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Firefighter/EMT Safety, Health & Survival:
NFPA 1407 - The Fire Chief’s Guide to RIT

June 15, 2010

In 2010, NFPA 1407, the Standard for Fire Service Rapid Intervention Crews, was published. This standard began back in 2001 when NFPA 1710 used the phrase initial rapid intervention crew.

This phrase would fuel the movement that was just getting its legs in the U.S. fire service: rapid intervention.

Since that time, a wealth of training classes, manuals, videos and firefighter-developed training companies that have all attempted to answer the very basic of questions: what do we need to know to keep our people safe?

With no disrespect to the sweat and effort that has already been expended by many learned and well-intentioned firefighters, we had no real plan for training our people and no real clue as to what was right and wrong. Like all firefighters, we developed our opinions and put into place what we thought was right. Virtually every fire service provider in the country has spent countless hours and expended untold resources in the quest for the best possible rapid-intervention training program.

Effort and intentions aside, we were just making it up as we went along.

Finally, NFPA 1407 was developed, and it has provided a beacon of hope for the fire chief struggling with shrinking resources who is desperate to provide firefighters with the “right” rapid intervention team (RIT) training. The committee that developed this standard performed their due diligence and prepared a document all fire departments can print and put into operation today as the backbone of their RIT programs.

As with all NFPA standards, NFPA 1407 leans heavily on many other standards, including my favorite, NFPA 1500. One of the endearing parts of NFPA 1407 is that it provides a base a fire department may build on in regionally significant issues.

The primary goal of this standard, as with most of them, I suspect, is to get us all facing the same direction just before we take that first step, and it then guides us on our path. NFPA 1407 does more than just give us a hearty helping of “shall” and “should”; rather, it gives us the genesis of the standard as well as a set of goals that will focus our programs. As with any standard, there will be language that makes some chiefs uncomfortable, but I feel it was done with the safety of our firefighters as the first consideration.

NFPA 1407 is only eight pages, but it packs a great deal of information and direction into that small space. With the explanatory materials, the standard is stretched to 15 pages—an easy ready for everyone.

As a training chief, I find myself very pleased with the standard in that it provides me with both direction and flexibility in its liberal application of the “authority having jurisdiction,” thereby allowing our department to use the standard while maintaining our local flair.

When confronted with the question as to what is the right course of action when training our RIT members, the chief doesn’t have far to look to find the answer. While no standard can be the final answer to all of the many problems facing the modern fire chief, NFPA 1407 does its share of the work to help all of us make informed decisions.

Albert W. Schlick III is a division chief with the Wauconda (Ill.) Fire District and is currently the director of training. He’s a member of the IAFC’s Safety, Health and Survival Section, the vice president of the Illinois Society of Fire Service Instructors and a member of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors.