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New Partnerships to Assess Fire Service Culture







Chief Richard Marinucci, Executive Director of the Fire Department Safety Officers Association (FDSOA) and Jennifer Taylor, PhD, MPH, director of the Firefighter Injury Research and Safety Trends (FIRST) program in the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University are proud to announce receipt of a $1.5 million grant from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFG) run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

This new collaboration responds to FEMA’s national prevention priorities on firefighter safety projects “designed to measurably change firefighter behavior and decision-making”. The Firefighter Organizational Culture of Safety (FOCUS) survey created the first fire service-specific safety culture assessment tool and was developed by Taylor and her team in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health of the Dornsife School under a FEMA FP&S R&D grant. It measures behaviors, decision-making, and organizational safety factors. Safety culture is a robust predictor of occupational injuries and organizational outcomes such as burnout, job satisfaction, and engagement. 

This new partnership will create national fire service impact by widely disseminating the FOCUS survey, which promotes the use of objective data to understand, maintain, or change the culture that creates safety. FDSOA and FIRST will train 100 safety officers during national fire service meetings to become champions of culture in their home departments, and will serve 500 fire departments from across the country with FOCUS survey administration and customized analysis.Andrea Davis, MPH ’12, CPH of the Dornsife School will continue to serve as Project Manager. She will be assisted by Lauren Shepler, MPH ’15. To develop the FOCUS instrument, they recruited and assessed safety climate in the largest FEMA study sample of over 10,000 firefighters in 130 departments.

To rapidly serve fire departments, FIRST has partnered with Murugan Anandarajan, PhD, Department Head, Management, Decision Sciences & MIS in Drexel's LeBow College of Business. Master of Science students in LeBow's Business Analytics program will develop an automated reporting system that will generate customized fire department reports from FOCUS data. All participating departments will receive customized reports of their safety climate scores, and where applicable, scores by individual stations within their department. Fire departments will be able to benchmark their scores to departments in their FEMA region, and to similar departments throughout the U.S. 

FIRST is honored to continue its collaboration with renowned Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, Christian Resick, PhD, MA, Associate Professor of Management and Organizational Behavior with the LeBow College of Business and the Academic Director of the College’s Institute for Strategic Leadership. Resick will help fire departments translate and disseminate FOCUS survey results into immediately actionable practice. Resick led the Drexel team in the psychometric evaluation of the FOCUS instrument that established it as a valid and reliable tool for fire service safety climate assessment. His research focuses on the social and cognitive psychological processes associated with leader influence, teamwork, and organizational culture and fit.

The Fire Department Safety Officers Association (FDSOA) is a non-profit organization that promotes safety standards and practices in fire, rescue, and emergency services. FDSOA sponsors the Apparatus Specification and Maintenance Symposium bringing together manufacturers, fire officers, and emergency vehicle technicians. These forums contribute to significant improvements in apparatus safety performance. FDSOA helps Safety Officers achieve proficiency in the skills necessary to secure the National Board on Fire Service Professional Qualifications Health and Safety Officer and Incident Safety Officer.  FDSOA’s education and certification programs for Incident Safety Officers (ISO) reflect current best practices. These programs exceed the Job Performance Requirements of NFPA 1521: Standard for Fire Department Incident Safety Officers Professional Qualifications. FDSOA was the recipient of the 2016 Senator Paul S. Sarbanes Fire Service Safety Leadership Award

Firefighter Injury Research and Safety Trends (FIRST) is a research enterprise at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA organized to support the United States fire and rescue service through objective data collection and analysis. FIRST is led by Dr. Jennifer Taylor, an expert in injury prevention, healthcare quality improvement, and occupational safety. Current FIRST projects include: organizational safety climate assessment; nonfatal injury data system development; and investigation of violence against paramedics and EMTs. FIRST uses its federal funding to make sure research findings are freely downloadable to the fire service and the public through its website.

Dr. Taylor is an Associate Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health. She received a PhD from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Department of Health Policy and Management, and a Master of Public Health degree in Health Services from the Boston University School of Public Health. She is a Certified Professional in Patient Safety (CPPS). 

As featured in Fire Engineering® and Drexel NOW

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