NIST Staffing Study

By: Christopher Brennan

So I have had a chance to read most of the NIST Staffing Study that was released today (I have not spent a lot of time reviewing all the appendices yet) and I have some initial thoughts.

Nothing in this report will come as a surprise to anyone in the fire service. The quick recap is that if you meet NFPA 1710 Standard for four-person companies and 15 people on scene you will be able to effectively and efficiently control a fire in a 2000 square foot, two story residence.

The two most important pieces of data collected (in my opinion) are the “Time to Water on Fire” and “Primary Search”.  Getting water on the fire is what makes or breaks the fireground operation.  Primary Search is our best chance of finding savable victims inside the building.

The results documented by NIST show us that it takes 0:10:16 (h:mm:ss) for a 2 person crew to get water on the fire, 0:09:15 for a three person crew, 0:08:41 for a four person crew, and 0:08:01 for a five person crew.  That is a 10% greater efficiency for 3 people than for 2 and 16% more effective for 4 people than for 2.  Those are interesting numbers, but the time savings becomes critical when we think about flashover.  Fire doubles in size every minute.  If we can cut two minutes off of our time to get water on the fire we have kept the fire from quadrupling in size.  A two minute difference in fire development is the difference between a 25 square foot fire (the corner of a bedroom) and a fully-involved floor.  That is huge!

A three person crew can start a primary search 25% faster than a  2 person crew (0:12:16 for a two person crew vs. 0:09:10 for a three person crew) and a 4 person crew can start 30% faster (0:12:16 for two vs. 0:08:47 for a four person crew).  Once again let’s look at the time though.  A four person crew is able to start a primary roughly 3 and a half minutes faster than a two person crew.  If we start taking about the effects on the brain of hypoxia any chance of finding a victim more 3 minutes faster means the difference between a rescue and a removal.

There are plenty of Municipal Officials and Fire Chiefs who will dismiss these results as being “unscientific” because they don’t want to say to their population, “Your kids and your house are not worth what it would cost to put four people on a rig.  Good luck.”  It’s time for elected officials and those sycophant Chiefs who see it as their job to save their own jobs to own up and acknowledge the facts.  If you under staff your Fire Companies you are saying that you do not value the lives of your citizens or your firefighters more than your pet projects and hiring your cronies.

It’s a damn shame that none of those bottom feeders will even read this report, and that the media will gloss over it in favor of reporting exactly what one of Tiger Wood’s mistresses is having for dinner.  Take care of yourselves Brothers and Sisters.

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