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Fire staffing goes to vote on May 20.

A vote on whether to mandate four personnel per piece of fire apparatus is expected to be put to a vote at the annual meeting of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) on Wednesday, May 20 in New Orleans. The debate on the subject is expected to be heated as the International Association of Firefighters and the International Association of Fire Chiefs are lined up on different sides of this issue.

While standards of the NFPA are not automatically binding on cities. Cities could expect to confront these "nationally approved standards" in litigation, labor negotiations and perhaps in adoptions by state agencies dealing with fire protection or worker safety.

Cities with personnel attending this meeting should be informed about the cost implications of this type of standard on city budgets. NLC supports leaving decisions about fire staffing to local city decision makers. While the proposal being brought forward by NFPA's Technical Committee on Standard #1500-- Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health--contains no minimum staffing proposal, amendments are expected on the floor to resurrect proposals considered earlier by the committee to require mandated staffing levels.

Each individual who holds membership in NFPA is entitled to vote so cities that have multiple members (fire management personnel, building inspectors and code enforcement officers) could have multiple votes. However votes must be cast in person at the meeting. One individual may only cast one vote. While there is a proxy procedure it only permits an employee of the same jurisdiction to cast only the vote of the absent city employee registered for the meeting.

While the initiation of some types of firefighting operations may require a certain number of personnel for operational or safety reasons, it does not appear that mandatory specification of the size of city fire crews is appropriate. A minimum staffing requirement could require large spending increases or conversely the closing of fire stations in order to provide the minimum staff required under such a standard at the remaining stations.

Questions on voting procedures or copies of the report to be considered may be obtained from NFPA at (617) 770-3000.
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Author:Peterson, Doug
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:May 11, 1992
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