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FIRE21 - Research 2023 - Norway

This work package within FIRE21 studies network-based problem-solving in Fire and Rescue services. The aim is to get an understanding of problem-solving networks and their capabilities. The work package is led by Gudveig Gjøsund at NTNU Social Research.

The Norwegian research in 2023

In 2023, the Norwegian research team conducted a case study on a rural part-time FRS that had recently handled an emergency with a dramatic landslide. Despite limited resources compared to a larger, rural FRS, the firefighters dealt with the critical situation impressively. This was possible due to the experience that the firefighters had gained through their regular day jobs.

The rural FRSs in Norway

Based on this case study and earlier studies on rural fire and rescue services, we investigate what future position these small, rural FRS will play in Norwegian society. What qualities in the rural fire and rescue services might be lost when moving towards larger FRS constellations? What skills might be missed when the emphasis is on centralization and specialization? 

Two-thirds of firefighters work part-time

In Norway, two-thirds of the firefighters are employed in part-time positions. In most smaller FRS, firefighters receive a few hours of training each year and a negligible sum of money. This is the compensation for being available at all times and for any call-outs they respond to. 

Part-timers are the backbone of emergency response

These part time fire fighters are people with other day jobs carrying a call-out radio with them at all times. These part-timers are the backbone of the emergency response organisations in districts and rural areas. They belong to a small service team where usually only a few firefighters, the fire chief and some other key personnel have full-time positions.

The service team is usually first on-site

Nevertheless, this service team is often the first to be on-site, before the ambulance and the police, and before backup arrives from other areas and various emergencies. Experience from several incidents has shown that the team tends to perform impressively in these situations. 

Highly motivated, flexible and adaptive firefighters

Firmly established in the communities, these firefighters are highly motivated and perform high service. Consisting of people from various occupations, these persons show a high flexibility and an outstanding adaptive capacity. These characteristics are effective during emergencies and while developing their services.

Volunteers are essential even in the future   

The ongoing and planned consolidation of the fire services will undoubtedly change the role of part-time firefighters, but the dependence on these part-time firefighters will remain to achieve an effective FRS. And, as they are “volunteers” from the perspective that the money is low and hardly the primary motivating factor, it will be important to preserve this resource even in the future.   

Specific qualities contribute to the effectiveness

During the research, we studied how rural FRS and their employees seem to have qualities that make them more effective than a quick glance on an organizational map, their equipment inventory and not least their budgets would suggest. Therefore, our analytical focus is on networks in relation to the community, the motivation among the personnel, and how the voluntary firefighters' various experiences and skills can be a resource. 

Authors: Petter Grytten Almklov, Gudveig Gjøsund and Torgeir Kolstø Haavik. 
December 2023 

Lotta Vylund

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Kerstin Eriksson


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