The National Fire Protection Association has approved NFPA 1710, a controversial standard that sets staffing, response time and operational requirements for professional, or "career" fire service and rescue departments.

Key provisions of the standard, which has been in the works for ten years, include:

  • At least four fire fighters per fire engine or truck (five or six for high-hazard situations);

  • Response time of four minutes for the arrival of a unit with first responder or higher-level capability at emergency medical incidents, and eight minutes for full-alarm response; and

  • Minimum requirements for health and safety, incident management, training, communications and pre-incident planning.

The standard pitted the International Association of Fire Fighters and the International Association of Fire Chiefs against groups such as the National League of Cities and the United States Conference of Mayors.

"This is the standard of the century and a tremendous victory for professional fire fighters and paramedics," said Harold Schaitberger, IAFF General President. He predicted the requirements would save "hundreds of lives" and result in more efficient fire and emergency medical service departments.

City and county government officials argued that the standard's "one size fits all" requirements are not scientifically based and will impose costly staffing and facility burdens.

The fire fighter and fire chief associations will work together to implement the standard, in what they say will be a lengthy process. "(Making) 1710 a reality on the ground¿will not happen overnight," said Schaitberger.