NFPA 1403, Part 3: General considerations for conducting live burn trainings

This is the third 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.

In the previous two discussions of NFPA 1403 (Standard on Live Fire Training Evoluations), I discussed some basic requirements of participating in live fire training. I then detailed the different instructor/staff positions that are required when conducting a live fire evolution. Today, I will look at some of the general preparation and safety considerations. Under Section 4 of the standard, the general requirements for conducting any live burn are listed (most are universal - regardless of the structure type and fuel type). Here are a few key points to consider:

1) PPE: The PPE requirements under NFPA 1403 are no different than those requirements when you

enter a burning structure in the "real world." If you wear your gear (and wear ALL of it) and it meets the various gear standards, you are in compliance. This means hoods on, fire gloves, coats buttoned/zipped all the way up, etc. In addition, make sure you are wearing the correct uniforms/attire underneath - these should meet the NFPA 1975 standard. Last, when you are in any IDLH (whether on the fire attack or in an area where there is an oxygen deficiency and/or products of combustion), wear your SCBA. This is basically common sense, written down.

2) Communication: Again, this is no different then operating on a fire ground - have a radio communication channel(s) established and make sure that is communicated to all participants. Be aware that you may be operating in another company/departments first due area so be careful not to use channels that would create issues should an actual incident occur in that area.

3) EMS: The requirement for EMS depends on the type of structure. There should always be at least one BLS provider present (more would be needed for a larger group). A transport vehicle is only required where an acquired structure is being used. Therefore, for a fixed facility, the minimum standard does not require a transport unit. Just keep in mind, these are your personnel there - having a transport unit (if your department operates one or has a relationship with one) only serves to benefit you.

4) Water Supply: The water supply requirement depends upon your fire load and structure. The instructor-in-charge must assure adequate water supply to provide extinguishment as well as back-up lines. All handlines should be able to deliver a minimum flow of 95 gpm. This generally is not an issue unless you are accustomed to using booster lines to attack interior fires, which is another issue in and of itself. The water supply requirements are fairly specific based on the type of facility (fixed vs. acquired; Class A vs. Class B) so you should be very familiar with the requirements based on your situation.

5) Fuel: For fuel-fed props, use the fuel that the prop is designed to use. This is not complicated. Where a fire must be constructed, the standard permits wood products only. This excludes pressure treated wood and synthetics (such as rubber, plastic, and upholstered furniture). It is important to document the fuel load (especially relevant in an acquired structure where there are walls, floors and ceilings (along with their coverings that add to the fuel load).

6) Preburn Plan and Briefing: The instructor-in-charge, with consultation from the other instructors and safety officer, should have a preburn plan done. This includes a description of the evoluations, crew assignments, description of the structure and/or props, any potential exposure issues (smoke or fire), and impact on roadways amongst any other safety matters. It should be noted, if you are using a manikin as a victim, the location does not need to be disclosed (only that there is the potential for its presence). There should be a briefing with all participants and a walk-through of the building or prop of all participants.

The final post will focus on some the different types of facilities and structures that are covered by this standard.

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