Fire Safety: Comprehensive Information on Fire Incidences in Federal Facilities Is Lacking

GAO-01-879 Published: Aug 20, 2001. Publicly Released: Sep 19, 2001.
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Developing fire protection standards and testing products against them are critical to promoting fire safety. Business offices, including federal facilities, experience thousands of fires, more than $100 million in property losses, and dozens of casualties each year. Knowing the number and types of fires in the workplace, as well as their causes, is critical to understanding and reducing fire risks. Some private-sector groups track the number and causes of fires in different types of buildings. Such information is used to manage risk and reduce property damage, injuries, and deaths. However, the federal government collects little information on the fire risks in its facilities. As a result, the federal government cannot provide standards-development organizations with timely information that could be used to develop or revise fire safety standards, testing procedures, and certification decisions. Collecting and analyzing such data would help the government to better protect its employees and would contribute to the production of better standards to protect the public from fire.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Directorate of Emergency Preparedness and Response The Administrator, U.S. Fire Administration, in conjunction with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, GSA, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and other federal agencies identified as being relevant, should examine whether the systematic collection and analysis of data on fires in federal workspace is warranted. If they determine that data collection and analysis is warranted, data that should be considered for collection and analysis include: the number of fires in federal workspace; property damage, injuries, and deaths resulting from such fires; and the causes of these fires, including any products involved, if determined. In addition, the agencies should discuss, among other topics deemed relevant, the availability of resources for implementing any data collection system and any needed authority to facilitate federal agencies' cooperation in this effort.
Closed – Implemented
The Federal Emergency Management Agency's U.S. Fire Administration implemented our recommendation to examine, in conjunction with other agencies, whether to institute the systematic collection and analysis of data on fires in the federal workplace. In commenting on our draft report, the Director, National Fire Data Center, U.S. Fire Administration, agreed in principle with our recommendation and said that agency officials would meet with GSA and others to examine the need for specialized data collection on fire incidents in federal facilities. On August 14, 2002, the Fire Administration discussed the implementation of our recommendation at the Federal Fire Working Group meeting.

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