A Big Change NFPA 1911 Affecting In-Service Apparatus

Charles F. Kettering was known for many quotes, and one of them was: “If you have always done it that way, it is probably wrong.”

He was talking about change, and at the time of his death in 1958, he was a co-holder of more than 140 patents and possessed honorary doctorates from nearly 30 universities. 

Among Kettering’s inventions were automotive electric ignitions, automatic transmissions, and Freon-based air conditioning and refrigeration. He believed strongly in a combination of hard work, ingenuity and technology to make the world a better place.

Countless members of the fire service possess the same beliefs as he did.

Much has been written about change in the fire service, and many more have talked about change in the fire service. Whether you agree with the continuous changes or not, one thing is certain, change will happen. Thank goodness!

One of the biggest changes to happen regarding in-service apparatus was put into effect in March of 2007. This change is the new National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1911 Standard on Inspection, Maintenance, Testing, and Retirement of In-Service Automotive Fire Apparatus, 2007 Edition.

The purpose of this article is two fold; first to provide an overview of the new NFPA 1911 standard and the second purpose is to convince everyone to use the new standard –  and not just parts of it, but all of it. 

The latest NFPA 1911 combines and expands the old NFPA 1911 Standard for Service Tests of Fire Pump Systems on Fire Apparatus 2002 Edition, NFPA 1914 Standard for Testing Fire Department Aerial Devices 2002 Edition and NFPA 1915 Standard for Fire Apparatus Preventive Maintenance Program 2000 Edition. 

Importance Of Testing

These three NFPA standards were used by fire departments, repair facilities, testing agencies and manufactures for many years. These standards expressed the importance of testing pumper and aerial devices on an annual basis and establishing a good maintenance program based on the specific guidelines of each standard. 

If it was working so well, why change? 

Over the years, numerous fire departments have implemented good inspection and testing programs for their aerials and fire pumps based on previous in-service testing standards. Many departments created solid maintenance programs that have aided in the reliability of the front line apparatus based on NFPA 1915. 

There were a few drawbacks, however, to the old standards. First, with multiple standards it was not uncommon for departments not to have all the standards or to not have the current edition of the standard. 

Second, the old in-service testing standards only covered aerials and pumpers. It is important to know that all of the components on an apparatus need to be inspected, maintained and tested.

Lastly, there was confusion in the fire service as to who was qualified to perform inspections, maintenance and testing. 

The new NFPA 1911 clarifies all of these issues. 

The apparatus committee of NFPA wanted to establish a comprehensive standard that deals with the inspection, maintenance, testing, and retirement of in-service automotive fire apparatus. 

The goal was to create one document that would make it easier for fire departments to evaluate the status of in-service fire apparatus. The bottom line was to make the standard usable so the vehicles will become more reliable and safer. The more reliable and safe a piece of apparatus is, the better suited it is to perform its original intended function so it serves both the fire department and the community to its full potential.

The document can be broken down into four main sections beginning with the informational chapters 1 through 6. Chapters 1 through 4 deal with the administration, reference publications, definitions and general requirements of the standard respectively. Chapter 5 is a short one that deals with the retirement of in-service fire apparatus. Chapter 6 deals with out of service criteria.

The second section, chapters 7 through 15, covers the inspection and maintenance by component. These chapters break down the components and the systems that make up a fire apparatus. They inform us as to what systems and components need to be inspected and maintained, how to inspect them and how often they should be inspected.

The third section, chapters 16 through 23, deals with performance testing by component. Similar to the section on inspection and maintenance, chapter 16 through 23 details testing procedures, and testing frequency of the different components found on the apparatus. 

Last, but not least, is the annex section that not only contains information that reaffirms and clarifies items in the main body of the standard, but also includes loose equipment weight charts, sample test data sheets and guides to assist in the development of a maintenance program if one does not exist already.

NFPA 1911 contains very important information for in-service fire apparatus. It is imperative that everyone involved in inspection, maintenance and testing of in-service fire apparatus contacts NFPA and purchases a copy of the standard. After purchasing the document, become familiar with the document and more importantly use the document.

The next few paragraphs will outline some of its highlights.

Chapter 4 contains information on general requirements. It begins by stating that all in-service fire apparatus must meet the requirements of the NFPA 1911 standard. The important item here is that if the apparatus is a front-line unit, or if it is a reserve unit that might be put in service, then it must meet all applicable sections of NFPA 1911. For example, if the vehicle has a pump, a generator, and a foam system, it must comply with all the inspection, maintenance and testing requirements for each of its separate components.

Chapter 4 also outlines the responsibility of the “Authority Having Jurisdiction” (AHJ). The AHJ has always been important in the decision-making process in regards to the upkeep of apparatus. The difference now is those responsibilities are defined. For one, the AHJ is responsible for enforcing the criteria for when the apparatus is to be taken out of service. 

The AHJ will determine who is qualified to perform daily/weekly inspections and operational checks of the apparatus. Lastly, the AHJ is also responsible for developing and implementing a schedule for all the different required inspections and checks. 

Further, Chapter 4 establishes the qualifications of personnel performing inspections, maintenance and testing on fire apparatus. Other than the person that the AHJ designates to perform the daily/weekly inspections, the person performing diagnostic checks, inspections or maintenance on fire apparatus must meet the qualifications of the NFPA 1071 Standard for Emergency Vehicle Technician Professional Qualifications, or the equivalent. 

Documentation requirements are established in Chapter 4. Record keeping is an essential part of the inspection, maintenance and testing of a fire apparatus. Any inspection, maintenance and testing activity that the vehicle is subjected to must be recorded. Each vehicle must have its own set of records and those records must accompany the vehicle for the life of the vehicle, even if the vehicle is sold to another department or agency. 

Moving on, Chapter 5 deals with the retirement of fire apparatus. It’s the shortest chapter of the document and possibly one that requires the most thought. The fire department must consider safety as the primary factor when deciding to remove a piece of apparatus from service. Once the apparatus has been retired, it shall not be used for emergency operations.

Removal From Service

Chapter 6 deals with apparatus out-of-service criteria. For the first time, NFPA 1911 establishes specific criteria to determine if a piece of fire apparatus or a defective portion of a fire apparatus should be immediately removed from service. 

These decisions are ultimately the responsibility of the AHJ. The standard outlines specific details for each component that would render that particular component or the entire vehicle out of service. 

Even though the decision is the AHJ’s, the decision making process can be assisted by information from others. The technicians evaluating the component or the vehicle are required to report, in writing, their findings to the AHJ. Technicians will recommend the entire unit be removed from service, that the vehicle will remain in service with certain restrictions or that the unit is in the service-ready condition.

If a component or a vehicle is taken out of service, it must be made clear to everyone who uses the equipment as to its condition. The standard describes different methods of notification for out-of-service conditions.

It is very important for every fire department to become familiar with this standard and particularly this chapter. No one wants to use a component or a vehicle that is unsafe for use at a fire scene. Knowledge of what is acceptable or not acceptable is very important when determining out of service criteria. NFPA 1911, Chapter 6, now gives us this knowledge.

As mentioned above chapters 7 through 15 deal with the inspection and maintenance of in-service fire apparatus. The information in these chapters has its roots firmly planted in the old NFPA 1915. The major difference with the new standard is that each component set has its own chapter. For example, Chapter 7 on inspection and maintenance of the chassis, driving and crew compartments and body, covers everything from the frame to the power equipment racks.

Each chapter in this section completely evaluates the components that make up a complete fire apparatus and gives a clear and concise explanation on the maintenance and inspection methods necessary to keep the apparatus in good working condition. 

The standard states all components should always be maintained and inspected in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommended instructions and the contents of the NFPA 1911 standard. Always remember that good record keeping is an essential part of the maintenance and inspection process.

Testing Updates

Chapters 16 through 23 deal with performance testing of all of the components covered in chapters 7 through 15. Listed below are the new testing chapters. All but the aerial and pump testing chapters are new. Included in the list are some important updates to the pump and aerial testing requirements. The main concept to keep in mind is that these tests are not optional.

The new performance test added to the NFPA 1911 standard includes road testing and annual weight verification and performance testing of the following: low voltage electrical systems; foam proportioning systems; compressed air foam systems; line voltage electrical systems; compressed breathing air systems; and fire pumps and industrial pumps 

Most of the pump performance tests are similar to the annual in-service pump testing outlined in the previous pump-testing standard. There are a few notable updates. Two tests have been added, the pump shift indicator test and the pump engine control interlock. 

Another new item deals with pumps built to the 1996 or later editions of the NFPA 1901 Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus. If these fire pumps are equipped with a fixed-power source (generator) that takes its power off the same engine that drives the pump, the power source is required to run at a minimum of 50 percent of its rated capacity for the duration of the pumping test. 

Finally, the vacuum test is to be performed twice in the event that the intakes are valved. Again, the standard does an excellent job outlining the performance test.

Aerial Devices

Chapter 19 relates to the performance testing of aerial devices. This chapter replaces the old NFPA 1914 which dealt with the testing of in-service aerial devices. 

The standard still requires annual testing of in-service aerial devices. This means all applicable tests outlined in the chapter must be performed. The standard still requires non-destructive testing (NDT) to be performed on the aerials structural components at least every 5 years. 

In addition, NDT must be performed whenever visual or load testing indicates a possible structural or safety issue or when there is a need to verify continued operational safety.

The leading change regarding aerial testing has to do with the qualifications of the third-party testing organization used to perform inspections to the guidelines of the standard. The testing organization must meet the requirements of International Standards Organization (ISO) 17020 general criteria for the operation of various types of bodies performing inspections. This requirement was added to eliminate unqualified testing agencies from performing inspections on aerial apparatus. 

As in the previous standards, NDT technicians still need to meet the requirements of the American Society for Nondestructive Testing (ASNT) CP-189 Standard for Qualification and Certification of Nondestructive Testing Personnel. It is good advice, prior to hiring a testing organization, to verify that the testing organization meets both the requirements stated above.

The annex section of the NFPA 1911 standard is a very comprehensive section. Annex A deals with explanatory information from the body of the standard. Annex B discusses pump testing and includes a troubleshooting guide to pump testing. Annex C outlines how to develop a preventative maintenance program. This section includes sample test forms for all the performance tests mentioned in the standard. Annex D refers to the guidelines for first-line and reserve fire apparatus. Finally Annex E is all the informational references mentioned throughout the standard.

The NFPA Apparatus Committee met its goal of developing a comprehensive standard that address the inspection, maintenance, testing and retirement of in-service fire apparatus. 

The challenge now is to make all concerned parties aware of the standard – and even more important for those who are responsible for in-service apparatus – to use the standard to help ensure fire apparatus is ready when the alarm sounds. 

There can be no more excuses. The information is available. Please use it.

Editor’s Note: James Johannessen is lead engineering associate for the Underwriters Laboratories’ Fire Equipment Services Field Services Department. UL provides independent third-party inspection, testing and certification of new equipment at manufacturers’ factories and of existing equipment at fire stations across the United States and Canada.

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