The 2007 edition of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1911, Standard for the Inspection, Maintenance, Testing and Retirement of In-Service Automotive Fire Apparatus, is a combination of the following previously issued standards:
- NFPA 1911, Standard for Service Tests of Fire Pump Systems on Fire Apparatus.
- NFPA 1914, Standard for Testing Fire Department Aerial Devices.
- NFPA 1915, Standard for Fire Apparatus Preventive Maintenance Program.
The purpose of this standard is to provide all of the inspection, maintenance, and testing requirements in one document to ensure you service and maintain fire apparatus to keep them in safe operating condition. This document is essential for anyone charged with maintaining fire department apparatus but is not a replacement for the operator’s, service, and maintenance manuals issued by the manufacturer. When the standard references a time period for a particular inspection, it is always followed by “or at least as frequently as recommended by the manufacturer.”
All fire departments should have an organized schedule for operational checking, inspection, diagnostic checking, and maintenance of their fire apparatus. The standard calls for an operational and visual check on a daily or weekly basis to ensure the operational readiness of the unit and a complete inspection and diagnostic check at least annually. Annex C contains sample forms of all required inspection and testing procedures.
It is essential that you maintain records of all inspections, repair requests, preventive maintenance, repairs, and testing. Maintain records for the life of the apparatus and transfer them with the unit if it has a change of ownership.
RETIREMENT OF FIRE APPARATUS
For the first time, retirement of fire apparatus is briefly discussed in the body of the standard. Previously it was only contained in Annex D of NFPA 1901. It essentially says that the fire department shall consider safety as the primary concern in the retirement of fire apparatus. It goes on to say that retired apparatus shall not be used for emergency operations.
An extensive discussion of guidelines for first-line and reserve apparatus is contained in Annex D of this standard.
When an apparatus defect is discovered, it is the responsibility of the fire department to provide guidance for the operator as to what action to take, depending on the severity of the defect. The standard has out-of-service criteria identified for the following general areas:
- Driving and Crew Areas, Apparatus Body and Compartmentation.
- Chassis, Axles, Steering and Suspension Systems, Driveline, Wheels and Tires.
- Engine Systems.
- Engine Cooling System.
- Transmission and Clutch.
- Low-Voltage and Line Voltage Electrical Systems.
- Braking Systems.
- Air Brake Systems.
- Hydraulic Brake Systems.
- Fire Pump System.
- Aerial Device System.
In each category, the standard provides excellent guidance as to when you should take the apparatus or identified component out of service and when you should call in a qualified technician to evaluate the component.
The fire department should have readily available a standard operating procedure identifying the conditions that qualify for an immediate out-of-service declaration and those that should be reported for evaluation. In 1991, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated a fatal apparatus accident and serious questions were raised as to why a vehicle with known defective brakes remained in service. Proper guidance for the engine crew may have prevented that accident.
INSPECTION AND MAINTENANCE
The chapters following the out-of-service criteria cover inspection and maintenance of various components of the chassis and body, electrical system, pump and tanks, aerial devices, foam systems, compressed air foam systems, utility and breathing air systems, and winches. Each chapter describes in detail what component areas to inspect and diagnostically check. The mechanic need only select the systems that pertain to the apparatus and inspect accordingly.
Road tests such as a detailed description of how to test the braking system are included. Conditions during the road test such as improper shifting, vibrations, drifting or pulling during acceleration, and braking and abnormal noise all require investigation and correction.
Another important requirement is the annual weight verification. While the apparatus may be fully compliant to the axle weight ratings at delivery, the addition of equipment or systems over the years could result in a dangerously overweight vehicle that has poor handling characteristics or increased stopping distance. A detailed procedure and an apparatus weight form will assist the inspector in determining axle loading. If you discover an overweight condition, you must correct the situation.
The first item of performance testing is the low-voltage electrical system (Chapter 17). Modern apparatus have become more reliant on a sound electrical system to control all vehicle functions including engine and transmission electronics, antilock brake systems, pump pressure governors, and aerial system controls. Battery system, alternator, and load testing are all described in detail to guide the technician performing these tests.
Chapter 18, “Performance Testing of Fire Pumps and Industrial Supply Pumps,” takes the place of the previously named NFPA 1911, Standard for Service Tests of Fire Pump Systems on Fire Apparatus. All of the conditions for testing and pump service testing requirements are contained in this chapter.
Chapter 19, “Performance Testing of Aerial Devices,” takes the place of NFPA 1914, Standard for Testing Fire Department Aerial Devices. It covers inspection and load testing of aerial ladders, elevating platforms, and water towers.
Other chapters focus on the following: “Performance Testing of Foam Proportioning Systems”; “Performance Testing of Compressed Air Foam Systems (CAFS)”; “Performance Testing of Line Voltage Electrical Systems”; and “Breathing Air Compressor Systems.”
ANNEX A, EXPLANATORY MATERIAL
Don’t overlook Annex A, “Explanatory Material.” This contains some of the best information in the standard. Items here are not part of the requirements of the standard but provide excellent guidance and information on why certain requirements are included and additional information on how to accomplish the tests.
ANNEX B, CONDUCTING PUMPING TESTS
Annex B is like an instructional guide to setting up and conducting pump service tests. Included in this section are troubleshooting tips and discharge tables for smooth nozzles for calculating flows.
ANNEX C, DEVELOPING A PREVENTIVE MAINTANCE PROGRAM
Annex C is designed to help departments develop a plan to ensure that the preventive maintenance program performs all the work needed to keep the apparatus in top condition. It outlines the resources that the fleet will need such as towing; tire service; provisions for fuel and lubricants; and repair of the chassis, pump, aerial, and components. A number of sample forms are provided to guide the operator during the daily/weekly check as well as more detailed checks for a technician to perform quarterly or annual inspection of the apparatus pump, aerial, foam systems, and electrical systems.
ANNEX D, GUIDELINES FOR FIRST-LINE AND RESERVE FIRE APPARATUS
Annex D essentially takes into consideration all of the operational and safety changes that have evolved over the years since the 1991 standard went into effect. Since that time, major safety improvements have been required on all new fire apparatus.
Annex D recommends that apparatus manufactured prior to 1991 and less than 25 years old that have been properly maintained and that still are in serviceable condition should be placed in reserve status and upgraded to incorporate as many of the post-1991 features as possible. Apparatus not manufactured to the applicable NFPA fire apparatus standards or more than 25 years old should be replaced.
The following items are listed as being a minimum guide for upgrading, whether in first-line or reserve service:
- Fully enclosed seating for all members.
- Warning lights that meet the current standard.
- Reflective striping.
- Slip resistance of walking surfaces and handrails that meet the current standard.
- A load manager installed in the low-voltage electrical system, if necessary.
- The alternator output capable of meeting the total continuous load on the low-voltage electrical system.
- The installation of an auxiliary braking system if the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is more than 36,000 pounds.
- Ground and step lighting.
- Reduced noise levels in the cab and crew cab.
- Horns and sirens relocated low and forward.
- Seat belts available in all seats.
- Signs indication “no riding” on open areas.
- A pump shift indicator system is present and working for vehicles equipped with an automatic transmission.
- An interlock is present on vehicles equipped with electronic engine throttle controls to prevent engine speed advancement at the operator’s panel unless the transmission is in neutral with the parking brake engaged or unless the parking brake is engaged, the fire pump is engaged, and the chassis transmission is in pumping gear.
- All loose equipment in the driving and crew areas is securely mounted.
As a final note, Annex D advises taking special care when evaluating the cost of refurbishing or updating an apparatus vs. the cost of purchasing a new unit. In many instances, you will find that refurbishing costs will greatly exceed the current value of similar apparatus.
ONE CONVENIENT STANDARD
The NFPA has done a great service by incorporating all of this necessary information into one convenient standard. For the safety of your members, obtain the standard, read it, and apply the information it contains.
William C. Peters retired after 28 years with the Jersey City (NJ) Fire Department, having served the past 17 years as battalion chief/supervisor of apparatus, with the responsibility of purchasing and maintaining the apparatus fleet. He served as a voting member of the NFPA 1901 apparatus committee for several years, representing apparatus users. He is the author of Fire Apparatus Purchasing Handbook (Fire Engineering, 1994); two chapters on apparatus in The Fire Chief’s Handbook, Fifth and Sixth Editions (Fire Engineering, 1995); and numerous apparatus-related articles. He is a member of the Fire Engineering editorial advisory board and of the FDIC Executive Advisory Board. He lectures extensively on apparatus purchase and safety issues. He can be reached at email@example.com.