Chapter 9 – Personnel Requirements

Jose Conejo Saenz

There are three NFPA requirements for Personnel at a Structure Fire:

NFPA 1710 – Career First Alarm Assignments

This standard establishes the minimum staffing levels for the initial response:

  • Tasks to be accomplished
  • Personnel needed
  • Minimum of 14 personnel (15 if an aerial device is being used)
  • If needs are not met, must call for mutual aid or additional alarms

NFPA 1720 – Volunteer First Alarm Assignments

This standard applies to Volunteers. In general, 1720 provides the following benchmarks:

Urban Zones with greater than 1000 people/square mile

Calls for 15 staff to assemble an attack in 9 minutes, 90% of the time

Suburban Zones with 500-1000 people/square mile

Calls for 10 staff to assemble an attack in 10 minutes, 80% of the time

Rural Zones with less than 500 people/square mile

Calls for 6 staff to assemble an attack in 14 minutes, 80% of the time

Remote Zones with a travel distance equal to 8 miles

Calls for 4 staff, once on scene, to assemble an attack in 2 minutes, 90% of the time.

NFPA 1500 – Initial Staffing Requirements

This standard stipulates that a minimum of four firefighters are an initial crew at a working structure fire.


  • Unless imminent life-threatening situation exists
  • Three is acceptable in situations of imminent danger

Worksafe BC does not allow for entry into an Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH) atmosphere unless there is one person at the pump panel maintaining a reliable water supply and one person prepared to facilitate a rescue in the event the initial entry crew runs into trouble. The pump operator may not act as the outside safety backup during initial operations with a single crew on the scene.

Estimating Resource Capability and Requirements

The IC will compare resource capability to the incident requirements during size up.

The IC must:

  • Apply sound risk management principles to ensure firefighter safety
  • When developing a plan, decide what will be needed to conduct the appropriate attack

Staffing Needs & Concerns will be based on:

Rate of water flow

How many hoselines are needed to meet the Area ÷ 3 equation

Backup lines

How many backup teams & hoselines are required

Protect the crew on the initial attack line and can provide additional flow if required

Protect egress routes

At least as large and as long as the initial attack line

Placement of lines above the fire

Are there additional teams required

Secondary water supply

How is this being established

Adequate number of personnel and relation to setup time

Initial attack delay based on:

Company staffing is less than four

Imminent life-threatening situation does not exist

Number of Attack Lines

Based on flow requirements

A single 1 ¾” hose line for most dwelling fires

Meet the rate of flow in the immediate fire area

Backup hose line

Protection of internal/external exposures

Primary Search

Size of the area to be searched

Smoke conditions

Rescue methods available

Condition of the occupants

Secondary Search

May, or may not involve increased staffing

Interior Rescue/Evacuation

Could be the same requirement for Primary Search

Additional teams may be assigned to remove victims

Exterior Rescue/Evacuation

Additional staffing will be needed if ladders are used

Most exterior rescues require more staffing

Operational Mode

Offensive Attack: personnel intense. More firefighters for hand lines

Transitional Attack: limited personnel. Single hand line used to turn back the fire clock; buying time for other units to arrive.

Defensive Attack: apparatus intense. Master streams handled by one person, pumpers for water supply or drafting, tankers for water shuttle operation, aerials for defensive operation.

Apparatus Needs

Normally sufficient for initial response to an offensive operation

Proper positioning crucial

Use only those necessary to meet tactical objectives

Large scale incidents or Staging area

Staging Officer

Staged Apparatus: staffed

Out of service apparatus: not staffed

Staffing Factors: Total Available vs Total Needed

IAP will require resources

Exact number may not be known

Approximations will need to be made

Staffing is the most important and difficult resource to obtain

IC must match incident requirements with available resources

Standard Residential House Fire

14-15 firefighters are for safe fire attack with the following factors:

Working fire

Multi-level single-family dwelling

One or two house lines

Life hazard

Limited areas to search

More Staffing necessary if:

Size and complexity of property increases

Additional hoselines needed

Searching large areas

Physically removing victims

Larger rate of flow requirements

Areas beyond a fixed water supply

Calling for Additional Resources

It is best to call for help before it is needed

Need must be anticipated

Calls made after the need obviously arrive too late


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Emergency Scene Management I - FIRE-1114 Copyright © by Justice Institute of British Columbia is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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