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Does your FD have mutual and/or Automatic Aid agreements in writing as per NFPA 1710? Photos by Tom Forster

How good is your fire department? Part III

In our first two parts we reviewed one of the oldest systems of rating community fire protection – the Insurance Services Office (ISO) system.

Today in Part III, we’ll review one of the National Fire Protection Association standards for FD’s. Part IV in January will focus on a relatively new FD accreditation system, and finally in Part V, some common sense questions about the FD you should ask that are not specifically covered in any of the systems.

The National Fire Protection Association is a trade association that creates and maintains private, copyrighted standards and over 380 codes for usage and adoption by local governments. The group was formed in 1896 by a group of insurance companies to standardize the new business of fire sprinkler systems.

An initial focus on model codes and standards expanded into almost all aspects of building design and construction, along with comprehensive standards for firefighting.

NFPA membership expanded starting in 1905 to include fire departments, manufacturing associations, some trade unions, many related trade associations, individuals and engineering associations. There are over 65,000 members today, including some internationally.

Publications offered today range from building codes to many on equipment, training, and safety requirements utilized by firefighters and FDs.

NFPA is “not” a government agency, and it has no formal authority or regulatory control over your local FD. However, your FD may already be or may become subject to meeting various NFPA standards through a variety of actions.

For example, if your FD applies for and receives an Assistance to Firefighters grant through FEMA, they are agreeing to meet various NFPA standards including those for firefighter training and safety.

Fire Departments may also choose to adopt NFPA standards independently for many reasons, including to achieve safe operations.

NFPA’s 1720 Standard applies to volunteer and some combination FDs (those with both career and volunteer firefighters). Called “The Standard for the Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Volunteer Fire Departments,” it describes minimum standards in the most recent edition that was completed in 2012. 1710 is the similar standard that applies to career FDs.

Even though NFPA is not a public agency, it is by far the most recognized fire service standards group. Its standards are widely used by most fire service groups, including the California Fire Training & Education System operated by the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

Right now, the entire state fire training system is being aligned with NFPA standards, as part of a long-term goal to achieve national recognition and reciprocity for the overall program.

Locally, our regional fire academy led by the Quincy FPD for new firefighters is aligned with state fire training standards, and therefore with the NFPA Firefighter 1001 Standard. In addition, most Plumas County FDs have received AFG/FEMA grants over the past 15 years, ranging from fire hose and protective clothing, to fire engines and training. This means that most are subject to NFPA standards already.

FDs that do not follow the standards do so with some risk of liability concerns. While not mandated by laws or regulations, the standards may be referenced in legal actions, including in cases of firefighter injury or death. When in reality most FDs follow the standards, it would be easy to ask the question “How come your FD does not?”

Following national standards that are updated every few years can help assure safe and effective operations. NFPA 1720 covers service delivery, response capabilities, and resources, including health and safety, training, incident management, communications and pre-incident planning.

It does not cover fire prevention, community education, fire investigation, personnel management, support services or budgeting. For more information, see nfpa.org.

Now is a good time to consider becoming a volunteer firefighter in your community. The annual Quincy Fire Academy will be held in April over five Saturdays. Contact your local FD for more information.

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