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The Workings and Processes of the NFPA 414 Technical Committee

By Alan Petrillo

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) wants to have diverse groups in its committees that review and suggest changes to standards in order to include as wide a variety as possible of different interest categories. When it comes to the committee charged with handling NFPA 414, Standard for Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Vehicles, the committee is made up members from nearly a dozen different categories.

Rob C. Mathis, fire marshal for Enterprise Security and Fire Prevention at Boeing Fire Department in Seattle, Washington, and a member of the Technical Committee on Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting, says, “We want to make sure we have everyone on this committee and that it is balanced. Any one category can’t go over a certain percentage, and the committee can’t have more than one-third membership in any single interest category.

The current 414 Technical Committee has categories that include applied research testing laboratories, customers and end users, enforcing authorities, installers and maintainers, manufacturers, fire equipment manufacturers, special expert, enforcing authority, and labor.

Mathis notes that the committee has a principal member from each category, who is the voting member, as well as an alternate in each category. Committee meetings are governed by Roberts Rules of Order.

Once a standard is published, the cycle for modifying it starts with that latest edition, Mathis says.

“Once the standard is published, people can start making public comments on possible revisions for the next edition,” he says. “When the committee is ready to pursue a first draft, it indicates when public input closes, then conducts a first draft meeting in person. The committee looks at the public input submitted by the general public and the committee itself, reviews it all, works with it, and puts it into first draft form. Then it goes to ballot by the committee to vote yea or nay on the different inputs. Then the first draft report is posted on the NFPA Web site.”

Mathis points out that a ⅔ positive vote is needed on all changes made to the 414 Standard.

“Making changes to the standard involves a good democratic process,” he says. “Each committee member has an opportunity to be heard.”

After the first draft is published, Mathis says the committee goes to step two, which is the public comment stage on the first draft, which this year lasted until May for the 414 Standard. In August, the committee will held a second draft meeting, took all the comments and sharpened their scope, eventually putting the document together. Then the committee took a second draft ballot and posted the second draft on the NFPA Web site.

“That document then moves to the consent standard, which could become the final document as long as a challenge is not filed,” Mathis says. Such a challenge would take the form of a Notice of Intent to Make a Motion (NITMAM), which goes directly to the NFPA’s Technical Committee. If a NITMAM is filed, the 414 committee chair and the technical liaison would go to the Technical Committee meeting to defend its position and the process by which the document was produced.”

Mathis notes, “We’ve never had a NITMAN on the 414 Technical Committee which tells me we have a good committee that makes sure every voice is heard, and their concerns addressed.”

ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based journalist, the author of three novels and five nonfiction books, and a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment  Editorial Advisory Board. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief.

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