Do you feel the NFPA and the NFPA Standards, are a Friend or a Foe, to the Volunteer Fire Departments.

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I work for a medium size fire department. We have 8 stations and approx. 100 personel. I see NFPA as a friend 99% of the time. The only foe side I see is just what was mentioned in one of the previous posts about the apparatus manufacturers feeling their equipment is becoming too expensive to build. My department recently purchased and will soon receive four new Class A pumpers at a cost of approx. 275,000 a piece. The dealer for these pumpers told our chief that after Jan. 1 when the newest NFPA standards go into effect that those same pumpers would cost in excess of 325,000. Thats a big jump to be taking from year to year. And with the economic times and cash strapped governments thats an even bigger punch to the taxpayers wallet. I truly do not believe in sacrificing safety at all. But with the continued increased costs of just building a pumper plus the costs of NFPA upgrades it could very well force departments into keeping a sub-par appartus on the road which in turn negates the intended effect of NFPA's efforts.
well opens alot of feelings. I feel that alot of things are wrong but there is alot that do help. but the last one that I heard, was kinda out there if you ask me. It was only a brainstome at the time and it was along the lines of..... They want to ban the storage of SCBA's in the jump seats of the trucks. And the reason for this is so that the firefighter or OIC can properly size up the situation befor the rush to gain entry into the building. And it was also to reduce the debree flying about the cab in the event on a crash, but all of our truck now have safty straps to prevent that from happining. So how does that topic Strike everyones fancy.... LOL
Why can't there ever just be a "Fire Department" question.

The NFPA does not discriminate against volunteer departments. Nor does it discriminate for paid or career departments. Why is that?

Fire does not discriminate.

Fire does not sit around waiting for us to find a better, safer, or even more expensive way to beat it.

It just does it's thing without regard for our pay status.

So...wouldn't it make sense for NFPA standards to cover all of us the same.

Look at small municipal departments, they have all the financial issues many volunteer departments have, plus the added personnel costs that said departments do not. Are they discriminated against?

We lose about 100 firefighters a year in the US.

The fires we fight are hotter, faster burning and more toxic than 50 years ago. However we lose about the same number of firefighters a year.

Buildings are built of lighter weight materials, and for that matter less materials than in the past, leading to structural failure in half the time a traditional stick frame building fails.

Who is it we expect to set and enforce standards that allow us to fight these faster burning fires? The NFPA.

We all complain about something the NFPA has set down in writing, but we are all better off for the NFPA, and yes that means volunteer departments as well.
This is a link to SAI Global- this is the commercial arm that sells the Australian Standards I referred to earlier.

There's a huge amount of controversy amongst OHS professionals regarding the fact that these are set nationally as benchmarks to achieve, yet you have to pay to purchase them to read and comply with. I'd imagine there's similar issues with NFPA?
Allen, in theory you're right- a fire does not discriminate, etc, however until you have at least a State based fire department system, there will always be departments trying to outbid each other for available funding.

That in turn means that Backstickmiddleofnowhere County FD will not be in a financial position to upgrade equipment and comply with any national standard set upon them.

We on the other hand, run state based fire departments which means there's more equitable funding allocations (still not perfect as Tony P will vouch for!), but at least when new standards are handed down, we have a far better chance (still not perfect!) of complying.

An example is the new PPE being rolled out to all firefighters, across the WHOLE state- it's going to take a while to complete, but it means that ALL members will get the new, fully compliant gear.

The NFPA has many different involvements within the fire service community. When you speak in terms of things like the apparatus standards, no one can argue that the changes are not for the better. But you can argue that the folks involved with the NFPA that participate and make rulings are industry based, not firefighter based.

In order to pass judgement on the NFPA, and say something negative, I believe that it is important to at least have tried to work with the NFPA and their non-firefighter committee process. Here's an example:

Existing NFPA diamonds use black numbers on the health, fire and reactivity components of the NFPA 704 hazard identification diamond placard. I submitted a code change to adopt the same rationale that is applied to building addressing which is the use of a contrasting background. Black numbers on a dark red or blue background simply cannot be seen. The colors are NOT contrasting. Simple fix... Make these two numbers white so a contrasting background can be provided.

This concept was flat turned down by the NFPA 704 committee. Why?

Any of you reading this should ask the same question. The answer is money. Folks on the committee represent private businesses who do not want to have additional monies spent of retrofitting existing NFPA diamonds even though the change ensures the the people who the diamonds were designed for.. firefighters... could actually see the level of hazard present.

The NFPA is owned and operated for the purpose of furthering private business and enterprises, not for helping and protecting firefighters. And as mentioned by Lutan1, if you want to read the codes, you have to pay for it first.

It's all about the money.
Lt. Tom's discussion is exactly correct; I am a member of 1006 and this year became the Chair of that committee. One of the requirements of each committee is to ensure that balance is acquired from the applicants by reviewing their qualifications and filling in vacancies according to the committee needs.

There are a number of manufacturer and vendor reps on any committee and often times, the committees that don't have enough people to "balance" things are that way simply because of people dropping off a committee or lack of applicants.

My motto has always been, "Don't raise your voice unless you can raise your fists." It's a less-than-elegant way of saying that unless you are willing to stand up and fight for your side (or your ideas) then you pretty much should stay quiet. Each of you is called to try to improve the fire service, and that doesn't always mean by fighting fires. There are local, regional, national, and international committees, boards, and everything else that need people from the fire service to get on, work together, and say your piece. If all we can do is complain about what is handed to us, well, whose fault is that? If you don't like it, get involved.
Friend for sure!
Sorry to double-post but after I posted my last, I saw more items: First, off, I guess I forgot to state that my opinions and observations do not necessarily reflect those of my committee or of the NFPA.

I appreciate and encourage this discussion, because it certainly gives people a chance to address their misconceptions about the process and how things actually work, and I get a chance to help educate, which I enjoy doing.

In regard to the "enforcement" of standards: NFPA is not in the enforcement business. They are a faciliator and publisher of consensus standards which are then adopted by organizations who DO enforce things.

In regard to Michael's post regarding the change of the diamond: since I am not on that committee, I do not know how things went about, but it would seem to me that if the manufacturers wanted to MAKE more money, they would change the standard so they could sell more labels. I know on our committee (1006) we have people who represent manufacturers and vendors, but I have never witnessed any of them trying to manipulate the process in order to make things more lucrative for them. In fact, these members have been more than willing to give up intellectual property that they could sell for a profit to instead improve the standard, like in the case of one vendor allowing the use of certain diagrams and illustrations. These vendors/manufacturers are usually (in our case) ex-firefighters who saw where they could contribute to the process and make sure things were done right. In the times when someone did say something that might be construed as self-serving, the rest of the committee (in our case) has been pretty good about pointing that out (usually in a humorous fashion, but let's say no one escapes an episode llike that unscathed).

As a vendor or manufuacturer, what you DO gain is that often you know the standard before it is even published, or the technology that you developed is used to solve a problem before it is out there from other manufacturers/vendors. But the gain to the fire service is that on a balanced and well-run committee, there are plenty of ideas that come up (and some that get shot down) and we have found that there are plenty of people out there who have said their piece, got shot down, then automatically the whole process is crap. Well, take it from someone who knows first hand, I have submitted my own recommendations to committees, I have even submitted my own recommendations to my own committee of which I am an officer, and had those ideas shot down. When the idea is shot down, however, there is usually a reason why, and they are required as part of the process to add that explanation.

Finally, everyone does have access to the standards without paying for them. You just can't PRINT them without paying for them. Go to, go to the "Codes and Standards" tab, select "List of Codes and Standards", and then find the one you are looking for. Scroll down to view the version of the document you want to look at.

If you find yourself on a login page, select "other user", then add your information to be able to view the document. It will open up a site where you can read the document, but you can't print it.

Alternatively, most departments are members of regional or state chiefs' organizations who collectively purchase copies or subscriptions and will share them with member departments if asked. You just need to ask.

Thanks again for all of the dialogue on this subject, but realize, these standards are there because people needed guidance. If the need for guidance wasn't there, NFPA wouldn't be able to sell the document, would they? If people would do the right thing (not take shortcuts) and litigate less (well, we don't have much control over the trial attorneys), we probably wouldn't need the standards, would we?
It seems to me that this, along with any system meant to help, started off with good intentions. As with anything else, it probably started as a work in progress, advanced to a fine working system and then someone wanted to look good. When that person wanted to look good, they took what was working perfectly fine, thought up some way to make it "better" and changed it. Who knows, this may have made it better. The problem is, then people all see that this change made someone look good, so they have to find ways to make changes to advance their image. Then everyone starts making changes, whether good or bad, changes are made. People look better and the system that was working fine gets eaten up. I am not arguing with what the NFPA does, I just see the same thing with any system, anywhere. Again, that's just how I see it.
I can see both sides to the NFPA coin as to whether they are friend or foe. I can see how they can help but also hinder both paid and volunteer alike.
My only issue with the whole NFPA thing is why does everyone seem to "fear" violating thier guidelines? The NFPA is an Association -- just like the IAFF or Boy Scouts for that matter -- they are not a law making / enforcement organization they just create recommendations. OSHA on the other hand is a law making / enforcement agency. What they say is law. As long as OSHA's regulations are followed, anything else is just extra safety precautions (not that that is a bad thing), but as far as the courts go OSHA is the line that is drawn. Just because you didn't enforce the recommendations of a private association like the NFPA does not make you in violation of anything legally. Of course thats unless the state you are in has decided to adopt OSHA and NFPA as the state law then the argument is a mute point. I'm sure there are many things I don't understand about this topic, but that's why I just like to be the guy with the black hat in the back seat just doing what I'm told with the equipment I've been provided by the department! LOL
Friend, their main objective is to keep firefighters and the public safe. Most of the standards that you see are actually related to previous firefighter injurys and deaths. These incidents are studied by NIOSH and they make recommendations to NFPA on how to reduce the likelihood of it happening again. NFPA (Mostly firefighters) review the feasibility of the recommendations then either adopt them or file them as some sort of case study.

Although we might think that they are beating us down it is all done to help protect us from doing what someone else has already done and paid the price for.

~Stay safe and train regularly~

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