Build your SAFER application around national standards

Start by determining how the appropriate NFPA standard applies to your department

By Jerry Brant

The goal of the SAFER grant program is to assist fire departments with staffing and deployment capabilities so they may respond to emergencies whenever they occur, assuring their communities have adequate protection from fire and fire-related hazards.

To gauge whether a department is adequately meeting its community's emergency response needs, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has adopted two important national standards and made them the focus of the SAFER grant application: NFPA 1710 or 1720 and OSHA Respiratory Protection standards 1910.134(g)(4), (g)(4)(i) and (g)(4)(ii).

A successful application for SAFER funding will address a department's deficiencies in currently meeting these standards and will put forth a complete plan on how funding from the SAFER program will bring the department into compliance with these two accepted standards.

To assist you in assembling a highly competitive application for SAFER funding, let's begin by reviewing the two NFPA Standards and determine which standard applies to your department. Then, let's look at which sections of these standards are applicable to your SAFER application.

Which standard applies
If you are a career department, NFPA 1710 applies to your department.

If you are an all volunteer department, NFPA 1720 applies to your department.

If you are a combination department, the authority having jurisdiction over your department makes the decision which standard your department is going to use.

In some cases the authority having jurisdiction will be your local government, in other cases it may be your fire protection district board or even your department itself.

In most cases, combination departments that have a small percentage of career firefighters are following NFPA 1720, whereas those combination departments that have a higher percentage of career firefighters that are supplemented by volunteers are following NFPA 1710.

Sections that apply to SAFER
Even though there was a great deal of controversy surrounding the adoption of these two standards by NFPA in 2001, they serve as the guideline for minimum requirements relating to the organization and deployment of fire suppression operations, emergency medical operations, and special operations to the public.

Today's department officer should be well versed with the appropriate standard for their jurisdiction in total. But, for purposes of the SAFER program, only specific sections of each standard that deal with staffing and deployment are applicable to your application.

For NFPA 1710 these sections are: Initial Full Alarm Assignment Capability. The fire department shall have the capability to deploy an initial full alarm assignment within an 8-minute response time to 90 percent of the incidents as established in Chapter 4. The initial full alarm assignment shall provide for the following:

  1. Establishment of incident command outside of the hazard area for the overall coordination and direction of the initial full alarm assignment. A minimum of one individual shall be dedicated to this task.
  2. Establishment of an uninterrupted water supply of a minimum 1520 L/min (400 gpm) for 30 minutes. Supply line(s) shall be maintained by an operator who shall ensure uninterrupted water flow application.
  3. Establishment of an effective water flow application rate of 1140 L/min (300 gpm) from two hand-lines, each of which shall have a minimum of 380 L/min (100 gpm). Each attack and backup line shall be operated by a minimum of two individuals to effectively and safely maintain the line.
  4. Provision of one support person for each attack and backup line deployed to provide hydrant hookup and to assist in line lays, utility control, and forcible entry.
  5. A minimum of one victim search and rescue team shall be part of the initial full alarm assignment. Each search and rescue team shall consist of a minimum of two individuals.
  6. A minimum of one ventilation team shall be part of the initial full alarm assignment. Each ventilation team shall consist of a minimum of two individuals.
  7. If an aerial device is used in operations, one person shall function as an aerial operator who shall maintain primary control of the aerial device at all times.
  8. Establishment of an IRIC that shall consist of a minimum of two properly equipped and trained individuals.

For Standard 1720 the following sections apply:

Chapter 3 Definitions
3.2.2 Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ). An organization, office, or individual responsible for enforcing the requirements of a code or standard, or for approving equipment, materials, an installation, or a procedure.

Chapter 4 Organization, Operation, and Deployment
4.3 Staffing and Deployment.

4.3.1 The fire department shall identify minimum staffing requirements to ensure that a sufficient number of members are available to operate safely and effectively.

4.3.2 Table 4.3.2 shall be used by the AHJ to determine staffing and response time capabilities, and the fractal accomplishment of that for reporting purposes as required in 4.4.2.

Table 4.3.2 Staffing and Response Time Table:

Demand Zone


Staffing and
Response Times


Special Risks





Greater than 1,000 people /sq.mile




500-1,000 people / sq.mi




Less than 500 people/ sq.mile




Travel distance 8 or more miles



* Upon assembling the necessary resources at the emergency scene, the fire department should have the capability to safely commence an initial attack within two minutes 90 percent of the time.

4.3.3 Personnel responding to fires and other emergencies shall be organized into company units or response teams and shall have required apparatus and equipment.

4.3.4 Standard response assignments and procedures, including mutual aid response and mutual aid agreements predetermined by the location and nature of the reported incident, shall regulate the dispatch of companies, response groups, and command officers to fires and other emergency incidents.

In addition to the two NFPA standards, SAFER applications should also address whether your department is in compliance with OSHA Standard 1910.134 (g) (4). This OSHA standard is applicable to all departments across the board. The standard sets procedures for structural firefighting as well as other emergency situations. Most notably it features the two-in-two-out rule.

What can SAFER do for you?
At this point in time you should be able to ask yourself if your department is in compliance with both the NFPA staffing and deployment standard and the OSHA standard. If your department is in complete compliance with both standards then congratulations! If your department is not in complete compliance with both standards then you need to ask yourself what is keeping your department from achieving these two benchmarks?

Has the municipal budget been trimmed so badly that you do not have enough firefighters to answer calls? Has your membership aged without new members coming on board to take their place? Is your department's membership like a revolving door, with members joining and then leaving in a short period of time?

The answer to this question should become the backbone of your application for SAFER funding. Then, you need to determine what SAFER eligible activity would address this situation. It may be something as simple as funding to hire additional firefighters. It may be something creative like daycare services so your volunteer firefighters can meet their training requirements and stay in the department without having to look and pay for a sitter for their children. The possibilities are endless. Good luck.

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