Station Pride Articles

The NFPA Police

  QUESTION: Is it possible for a fire department to be fully, 100% NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) Compliant?

Let’s start off with declaring that there is no such organized entity as the NFPA Police. However, there ARE a select number of our kind who take it upon themselves to verbally wave the sword in defense of the NFPA. These fire service warriors of the internet like to take judgmental swipes at fire porn videos and images. From a recent video of a fire truck parading through town with two celebrating volunteers on the bumper to  John Wayne style structure fire situations, these virtual tactical response teams ensure the rest of us are staying in line with NFPA.

Everyone is a non-credentialed critic. Except the Fire Critic, I suppose he’s the only legit one.

police-badge-clipart-9 copyMy point here is that I have yet to find, observe, or even hear of a fully NFPA compliant fire department. I often, jokingly,  liken the NFPA Standards to the Holy Bible. It’s nearly impossible to follow all of it without sinning.

Before I continue, we need to get a few things straight. The NFPA is not the law. It does not carry the same regulatory meat cleaver as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA). OSHA is a government regulatory agency that enforces occupational safety and health laws passed by Congress. When OSHA laws are broken, organizations and companies can be fined or even sued by the government for non-compliance, they are usually sued on behalf of the offended party.

NFPA codes, standards, and recommended practices are written as an attempt to self-regulate our industry. The standards are written to give a benchmark of performance for the manufacturers who make all of our awesome stuff as well as providing minimum competency standards we “should” meet as firefighters and officers. The NFPA standards are created by committees consisting of fire officers, chiefs, manufacturers and technical folks. The main reason why manufacturers are on the NFPA is so there is collaboration between the people who need firefighting equipment and the people who make firefighting equipment.

There is a lot of sentiment regarding NFPA being a profit driven entity. I have a hard time seeing it that way. The creation of all of these things takes financing. You can’t print books and create content and expect everything to be free. Also, there are legalities involved with the construction, testing, and selling of safety equipment. All of our stuff has to meet certain requirements so we can all go home to our families. It’s important to have fire service manufacturers a party to the standards creation so we’re on the same page of self-governance. After-all, manufacturers would know whether or not it’s even possible to design equipment that can meet the standard being created. It’d be sweet to re-write NFPA 1901 so all fire trucks had to have hovering capability and an endless on-board water supply… But common sense would dictate that engineering has not yet figured out how to make that work yet.M-SWAT-Blog-LCOA copy

With 7000 thousand volunteers comprising 250 technical committees, creating over  300 codes and standards(, writing tens of thousands of lines of text; is it possible to be 100% compliant?  I’m not so sure. It would be great if one of our readers could chime in here and name a department that is fully provable 100% compliant.  I’ve spent years assisting departments with becoming as complaint as they can be. The real fact of the matter is funding.

Bringing a fire department to 100% compliance with NFPA is incredibly expensive. Not to mention master level planning and auditing. Most fire department budgets won’t allow for it. 447 copyI know departments that don’t provide an annual physical, annual fit testing, annual SCBA flow testing and the like. That’s a tiny fraction of what needs to happen.

For budgetary reasons and perhaps even ideological reasons fire departments will adopt chunks of NFPA or individual standards while disregarding others. Some of the largest fire departments in our nation pick and choose which NFPA codes they will follow because they know they just can’t pull some of them off completely.

I don’t believe the NFPA is intended to be a buffet of options, it’s intended to regulate the way we do everything, so we’re all on the same page. The fact is, we’re not, and as a fire service I’m not so sure we’ll ever be on the same page. But we have a lighthouse and a beacon to follow and that’s not bad, in fact it’s pretty great.

I bring all of this up for the social media warriors who call people out on their NFPA violations. It really needs to stop. It’s more than highly probable that your department has or does a few things of their own that don’t meet the NFPA standards.  I want to say something about glass houses here but I’ve never been good with cliché sayings.

Do you know of a fire department that is fully NFPA compliant? Please comment below. If you find a legitimate one I will write an article on that department and eat my own words. I hope this is an educational moment for me.


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About Jon Marr (35 Articles)
Jon Marr is a 23-year fire service veteran originally from the Rhode Island area. He currently works as the Deputy Director of Emergency Management in the Wichita Metro Area. He was previously a Station/Battalion Chief at a United States Air Force Base in Southern Spain and a Battalion Chief with the U.S. Army Garrison Kwajalein Atoll in support of the Space and Missile Defense Command. Prior to Kwajalein, Jon spent 8 years as a Fire Captain for the Area Support Group Kuwait Fire & Emergency Services Department supporting the U.S. Army Central Command throughout Kuwait. He was also a Fire Lieutenant at Forward Operating Base Falcon in Southern Baghdad, as well as 3 years working for AMR Seattle. Jon is a certified Fire Officer IV, Fire Instructor III, Fire Inspector II, Incident Safety Officer, Haz-Mat Tech/IC, holds a Bachelors degree in Fire Administration from Waldorf College and has been an EMT for 22 years. He is currently a Graduate Student. Jon enjoys scuba diving, adventure travel, and watching his 12-year-old son see the world in wonder. Jon is a firm believer in maintaining a healthy balance of pride, tradition, and safety within the fire service.

2 Comments on The NFPA Police

  1. The real NFPA police are the attorneys that use these “standards” when they have you in front of a jury during a law suit! The NFPA will eventually help bankrupt the small Volunteer Departments and then the big union Departments will be happy. When a third of the country has no fire protection let’s see how that works out for everyone.


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