The Future of Turn Out Gear to be Decided
Jeffery and Grace Stull
Every five years or so, NFPA standards undergo a review and revision process to ensure they accurately reflect fire service needs and emerging technology. This is the case again this year, as NFPA 1971 on turnout gear, NFPA 1975 on station/work uniforms, NFPA 1981 on SCBA and NFPA 1982 on personal alert safety systems (PASS) formally enter their revision cycle, with the updates expected to be finalized in the summer of 2023.
What makes this revision cycle unique? There are transformative issues confronting the fire service within these standards. Plus, all four standards are going to be consolidated into a single volume – a big shift for the industry.
THE BANE AND BENEFITS OF CONSOLIDATION
NFPA decided that there were too many individual fire service standards to manage, and thus began a process two years ago to merge many standards that had similar topical areas. The ultimate goal: Reduce the approximately 130 fire service standards to one-third that number.
In the realm of PPE, this has included some sensible consolidations, like NFPA 1990, now home to all the hazmat PPE information – no longer spread among NFPA 1991, NFPA 1992 and NFPA 1994. In that case, a single responsible committee endeavored to update and streamline the requirements for the full range of hazmat and CBRN. The result was harmonized requirements and test methods that established a more manageable 143-page document, instead of the combined 236 pages of the preceding editions.
Specific to turnout clothing standards, the immediate benefits of consolidation remain to be seen, as this process is just starting.
The current plan is that the new replacement standard, NFPA 1970 (a newly numbered standard to prevent confusion with prior standards), will have a shared introductory chapter, reference list and set of definitions, but otherwise will have the separate chapters for each of the existing standards, including certification, labeling, design, performance, and test methods separately sequenced. This is intended to preserve the separate identity associated with labeling products to the existing standard. Products will still be identified as being certified to NFPA 1971, for example. This is also intended to ease the transition to a more comprehensive standard. After all, the new document will be the result of four separate technical committees trying to integrate a significant amount of content into a comprehensive specification on a complex group of products.
However, this approach may not achieve the potential benefits of consolidation where the entire ensemble – everything a firefighter wears for structural firefighting – is covered in one document with full harmonization of requirements at this first juncture. Moreover, the new NFPA 1970 will become an encyclopedia-like document, estimated to be over 300 pages long.
It is possible that the NFPA technical committees involved may attempt some harmonization in bringing the individual turnout clothing system standards together. Some possibilities include ensuring that the certification process used to qualify product and allow labeling to show compliance be made fully uniform among products. This aids the manufacturing industry, particularly for companies that make products addressed by multiple standards. It may also finally be possible that some of the common tests will truly be common, making it less expensive to test and certify products.
There are also some interesting opportunities that may occur as part of this consolidation process. Consider that station/work uniforms could be permitted, under special circumstances, to be part of the overall insulation provided by the turnout clothing system for purposes of protection. Consolidation of NFPA 1971 (turnout gear) and NFPA 1975 (station/work uniforms) could possibly make that conceivable.
Another possibility is to finally address the system as a whole, again with all the equipment in place. There is now the basis for full ensemble testing for garments, helmets, hoods, gloves, footwear, SCBA and PASS collectively to be evaluated for different forms of protection, interface effectiveness and interoperability. A new NFPA 1970 platform can permit this approach. Moreover, it also could lead to better consideration of integrated products, particularly for emerging electronic sensors and related equipment, to become part of the overall ensemble for future fire service use.
In this revision cycle, it is also expected that many new issues facing the fire service and PPE industry will be up for debate, with the potential for various updates to change the look and availability of turnout clothing-based products. For example, criteria related to contamination resistance and cleanability is now a central topic as well as improvements in demonstrating durability and finally addressing restrictive substances, such as PFAS, in meaningful ways. We have covered some of these issues in recent columns – “Gear expectations: Firefighters expect more from their turnouts” and “Is the fire service ready for a PPE shake-up?” – but there are also other key areas of debate coming up during the less-than-two-year period where decisions will be made on minimum requirements for turnout gear.
One example is whether particulate-blocking hoods should become mandatory. Optional requirements were introduced as part of the 2018 edition changes in NFPA 1971 for firefighter hoods to provide for particulate blocking, especially since ample evidence had become available about firefighter neck and face exposure to smoke particulates coming through the normally two-layer porous knit hoods. A large part of the fire service has moved to these types of hoods, and additional research, including that conducted by North Carolina State University as part of a federal grant, has added to the information for the utility and performance of these products. The question is whether the fire service should shift to these newer products, now available from a wide range of manufacturers.
Further, there has been a decades-spanning debate about eye and face protection provided with helmets, typically part of face shields, goggles and various forms of retractable or flip-down visors. There are many opinions on this issue, but some advancements are being made in understanding product utility and protection, so it is expected that this issue will come up again with new angles and new proposals for attempting to mirror the true needs and preferences for firefighters.
Another controversial area is the mandatory requirements for drag rescue devices (DRDs) installed into the protective coat. This feature has been a mainstay of the NFPA 1971 requirements since it was introduced in 2007. Since that time, there have been few, if any, reported instances where the DRD has been used for the rapid extrication of firefighters. Many firefighters complain that under emergency circumstances, the DRD simply is not readily accessible and that there are easier ways to accomplish removing a downed firefighter from the fireground. In fact, the last edition of NFPA 1500 on general fire department occupational safety and health recognized in one of its use requirements that organizations should have standard operating procedures (SOPs) specific to rapid firefighter extrication, and the DRD was only one of the approaches that can be established. Still, there are others in the fire service who believe that unless the DRD is mandatory, it simply won’t be available to firefighters under emergency conditions. The question here is whether the DRD should remain mandatory or become an optional feature for which requirements are applied when present in the clothing.
Finally, there are some who argue that new metrics are needed to judge thermal insulation for protection as balanced against physiological stress imposed by the clothing. To this end, proposals for supplementing both thermal protective performance (TPP) and total heat loss (THL) are expected to change how the industry defines these characteristics. There are some firefighters who argue that the current system does not need to be changed, yet the TPP test itself is over 35 years old and the TPP requirement of 35 has remained in place for that same time. Despite that, fireground conditions have been shown to be evolving with more modern material and their consequent hazards, and there still a need to better balance heat insulation and physiological comfort.
There are many, many more areas of change that will be considered in the next edition of NFPA 1971, soon to be under the NFPA 1970 umbrella standard. How these changes are considered will be determined over the next 18 months, but it is very likely in our opinion that some significant changes will occur, fundamentally changing how we think about PPE.
The fire service should not sit idly on the sidelines waiting to see what emerges from this process. It is important for individual organizations to weigh in on turnout clothing-focused standards. Change can be difficult, but transformation through increased awareness and new technology is a way of life, particularly when it comes to ensuring that firefighters receive the best possible protection at the lowest possible cost – in terms of both risk and money.
Why Would A Fire Union Try to Extinguish Volunteers? (good read)
By Frank Ricci
Volunteer firefighters are critical to many of America’s communities, donating time and labor worth billions of dollars each year, but the country’s biggest firefighters union apparently is trying to extinguish them. The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) represents more than 325,000 professional firefighters and paramedics across the United States and Canada. If their goal is to replace volunteers with dues-paying members, it would place a significant burden on taxpayers in many communities.
Shortages of willing volunteers have reached a crisis level affecting areas in several states, including Virginia and California. There likely isn’t a volunteer fire department that is immune from recruitment and retention issues. These issues can affect departments’ abilities to respond when people call 911, and they can have a direct impact on local property taxes.
The Virginia Fire Chiefs Association says the shortage of volunteers has hit a critical level. Seventy percent of Virginia’s firefighters are volunteers, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The ongoing challenges with recruitment and retention are compounded by the constitution and bylaws of the IAFF, prohibiting career firefighters from volunteering. These bylaws were codified in March and include “volunteering” in a list of serious charges such as embezzlement, assault of an officer, or membership in a terrorist organization. The penalty for a career firefighter donating his time to help a child who is having an asthma attack, or to respond to a car accident or participate in saving a neighbor’s home or business could be a “reprimand, fine, suspension from office, or suspension or expulsion from membership.”
In states and jurisdictions with collective bargaining laws, the IAFF’s ban against volunteering is expanding past its bylaws with recommendations that are highlighted in the union’s “Model Contract Language Manual,” to prohibit a career firefighter from volunteering regardless of union membership. If this language is codified into contracts, it could have a devastating impact when a person calls for help. What if a call goes unanswered?
Many communities rely on career firefighters who choose to give back to their hometowns by augmenting training programs, fulfilling command roles or operating complicated fire apparatus. Obtaining certification and clearance to drive a firetruck is a difficult requirement for a volunteer to obtain. It is not uncommon to have a qualified crew ready to respond to a call, but left waiting for a driver. Or, in volunteer departments with duty nights — in which volunteers commit to staff a shift — some are unable to staff all the apparatus in the station because of a lack of drivers.
Most career firefighters started as volunteers, bringing vital experience to their departments. Volunteer departments typically have robust training budgets and provide quality training opportunities.
A 2020 report from the National Volunteer Fire Council states that volunteers comprise 67 percent of firefighters across the country. Of the 29,706 fire departments in the United States, 19,112 are all-volunteer; those agencies protect communities of 10,000 or fewer residents. The report found that the number of volunteer firefighters hit an all-time low in 2017 — underscoring the need for volunteers.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, time donated by firefighters who are willing to volunteer can save localities an estimated $46.9 billion combined. Career firefighters have been volunteering since the establishment of the career fire service. Isn’t this a tradition that is worth embracing?
Volunteer firefighters represent the best in America — neighbors helping neighbors. Individuals are willing to answer calls, even knowing that they could make their spouse a widow and their children parentless by helping the community they serve. It’s a shame to see a labor union try to place limitations upon the volunteers.
What You Need to Know About the Proposed Revisions to the OSHA Fire Brigade Standard
OSHA has proposed a revision to 1910.156 Fire Brigade Standard Attached) that would have significant impacts on how we do business as NYS Fire Districts. This is not a new initiative (been around since at least 2016) but it recently came off the sidelines and is trucking full speed ahead.
DRAFT OF THE PROPOSED OSHA FIRE BRIGADE STANDARD
QUICK SYNOPSIS OF WHAT THE STANDARD COVERS
SMALLL BUSINESS ADVOCACY REVIEW PANEL – SMALL ENTITY REPRESENTATIVES
Contact your federal representatives, congress person and senator!!
Letter Templates available here for those in the immediate Capital Area.
If your Congressperson is different just substitute their name where appropriate.
Letter to Congressman Paul Tonko, https://afdca.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Tonko-Letter-OSHA-regs.docx
Letter to Kirsten Gillibrand, https://afdca.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Gillibrand-Letter-OSHA-regs.docx
Letter to Charles Schumer, https://afdca.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Schumer-Letter-OSHA-regs.docx
Letter to Elise Stefanik, https://afdca.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Stefanik-Letter-OSHA-regs.docx
Cancer Benefit Program State Reporting Requirements
Please read and responds appropriately related to the deadlines for the Cancer Benefit Program from OFPC.
CURRENT OFFICERS AND DIRECTORS CARRY ON, TENTATIVE MEETING DATES FOR 2022
For 2022 the current officers and directors were unanimously re-elected.
President, Tom Rinaldi
1st Vice President, John Meehan
2nd Vice President, Art Hunsinger
Directors: Les Bonesteel, Tom Wood, Joyce Petkus, Ed Woehrle and Mike Podolec
Our Secretary/Treasurer, Sargent at Arms and Chaplin will be appointed at the January meeting.
Tentative Meeting Schedule for 2022: Saturday January 8th, 9AM, the remaining meetings will take place on Thursday evenings; March 10th, May 12th, July 14th, September 8th, and November 10th.
Firefighter Cancer Benefit Program Information You Need to Know
New York State Volunteer Firefighter Cancer Benefit Program by The Hartford
Cancer Protection Designed by Firefighters for Firefighters
Thank you for your membership in the New York State Volunteer Firefighter Cancer Benefit Program. FASNY, NYSAFC and AFCSNY partnered with The Hartford to create a program that offers eligible volunteer firefighters cancer protection as required by GML 205-CC effective January 1, 2019. The coverage will automatically renew on January 1, 2022.
The Program offers two different cancer coverages. The basic program covers the specific cancers listed in GML 205-CC.The enhanced program covers more types of cancer including lung cancer.
IMPORTANT CHANGES Effective January 1, 2022:
- 15% Rate Decrease
- For 2022, the cost of the Basic Program will be $132.60 per firefighter per year
- For 2022, the cost of the Enhanced (all cancers) Program will be $169.15 per firefighter per year
- Contract Change Regarding Eligibility for Coverage:
The definition of Eligible Volunteer Firefighter has been amended to allow for easier determination of eligibility per OFPC guidance:
A volunteer interior firefighter who has five or more years of faithful and actual service in the protection of life and property from fire subsequent to having successfully passed a physical examination which failed to reveal any evidence of Cancer; and, has submitted or is able to submit proof of five years of interior firefighting service by providing verification that he/she has passed at least five yearly certified mask fitting tests as set forth in 29 CFR 1910.134 or the applicable National Fire Protection Association Standards for Mask Fit testing; or, for firefighters who entered fire service prior to January first, 2020, documentation identified by the office of fire prevention and control in rules and regulations promulgated pursuant to subdivision seven of this section which shall include, but not be limited to, training or certification records, health care provider records, internal fire department records, or any combination of official documents capable of evidencing that the firefighter meets the aforementioned requirements
- Contract Change Allowing Optional Coverage for Exterior Firefighters:
The definition of Eligible Volunteer Firefighter has been broadened to include exterior firefighters that meet the definition below. You can now include exterior firefighters on your census, should you wish to purchase this benefit on their behalf. GML 205-CC does not mandate the purchase this benefit for exterior firefighters. Eligibility Description: A volunteer exterior firefighter who has five or more years of faithful and actual service in the protection of life and property from fire subsequent to having successfully passed a physical examination which failed to reveal any evidence of Cancer.
In preparation for 2022, we will be reaching out to you for roster updates beginning on October 25, 2022. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at:
(833) 531 1959
NEW YORK CANCER COVERAGE BY VFIS
Everything you need to know about adding or renewing VFIS Cancer Coverage to help better protect your organization and volunteers
STATUTORY CANCER COVERAGE
Who needs to be covered? What is Class 1 and Class 2?
Class 1: All active volunteer firefighters, who meet the eligibility criteria set forth by NYS law. Premium for Statutory Coverage – $137 per member
Class 2: All formerly insured inactive volunteer firefighters, who meet the eligibility criteria set forth by NYS law. Formerly insured inactive volunteers must be covered for 60 months after leaving the fire service. Premium for Statutory Coverage – $123 per member
NEW OPTIONAL CLASSES AVAILABLE
Class 3: All active exterior volunteer firefighters who have five or more years of exterior service and do not meet the eligibility criteria set forth by NYS law. Premium for Statutory Coverage – $137 per member
Class 4: All formerly insured inactive exterior volunteer firefighters. Formerly insured inactive volunteers will be covered for 60 months after leaving the fire service. Premium for Statutory Coverage – $123 per member
OPTIONAL ALL CANCERS ENHANCEMENT AVAILABLE IMPORTANT UPDATE FOR 2022
You can provide coverage beyond what’s required for ANY type of cancer. In additional to the statutory cancer coverage required by the legislation in New York, VFIS has an All Cancers Enhanced Rider which can be added on to an existing policy.
Classes 1 & Classes 3 – for only $51 more per member. | Classes 2 & Classes 4 – for only $47 more per member
Would You Like to work On State Fire Service Legislation?
Have you had enough? Would you like to get involved? The Capital Area will be putting together a more formal discussion group on fire service related state legislation with representatives from the fire districts in the Capital Area, and beyond if interested. Not sure of the structure of the group just yet but we will be having regular conversations concerning fire service-related legislation and communication efforts with the various state representatives from the eight counties that comprise the Capital Area Association. We envision this group to meet virtually most of the time so that there is no travel involved for anyone and we are interested in focusing on the legislative issues confronting our fire district operations at the state and local level. Please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in participating in this group. Looking forward to hearing from you since we would like to get this off the ground for the next legislative session beginning January 1st.
Vote NO on Ballot Proposals on November 2nd!
The Capital Area Association of Fire Districts along with the League of Women Voters urge all our members to vote NO on Proposals, 2, 3, and 4. We take no position on Proposal #5. Turn your ballot over, these will be on the back of the ballot. Read more here:
Thank you, only one of these propositions passed, your right to clean air and water.
Fire Service Regional Cancer Seminar
The dramatic increase in the incidence of occupational cancers is one of the most important problems
facing the fire service today. The First Responder Center coordinates the activities of the Fire Service
Occupational Cancer Alliance, a collaborative effort among all fire service constituencies to educate
personnel about cancer prevention, provide resources for those who have been diagnosed with an
occupational cancer and support research to address the disease.
In September 2017, the FSOCA hosted a national symposium focusing solely on fire service
occupational cancers, the first event of its kind. Over two days, presentations and workshops covered
current research, prevention strategies, presumptive legislation, benefits, and other relevant topics.
Based upon the overwhelming positive feedback we are taking the show on the road and conducting
regional one day seminars based upon some of the key topics from the symposium.
TRAINING DATE: Friday, December 3, 2021
LOCATION: New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control Bldg
ADDRESS: 1220 Washington Avenue, State Office Building Campus
Building 7A, Albany, NY 12242
TIME: 8:00AM – 4:30PM
REGISTER: Regional Cancer Seminar Registration 12.3.2021 or
Regional Cancer Seminar Topics Include:
• An overview of research studies to date, including a discussion of underrepresented groups and
• Modifiable Risk Factors and Healthy Lifestyle
• Exposure Reduction and Implementation Strategies
• Support After the Cancer Diagnosis
2021 FIRE DISTRICT ELECTION SCHEDULE
OPEN THE ATTACHED FIRE DISTRICT ELECTION SCHEDULE HERE:
COMPARE THE 11 REGIONS OF THE STATE ASSOCIATION
There are many inequities and questions to be asked and answered. Ask your regional directors John Meehan and George June.
AMENDMENT TO STATUTE ALLOWS A CHANGE TO THE DEPT. RESPONSES POINT SYSTEM CATEGORY
Contributed by Tony Hill
A bill that allows a LOSAP sponsor to change the department responses category of its point system was signed by Governor Hochul as Chapter 462 of the Laws of 2021.
This new law allows a LOSAP sponsor to adjust the department responses category of its point system to recognize that some groups of volunteers may be restricted from responding to certain types of calls.
As a reminder, the department responses category provides that 25 points are earned by a volunteer who attends a minimum number of the fire department’s total calls for the year. For departments that also have a rescue/ambulance unit, an additional 25 points can be earned for attending a minimum number of those calls as well. The minimum number is based on a percentage of the total calls for the year. For example, if a department has 400 calls during a year, a volunteer must respond to 40 (10%) in order to earn 25 points. The department responses category is unique from other categories since it is an all-or-nothing category – either a volunteer responds to at least the minimum number and earns 25 points or does not and earns zero (0) points
If a volunteer is restricted from attending some calls, it limits the opportunity to respond to the minimum to earn the 25 points. For example, if a certain volunteer is restricted from responding to 50 of those 400 total calls, that volunteer would have to respond to 40 of the other 350 calls – a little more than 11%. The new law allows a LOSAP sponsor to change the requirement for this volunteer from 10% of 400 calls to 10% of 350 calls, or 35, to earn 25 points. This new statute will help many fire departments better align awarding points for calls with the department’s operations.
If a LOSAP sponsor chooses to adjust its point system for this change, no referendum is required – only a resolution of the LOSAP sponsor governing board (at least 60% approval) is needed. However, it states that an adjustment to the point system must be in response to written emergency response protocols adopted by the sponsor. (The use of the term sponsor here is potentially problematic, as a village or town isn’t likely setting emergency response protocols for a department.) The statute elaborates that these protocols may be related to a determination made by the district/department physician regarding the duties that a volunteer may be assigned. Since the word may is used, that implies it is not the only determining factor that could be used when a sponsor adopts these written emergency response protocols.
The adjustment would become effective the January 1st following the date the sponsoring board adopts the resolution, unless the written emergency response protocols were enacted as a result of a state disaster emergency. The wording of the amendment is not completely clear regarding this case – if the amendment can be made effective in the year the resolution is adopted by the board, or when the written emergency response protocols were adopted, or even when the state disaster emergency was declared. The takeaway is there is some flexibility allowed in this case.
It is important to be clear about how this amendment is implemented – it must be adopted by the municipal sponsor. A fire department that is interested in changing the point system must work with the sponsoring village, town, city or fire district to actually make the change.
Initially, this bill was meant to address the staffing challenge fire departments were facing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many departments were limiting certain at-risk volunteers from responding to calls. Although this was for the safety of those volunteers, these limitations made it more difficult to earn points under the department responses category. However, this new law is not necessarily tied to the COVID-19 pandemic or any state disaster emergency (although it can be); it is a permanent change to the statute that can be adopted at any time.
We could see this new statute being helpful, or at least provide clarity in the following situations:
- Implementation of duty-crews or stand-by crews. Some fire departments have moved to a system where a certain group of volunteers are on-call at the firehouse during a scheduled period of time. Calls during that period could be assigned only to that group and not the entire department. Unless an incident required the entire fire department to be activated, calls handled by the duty-crew would count towards their response percentage, and the other volunteers would not be hurt (from a percentage response standpoint) by being unable to respond to these calls.
- For larger departments that have multiple fire companies that are dispatched individually. The actual point system category in the law is titled “participation in department responses”, but then the chart detailing the percentage requirement references “volunteer fire company.” Since “department” and “company” can sometimes be used interchangeably, it isn’t 100% clear if total number of responses should be (or could be) broken out by company or tracked for the entire department. This new legislation would make it clear that a LOSAP sponsor could calculate the minimum percentage of calls a volunteer is required to respond to based on their company’s total number of responses.
- For departments that respond to a lot of automatic alarms that don’t require the entire department to be activated. Many departments call these “chief’s investigations” or something similar because they do not activate the entire membership, but rather dispatch a chief to investigate the automatic alarm. If the chief determines that the situation requires the activation of the full department, then that step is taken. Again, we believe that under the old construct of the law an argument could be made to exclude chief’s investigations as a “department response” since the entire department was not activated. However, this new legislation would appear to make it clear that this can be done. (A second discussion about how to award the individuals performing the chief’s investigations with points is a topic for another time, and is also potentially impacted by this new statute.)
- For departments that may still have impacted department responses in early 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, or where COVID-19 may end up impacting responses again later in 2021.
- For a volunteer who joins or resigns mid-year. Although we aren’t certain this is a positive, it could allow a sponsor to require a volunteer to attend the percentage of the calls only during which he/she was an active member. Under the existing requirement, a volunteer must attend a number of calls that is based on a percentage of the total department calls for the entire year. This is difficult for those who join/resign mid-year or take a leave of absence. That doesn’t appear to be the intention of the statute, but it would seem like a possible interpretation.