ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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Standards Help Fire Fighters Battle Mammoth Wildfires


New York, Nov 05, 2003

Fire fighters in Southern California have finally gained control over the devastating wildfires that took the lives of twenty people, destroyed more than 2,800 homes and caused more than an estimated $2 billion in damage in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Ventura and San Diego counties. One firefighter lost his life out of the more than 13,000 firefighters that battled the conflagration that is now being called California’s biggest natural disaster ever. A number of standards and codes from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), an ANSI member and accredited standards developer, deal directly with wildland fire personnel and safety issues.

NFPA 1143, Standard for Wildland Fire Management, was adopted by NFPA in 1934 and has been updated more than eight times. In developing the current edition, the technical committee recognized the development of the United States National Fire Plan and numerous mitigation efforts to address the ailing forests and endangered communities in or near forested areas. The document incorporates information to help small community and volunteer fire departments prepare for fire suppression in forested and wildland areas as well as the wider task of wildland fire management.

NFPA 1144, Standard for Protection of Life and Property from Wildfire, presents basic criteria for fire agencies, land use planners, architects, developers, and local government for planning development in areas that may be threatened by wildfire. Large wildland/urban interface fires have demonstrated that fire fighters are often placed in dangerous situations due to inadequate planning and design of roadways, signs, water supplies, and other infrastructure considerations. This document has been officially adopted by many state and local governments and is intended to help protect the lives of both residents and fire fighters as well as reduce property damage when wildfires strike.

All first responders need the right equipment to perform their job effectively and be protected. NFPA 1977, Standard on Protective Clothing and Equipment for Wildland Fire Fighting, was developed in response to requests from the wildland fire service to establish a standard covering the protective clothing and equipment used by fire fighters during wildland fire-fighting operations. The goal of this standard is to provide thermal protection for the wildland fire fighter against external heat sources with flame-resistant clothing and equipment while not inducing an extraordinary internal heat stress load.

In the wake of the California fires and the 9/11 tragedy, there is a renewed call to government to support the needs of first responders. The head of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), Harold Schaitberger, recently called upon President Bush to re-formulate his current policies toward the fire service. In a letter sent to the President, Schaitberger asked for more funding of emergency responders and the creation a bi-partisan task force to develop a comprehensive national plan to address this critical homeland security issue. Schaitberger’s letter underscored the dangers of fire fighting and the need for proper resources to adequately respond to such incidents rapidly in the future. "While the federal government has taken the first steps on the road to preparedness with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the infusion of more resources for the first responder community, much more is required."

AN INTRODUCTION TO STANDARDS: WHY, WHERE AND HOW ARE THEY DEVELOPED?