NFPA 1720 Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Volunteer Fire Departments

Automatic Aid

A plan developed between two or more fire departments for immediate joint response on first alarms.

Mutual Aid

Reciprocal assistance by emergency services under a written plan among AHJs that is part of communication center’s dispatch protocol.


A signal or message from a person or device indicating the existence of an emergency or other situation that requires action by an emergency response agency. 

Remote Area. A geographic area that requires a travel distance of at least 8 mi (12.87 km) from a fire station to provide emergency services.

Rural Area. As defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, an area with fewer than 500 people per square mile.

Suburban Area. As defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, an area with between 500 people and 1000 people per square mile.

Urban Area. As defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, an area with at least 1000 people per square mile.

Automatic Aid. See

Basic Life Support (BLS). See

Combination Fire Department. See

A group of members assembled at the scene that operate under direct supervision and are trained and equipped to perform assigned tasks.

Company Officer

A supervisor of a crew/company of personnel. 

Demand Zone

An area used to define or limit the management of a risk situation.

  • Emergency Incident. Any situation to which an emer­gency services organization responds in order to deliver emer­gency services, including rescue, fire suppression, emergency medical service, special operations, law enforcement, and other forms of hazard control and mitigation.
  • Emergency Medical Service. The treatment of patients using first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, basic life support, advanced life support, and other medical procedures prior to arrival at a hospital or other health care facility. [See also, Advanced Life Support (ALS);, Basic Life Support (BLS); and 3.3.20, First Responder (EMS).]
  • Emergency Operations. See
  • Fire Apparatus. A vehicle designed to be used under emergency conditions to transport personnel and equipment, and to support the suppression of fires and mitigation of other hazardous situations. [1901, 20161
  • Fire Department. An organization providing rescue, fire suppression, emergency medical services, and related activ­ities to the public.

Combination Fire Department.

A fire department having emergency service personnel comprising less than 85 percent majority of either volunteer or career member­ship.

Volunteer Fire Department.

A fire department having volunteer emergency service personnel comprising 85 percent or greater of its department membership.

  • Fire Department Member. See 3.3.28, Member.
  • Fire Protection. Methods of providing fire detection, control, and extinguishment.

Fire Suppression.

The activities involved in control­ling and extinguishing fires. [1500, 20181

First Responder (EMS).

Functional provision of initial assessment (i.e., airway, breathing, and circulatory systems) and basic first-aid intervention, including CPR and automatic external defibrillator (AED) capability. [1710, 20161


A condition that presents the potential for harm or damage to people, property, or the environment.

Hazardous Area. The area where members might be exposed to a hazard or hazardous atmosphere. A particular substance, device, event, circumstance, or condition that presents a danger to members of the fire department.

Hazardous Material. A substance that is capable of creating harm to people, the environment, or property due to its toxicity, chemical reactivity, decomposition, or corrosivity; is capable of explosion or detonation; or presents etiological hazards, whether used for its intended purpose or as a weapon of mass destruction (WMD), for illicit lab purposes, environ­mental crimes, or industrial sabotage.

Incident Commander (IC). The individual responsible for all incident activities, including the development of strat­egies and tactics and the ordering and the release of resources.

Incident Management System (IMS).

An organized system that defines the roles and responsibilities to be assumed by responders and the standard operating procedures to be used in the management and direction of emergency incidents and other functions.

  • Initial Attack. Firefighting efforts and activities that occur in the time increment between the arrival of the fire department on the scene of a fire and the tactical decision by the incident commander that the resources dispatched on the original response are insufficient to control and extinguish the fire, or that the fire is extinguished.
  • Life Support.

Advanced Life Support (ALS).

Emergency medical services beyond basic life support that provide for advanced airway management, including intubation, advanced cardiac monitoring, defibrillation, establishment and maintenance of intravenous access, and drug therapy.

Basic Life Support (BLS).

A specific level of preho­spital emergency medical service provided by trained responders that is focused on rapidly evaluating a patient’s condition; maintaining a patient’s airway, breathing, and circulation; controlling external bleeding; preventing shock; and preventing further injury or disability by immobilizing potential spinal or other bone fractures.

Emergency Operations.

Activities of the fire depart­ment relating to rescue, fire suppression, emergency medi­cal service, and special operations, including response to the scene of the incident and all functions performed at the scene.

Special Operations.

Those emergency incidents to which the fire department responds that require specific and advanced training and specialized tools and equipment. [1500,20181

Rapid Intervention Crew (RIC).

A dedicated crew of firefighters who are assigned for rapid deployment to rescue lost or trapped members.

Remote Area. See

Those activities directed at locating endan­gered persons at an emergency incident, removing those persons from danger, treating the injured, and providing for transport to an appropriate health care facility. [1500, 20181

Rural Area. See

Special Operations. See

Standard Operating Procedure. A written organiza­tional directive that establishes or prescribes specific opera­tional or administrative methods to be followed routinely for the performance of designated operations or actions. [1521, 2015]

Structural Firefighting. The activities of rescue, fire suppression, and property conservation in buildings or other structures, vehicles, rail cars, marine vessels, aircraft, or like properties. [1710, 20161

Suburban Area. See

Two or more members who have been assigned a common task and are in communication with each other, coordinate their activities as a work group, and support the safety of one another.

Urban Area. See

Volunteer Fire Department. See

Organization, Operation, and Deployment

Fire Suppression Organization.

Fire suppression opera­tions shall be organized to ensure that the fire department’s fire suppression capability includes personnel, equipment, and other resources to deploy fire suppression resources in such a manner that the needs of the organization are met.

4.1.1* The authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) shall promul­gate the fire department’s organizational, operational, and deployment procedures by issuing written administrative regu­lations, standard operating procedures (SOPs), and depart­mental orders.

4.1.2* Fire department procedures shall clearly state the succession of command responsibility.

Community Risk Management.

The fire department shall participate in a process that develops a community fire and emergency medical services risk management plan.

4.2.1 The specific role of the fire department and other responding agencies shall be defined by the community risk management plan.

4.2.2* The number and type of units assigned to respond to a reported incident shall be determined by risk analysis and/or prefire planning.

4.2.3 Hazardous Materials.

  • The fire department shall participate in a process that develops a community risk management plan with respect to the risks associated with the storage, use, and transportation of hazardous materials.
  • The specific role of the fire department and other responding agencies shall be defined by the community risk management plan for hazardous materials and other special operations.

Staffing and Deployment.

4.3.1 The fire department shall identify minimum staffing requirements to ensure that the number of members that are available to operate are able to meet the needs of the depart­ment.

4.3.2* Table 4.3.2 shall be used by the AHJ to determine staff­ing and response time objectives for structural firefighting, based on a low-hazard occupancy such as a 2000 ft2 (186 m2), two-story, single-family home without basement and exposures and the percentage accomplishment of those objectives for reporting purposes as required in 4.4.2.

Staffing and Response Time

4.3.3* Where staffed stations are provided, when determined by the AHJ, they shall have a turnout time of 90 seconds for fire and special operations and 60 seconds for EMS, 90 percent of the time.

4.3.4 Upon assembling the necessary resources at the emer­gency scene, the fire department shall have the capability to safely commence an initial attack within 2 minutes 90 percent of the time.

4.3.5* Personnel responding to fires and other emergencies shall be organized into company units or response teams and have the required apparatus and equipment.

4.3.6* Standard response assignments and procedures, includ­ing mutual aid response and mutual aid agreements predeter­mined by the location and nature of the reported incident, shall regulate the dispatch of companies, response groups, and command officers to fires and other emergency incidents.

4.4 Reporting Requirements.

4.4.1* Incident Reports. The fire department shall maintain a standardized reporting system that collects specific information on each incident.

The incident report shall include the location and nature of the fire or emergency and describe the circumstances of the incident and the operations performed.

This report shall identify the members responding to the incident.

Annual Evaluation.

The fire department shall evaluate its level of service, deployment delivery, and response time objectives on an annual basis.

The evaluation shall be based on data relating to level of service, deployment, and the achievement of each response time objective in each demand zone within the jurisdiction of the fire department.

Quadrennial Report. The fire department shall provide the AHJ with a written report, quadrennially, based on the annual evaluations required by 4.4.2.

The quadrennial report shall define demand zones and/or circumstances in which the requirements of this stand­ard are not being met.

This report shall explain the predictable consequences of identified deficiencies and address the steps within a fire department strategic plan necessary to achieve compliance.

The report shall identify any deficiencies that could develop in the next 3 years and address the steps necessary to continue to achieve compliance with this standard.

Fire Suppression Operations.

Incident Commander.

One individual shall be assigned as the incident commander.* The assumption and identification of command shall be communicated to all units responding to or involved at the incident scene.

  • The incident commander shall be responsible for the overall coordination and direction of all activities for the dura­tion of the incident.

Company Officer. The company officer/crew leader shall at all times be aware of the identity, location, and activity of each member assigned to the company.

Each member of the company shall be aware of the identity of the company officer/crew leader.

Orders addressed to individual members, particularly verbal orders and orders at incident scenes, shall be transmit­ted through the company officer.

Initial Firefighting Operations.

Initial firefighting operations shall be organized to ensure that at least four members are assembled before inte­rior fire suppression operations are initiated in a hazardous area.

In the hazardous area, a minimum of two members shall work as a team.

 Outside the hazardous area, a minimum of two members shall be present for assistance or rescue of the team operating in the hazardous area.

One of the two members assigned outside the hazard­ous area shall be permitted to be engaged in other activities.

The assignment of a member shall not be permitted if abandoning that member’s critical task(s) to perform rescue would jeopardize the safety and health of any firefighter oper­ating at the incident.

4.6.4 Initial attack operations shall be organized to ensure that if, upon arrival at the emergency scene, initial attack personnel find an imminent life-threatening situation where immediate action could prevent the loss of life or serious injury, such action is permitted with less than four personnel when conducted in accordance with NFPA 1500.

Sustained Firefighting Operations.

The fire department shall have the capability for sustained operations, including fire suppression; engagement in search and rescue, forcible entry, ventilation, and preserva­tion of property; accountability for personnel; the deployment of a dedicated rapid intervention crew (RIC); and provision of support activities for those situations that are beyond the capa­bility of the initial attack.

The capability to sustain operations shall include the personnel, equipment, and resources to conduct incident- specific operations.

The fire department shall be permitted to use estab­lished automatic aid or mutual aid agreements to comply with the requirements of Section 4.7.

Intercommunity Organization.

4.8.1* Mutual aid, automatic aid, and fire protection agree­ments among the affected AHJs shall be in writing and address issues such as liabilities for injuries, disabilities, and deaths; cost of service; authorization to respond; staffing; and equipment, including the resources to be made available and the designa­tion of the incident commander.

  • Procedures and training of personnel for all fire depart­ments in mutual aid, automatic aid, and fire protection agree­ment plans shall be comprehensive enough to produce a capable response to deal with the emergencies they respond to and to ensure uniform operations at those emergencies.
  • Companies responding to automatic or mutual aid inci­dents shall be equipped with communications equipment that allow personnel to communicate with the incident commander, division or group supervisors, or branch directors.

4.9* Emergency Medical Services (EMS).

4.9.1* The provisions of this section shall apply only to those fire departments that are involved in EMS delivery.

4.9.2* The fire department shall clearly document its role, responsibilities, functions, and objectives for the delivery of EMS.

  • EMS operations shall be organized to ensure the fire department’s emergency medical capability includes personnel, equipment, and resources to deploy the initial arriving company and additional alarm assignments.
  • The fire department shall be permitted to use estab­lished automatic aid or mutual aid agreements to comply with the requirements of Section 4.9.
  • System Components.
  • The basic treatment levels within an EMS system, for the purposes of this standard, shall be categorized as first responder, basic life support (BLS), and advanced life support (ALS).
  • The specific patient treatment capabilities associated with each level shall be determined by the AHJ for the approval and licensing of EMS providers within each state or province.

The fire department shall institute a quality manage­ment program.

  • All first responder and BLS emergency medical sen ice provided by the fire department shall be reviewed and docu­mented by the fire department medical personnel.
  • All fire departments with ALS services shall have a named medical director with the responsibility to oversee and ensure quality medical care in accordance with state or provin­cial laws or regulations.
  • Fire departments providing ALS services shall provide a mechanism for immediate communications with EMS super­vision and medical oversight.

4.10* Special Operations.

  • The provisions of this section shall apply to fire depart­ments that are involved in the delivery of special operations response.
  • The fire department shall adopt a special operations response plan and SOPs that specify the role and responsibili­ties of the fire department and the authorized functions of members responding to hazardous materials emergency inci­dents.
  • Special operations shall be organized to ensure that the fire department’s special operations capability includes the personnel, equipment, and resources to deploy the initial arriv­ing company and additional alarm assignments providing such services.

4.10.4* The fire department shall limit its operations to only those specific special operations functions for which its person­nel are trained and are properly equipped.

  • The fire department shall be permitted to use estab­lished automatic aid or mutual aid agreements to comply with the requirements of Section 4.10.
  • All fire department members who respond to emer­gency incidents involving hazardous materials shall be trained to the applicable requirements of NFPA
  • The fire department shall have the capacity to imple­ment an RIC during all special operations incidents that would subject firefighters to immediate danger of injury, or in the event of equipment failure or other sudden events, as required by NFPA
  • When a higher level of emergency response is needed beyond the capability of the fire department for special opera­tions, the fire department shall determine the availability of outside resources that deploy these capabilities and the proce­dures for initiating their response.

Safety and Health System.

5.1.1* A firefighter occupational safety, health, and wellness program shall be provided in accordance with NFPA 1500.

5.1.2 As a minimum, the fire department shall ensure an AED is available on scene with personnel adequately trained in its use.

5.2* Incident Management System.

5.2.1 An incident management system shall be provided in accordance with NFPA 1561 to form the basic structure of all emergency operations of the fire department, regardless of the scale of the department or the emergency.

5.2.2* An incident management system shall be designed to manage incidents of different types, including structure fires, wildland fires, hazardous materials incidents, emergency medi­cal operations, and other types of emergencies that could be encountered by the department.

5.2.3 The incident management system shall be consistent with the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the National Response Framework (NRF).

5.3 Training Systems. The fire department shall have a train­ing program and policy that ensures that personnel are trained and competency is maintained to execute all operations consis­tent with the department’s organization and deployment as addressed in Chapter 4.

5.4* Communications System.

5.4.1* The fire department shall have a reliable communica­tions system to facilitate prompt delivery of public fire suppres­sion, EMS, and special operations.

  • All communications facilities, equipment, staffing, and operating procedures shall comply with NFPA 1221.
  • Operating procedures for radio communications shall provide for the use of standard protocols and terminology at all types of incidents.
  • Standard terminology, in compliance with NFPA 1561, shall be established to transmit information, including strategic modes of operation, situation reports, and emergency notifica­tions of imminent hazards.

5.5 Pre-Incident Planning.

  • The fire department shall set forth operational require­ments to conduct pre-incident planning.
  • Particular attention shall be provided to target hazards.
  • Pre-incident plans shall be completed in accordance with NFPA


NFPA 1720 Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Volunteer Fire Departments

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