The Columbia Fire Department received the Life Safety Achievement Award on Wednesday for for its work in fire prevention.
There were zero fire deaths under the department’s watch in 2011.
The U.S. has one of the worst records for residential fire deaths in the industrialized world, according to the National Association of State Fire Marshals' website. Although residential fires in the U.S. account for only 20 percent of all fires, they result in 80 percent of all fire deaths.
The LSA Award was created in 1994 by the Residential Fire Safety Institute, a program within the National Association of State Fire Marshals. The objective of this award is to recognize fire departments with outstanding fire safety statistics and effective fire prevention programs during the preceding calendar year.
The criteria for receiving the LSA Award includes zero fire deaths or at least 10 percent reduction in fire deaths from the previous year, an active fire prevention program and dedicated commitment to fire prevention activities. Fire departments in the U.S. can get into the selection process by filling out an application providing supporting evidence of their efforts regarding fire prevention. This application is then submitted to NASFM Foundation for consideration.
Jim Narva, executive director of NASFM Fire Research and Education Foundation, said it's important for fire departments to focus on prevention with a strategy specific to their cities.
"There needs to be a commitment to fire prevention from the fire department leadership and demonstrate this commitment with funding to support the activities," Narva said in an email. "The specific actions necessary for a fire department should be based upon an analysis of their community's fire problem and risks. There is no one single thing to do; it depends upon the needs of the community."
Narva said NASFM works through Missouri Fire Marshal Randy Cole to provide resources statewide. These resources can include model ordinances for residential fire sprinklers and emergency responder training for pipeline emergencies.
The Columbia Fire Department was granted the LSA Award because it registered zero deaths during 2011 and because of its active fire prevention program. CFD Fire Marshal Brad Fraizer said this program includes actions such as conferences at schools and a fire prevention week, which is intended to educate the community on fire safety.
“We have an assistant fire marshal assigned to the University of Missouri, and we work closely with the university to see that all safety measures and life safety measures are met in accordance to the fire code," Fraizer said.
The 2011 award is the CFD’s 10th LSA Award.
The award was announced by J. William Degnan, president of the NASFM Fire Research and Education Foundation. The foundation works with various groups to achieve higher levels of safety for consumers and supports the mission of NASFM.
Narva said all fire departments in the U.S. are eligible to apply as long as they meet the criteria. Fifty fire departments applied for the 2011 award and all 50 were selected.
Seven fire departments in Missouri earned the award.
“NASFM very much believes the resources expended (personnel and funding) will make a huge impact on reducing the impact of fire on our communities and nation as a whole," Narva said in an email. "The resources spent 'preventing' a fire or significantly reducing its impact are far better dollars to spend than having to respond after the fact when a fire has occurred. We are not suggesting less funding for the suppression efforts but rather increasing funding for prevention activities."