FAQs

  1. What is the "Vulnerability Assessment Program" for fire departments?
  2. What exactly do you mean by "vulnerability" and "vulnerability assessment?"
  3. What do I need to know to register to take the VAP assessment?
  4. Can individual fire stations (part of a larger authority having jurisdiction) take the VAP?
  5. How does the VAP work?
  6. Will we need to gather information in advance to complete the VAP?
  7. Who was involved in developing the VAP?
  8. Were any fire chiefs involved in VAP development?
  9. Why would my department want to complete a VAP assessment?
  10. We know that our department has problems, but we don't have the budget to fix them. Will the VAP just be telling us what we already know?
  11. Do I have to correct the vulnerabilities that are identified within the VAP report?
  12. As fire chiefs, we sometimes get conflicting information about what we should and should not be doing. How do we know that the best practices identified in the VAP really are best practices?
  13. How do I know that any negative findings from the VAP won't end up on the front page of our local newspaper?
  14. How long will it take to complete a VAP assessment? Does it all have to be completed all at once?
  15. Is the VAP assessment applicable for fire-based EMS departments?
  16. Do I need training to complete the VAP?
  17. Will there be a cost associated with the VAP?
  18. I am trying to log in but I get a message that I am LOCKED OUT. What do I do?
  19. Who can register to start the VAP assessment?
  20. Should the VAP be completed by the chief, or can it be a collaborative process within the department?
  21. As the Authorized Representative, how do I pass off other sections of the VAP to members of my staff?
  22. How do I get the Resources report?
  23. Does my department have to complete a VAP assessment?
  24. We’re a Canadian Fire Department, can we take the VAP?
  25. What if I need more help or have questions about the VAP?

What is the "Vulnerability Assessment Program" for fire departments?

The Vulnerability Assessment Program (also known as the VAP) is an online risk assessment tool that can be used by fire departments to identify vulnerabilities in many areas. The VAP has the capacity to identify existing risks within a fire service organization that could lead to a firefighter injury or fatality and to recommend, whenever possible, low and no-cost solutions to reduce or eliminate those risk factors. This project was developed by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) with help from the United States Fire Administration (USFA), and is made possible exclusively through the generous financial support of Honeywell.

The VAP is composed of three parts—a profile, the VAP assessment tool and a community survey. All three sections must be completed for a department to receive access to resources. All material is password protected and confidential.

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What exactly do you mean by "vulnerability" and "vulnerability assessment?"

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 discuss vulnerability in terms of fire service operations, that negative outcome can include a 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. For instance, your firefighters may be at risk because you do not have or do not enforce a mandatory seat-belt policy. Resources will help you develop and support enforcement of such a policy.

There is not perfect score to achieve at the end of talking the VAP assessment. Rather, your goal is to achieve low risk outcomes in the many categories explored in the VAP. As the VAP is confidential there is no reason to be less than honest when determining your status per question.

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What do I need to know to register to take the VAP assessment?

You need to know the legal name of fire department applying, its federal fire department identification number (also known as the NFIRS number), or the department’s DUNS number. Before you are given permission to begin the assessment, you must complete the Fire Department Profile consisting of the following questions: organizational structure, organizational type, size, population served, the number of stations in your department, square miles protected, source and percentages of operating budget, accreditation status, and department capabilities. In order to receive the resources corresponding to your vulnerabilities, you will also be asked to complete a longer survey regarding personnel, apparatus, etc.

Upon registration you will be issued a password. Please write it down and keep it safe. If you are, for example, the fire chief signing up your department but want others to assist you, you do not need to give anyone else your password. Those who you ask to assist you will be issued their own password.

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Can individual fire stations (part of a larger authority having jurisdiction) take the VAP?

In almost all cases, a station that is part of a department will not receive permission to take the VAP. This is to avoid conflict should the larger entity apply. The VAP is a systems-wide analysis, and does not focus well at the individual station level. If you would like to know how vulnerable your department is, contact your chief to start the assessment at the department level.

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How does the VAP work?

A fire chief, officer or assigned team will answer a series of questions online about the 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, which will then be compiled into a report that can be downloaded and printed. Within this document the VAP will prioritize these risk factors and provide links, whenever available, to low- and no-cost educational resources that can be used to correct the vulnerability, such as training programs, reports, films, articles, etc. from the NFFF, USFA, NFPA and other organizations. Data collected from departments during the VAP assessment will be gathered, and made available to researchers, equipment manufacturers and other parties who have a vested stake in firefighter safety. Data that is shared with other organizations will be in an aggregate format that does not identify any particular fire department.

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Will we need to gather information in advance to complete the VAP?

Yes. There are presently 412 primary questions in the assessment. All questions are answered in a Yes or No format. There may be one or only a few questions per topic, or there may be many. Answering a question in a particular (Yes or No) may end that topic, or you may be prompted for more answers.

The quality of the VAP assessment, profile and community survey 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; 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 beginning and completing the assessment. If you begin and feel that you are not prepared to answer the questions, stop and return at a later time. There is no time-limit.

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Who was involved in developing the VAP?

All of the major fire service organizations participated in the development of the VAP, including the International Association of Firefighters, 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.

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Were any fire chiefs involved in VAP development?

Yes. Active and retired fire chiefs, company officers and firefighters shared their experience and expertise during every phase of development of the VAP.

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Why would my department want to complete a VAP assessment?

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 also provide the necessary justification, and in many cases the resources needed to address identified risks.

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We know that our department has problems, but we don't have the budget to fix them. Will the VAP just be telling us what we already know?

Chiefs, company officers and firefighters may already be aware of some of the risk factors that will be identified through a VAP assessment. Vulnerabilities may be the result of budget reductions. In other cases, the culture of the organization may inhibit positive changes, or unrealistic community expectations may 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.

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Do I have to correct the vulnerabilities that are identified within the VAP report?

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 injury or fatality is acceptable if it was preventable.

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As fire chiefs, we sometimes get conflicting information about what we should and should not be doing. How do we know that the best practices identified in the VAP really are best practices?

The first step in developing the VAP was to create a database to 1) identify contributing factors to organizational vulnerability in fire departments 2) identify risk analysis methods and practices with potential to inform the overall Vulnerability Assessment Project. The VAP Project 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. This VAP database will be amended regularly throughout the life of the VAP, and will continually be updated to reflect the most up-to-date science available. We strongly encourage collaboration between the VAP and its users. Please contact us if you have ideas for improvements or to add additional/better material to the resource library.

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How do I know that any negative findings from the VAP won't end up on the front page of our local newspaper?

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.

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How long will it take to complete a VAP assessment? Does it all have to be completed all at once?

The length of time needed to complete VAP assessment will correspond to the size and complexity of the organization, and the availability of the specific information needed for the survey. It may take one or more sittings to complete the VAP.

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Is the VAP assessment applicable for fire-based EMS departments?

Yes. The assessment is relevant to both fire and fire-based EMS departments.

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Do I need training to complete the VAP?

No. Most users will find the program to be intuitive and simple to use, and that instructions are clear and self-explanatory. All answers are given in a Y/N format.

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Will there be a cost associated with the VAP?

No. The VAP will be available free of charge to fire departments ,industrial fire brigades and federal fire department agencies, including military installations in the US and abroad. At this time, no other organizations will be granted permission to access the VAP.

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I am trying to log in but I get a message that I am LOCKED OUT. What do I do?

After numerous attempts to log in, you will be LOCKED OUT. If you get a LOCKED OUT message, please use the contact email: contactVAP@firehero.org for help.

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Who can register to start the VAP assessment?

Every VAP registration must include the name of a departments’ chief or deputy fire chief as the organization’s Authorized Representative. Any other individual representing a department, (including Safety Officers, Training Officers, Board Members, etc.), will be asked to provide an email from the Fire Chief giving permission for them to act as the Authorized Representative. This is to avoid multiple registrations from a single department.

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Should the VAP be completed by the chief, or can it be a collaborative process within the department?

While the request should begin with the Fire Chief, she or he does not have to complete the VAP. While in some cases the Chief may complete the VAP, in larger and more complex organizations, the Chief may ask different individuals (such as the safety officer, training officer, company officers and others) for input, or to complete parts of the assessment that are relevant to their roles within the department. The accuracy and utility of the assessment depend primarily upon the validity of the information entered in the VAP, and what actions were taken to rectify the vulnerabilities identified within the final report.

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As the Authorized Representative, how do I pass off other sections of the VAP to members of my staff?

As you complete the Profile, you will see a section: Invite others to Participate.

As the Authorized Representative, you will ultimately be responsible for making sure the assessments and surveys are complete and for submitting them. But, you do not have to do all the work yourself. You can invite others in your organization to assist in completing either or both, by designating sections to others with greater expertise.

At this point you will supply the name(s) and email(s) of those you wish to complete particular sections of the VAP. You will be able to send a message assigning section of the VAP to one or more persons. When you assign someone to help you, they will receive a welcome note and a temporary password. However, it is up to them to alert you when they have finished their assigned questions or sections.

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How do I get the Resources report?

When you log into your VAP account, click on Resource Library on the left navigation and then View Resources.

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Does my department have to complete a VAP assessment?

No. completing the VAP is not mandatory. However, the NFFF is encouraging every fire department in the United States to take the VAP—both to reduce risk within the department and to help develop a national database of shared risks and vulnerabilities.

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We’re a Canadian Fire Department, can we take the VAP?

Yes, but keep in mind the resources (for right now) are aligned to U.S. fire departments. Please contact contactVAP@firehero.org for specific registration instructions.

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What if I need more help or have questions about the VAP?

You can contact Dr. JoEllen Kelly of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation at jkelly@everyonegoeshome.com.

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