NFPA 1585—New Standard Coming Soon

Robert Tutterow looks at NFPA 1585, Standard for Exposure and Contamination Control.

In the next few months, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) will begin accepting public input on a long-awaited standard.


It will be NFPA 1585, Standard for Exposure and Contamination Control. A technical committee was established in late 2019 and has worked steadily despite not being able to have any face-to-face meetings because of COVID-19. The committee is somewhat different in that more than the typical maximum number of 30 members was expanded to allow for a broader range of subject matter experts such as medical doctors.

It took the NFPA a long time to determine the best approach to address exposure and contamination, as there are too many other standards with information pertaining to contamination and exposure. For example, as Architect Paul Erickson (the pioneer in station “hot-zone” design) has so aptly described, “Firefighters are harvesters of carcinogens.” They gather the carcinogens at the fire scene, load the harvest on the fire truck, and take it to the barn—i.e., the fire station. There are contamination issues with items such as personal protective equipment (PPE), hose, nozzles, equipment, the apparatus, and the station. And, except for the fire station, there are standards that apply to almost everything else we use on the fire scene. The NFPA has said that there are more than a hundred standards that will be touched by the new NFPA 1585. The technical committee has decided the best way to deal with all this overlap is to reference existing standards and include requirements where there are gaps.

The new standard will include up to 10 chapters. As currently drafted, there are the three requisite chapters found in all NFPA standards, which are Administration, Referenced Publications, and Definitions. Then there are chapters on Program Components, Facilities, Vehicles and Apparatus, Operations and Training, PPE, Cleaning of Equipment (tentative), and Personnel. There are three annexes, which include Explanatory Material, Risk Management Factors, and Informational References.

If the fire service is serious about cancer and other health issues that come from exposure, this standard will have as much impact as NFPA 1500. Hopefully, it will not be as controversial. However, if a department adopts and follows the standard, it will change the way firefighters operate in an abundance of ways. The standard will be most useful in that it will provide a single reference source that will either provide the information being sought or direct one to the appropriate standard.

The standard will apply to fire suppression, rescue, law enforcement, EMS, and special ops as well other emergency services. It does NOT apply to infectious disease exposures and hazardous materials incident exposures.

It is important to note that there is no NFPA standard on fire stations. However, this standard, like NFPA 1500, will have a chapter on facilities. One can expect to see requirements for designated areas within the station such as contamination control areas, transition areas, and living/administrative/public areas. There will be a lot of requirements for each of the areas. Expect a lot of requirements on protecting the public from contamination when they are in the station.

For apparatus and vehicles, look for requirements on storage of contaminated items, especially in the cab. Expect requirements for cleaning of the apparatus. There are expected to be requirements about apparatus positioning while on the scene of an incident. As there are preliminary exposure requirements for PPE, there will likely be preliminary exposure control requirements for apparatus.

Throughout the standard will probably be requirements for departments to establish programs to deal with exposures and contamination. In addition, there will probably be requirements stating who has responsibility for administering and enforcing the requirements.

The standard should be open for public input either later this year or early next year. Please be sure to participate in the standards development process by reading the draft document, which will be posted at nfpa.org/1585next, and providing your input. You do not have to be a member of the NFPA to submit a public input. Understand that you will have to substantiate your input and you will receive a response from the NFPA on how the technical committee ruled on your input. Firefighters will find the draft standard easy to read and understand since it is not highly technical in nature. For more information on how to participate in the development of NFPA standards, visit nfpa.org/standardsinaction.


ROBERT TUTTEROW retired as safety coordinator for the Charlotte (NC) Fire Department and is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment Editorial Advisory Board. His 40-year career includes 10 as a volunteer. He has been very active in the National Fire Protection Association through service on the Fire Service Section Executive Board and technical committees involved with safety, apparatus, and personal protective equipment. He is a founding member and president of the Fire Industry Education Resource Organization (F.I.E.R.O.).

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