nfpa-1971-2013-coverBy Pat Freeman, Globe Technical Services Manager

NFPA standards are revised every five years as a matter of course. There have been times when the process can take a little longer, resulting in a standard that is published in six years rather than the normal five, and occasionally the standard can be “short cycled.” A standard is short cycled only when there is a compelling reason to revise sooner than the normal five years, such as a breakthrough in technology or a previously unknown potential for harm.

In the case of NFPA 1971, Standard on Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting, the current standard is the 2013 edition and, following the normal five year cycle, the next revision will be the 2018 version. As of today, the standard is on schedule and is anticipated to be published in the third quarter of 2017, barring any public objections to the standard.

What follows are four changes impacting garments that will occur with the 2018 revision:

  1. Coats and pants certified to the 2018 edition of NFPA 1971 will be required to have some type of access opening for inspecting the interior of the liner/moisture barrier system, which up until now has just been an option offered by some manufacturers.
  2. Outer shell fabrics are being required to meet an increased water absorption resistance; the current requirement is for no more than 30% absorption, and the new standard will change the allowable absorption to only 15% maximum.
  3. Changes are also being made to several test methods, most notably the shower test, which includes a new shower spray configuration. Additionally, rather than the five nozzle exposure, the new test will be comprised of three nozzles on a pole, focusing specifically on the closure positioning, and a total exposure time of eight minutes.
  4. As with hoods, there is a new optional Particle Inward Leakage Test being introduced in the standard, which is a liquid and particulate test run on protective ensembles. The test sample will include the entire ensemble: coat, pants, helmet, glove, and footwear elements, in addition to the SCBA specified for the ensemble by the ensemble manufacturer. When the ensemble does not include an integrated hood and booties, then both the hood and footwear must be worn to complete the ensemble during the test. The test is run only after washing the garments, with liners in place and as worn. If the footwear does not feature booties integrated into the system, the footwear must be flexed for 100,000 cycles prior to the test. This test is comprised of an aerosol challenge (amorphous silica, tetra ethylene glycol, uranine, and phopal) and the test is performed on live subjects. The test subjects will perform three series of stationary exercises during a 30-minute test period and within ten minutes of doffing the ensembles, the subjects are examined under black light for evidence of any particulate inward leakage. Again, at this point, the new Particle Inward Leakage Test is an optional requirement and not mandatory to the standard.

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 have provided comments, input and feedback on the 2018 Edition of NFPA 1971.