2020 Edition of NFPA 1710 Released

The 2020 Edition of NFPA 1710, Standard for the Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Career Fire Departments, has been released by the NFPA Standards Council.

The 2020 Edition contains several noteworthy changes.

  1. To address concerns about when NFPA 1710 applies compared to NFPA 1720 (the standard for volunteer fire departments), a definition of a career fire department was added that identifies a career department as one that utilizes full-time or full-time equivalent (FTE) personnel to comprise at least 50% of an initial full alarm assignment. In other words, if 50% or more of the personnel dispatched on the first alarm to a reported structure fire are career/FTE personnel, the department falls under NFPA 1710. The new definition will have no impact on fire departments that only employ career personnel. The biggest impact will be on fire departments that have career and part-time and/or volunteer personnel.  FTEs would be several part-time employees whose combined hours equal a full-time employee. A simple example: if a fire department staffs a riding position 24/7 with 7 part time employees each working 24 hours a week while career personnel work 56 hours per week, the 7 part time personnel would constitute 1 FTE riding position (think it through). There will likely be a lot of discussion about this provision going forward. In particular, when a volunteer engine is dispatched along with a career engine, how many riding positions should be counted for the volunteer apparatus? Is it the total number of seats the apparatus has, or the number of seats actually occupied (perhaps on average), or might it be the number assumed in a policy dictating what each riding position is expected to do? Plenty of grist for the mill.
  2. Over the past few revision cycles, the committee has been attempting to better quantify when a four-person crew should be increased to five or six persons. The 2020 edition goes further in helping to clarify this issue. The standard now states that in response zones with a high number of incidents, geographical restrictions, geographical isolations or urban areas the staffing should be increased to five, while in response zones with tactical hazards, high-hazard occupancies, or dense urban areas the staffing should be increased to 6. The standard defines the term geographical isolation as areas where over 80% of the response area is outside of a 10-minute response of the next closest fire suppression unit, and geographical restriction as being where there are predictable response delays.
  3. The earlier editions of NFPA 1710 called for the arrival of an initial engine company within 240 seconds (4 minutes) or less of driving time, with the balance of the first (initial) alarm arriving in 480 seconds (8 minutes) or less (610 seconds or 10 minutes and 10 seconds for high-rise buildings). These performance objectives should be met 90% of the time. The 2020 Edition continues these requirements, and in addition now calls for the arrival of a second properly staffed four-person unit to arrive within 360 seconds (6 minutes) or less. The standard is not specific as to whether the second arriving unit must be an engine, truck, squad, quint, or other specialty unit, provided it is staffed with four members. Thus, a command vehicle or EMS unit staffed with two or three members would not meet the standard for this second arriving unit.
  4. Response to the minimum benchmark structure (single family wood frame dwelling 2000 square feet with no basement and no exposures), is now 17 members (16 if no aerial device is dispatched). Previously the standard called for 15 members (14 if no aerial). The two additional positions are the result of an increase in the recommended size of the rapid intervention crew from the NFPA 1500 and OSHA required minimum of a two-out crew to the same four-person crew that NFPA 1710 has previously required for other structures such as a garden apartment, strip-mall, or high-rise. The four person RIC must consist of an officer and three firefighters.
  5. There were no changes to the recommended minimum personnel to be dispatched to the benchmark structures for garden apartments (28), strip-malls (28) or high rises (43).
  6. The 2020 Edition makes it a bit easier for those interested in the bottom line to get to the total number of personnel required for each of the four benchmark structures without having to manually add up the individual positions and assignments. In the past the standard listed the various positions and assignments for personnel, but did not list a total number of personnel required. The 2020 Edition now lists the total number of personnel required for each benchmark structure.

The standard was approved by the Standards Council on April 28, 2019 with an effective date of May 18, 2019. Here is a link to the NFPA’s Doc Info Page for 1710.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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