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NFPA 1911-2012 addresses apparatus maintenance

The revised rule makes it clearer how to keep an apparatus in top running order

By James E. Johannessen

With the New Year came the release of the revised edition of “NFPA 1911, Standard for the Inspection, Maintenance, Testing, and Retirement of In-Service Automotive Fire Apparatus.”

This standard is probably one of the most important documents a fire department can possess and follow. When dealing with daily, weekly and quarterly inspections, preventive maintenance, and annual testing it is the go-to document.

The 2007 edition of this standard was a combination of the old “NFPA 1911, Standard for Service Tests of Fire Pump Systems on Fire Apparatus;" “NFPA 1914 Standard for the Testing of Fire Department Aerial Devices;" and “NFPA 1915, Standard for Fire Apparatus Preventive Maintenance Program.” The goal was to create one document that would make it easier for fire departments to evaluate the status of in-service fire apparatus.

There are several key updates since the 2007 edition was released.

The document can be broken into four main sections beginning with the informational chapters — chapters 1-6. Chapters 1 through 4 cover administration, reference publications, definitions and general requirements of the standard, respectively. Chapter 5 covers the retirement of in-service fire apparatus, and chapter 6 covers out of service criteria.

The second section, chapters 7-15, covers the components and the systems that make up a fire apparatus. They detail what systems and components need to be inspected and maintained, as well as how and how often to inspect them.

The third section, chapters 16-23, covers performance testing by component. Similar to the section on inspection and maintenance, these chapters detail testing procedures and testing frequency of the different components on the apparatus.

Finally, the annex contains information that reaffirms and clarifies items in the standard’s main body. It also includes loose equipment weight charts, sample test data sheets and guides to assist developing a maintenance program.

General Requirements
Chapter 4 states that all in-service fire apparatus must meet the requirements of NFPA 1911. The important item here is that if the apparatus is a front-line piece unit or if it is a reserve unit that might be put in service, then it must meet all applicable sections of the standard.

The most significant updates to chapter 4 relate to the qualifications of personnel. It now requires that in addition to persons performing diagnostic checks, inspections or maintenance, anyone performing testing of the apparatus or its component must meet the qualifications of “NFPA 1071, Standard for Emergency Vehicle Technician Professional Qualifications,” or the equivalent.

That same requirement now applies to personnel performing pump test and annual aerial tests. Additionally, personnel can be certified by an organization that is accredited for inspection and testing systems on fire apparatus in accordance with “ISO/IEC 17020, General Criteria for the Operation of Various Types of Bodies Performing Inspections.”

The NFPA committee recognized the need for fire departments to have a level of confidence in the various testing organizations that are involved in testing and certifying fire apparatus. To assure accurate, thorough and correct inspection and test procedures, the committee voted to require accreditation of third-party test companies.

ISO/IEC 17020 is an internationally recognized standard for the competence of inspection bodies. ISO 17020 is the only accepted standard in NFPA 1911 and all testing organizations must comply with the requirements.

In order to gain accreditation to ISO/IEC 17020, a third-party testing organization must, at a minimum:

  • meet all requirements of ISO/IEC;
  • possess a fully documented and implemented quality system conforming to all elements of ISO/IEC 17020;
  • possess a robust controlled document system for inspection methods and procedures, report and certificate processing, and record retention;
  • have proof of competency of personnel to perform inspections as required by the NFPA 1911, 2012 standard, this includes NDT technicians meeting the requirements of ASNT CP-189;
  • have state-of-the-art facilities and equipment to perform inspections including a comprehensive calibration system;
  • be independence, impartial, and possess integrity and confidentiality; and
  • have in place a fully functional customer complaint and appeal process

Chapters 5-17 also remain unchanged. The only addition to chapter 6 is that if transmission oil is contaminated with coolant, it is now an out-of-service condition.

Chapter 18, which covers the testing fire and industrial supply pumps, had only three key changes. Performance testing has replaced service testing to better describe the test. There is a statement to allow for additional methods of measuring flow during the pumping portion of the performance test.

And, in the previous standard, if the engine speed was not within +/- 50 rpm of the governed engine speed as recorded on the pump test plate, the reason for the difference would need to be determined and corrected prior to the start of the test. Now, if the rpm readings are outside that range, the test may be conducted as long as there will be no harmful effects to the vehicle as a result of the test.

Aerial updates
Chapter 19 covers aerial-device performance testing and contains more updates than any of the standard’s other chapters.

Perhaps the most significant addition is the requirement that third-party testing companies that perform nondestructive testing (NDT) must be accredited to the requirements of ISO/IEC 17020. Remember, fire departments should only use testing organizations that have a current ISO/IEC 17020 accreditation.

Other changes in chapter 19 deal with:

  • Performance test has replaced service test to better describe the test.
  • The inspection of the bolts and/or welds to secure the suspension system components no longer include NDT.
  • If the aerial device has computer-controlled or electronically controlled limitations to the range of aerial movement, a test shall be performed to validate the system’s proper operation.
  • Recording of the compensator pressure is no longer required.
  • Clarification for torqueing the ladder cradle to chassis frame mounting bolts has been added. This applies to cradles for both aerial ladders and boom-type aerial devices.
  • Flow meters shall be tested for accuracy as recommended by the apparatus manufacturer instead of being verified at the manufacturers maximum-rated water system flow.

Chapters 20, 21 and 23 remain unchanged.

Chapter 22, which deals with performance testing of line voltage electrical systems, only has two updates. The first provides further explanation of GFCI testing which appears in the Annex B section of the document. The other explains the running of a power source (generator) during the in-service pump test.

As with any standard, it only works if people use it. NFPA 1911-2007 was a comprehensive change from the previous testing and maintenance standards. The 2012 edition continues to improve upon the safety of the vehicle for the safety of firefighter and the public it protects. Please secure a copy, and more importantly, use it.

James E. Johannessen, Engineering Associate Lead, has worked with the Fire Equipment Services group of UL for 29 years. Mr. Johannessen has been a member of the NFPA 1901(Automotive Fire Apparatus) committee for 10 years and NFPA 1917 (Standard for Automotive Ambulances) committee for three years.