To differentiate between fire prevention and fire suppression strategies, it is important to define the terms of prevention and suppression. While fire prevention implies an adoption of various methods for stopping the fire from occurring in the first place, fire suppression implies the elimination of fire as it occurs (NFPA 1).
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The term “firefighting trap” was used by Jennifer Chu in the MIT News article to describe the ineffective pattern of problem-solving when dealing with fires only when they arise instead of trying to develop strategies for its prevention. By doing so, the responsible authorities increase the chance of fires occurring in the future.
The research conducted by the MIT’s Engineering System Division explored the concept of firefighting itself as well as what causes the “quick-fix” fire management strategies to be much more popular though less effective. The research team reviewed the regional data related to fire and conducted a series of interviews with policymakers and professionals responsible for fire managements in order to design a model, which represented the connections and relationships contributing to the management of fire (Chu par. 3).
The findings concluded that the majority of firefighting agencies fall into the trap of only spending resources on suppressing fire as they appear, devoting much less attention to fire prevention. Particularly, the researchers found that firefighting agencies along with policymakers only react to the seasons when the fire is the most dangerous.
In these periods, the funds are funneled to suppress fire in the next season, temporarily mitigating the issue as the public attention to the fires decreases. When the fire situation is under control, there are no efforts to create any prevention solutions. This, consequently, results in even more fires happening in the next season due to the fact that the fire prevention methods like brush clearing and fire lanes building are disregarded (Chu par. 5).
Therefore, fire suppression strategies are only effective in the short-run while fire prevention strategies offer a much more long-term solutions that will prevent fires from occurring in the future, instead of addressing them only in the cases of extreme emergency. Fire prevention strategies are much more effective since they are catered to every facility individually, for example, there are different methods for preventing fire in office buildings and forests (NFPA 2). Contrary to this, fire suppression solutions are rarely individualized since their aim is to put an end to the fire rather than prevent it from occurring in the future.
The one-step response to fire is only beneficial at the time the fire occurs; however, the strategies targeted at preventing the fire from happening include a detailed assessment of how the fires are mitigated, why they appear, as well as what prevention methods have been either successful or not. When combining the analysis of different factors necessary for fire prevention, a strategy can be developed and implemented for reducing the existing fire rates. However, it is impossible to develop a fire suppression strategy that will address fires occurring in the future.
Chu, Jennifer. Study Finds More Spending on Fire Suppression May Lead to Bigger Fires. 2013.
NFPA. Section 10. Fire Prevention and Protection. 2009. PDF file.