McCook (NE) Purchases Fire Equipment Due to National Standards

A recent change to the national standard for fire protection gear is estimated to cost the McCook Fire Department $42,000 in the coming budget.

“We have 21 sets of bunker gear that will be no-good come October first,” said Fire Chief Marc Harpham during a budget review meeting last week. A brand-new set of bunker gear is estimated to cost $2,000.

The McCook Fire Department is comprised of nine full-time emergency responders and 28 volunteers.

Harpham said the National Fire Protection Association adopted a revision in 2014 which requires fire departments replace all bunker gear that is 10-years-old or beyond. Harpham emphasized he didn’t take the expense lightly, nor did it originate from a local push for new gear. He said the McCook Fire Department had several sets in like-new condition, purchased for volunteers that had since moved on, that would no longer be usable.

Harpham indicated he would implement a 8-year rotation and replacement plan going forward in an effort to avoid the need to purchase several sets at one time, however, the 2014 change and importance of bunker gear left few options this budget year.

The NFPA Standard 1851 is the standard on selection, care and maintenance of protective ensembles for structural fire fighting and proximity fire fighting. The standard was established in the early 1990s and has been revised in 2008 and 2013, with the latest revision adopted in 2014, according to Harpham.

Work on NFPA 1851 started back in the mid 1990s when several fire service safety groups worked together to create a publication called “Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Care & User Guidelines.”

The publication was intended to fill a void in information for the proper selection, care, use and maintenance of turnout gear, which many believed was haphazardly addressed by the fire industry prior.

“There were several different policies followed addressing turnout gear standards, including one on obvious damage and deterioration and when the cost for repairing the gear exceeded 50 percent of the replacement cost. A lot of the advice emphasized that the actual service life of PPE varies with the amount of use and care, and that decisions to retire the gear should be made by trained, qualified, individuals,” Harpham explained Friday.

The committee that developed NFPA 1851 struggled with what should be advisory and what should be mandated before deciding to set a maximum service life for turnout gear that would be unambiguous — remove any gear from service that had a manufacture date of more than 10-years, regardless of its use, care, or actual condition. Harpham said the standard was applied for all types of turnout gear.

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