Protecting Our Own - Fire Station Safety

The job of the fire department is to protect the community from the hazards and loss that a fire can bring.  However, we cannot effectively accomplish this goal if we do not take care of our own. The following standards have been developed for this purpose:

  • NFPA 1500, Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program
  • NFPA 1581, Standard on Fire Department Infection Control Program
  • NFPA 1582, Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments
  • NFPA 1583, Standard on Health-Related Fitness Programs for Fire Department Members

The starting point for firefighter safety programs is NFPA 1500. This standard addresses safety issues, requirements, and responsibilities related to administration, professional development, apparatus, PPE, operations, medical and physical fitness, and behavioral health and wellness.

This standard also addresses concerns associated with fire department facility, fire station, safety. Section 9.2 requires all fire department facilities to be inspected at least annually, with a monthly walkthrough to address issues.  These inspections are to ensure compliance with the facility safety standard of NFPA 1500, chapter 9.  Model facility inspection programs consist of observance of OSHA standards, general housekeeping, egress, fire extinguishers, life safety, electrical issues, apparatus bay, and the building exterior. To assist in this inspection process we have created an inspection tool for you to download.

Engaging Firefighters in Community Risk Reduction

"Firefighters" Nicole Huber

The general goal of the fire prevention organization is to prevent the loss of life and property damage due to fire. Where NFPA 1730 provides guidance on what needs to be done to accomplish this goal, NFPA 1452 provides practical guidance on how this can be achieved.

The Guide for Training Fire Service Personnel to Conduct Community Risk Reduction, provides direction for fire departments to design and implement the community risk reduction plan.  A key component for effective risk reduction is face-to-face interaction with community members.  This can be achieved through public events, fire station visits, and, most effectively, home visits. Community risk reduction programs, and fire crews involvement in them, produces three distinct benefits.

Material distribution.

Home visits, interaction, and direct contact with the public can provide an excellent opportunity to distribute and discuss fire prevention, life safety, and emergency preparedness literature. With the abundance of documents and materials available, make sure that the selected items and literature are directly tied with the communities risk reduction plan and goals.  Fire department personnel should take advantage of these opportunities to to answer questions and create conversations that promote risk reduction initiatives.

Supports other programs.

Personal interactions and home visits improve the public perception of the fire department, and allow the promotion of additional fire protection and life safety programs. Based on the conditions or personnel observed, some programs that may be promoted include:
  • smoke alarm installation
  • CO detection and alarm installation
  • radon dangers and awareness
  • residential fire sprinklers
  • fire escape planning
  • Drowning prevention
  • senior citizen risks and fall prevention
  • Fire safety for children

Continuity of CRR programs.

Effective community risk reduction is an endless cycle of planning, implementation, and evaluation. Home visits and discussion with community members and groups can provide feedback on current programs, and data for future community needs.  As these programs gain traction and their effectiveness is tracked and demonstrated, community support for the department and CRR will be enhanced.

Creating a Work Plan (Part 5)

This is Part 5 of a 6 part series collectively titled, McKinsey Method for Fire Protection Solutions. As you read keep in mind that these systems and processes can be applied to  fire protection organization and leadership, and to physical fire protection systems and components.

If it can’t be put on paper, then it lacks clarity. In Part 2 of this series, How to Analyze Fire Protection Problems,  a  four part process for analyzing problems was outlined. The work plan is the tool used to define and specify the desired outcomes of the identified problem analysis. The work plan lists all the issues that were framed in initial hypothesis. The work plan then provides a pathway to address these issues.  For each issue the work plan chart will show:

  • Statement of the issue or hypothesis.
  • Prioritized list of analysis to be completed to prove/disprove hypothesis.
  • Data and sources needed to perform the analysis.
  • Description of the end product of the analysis (or item produced to show analysis data).
  • Team member responsible for the end product.
  • Due date for the end product

Write down the hypothesis to be analyzed.  Under this list all issues or sub-issues that need to be addressed.  Across from each issue, describe the analysis that will need to be performed. In the next column list the data and data sources that will be needed to conduct a thorough analysis.  Next, describe the end product. What will need to be produced to compile the data and demonstrate the validity of the analysis?  Assign each of these issues and analyses to a team member, and give them a deadline for the final product.

We have created a spreadsheet for you to utilize. Click the image to access.

Work Plan Spreadsheet

Are you prepared for an NFPA 1403 burn?

The best part of the fire academy is ‘live burn day’. All the recruits are taken out to a home in the community, it is prepped for burning, and then ignited.  This allows for a realistic firefighting scenario. However, one cannot just get a house and burn it.  There are many steps and much documentation to be completed to ensure that these burns are conducted legally and in a safe manner.  NFPA 1403 is the standard for live burns, and outlines the requirements for the use of live fire in acquired structures.  Though these provide great opportunities for training, a considerable amount of work must be done ahead of time. This post provides a brief overview of the documentation, personnel, site prep, and burn day requirements. This is not exhaustive and should only be used as a guide. NFPA 1403 should be consulted prior to any live fire training.

Download now for FREE!

  • Contracts for outside instructors, building preparation personnel, or general contractors.
  • Students to be certified to FF1 level.
  • PPE/Gear to be in good condition, documentation of inspection.
  • Pre-burn plan - to include evacuation plan, water supply calculations, and fuel load calculations.
  • Jurisdictional permits required.
  • Ownership determination, release, and property transfer.
    • Clear title
    • Written permission to burn
    • Anticipated condition of structure at end of burn
    • Method of property return to owner
    • Proof of insurance cancellation/statement
  • Post-training critique and final report.

  • Minimum of (7) certified live fire training instructors.
    • Instructor-in-charge (IIC)
    • Safety Officer
    • (1) instructor per functional crew
    • (1) instructor per backup line
    • (1) instructor per functional assignment
    • (1) ignition officer - fire control team
    • (1) ignition observer/assistant - fire control team
  • Pump operator(s).
  • Rehab area staffing.
  • BLS medical personnel and transport unit.
  • Rapid intervention crew/team.

Site Prep
  • Determine suitability of building for live fire training use.
  • Prepare building for burning (make repairs, cover holes, remove hazards, etc.).
  • Protect or remove adjacent properties.
  • Hazard mitigation.
    • Clean-up
    • Removal/disposal
    • Repairs
    • Asbestos removal
    • Vegetation/vermin abatement
  • Utilities to be disconnected (to the burn structure) and removed or protected (adjacent structures).
  • Run-off containment.

 Burn Day
  • Accountability (PAR) system in place and managed.
  • Weather observed to ensure safe conditions.
  • Rehab station and supplies established.
  • Communications and radios provided.
  • Evacuation plan and signal demonstrated.
  • BLS medical transport unit on-site.
  • Adequate and reliable water supply available.
    • Calculate needed supply (NFPA 1142)
    • Ensure reliability of primary/backup lines (95 gpm)
    • Ensure adequate minimum water reserve
    • Ensure clear space around structure for operation of hose lines
  • Fuel materials available.
    • Amount and type (wood-only)
    • Documentation/calculation of fuel loading
    • Removal of additional potential ignition sources and unidentified materials
  • Parking and staging areas designated.
    • Apparatus used for training
    • Parking for spectators/press
    • Designate ingress/egress routes
  • Brief the pre-burn plan.
  • Maintain the following records:
    • Accounting of all activities conducted
    • List of instructors/assignments
    • List of all participants
    • Documentation of unusual conditions encountered
    • Injuries incurred/treatment provided
    • Changes or deterioration to the structure
    • Documentation of condition of structure and surrounding area at end of training
  • Conduct a post-training critique.

Download now for FREE!

How to Fail the NFPA 285 Test

The June 14 fire at London’s Grenfell Tower apartment complex burned through 24 floors and claimed seventy-nine lives. The rapid spread and magnitude of this incident can be attributed to the combustible cladding used in the exterior construction of the tower.

The implementation and adoption of NFPA 285, Standard Fire Test Method for Evaluation ofthe Propagation Characteristics of Exterior Non-Load-Bearing Wall AssembliesContaining Combustible Components, has largely prevented these fire incidents from occurring in the United States. This standard outlines the requirements and test procedures to determine if a given wall assembly could support a self-accelerating or self-spreading fire up an exterior wall, or spread fire to interior floors above the fire floor.

Any materials intended for use as an exterior wall assembly must pass the NFPA 285 test. The assembly will be considered to have failed if:

  1. A temperature greater than 1,000°F at 10’ or higher above the top of the window opening, as measured by thermocouples mounted on the surface of the test specimen.
  2. Flames visually observed on the exterior face of the specimen at 10’ of higher above the top of the window opening.
  3. Flames visually observed on the exterior face of the specimen at 5’ or further from the centerline of the window opening.
  4. Temperature rise greater than 750°F within any combustible wall components more than ¼” thick.
  5. Temperatures greater than 1000°F within any wall cavity air space.
  6. Temperature rise greater than 500°F in the second story room, measured 1” from the interior surface of the wall assembly.
  7. Flames visually observed within the second-story test room.

By examining exterior wall fires around the world, understanding the history and development of NFPA 285, and reviewing the test method, Building Exterior Wall Assembly Flammability: Have We Forgotten the Past 40 Years?, demonstrates how the continued use and enforcement of NFPA 285 is essential in preserving a fire safe America.