Firefighting gear: Is it time for large changes?

Firefighting gear: Is it time for large changes?

Here’s a hard look at the barriers prohibiting meaningful PPE innovation “Don’t fix what is not broken” is a common phrase used to impede change or at least to question change for change’s sake. If we look at the turnout clothing industry, we actually see a product range that is relatively mature with continual, gradual improvements. In essence, gear is pretty much the way it has been for more than two decades. Yes there are the occasional blips where something new comes along like barrier hoods, and novel improvements can bring about an interesting materials or features. For the most part, the vast majority of the fire service seems to be satisfied with current state of technology for turnout gear. But the reality is that we live in a rapidly changing world, and we are constantly affected by new discoveries and technological developments. The current situation leads to two questions: why are there not larger changes afoot in the industry, and what types of changes might the fire service be missing out on? Change comes about usually because of firefighter needs or a new technology becomes available that supplants the old technology. In the early 2000s, SCBA went through a tremendous change when there was a perceived need that there needed to be chemical, biological and radiological protection as part of the SCBA. This need drove some significant changes in how SCBA were designed and the materials used in their construction. At about the same time, it became possible to incorporate a heads up display that allowed a more effective means for firefighters to monitor their air levels. These...
NFPA 1971, 2018 Edition – You have a voice!

NFPA 1971, 2018 Edition – You have a voice!

By Pat Freeman, Globe Technical Services Manager – NFPA 1971, 2012 Edition is in the revision process with an anticipated publish date for the new standard of 2018. Many people believe that the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) is an “enforcing agency,” but that is not its function at all. NFPA is a standards writing organization that uses an open, consensus-based process for the development and revision of all standards. An open consensus-based process means that individuals as well as organizations can provide input and feedback on fire service standards. With regard to NFPA 1971, these suggestions would be directed at protective ensembles for structural and proximity firefighting. Anyone can suggest changing, adding, or even removing design or performance requirements for PPE covered in NFPA 1971. Technical Committee While development and revision of NFPA standards is done through this open process, it is managed by “balanced” committees made up of people who wish to participate. Balanced committees are maintained by ensuring that no more than one third of the voting membership can represent any one interest. These interests are organized into nine classifications: Manufacturer, User, Installer/Maintainer, Labor, Applied Research/Testing Laboratory, Enforcing Authority, Insurance, Consumer, or Special Expert. Public input, in the form of proposals and comments, are submitted to the Technical Committee for NFPA 1971 for disposition. Input and Feedback Stages There are two stages at which input and comments can be provided. The first is the “Public Input Stage” which, as the name indicates, is for input to the standard as currently published. For NFPA 1971, that would be input based upon the 2012 Edition; and the deadline...
Firefighter PPE: What NFPA changes may come

Firefighter PPE: What NFPA changes may come

Aside from gloves and hoods, look for the next NFPA 1971 to tackle moisture penetration into coats and pants Standards are intended to provide a set of criteria by which firefighters can have some confidence that their turnout gear provides a minimum level of protection. For the past 40 years, NFPA 1971 has provided these criteria and undergone seven major revisions going from a dozen pages to the current 145 pages. Where there used to be about 10 different tests for evaluating materials, components and clothing, now there are 74 different methods. Moreover, when first introduced, the fire service was slow to adopt the standard with some manufacturers even disdaining subjecting their products to the NFPA requirements. Now, compliant rates for garments are better than 99 percent and no U.S. manufacturer would ever consider selling clothing in the U.S. market without it being certified. Needless to say, the standard has had its impact on an industry that back in the 1960s relied mainly on modified rainwear for protection. On the average, these standards are revised every five years; sometimes they may be short-cycled or extended. The heart of the revision process is public input; it is one of principal ways by which potential changes are identified. The technical committee responsible for the standard looks as these inputs and decides which to implement, modify or reject. Proposed revisions are then subjected to a second review, or comment period, by which the public can make further suggestions for changes with additional deliberations by the technical committee to refine the final language. Changes can be relatively simple such as editorial correction or...