Public participation in the development of NFPA's codes and standards is essential. All NFPA codes and standards are revised and updated every three to five years in revision cycles that begin twice each year and that normally take approximately two years to complete. Each revision cycle proceeds according to a published schedule that includes final dates for all major events in the process. There are over 300 codes and standards; many are extremely import to the fire service.
Why should a firefighter and other members of the department care about the codes and standards process?
The basic level of training that defines competently trained firefighters comes from NFPA Standard 1001. The minimum requirements for fire apparatus (NFPA 1901), fire hose, nozzles, boots, gloves and helmets are all set by the NFPA standards. NFPA 1500 provides guidance to fire departments on a comprehensive approach to safety and health. NFPA 1582 is widely recognized as establishing the medical requirements for firefighters. The list could go on and on. Underlying these standards and many other activities is the level of commitment that the NFPA has to the fire service. Now, how can you be part of this? Keep reading.
How Can You Become Involved?
There are a few major ways a firefighter or department member can be involved.
1.) Submit a change to the code called a "proposal." Since the codes are revised every three to five years, you can submit your ideas for change. It's done in two stages called "proposals" and "comments." It's basically a way to present an idea, have the committee "judge it" and decide if they want to accept it or not, complete with a reason for their decision. Hence the first big way to participate. You'll need specific ideas on exactly what to change, and provide a reason for this change. The committees seeking proposals and the proposal form can be found here. Even if a committee isn't actively seeking proposals, you can still submit a proposal anytime in between revision cycles.
2.) Submit a second round of changes called a "comment." Then all the proposals are published in the "Report on Proposals" (ROP) so you can see what the committee did. You then have a second bite at the apple where you can look at the changes and submit other ideas. This is the second way to participate. The form can be found here. As with proposals, your ideas will need to be specific and contain reasons for the change.
3.) Become a member of a technical committee. The committees are made up of interested people. You do not have to be members of NFPA to join. This is the third major way to participate. The application can be accessed at this link. You can apply to any committee, as many committees need firefighters and other department members. Don't wait until there's an opening, however. Put in your application, and even if a committee is full, they have hold lists and you will be considered when there are openings.
4.) Sign up for NFPA News. NFPA News is the free codes and standards newsletter to which you can subscribe. You can see older copies or subscribe here. Watch the NFPA News for proposed emergency changes in documents and give us your comment of support or opposition. These changes are usually called a "TIA" which stands for "Tentative Interim Amendment". These TIAs outline an emergency change that is needed in any of the NFPA codes or standards, and requests public input. NFPA News advertises ideas for new projects and most importantly for those of you looking to get involved, openings in committees.
5.) Attend an NFPA Annual Conference and Expo. Beyond debating and in most cases, approving codes and standards for issuance at the technical session, NFPA has classes throughout its annual conference. If you're involved in educating the public, you can apply for a grant to pay for your attendance at the conference. NFPA has scholarships, awards or grants for public educators, fire service, students and for exceptional contributors to the cause of fire and life safety. Information on all scholarships, awards and grants can be found here. The general information on the conference in June can be found here.
6.) Fire service specialized information through the Fire Service Today website. Go to http://nfpa.typepad.com/fireservicetoday/ and read our blog updated weekly by the public fire protection division staff . There are links to sign up to receive all updates as well as listen to recent podcasts of topics focused on fire service issues.
So take the opportunity to get involved in the code writing process. Consider this your invitation!
AMY BEASLEY CRONIN is the Division Manager of NFPA Codes and Standards Administration and Secretary to the Standards Council in Quincy, MA. She has been with the NFPA for 14 years. Prior to NFPA, Amy worked for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) as a research engineer. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering, and a Masters of Engineering Management from Western New England College. Amy has a special interest in the fire service, as her husband, Brad Cronin serves as a firefighter in Newport, RI.