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Fire Service Safety Culture


 What we offer

The culture around safety in any organization is a strong predictor of injuries. Safety climate is the measurable aspect of organizational safety culture and has been used by other industries such as healthcare, construction, and manufacturing to gauge and improve safety performance. Until recently the US fire service lacked a reliable and valid instrument to measure its specific safety climate. In 2012, FEMA funded the Center for Firefighter Injury Research and Safety Trends (FIRST) at Drexel University to develop an industry-specific firefighter safety culture survey. 132 fire departments participated in the beta-test version of the survey, and a validated survey tool - the Firefighter Organizational Culture of Safety (FOCUS) survey - was developed. In 2016, Drexel University partnered with the Fire Department Safety Officers Association (FDSOA) and was awarded a FEMA FP&S grant to move research into practice through dissemination of the survey tool.

FOCUS provides fire departments with objective data to reduce injuries in the fire service. Our research team is poised to provide technical assistance for survey administration and data analysis to fire departments who are interested in measuring their safety culture. 

All participating departments will receive customized reports of their safety culture scores, and where applicable, scores by individual stations within their department. As appropriate, fire departments will be able to benchmark their scores to departments in their FEMA region, and to similar departments throughout the US.

Through the collaboration with FDSOA, FIRST will serve 500 fire departments on a first-come, first-served basis. After that, a waitlist will be generated and additional fire departments will be served as resources allow.  FDSOA and FIRST have this FEMA funding until August of 2018, so interested departments should elect to assess their safety culture as soon as possible and no later than May 2018.

Interested fire departments who would like to administer FOCUS in their department will need to meet the requirements mentioned in the following documentCLICK HERE

The model for this project presumes that climate-outcome relationships are mediated by safety behavior, as tested and supported in the meta-analytic study of Christian et al. (2009). This framework reflects the current evidence of the causal path that safety climate takes to impact safety outcomes.

Safety knowledge is a person’s understanding of how to perform the job safely (e.g., knowing the emergency protocol for hazardous materials). This knowledge is an antecedent to safety compliance, performing the actual behavior (e.g., wearing PPE during hazardous material handling). Safety motivation is a person’s willingness to make an effort to perform safety behaviors.  This is an antecedent to safety citizenship, proactive voluntary actions for improving safety beyond compliance with rules and procedures.  Given the evidence regarding climate’s predictive validity, it follows that improvements in safety climate will result in subsequent improvements in safety behaviors along with a reduction of poor safety outcomes including near-misses, injuries, and line of duty deaths.  Recent research also finds that improvements to safety climate result in improvements to organizational outcomes - not traditionally thought of as 'safety' outcomes - such as turnover, job satisfaction, employee engagement, and morale (Huang et al, 2016; Taylor et al, 2011). These costly organizational outcomes are very important to safety in any organization, but particularly in the fire service, where improved employee engagement and retention translates into more experienced firefighters and greater team cohesion - both of which are vital for survival in such a high-risk occupation.

If you would like more information, please e-mail, Andrea Davis,

Find out more about our safety culture work:

Ladders and lifting: How gender affects safety behaviors in the fire service

Situational Pressures that Influence Firefighters' Decision Making about Personal Protective Equipment: A Qualitative Analysis

A Strained 9-1-1 system and Threats to Public Health