It Takes FOUR
It Takes FOUR
Why does the Omaha Fire Department need four firefighters on every fire
engine and ladder truck?
There are many reasons that the Omaha Fire Department needs and should have
four firefighters on every fire apparatus. Some of these reasons are to meet industry
standards from agencies such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA),
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the National Institute of
Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Other reasons are for the safety of firefighters
while performing their duties. And most important is that four firefighters allows our
department to deliver a higher level of service to the citizens of Omaha.
NFPA - The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is an international
organization that establishes guidelines, which are nationally recognized and followed by
fire departments. This organization is comprised of more than 80 national trade and
professional organizations, which provide input towards development of fire industry
In 2001 the NFPA issued the standard NFPA 1710. This standard sets minimum criteria
for the staffing of firefighting and medical crews, and how they will respond and operate
at emergency scenes.
Here are some of the requirements of NFPA 1710:
· Firefighters will respond to fire and medical calls with a minimum of four personnel
on each apparatus.
· Fire apparatus will arrive at the scene of an emergency within four minutes of
departing the fire station.
· The correct number of fully staffed and strategically located fire stations must exist to
meet these time requirements and accomplish the standard.
Click here to connect to an NFPA 1710 fact sheet or here to connect to the NFPA site.
OSHA – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an agency that
creates regulations that must be followed by fire departments. In 1998 OSHA revised its
Respiratory Protection regulation, which had a great impact on the fire service operations.
This regulation is often referred to as the “2 in, 2 out” rule.
Here are some of the requirements of Respiration Protection – 63:1152-1300:
· Use of respirators are required in atmospheres that are Immediately Dangerous to Life
or Health (IDLH) and interior structural fire fighting is considered an IDLH
atmosphere by definition.
· Two firefighters must be on standby to provide assistance or perform rescue when
two firefighters are inside the burning building. What this means is that in-order for
the first arriving fire engine to begin attacking the fire, four firefighters must be on
Click here to connect to a copy of the OSHA Respiratory Protection regulation.
NIOSH – The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is an
agency that has the responsibility to investigate firefighter deaths that occur in the line of
duty. Recently NIOSH released its report on the death of a firefighter in Houston, Texas.
The death occurred in a high-rise apartment fire which involved many fire apparatus that
were staffed with only three firefighters.
Of the many recommendations made by the agency here were a few of the critical ones:
· Fire departments should ensure that team continuity is maintained. Some of the
crew’s personnel were split amongst other crews. NIOSH reports that team
continuity relies on some very important key factors such as knowing who is on your
team and the team leader. When crews are split to achieve staffing, team continuity
can be compromised.
· Fire departments should ensure that adequate numbers of staff are available to
immediately respond to emergency incidents. NIOSH recommends that a
minimum acceptable fire company staffing level should be four members responding
on each engine and each ladder company responding to any type of fire. It is also
recommended that for fire companies responding in high-risk areas, which Omaha has many of, a minimum of five or six firefighters should respond with each
How four firefighters on each apparatus enhances firefighter safety.
By following the recommendations made by the standards outlined above and ensuring
four firefighters on every apparatus, the safety of every firefighter is enhanced. Not only
does this provide the personnel to effectively perform fire ground task in a timely
manner, it ensures a “buddy” system where each firefighter looks out for one another.
The better we can maintain accountability of personnel, the less likely it is that time
would be spent searching for a lost firefighter. This means that more time would be spent
Research has also shown that it takes five or even six firefighters on each apparatus to
operate at 100% proficiency. This includes successful execution of firefighting
evolutions (task), with the minimal exhaustion levels possible at the completion of the
task. Maintaining low exhaustion levels are critical so that the crew may recover quicker
and be ready to perform their next task.
As the number of crewmembers are reduced, the efficiency of the crew is reduced.
Research has shown that four firefighters should be the minimum staffing level to ensure
How four firefighters on each fire apparatus enhances the publics safety.
Firefighting is often more complicated then is generally realized. At a fire scene our
goals are to save lives and protect property. There are many tasks to be accomplished in
order to do so.
Consider a fire in an average house. The first task firefighters have is to identify if there
are people in need of being rescued, and therefore we conduct an initial search. Ask
yourself that if it was you or your family trapped in a fire, would you like three or four
Many other tasks must happen on a fire ground, often simultaneously. Hose must be
connected to a hydrant to ensure a supply of water. An attack hose and a back up hose
must be pulled to fight the fire. If a door is locked, it must be forced open. The smoke
and super heated gasses must be vented out of the building by use of a fan or by cutting a
hole in the roof to act as a chimney. If a hole is to be cut, a ladder must be raised.
These are a few examples of the many tasks that must be performed. Variables at each
fire may dictate other task that must be performed. And when the fire is out, there is still
plenty of clean up work to be done.
Generally three engines and a ladder truck are sent to an average house fire. If it were
your house, with the many tasks that needs to be performed in order to save lives and
protect property, would you want 16 firefighters (four per apparatus) or 12 firefighters
(three per apparatus) performing those tasks?
However fires are only part of the many emergencies that your Omaha Fire Department
responds to. In a medical emergency, four firefighters are just as critical.
Consider an adult who is in cardiac arrest. CPR must occur, heart defibrillation must be
performed, IV’s established, medication administered, hospitals contacted. Again this is
a situation where the fourth firefighter can make a big difference.
The benefits of four firefighters on every fire apparatus are well documented. Not only
does it help ensure the safety of the professional firefighters in Omaha, it allows
us to deliver a higher level of service to the citizens that we protect.
The Omaha Professional Fire Fighters encourages you to contact your
City Council person and thank them for the support they have given to the safe staffing in
the past. And please tell them to give the fire department the support we need to continue
staffing every apparatus with four firefighters in the future.
Remember – It takes FOUR.
Page Last Updated: Aug 22, 2009 (19:30:59)