1. #1
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Question NFPA - IS IT BOGUS?

    Once again. Just trying to get everyone’s feelings on NFPA, it's guidelines, and if you try to follow it to the letter of the law.

    NFPA standards put such a serious burden on Fire Department budgets that many cannot even come close to meeting them. For example, I reviewed some of the standards for aerials and quints and found that a good amount of the recommended equipment will never be used. I outfitted a new aerial with all of the NFPA required equipment in 1995 and found that we do not and will never utilize some of the equipment listed.

  2. #2
    PA Volunteer
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Overall, NFPA is necessary, but it does seem like we're getting more and more rules that just aren't practical. Example - requiring activation switches on both sides of aerials so that you need two guys to place the outriggers. So what happens when the Truck goes driver only to get fuel and rolls up on a working fire w/ people hanging out the third floor window? I know it's unlikely, but we see things everyday that are unlikely. I understand that their job is to try to make an unsafe job safe. But it seems to be getting a little ridiculous.

    Stay Safe

  3. #3
    Firehouse.com Guest


    //I reviewed some of the standards for aerials and quints and found that a good amount of the recommended equipment will never be used. I outfitted a new aerial with all of the NFPA required equipment in 1995 and found that we do not and will never utilize some of the equipment listed.//

    What is some of the equipment you will never use? NFPA's required equipment list has shrunken over the years.

  4. #4
    George Wendt, CFI
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Everybody would agree that we kill too many fire fighters. NFPA Standards, Codes and Guides are meant for the primary purpose of keeping people safe from the perils of fire. One of their chief missions is to prevent injury and deaths of fire fighters. All it takes is a gander through the Occupational Health and Safety Standards, the gear standards and the apparatus standards to see how far we have come in keeping fire fighters safe.

    The problem with home rule is that alot of departments will care more about money than they do about FF lives. Especially departments that are run by civilian agencies that can overrule the department administration. People that put down standards that are in place to save FF lives scare the hell out of me. Those individuals should go into another line of bunsiness where their dinosaur tail won't be as noticeable.

  5. #5
    Firehouse.com Guest


    NFPA? I Thought that was an abbreviation meaning "Not For Practical Application."

    An example:
    Remember the old style (pre 1986 or so) New Yorker leather helmets? They were the perfect firefighting headgear - durable, superb protection, lightweight, fit your head like a hand in a glove. Remember? Ever hear of a firefighter fatality or serious injury due to those helmets? I didn't.
    Now you have to wear an "NFPA approved" helmet that weighs five pounds and costs $400 'cause it's stuffed full of junk you don't need. Or else you can join the ranks of the salad bowl wearers.
    Why? Because the working fireman who wears it every day has no say. The committees are full of industry people who want to maximize profit for their corporations and overdesign the stuff so that they won't ever be held liable in a lawsuit. Give me a break!


  6. #6
    Firehouse.com Guest


    One of the biggest problems with the NFPA is the we the firefighters do not take part in the standard writing process. I know that very few of us could take the time to actually serve on a code making panel, but we can all take part by submitting proposals and comments. The code making panels are required to read and act on every single proposal and comment that they receive. Proposal forms are available from the NFPA and after the proposals are acted on, the proposal and the action on it are all published for public comment. The publication is free on request. Many proposals are changed as a result of the comments received. We can have an influence if we take part in the process.

  7. #7
    Firehouse.com Guest


    for most practical applications nfpa has some no-brainer issues covered, however there is some issues that I dont understand why they even got involved in in the first place.

    I also agree with nozzlehog to many of these decicion making bodies are being influenced by the large money insurance companies who only want to fatten thier profits and reduce thier liability,
    In short its just buissness, even though it effects firefighters lives and actions.

  8. #8
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Originally posted by ResqCapt19:
    One of the biggest problems with the NFPA is the we the firefighters do not take part in the standard writing process. I know that very few of us could take the time to actually serve on a code making panel, but we can all take part by submitting proposals and comments. The code making panels are required to read and act on every single proposal and comment that they receive. Proposal forms are available from the NFPA and after the proposals are acted on, the proposal and the action on it are all published for public comment. The publication is free on request. Many proposals are changed as a result of the comments received. We can have an influence if we take part in the process.
    I'm sure what you say is completely factual, after all, they (the NFPA) would really lose credibility if they excluded firefighters outright. But let's be honest here. In the real world, your average jake doesn't even know what hair brained ideas are being thought up by whatever committee at any given time. At the end of a busy tour he just wants to get home, relax, play with his kids, watch the game and have a cold one. Only a geek would go home, sit down and write a letter to the NFPA to ask them what they are working on and stay on top of every development to keep them from doing something dumb.

    If those suits in their air conditioned offices really want to hear from street firefighters before they make decisions that affect us, they need to make the effort to go out and see what's really going on. Visit some busy companies and maybe get their hands dirty. Just ask the brothers what works and what doesn't, we're never at a loss for opinions or ideas. It's not rocket science and it's not that hard to do.

    Not only that, but we all know that when the "committee" meets behind closed doors, the committee members are going to have the last word. Ask a group of a hundred firemen - "When was the last time NFPA asked you what you think?" I bet you won't find, on average, more than one who says they did. Give me a break.

  9. #9
    Firehouse.com Guest


    The code making panels are not employees of the NFPA. The represent the various organizations that have an interest in the standards. My full time job is as an electrician and I do take an active part in the development and changes in the National Electrical Code. I have seen proposals that were accepted at the proposal stage rejected after the comment stage because of comments that came from the average "joe" electrician. Also at the national level my union, the IBEW, and the contractors association, NECA, each have a representative on every one of the code making panels for the electrical code. Does the IAFF do this for its members??
    The documents that are up for review are posted on the NFPA's web site and you can request a copy of the "report on proposals" by e-mail for any standard that is being revised. The fire service needs to take an active part in the process.

  10. #10
    George Wendt, CFI
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Give me a break, NozzleHog. If you think that only a "geek" would care enough to stay abreast of how the largest fire protection agency in the world is making decisions that directly affect your life, then you are doing a great disservice to the thousands of professionals that recognize that their life may depend on those NFPA documents. I am thinking that only a "geek" would spend time on the Internet posting their opinions on a bulletin board, but do nothing to change or improve the system.

    I am a member of the NFPA Technical Committee on Fire Investigator Qualifications. I also participated in the development of NFPA 921, Guide to Fire and Explosion Investigation. These documents directly affect my livelihood and and my life. Damn straight I am going to go online and research the proposals and comments and try to change anything that I don't think is right.

    ResqCapt. is 100% correct. It is cheap and easy for any fire fighter to participate in the Standards making process. However, it still is a little more difficult than bitching on the computer and not trying to improve anything.

  11. #11
    Firehouse.com Guest


    NFPA does have several merits. However at times it seems only like a place for equipment dealers etc. to cause perfectly good equipment to be replaced. Sorta like saying " All ladders used on a fireground must be replaced every 2 years" ( I know this isnt real, just making a point).
    Seems like a wonderful profit potential for manufactures of fire related equipment.
    Another example. Standard chainsaw $300.00 --- NFPA certified $1500.00

  12. #12
    Firehouse.com Guest


    AHHHHH where do I begin?

    How about somewhere around 27 years ago when I thought NFPA could do no wrong. This because the staff helped me with early career moves.

    It has evolved to the point where I won't even call up there with a question.

    Why? Thought you'd ask.

    Nozzlehog once again I say thanks for your words, which I now know are true: that their process is full of special interests loading up codes with requirements meant to sell products. They know the fire service will probably always be under-represented.

    It is also full of overlapping committees which have their turf battles and cause numerous conflicts between codes. The supreme allied "standards council" doesn't seem to be able to control this.

    And here is my favorite: my last call to an NFPA rep was the chairman of the sprinkler committee. When I stumped him with a serious question, he said I should ask someone who uses the document more. HELLO that's me you jerk. I need help on an interpretation, and the CHAIR refers me back to my own troops.

    INPUT? yeah, to these same suits in the mushroom shadows that can't answer your questions and don't live in the real world. I have been there, only to see proposals "accepted in principle", and re-written to change the meaning and screw up a code until the next cycle.

    In my mind, NFPA died that day I called the sprinkler chair. It was slowly dying of cancer for years, but that was enough.

    Their job? To sell books and make a profit. Don't be a fool and think they are there to help you. Any help they are to the suppression forces is an accident, and probably a reaction to a few firefighters of a whole lotta civilians croaking.

    Go ahead George call me a dinosuar. This is what experience has taught me. And it took me a long time because NFPA could do no wrong in my mind when I started down this road. Their own screwed up system slowly forced me into developing this opinion.

    And we are slaves to them due to liability.

    What was that joke about Kaddafi, Hussein, a lawyer, and a gun with only 2 bullets?

    Let NFPA spoon feed you if you are too young to know better. Don't say I didn't warn ya........

  13. #13
    George Wendt, CFI
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Well, Grit, thank you for the compliment on my youth. Sorry to disappoint you, but I have over 25 years in the fire service and 16 years as a full-time fire investigator. Youth and inexperience do not enter the picture here.

    The NFPA offers interpretations every day on their documents. It would seem to me that you ended up talking to a zero. I may be mistaken with this, but if you make a request in writing for an interpretation, don't they provided a documented interpretation in writing?

    Let's not forget the other things that NFPA does for the fire service. Their Major Incident Investigation program is second ro none. They have a statistical analysis section that provides valuable data regarding fire losses and fatalities. They are more than a bookstore.

  14. #14
    Jim M.
    Firehouse.com Guest


    George, your opinions are interesting and appear to be sound. The major problem I have with NFPA is the sheer corporate greed they have. Look at the cost of their annual update service. Most volunteer departments can't afford to purchase the rules so they'll know which ones they're being measured against.

    Remember, it IS as bad as you think and they ARE out to get you!

  15. #15
    Firehouse.com Guest


    George take it easy; that paragraph was not to you. It was for general consumption. I spoke to you a few paras before that; and I have taken note of your description of your exhaustive experience prior to this.

    My opinions are not based on one encounter, if you read my whole post.

    Formal interps are processed by the whole committee and take months/years. You can get an informal interp from a staff member quicker, but it is so full of disclaimers as to be meaningless.

  16. #16
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Hello All,

    I have to admit that up until about 3 months ago I was like about 90% of the rest of the Fire Service, I knew who the NFPA was and was familiar with many of the standards, but I did not have a clue what really went on behind the scenes.

    Then I noticed they were looking for new members to serve on the Technical Committee for Fire Service Training. Given that training is my #1 responsibility I thought it would be a great idea and opportunity to get involved so I submitted an application. Fortunately, I was one of the people appointed to the committee and I have since had many opportunities to see what goes on from the inside.

    As such I would add the following comments:
    Committee Members - While I can't speak for every committee I can honestly say the one I serve on (Fire Service Training) and many of the others we deal with have a fair representation of all parties involved. Of course I can also say that I would not necessarily expect this to continue. I say that because when I applied for my position on a committee that has significant impact on daily Fire Service operations there were less than 10 other people who also applied for a number of open positions. If there are no firefighters applying for positions on committees then the NFPA has no other choice but to accept the ones whom are applying or start closing down committees for a lack of membership. NFPA classifies each member of a committee into 1 of 9 categories based on whom they represent and does everything they can to make sure the committees are made up of members from all of the different groups. However, it will be impossible to maintain this balance if no one from the Fire Service is going to step up to fill these positions.

    Applicable Standards - It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that given the huge diversity in this country and the Fire Service that any NFPA standard is not going to fit everyone like a glove. Whether you equip a truck to meet NFPA or ISO chances are real good you won't use everything on the truck, but I personally would rather have it there if someone's life was depending on it, than not have it there because someone wanted to save a couple of hundred dollars on the equipment budget. As with any NFPA standard, the material in the standard is developed from the committee members and comments that ANY MEMBER OF THE NFPA can send in throughout the standard making process. As such if the standard is way off base chances are it occurred because not enough people from the street bothered to add their input.

    Fairness and Operations - When you have any organization that is the size of the NFPA things are never going to be perfect. However how perfect we think it is depends largely on how many members of the Fire Service want to get involved in the process. No standard can make it into existence without a number of opportunities for comments and a number of votes taking place. ANYONE CAN TAKE PART IN THIS PROCESS. If we don't like what is going on with the NFPA, we can't point the finger at anyone but ourselves.

    While I would be the first to admit that the NFPA is not perfect, I would not even want to imagine life without the standards it has brought us. I would guess we would still be wearing cotton duck or rubber coats with ¾ boots, SCBA would be an option, and we would still be riding the back step. We would also be a lot busier because there would be no National Electric Code, sprinkler systems, or fire detection and suppression systems. While we still have a long way to go, I don't believe we would have gotten to where we are without the NFPA, or that we are going to keep moving forward without the NFPA.

    If you have submitted an application for a committee or served on a committee, submitted comments on proposed standards, or showed up to vote at the national meetings, and you still think the NFPA is way off base then I thank you for your efforts, apologize, and hope you will keep up the battle. If you have done nothing other than gripe to your friends or rant on this forum then you are only part of the problem not part of the solution.

    Giving up and turning your back is not going to get you or your brothers and sisters anywhere. If its broke lets work together to fix it.

    Good Luck, Be Safe,
    Mike "TIman" Richardson

    [This message has been edited by TIman (edited 06-20-2001).]

  17. #17
    George Wendt, CFI
    Firehouse.com Guest



    Good reply. I, too, have found that the committee make-up on the two committees which affect me are equuitably distributed (921 & 1033). An old timer in FD used to say "If you weren't there, you got nothin' to say!" Kind of applies here. If you want to be a part of change, you have to step up and commit to the change, not sit back and moan.

    One comment on the affordability issue. If a FD cannot afford to subscribe to NFPA codes, there are alternatives. My county library subscribes and gets a new set each year. Any college library with a fire science program should also have a full set. How about neighboring departments? How about going in with a couple of other depts. and splitting the cost? How about buying only the codes that directly effect your FD? I don't believe the affordability issue washes.

    [This message has been edited by George Wendt, CFI (edited 06-21-2001).]

  18. #18
    Firehouse.com Guest


    There are merits to both sides of the discussion here. TIman and George, I agree the participatory process of decision by committee will always be both flawed and perfect ( such is our great democracy).

    However, you must also be able to see that some of the work being done by NFPA committees is so far from the help needed by small departments & line firefighters that they are causing the name NFPA to come to mean, superfluos, redundant, cost prohibitive or without practical application.

    A few brief examples from the apparatus specification would include:

    We wish to work with a lighting mfg for a new apparatus. This company's equip is on one of our older rigs, but on the new rig to meet NFPA specs the the rear blue light will have to be amber. No problem winks the salesman, the spare blue cover will be in the glove box for you to change after we deliver it.

    We do not want the new NFPA compliant wheel chocks ( the finger biters that fold out). We know firsthand of two significant injuries caused by them, the neigboring career dept has been able to somehow get rid of them, but apparatus mfgs are telling us the rigs to need to have them in order for them to be NFPA compliant and they don't want the liability of making a non compliant apparatus.

    Shame on NFPA, or the equipment mfgs for knuckling to NFPA, or the lawyers for pushing the fire chiefs to worry about issues that are so obvious to the newest probationary firefighter.

    That said, would equipment mfgs make junk without NFPA guidance - some would. Would city administrators skip over safety issues without NFPA - some would.

    If you ask 50 firefighters if the 'jake brake' with the big red placard that says Danger - must be turned off in wet or slippery conditions was a NFPA guided waste of money - some would.

    Be Safe

  19. #19
    George Wendt, CFI
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Chris; I understand your point. But this, again, is not a "shame on NFPA" issue. This is another shame on the fire service for not understanding the process.

    If you know of an NFPA regulation that has caused injuries, you can submit a proposal, today...right now, for a TIA (tentative interim agreement) to change what may be a legitimate injury hazard. If there are documentable hazards associated with the wheel chock, then the ocmmittee, I am certain, would not want to expose fire fighters to undue risks and would consider a TIA. Just provide the info and provide the documentation, as well as an alternative and submit it to the appropriate committee.

    See, we do have control.


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