|By Roger Lackore|
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) apparatus committee has published NFPA 1911, Standard for the Inspection, Maintenance, Testing, and Retirement of In-Service Emergency Vehicles (2017 ed.), which took effect in January.
Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association (FAMA) member companies worked on the apparatus committee both as association members and as individual company representatives. While we all work hard to design great apparatus, like any machine, your fire apparatus is only as good as the care it receives. NFPA 1911 is an essential tool in providing the care that will keep your fleet safe and operational.
Title Change Expands Scope
The 2017 edition changed its name from “Standard for the Inspection, Maintenance, Testing, and Retirement of In-Service Automotive Fire Apparatus” to “Standard for the Inspection, Maintenance, Testing, and Retirement of In-Service Emergency Vehicles.” This name change was accompanied by changes that make the standard applicable to emergency vehicles in general. The standard is now applicable to ambulances as well as fire apparatus. It can also apply to chief vehicles and other light vehicles if the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) so desires. The idea was to allow fire departments to cover the critical inspection and maintenance aspects of all their automotive vehicles with a single document.
Coordination with NFPA 1901 and 1906
Over the past decade, the apparatus committee has put a major push on better coordinating the documents under its control. This was done first by rewriting the municipal and wildland standards so the chapters match each other and by bringing them into the same revision cycles. This makes it easier to track changes between standards and ensures that these changes appear in both documents at the same time. While NFPA 1911 has yet to be brought into the same revision cycle, the committee has attempted to keep the revisions right on the heels of changes to NFPA 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus, and NFPA 1906, Standard for Wildland Fire Apparatus. For 2017, this includes removing outdated or inaccurate tabular information and adding stipulations that wildland fire pumps and ultra-high-pressure pumps be tested at least annually, just as the bigger pumps are.
Inspection and Maintenance of Trailers
Chapter 6 has been expanded to include out-of-service criteria for emergency service trailers to coordinate with the trailer chapter that was added to NFPA 1901 in 2016. A new chapter 16 has also been added to cover maintenance criteria for these trailers. Inspection criteria include all the typical trailer systems such as suspensions, axles, wheels, safety chains, hitch, and hitch mounting. An extensive section points out important brake-system-related inspection points, and the standard also provides a tire replacement schedule.
Inspection and Maintenance
A new Chapter 17 provides inspection criteria for patient compartments of ambulances or fire apparatus equipped for patient transport. The committee coordinated the chapter with NFPA 1917, Standard for Automotive Ambulances. Inspections cover the complete range of patient compartment features from heating and cooling to medical equipment and lighting.
The committee was unanimous in agreeing on the importance of diligent scheduled inspections and maintenance. They captured this sentiment in the annex, where it states, “The importance of the daily/weekly checks cannot be stressed enough. For a preventive maintenance plan to succeed the daily/weekly visual and operational checks must be done correctly. Properly done daily/weekly checks quickly locate problems that can be corrected before they become worse. The AHJ should work with the maintenance department to develop a plan to complete the daily/weekly checks within the allotted time, complete the checks thoroughly, and document the results properly.”
A new chapter 7 titled “Daily/Weekly Visual and Operational Checks” provides a detailed list of items that should be included in the inspection process. Although other resources for checklists are available, such as those found in state DOT commercial driver requirements, the 1911 checklist includes aspects unique to emergency vehicles. You can use chapter 7 to create inspection standard operating procedures tailored to your emergency vehicle operation.
Aerial Cable Tensioning
The apparatus committee tends to look to significant industry issues when incorporating new items in the standards. One such issue during this round is to stress the importance of aerial cable and sheave inspections. An excerpt from the annex points out, “The proper tensioning of extension and retraction cables of an aerial device is very important to ensure the smooth and safe operation of the aerial. When cable tension is too loose, the cable can jump the sheave wheel, causing damage. When tension is too tight, the cable can cause damage to the sheave groove and bearings, which can damage the pulley and the cable.” The annex goes on to point out that cable tension is best measured using a tensiometer, which is much more accurate than manual means.
Additional inspections dealing with the load ratings on tires were added to Chapter 8. Given the systemic problem in the industry with apparatus that grow in weight over time (because of continually adding equipment in the compartments), the committee added a check to compare the tire load rating to the in-service axle weight measurements annually. The annex item goes on to reference the practice of using fire service ratings that make the tire load issue an even greater concern.
Annex C Checklists
Annex C of NFPA 1911 includes a complete set of checklists that departments can use directly and include in preventive maintenance and inspection programs. If you have been using these checklists in the past, be sure to replace them with the new updated checklists based on the standard revisions. If you don’t currently use these checklists, you may wish to begin doing so or at least include the items in your own documentation.
The Importance of NFPA 1911
NFPA 1911 requirements are mandated by both NFPA 1451, Standard for a Fire and Emergency Service Vehicle Operations Training Program, and NFPA 1500, Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program. The unique value of NFPA 1911 is that it is written specifically for emergency vehicles and with emergency service operations in mind. FAMA strongly encourages every department to become intimately familiar with NFPA 1911 and to make it the backbone of a comprehensive vehicle preventive maintenance and inspection program. Any department dedicated to apparatus safety should have a dog-eared copy of the latest edition not just in every emergency vehicle technician’s toolbox but above the chief’s desk as well.
FAMA is committed to the manufacture and sale of safe, efficient emergency response vehicles and equipment. FAMA urges fire departments to evaluate the full range of safety features offered by its member companies.
ROGER LACKORE is the vice president of product development for Smeal Fire Apparatus. He has a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering and a master of science degree in engineering management. He is licensed as a professional engineer and a certified safety professional with 32 years of experience in the heavy vehicle industry.