National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus, is referenced in every fire apparatus specification promulgated; in every bid tendered; in every purchasing article written; in many fire truck advertisements; and by every industry expert, pundit, and consultant who expounds on the subject of fire apparatus. Many speak of the document with awe and reverence. Most would not fathom disagreeing with it. Expressing a difference of opinion is not a denunciation of the document. There are more than 30,000 fire departments and a million firefighters in the United States. An untold number of people are employed manufacturing and selling apparatus and the myriad component parts and pieces included thereon. There is a natural continuous turnover in people. The fire service itself is constantly changing.
Newcomers to the service and the industry can have new and different viewpoints and varied interpretations of the standard. Asking “why” and “how come” is not prejudicial to NFPA 1901, nor is it a condemnation of the people who, over the years, have helped develop the standard. Their contributions have been invaluable and are not in question-hats off to them. Articulating one’s professional assessment and personal perception and asking reasonable questions can make for a better understanding of the document. This article takes an objective look at one issue only: equipment mounting. Equipment mounting may seem a trivial topic. However when addressed by NFPA 1901 as something “you shall” comply with, it is a cast-in-stone requirement. You are either in compliance or you are not. Halfway does not count.
This article does not take issue with the amount of equipment, the type of equipment, or what the NFPA requires apparatus to carry. That is a subject for another day. It is, however, opening for discussion the affixing of the equipment to the apparatus-specifically how the NFPA wants it to be carried or mounted. Ancillary equipment mounting is addressed in numerous places throughout the document.
In my opinion, some of the mounting requirements are repetitive, redundant, inconsistent, and possibly not part of the NFPA’s domain. Reducing repetitiveness reduces the size of the document. It makes it user-friendly. Redundant means unneeded or uncalled for. Get rid of the superfluous wording; it will be easier to read. Being consistent is self-explanatory. Domain means territory or jurisdiction. Just who is accountable or responsible for mounting equipment on a fire truck? Is it the NFPA or the fire department? Access a copy of NFPA 1901 for reference and follow below where mounting fire axes is addressed.
Using fire axes as the example, NFPA 1901 specifically requires them to be “mounted in brackets fastened to the apparatus” in 10 locations: Section 5, Sentence 5.8.3, (1); Section 5, Sentence 5.8.3, (2); Section 6, Sentence 6.7.3, (1); Section 7, Sentence 184.108.40.206, (1); Section 8, Sentence 8.8.2, (1); Section 8, Sentence 8.8.2, (2); Section 9, Sentence 9.8.3, (1); Section 9, Sentence 9.8.3, (2); Section 11, Sentence 11.9.3, (1) and Section 11, Sentence 11.9.3, (2). Once is enough; 10 times is overkill. And, that is just for axes. The standard does the same thing for all equipment required to be mounted. The statement “mounted in a bracket fastened to the apparatus” appears at least 100 times. That is excessive. Could it be said under a general heading, such as “Equipment Mounting,” once? If the statement is redundant, does it have to be said at all?
In Sentences 220.127.116.11, 18.104.22.168, 22.214.171.124, 126.96.36.199, 188.8.131.52, and 184.108.40.206, NFPA 1901 states, “Brackets or compartments shall be furnished so as to organize and mount the specified equipment.” It says the exact same thing six times-once for each type of apparatus that carries equipment. The same could be accomplished in one place under that suggested general heading-“Equipment Mounting.” Is it necessary to say it over and over? Is it necessary to say it for each piece of equipment? Perhaps not.
Area of Responsibility
Requiring axes to be mounted in “brackets attached to the apparatus” may infringe on day-to-day firematic operations-the domain of the fire department. Specifying brackets only prohibits other possible methods of safe, accessible, and organized storage including, but not limited to, inside slide-out-to-remove storage modules, inside lift-up-to-remove storage modules, on shelves, or on slide-out trays. Some users opt to carry axes mated to other tools such as halligan bars and stored together (i.e., the irons) inside specialized storage areas or on a slide-out tray-and not necessarily physically affixed to the apparatus. Requiring certain tools to be carried on certain types of apparatus is not an issue. Specifying that they are carried in a “safe” manner is not either. The standard’s existing “Brackets or compartments shall be furnished so as to organize and mount the specified equipment” should suffice. Exactly how they are carried is a firematic concern-not one of the NFPA’s.
NFPA 1901 does not require that all ancillary equipment be mounted in brackets. The standard allows some minor equipment storage in ways other than with brackets, including spare SCBA cylinder storage in “specially designed storage spaces” as denoted in Section 5.8.3. Concurrently, Section 5.8.2 does not require items such as nozzles or strainers to be mounted at all. Why does the standard specifically require one piece of equipment to be mounted in a bracket while not requiring another to be, and yet allowing another to be mounted in a special space? I don’t know.
Dictating specific operational requirements such as the degree of accessibility of equipment, the exact method, and where and how each piece of minor equipment is stored and organized appears to be the responsibility of the purchasing authority (aka the fire department). NFPA 1901 already says so in Sentences 220.127.116.11, 18.104.22.168, 22.214.171.124, 126.96.36.199, 188.8.131.52, 10.5.1.2, and 184.108.40.206. They read: “A detailed list of who is to furnish the equipment and the method for organizing and mounting these items shall be supplied by the purchasing authority.” Enough said?
BILL ADAMS is a former fire apparatus salesman, a past chief, and an active member of the East Rochester (NY) Fire Department. He has more than 45 years of experience in the volunteer fire service.