Adopting standards is a contentious issue

To adopt or not to adopt is a debate somewhat unique to the fire service

Editor’s Note:

Editor's note: Chief Adam K. Thiel looks at the recent debate on whether or not volunteers should be held to national fire-fighting standards. 

This story reflects an ongoing debate across the United States; one that is relevant to all fire departments, not just those relying principally on volunteers.

The role of standards in delivering fire and emergency services can be a contentious issue. These standards can be voluntary or adopted by governments as laws, regulations, or ordinances and relate to such items as training, staffing, equipment, health and safety, and apparatus.

The answers are not easy and multiple viewpoints are involved, including those of different fire service organizations, state (and sometimes federal) agencies, manufacturers and private firms, enforcement authorities, local governments, and many others.

In a lot of industries, the use of standards is taken for granted, and most people expect it. Imagine what you would think if airlines were allowed to conduct business however they want, without regard for established standards and best practices.

At the same time, regulators and standards-making bodies generally take a lot of input from various stakeholders before promulgating regulations, since they're sensitive to the additional costs and implementation challenges that sometimes result.

However you feel about the specifics of your local and state regulatory environment, you can get involved in the National Fire Protection Association's voluntary, consensus-based process to develop standards for the fire and emergency services industry by visiting the NFPA web site.

Stay safe!

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel — FireRescue1's editorial advisor — is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

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