Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Fire service training keeps cities safe

Last month, more than 80 fire service and risk management staff traveled to three locations around the state to learn about the National Fire Protection Association 1500 Standard and why striving toward compliance is worth the effort. The SC Municipal Insurance Trust hosted the meeting.

The standard outlines minimum requirements for an occupational safety and health program for fire departments or organizations that provide rescue, fire suppression, emergency medical services, hazardous materials mitigation, special operations and other emergency services.

Curt Varone, director of the Fire Service Division of the Legal and Liability Risk Management Institute, noted the dramatic decrease in firefighter fatalities since the first edition of the standard was published in 1987.

As an attorney with 38 years of experience in fire service, and the former director of public fire protection at the NFPA, Varone addressed challenges in implementing all 12 chapters of the standard. However, he contends that firefighter injuries and deaths usually result from a series of failures, not just one

Varone compared compliance with each standard to a domino removed from the series that could prevent the injury or death. He also showed how non-compliance with NFPA standards can result in OSHA citations for employers.

Varone pointed attendees toward “low hanging fruit,” such as existing fire service model policies available to SCMIT members which meet NFPA standards. He encouraged attendees to tailor the SCMIT model policies to their departments and train their firefighters on the new policies which would improve their level of compliance. 

Finally, Varone helped attendees prioritize compliance efforts and provided a sample compliance scoring matrix which is available to SCMIT members on the Municipal Association’s website.

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