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Minimum fire staffing defeated at meeting.

A motion which would have imposed a national mandatory staffing standard on fire fighting organizations was defeated by a substantial majority of delegates at the meeting of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) on Wednesday, May 20th in New Orleans.

Defeat of the motion leaves determination of such staffing levels up to local decision-making, a position which NLC supports.

The language which was defeated would have included the following as part of NFPA's Standard 1500 "Engine or ladder companies shall assemble crews of four persons prior to initiation of interior firefighting operations." The most objectionable part of the language from a local control perspective was reference to firefighting organizational units (engine or ladder companies) in the standard. This might be interpreted as setting minimum staffing standards or dictating the way that firefighting crews arrived at the scene of the fire. During earlier deliberations of NFPA committees motions to even more explicitly set crew size requirement had been discussed.

Critics of the motion made the case for local control, questioning the safety arguments made in support of the motion and also the impact of approval of a motion with such broad implications without full and open study. They questioned also what such action might do to the integrity of NFPA's standard setting process.

The move to set national staffing standards had been strongly supported by unions of fire fighters and opposed by NLC and other local government organizations. The International Association of Fire Chiefs spearheaded an educational campaign on the issue. The International City Management Association, National Association of Counties, U.S. Conference of Mayors and National Association of Towns and Townships were other organizations involved in the effort opposing mandatory national staffing standards.

While NFPA standards are not automatically legally binding they are the broadest national standards and no doubt would have been employed in negotiations sessions.
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Author:Peterson, Doug
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:May 25, 1992
Words:307
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