Firefighter Professional Qualifications in the NFPA 1000 Series

A professional firefighter staring into the face of a conflagration to meet the qualifications of NFPA 1001.

Preventing accidental fires and extinguishing existing flames is an absolute necessity, since fire protection can, as reflected in the mission statement of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), eliminate “death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards.” In 2015, in the United States alone, there were 1.5 million reported fires, which resulted in 3,790 civilian deaths and 15,700 injuries. While every individual can and should make an effort to prevent fires, there always needs to be a system in place, with professionals at the helm, to manage and put out fires, since flames at any intensity pose threats.

The importance of fire protection and the involvement of specific, qualified personnel to perform the dangerous act of putting out fires has been respected for millennia. In fact, the first recorded instance of a fire brigade dates back to 90 BCE in Ancient Rome, and it was formed by Marcus Licinius Crassus, a wealthy Roman. Unfortunately, Crassus would only help put out a fire after negotiating payment with the distressed property owner, all while the fire grew. Rome later was safeguarded from fire by the Vigiles, a combination firefighting and police force formed to serve the public.

Today, it is estimated that there are close to 3 million firefighters throughout the European Union and over 1 million in the United States, who work to keep the public safe from fire hazards. While many of these professionals are career firefighters, the majority are actually volunteers.

For fire departments, qualified personnel are key. Since it is within their duties to expose themselves to danger to rescue and protect the public, any error in judgement or performance by a fire professional can mean life or death for both themselves and those threatened by fires, not to mention the amount of destruction that a mistake can cause. Job performance requirements (JPRs) for career and volunteer firefighters are standardized in NFPA 1001-2019 – Standard for Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications, 2013 Edition.

The NFPA 1001-2019 standard is purposed with assuring that persons meeting its requirements are qualified, and its JPRs should be accomplished in accordance with the requirements of the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). It is to be used for qualifications at the Fire Fighter I Level and Fire Fighter II Level.

Firefighters are synonymous with certain items. This includes the stations,  helmets, the fireman’s pole for responding quickly to emergencies, the ladders, the axes, and many others. However, probably the most recognized firefighter equipment is the fire truck. The fire apparatus – the term describing any vehicle that is designed or customized for firefighting operations – has been an integral part of fire brigade operations since the Eighteenth Century, back when water pumps on wheels functioned with human power.

Two firefighters using hose qualified to NFPA 1002 to extinguish massive flame.

As anyone who has ever seen a fire apparatus can attest, the fire engine is by no means a conventional vehicle. Because of this, its operation warrants unique qualifications. NFPA 1002-2017 – NFPA 1002 Standard for Fire Apparatus Driver/Operator Professional Qualifications, 2017 edition details the minimum job requirements for emergency response personnel who drive and operate fire apparatus.

Several other standards in the NFPA 1000 series are devoted to establishing job performance requirements for firefighters with particular specializations. These include:

NFPA 1003-2015 – Standard for Airport Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications

NFPA 1005-2014 – Standard for Professional Qualifications for Marine Fire Fighting for Land-Based Fire Fighters

NFPA 1006-2017 – NFPA 1006 Standard for Technical Rescue Personnel Professional Qualifications, 2017 edition

Each of these standards specifies the minimum JPRs for their respective firefighter specialization. Airport firefighters and land-based firefighters engaged in marine firefighting fall under Level II. For technical rescue personnel, this qualification level varies. For example, with vehicle events, any situation involving rescue of entrapped civilians or personnel that involves common passenger vehicles calls for Level I personnel, while any situation exceeding that criteria warrants the intervention of Level II personnel.

The distinct standardization of these types of fire service professionals allows for each NFPA 1000 series document to convey clear, usable qualifications for each specialization so that personnel can be selected for carrying out their duties. Depending on the specific professional, this may require knowledge of military aircraft, marine vessels, or other relevant knowledge and skills.

For accrediting bodies, the processes used to certify fire service, public safety, and related personnel to professional qualifications standards, and nonengineering, fire-related, academic, degree-granting programs offered by institutions of higher education, NFPA 1000-2017 – NFPA 1000 Standard for Fire Service Professional Qualifications Accreditation and Certification Systems, 2017 edition details standard guidance for assessment and validation criteria.

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards are available on the ANSI Webstore.

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