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Course Instructions


									Intermediate National Fire
Danger Rating System S-491

         Student Workbook
            October, 2010

This version of Intermediate National Fire Danger Rating System S-491 is a full
revision of the materials first published by the National Wildfire Coordinating
Group in 2004. This revision follows the direction of the Equipment and
Technology Branch, Fire Environment Committee. The innovation, commitment
coordination and assistance of the following people were instrumental in re-
developing this course:

                         Bureau of Land Management

                             Salt Lake Field Office
                                   Jeff Kline

                    Eastern Great Basin Coordination Center
                                  Shelby Law

                              Winnemucca District
                                  Kai Olsen

                       Great Basin Training Center-NIFC
                                Brian Eldredge

                              U.S. Forest Service

                National Information Systems Team Support, WO
                                  Sue Petersen

                  Rocky Mountain Research Station, Missoula
                             Larry Bradshaw

                         State and Private Forestry, WO
                                 Linnea Keating

         Predictive Services Unit, N. California GA Coordination Center
                                   Russ Gripp

                          COURSE INSTRUCTIONS

This section contains instructions and information essential to the course
coordinator and instructors in making an effective presentation. Cadre
members must read this section and be thoroughly familiar with course
procedures and material prior to presentation.


      The S-491, Intermediate National Fire Danger Rating course requires 36
      hours for presentation. This course is designed to support the training
      requirements of the Wildland and Prescribed Fire Qualification Guide, PMS
      310-1. The course lessons and exercises support training for dispatchers and
      others charged with editing and inputting weather information into WIMS
      used for NFDRS calculations, fire management staff who apply NFDRS
      outputs to decision making, and fire behavior specialists who incorporate
      NFDRS products into assessments and projections.

      The Wildland Fire Qualification System Guide provides guidance and a
      national wildfire standard for establishing minimum training, skills,
      knowledge, experience, and physical fitness requirements for the
      participating agencies of the NWCG.

      The Course Coordinator’s Guide (PMS 907) contains general information
      for presentation of NWCG courses. The course coordinator and instructors
      should be thoroughly familiar with this guide (online at


      Course objectives are stated in broad terms that define what students will be
      able to accomplish after completing the course.

      Upon completion of this course the student will demonstrate the knowledge
      and skills necessary to operate, apply, and manage the National Fire Danger
      Rating System.


       Refer to the Field Manager’s Course Guide (PMS 901-1) for instructor
       prerequisites specific to this course. This guide is accessible at

       This is a 400 level course. In addition to the course specific instructor
       prerequisites, all instructors are required to have 32 hours of instructor
       training such as Facilitative Instructor (M-410), or an equivalent course, as
       stated in the Field Manager’s Course Guide.

       It is highly recommended that the entire cadre has either successfully
       completed Advanced NFDRS or is an instructor for Advanced NFDRS. It is
       a course goal at the Advanced NFDRS course to develop cadre for S-491.
       Cadre selection is the responsibility of the lead instructor, with
       administrative support from the course coordinator.

       Lead Instructor

       It is highly recommended that course coordinators consult with the S-491
       Course Unit of the NWCG Equipment and Technology Branch, Fire
       Environment Committee, Fire Danger Subcommittee in selecting the lead
       instructor to present the S-491 course to maintain consistency and oversight
       of courses taught nationally. At a minimum, the lead instructor has general
       knowledge of the entire S-491 course material; has previous experience as a
       Lead Instructor or Unit leader for S-491; has broad experience applying
       NFDRS outputs; has the ability to relate each unit and lesson to the next and
       to the entire course; and is competent to teach any lesson in the course.
       The lead instructor shall be responsible for selecting the remainder of the
       cadre for the course. The subject matter of this course is highly technical and
       complex. The lead instructor shall make every effort to select the most
       qualified individuals to teach individual lessons and lead units, paying
       special attention to matching the instructor to the content and complexity of
       those units.

       Instructors should understand that they will be required to participate for the
       duration of the course as coaches assisting students with software
       applications during exercises.

Computer Specialist

It is essential that a computer specialist either be one of the faculty members
or be immediately available to the course presentation to resolve any
computer, network or printing problems encountered. Persons selected to fill
this capacity must be thoroughly familiar with the hardware (personal
computers, network, Internet connection, printers, projector) used in
presenting the course, with directory structures used, and to a lesser extent
the software and its installation.

In the event the Ebook is used to provide students with the Student
Workbook, PowerPoint and handouts, it is essential that the computer
specialist be conversant in adding and replacing files to the classroom

Unit Leader and Lesson Instructor

At a minimum, has completed S-491, preferably has attended the Advanced
NFDRS course. The unit leader must be competent in all the areas of
emphasis within the unit, be able to teach any of the lessons or provide
answers to detailed questions about the lesson’s content, and provide
leadership to coaches.

The lesson instructors should be competent and comfortable in presenting
the content of the lesson, answering technical questions on the lesson subject
matter, and have expertise with the course software sufficient to coach
students through course exercises.

The ratio of instructors and coaches to students must be no less than 1:5 to
insure availability of adequate coaching during exercises.

Lead instructors are encouraged to supplement the faculty with additional
instructors in training. These coaches may assist in lesson delivery, will
provide assistance to students completing course exercises, and will assist in
grading quizzes and the final exam. Coaches should be selected from
Advanced NFDRS or former S-491 students who demonstrate a particular
grasp of WIMS and/or NFDRS subject matter and have a desire to become
part of the Geographic Area’s faculty.

      A.   General Information

           The Course Coordinator’s Guide (PMS 907) contains general
           information for presentation of NWCG courses. The course
           coordinator and instructors should be thoroughly familiar with this
           guide (online at

           Additional information about this course, its delivery, and the most
           recent versions of the course content may be downloaded from
           This site is maintained by the NWCG Fire Environment Working
           Team’s Fire Danger Committee, S-491 Course subcommittee. The
           subcommittee will make needed updates to the course material on an
           annual basis based on comments referred to it from lead instructors
           and those required by changes to the FireFamily Plus software.

      B.   Exercises

           Exercises are included in all units to provide students with hands on
           practice in applying the training objectives contained within the unit.
           Course instructors must be available to assist students during exercise
           presentation to ensure that the student learns to use the FireFamily
           Plus software in applying the learning objective to the given task.
           Without immediate coaching support from faculty the student may
           become frustrated to the degree that it compromises their successful
           completion of the course.


      A.   Instructor Guide

           This course does not use the standard NWCG Instructor Guide format.
           Instead, notes to the instructor are included in the notes pane of each
           PowerPoint slide where needed. Course faculty must prepare for
           lesson delivery by reviewing the student workbook, practicing
           through lesson exercises before they are presented, PowerPoint

     presentation, quizzes and final exam during the pre-course faculty

     Unlike other NWCG courses, the Student Workbook lessons are full
     narratives, not outlines. The detail and complexity of the subject
     matter requires this format.

B.   Course Materials

     The course materials can only be obtained via Internet download from

     This site also contains the answer keys for the pre-course work, along
     with all printable materials required to present the course in Adobe
     .pdf format; electronic presentations in Microsoft PowerPoint format,
     data files needed for exercises, quizzes and the final exam; and an
     Ebook version of the course that may be used in lieu of printing the
     student workbook. A three ring binder of at least 2” capacity is
     required to hold the Student Workbook.

C.   Student Workbook

     The Student Workbook contains the unit objectives, lesson narratives,
     detailed exercises, and handouts. It does NOT include the unit quizzes
     or final exam; the cadre or course coordinator will have to make
     sufficient copies of these to hand out to the students.

     Handouts and reference materials are included with the Student
     Workbook. Special instructions for additional handouts not included
     in the Student Workbook are indicated in the notes section of the
     PowerPoint slides. Many references are located on the NFDRS
     Reference CD. While this is a convenient package for the large
     volume of material, documents on the CD may not be as easily
     viewed by students as a printed copy. Lead and lesson instructors
     should determine prior to the course presentation which, if any, of the
     reference documents to provide the students in printed form.

     Student Workbooks should be produced from the S-491 course
     website prior to the beginning of the course, one for each student. This
     course relies on color graphics rendered from the FireFamily Plus
     software to illustrate interpretation of NFDRS inputs and outputs. It is
     essential that the student workbook be printed in color to allow
     students to interpret FireFamily Plus graphs.

     Alternatively, the student workbook may be printed in black and
     white with color graphs and handouts individually inserted in the
     workbook, or the electronic presentation for each lesson should be
     printed in color as two-slide-per-page handouts for each student.

     The Student Workbook and PowerPoint presentations may also be
     provided to the students on the classroom network as an “eBook”. An
     advantage of using the eBook is that the workbook does not have to
     be printed in color. Instead, students can follow the lesson using either
     the electronic version of the Student Workbook or follow the
     PowerPoint presentation as it is displayed by the instructor. The
     primary disadvantage of using the Ebook to provide the Student
     Workbook is that the student cannot take the material with them at
     night to study the material, unless a printed version is also offered.
     The lead instructor and course coordinator must decide on which
     method of providing the student workbook will best serve their
     students needs.

E.   Student Reference Materials

     The NFDRS Reference CD (PMS 933/NFES 02687) contains
     references and materials students will refer to throughout the course
     and at their home unit. Order and distribute one CD for each student.

     If the Ebook is used, provide each student a copy of the Ebook on CD
     at the conclusion of the course.

     Additional copies of Gaining an Understanding of the National Fire
     Danger Rating System (PMS 932/NFES 2665) should be available to
     students in the classroom.

D.   Course Agenda

     A sample agenda is on page 0.17. Revise the agenda as appropriate.
     The agenda can be inserted into the Student Workbook prior to the
     beginning of class.


      The course lessons and exercises support training for dispatchers and others
      charged with editing and inputting weather information into WIMS used for
      NFDRS calculations, fire management staff who apply NFDRS outputs to
      decision making, and fire behavior specialists who incorporate NFDRS
      products into assessments and projections.


      Students must:

          Demonstrate at least intermediate skills with the current Windows

           operating system

          Have successfully completed the Weather Information Management
           System (WIMS) course (or equivalent).

          Have successfully completed Intermediate Wildland Fire Behavior, S-

          Successfully complete the pre-course work with a minimum passing
           score of 70% or higher.


      A. Pre-course work is required for this course. The pre-course materials are
         located online at:

         The course coordinator can provide the pre-course work to the students
         through the following options:

          • Refer nominees to the online version; list the Web site in the letter.

          • Mail nominees a hard copy.

   The pre-course work consists of the following materials:

    • Read Decisions and Risk self study module.
    • Completion of the FAMWEB & KCFAST self study module.
    • Completion of the WIMS for Beginners self study module.
    • Read Gaining an Understanding of the National Fire Danger Rating
      System and complete the accompanying quiz.
    • Completion of the Fuels and Fuel Moisture self study guide and
      complete the accompanying quiz.
    • Completion of the FireFamily Plus self study module.
    • Completion of the Data Sources self study module and quiz.

A checklist is provided at the website to assist students in returning all the
pre-course work components required.

A minimum cumulative passing score of 70% is required on the pre-course
work for acceptance into the course.

Nominees are highly encouraged to read the first three chapters of the
FireFamily Plus User’s Guide to develop introductory knowledge of the
software’s purpose and function. LINK

The pre-course work may be delivered by various techniques. The preferred
way is to provide the materials through distance learning methods.
Nominees will access to download
course software and reading materials, and answer online delivered pre-
course modules and quizzes. The objective of placing the pre-course work
on line is to demonstrate the nominees’ ability to accomplish course related
tasks in the environment they will use in working with the NFDRS, that is,
on a computer with Internet access. Additionally, those nominees who do
not possess strong computer skills will have the opportunity to increase their
skills to a level adequate to insure their success in the classroom. On line
delivery aids the course coordinator and lead instructor by providing
automatic grading of nominees’ response to the quizzes, and direct email to
each nominee or the entire class. Nominees are required to submit their quiz
answers and required products and the pre-course work questions by the
identified deadline to the course coordinator or lead instructor.

The other option is to mail hardcopy materials to each student with enough
lead time to ensure that student’s can complete and return the pre-course
      work to the lead instructor or course coordinator in time for grading, student
      selection and notification of acceptance into the course to arrange travel.
      Students should receive pre-course work information at least eight weeks
      prior to beginning the course.

      The course coordinator must send each nominee a letter that includes
      information and instructions for completing the pre-course work. The letter
      should also inform nominees that they must obtain a score of 70% or higher
      to attend the course. A sample letter is on page 0.19.

      It will take students approximately 16-20 hours to complete the pre-course
      assignments. Students must return their completed pre-course questions to
      the lead instructor either by e-mail, FAX, or regular mail three weeks before
      class begins.

      B. Student Selection

      To insure that only the most able and prepared individuals are selected for
      the classroom portion of the course, the pre-course work is used to establish
      baseline competency and skill in the subject matter and demonstration of
      computer use. Generally there are more nominations for the course than
      seats available. By providing each nominee with an opportunity to complete
      the pre-course work with a passing score by the pre-established deadline, a
      pool of potential students demonstrating the necessary skills for success in
      the course is established. The course coordinator and lead instructor may
      then select the final students for the classroom portion of the course from
      those students with the highest scores on the pre-course work, while meeting
      agency considerations.


      Send a nomination letter, along with the pre-course work materials, to
      students at least eight weeks before the course begins. The letter should
      instruct nominees to return the completed pre-course work materials to the
      course coordinator or lead instructor at least three weeks prior to beginning
      the course. An example course nomination letter is located on page 0.19. A
      selection letter will need to be sent to students that successfully complete the
      pre-course work.


     The course coordinator must send a course acceptance letter to each nominee
     who successfully passes the pre-course work. This letter should explain class
     time, date, and location. Refer to the Course Coordinator’s Guide (PMS 907)
     for more information on selection letters.


     Cadre meetings are an opportunity for instructors to meet, review the
     material, practice through course exercises, and discuss concerns with the
     course coordinator or lead instructor. The meetings are critical for instructors
     who do not have previous experience with the course.

     After each day’s presentation, hold a cadre meeting to discuss concerns and
     progress. At the end of the course, conduct a final cadre meeting to evaluate
     instructor performance and suggest modifications for future courses.

     A cadre meeting in advance of the course presentation is suggested due to
     the relationship of the unit material (changing instructional materials in one
     unit may impact a later unit).


     The recommended class size is 25–30 students. The required student to
     instructor ratio is no greater than 5:1. Cadre members must be present for all
     instructional sessions. A minimum of seven instructors should present this
     course; however, more are required with larger class sizes. This is to enable
     strong mentorship by the cadre to the students (see Coaches in III. above).


     The characteristics of the classroom and support facilities have a great
     impact on the learning environment. The classroom should be chosen and
     viewed well in advance of the presentation. Ideally, this will be a computer
     lab designed for computer-based training, with appropriate logistical support

items including computer, projector, projection screen, and adjustable

A. The following characteristic should be considered when choosing a
   location and classroom:

    •   Provide adequate room and flexibility for student work groups and
        equipment, including support facilities such as break areas,
        restrooms, etc. A separate room for cadre is required.

    •   Free from outside interruptions and interferences.

    •   Controlled lighting, good acoustics, and good ventilation.

    •   Provide adequate access to copy and printing services.

    •   Provide adequate desk space and power outlets for laptop
        computers (one power strip per table).

    •   A computer connected to the Internet and classroom network with
        projector and screen is required. Test the equipment prior to
        beginning class to ensure compatibility with software.

B. Special Requirements: One computer for each student in the following

   Computers networked, and with sufficient network capacity that all
   students can access the Internet, data or printers simultaneously. The
   network should include at least one laser printer and one color inkjet
   printer, with all computers mapped to both printers. Operating system
   software should be the current Microsoft TM industry standard. Hardware
   technology should be no more than two years old. Course software and
   data must be pre-loaded and tested prior to the beginning of the
   classroom session.
   It is essential that for any method of computer setup, additional backup
   computers be available to replace those that inevitably crash during the
   course. This will ensure that the learning process is not significantly
   disrupted or compromised by loss of computer hardware.


    The cadre will assess student performance by:

    A.    Exercises and Quizzes

          Exercises and quizzes are designed to demonstrate students’ ability to
          meet lesson objectives.

          There are four quizzes designed to gauge students’ comprehension of
          the unit objectives. These open-book quizzes are graded by cadre, and
          returned to the students for review. This allows the student to build
          knowledge on questions missed, and for the instructors to gauge the
          students’ comprehension of the subject matter. Unit quizzes are
          located at the course materials website. The unit quizzes evaluate all
          unit objectives.

    B.    Final Exam

          The final exam evaluates the student’s achievement of the course
          objective. One third of the total course points are in the quizzes, two
          thirds are in the two part final exam. The minimum passing score for
          the course is 70%. The final exam, answer key and grade sheet are at
          the course materials website.


    All materials for the two-part final exam are at the course materials website.
    The exam should take approximately two hours to complete and two hours
    to grade. Students must obtain a score of 70% or higher on the final exam to
    receive a certificate of completion for this course.


    Copies of these forms are in Appendix D.

    A.    Student Training Course Evaluation Form

            This is an opportunity for students to comment on the course and the
            instructors for the purpose of improving future training sessions.
            Distribute the form at the beginning or end of the course.

     B.     Training Course Evaluation Form

            This is an opportunity for the course coordinator and instructors to
            comment on course design. These comments are used by NWCG Fire
            Environment Working Team’s Fire Danger Committee, S-491 Course
            subcommittee to identify potential problems with course materials and
            as a resource during the course revision process.


     The following appendixes are on the S-491 Course Materials website:

          • Appendix A – Course Materials (Student Workbook, PowerPoints,

          • Appendix B – Pre-Course Work Answer Keys

          • Appendix C – Student Assessment

            This appendix contains the Quizzes, Final Examination and Answer
            Keys. Duplicate enough copies of the final examination for each

          • Appendix D – Course Evaluation Forms

         Intermediate National Fire Danger Rating, S-491
                         Sample Agenda

 Day 1                              Monday                         Instructor
            PPT                 Unit 1: Introduction
0800-0810         Course Logistics
0810-0830         Introductions
0830-0845   1A:   Review of Pre-work
0845-1000   1B:   Setting the Stage
                               Unit 2: NFDRS Inputs
1000-1200   2A:   NFDRS Inputs
1200-1300         Lunch
1300-1400   2B:   Weather Station Siting & Maintenance
1400-1600   2C:   Data Quality Control
1600-1730   2D:   Fuel Model Properties
 Day 2                              Tuesday                        Instructor
0800-0830         Daily Quiz #1 and Logistics
                           Unit 3: Calculations & Outputs
0830-1030   3A:   Dead and Live Fuel Moisture Dynamics
1030-1130         3B: NFDRS Outputs
1130-1230         Lunch
1230-1300         Quiz 1 Review
1300-1400   3B:   NFDRS Outputs (cont’d)
1400-1500   3C:   Linking Observed Weather to Forecasted Indices
1500-1700   3D:   Sensitivity of NFDRS
 Day 3                            Wednesday                        Instructor
0800-0830         Daily Quiz #2 and Logistics
                        Unit 4: Data Retrieval and Analysis
0830-1030   4A:   Data Retrieval
1030-1200   4B:   Using FireFamily Plus Exercise
1200-1300         Lunch
1300-1330         Quiz 2 Review
1330-1600   4B:   Using FireFamily Plus Exercise (cont’d)
                         Unit 5: Decisions and Applications
1600-1700   5A:   Decision Making with NFDRS

 Day 4      PPT                    Thursday                       Instructor
0800-0830         Day 3 Quiz and Logistics
0830-0930   5B:   Climatological Breakpoints
0930-1100   5C:   Fire Business Thresholds
1100-1200         5D: NFDRS Decisions and Applications
1200-1300         Lunch
1300-1330         Quiz 3 Review
1330-1430         5D: NFDRS Decisions and Applications (cont’d)
1430-1600         5E: Fire Danger Rating Operating Plan
1600-1630         Day 4 Quiz
1630-1700         Day 4 Quiz Grading & Course Review
 Day 5                               Friday                       Instructor
0800-1000         Final Exam
1000-1130         Lesson 5F: Related Products
1130-1200         Close out/ Evaluations
1200              Course Ends – Review Quiz(s) and Final

                               PRE-COURSE WORK LETTER
                                TRAINING CENTER NAME
                                     And ADDRESS
                                                                                Month Date, Year

TO:         Course Participants and Training Officers

FROM:        NAME, Course Coordinator

SUBJECT: S-491, Intermediate National Fire Danger Rating System

Congratulations! You have been tentatively selected to attend the S-491Intermediate National
Fire Danger Rating System course presented by the TRAINING CENTER NAME AND
LOCATION. The classroom will be in the LOCATION. The course will begin promptly on
DAY, MONTH, YEAR at TIME and end DAY, MONTH, YEAR at TIME. Please arrange your
travel accordingly, as you must attend the entire course to receive credit.

The majority of the instruction in the S-491 course will assume you have a command of the
knowledge taught in the prerequisite fire behavior courses (S-190 and S-290), no less than
intermediate skills in WindowsTM computer commands for file and data management, and the
motivation to learn WIMS and NFDRS basics within established deadlines.

The pre-course work package developed for S-491 is designed to help you prepare for and
successfully complete the course, and to allow us to evaluate your readiness. The pre-course
work package for the course (consisting of reading, tutorials, and quizzes) is available at . Previous experience with the material indicates it will
take as much as 16-20 hours to complete the pre-course work reading, lessons and quizzes. You
may be tempted to wait until a day or two before the deadline to complete your pre-course work,
but you really really really shouldn’t.

If you do not already have a copy, you will need Gaining an Understanding of the National Fire
Danger Rating System to complete a portion of the pre-course work (PMS 932, NFES 2665)
available from the Great Basin Cache or download from

Please note you are required to possess both a Weather Information Management System
(WIMS) and Wildland Fire Management Information (WFMI) logon ID for this course, both to
complete the pre-course work and for use in the classroom. Students can obtain a WIMS ID by
going to the FAMWEB Logon ID Request Form. If you encounter problems acquiring your
WIMS ID or gaining access to the site, contact the USFS National Information Systems Help
Desk at 1-800-253-5559 or Email Allow a minimum of three business days
for the Help Desk to provide you with your WIMS Logon ID.

Students who need WFMI access for THIS COURSE ONLY can obtain a WFMI ID by going to
completing the form and faxing it to Roshelle Pederson at 208-387-5179. Students needing
WFMI access for long term purposes related to their job should request access following the
instructions on the WFMI home page.

If you do not have a WIMS and WFMI ID, do not delay in requesting access.

If you do not have FireFamily Plus v4.0 loaded on the computer you will use to complete the
pre-course work, it can be downloaded from .
Select the ffp4setup file. You will also need to download the database required to complete the
FireFamily Plus exercise from . You will have to extract and save the
files from the .zip folder before use in FireFamily Plus. We recommend you save the data files in
the same directory where FireFamily Plus is installed.

The pre-course work quizzes must be completed and returned to LEAD INSTRUCTOR OR
COURSE COORDINATOR no later than DAY, MONTH, YEAR. A score of 70% or higher is
required on the pre-course work for acceptance into the classroom portion of the course. All
nominees will be notified by DAY, MONTH, YEAR of their status, either accepted to continue
in the course, or declined. Use the pre-course work checklist to make sure you have completed
and returned everything required.

In the event that you cannot attend this course, please contact me no later than DAY,
MONTH, YEAR, as there are typically several students on the course waitlist.


I look forward to meeting you in MONTH. If you have any questions or concerns please feel free
to contact either lead instructor NAME or course coordinator NAME.

LEAD INSTRUCTOR                                            COURSE COORDINATOR
CONTACT INFO - NAME                                        CONTACT INFO - NAME
PHONE                                                      PHONE
EMAIL                                                      EMAIL


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