By Bill Adams
The new National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1900, Standard for Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Vehicles, Automotive Fire Apparatus, Wildland Fire Apparatus, and Automotive Ambulances, is being written. If you write purchasing specifications or are contemplating purchasing a new fire truck for structural attack, a grass fire truck, a crash truck for your airport, or an ambulance, you might want to do some research into this proposed standard.
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For simplicity’s sake, this article refers to all the above-mentioned vehicles as fire apparatus. The NFPA is amalgamating four separate standards describing very diversified job-specific fire apparatus into what possibly could be a single gargantuan document. That should be cause for fire apparatus purchasers to become engaged in the process. The NFPA train is getting ready to pull out of the station and interested parties should get their tickets.
When accessing NFPA 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus, online, the following popped up: “Please note: This Standard is no longer accepting Public Input due to the Emergency Response and Responder Safety Document Consolidation Plan (consolidation plan) as approved by the NFPA Standards Council. As part of the consolidation plan, this Standard is slipping cycle and being combined into a new consolidated draft, NFPA 1900. To submit a public input on this consolidated draft by the November 13, 2020 deadline, go to NFPA 1900.”
Going to NFPA 1900, the following popped up: “Please note: NFPA 1900 is in a custom cycle due to the Emergency Response and Responder Safety Document Consolidation Plan (consolidation plan) as approved by the NFPA Standards Council. As part of the consolidation plan, NFPA 1900 (combining Standards NFPA 414, NFPA 1901, NFPA 1906, and NFPA 1917) is open for public input with a closing date of November 13, 2020.”
Researching further, the NFPA posted the following, dated April 24, 2019: “The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standards Council has approved a plan to consolidate and merge the information currently available in 114 NFPA Emergency Response and Responder Safety (ERRS) standards, guides, and recommended practices into 38 overarching standards.”
The Big Four Standards
Fire and emergency medical services (EMS) providers should particularly make note of the NFPA’s statement: “As part of the consolidation plan, NFPA 1900 (combining Standards NFPA 414, NFPA 1901, NFPA 1906, and NFPA 1917) is open for public input with a closing date of November 13, 2020.” They are:
- NFPA 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus
- NFPA 1906, Standard for Wildland Fire Apparatus
- NFPA 1917, Standard for Automotive Ambulances
- NFPA 414, Standard for Aircraft Rescue and Fire-Fighting Vehicles
These four standards currently encompass more than 500 pages. A few pages may be repetitive from standard to standard and most likely will be combined. However, the resulting document still may be very unwieldly in size and difficult for the average firefighter and EMS provider to navigate.
Each standard has a standing “technical committee” of about 30 members and about 20 alternate members. The NFPA 1901 and 1906 committees have identical members, however, there is little to no crossover with NFPA 1917 and NFPA 414 committees. Is it possible the technical committee for the new document will have 100 members? That could be quite unmanageable.
Fire apparatus are so complex today that it would is almost impossible for a technical committee to adequately address each individual facet of a rig. Combining four apparatus regulatory standards into one quadruples the responsibility of a technical committee regardless of its size.
I believe at one time, NFPA 1901 had numerous subcommittees that specifically addressed individual topics such as the pump, or aerial device, or chassis, or electrical system. The NFPA has a document titled “Regulations Governing the Development of NFPA Standards” that addresses what it calls Task Groups: “18.104.22.168 Task Groups. An engineering committee or correlating committee may create task groups to address a specific topic or problem. The task group shall be appointed and discharged by the chair. Persons serving on a task group need not be members of the technical committee or correlating committee. Such a group need not be balanced by interest. The task group shall be discharged at the conclusion of the task, and there shall not be standing task groups. The task group shall forward recommendations along with a report of underlying issues to the technical committee or correlating committee for action. Task group reports shall not be submitted in the name of the task group as input, comments, TIAs, or FIs.”
It is inconceivable to estimate how many task groups would be required by the single NFPA 1900 technical committee.
Address the Process
Apparatus purchasers are encouraged to investigate any changes being proposed—including the consolidation. Anyone can comment on, make suggestions and recommendations for, and express an opinion about any portion of an NFPA standard. After the fact, don’t moan and groan or whine that you dislike the colors of rear chevrons, the way pump discharges are rated, what size ladders must be carried, that the document is too big, or that it is too confusing to read. You have the chance now to voice your opinion—don’t miss the opportunity. Remember the old adage: “Speak now or forever hold your peace.”
At the rear of every NFPA standard, three or four pages are dedicated to explaining how NFPA standards are developed. Titles include: Sequence of Events for the Standards Process; Committee Membership Classifications; Submitting Public Input and Public Comment; and Information on the NFPA Standards Development Process.
It is unknown why the NFPA wants to combine these standards. Perhaps it is to save money or reduce its staff. The proposed NFPA 1900 may not be as comprehensive and specific as the individual standards. Ambulance people may resent aerial ladder specialists having input in their field of medical transport. Likewise, should experts in various specialized extinguishing agents and foam system used for aircraft fires be weighing in on the design of grass fire trucks? Even if the NFPA can consolidate, coordinate, and delegate areas of responsibility to its committee members, how well will the final document be received by the end users—the fire service? Remember: NFPA 1900 is open for public input until November 13, 2020.
How big will this document be? Will it be easy to read? How much will it cost? The days of providing each member of an apparatus purchasing committee with an $80.00 copy of NFPA 1901 may be over.
BILL ADAMS is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment Editorial Advisory Board, a former fire apparatus salesman, and a past chief of the East Rochester (NY) Fire Department. He has 50 years of experience in the volunteer fire service.