Big data could reshape the way firefighters do their jobs
'Every fire chief I talk to in Canada is very excited about this'
Fire departments from across the country are planning to pool information in the new year in hopes of finding out if certain areas or types of buildings are more prone to fires.
The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs is helping create the country's first national fire information database, which with gather information on any emergency firefighters respond to. They hope it will help prevent fires and protect the public.
"We need to take a look at national issues and find out where we see trends," said Ken Stuebing, the fire and paramedic chief for the municipality of Chatham-Kent, Ont.
He also serves on the board of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs. The non-profit group represents 3,500 fire departments across Canada and calls itself the voice of the Canadian fire service.
'It's long overdue'
The database is set to start operation in January or February and it will collect information on a fire's location, cause, how many firefighters responded and more.
It will allow firefighters to see if certain areas — whether residential, commercial or industrial — are more prone to fires.
In turn, firefighters will be able to decide how to best distribute their resources and advise municipalities on how to plan future development to better prevent fires and protect the public.
"It's long overdue," said Stuebing, "Every fire chief I talk to in Canada is very excited about this."
He said he's curious to see statistics on the frequency of fires in multi-use buildings that house businesses and apartments.
"We might find combinations of businesses and tenants are more at risk than another combination of businesses and tenants. We intuitively believe there are some businesses that are more at risk but we don't really have the data to prove that."
Project costs $1.1M
The fire data will also be linked to socioeconomic data that includes things such as crime, income, education and housing.
Without hard data it's difficult for fire officials to make informed decisions on how to change policies and use resources, said Stuebing.
The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs is working with several government bodies to create the database including Public Safety Canada, Statistics Canada, and Defence and Research Development Canada.
The database is a three-year pilot project that will cost a total of $1.1 million. Defence Research and Development Canada is contributing around $851,000.
Stuebing estimates researchers will start looking at the information collected in the database early in the new year.