Ben's discussion of 1403 is exactly my point; there is a whole series of forum discussion that some of us old timers from "That Other Site" can attest to regarding the disregard (and subsequent prosecution) for willful violation of the standards. Why? Because despite what people keep stating, NFPA doesn't enforce standards, but who does? OSHA does. And guess who takes consensus industry standards and adopts them? The American National Standards Institute (ANSI), to whom OSHA looks to provide guidance as to what is the stick by which we will be measured. And OSHA very much is an enforcement entity.
This isn't a process limited to the fire service; all other types of industry have similar standards committees that provide consensus standards, and those standards, if done along the guidelines established by ANSI, become adopted as American National Standards. Similarly, OSHA adopts those industry standards and enforeces them there as well.
Likewise, if you were to look toward the private sector for any feedback, you'd see a trend toward adoption of standards as a "best practice" because they ARE a measuring stick. The idea is to have objective criteria to measure your organization against and to use that criteria to determine if you are doing things right, or perhaps, you are doing things wrong.
Obtaining credentials and accreditations for meeting such criteria are considered to also be a best practice. How many Fortune 500 companies strive for ISO certification?(http://www.iso.org/iso/home.htm) and I'm NOT talking about the "Insurance Services Office" ISO, but the International Organization for Standardization.
I could go on for hours about the misconceptions of NFPA standards and how they are misapplied in the fire service, but it would be a boring day-long lecture. Let me finish by citing something from the inside cover of any NFPA document: "The NFPA has no power, nor does it undertake, to police or enforce compliance with the contents of this document. Nor does the NFPA list, certify, test or inspect products, designs or installations for compliance with this document."
You can test to an NFPA standard, or meet an NFPA standard, or uphold an NFPA standard, but there is no such thing as an "NFPA certified" organization, individual, or other. You can take a class that uses NFPA standards to develop its curriculum, or you can be evaluated on your knowledge and skills utilizing the JPRs of certain NFPA professional qualifications, but you can not be NFPA certified.
I agree that it's very difficult to be familiar with every detail of every NFPA standard, but we should at least be familiar with the ones that affect us the most.
Example: The 1400-series Training Standards, the 1500 series Firefighter Occupational Safety and Health Standards, the 1001-series Professional Qualifications Standards, and the 1700-series Apparatus and Equipment Standards affect our everyday operations at the most basic levels.
If you're getting ready to specify new turnout gear, review the pertinent NFPA standard prior to purchase.
If you're getting ready to specify hydraulic rescue tools, review the peretinent NFPA standard prior to purchase.
I think the NFPA for the most part is freind. All we can do, is the best to stay safe, and to try to follow the NFPA compliance as much as possible. I doubt that there is any company that is compleatly compliant, and it is a bit harder for a vol. dept. to meet the set standards, from a financial standpoint. For example.... here in PA we are devided up into many differant county's., some counties have more money than others and it is much harder for ones that dont get alot of funding to keep up.
I am very much FOR consensus standards.
I am very much AGAINST paying for them.
If you want me to pay you for the answers, then give me the money to take the test.
So, kids, in conclusion; fight UNFUNDED MANDATES with all of your hearts.
Agree in principle to everything, but don't sign on the dotted line until you know who's writing the check.
I fully believe that there would be more compliance if the money was there to pay for it.
Not only do you have to JOIN NFPA, but you have to BUY everything from then on.
If public entities like OSHA are going to reference NFPA standards in THEIR standards, then those standards should be published in their entirety. At least, we wouldn't have to pay for them.
And the reason that I am against paying?
Because, I believe that it establishes unholy alliances between organizations and product manufacturers.
There should never be a perception that money will skew the outcome.
Neither friend nor foe, but an integral part of the fire protection industry.
From their financial report to the membership (ending December 2007):
68% Publications (300 Codes/Standards, Manuals, Fire Protection Handbook, Electrical Code, etc.)
17% Membership (Annual dues)
08% Professional Development (Seminars put on by NFPA to cover the codes/handbooks)
Continuing to make efforts to reduce the dependency on publications as their primary revenue resource.
Established a Research Foundation
Developing Batterymarch Park "NFPA was uniquely positioned to take advantage of efficiencies and overall improvements to the Park by having the entire property under one management and completion of this plan will provide NFPA with a stable, valuable income stream in the future."
Art, that makes a lot of sense and I understand that concern. I mentioned earlier that you do have the ability to view the standards online without paying for them, you can't, however print them. The other thing I suggested was that small departments that "can't afford to pay" for subscriptions perhaps team up and purchase a copy for their local or regional chief's association and make those documents available to members in good standing with that organization.
I do have concerns with organizations that have an industry standard and then make money from publishing that standard when you are expected to follow it to the letter. I have been a certifed professional dive instructor since 1990 and there's a certain joke about the acronym the organization uses, because it always seems like we are having to cough up extra bucks for something every time we turn around (note I didn't use the name). But there's a certain cost to doing business- in that case it is a business. For the NFPA, they are also in the business of developing standards and someone has to pay for the publications, for the staff liaison to help the committees along, for the editors and copywriters at Batterymarch Park, etc. And I'd be willing to bet (although I don't know it to be fact), that private industry has a lot more invested in documents than the fire service. I have had very litle problem doing a deep search for say, NFPA 1006, and finding one or two bootlegged copies that have been published to a chief's association website or something like that.
I think one of the biggest problems is that just like having to know codes relating to the tax status of your volunteer organization in order to keep 501c3 status, knowing the standards that apply to running a fire department aren't very "sexy" and there aren't a lot of people who like to do that. If people liked dealing with standards like they ike fighting fires, people would have them memorized front and back. But who wants to deal with the boring administration of the organization? (I guess that's where I come in- I've always said that the only reason I am where I am is that I was willing to do all the paperwork so the rest of the guys could go nail up shoring).
I agree with Art- we should fight unfunded mandates with all of our hearts. That being said, we should require our funding source (muni government, state authority, etc.) to supply the funds to assist us in doing our jobs. Cutting out the funds for a copy of the rules just because you don't feel like reading them doesn't make sense and those rules (re: standards) are just as important to how we operate as anything else we do. They provide criteria for measurement and establish a baseline for determining whether we are doing things right or wrong, safely or unsafely.
Is it necessary? Most definitely. It is, as has already been stated, non-discriminatory to either volunteer or career departments. My volunteer department has in our contracts with the money (ie Tax Districts) a paragraph which essentially says we must abide with NFPA "as much as practical". Now, that phrase leaves a big hole for interpretation. My department chooses to leave little doubt. When it comes to equipment, apparatus, training and most tactical decisions, we are pretty much dead on. Do we stretch the interpretation sometimes? Yes, and I will add that there isn't a single department in the US which can truthfully say they don't.
Do I agree with the standards? Some I think are "silly" for the lack of a better term. Are some driven by manufactures? Probably more than a lot of people will admit. But the standards for the fire service are a very small part of the NFPA. If you look at overall Life Safety issues with electrical, building, plumbing, etc., they have and will continue to save lives.
So while I think they may be a pain, I shudder to think what we would be facing without them.
I like their standards.
They should just be more "user freely"!
If they are going to be the "stamp of approval" for the fire service, then they need to be TRUE, third party, get funding from outside of the entity that they regulate, make their product free from charge to any fire department willing to contact them and then; then, REQUIRE every fire department to follow them.
I would be good with that.
Until then, I will PAY, but I will bitch about it.
We are allowed to go to a certain fire department's library, where they have the complete NFPA library and "look" at them.
So, you have one guy running around with this NFPA stuff in his head.
Man; I hope he's not the one directing traffic at Goofy Ridge.
Note to self; get another geek ready.
Regardless, I don't think price should be an obstical for keeping ourselvs safe, no matter what the cost. Should we have to pay for the stuff, probably not, but like it was mentioned before.. If nobody was there to do the work and research, what would we do, where we get valuable info from?