NFPA1500 or how the Fire Department Does Business Continuity

With emergencies as the very basis of its existence, a fire department still needs to think out its own business continuity. The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association in the United States) 1500 standard details the procedures that a fire department should or must follow in order to continually remain operational. Instructions in NFPA 1500 start off with the Fire Department Organizational Statement, before moving to the Risk Management Plan: both documents are mandatory. In that case, is there anything in the standard that is optional or are all the instructions compulsory?

As the notes in the standard point out, anything that is mandatory is expressed as “shall” (“the health and safety office shall ensure that…”); anything that is a recommendation, but not obligatory, uses a “should”. It turns out that the first “should” is in the annex following the main body of text. It deals with the authority having jurisdiction for mandating the application of the standard being either the fire chief or the entity accountable for the functioning of the fire department.

Would making a plan using the same “shall” language work in the setting of a commercial company? Or is a command and control approach too out-dated for today’s firms? Whatever the case, the NFPA1500 leaves little to chance, and provides extensive forms and checklists to be reviewed and filled out. It also has a table of risks, their descriptions, frequency and severity, priorities and a summary of the control measures for each one. But then again, given what may be at stake in the work of fire-fighters compared to that of a private sector company, the majority of “shalls” compared to “shoulds” is probably a good thing.