DPS launches new fire risk analysis tool, hopes it will save lives

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Minnesota firefighters now have a new tool available to them to help battle fires and save lives.

Wednesday, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s State Fire Marshal Division (SFMD) launched a new fire risk analysis tool and made it available to departments statewide.

“We can be very specific and targeted based on the data-driven approach,” Fridley Fire Chief Maddison Zikmund said.

Officials say the State Fire Marshal Division (SFMD) started planning for the database in 2018, the year after fire deaths in the state reached a 22-year high (68). Since then, staff members have been working with Vancouver-based UrbanLogiq to build a platform that can help assess fire risks, identify trends and ultimately save lives.

“When it comes to fire prevention, it is not a one size fits all solution,” Deputy State Fire Marshal Bob Reif said in a statement. “Each community is unique. In terms of risk reduction strategies, what works for one department may not work for another. Access to these critical insights empowers fire officials to save more lives by catering specific solutions for the needs of their individual communities.”

DPS says the new tool presents data that can help fire chiefs:

  • Identify high-risk populations and areas to better focus their resources,
  • See staffing needs at fire stations based on the numbers and types of fires,
  • Plan where mobile shifts should park rigs at certain times based on trends,
  • Determine which neighborhoods need more public education regarding fire prevention,
  • Measure and track fire mitigation efforts, and
  • Strategize where to build future fire stations.

“We are committed to providing the Minnesota fire service the tools they need to continue serving their communities at the highest levels,” Minnesota State Fire Marshal Jim Smith said. “Data is critical to preventing fires, saving lives and continuing the important work fire departments do every day. That is why we are so passionate about this tool and proud to put it in our firefighters’ hands.”

The tool includes fire data as far back as 2004, as well as open source and demographic information that can help firefighters understand each community’s risk profile and prevention needs.

“That could be old housing stock, infrastructure that’s aging or the people that are living in that area,” Zikmund said.

The assessment tool also allows fire departments to get ahead of the flame by using the findings to go to the high-risk areas and educate the community on fire safety.

“We’ll always be here to assist residents after an emergency happens, but our golden chalice is to stop that emergency from happening in the first place,” Zikmund said.

After spending the past several months training Minnesota fire chiefs how to use the new tool, the DPS is hoping it will make a difference.

After the spike in 2017, Minnesota fire deaths dropped in 2018 to 37 but have been on the rise over more recent years, with 47 reported in 2019 and 53 in 2020.

Smoking-related fires are currently the top cause of fire deaths in Minnesota, according to DPS.

More details on the fire risk analysis tool can be found in this video online.