Theoretical Foundations of Fire Protection Planning I
Prerequisite: Program Evaluation and Statistics
Unit One is an introduction to operations research, that body of knowledge that engineers developed initially to address the logistical problems of transporting war materiel across the North Atlantic in World War II. Subsequently, operations research was used to maximize the build-up of soldiers in Normandy in June and July of 1944, and during the amphibious operations at many island in the western Pacific. After World War II, operations research was employed by humanitarian organizations to provide food, water, shelter, and sanitation at various refugee camps. In business it was employed by manufacturers to improve supply chain management. In the 1980s the Japanese managers implemented just-in-time delivery of auto parts to the assembly line so as to reduce warehousing costs, and so lower the cost of producing automobiles. Just-in-time delivery is derived from operations research. Further, the problems of Canada-USA cross border transportation have been magnified by the use of just-in-time delivery. If you own a North American car, chances are that many of its components crossed the border many times as sub-assembly occurred on one side of the border, and final assembly occurred on the other side. Although we will not dwell on the mathematics of operations research, we will show you how some mathematics is used to analyze some fire-related problems.
In Unit One we introduce the Poisson distribution to help us to understand whether the clustering of fires is random or caused by something. This analysis helps fire officers to consider fire station location, and it helps to adjust the standard operating response of apparatus and fire companies in certain areas of a community.
Unit Two builds on Unit One by introducing the subject of firefighter and fire department productivity. Aside from the intrinsic interest of this subject, productivity analysis is also useful to place some aspects of operations research in context. In Unit Two we introduce the problem of fire company deployment in New York City, showing how operations research has addressed this question. The controversial discussion also allows for a brief introduction of the method of computer simulation. Finally Unit Two ends with a presentation on firefighter productivity at the fire, as opposed to before the fire.1 This research allow for another foray into operations research by showing the relevance of Markov chains.
Unit Three presents a fairly complex research article that tests Perrow’s natural accident theory (NAT). The purpose of this unit is to begin to develop the skill set that allows you to read and report critically on the research relevant to fire service operations. Much of this research is found in about eight to ten journals published usually on a quarterly basis.2 The purpose for critical reading is so you can learn what researchers have already discovered. The need to be critical is because no one research technique is so perfect that you should accept verbatim the conclusions that this technique produces. The purpose for critical reporting is so you can communicate what you have learned to others who won’t have the time (or skill) to undertake the task. Nevertheless, your audience will need to learn what you have learned- an audience of chief officers within your department and officers within the fire service in general, and civilians such as CAOs chief engineers, chief financial officers, and a few municipal politicians. You will constantly use this skill as you complete Theoretical Foundations of Fire Protection Planning II, the next course.