The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is a nonprofit organization. It provides information and standards related to fire and electrical hazards. Worldwide, the NFPA has tens of thousands of members. Its mission is to help save lives and minimize loss through information and advocacy. The NFPA designs essential codes and standards for fire safety equipment and related technology.
Following NFPA codes and standards helps ensure the reliability of life-saving equipment. That's why BGS is an NFPA-compliant company. We provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for firefighters, also called bunker gear, and we clean, test, inspect and rent bunker gear. We also maintain, test and repair vital fire safety equipment such as fire hydrants. Learn more about the NFPA standards we meet in those services and the NFPA itself below.
How the NFPA Got Started
The NFPA has been in operation for over a hundred years, established in 1896. It was founded as a response to rapid, unregulated industrial growth, which posed many safety hazards.
The United States in the 20th century was home to an unprecedented industrial revolution and significant technological advancement — consistency and regulation became a necessity to secure human safety. The advent of electricity boosted the need for fire safety standards. One of the first fire safety solutions, the sprinkler system, was inconsistent from one building to the next. Varying electrical and fire safety codes led to confusion and controversy.
The lack of uniformity in fire safety standards was becoming a serious concern for developers and occupants. In 1896, 20 members came together to form the NFPA. Their goal was to create nationwide general principles for fire protection. Members included fire underwriters, insurance companies, inspection bureaus and others. Overseas members began joining in 1903, including Australian and Russian insurance companies. In the following years, architects, engineers and local fire departments joined, as well. Today, the NFPA has over 65,000 global members.
The NFPA's Process
The NFPA, with its volunteer staff base and technical committees, first focused on providing fire service product standards and later began setting standards for PPE care and maintenance, as well. They update their codes every three to five years, with a two-year revision cycle. The codes development process involves four fundamental steps, as follows:
- Public input: Anyone interested can provide input on the NFPA's current standards or the new standards draft. You can find the call for public input starting and closing dates in the publication NFPA News. The technical committee considers and responds to all public input then publishes a first draft.
- Public comment: After the first draft's publication, the public has an opportunity to voice any objections or further changes. If they receive any public comments, the committee addresses them and releases a second draft, voting to approve changes.
- Technical meeting: At that point, NFPA members join in a technical meeting to discuss any concerns. The meeting follows parliamentary procedure, with members making and voting on motions to make adjustments.
- Standards council action: The NFPA council then addresses any appeals with a live hearing. Voting members reach a consensus regarding any appeals and issue the official, updated NFPA standards.
NFPA's Role in the Industry
The NFPA plays a vital role in the fire safety industry. It sets fundamental standards for both firefighter personal protection and effectiveness in the field. Since the NFPA's inception, fire risks have changed drastically. With homes and other buildings containing so many synthetic materials, fires burn faster and hotter than they ever have before. These changes have made NFPA standards all the more essential.
Keeping up with evolving standards for fire safety gear and equipment ensures a fire department's ability to minimize damage and danger. With fire threats evolving, only the best gear and equipment can result in fire control. As the authority on fire response systems and gear, NFPA codes keep people safe.
Who Has to Follow the NFPA?
Organizations like fire departments and companies producing or maintaining bunker gear follow NFPA guidelines. It's important to note, the NFPA does not enforce compliance with its standards. It has no authority, unlike the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). While the federal government formed and empowered the latter organizations, the NFPA is an independent nonprofit group. The government does not design or write fire codes. Instead, volunteer citizens organize and maintain the NFPA and its standards.
When the NFPA came to be, the United States Congress did not have the authority to govern and enforce safety regulations. Now, most federal, state and local government authorities have adopted the NFPA codes as law. They recognize the NFPA offers a more complete, technical code than what they could devise for their own legislation. They also favor the code's universal nature.
Governing bodies may make a few exceptions or changes but otherwise accept and enforce NFPA standards. Essentially, the NFPA recommends and governments enforce. Depending on where you live, some NFPA standards may be law while others are not.
NFPA Regulations in the United States
In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a federal agency, penalizes companies who fail to follow NFPA codes. OSHA relies on NFPA standards to create its regulations.
While NFPA codes are not automatic laws, companies should refer to them to ensure compliance with OSHA's standards. Even when NFPA updates are not yet incorporated in OSHA requirements, OSHA may cite NFPA standards as a company's general duty and evidence of hazard recognition. In other words, whether or not NFPA codes are law, companies and organizations should follow them to avoid liability concerns.
How Does the NFPA Affect Firefighters?
Firefighters are essential first responders, responsible for limiting fire damage. Their gear and equipment have to keep them safe and ensure maximum effectiveness. The NFPA sets standards for firefighting practices and equipment — this minimizes firefighter safety risks and helps them perform their duties with speed and success.
NFPA rules for firefighters also affect firefighting hiring procedures. The association sets the standards for firefighter professional qualifications and job performance requirements. These regulations include the minimum necessary training and background requirements, and they affect all firefighters in the United States.
Fire departments need to follow NFPA standards for ethical, practical and legal reasons. Individuals might sue fire departments for not complying with NFPA regulations, which serve as evidence in many line-of-duty death and injury cases. Some attorneys pull from specific codes, while others claim general negligence. NFPA standards help keep firefighters safe and ensure a fire department's effectiveness in the field. In turn, this results in a safer community.
Important Guidelines the NFPA Mandates
Recent NFPA updates have provided standards every fire safety agency should know about. They include a stronger emphasis on bunker gear cleaning, maintenance and inspection. These mandates help reduce gear contamination risks, ensuring gear is ready to use when needed and reducing repair and replacement expenses. Bunker gear includes coats, pants, helmets, gloves, boots, hoods and any other PPE.
1. Bunker Gear Cleaning
One of the most important updates is higher gear cleaning standards. Current NFPA codes state fire departments should clean their gear at least twice per year and after any exposure to gases and smoke. Fire departments with limited resources might consider outsourcing for gear cleaning services.
What Does Bunker Gear Cleaning Entail?
Bunker gear cleaning involves laundering in an extractor. An extractor is a special front-loading laundry machine with a heavy-duty capacity. Extractors are necessary because they use more water than modern, energy-efficient machines and are more effective than older machines. The outer shells of turnout clothing require separate washing from the inner linings because outer shells are subject to greater exposure. Mixing them with inner linings might result in cross-contamination or other damage.
NFPA codes ensure proper bunker gear cleaning. They regulate acceptable washing machines, detergent pH and related procedures. These codes ensure gear is uncontaminated yet also undamaged during the intensive cleaning process. Certain chemicals and washing processes can damage firefighter gear, rendering it less protective and putting the wearer in danger, which means following NFPA cleaning standards is vital.
BGS Bunker Gear Cleaning Services
Not all fire departments have access to the necessary equipment for bunker gear cleanings, such as expensive extractor machines or ample room for gear drying. Since the NFPA has issued detailed, advanced standards, most departments benefit from using a third-party NFPA-compliant cleaning service.
BGS's professional bunker gear cleaning service complies with NFPA 1851. We incorporate a specialized process designed to deep clean gear without degrading any of its protective properties. We've perfected our wet-wash and air-dry process over the last 20 years for the best results.
2. Bunker Gear Inspection
The NFPA has also updated the standards for bunker gear inspection. Bunker gear has to be in an adequate condition to protect the wearer. Undamaged gear helps prevent firefighter injury. To ensure gear can serve its intended purposes, regular inspections and testing are necessary. In most cases, a fire department will gather firefighters at a training facility and engage in firefighting tasks while evaluating the PPE. The gear should meet performance objectives during each of the following sample tasks:
- Climbing stairs
- Carrying hose lines
- Using equipment
- Using ladders
- Forcing entry through a door or wall
- Crawling in a confined space
- Dragging a manikin
- Doing pushing and pulling motions
After practicing job tasks with the gear, the firefighters should fill out evaluation forms. These forms might incorporate positive statements and agreement scales, including the following statements:
- The PPE was easy to put on.
- The PPE was not cumbersome.
- The PPE was easy to move in during a specific task.
- The PPE was comfortable and breathable.
- The PPE did not restrict my arm or leg movement.
- The PPE's closures and other elements were easy to use.
Firefighter gear inspection should also include a record of any contamination, broken stitches, tears, rips, cuts, missing pieces, discoloration or closure failures. Such damage can render gear ineffective and hinder its level of protection. Any issues with bunker gear's quality or function require immediate addressing.
NFPA Inspection Standards
The NFPA details important guidelines for bunker gear inspection. It designates at what point gear is no longer usable. If any ensemble elements have chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) contamination, retirement may be necessary. Regular cleaning can help prevent such contamination.
Fire departments should inspect their bunker gear or have a verified third-party inspect the gear before they issue it and after each use. You can view a complete list of inspection criteria to make sure you're checking all required elements. Any notable damage will necessitate gear cleaning, repair or retirement.
BGS Is an NFPA-Compliant Company
BGS is an NFPA-compliant company, following NFPA codes and standards in all aspects. Here at BGS, we provide a wide range of fire safety services, including:
- Bunker gear deep cleaning and testing
- Bunker gear rentals
- Custom bunker gear
- Equipment inspection, repair and maintenance
We also supply and install vital fire safety equipment, such as fire hydrants and water distribution systems, as well as gas detection and thermal imaging equipment. Our NFPA-compliant products and services help firefighters perform their duties safely and effectively.
BGS Bunker Gear Services and Products
At BGS, we supply top-quality firefighting PPE. You can customize made-to-order gear to fit your team members or order as-is gear, including the following elements:
- Safety helmets
We use only the best quality PPE from trusted brands. We also offer bunker gear deep cleaning services, fulfilling all NFPA codes and standards. With our cleaning services, we keep your bunker gear restored and ready to use. We service full bunker gear sets, including all components, as well as flash suits and aluminized gear. In addition to cleaning, we offer minor repair services to extend your gear's life span.
You can also rely on BGS for gear testing services. We utilize pressure testing and visual evaluation to make sure your gear is in a suitable condition. When you choose to work with BGS for your bunker gear and related needs, you'll benefit from the highest safety and quality standards. We'll help you keep your team protected, perform tasks as needed and avoid any liability concerns.
Contact BGS for NFPA-Compliant Products and Services
The NFPA is an international authoritative voice on all fire safety standards. With their rigorous and constant updating, NFPA codes ensure the highest level of safety and efficiency in combating fire emergencies. Where fire prevention or response is involved, the NFPA is the commanding voice.
During fire emergencies, firefighters are the first line of defense. They save lives, minimize property damage and keep fire disasters as contained as possible. With such a vital role, firefighters and their organizations have to meet rigid NFPA standards. Any breach in equipment quality could have a severe impact. That's why choosing the right organization for bunker gear cleaning, inspection and replacement is so crucial.
Here at BGS, we pride ourselves on exceeding industry expectations. Our fire safety products and services comply with all NFPA regulations, ensuring top quality. We help protect firefighters and supply them with the gear they need to keep their communities safe. To learn more about BGS services or ask any questions, contact us today.