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Standards and Codes
All fire departments and first responders should comply with established standards for safety as well as enforce the adherence to safety codes and ordinances in their communities. The NVFC identifies the following B.E.S.T. Practices for standards and codes:
- Encourage the use of all smoke, fire detection, and fire suppression devices, including fire sprinkler systems, in all structures.
- Vigorously enforce all fire safety codes and ordinances.
- Obtain apparatus and equipment that meet national safety standards.
Utilize the resources in the left navigation menu to learn more and implement these practices in your department.
About Regulations and Standards
Fire and rescue departments must consider the various Federal and state laws and regulations that apply to fire and rescue operations. The most significant regulations are those issued by Federal and state occupational safety and health agencies, which require employers to comply with mandatory minimum workplace health and safety protections. These regulations are based on laws that establish the responsibility of an employer to provide a place of employment that is free from recognized hazards. Violations of Federal and state occupational safety and health (OSHA) regulations can expose fire and rescue departments to civil fines and, in rare cases, criminal liability.
The OSHA regulations, however, are not the only legal requirements that a department should consider. A number of non-governmental organizations have issued voluntary consensus standards that are relevant to fire and rescue operations. Such organizations include the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Training materials developed by organizations such as the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) and the National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR) may also be regarded as establishing a "standard" that can be used to evaluate the training and performance of fire and rescue personnel. Since these standards are issued by private sector associations, they are not binding on fire and rescue departments; however, Federal and state authorities frequently incorporate these standards into their regulations by reference, which may make them legally binding on fire and rescue departments under some circumstances.
Fire and rescue departments must also consider the impact of the Federal and state laws and regulations, as well as the "voluntary" standards on private litigation. In some states, a department may be liable for the negligent performance of their duties. Even in states that protect rescue workers under an immunity statute, most state laws do not protect fire or rescue departments for grossly negligent acts. Essentially, negligence involves the violation of a standard of care that results in injury or loss to some other individual or organization. In establishing the standard of care for rescue operations, the courts will frequently look to the "voluntary" standards issued by NFPA and other organizations. Although "voluntary" in name, these standards can become, in effect, the legally enforceable standard of care for fire or rescue department. Accordingly, fire and rescue departments should pay close attention to applicable standards.
(Adapted from the U.S. Fire Administration's publication Technical Rescue Program Development Manual, with assistance provided by Sergeant John Bentivoglio, Bethesda-Chevy Chase, MD, Rescue Squad.)