The Consolidation of Fire Protection Services in New York State Sept 2022
The Consolidation of Fire Protection Services in New York State
A Primer September 2022
By: Lisa K. Parshall The Rockefeller Institute of Government
Turnout Gear Service Life Guidelines Questioned
Turnout Gear Service Life: Will We Ever Have Clear ‘Keep Or Retire’ Guidelines?
Jeffery O. & Grace G. Stull
There has been an ongoing debate ever since the original requirement for mandatory retirement of turnout clothing took effect with the 2008 edition of NFPA 1851: Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting. Many in the fire service found this requirement to be overbearing and without substantiation. They questioned the need for such a requirement, particularly when some structural gear may be subjected to very little use or has shown no evidence of serious damage even after 10 years.
The committee responsible for this requirement, which remains in effect through the 2020 edition of NFPA 1851, substantiates the need for changing out structural turnout clothing every 10 years for several reasons:
- Significant changes in the protection technology occur in the 10-year period that has been linked to two 5-year revision cycles in NFPA 1971 for updating design and performance of turnout gear;
- The inability to accurately assess gear performance where degradation in protection may not be visible; and
- The accumulation of increasing amounts of contamination in gear over its use in structural fires that may not be removed by regular laundering.
While we don’t seek to resolve this debate here, we will offer a better understanding of what constitutes the usable service life of turnout gear.
WHAT IS GEAR SERVICE LIFE?
The service life of any product is intended to represent how long that product remains viable and fit for use. It is generally defined by several years or months. Service life is based on the product being delivered in a new condition and cared for and maintained in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions that include acceptable procedures for cleaning, repair and storage. This does not mean that the gear may not be ruined in use if subjected to severe exposures or rugged environments.
Structural firefighting involves ever-changing response environments and conditions, so the determination of what gear can be expected to survive is subject to interpretation. Even new gear can be exposed to extreme fireground temperatures that cause significant damage to render it unusable or unrepairable. Gear could also be contaminated to the point where cleaning and decontamination do not bring the gear back to a usable condition. Therefore, the actual service life for gear can be from its first use to whatever indicated period of time the department judges the gear as still being protective based on the results of Advanced Inspection performed according to NFPA 1851.
Service life differs from shelf life in that shelf life applies to gear that is not used but instead properly stored. Shelf life is akin to an expiration date where certain materials or components may break down due to environmental conditions like ozone exposure or natural deterioration over time.
Service life is also not related to manufacturer warranties. Warranties represent decisions made by manufacturers usually in terms of their manufacturing quality and what they consider reasonable continued usability subject to a number of caveats.
HOW ARE GEAR PERFORMANCE CRITERIA SET?
Critical to the service life discussion is the expectation that the gear will continue to provide protection at the necessary levels of performance. Key performance criteria include protection against clothing ignition and heat degradation in addition to thermal insulation and resistance to physical hazards. There is a wide range of other properties that define protection from hazardous liquids like blood and fireground chemicals that are balanced by the impact of the clothing on the wearer causing heat stress. The committee chooses test methods that are applied to individual materials and composites. The minimum results for these test methods are then set based on how different products perform in the field and are generally correlated with clothing that demonstrates acceptable field protection. The process for how these criteria is set often involves consideration of several factors and can be relatively complex. Nonetheless, collectively these criteria form the basis of minimum performance for gear when new.
It is important to recognize that performance criteria in the NFPA 1971 standard applies to clothing samples that are not worn. Even when samples may be exposed to various conditions like multiple launderings or low-level heat exposures, these preconditions cannot fully replicate the kind of impacts that actual wearing will create on clothing. Consequently, it is important to realize that applying NFPA 1971 criteria to used clothing can be complicated and can misrepresent the intended use of those requirements. This is because some performance criteria can be set higher than needed to account for the fact that the clothing performance can partially diminish in use and still provide a reasonable level of protection.
HOW DOES GEAR PERFORMANCE CHANGE FROM EXPOSURE?
We know from experience that certain conditions of use and exposures can break down and reduce performance. Perhaps two of the most common examples are the inappropriate use of bleach on certain fabrics during cleaning and direct exposure to ultraviolet light. Excessive exposure to either of these conditions can radically reduce the strength of the fabrics to the degree that they will hand tear. Of course, proper cleaning and storage of gear can avoid degradation from these conditions. However, clothing is also subject to abrasion, various other physical hazards, high-heat exposures, and contact with different liquids or other substances. Some of these exposures break down material properties, such as strength indicated above; others can reduce barrier properties or adversely affect functional properties like moisture barrier breathability or trim reflectivity and appearance. Some loss of performance can be more subtle, such as repeated compression that can cause reinforcement layers to lose insulation or loss of repellent finishes that results in clothing with increased pickup of water weight, reducing some forms of heat insulation.
The degree to which the performance properties are reduced varies with the combination of different exposure conditions and can be affected by other factors, such as the accumulation of soils in clothing materials. For example, research shows that soiled turnout clothing can reflect less heat (i.e., it will provide less insulation to thermal exposures), soiled material composites provide less breathability, and soiled clothing is more likely to pick up water or other liquids, including contaminants.
The degree for which these changes are acceptable and affect service life is subject to considerable debate. In some cases, if samples were removed from the affected gear and subjected to the same NFPA 1971 testing that is applied to new gear, then it is possible in some cases and likely in other cases that NFPA 1971 performance criteria would not be met. Industry experts do not agree on what level of performance degradation would be considered reasonable for field-used gear and what level represents a potential safety hazard. For example, a significant drop in thermal protective performance that reduces insulation from heat should be an area of concern, as would permanent petrochemical contamination that renders gear materials flammable; however, a drop to just below the requirement for tear resistance could still provide a functional level of strength for providing appropriate protection.
HOW DOES GEAR PERFORMANCE CHANGE OVER TIME?
Some relationships are already known for how gear performance changes from use without extraordinary exposures. For instance, unless contaminated, the types of materials used in turnout clothing generally retain near-new flame-resistance qualities. When gear is worn, layers rub against each other, causing small balls of fabrics and greater “loftiness” of the composite. This type of change increases thermal insulation but decreases breathability as measured by total heat loss. Many strength properties lessen through repeated laundering and use but may still retain sufficient strength level for keeping the gear intact. Water absorption resistance or water pickup will increase over time, but these changes are gradual. Barrier properties may or may not be reduced as films wear down or are damaged, but often can be repaired. These observations assist with framing gear performance expectations in terms of service life but do not create exacting distinctions. Ultimately, departments must apply judgment for whether gear use can be continued, also using the NFPA 1851 procedures for Advanced Inspection.
The reality is that without testing, most fire departments use visual cues and evaluate the cost of repairs versus replacement of garments as their primary means for assessing service life. While several studies have attempted to characterize protective garment performance after field use, the issue remains that no single reliable approach can truly make the “keep or retire” determination. That may change as more science is brought to bear from studies that better detail available inspection methods, as is now being undertaken by NIOSH in a multi-department study where they will be able to track gear history with gear protection changes.
For the time being, service life determinations will depend on the judgment of experienced fire department individuals and subject matter experts with input from the gear manufacturers. These determinations will further account for findings from NFPA 1851 advanced inspections and will most often be related to visible damage of gear following exposures to different hazards on the fireground. If there is nothing from the inspection results, observed damage, or judgment from the department authorities triggers removal of specific gear from field use, then the mandatory 10-year service life specified by NFPA 1851 will limit the maximum gear service life. Without hard and fast rules, most in the fire service are likely to err on the side of safety when there are doubts about continued performance.
Fire Districts of New York Mutual Insurance Co Press Release
New York State’s Revised Experience Modification Rating Program
We have an important insurance update to share that will impact all Workers Compensation and Volunteer Firefighter Benefits Law (VFBL) policyholders in New York State. This applies to all insurance companies and providers doing business in New York State.
As approved by the New York State Department of Financial Services the New York Compensation Insurance Rating Board (NYCIRB) has implemented a new calculation this year to determine the Experience Modification Factors (EMFs) for all New York State Employers including fire districts. This may result in a significant change to some employers/fire districts EMFs which is based on the policyholder’s loss experience. According to NYCIRB, after a detailed study they found that the prior calculation did not sufficiently incentivize workplace safety or adjust premiums to an appropriate level for individual risks.
The experience modifier is a multiplying factor that’s assigned to an employer/fire district each year by NYCIRB and reflects its claim history. This number is based on your actual cost of injuries compared to the expected costs for companies of a similar size in the same industry. Any change to your 2023 renewal EMF will directly impact your premium.
If an employer/fire district’s accident history is below average, they can get a credit on their workers’ compensation policy, meaning they pay less premium. If their experience is above average when compared to similar sized and types of employers/fire districts, they’ll pay more than average for the same type of coverage. The NYCIRB has made several resources available to employers on their website (www.nycirb.org) to facilitate in understanding the changes they have made.
Putting safety first is critical for managing workers’ compensation and VFBL losses. Fire Districts of New York Mutual Insurance Co., Inc. provides our policyholders cost effective quality service including loss control services to help improve and maintain the health and safety of firefighters throughout New York State. We partner with local independent insurance brokers. Contact your Insurance Broker if you have any questions. Together we are dedicated to serve your needs.
Fire Districts of New York Mutual Insurance Company, Inc. Founded by firefighters for firefighters to protect those that protect us. One Blue Hill Plaza, 16th Floor, Pearl River, NY 10965 / 845-352-8855 / www.fdmny.com
Capital Area Chaplain’s Corner
It is with regret we inform you that during this year two individuals who have served as fire district commissioners have pasted on. The members of the Capital Area Association extend their condolences to their families and to the fire districts they faithfully served.
Edgar Dean “Ted” Alderson, 94, died February 12th, 2022 in Cary, NC. Ted had been a member of the Harmony Corners Volunteer Fire Department, Inc. and had served 5 years as a Fire Commissioner with the Harmony Corners Fire District. To honor him for his many years of dedicated service to community and our nation a memorial service was held on Saturday, June 11th, 2022 at the Galway United Methodist Church.
A complete obituary noting Mr. Alderson’s education, US Navel LTJG service, His contributions to General Electric’s turbine technology field, and the thoughts expressed by the family he loved is at: https://www.wakefuneral.com/obituaries/Edgar-Alderson/#!/Obituary.
Albert W LaRue, 77, passed away on January 4th, 2022. Al was a member of the Charlton Fire Department for 50 years. For 19 years he served as a Fire Commissioner in the Charlton Fire District. On July 3rd, 2022 his family hosted a “Celebration of Life” for his many friends in his honor. Being a lifetime farmer Al LaRue was an active leader in his local church and the 4-H. His obituary can be found at: www.armerfuneralhome.com.https//www.lastingmemories.com/albert-larue
As Capital Area Chaplain, information or prayer requests regarding health issues or loss of life events involving Capital Area fire district commissioners or other district staff are always welcome. I can be reached at FRichards@nycap.rr.com or called at 518-882-1170. May God keep and protect those who serve your community.
CAPITAL AREA FALL FIRE DISTRICT WORKSHOP
Westmere Fire District, 1732 Western Avenue, Albany, NY 12203
Saturday, November 12th
7:00-8:00 Registration & Continental Breakfast
8:00-8:10 Pledge to the Flag & Welcome: Capital Area Association Officers
8:10-9:15 Presentation Topic: Human Resources for the Volunteer Fire Service
Description: For any employer, the human resources department plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy and positive work environment. This is true for the volunteer fire service as well! This training will focus on the importance of HR within the volunteer fire department, and what types of challenges you may face, strategies to handle them, and best practices to implement in your department.
9:15-9:30 Networking Break
9:30-10:15 Presentation Topic: Fire District Purchasing
Description: A representative from the Office of General Services will give an overview of fire district purchasing. This training will cover a wide range of topics and equip commissioners on how to spend taxpayer dollars wisely.
10:15-10:30 Networking Break
10:30-12:00 Ask the Experts Panel – NEW AND REFRESHED! We’ve assembled a panel comprised of attorneys, a CPA, a VFBL expert and a general insurance specialist to answer your questions. This is an excellent opportunity to have all your questions answered about a broad range of important topics.
12:00-1:00 Lunch and Networking
Everyone is Invited to Attend
Not limited to Commissioners
Please Reserve your Seat Now – AFDCA Members $15, Non-Members, $25 Payable at the door!
Price includes all seminars, training materials, meals
To save a seat email Tony Hill at email@example.com. Provide names, district and contact information.
UPDATED MEMBERSHIP APPLICATION FOR 2022
Join here, new membership divisions including individuals and other fire service organizations/associations
EMS Cost Recovery FAQs
The fire service organizations have issued information in the form of FAQs as well as included the final legislation that took effect on July 8th and note that it sunsets in 4 years. For those organizations that will be billing for EMS services we hope this helps your efforts.
Election Schedule for 2022
Open the link to the Election Schedule HERE: 2022 Election Schedule
Budget Schedule for 2022
Open the Budget Schedule Calendar for 2022 Here:
Updated By-Laws Approved by the Board of Directors
The Capital Area By-Laws have been updated and adopted by the Board of Directors at the June, 2022 meeting.
Highlights include; A new Associate Membership class which will welcome not only individuals but other county or regional associations, a redefined purpose, revised voting rights and a revised dues structure. The new By-Laws are here: AFDCA By Laws rev 0622
STATE ARCHIVES LGS-1 FOR FIRE DISTRICTS – DOCUMENT RETENTION POLICY
LGS-1 Records Common in Fire Districts (updated 2022)
- The LGS-1 Retention and Disposition Schedule must be adopted prior to records disposition. In addition, prior to disposition, staff should consult the appropriate LGS-1 Schedule item cited to read full descriptions and review details on notes where indicated.
- Review the LGS-1 Schedule to find records not listed on this document.
- The LGS-1 introduction includes instructions, exceptions to the schedule, a sample resolution for adopting, Archives and other agency contact details.
- LGS-1 HTML and PDF formats: http://www.archives.nysed.gov/records/local-government-record-schedule/lgs-1-title-page
- Contact firstname.lastname@example.org 518-486-4823 or email@example.com for assistance.
DOWNLOAD THE DOCUMENT HERE:
Why Do Volunteers Stop Volunteering
Why do volunteer firefighters quit? According to research published by the National Volunteer Fire Council in September 2020, the top 3 reasons volunteer firefighters stop volunteering is:
- because of leadership/failures
- cliques and
- training requirements
Former volunteers were surveyed to learn the reasons for their departure and were compared to the perceptions of current volunteer leaders and non-leaders alike. The perceptions had some commonality among each group. Current volunteers in both leadership and non-leadership roles felt the primary reason volunteers leave is due to lack of support and flexibility in juggling volunteer responsibilities with other life commitments. However, those surveyed who did quit identified that issue as less important. The primary reason for leaving was the “department atmosphere [being] full of cliques and groups that exclude others.” This was, however, the second most frequently identified reason by the current volunteer group.
The current volunteers also identified department leadership not focusing on or supporting the needs of members as another one of the top 3 reasons why they would consider leaving. Those volunteers that did depart cited the lack of camaraderie or sense of community among everyone in the department. And while current volunteers cited the lack of clear expectations on how much time and effort is required each week or month to meet training requirements, those who quit did not have this issue in their top 3.
The information derived from this section of the survey clearly identifies several problems in the industry. Leadership – either disconnected from the membership or not properly trained – has a significant impact on the entire organization. Some members of the organization mimic this behavior and results in the alienation of others. This type of problem is not seen as often in emergency service organizations with good leadership. And while this is only one aspect within the organization, it is critical factor to its success. These perceptions need to be explored and further validated by replicating and expanding on the research conducted.
Read the full research report from the NVFC by clicking on the link HERE: