizationally accountable for ensuring that the identified vulnerability is corrected. Remember—no firefighter fatality is acceptable if it was preventable. And not being aware of a vulnerability is not a credible defense.
The VAP Project Development Team reviewed more than 3000 peer-reviewed academic journal articles, including reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Fire Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program (FFFIPP), National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports, United States Fire Administration (USFA) reports, annual reports from the National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System, doctoral dissertations and graduate theses indexed by the USFA/National Fire Academy (NFA)Learning Resource Center (LRC) and USFA/NFA/LRC fire service bibliographies. While the bibliography for the VAP represents a thorough overview of the available literature at the current time, obviously fire science research will continue to evolve. Information from fatality reports, autopsy reports, etc., were utilized in the development of the six rubrics under which all the analyzed firefighter deaths were categorized along with dozens of corresponding contributing factors.
Completing the VAP assessment will be a secure, confidential process. Both the information that you entered into the VAP and the resulting risk profile report will be password protected. It should be noted here that while data collected during your assessment will be incorporated into the database, individual data results will never be compromised in any way. Instead of thinking of the negative consequences of completing the VAP surveys, reframe to consider that these exercises are positive commitments to risk reduction.
The length of time it takes to complete VAP assessment will correspond to the size and complexity of the organization, and to the availability of the specific information needed for the survey. If the fire chief assigns sections of the VAPs to others, or if, for instance, it is completed by the department’s Safety Committee, it could take more than one sitting.
Yes. The assessment is relevant to both fire and fire-based EMS departments, and there are specific questions that will be relevant to EMS personnel only. However, it is not intended to support the operations of EMS-only organizations.
No. Most users will find the program to be intuitive and simple to use, and the instructions to be clear and self-explanatory.
No. The VAP will be available free of charge to fire departments and agencies.
If you have completed a survey you may take it again after one year. Please notify the VAP administrator that you would like to be approved for this exercise.
You can contact the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation: contactVAP@firehero.org.