Ministry of the
Solicitor General

OFM - 04-86-12

Identification of Students at Emergency Scenes

Public Fire Safety Guidelines

Subject Coding

PFSG 04-86-12


Emergency Responses


March 2004


Identification of Students at Emergency Scenes


Under Review


This guideline provides considerations to be addressed by municipal fire officials when developing Operational Guidelines to be followed when students or other observers attend fire or other emergency incidents, with their host departments/services. Those individuals are participating as a component of some type of educational training program (normally through a secondary school or community college).
Those individuals must be clearly identified, in order to ensure that their fire service, as well as the general public, is able to identify them as students, both at a glance and from a distance.


A coroner's inquest recommended that the OFM develop a guideline concerning students attending fire scenes. This came as a result of members of the public perceiving a student as a “working firefighter” at a fire scene, when in fact; he was participating as part of a secondary school educational program.

Identification Issues:

Students should be identified in a manner that clearly distinguishes them from fire department/fire service personnel. Efforts must be made to make the student's clothing appear noticeably “different” than that of other emergency responders at an emergency scene.
These efforts may include but would not be limited to one or more of the following:

  • A helmet (of a colour not normally worn in that particular fire department/fire service) with the word “student” clearly written on both sides or conversely the use of a construction type hard hat that is easily distinguishable from a firefighters' helmet.
  • A reflective vest (of a different colour) than one that may be worn by the fire department/fire service's Incident Commander, Safety Officer or Accountability Officer. The word “Student” should appear on the back of the vest in a size clearly visible from a distance, as well as the name of the college/school if there is sufficient space. The vest must be of sufficient size to fit over a bunker suit or overalls. The vest may be affixed with the aid of Velcro strips. (See Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Standard Z96-02, entitled “High Visibility Safety Apparel”.

Important Principles:

  • A written agreement between the fire department/fire service and the educational facility must have been signed by all parties concerned. The written agreement would outline which activities the student will be permitted to participate in and which activities the student will NOT be permitted to participate in. At no time should the student's safety or firefighter safety be put at risk. An Operational Guideline should be developed to capture this information.
  • Prior to permitting a student to attend a fire or other emergency scene, the following factors should also be taken into consideration:
  • The level of personal protective clothing required.
  • A suitable, structured, and tested training period covering subjects such as theory, equipment operation and safety issues must have taken place prior to allowing the student to ride in vehicles, attend scenes or operate equipment.
  • The student must be under direct supervision at all times. In addition, a specific fire department/fire service official may be assigned to “mentor” the student.
  • The student must wear all of the necessary clothing and equipment to protect him/her from accidental injury.
  • Consideration should be given for removing the student from the operational area during extreme circumstances, as the situation warrants.

Codes, Standards and Best Practices:

Codes, Standards and Best Practices resources available to assist in establishing local policy on this assessment are listed below. All are available at . Please feel free to copy and distribute this document. We ask that the document not be altered in any way, that the Office of the Fire Marshal be credited and that the documents be used for non-commercial purposes only.

See also;
PFSG 04-69-13 Coordination, development, approval and distribution of SOG's for various disciplines.
Occupational Health & Safety Act
Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Standard Z96-02, entitled “High Visibility Safety Apparel”.