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By Robert Avsec
Reading any NFPA standard can be a laborious process at best. But they are some of the most fundamentally important documents at our disposal in the fire service.
The work that members of any NFPA technical committee put into developing and revising the standards, which are revised on a five-year schedule, is truly a labor of love.
NFPA 1901: Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus is one of our more important governing documents because it addresses the one thing that every fire department has.
After poring over the changes contained in the 2016 edition of NFPA 1901, I’ve compiled what struck me as some of the more influential changes.
Chapter 4: General requirements
Vehicle data recorders that can capture data to use in promoting safe driving and riding practices has been added as a requirement. Also, vehicles must now have a calculated center of gravity that is no greater than 80 percent of the vehicle’s height, as determined through tilt-table testing, or it must have a vehicle stability system (4.11 and 4.13).
The contractor shall also deliver with the fire apparatus the following documentation for the entire apparatus and each major operating system or major component of the apparatus (18.104.22.168).
And it’s a long list for sure, 20 items in total, that ensures that the firefighters who use the apparatus and the mechanics who service it will have the practical and technical information that they need.
The Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association recently published its “Fire Apparatus Safety Guide.” This guide provides safety procedures essential to the safe apparatus operation. It is inexpensive and sized to be carried in any apparatus, and it is item 20 in this document subsection.
As NFPA 1901 is all about apparatus safety, the guide was written for anyone driving or using fire apparatus and should be provided with every apparatus. The guide includes further information on each of the hazards identified by the FAMA safety signs requirements that were added to both NFPA 1901 and 1906. This guide can help operators to more fully understand the risks pointed out by the safety signs posted at various points on apparatus.
A new statement of exceptions requires the manufacturer to deliver a certification that the apparatus meets estimated in-service weight requirements and its ability to meet stability requirements. It must also link the maximum stop speed to the GVWR and extinguishing agent tank capacity or the tire manufacturer’s ratings.
In lieu of such a certificate, the manufacturer must provide a statement that describes specifically what is not fully compliant and identifies who is responsible for achieving compliance (4.21).
Chapter 12: Chassis and vehicle components
New requirements were added for the operation and performance of diesel particulate filters installed on fire apparatus (22.214.171.124).
Chapter 14: Driving and crew areas
There are new requirements for the minimum length of seat belts along with instructions on how to properly measure them. The standard now requires a warning device that indicates when an occupant in a designated riding position is not wearing a seat belt. Seat belts may now be orange in addition to red (14.1.3).
All crew cabs on apparatus with a GVWR over 26,000 pounds (11,800 kg) must protect occupant during a crash. The revised document also says that occupants should not wear helmets while the vehicle is in motion due to the adverse impact the helmet has on the occupant restraint system. The standard also requires proper helmet storage during vehicle movement (126.96.36.199).
Chapter 15: Body, compartments, and equipment mounting
The revised standard includes more specific requirements for the use of retro-reflective striping on apparatus, particularly for the rear of the vehicle. That rear striping is now required to be in a chevron pattern sloping downward from the vehicle’s centerline at a 45-degree angle (188.8.131.52).
Chapter 16: Fire pumps and associated equipment
The chapter on industrial supply pumps rated over 3,000 gpm (12,000 L/min) was put in Chapter 16 along with fire pumps rated at 3,000 gpm or less. The differences in the requirements based on rated capacity were spelled out in the revised fire pump chapter.
A requirement was added for testing the accuracy of the gauges and flow meters during the pump-certification testing (184.108.40.206).
Chapter 20: Foam-proportioning systems
Foam systems must now be type tested for accuracy and certified by the system manufacturer. After installation, those systems must be tested and certified for proper operations by the final installer (20.11).
Chapter 22: Line voltage electrical systems
The material in this chapter has been reorganized and clarifications added. Changes to the chapter include: the protective ground from a shoreline inlet must be bonded to the vehicle frame; the neutral conductor must be switched through the transfer switch if there are multiple power sources; establishment of a minimum wire size for cords on permanently mounted reels; and a requirement that fixed scene lighting devices be tested and listed (22.7).
Chapter 24: Air systems
The standard now contains requirements for those who train fire department personnel on those air systems. A high-temperature alarm is required in the compressor compartment along with labels cautioning operators not to obstruct the airflow. Additionally, there are three other changes.
- Compressors are required to be equipped with an air-quality monitoring system.
- If the compressor is driven by an electric motor, a shoreline connection to the electric motor is required.
- High-pressure air hose and couplings must have a pressure rating equal to or greater than the highest pressure expected to be encountered, with a 4-to-1 safety factor.
The requirements for the testing and certification of breathing air fill stations also have two significant changes: system testing must now be specific to the specific breathing air system, and there is a new section for testing utility air systems.
Chapter 26: Trailers
This is a new chapter with requirements for trailers used to transport equipment or other vehicles under emergency response conditions. Changes were made throughout the document where necessary to address the requirements for the tow vehicle.
Chapter 28: Ultra-high pressure pumps and associated equipment
The new chapter on ultra-high pressure fire pumps has been added because of the increased use of these fire pumps on fire apparatus.
The chapter’s requirements give guidance for manufacturers and purchasers of UHP pumps. These fire pumps have a rated discharge pressure of 1,100 psi (7,600 kPa) or greater.