BOSTON -- Gary O. Tokle has not only seen a myriad of standard changes in firefighter protection and safety in the past 20 years, he's had a hand in developing them.
Tokle, who managed the NFPA's public fire protection division, retired last week at the conclusion of the association's annual world safety conference.
That staff's recommendations and standards involve everything from firefighter clothing to qualifications, training and apparatus.
Tokle said in 1987 when 1500 was initiated he started seeing an increased interest in safety. But, the suggestions weren't embraced with open arms.
"When 1500 was first passed there was a huge outcry. It was felt that it had would have such a negative impact that it would put volunteer fire companies out of business. They felt it was going to be an incredible burden for them to meet the requirements."
Many also balked at their suggestion to get firefighters off the back step of fire engines. "It was not popular by any means. However, people were falling off and getting injured or killed. Now, deaths by falls from tailboards are virtually non-existent."
The NFPA went on to say that all firefighters should ride in a seated, belted position. But, Tokle said that fight is still on-going throughout the country.
Statistics show firefighters seriously injured or killed after being ejected during crashes because they aren't buckled up.
The organization's divisions develop and publish recommendations, but they are just that ??? suggestions. "It's up to the local jurisdiction, the town, county or state to adopt NFPA standards. They are not mandatory."
He said there isn't much down time for NFPA staff as they keep abreast of the latest technology. Documents are reviewed every five years. After hearings, proposals are discussed before a final document is compiled.
"Firefighter protective clothing had made significant advances, and we're seeing better designs for apparatus." But, those are just some of the ongoing issues he's seen. The sprinkler and fire alarm industry is one of the most progressive.
When the NFPA started taking a look at training, there was another outcry. Firefighters feared costs would rise, and they would not be able to conduct drills.
"I think we got them to understand we weren't trying to stop training, just the way it was being conducted. Our purpose was to reduce the number of people who were being hurt or killed."
He also pointed out that the NFPA doesn't initiate its projects. Outside organizations call upon the experts to develop standards. It was a fire group that asked for suggestions about conducting live burn training.
Tokle said he's enjoyed his work at the NFPA. "It was a great opportunity. I enjoyed the people I met and worked with on the issues. It was very interesting."
The former volunteer and career firefighter in California and assistant chief in a Montana department is looking forward to the next chapter -- retirement.