NFPA releases new Apparatus Maintenance and Testing Standard

March 5th, 2009

by Tom Stalnaker
What’s new in fire apparatus standards? There are over 200 committees of volunteers that help the NFPA develop standards for many subjects relating to fire safety. One of those committees deals with standards for Fire Department Apparatus. Almost 10 years ago this committee realized that the existing standards for pump testing (NFPA 1911), aerial testing (NFPA 1914) and preventative maintenance (NFPA 1915) did not comprehensively cover all the issues related to testing and maintenance of in-service apparatus. We began a process to pull together the existing standards with new material developed to cover the gaps, in order to create a new standard. Out of this process came NFPA 1911 Standard for the Inspection, Maintenance, Testing, and Retirement of In-Service Automotive Fire Apparatus 2007 Edition which is now available.

While this document incorporates most of the material from the three previous documents, it is reorganized and includes significant new material to cover all aspects and systems of a modern fire truck. As fire apparatus becomes more complex and more technical, maintenance and testing become more critical to the safety of the fire-fighters and the public.

This new document has a place in every fire department.

It has information on how to set up a preventative maintenance program and document it so details do not get missed.

It contains lists, tables, and forms to help insure that all systems and parts of fire apparatus get the attention they need.

The sections on out-of-service criteria have been expanded and will be a valuable resource in every station.

When it comes time for the periodic (annual) performance tests of systems on the fire apparatus, NFPA 1911 gives the requirements, step-by-step procedures, pass-fail criteria, forms, and other information.

The new NFPA 1911 can also be a valuable resource when it comes time to justify maintenance or replacement costs to management.

Chapters 1 Through 4
Chapters 1 through 4, as in all NFPA standards, are the administrative details. This includes general requirements, definitions, scope and applicability, and references to other documents.

Chapter 5
Chapter 5 deals with retirement of fire apparatus in 2 sentences (there is more in Annex D). If it is not safe to be used for emergency operations, it should be retired. If it is retired, it should not be used for emergency operations.

Chapter 6
Chapter 6 covers Out-Of-Service criteria. It covers both out-of-service apparatus (the apparatus should not respond) and out-of-service systems (the apparatus can respond, but the pump/aerial/… system can not be used). For each item discussed, recommendations are included on whether a particular problem or fault should automatically take the apparatus out of service, or if it should be evaluated by a qualified technician to make recommendations on what should be done. They may recommend that the apparatus or system be taken out of service until the problem can be repaired, that the apparatus can stay in service with some limitations, or that it can stay in service without limitations. In every case, safety should be a primary concern.

One key question to answer in thinking about out-of-service situations is to be sure there is a mechanism in place, 24×7, that anyone from the most junior probie firefighter to the most senior officer or mechanic has a way to report a safety problem and get a piece of apparatus taken out of service immediately. If in doubt, put it out (of service)!

Once a piece of apparatus is out of service, it is important that this status is clearly indicated. Some departments use a bag that ties over the steering wheel that is labeled OUT OF SERVICE. In my station we have a large sign that goes in the windshield in front of the driver that says APPARATUS OUT OF SERVICE. We also turn the apparatus around so it faces into, rather than out of, the fire house. If a component or system is out of service, such as a single seat or the fire pump, that fact should be clearly indicated. If the pump or aerial device is out of service, 1911 calls for the engagement control to be disabled.

Chapters 7 Through 15
Chapters 7 through 15 go through each system on the apparatus with lists of items that should be inspected and maintained on a routine basis. These lists are not necessarily all-inclusive. In every case, the manufacturer’s manuals should be consulted for additional details.

Chapters 16 through 23 describe performance testing of the various systems on the apparatus. In most cases these tests should be performed annually. They also should be repeated if any system on the fire apparatus may have been subjected to over-stress or has had a repair that might affect the safety or performance of that system.

Chapter 16
Chapter 16 covers the Road Tests and Annual Weight Verification. Like most of us, fire trucks tend to gain weight as they age. Overweight apparatus not only increases wear and tear on the vehicle, but is a serious safety problem and frequently a contributing cause in rollover accidents. The tests of braking, steering, driving, parking brake, and weights are very impor-tant and should not be missed. Your department probably does not have its own truck scale, but scales are readily available locally at scrap metal dealers, moving companies, quarries, truck stops, and industrial plants. Many local or state police agencies or state motor vehicle enforcement agencies have scales, sometimes portable ones. The overweight issue was one of the original concerns that led to the development of this new integrated standard.

Chapter 17
Chapter 17 describes tests for the low voltage (12 volt) electrical system. These tests are designed to indicate electrical components that, while still “working”, are wearing out and could cause a problem and an unscheduled out-of-service situation in the next year.

Chapter 18
Chapter 18 covers the Performance Testing of Fire Pumps and Industrial Supply Pumps. This is the content that has been in NFPA 1911 for many years. All the requirements, procedures, equipment, and specifications are included. The material has been reorganized somewhat but the tests have not changed significantly. One of the most important parts of this testing is to compare the test results with the previous annual tests, going back to the pump tests performed on the new apparatus. Trends in performance can indicate developing problems long before the test fails. In order to be able to see these trends, it important to do these tests annually.

Chapter 19
Chapter 19 covers the Performance Testing of Aerial Devices. This is the content that has been in NFPA 1914 previously. Inspections are required every year. Some of the tests, involving nondestructive tests of the welds and other parts, are only required every 5 years. Some testers recommend that the best way to do the annual inspections is to do the nondestructive tests, which are more thorough and may not take much more time or money. If you ever raise your aerial, these tests are a must for safety. Your life could depend on the quality of this testing. Few departments have the facilities, equipment, and certified personnel to do these tests themselves. Most of us contract with an outside company specializing in such testing.

Chapters 20 and 21
Chapters 20 and 21 cover Performance Testing of Foam Propor-tioning Systems and Compressed Air Foam Systems (CAFS). These tests verify that the system is producing foam at the proper mixture of water and foam concentrate; and air in the case of CAFS. It is not easy to tell without this testing if the system is putting in too little foam concentrate (making it ineffective) or too much (wasting money). This test can easily pay for itself.

Chapter 22
Chapter 22 covers Performance Testing of Line Voltage Electrical Systems. As we add more line voltage electrical equipment to our apparatus, including lights, fans, rescue tools, and other equipment, we are more dependent on the reliability of the entire system. Safety is also a key concern with line voltage (120/240 volt) electrical systems. The tests are designed such that they can be done at the same time as the annual pump tests and run simultaneously. The annual test can be done without any special equipment, using the loads already carried on the apparatus. Once every 5 years the test will require a load bank for testing the power source, and a dielectric tester. If an outside testing company does the pump test, they can probably do the electrical test as well. A large department might want to invest in the necessary equipment so they can do these tests in-house along with the pump tests.

Improve fire apparatus performance, reliability and safety with the expanded NFPA 1911

Chapter 23
Chapter 23 covers Performance Testing of Breathing Air Compressor Systems. Normally these tests would be done by the compressor manufacturer in conjunction with the annual service on the compressor. If the manufacturer is no longer in business, a good breathing air service company can do the testing. An important part of this testing is sending an air sample out for testing of the breathing air quality.

Annex A
Annex A, as in most NFPA standards, is explanatory material keyed to sections in the main text. This is not mandatory requirement material, but is additional explanations, suggestions, testing suggestions and educational material. Each section in the main text that has Annex A material has an asterisk following the section number.

Annex B
Annex B has additional infor-mation on conducting pumping tests. This material was in the previous NFPA 1911. It includes both information on how to conduct the tests and possible symptoms and solutions around pumping problems. This is useful information for all pump operators, not just those conducting pumping system tests.

Annex C
Annex C covers Developing a Preventative Maintenance Program. Since the requirements for the City of Metropolis and for Smallville Volunteer Fire Company are very different, it does not give the specifics of the program, but discusses the process and requirements that should be met. If your department does not have a formal written preventative maintenance program, this is very worthwhile material. Annex C also contains sample check sheets for daily/weekly checks usually done by the firefighters, check sheets for more extensive quarterly or annual inspections by emergency vehicle technicians, and the forms for recording the results of annual per-formance tests. These sheets probably will not exactly meet the requirements of your department, but can serve as a template for developing your own internal sheets.

Annex D
Annex D covers Guidelines for First-Line and Reserve Fire Apparatus. It is similar to Annex D in NFPA 1901, 1906, and 1912. It provides assistance to the decision making process about when and whether to retire, refurbish, and/or replace apparatus. It can be used to help explain to those who control the money (city/town council, managers, fire commissioners, company directors, and chief officers) why money is needed for repair, refurbishment, or replacement of apparatus.

Annex E includes additional references.
NFPA 1911 is an essential resource that should be in every firehouse and every maintenance shop in your department.

How do you get a copy of NFPA 1911? Call the NFPA at 1-800-344-3555, or visit them at and click on “CODES & STANDARDS” and then “Purchase codes and stan-dards” and then put 1911 in the search box. Be sure to get the 2007 edition. The standard costs $44.00, but if your department or a member has an NFPA membership they can get it at the member’s price of $39.60.

Tom Stalnaker has over 33 years of experience as a volunteer firefighter, as an engineer and chief engineer, and serving on apparatus committees. He is a member of the NFPA’s technical committee on Fire Department Apparatus and serves as the chair of the electrical task group.

This entry was posted on Thursday, March 5th, 2009 at 2:40 pm and is filed under commentary articles. There are 5 Responses to “NFPA releases new Apparatus Maintenance and Testing Standard” :
Stackie Says:

Haha ^^ nice, is there a section to follow the RSS feed

admin Says:

Sure – if you use a modern browser, look for the RSS icon in the address bar – otherwise this is the link:

Jim Stradal Town of Stephenson Fire Dept. Chief Says:

I need to know if we need a DOT inspection done every year?

Tom Stalnaker Says:

The NFPA document does not address DOT inspections. In Pennsylvania we have a state required inspection every year (cars and trucks). I believe this meets the federal DOT requirements. I would check with a local truck service facility, fire truck dealer, or state DOT office. In any case you might check out the requirements of 49 CFR 396.21. From a safety standpoint, you certainly should have the inspections as described in NFPA 1911 done on a regular basis by qualified personnel. Other than any specific paperwork required, this should cover all the inspection points of a DOT inspection.

Kris Rivers Says:

every year you need to have an annual inspection performed on your aerials. during this inspection a dot inspection is included as far as checking over dot specific ndt criteria. when you have your 5 year inspections done a full ndt inspection is performed where all inspection points are covered and required ndt techniques are used.

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