NFPA 1901: Misunderstood?

By Bill Adams

It is unfortunate firefighters make rash uninformed statements in the firehouse that can adversely affect the good will, morale, and discipline that is essential to the smooth operation of the fire service. In the realm of apparatus purchasing, some of the most aggravating statements address National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus.

Comments made by the younger generation who may be misinformed can be taken with a grain of salt. They can and should be educated. Disparaging remarks made by old timers are regrettable—especially when they influence the probies. One wonders if the seasoned members are miffed because they can’t have it their way or because they will not accept or cannot handle change. Open cabs, riding the running boards, and tin helmets are gone. If you can no longer make the plug, maybe you should pull it.

Aggravating statements include, “There they go jamming stuff down our throats again,” and “The manufacturers are in cahoots with the NFPA—they run the committee.” Both comments are untrue. This narration only addresses the latter.

How It Really Works
There are 28 voting members on the Technical Committee on Fire Department Apparatus. Members are classified into nine categories: manufacturers, users, installers and maintainers, labor, researchers and testers, enforcing authority, insurance company representatives, consumers, and special experts. Exact definitions are on page 6/08-A of the standard. It’s an interesting read.

On page three of the current issue, there is a list of the voting members who were on the committee when it balloted on the final text for the current standard. Their classification breakdown was eight manufacturers, eight users, four special experts, three researchers and testers, two insurance industry representatives, one enforcing authority, and one installer and maintainer. Check the standard—it tells you who they are and what organizations they represent. Chronic complainers may jump up and down claiming a special expert used to work for a manufacturer. Suck it up. Some used to be firefighters too. The point being made is that the NFPA 1901 committee appears to be a broad spectrum representing the fire service in general. If you don’t like it, try to change it but don’t complain about it.

What I find interesting is that there is no committee representation from labor, which NFPA 1901 defines as “a labor representative or employee concerned with safety in the workplace.” Where are the professional organizations and organized labor representing career firefighters? I believe a fire truck can be considered part of a firefighter’s “working environment.” Also, there are no consumers which NFPA 1901 defines as someone who is not a user. I can’t figure out what that means.

What I have not found out is how the NFPA determines how many members of each classification are supposed to or can make up the NFPA 1901 committee. Another question is: how does the NFPA determine who “achieves” membership on said committees? Are they continually evaluated or tenured for lifelike the Supreme Court? Does anybody know? Please share it with our readers. This site can be used to further a rational, reasonable, and factual discussion on NFPA 1901. I’ll use it again. Contact Associate Editor Chris McLoone at with comments.

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.

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