Importance of Fire Service Support Functions

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:

1.Describe various types of support organizations and their related purposes.

2.Discuss how support organizations assist the fire service.

3.Summarize how to contact specific organizations when their services are needed.

4.Identify support functions and explain their responsibilities and duties needed by the fire service.

5.Analyze the value and importance of fire service support functions.

6.Identify the characteristics of a managerial support function and a technical support function.

Written Lecture


In this unit we will consider and compare the value and importance of two forms of support mechanisms affecting most all public fire service agencies: external and internal. External support comes from a wide range of agencies and organizations, both public and private, whereas internal support comes from within the department itself. Both sources of support functionality are an integral part of an effective and efficient modern fire department.

Chapter 5: Public and Private Support Organizations

National organizations and agencies: Support organizations and agencies can be found at many different levels: international, national, state, and local. Many private organizations are non-profit or not-for-profit agencies having tax exemption protection under the Federal Tax Code known as 501(c)(3). Non-profit organizations are allowed to solicit contributions and donations without paying taxes to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) providing that such organization meets the criteria of the law. More on 501(c)(3) can be found in IRS Publication 557 in the Supplemental Reading section of the Unit IV Study Guide.

Not all private support organizations are tax exempt. However, typically their mission statement is to provide “free” services to those in need. Non-profit agencies rely heavily on contributions from the public-at-large in order to maintain a level of service within their geographical region or area of coverage. Conversely, publicly funded support agencies receive their operating budgets from tax dollars which come from local, state, and/or federal sources.

Your textbook lists approximately 49 national and international support agencies, 26 federal organizations, 15 state organizations, and 13 local agencies. The actual numbers are likely to vary from region to region, though the purpose is generally the same of all agencies. These organizations provide various forms of

Reading Assignment

Chapter 5:

Public and Private Support Organizations

Chapter 8:

Support Functions

Supplemental Reading

See information below.

Key Terms

1.Automatic aid

2.Highly protected risk

3.Incendiary device

4.Local area network

5.Mutual aid

6.Resource designator

BFS 3251, Introduction to Fire Protection 2

support to those in need ranging from housing to food and clothing. When possible, some agencies are able to provide monetary assistance to individuals or communities for short-term recovery costs.

One of the most easily recognizable national organizations offering around-the-clock support to virtually all U.S. fire service agencies is the American Red Cross. Generally, it is the local chapter of the Red Cross that comes to the aid of persons displaced by disaster. Consider a multi-family residential dwelling where several families have been forced to evacuate their home following a catastrophic fire. Quite often it is the Red Cross that will bring clothing and food to the displaced occupants, including short-term funding for housing relocation.

In many highly populated metro areas, Red Cross will respond to the scene of a disaster or fire with a rehab unit providing food and beverages to emergency services workers. The Red Cross also provides a number of services to the community at-large, such as local blood drives and educational programs.

The American Red Cross depends largely on contributions from individuals or companies for its annual operating budget. All contributions to the Red Cross are tax deductible. For more on the American Red Cross visit:

Other non-profit organizations who contribute a range of support services at the local level are the Rotary Club, Lions Club, and Kiwanis Club. These are three of the most commonly found agencies within many communities across the nation. Typically these organizations will hold fund raising events in order to acquire operating capital and have funds available for the purchase of equipment that is often donated to the local fire department.

SCBA, thermal imaging cameras, Jaws-of-Life, and emergency generators are among the many items given to local fire departments by these organizations when budget constraints threaten the ability of the department to respond and mitigate emergency incidents.

Not all organizations and agencies contribute monetary forms of support. For some, their purpose is to provide technical information to the fire service. One of the more well-known agencies most relied upon by the fire service is the National Association of Fire Protection (NFPA) headquartered in Quincy, Massachusetts. Since 1896, the mission of NFPA has been to, “…reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education” (NFPA, n.d.). NFPA is a for-profit agency.

Many fire departments have a copy of the many codes and standards applicable to the fire service. Among these standards are: NFPA 1001 Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications, NFPA 1901 Automotive Fire Apparatus, and NFPA 1971 Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting. NFPA Codes and Standards are available for purchase from its web site, and NFPA membership reduces the cost of each publication. For more on NFPA visit:

NFPA is the principal lead for National Fire Prevention Week typically held during the first week of every October. During this week long observance, many fire departments across the country will hold open house at their main fire station, distribute fire prevention flyers, and hold fire apparatus and equipment demonstrations. BFS 3251, Introduction to Fire Protection 3

One of the most easily recognizable symbols of Fire Prevention Week is that of Sparky the Fire Dog who has been around since about 1951. Sparky is the mascot representing fire safety and awareness geared primarily for school-aged children; however his presence is important to adults as well.

For more information about Sparky the Fire Dog visit his web site:

From the federal government we will find support from several fire service related agencies. Federal Emergency Management (FEMA), National Fire Academy (NFA), National Incident Management System (NIMS), and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are but a few of the many available. Each agency has its own mission and purpose, and most offer federal assistance in times of disaster, or in the case of NFA, invaluable education and training programs for fire service personnel.

In the wake and aftermath of the Twin Tower attacks on September 11, 2001, the federal government created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This agency has oversight for virtually all matters of domestic security from airports to seaports to local fire and police service agencies. The reach of the DHS is far and wide. To better understand this massive organization visit their web site at: One of the functions of DHS is to provide assistance and guidance to state and local governments in preparing for possible terrorist activity. All resourceful emergency service leaders will benefit greatly by reading the information found at the DHS web site.

State level organizations and agencies: Among the agencies and organizations dedicated to assisting fire service leadership and managers are the office of state fire marshal, state fire training center, emergency management agency, state fire chief and firefighter associations, and state environmental protection agency (EPA). Most all of these agencies have their respective web sites where department managers and leaders will find valuable information and associated web links to many dimensions of support.

Local organizations: Typically these organizations will include city government, city police department, public works, health agent, building department, zoning and planning commission, and local emergency management department. These organizations will tend to vary widely depending upon the form of local government of the respective community. It therefore is incumbent upon the resource fire department leader to know and understand how each of these support agencies is managed, who their leaders are, and how their resources can be integrated into the fire departments needs in times of disaster.

Chapter 8: Support Functions

These support functions come not from outside the department, but rather from within. It might be said that without these various divisions or functions, many fire departments simply could not operate effectively or efficiently. Each function has its specific purpose and value to the overall operation of the fire department.


Typically this is the most vital function of the entire emergency response process. Without an effective and efficient dispatch center, whether onsite at the fire department or as part of public safety dispatch center, emergency response could not be made. The actual emergency call receiving center varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction; however, the principles of operation are much the same. Virtually all regions of the U.S. are now equipped with a 9-1-1 or E-9-1-1 system. BFS 3251, Introduction to Fire Protection 4

Residents in a community or geographical region need only dial 9-1-1 from their home land line or cellular phones and within seconds are connected (barring only communications failures) to an appropriate 9-1-1 call center. From the moment the 9-1-1 operator accepts the call to moment emergency response equipment is dispatched, the call is typically recorded both on recording tape and hand written. Enhanced 9-1-1 (E 9-1-1) systems provide the operator the physical location of the source of the call, though this may not be the actual response address.

For this reason 9-1-1 operators in many jurisdictions are required undergo specialized training during which time they are certified in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and other life saving techniques. Upon receipt of an emergency call, the operator will determine the nature of situation and what emergency apparatus will be required. In those cases where CPR is indicated, the operator has sufficient training to instruct the caller as to what must be done to begin life saving measures. Once such measures have begun, the dispatcher or an assistant will then alert and dispatch the appropriate apparatus.

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