NFPA 1403, Part 2: Who can instruct live fire trainings?

This is the second of four related posts discussing some of the basic parameters of NFPA 1403 (Standard on Live Fire Training Evolutions). This is not meant to serve as a replacement to reading and understanding the standard but meant to highlight some key areas of the standard. Please feel free to contact me at mvalocchi@valocchilaw.com or at 484-614-7407 if you need specific guidance for your department.

One of the difficulties complying with NFPA 1403 is the number of instructors the standard requires. The standard mandates a number of different instructor/leadership roles which must be filled. The specific number of instructors expands depending on the number of students. These roles are detailed in Sections 4.4 to 4.7 of NFPA 1403. While it may seem extensive, these roles are to prevent things such as what occurred during an acquired structure burn in New York in 2001 (Review the NIOSH reports here). There, a 19-year old firefighter was killed, two were injured and the assistant chief running the training was ultimately convicted of criminally negligent homicide. Oneida Daily Dispatch article. The basic instructor roles required are below:

1) The lead instructor ("instructor in charge")

First, the lead instructor must "have received training to meet the minimum job performance requirements for Fire Instructor I in NFPA 1041, Standard for Fire Service Instructor Professional Qualifications." See NFPA 1403 at 4.6.1. Therefore, the lead instructor should be certified (or be able to show competency in) the Instructor I standard.

Second, the lead instructor, as well as all other instructors, must "be qualified by the AHJ to deliver live fire training." See NFPA 1403 at 4.6.6. This is discussed further below in the "Instructors" section. Without getting into specific requirements of a live burn training, the lead instructor is essentially in charge of overseeing every aspect of the training.

There are states which have incorporated the NFPA standard into their state laws and/or regulations. For example, the state of New Jersey has detailed the requirements for conducting live fire training including strict instructor requirements which are similar in nature to the PA State Fire Academy. See N.J. Admin. Code § 5:73-2.5.

2) Instructors

All instructors must "be qualified by the AHJ to deliver live fire training." See NFPA 1403 at 4.6.6. Therefore, the instructors (other than the lead instructor) do not need to meet the Instructor I standard. The number of actual instructors needed varies depending on the amount of students. There must be a minimum of one instructor per five students (if the students are a "functional team" such as a hose advancement team or search and rescue team). There also must be at least one instructor assigned to a back-up line.

On a related note, there is often confusion about the term "Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ)." The confusion lies in the fact that the AHJ is not just a single entity. The AHJ could be a municipality, could be a fire chief, could be the state government, a local fire marshal or any other entity/person that has authority over a specific matter.

Additionally, there could be multiple AHJs under NFPA 1403 (one for the conduct of the actual fire evoluations, one for the permitting involved, one for the environmental/run-off issues). When looking at the actual live fire operations, any training where a state certificate is issued would ultimately be overseen by the PA State Fire Academy which has a policy that largely mirrors, and is sometimes more stringent, than NFPA 1403 (http://www.osfc.pa.gov/State%20Fire%20Academy1/Local%20Level%20Training%20Program/PSFA%20Live%20Fire%20Policy.pdf).

In all other live fire evolutions, look to the individual or entity that has authority over the fire department (typically at the local level). This could be the fire chief or designated municipal fire official or any number of governmental entities. This is an issue that is fact-specific and would generally require some analysis by your company's legal counsel.

3) Safety Officer

While not technically an "instructor," there must be a designated safety officer assigned when a live burn training is going on. The safety officer is generally responsible for knowing the requirements of NFPA 1403 as well as the ins and outs of the specific training. The safety officer has authority to (1) prevent unsafe acts and (2) eliminate unsafe conditions.

4) Fire Control Team

The "fire control team" is the team responsible for igniting and maintaining the fire for the live fire scenarios. It must be a minimum of two personnel - one to do the physical lighting while the second monitors conditions including fire conditions and the ignition officer. This is especially relevant following Captain Gallardy's death at the PA State Fire Academy where he was functioning as the ignition officer out of the sight of any other instructor. He was later discovered in severe distress by students who were attacking the fire.

The next post will focus on some general requirements and safeguards in conducting live fire evolutions.

#LawsandRegulations #LiveFireTraining

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