This is Firecrowd - home to the first crowdsourced Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for fire fighters. Our goal is to use peer production to create a best practice SOP database.

1. View the SOPs to see vetted versions of the SOPs, and click on the numbered sections to see comments from others and to join in on discussions.

2. Check out the SOPs in Progress and edit the document text in real time.

3. Look through the Resources and About pages to learn more about current fire fighter news and research.

Creating best practice SOPs

Emergency responders commonly utilize SOPs and SOGs as documents that ultimately represent the best practice solutions for emergency response organizations. The documents are used to facilitate training, support operation guidance, and to interpret policy during post event assessment.

Currently there is not a standard SOP that is uniform across the fire departments in the United States. Instead, they are customized for each emergency response organization. For example, in the United States there are more than 31,000 individual fire departments, and each is likely to use dozens of different SOPs and SOGs addressing numerous tasks.  

Fire fighter SOPs play extremely important roles in our society, such as saving lives, reducing injuries, and minimizing the adverse impact from unwanted fire and other emergency events. Fire fighter SOPs also support other goals such as protecting property, minimizing business interruption, supporting mission continuity, and protecting the environment. 

The Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF) has recently become interested in crowdsourcing and peer production, especially the intriguing potential benefits for the online development of SOPs/SOGs. Online peer production offers a novel approach to synthesis and coordinated information on a common technical topic (the individual SOP) based on broad and on-going input from directly impacted stakeholders, in this case the fire fighter community and health and safety personnel. The Firecrowd project focuses on the use of online peer production techniques to develop and refine SOPs/SOGs on a national scale for the fire service.  

SOPs vs. SOGs

An issue sometimes arises within fire service organizations about whether to use the terminology “standard operating procedures” (SOPs) or “standard operating guidelines” (SOGs). Some experts feel that the term “procedures” implies relatively inflexible task steps or instructions, while “guidelines” implies more discretion in performing the job. Since emergency incidents are unpredictable and flexibility is essential, these experts advise fire departments to develop SOGs, thereby reducing the need to identify exceptions, and perhaps even limiting liability due to actions by personnel. Other experts believe the opposite is true: the term “guidelines” implies too much flexibility and discretion, thus reducing control and increasing the likelihood of mistakes.

A review of related legal proceedings indicates that terminology is less important than content and implementation of SOPs/SOGs. Courts tend to assess liability based on factors such as:

•   Systems in place to develop and maintain SOPs/SOGs

•   Compatibility with regulatory requirements and national standards

•   Consideration of unique departmental needs

•   Adequacy of training and demonstration of competence

•   Procedures used to monitor performance and ensure compliance

For convenience, the traditional terminology “standard operating procedures” is used throughout this website. Other alternatives—including General Orders, Departmental Orders, or Executive Orders, to name a few—may be equally appropriate. Fire service organizations should consult with legal counsel and use the terminology that best reflects their unique needs. Regardless of the term used for these policies and procedures, it is important to note that judgement and discretion must be used on all incidents.


Images from spifi.arizona.edu