B.C. Structure Firefighter Competency & Training Playbook - Questions & Answers

Updated: (2015-10-28)

The concepts in the British Columbia Structure Firefighter Competency and Training Playbook are designed to ensure that appropriate minimum levels of training are established which will make firefighters effective and safe on the fire ground, while being realistic, affordable and attainable.

This Playbook establishes a process under which training requirements are explicitly linked to the level of service being provided. As a fire department develops, or its services expand or evolve, the level of training required will also increase. The selected service delivery level needs to be reflected in the policies guiding the fire department and its training, including where services are provided by a society or other responsible entity.

Where there is no local government involved in the delivery of the fire service (e.g., an industrial fire brigade), the entity providing the service must establish such policies. We refer to the party responsible for setting such policies as the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).

The following question/answers are provided to help clarify some questions that have arisen. Additional material will be added as necessary from time to time.

1. Why was the Playbook created?

  • In recognition that many fire departments provide a level of service to their communities that does not require NFPA 1001 level training. The broad scope and application of the previous minimum training standard left many communities in a position of non-compliance with that standard. The Playbook is a direct response to the recommendations of the Fire Services Liaison Group (FSLG) report.

2. Who was involved in its creation?

  • Fire Chiefs Association of BC (FCABC)
  • BC Fire Training Officers Association (BCFTOA)
  • Office of the Fire Commissioner (OFC)
  • Training Providers – Justice Institute of BC (JIBC), College of the Rockies (COTR), Vancouver Island Emergency Response Academy (VIERA)
  • Consultation with a variety of other stakeholders during the development process

3. What organization is responsible for oversight and governance of the Playbook?

  • Office of the Fire Commissioner

4. Will this result in decreased service levels?

  • No. It continues to be the responsibility of the local government (LG) to determine what level of fire service will be provided. The Playbook now permits the LG to clearly identify the specific training that is associated with their chosen level of service. This further allows a more accurate assessment of the resources needed for that service.

5. Does it require local or regional government to immediately change the operations of local fire departments to comply?

  • The authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) needs to clearly identify which level of service it is going to provide.
  • The AHJ needs to ensure it takes immediate steps to comply with the standard; however, it is recognized that some departments may not be immediately in compliance in all respects.
  • The AHJ needs to demonstrate its due diligence in its actions to achieve compliance. This may include establishing a plan with a deadline to comply with the minimum training standard.

6. Is there a transition or grace period to be compliant with the minimum training standard?

  • There is no hard deadline to be compliant, as some departments will require time and resources to meet all of the requirements; however, the AHJ must consider demonstrating due diligence when determining an appropriate compliance deadline.

7. How much will the training cost?

  • This will be dependent upon the level of service and the methods of training selected by the AHJ for training delivery.
  • The Exterior Operations Level program allows for fire departments to accomplish the Exterior Level through in-house delivery.
  • Training can also be taken for all service levels from post-secondary provider agencies (COTR, JIBC, VIERA), or it can be delivered by other departments or contractors authorized to deliver training. Costs will be determined by the training provider and the client department and may vary depending on whether the training selected is accredited or not.
  • The Playbook defines the responsibility of the AHJ to establish an appropriate training budget for their chosen level of service.

8. What are the penalties if a fire service or local government does not comply?

  • The Minimum Standard was established pursuant to the authority of the Fire Services Act and a failure to comply may result in potential legal liabilities for the AHJ. Communities should consult their own legal counsel and WorkSafeBC for advice.

9. Who is regulating compliance?

  • As stated in the standard (Playbook), the AHJ is responsible for ensuring compliance (see page 4) with the Playbook.

10. Which organizations can teach the various competency levels?

  • Any organization, such as:
    • Justice Institute of BC (JIBC)
    • College of the Rockies (COTR)
    • Vancouver Island Emergency Response Academy (VIERA)
    • Local fire department with a training division.

11. How will individuals be evaluated?

  • The Exterior program has written and practical evaluation tools within the Exterior Operations Level Train the Trainer course, if a fire department wishes to use them. Fire departments that have the Train the Trainer course will be able to complete the evaluations in house.
  • Provider agencies (JIBC, COTR and VIERA) have provision for evaluation to occur.
  • There is no requirement for formal certificate level evaluation at any level of the Playbook. The Playbook only requires evaluations that ensure the competencies listed have been achieved. This entire process can be done internally by the department if it so chooses with approval of the AHJ and maintenance of records to substantiate how compliance was achieved.

12. Who will be keeping the records of the evaluations?

  • Records management is the responsibility of the AHJ, or fire service, as described in the WorkSafeBC Regulations.
  • The BCFTOA has offered to support local governments/fire departments by use of the fillable documents that the Exterior Operations Level Fire Fighter Train the Trainer program has available.

13. What level does my department need to train to?

  • The level of training is dependent upon level of service. The AHJ determines which level of service is to be provided, and by extension, the level of training.

The AHJ’s decision should consider factors affecting that community, which may include:

  • local conditions
  • level of service desired by community
  • consultation with representatives of local fire service delivery organization
  • availability of resources and the ability of those resources to respond; the realities of the community in terms of demographics, travel distances, fire hall locations, and staffing models
  • the ability of the jurisdiction or organization to financially support the operations of a chosen service level and meet all applicable safety and operational requirements

14. What local and departmental bylaws or policies/guidelines are required, and why?

  • As with any service that is provided, the AHJ should have a bylaw or policy statement that clearly expresses the specific service level to be delivered for the community. This service level must be recognized and included in any guidelines or procedures provided to the fire department. It is the responsibility of the AHJ to ensure this takes place.

Important Considerations for local decisions on Service Level and Training

  • It is important to recognize that some of the certification components may not be applicable for all jurisdictions (eg. fire hydrants). Therefore, the AHJ may identify if there are competencies that do not have application in their jurisdiction. These areas may be identified in the Service Level Policy Statement and may be reflected in the training program description and evaluation processes.

15. Whose decision is it to decide what level is needed in our community?

  • The Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ)

16. Will this affect our local Fire Underwriters Insurance Grading?

  • The Fire Underwriters Survey was consulted in the development of the Playbook.
  • Unless dramatic changes occur within the operation of the department, it is not expected that a change in insurance grading will occur. Local government should contact the Fire Underwriters Survey directly to ensure local conditions and expectations are understood and evaluated, prior to considering changes in level of service.

17. If we are an Exterior Level department but we have equipment for interior operations and some members are trained for Interior Level, can they go inside?

  • The level of service identified establishes the minimum training to provide those types of action with the level. Departments that train to a higher level and are properly equipped, could operate at a higher level, providing: (1) That decision to provide an additional Level of Service is made by the AHJ and described within the appropriate bylaw or policy statement, (2) the personnel operating in such a situation are trained in accordance with the requirements of the Playbook, and (3) at all times, the requirements of WorksafeBC must be met before any such action can occur.
  • In the event that an AHJ envisions a fire department being able to, at times, provide Interior Operations level service, the AHJ should permit that level of service within their bylaw or policy statement, and an operational guideline should be implemented that restricts interior operations to only those situations where necessary resources are assembled to enable interior operations.

18. What is expected of an Exterior Level fire service?

  • Exterior Operations – Is the Service Level that includes firefighting activities restricted to the controlling and/or extinguishing the fire from a position external to the building or object in question, and outside of any IDLH environment.

19. What types of structures does the Interior Level apply to?

  • Interior Operations – Is the Service Level that includes firefighting activities that include entry into structures and objects with the purpose of controlling and/or extinguishing of the fire. This requires use of specialized protective equipment and procedures not covered by the training provided in relation to Exterior Operations Service Level. Interior Level operations are restricted to simple structures, and isolated more complex ones with an existing, documented and comprehensive pre-incident plan that has been trained to and practiced by all members who would make entry.

20. What happens to the old Standard issued by the Province?

  • The previous standard establish January 1, 2003 has been rescinded and is no longer in effect.

21. What about all the other fire service roles, such as Incident Commander, Safety Officer, driver/operator, etc?

  • The Playbook only addresses the role of base firefighter skills for all the specific service levels. It does not, and is not intended to, provide direction or training materials for other specific skill roles necessary on the fire ground. There are many other specialty roles - some examples are described below – that are also required in some manner and are the responsibility of the local jurisdiction/fire department to identify and train to using outside or internal resources and expertise.

As defined in the Playbook;

  • Team Leader – a firefighter or officer trained/qualified to lead a team of firefighters in the undertaking of a fire ground task, or set of tasks, as applicable to the operational service level provided by the department. Team Leader qualifications are not based, nor necessarily applicable, to a department rank. Requirements are set out in the Standards and Requirements sections of this document.
  • Incident Safety Officer (ISO) – a trained firefighter with fire ground experience and education in identification of incident hazards before they become issues and capability of generating solutions or direct actions to avoid such hazards.
  • Risk Management Officer – an administrative position created within this Playbook framework to ensure that External Operations Level fire services are identifying and managing the risk and safety aspects of their operation. Areas of concern include: training program design, training records management, Bylaw management, Operational Guidelines, adherence to applicable regulations and standards, and other non-fire ground administrative matters related to safety and risk.

22. Is the Basic Firefighter program equivalent to the levels established in the Playbook? Do I need to re-take the Exterior Level training?

  • The Basic program is applicable to the Exterior Level but there are a few additional competencies to be completed.
  • Other programs from other provider agencies may also be equivalent. Check with your contract agency and/or the Office of the Fire Commissioner to be sure.

23. What happens to the Basic Firefighter Program now?

  • The Basic program belongs to the JIBC Fire and Safety Division.What happens now to the Basic Program is a decision for the JIBC Fire and Safety Division.

24. If I am a trainer for the Basic Program can I teach Exterior Level?

  • Yes

25. Do the programs provided by the JIBC, College of the Rockies or VIERA still exist?

  • Yes each provider has levels of the NFPA 1001 Fire Fighter I and II if fire departments want to use or continue to use these programs they should confirm with the provider.
  • These providers may also have programs that can be taken that meet the requirements of each Service Level in the Playbook. Check with them directly.

26. Can my training transfer to other provinces?

  • Non-accredited training may transfer, but should be checked for each circumstance.
  • Accredited training/certification levels that are completed with a recognized provider agency should have no issues from province to province based on the NFPA 1001 criteria.

27. Where do I get training materials to instruct the Exterior program in house?

  • Train the Trainer qualified instructors can obtain the materials for the BCFTOA.
  • NFPA materials can be purchased from IFSTA, Jones and Bartlett, or book stores, or other training providers.

28. Will I get a certificate? Will it be recognized by other departments/organizations?

  • Provider agencies typically provide certificates of some kind, but clients should check with the provider to be sure.
  • If an Exterior Operations Level Fire Fighter wants to have a certificate the department needs to produce the records as per the provided form that the written and practical applications and other training courses have been completed, and the BCFTOA will issue a certificate.

29. Does an Incident Commander have to have Fire Officer 1?

  • The Team Leader is required to meet the competencies of Fire Officer 1 but the Playbook does not address the requirements for other positions such as Incident Commander. Those requirements would be determined by the AHJ.

30. We have existing instructors/evaluators for our 1001 program delivery, will they be granted equivalency?

  • Qualified instructors/evaluators remain qualified as long as the agency that approved them continues to accept their credentials.

31. How do I get the training materials for the Exterior Level?

  • Visit the BC Fire Training Officers website for course registrations and for questions regarding materials contact: admin@bcftoa.com

32. I see there is reference to “Live Fire Exterior” - what is that referring to?

  • Where the term “Live Fire Exterior” was used, that is not the best description as it implies a ‘live firefighting course’ which is not the intent. Overall, the various Job Performance Requirements (JPRs) that are listed in each level are broken out into categories that they are related to, however, as a whole the level contains JPR training related to knowledge to fight exterior fires, but not a live course. Similarly, in the Interior level there are JPRs listed that equate to live fire training but they are broken out into the various subject categories. When the first amendments to the Playbook are undertaken the wording will be clarified to make this aspect easier to follow.

33. Who is the AHJ where the local government has contracted with a society to provide fire protection services?

  • The Local Government

34. Who is the AHJ where an unincorporated group is providing fire services, not supported by a local government structure?

  • Under definitions; “…the AHJ is any local government or other entity or organization that provides fire services in British Columbia” (italics added)

35. If my department is “Interior Operations” level, what happens if we show up to a scene and we don’t have enough personnel qualified at that level present?

  • As with any incident, you are limited by the qualifications of the personnel present in terms of what action can be undertaken. If you don’t have enough Interior trained personnel to effect an interior attack then you revert to defensive operations. One incident response does not define the service level of the department. The service level that is declared is the one you must train to meet and you must have the administrative components in place supporting that decision. Notwithstanding that commitment it is always possible to be faced with an incident where your resources (i.e. specifically trained staff) are not available in sufficient numbers, which requires a modified response.

36. Who do I contact if I have more questions?

Office of the Fire Commissioner
Bob Cooper, Fire Service Advisor
Business: 250-952-4913
Email: Bob.Cooper@gov.bc.ca

BC Fire Training Officers Association
Cinnamon Phillips, Executive Administrative Assistant
PO Box 415
Parksville, B.C. V9P 2G5
Business: 250-586-7717
Cell: 250-228-8834
Email: admin@bcftoa.com

Alternatively, the following organization may be able to assist

Fire Chiefs Association of BC (FCABC)
Christine McLenan,  Administrator
871 Oakview Street
Coquitlam, B.C. V3J 4T6
Business: 604 492 3080
Cell: 604-369-3080
Email: admin@fcabc.ca