By Chris Mc Loone
I don’t pretend to understand the reasoning behind every revision that comes down the pike from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). I don’t always agree with them, but none has ever made me angry enough that I really get a chip on my shoulder about it. And, I realize that revisions are made in the name of safety.
There are some in the fire service who would have you believe the NFPA is our enemy when it comes to many things-that it makes all sorts of rules that we must follow when specing apparatus or purchasing equipment, adding all sorts of costs to the final price of an apparatus. The contrary is true, and a few recent events reinforce this for me.
Not the Enemy
First, the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board recently met and, during the meeting, talk turned to the NFPA. The conversation revolved around how there is good, solid equipment available to the fire service, but often it comes at a premium price if it is NFPA-compliant.
Bill Peters, a voting member of the NFPA 1901, Standard for Automotive Apparatus, committee stated that there are some who think the committees are in cahoots with the manufacturers, but he decried that premise. In the case of apparatus, he went on to say that no apparatus manufacturer wants to build extra costs into an apparatus and reminded the group that it’s not always the NFPA adding costs. In recent years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) caught most of the grief because of the costs involved with 2010 engines.
Second, I sat in at the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association (FAMA) spring Technical Committee meeting. At the beginning of the meeting, FAMA President Harold Boer mentioned that NFPA 1901; 1906, Standard for Wildland Fire Apparatus; and 1917, Standard for Automotive Ambulances, are currently in the revision process. Based on 2012 numbers, which indicate the market has remained generally flat, he challenged committee members to “be careful when we propose these new standards not to add significant cost to the trucks and see our market go down further. If there’s a problem, let’s address it. If not, let’s have a recommended guideline.” See more about the Technical Committee meeting in this issue.
Third, at the Technical Committee meeting, Ryan Depew, the NFPA’s staff liaison to the technical committee on fire apparatus, gave a presentation on the NFPA’s new system for standards revision participation. In a nutshell, it has never been easier for us to participate in the standards revision process. The NFPA is transitioning from paper to electronic submissions. To that end, its Web site has been optimized to accept electronic comments on standards revisions. What many may not realize is that you don’t have to be a member of a standard’s committee to participate. Anyone can comment. And, the NFPA encourages it. What’s more, we all should be doing it.
The NFPA process allows for a comment period. Anyone can comment on proposed revisions to a standard, whether you are a member of the committee or not. Committee members will review all comments and decide whether or not to incorporate them into the proposed revisions. It will also note why a comment makes it into the revision or doesn’t. It goes without saying that comments like, “This is a dumb idea,” are not going to make it very far into the process. Substantiate why you think a proposed revision needs to be adjusted.
The key is participation. The fire service solves more problems at the “kitchen table” but for some reason is not always ready to participate in the standards revision process, choosing instead to decry the revisions once they come out. The public input period for the first drafts of NFPA 1901, 1906, and 1917 closes on July 8, 2013. There’s still plenty of time for you to be a part of the process. To participate, visithttp://www.nfpa.org, and place the standard identification at the end of the URL (for example, http://www.nfpa.org/1901).
Very often, some of the loudest complainers have all the answers while they attack something they don’t like but when asked, “What would you do to solve the problem,” become eerily silent. Don’t be silent. Pay attention to the revision schedules, and if there is a standard you feel particularly passionate about, make your voice heard. A few months ago, I titled an editorial, “Engagement is Key.” Engaging the NFPA is as important as engaging your suppliers. The goal is to build products that will meet criteria to keep us as safe as possible while we go about our work. Be a part of building functionally safe apparatus and equipment. Don’t be a naysayer. As the saying goes, you have to be in it to win it.