fama forum Wesley D. Chestnut
Anyone involved in the emergency response service should be familiar with the standards that are promulgated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
Whether you are a firefighter, an emergency medical technician, a safety officer, a fire chief, or an emergency vehicle mechanic, NFPA standards have a significant effect on your job. What you may not realize is how simple it is for you to have an effect on the standards. Manufacturing representatives from the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association (FAMA) are involved in the development of relevant NFPA standards and encourage you to also get involved.
Apparatus- and Ambulance-Related Standards
While there are hundreds of NFPA standards, there is a subset that impacts apparatus and ambulances both in how they are designed and in how they are used. Here is the short list of standards and how each impacts emergency vehicles:
- NFPA 1500, Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program: Safety guidance on the way apparatus should be used.
- NFPA 1451, Standard for a Fire and Emergency Service Vehicle Operations Training Program: Descriptions of a training program for users of emergency vehicles. Annex B is a complete list of vehicle-related hazards that should be trained on.
- NFPA 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus: Performance standard and equipment list for fire apparatus.
- NFPA 1906, Standard for Wildland Fire Apparatus: Performance standard and equipment list for wildland fire apparatus.
- NFPA 1911, Standard for the Inspection, Maintenance, Testing, and Retirement of In-Service Emergency Vehicles: Detailed lists of items that should be inspected and tested on in-service emergency service vehicles.
- NFPA 1912, Standard for Fire Apparatus Refurbishing: Items that should be included in a refurbishment.
- NFPA 1917, Standard for Automotive Ambulances: Performance standard and equipment list for ambulances.
- NFPA 1962, Standard for the Care, Use, Inspection, Service Testing, and Replacement of Fire Hose, Couplings, Nozzles, and Fire Hose Appliances: Includes the safe means of testing fire hose using an apparatus pump.
With each standard produced by the NFPA, there is an assigned technical committee. The technical committee is typically made up of 30 members with one-third being users, one-third from enforcers or other interest groups, and one-third from manufacturers. Members are volunteers and pay their own travel expenses. Each committee reviews input from the public and casts votes on the proposed language. If the technical committee rejects or alters the language from the original input, it must provide a reason. Once the technical committee votes, a ballot is circulated for another round of voting by the technical committee, which then becomes the official record.
Where Does the Work Occur?
Much of the actual work of discussing, debating, and coming up with proposed language occurs in subcommittee meetings. The subcommittee meetings may occur during the standards committee meetings or between meetings via conference calls or Webcasts. These are usually led by a member of the standards committee and can be attended by anyone who has a vested interest. This is a critical part of the process by which a standard is developed or revised, and you do not have to be on the standards committee to participate. This is the chance to provide viewpoints that others may not consider.
There are a few ways to get involved and participate in the development of these standards. First, you can go to www.nfpa.org and select the standards you are interested in. On the Web site for the chosen standard, you can view the next edition tab. Here you can input comments, making suggestions for changes to current language, suggesting new content, or recommending redaction of current content. When submitting an input, be sure to provide a technical reason to substantiate your proposal. This provides valuable insight to the standards committee and aides in making the right decision for the standard as a whole.
In this same area of the Web site, you will see the next meeting date for the standards committee if it is known. You will see closing dates for the input period. The standards committee meetings cannot occur until after the input closing period. While you can’t take photographs or record these sessions, you can participate in the subcommittee level to share your point of view. During the discussion between the standards committee members, you may be invited to speak by a committee member. If you have a comment you would like to share with the full committee, you can ask the committee chair ahead of time for permission to address the committee.
Why Get Involved?
NFPA standards are consensus-based. They cannot be biased or represent a majority stakeholder. They are intended to provide minimum requirements for their scope. With a standards committee of roughly 30 members, it’s not practical to get every point of view. The standards committees strive to generate a standard or revision that is practical and usable for all stakeholders. The more input received, the more adaptable and usable the standard can be. So, get involved. If you can’t participate in a meeting, provide comments. Contact a standards committee member. They are listed. Or, contact the NFPA directly to learn more on getting involved.
FAMA retains representation on most of the applicable committees; representatives from FAMA member companies are committee members as well. We attempt to help craft the standards so that they are technically accurate, balanced, and practical. We encourage fire departments to support participation from interested and knowledgeable members of your staffs so we can better incorporate user interests in the standard. You can also contact FAMA directly with questions or concerns so that our members can provide more informed input into the standards committees on which they serve. Together, we can build better standards and a stronger emergency service industry.
FAMA is committed to the manufacture and sale of safe, efficient emergency response vehicles and equipment. FAMA urges fire departments to evaluate the full range of safety features offered by its member companies.
WESLEY D. CHESTNUT is the product safety and compliance manager for Spartan Motors, Inc. He provides regulatory oversight for all of Spartan. He works closely with federal agencies and other associations to promote the safety of various types of motor vehicles.