In 2014, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) received a new standards project request from a retired Kansas City, Missouri fire chief asking for the development of a guide that filled the gap between the fire-science community and the fire service. The request, which was eventually endorsed by the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), National Institute for Safety and Health (NIOSH), UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute, the International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI) and others, sought to ensure that the methods utilised by the fire service for fire control were based on science and not solely on past fire-service traditions or practices.
A new 27-member Technical Committee on Fundamentals of Fire Control Within a Structure Utilising Fire Dynamics was established with representatives from the fire service and insurance industry, as well as subject-matter textbook publishers, special experts and stakeholders actively engaged in fire-dynamics research. Committee members hail from the United States, Canada, Germany and Belgium.
Last autumn, after years of standards development work, NFPA released NFPA 1700 Guide for Structural Fire Fighting – the first NFPA document connecting fire-dynamics research to response strategy, tactics and best practices for firefighters controlling fires within a structure. The 13-chapter guide provides standard operating procedure (SOP) recommendations for responding to a structure fire based on recent large-scale testing and line-of-duty death findings. Recognised research efforts complement fundamental occupancy, building construction and building-service references within NFPA 1700, while addressing firefighter health and safety by reinforcing the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) and methodologies for contamination control. The Technical Committee for NFPA 1700 looked at basic fire science, fire dynamics, PPE, equipment, extinguishment, staffing needs and ways to adopt these strategies into practice and fire-service training – all in the interest of public and responder safety.
New York City Fire Department (FDNY) Assistant Chief Joseph Jardin, Chief of Fire Prevention is the chair of the NFPA 1700 Technical Committee and shared the following:
‘Having read the Standards Council’s request for commentary regarding Richard “Smokey” Dyer’s (retired KC, MO Fire Chief) recommendation, I expressed support for the project and offered to participate should the project move forward. My involvement was predicated on the recognition that a resource-rich organisation such as FDNY has the ability to rapidly interpret research and translate selected science-based conclusions into actionable strategic and tactical guidelines in a timely manner. However, most departments lack the staff and budget to readily reflect the understanding gained through research in their standard operating guidelines.
‘At the time that the project was first recommended, and even today, there exists a measure of doubt among a small element within the fire service regarding the fidelity of the conclusions reached through the empirical research. As such, it was important that the NFPA brand and consensus-based standards development process serve as the means to “set the bar” and inspire trust in the committee’s product. I felt that my experience as a former member of the Standards Council and Technical Committee Chair might benefit the development process. Subsequently, following Council’s project approval, I conferred with NFPA staff and agreed to Chair the new Technical Committee.
‘I have participated in the NFPA standards development process for more than 30 years and can say that the development of NFPA 1700 was a unique and interesting endeavour. We were developing a document from scratch, without a clear roadmap. Generally, the typical Technical Committee experience involves review and action on public proposals and comments to pre-existing documents. With NFPA 1700, only two or three of the nearly 30 members had prior NFPA Technical Committee experience. NFPA staff support from the outset was vital to ensuring success. Initially, two staff liaisons were assigned to support the project – Ryan Depew and Dan Gorham were essential to educating and guiding the group’s efforts. Despite the majority of members being inexperienced in terms of the NFPA process, almost every participant contributed to the proceedings by offering significant knowledge and enthusiasm along the way. We also referred to NFPA 921 Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations as a model for translating fire dynamics findings in practicable, applicable ways.
‘The outcome, I believe, is a document that will add value as fire-service organisations throughout the world tackle structural fires which involve new combustible products, enhanced personal protective gear, new firefighting equipment and other considerations. Without question, line firefighters and command staff know the intricacies and intensity of fire, but it is hard to ignore fire-dynamics research that, at a minimum, reinforces gut instinct. The research findings incorporated in NFPA 1700 helped to shape the best practices outlined in the new standard and inform new NFPA 1700 online training that will debut in February. Thanks to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding provided to NFPA and the Fire Protection Research Foundation, the research affiliate of NFPA, fire leaders and trainers will soon have access to training that will ensure that departments large and small, domestic and abroad have SOPs in place that are in sync with science.’
For more information, go to nfpa/org/1700