The requirements in the next edition of NFPA 1901 Standard for Automotive Apparatus take effect for apparatus ordered on or after January 1, 2009. Departments need to work these requirements into their specs now.
The NFPA 1901 standard applies to all vehicles used for structural firefighting, mobile water supply, rescue situations, hazardous material releases, and other incidents not involving wildland firefighting. Here a few of the more important changes:
Vehicle Data Recorder. One of the most expensive and potentially controversial new requirements is that all vehicles must be equipped with an electronic vehicle data recorder, similar to the “black box” on aircraft. This device keeps a second-by-second record of the vehicle speed, acceleration and deceleration, engine speed, throttle position, antilock braking system events, master warning light switch position, date and time and other conditions on a running 48-hour loop. It also keeps a minute-by-minute summary of this data on a running 100-hour loop. Software to download the information onto a computer is provided.
The vehicle data recorder can be used as a driver training tool, but its primary purpose is to provide accurate evidence of the operating conditions of the vehicle in case of an accident. Among other things, it will show whether the driver braked or not, whether the warning lights were on or not and how fast the vehicle was traveling at the time of the accident. All departments need to advise their drivers of this feature and explain what it records. Departments also need to establish formal operating procedures to take vehicles out of service immediately after an accident and have a qualified third-party download the information from the vehicle data recorder. Don’t let your shops do it, and don’t alter or erase the information -- that’s equivalent to an admission of guilt.
Seat Belt Indicators. Another important requirement is that all seats must be equipped with a sensor that sounds an alarm when a seat is occupied and the seat belt is not fastened. More importantly, if the belt is buckled before the seat is occupied --for example, if the belt is left buckled all the time -- the alarm also goes off. To make sure the correct procedure is followed, all seat belt alarm incidents are recorded on the vehicle data recorder, thus providing a basis for disciplinary action and eliminating the potential for false claims that a seat belt was fastened if someone is killed or injured in an apparatus accident.
Other changes to seat belts include a requirement that two-point belts be a minimum of 60 in long, and three-point belts be a minimum of 110 in long. This will help eliminate complaints that current belts are too short to be comfortably fastened and worn with full turnout gear.
Tire Pressure Indicators. Each tire must have a visual indicator or monitoring system to show when the air pressure is low. The simplest solution is probably a valve stem cap with a red/green indicator built into the end. Low tire pressures significantly decrease tire life, decrease fuel economy, increase steering effort and increase the possibility of catastrophic tire failures.
Traffic Safety Equipment. All apparatus must now carry five 28-in high fluorescent orange traffic cones with double reflective markings, five illumination warning devices such as flares, and one traffic safety vest meeting current ANSI standards for each seating position. These requirements apply to pumpers, initial attacks, water tenders, aerials, rescues, haz-mats and other apparatus, regardless of their size. Departments may want to increase the number of traffic cones and illumination warning devices based on local conditions.
Rear Reflective Markings. Fifty percent of the rear-facing vertical surface of all vehicles must now be covered with reflective red and yellow stripes in a chevron pattern sloping downward from the center of the vehicle at a 45-degree angle. The stripes must be 6 in wide, instead of the minimum combined width of 4 in specified on the sides and front. Although there is some latitude on the exact shade of yellow to be used, other colors may not be substituted.
Maximum Speed. Vehicles are now subject to a maximum speed limit that varies according to the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) and the water or foam tank capacity. Vehicles with GVWRs over 26,000 pounds must not exceed 68 mph or the rated speed of the tires, whichever is lower. Vehicles with GVWRs over 50,000 pounds, or those with water or foam tank capacities that are more than 1,250 gallons, individually or combined, must not exceed 60 mph or the rated speed of the tires, whichever is lower.
Aerial Devices. Aerials equipped with “envelope controls” may now be operated without fully extending the stabilizers. The controls electronically sense the stabilizer extension on each side and limit the rotation, extension and elevation of the aerial to keep the load within the envelope of safety and prevent tip-over accidents. Although this may seem like an advantage to departments that regularly have to short-jack stabilizers on congested streets, those departments should also recognize that the range of aerial movement may be severely restricted as a result. In some cases, an aerial with short-jacked stabilizers may not be able to reach the roof or upper windows of buildings with large setbacks from the street.
Trailers. Trailers and other towed equipment are now subject to requirements under NFPA 1901. Areas covered include suspensions, brakes, hitches, electrical systems, work lights, warning lights and reflective markings -- yes, warning lights on trailers.
List of Deviations. Some departments like to install or modify minor items on new vehicles themselves or have someone locally do it. Special reflective tape designs, hosebeds covers and tool mounts are typical examples. Under the new NFPA standard, vehicle manufacturers must provide a list of all items that do not comply with the standard or that need to be installed in order to comply. This list will appear on the final specifications, and customers will be required to sign an acknowledgement that these items must be corrected or installed before the vehicle is placed in emergency service.
Contrary to what some departments may think, this is not a legalized waiver system that allows them to install non-compliant components or omit other components by simply signing them off. Instead, it is a legally binding document that places full responsibility on the customers to make the vehicle compliant before operating it. In some cases, manufacturers may even refuse to install non-compliant items or omit other items if they feel the customers can not, or will not, do the work properly after delivery.
Other Requirements. The new standard also contains many other requirements affecting product demonstrations, mirrors, ground ladders, vehicle stability, brakes, generators and other systems and components. Departments need to get a copy and review their specs against the new requirements. Maintenance personnel need to be made aware of any new service procedures and equipment. Consult your apparatus manufacturer for clarifications.
Projected Cost Increase. The financial impact of the new standard will probably vary from one model to another and one manufacturer to another. One industry expert estimated the new requirements will add about $8,000 per vehicle. Consult your apparatus manufacturer for specific figures.
How to Obtain a Copy of the New Standard. The 2009 edition of NFPA 1901 is now available. To obtain a copy, call NFPA at 800-344-3555 or go to www.nfpacatalog.org