EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation — February 22, 2006

NFPA 472 Update
Standard for Professional Competence of Responders
to Hazardous Materials Incidents

John M. Eversole
Chair, NFPA Technical Committee on Hazardous Materials Response Personnel

Avagene Moore
EIIP Moderator

The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. A raw, unedited transcript is available from our archives. See our home page at http://www.emforum.org

[Welcome / Introduction]

Avagene Moore: Welcome to the EIIP Virtual Forum! We are pleased you could join us today! Today's topic is "NFPA 472 Update - Standard for Professional Competence of Responders to Hazardous Materials Incidents."

It is a pleasure to introduce our guest speaker today. Chief John M. Eversole, Ret., Chair of the NFPA Technical Committee on Hazardous Materials Response Personnel, was formerly Chief of Special Functions for the Chicago Fire Department, including responsibility for Hazardous Materials, Heavy Rescue, Air/Sea Rescue, Specialized Equipment and the Office of Fire Investigation. Previously he was also assigned as the Hazardous Materials Coordinator for the Chicago Fire Department. Chief Eversole has extensive experience in fire instruction and is involved in numerous professional affiliations.

If you have not read the background page at www.emforum.org/vforum/060222.htm , I urge you to do so after our session today to learn more about our speaker's respective expertise and experience.

Welcome to the EIIP Virtual Forum Chief Eversole. John, I now turn the floor to you for your formal remarks.


John Eversole: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen and a special welcome to fellow emergency responders. I have been asked to give a brief background of the Hazardous Materials Responder Standards of the National Fire Protection Association.

I am John Eversole, retired Chief of Special Operations of the Chicago Fire Department and Chairman of the NFPA's Hazardous Materials Responders Committee, which is commonly referred to as the NFPA 472 Committee. I have been a member of this committee for more than twenty years.

Today I would like to speak with you about why this Standard exists, how it was developed and where it is going. Everyone needs to know that there are three documents in this series; each of which has a specific goal. These documents are:

  • NFPA 471 - Responding to Hazardous Materials Incidents
  • NFPA 472 – Professional Competence of Responders to Hazardous Materials Incidents
  • NFPA 473 - Competencies of EMS Personnel Responding to Hazardous Materials Incidents

Please note that 471 is a Recommended Practice where as 472 and 473 are Standards.

Background History - Where We Started

For many years the Fire Service had been responding to "chemical incidents." This was even before the Federal Government invented the term Hazardous Materials. The Fire Service responded not because of any particular expertise, they just seemed the natural local responders to handle the problems. The Fire Service did a gallant job and considering that they had little or no experience and no special training, they were extraordinarily lucky not to have suffered more death and injury.

At the request of several national organizations, including the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the NFPA at the July 1985 Standards Council meeting approved the startup of a Hazardous Materials Responders Committee. This committee was to establish guidelines and standards so that emergency responders could safely and intelligently respond to these incidents.

Being a member of this committee offered a very unusual opportunity. We began with a blank page of paper. There were no rules and no guidelines that met our needs. Anything that had been written didn’t really apply to emergency responders.

The committee’s first Chairman, Chief Warren Isman, was a hard taskmaster. He was demanding but, at the same time, allowed all members to have their say. The committee was made up of emergency responder from the fire side as well as private industry. The Federal agencies, such as OSHA, EPA and DOT were also represented.

One of the first conclusions reached by the committee was that this standard needed to be an "industry wide" standard and not just for first responders from the Fire Service. After several years of intense negotiations, and several times near physical confrontations, the committee was ready to go back to the NFPA with two documents ready for approval. Simply put the two documents would be NFPA 471, which would direct responders in the proper methodologies of handling Hazardous Materials incidents and NFPA 472 which would establish levels of knowledge and competencies of responders.

Where We Are Now

The committee meets formally several times per year to discuss new developments and changing trends in our industry. Task groups routinely work between meetings to formulate proposed changes to the documents. Several examples of this are:

  • The elimination of the Specialists Level. Due to increased emphasis on medical needs NFPA 473 Competencies for EMS Personnel To Hazardous Materials Incidents was established in 1992.

  • In 1998 the committee processed a Tentative Interim Amendment (TIA) to address concerns related to the unique challenges of responding to hazardous materials incidents caused by criminal or terrorist activities.

  • The committee has also established a number of Specialties categories for those persons who require specific knowledge about a given topic.

Where Are We Going

It is the responsibility of the committee to continually review the documents to insure they are accurate and up to date. The committee is also responsible to insure that the documents represent the current needs and trends of the industry.

Although final approval has not been reached at this time, you will see a broadening of the standards to meet today’s needs. A major effort is being made to emphasize that this standard is designed to meet the needs of all responders, no matter what their particular discipline may be. There will be no attempt to tell anyone how to do their job.

There will be "core competencies" that each must follow so that they can work under the Incident Command umbrella in a safe and effective manner. There will also be an inclusion of a new specialty for the marine industry.

We are presently working on a significant rewrite of the NFPA 473 Standard. To better meet the needs of the EMS responder the committee finds it necessary to put 473 back approximately six months so that it can receive full consideration.

How You Can Help

As Chairman, I am very proud of each member of the committee and the subject matter experts we have enlisted to help us. Everyone has worked very hard to provide our responders with the best possible information so that they can work safely and effectively but we may not be perfect.

Therefore, we are now in the public comment period. The public comment period will remain open until March 3, 2006. Everyone is invited to make comment. You may agree with the committee or not.

If you wish to comment please contact the NFPA. At the back of each standard is a simple form to make comment. Remember that you must tell us what you like or dislike and how you would correct it. We look forward to hearing from you. [See http://www.nfpa.org/aboutthecodes/AboutTheCodes.asp?DocNum=472 ]

Thank you for your time, I will now attempt to answer any questions you may have and turn you back to our Moderator.

Avagene Moore: Thank you, John. We will now turn to questions from our audience.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Doug Goodings: Did the committee review the proposed changes sent to them by the Ontario Fire Marshal?

John Eversole: The committee is required to review all proposals.

Amy Sebring: John is there any discussion with the NIMS Integration Center regarding using NFPA 472 as a basis for technical competencies under NIMS? Part of the NIMS Resource effort.

John Eversole: We are certainly knowledgeable of NIMS. The standard does take it into account. There are also places that call for Incident Command. I would also comment that we are making sure to adjust the 472 Standard so as to make sure that everyone has a place to operate under the NIMS concept.

Lloyd Bokman: Chief, do you know if OSHA is planning on updating OSHA 1910.120 to take into account the updates in the work of your committee?

John Eversole: Although OSHA has its own way of writing, you will find that the OSHA and NFPA documents will be in parallel.

Brett Putnam: I work for the NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation. Our staff includes emergency spill responders who are trained at the Technician level. We are currently struggling with an acceptable way to "certify" competency of our field staff. It is easy to certify a training history, but how does an employer realistically certify a competency? There are a host of liability concerns wrapped up in this issue as well. For instance, is the employer liable if a Certified Competent employee makes a mistake that results in increased pollution or other harm?

John Eversole: The employer is the sole certifying agency. Certainly there are some liabilities if an employee makes an error. I feel that if you follow NFPA's standard and can show competent instruction, that is your best bet to protect yourself.

Doug Goodings: We notice you now use the term Hazardous materials/WMD throughout the document. In your opinion is this intended to be synonymous with the term hazardous materials/CBRNE.

John Eversole: Doug, you ask an interesting question. Everyone wants us to write a standard that covers everything. We have changed the terms and will probably have to change again someday to meet the current needs.

Frank Califano: OSHA has looked at changing 1910.120 to include what they have deemed "best practices" (especially EMS / Hospitals). Also, NIMS is not ICS and ICS is not NIMS. OSHA 1910.120 still calls for the operation of personnel under an incident management system.

John Eversole: We have always had the problem of NFPA or OSHA. Which is the head and which is the tail? We at the 472 Committee have taken the path to write the best standard we can to insure safety and competency. I am sure that any OSHA rewrite will reflect the same thoughts. The 472 committee has made a decision not to address the hospital or "first receivers" standard.

Joshua McGuoirk: Well it would seem to me that OSHA is a federal law and therefore must be adhered to more so than NFPA.

John Eversole: Joshua, a good question. I believe that if you follow NFPA you will have met the OSHA requirements and have much more competent personnel.

Jeff Tucker: Chief Eversole, with the addition of "core competencies" to the Ops level are you not now creating an additional Ops level (or levels) call them Ops Specialist or Ops Plus levels that Fire Departments will choose, as a matter of course, to train too thus increasing the minimum training requirements of the Ops level? With the effect of no longer having folks just trained as Ops only responders. Making Ops your entry level of training and creating an "Ops Plus" level just before Technician? I see some departments wanting all of their Ops personnel to be able to do decon etc.

John Eversole: No! There will not be a separate level. There are certain competencies that if personnel are properly trained and equipped, they can do that particular task without going to the next higher level.

Glenn Grove: I am concerned with the OSHA side of things as well. Is there some consideration for the "new" HazMat players such as SWAT and Bomb Squads, evidence custodians etc.? We now have several definitions of technician, not all of whom are attached to the Fire Service although this becomes the industry standard.

John Eversole: Glen, we have been working very closely with the FBI, Sheriffs and the Bomb teams to make sure that they are comfortable with this.

Doug Goodings: Based upon the descriptions of the Operations level core competencies, the Mission-specific and agent-specific competencies some have reached the conclusion that (A) ALL 3 types of competencies (core, agent, and mission specific) in their ENTIRETY are required for the Operations level (B) Training to the Operations level consists of the "core" competencies and, as required, selected mission and/or agent specific competencies that would be subsequent "endorsements" if you will. Which one is more accurate?

John Eversole: Doug, the intent here was to make it better and easier for all to fit in. Your question deserves a lot more discussion.

Frank Califano:
Chief your point about hospital is well taken, but we blur the line with EMS as first responder / first receivers. Decon, I thought, was always an ops level capability. And EMS is often the redheaded stepchild.

John Eversole: Frank, thanks for bringing this up. We are in the process of a complete rewrite of the 473 standard. Due to the great amount of work we have voted to put the 473 standard back about 6 months. Ops people can do decon under the supervision of a Tech. There may be times when that due to an emergency, decon is done without the Tech supervision. Frank we don’t want anyone to feel like a stepchild. Everybody has a place and everyone should know and be in their place.

Frank Califano: Yes, I am on the review side of 473.

Glenn Grove:
Perhaps I was not clear. If the standard calls for Technician level training (which is now closer to Ops + in some places of the standard) will all "first Responders" be expected to train to the technician level even though they do not normally respond to traditional hazmat events? This places a huge burden of training on departments. We in Colorado have three levels of "Technician" depending on the discipline that you are in. Local problem I understand, but this is where OSHA and industry standard become difficult to see around.

John Eversole: Glen, no one will be required to train beyond their stated level. That is up to the employer.

Amy Sebring:
Are there any Dept. of Homeland Security representatives on the Technical Committee? (e.g. FEMA, USFA, other?)

John Eversole: There are a number of Feds on the committee. The USFA has a major player with Mr. Yoder. We have tried to include all the necessary players and exclude no one. Also I would remind all of you that you can make comment until March 3, 2006. Get the comment form from the NFPA. Remember that if you make a comment, have a suggestion as to how to improve the document.

Doug Goodings: We hear that Hazmat Ops might become a requirement for NFPA 1001, versus Hazmat Awareness, is this true?

John Eversole: Doug, that is very possible. It is not our decision but, it is my feeling that everyone going out on a fire apparatus should be trained to the OPS level.


Avagene Moore: Thank you, John! We greatly appreciate your effort and time on our behalf and wish you well as you continue your work. Your connection problems were a bit aggravating for you but we are glad you hung in there for us.

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Again, the transcript of today's session will be posted later today and you will be able to access it from our home page. An announcement will also be sent to our Mail Lists when the transcript is available.

Thanks to everyone for participating today. We appreciate you, the audience! Before you go, please help me show our appreciation to John for a fine job. The EIIP Virtual Forum is adjourned!