Personal Escape systems should be included in the Next NFPA 1971 Standard

I once heard the saying “why pay a man two dollars when he will work for one.” We all know in the fire service very few administrations are safety minded when it comes down to asking for more money for equipment that does not make someone look good or get them re-elected. For years fire departments suffered without pass devices on their SCBA’s and eventually in 2002 the revised NFPA standard for SCBA included Head’s Up Display and Universal Air connections. NFPA 2007 incorporated the integrated pass. We all remember the fight for pass devices. So now it is time to take it a step further with the next edition of turnout gear to include a professional grade personal escape system. The mindset that oh we will never need that or that only happens in the big cities is going to get more firefighters injured or worse killed. If we went as far as pushing for a DRD that gets covered up most of the time because of improperly worn SCBA it is that important to include personal escape systems on the next NFPA 1971 2012. It would be much better if this was an OSHA mandate or AFG funding was provided so that fire departments could all meet this standard. What are your thoughts and feelings on this? Let your voice be heard contact members of the NFPA committee for 1971.

31 Comments

  • Chris says:

    I hope they do not have some sort of personal escape system mandated in the next 1971. While I am not at all against the devices, I don’t need somebody else telling me what to carry, made of what, or how long. What I need here at home where the tallest building is 4 stories is different from what I need at work where the tallest is 27. Plus, I am a firm believer that this would solve absolutely nothing. I believe that the “firemen” who aren’t carrying their own escape device are the same “firemen” who will not train with this new mandated device and will not be able to use it properly or swiftly should the need arise. The problem is the grossly overweight “firemen” who doesn’t take his job seriously enough to keep himself in some sort of physical condition. The problem is the paid man who has taken his job for granted and no longer comes to work ready to train hard, even if he doesn’t get to “play hard” today. The problem is the volunteer who only ever comes out for runs and parades. These are the guys who will get themselves, or you, into a tight spot, and not have the training or tools to safely mitigate the situation. Maybe we should mandate that all firemen carry a set of wedges with them because I’m sure somewhere along the line a door has closed on a dry line preventing it from getting charged? Just because you put it in their pocket, doesn’t mean they’re going to use it. Many of the departments have gotten too wrapped up in being “paper firemen”. Everything is about standards, policies, procedures and reports, and if you know all of these, well then I guess you’re a good firemen and you’ll get promoted. And this follows in that same train of thought. If we mandate a safety system in a NFPA policy then it must make firefighters safer. That sir, is incorrect. Our problem, is our mentality.

    I don’t consider myself an old school guy at all, and actually most of those guys leave a bad taste in my mouth, at least where I’m from. However, I have met some old school guys who have what I will call the “warrior spirit.” That personal pride they took in preparing themselves to do battle, and being able to do it well. Having the right tool at the right time, knowing how to get out and where should the need arise, acting upon initiative, thinking outside the box, and having the rig set up the most combat ready way in even the most minute details. These are the guys who would take the time to change something even if it will only save them a few seconds on the fire ground. “Time is everything.” These are all the things we are lacking and have been attempting to make up for with policy and paper.

    I will wrap up with this. If you are a firemen, a real firemen, then any published standard that comes out requiring you to have “X” escape device will not effect you at all. You will have already put in the forethought to know your first due area, and what you may need to have or do in order to immediately escape a dangerous situation, and you’ve tried it. And if you needed something, you bought it. You didn’t wait for it to be issued. Why? Because that’s your job, and that’s who you are. No policy or piece of paper can make or change that. If you find yourself needing these mandates to progress yourself in the fire service it’s time you looked in the mirror and do a gut check.

    Maybe this only reflects where I’ve come from.

  • Chad Cox says:

    We are looking at the new morning pride and globe bunker pants that have the integrated harness and bailout pocket on the right side. We r also going with the sterling bailout system with the f4 and Crosby hook. Any thoughts or experience with these?

  • firestudent1 says:

    Chris,
    I enjoyed reading your passionate post and agree with most of what you said.

    The parts I disagree with are the parts of being real firefighters would all ready carry what they need. I do know lots of firefighters who carry homemade versions of escape systems and do not train and probably could not access the system they created for all the other things they have in there pockets.

    I also disagree that just because you only have a maximum height of 27 feet in your home district, I hope you have ladders thrown all the time to every window.

    I feel your pain as far as the paper firefighters and the lack of wanting to train mentality possessed by a lot of firefighters today. You have a lot of great points and again I agree with some and disagree with others. Thank you for commenting on our site and we look forward to your thoughts and comments in the future

  • firestudent1 says:

    Chad, I have not tried the integrated harness in the pants but have tried the F4 and have had great success during and that is the issue as Chris said above you must train to find out where your hang ups are going to be. I found it very easy to hit the handle and free fall if you were not careful. The best system I have tried to date is the NARS system made by RPI. email us at firefighterbasics@gmail.com so that we can discuss a little bit further.

  • Kevin says:

    Chris makes some outstanding points. Personally I am against intergrated systems.
    1. Cost in a time of budgets stretched to the max raising the cost of bunker gear is short of insane.
    2. You are forceing small departments which may not have anything over a one story or wildland based to comply. There is a survey put out through New York state to determine your needs. While it does leave out many “factors” it is a good start.
    3. With my current system if I destroy or contaminate my gear, I simply move the system to the new gear. What is the chance that with intergrated I will show up at quartermater to get new gear that does not have a system.
    4. I would for see many members walking around in systems not maintained, untrained for using and parts missing. Then when it is needed someone will get hurt and there will be the knee jerk reaction to remove and ban them.

    Escape systems and the training requires a “Buy in program” for the department not a forced option that slides in through new gear.

  • Tony says:

    I believe every FF should carry one and most of all it should be purchased by the department and supported by sound, safe training. The issue I have is the latest NFPA standard resulted in restrictions that where supposed to benifit the FF but in reality mostly benifits the manufacturer of the PPE. Once the standard was in place the price of the equipment went up and with the limits on “life span” reguardless if it was in service or on the shelf, cleaning requirments, repair restrictions, and several other rules it is evident the main benifactor was the PPE industry. With the economy and the “price of doing business” going up most departments will continue to strugle with maintaining staffing levels let alone purchasing any extra equipment. If we mandate escape equipment I can only imagine how much the price would go up just because they can knowing we have to buy it. It sucks but that is reality.

  • Tony says:

    I believe every FF should carry one and most of all it should be purchased by the department and supported by sound, safe training. The issue I have is the latest NFPA standard resulted in restrictions that where supposed to benifit the FF but in reality mostly benifits the manufacturer of the PPE. Once the standard was in place the price of the equipment went up and with the limits on “life span” reguardless if it was in service or on the shelf, cleaning requirments, repair restrictions, and several other rules it is evident the main benifactor was the PPE industry. With the economy and the “price of doing business” going up most departments will continue to strugle with maintaining staffing levels let alone purchasing any extra equipment. If we mandate escape equipment I can only imagine how much the price would go up just because they can knowing we have to buy it. It sucks but that is reality.

  • firestudent1 says:

    Guys I’m not advocating integrated. I’m advocating some form whether it be a pocket kit but, some form of system. I do see the point about small departments and if you can show where you do not have the need then be exempt, but my goal is to get something started. Always enjoy your comments hope you are well

  • firestudent1 says:

    Guys I’m not advocating integrated. I’m advocating some form whether it be a pocket kit but, some form of system. I do see the point about small departments and if you can show where you do not have the need then be exempt, but my goal is to get something started. Always enjoy your comments hope you are well

  • Kevin says:

    The thing about the need survey…it puts most departments with a system.

  • Kevin says:

    The thing about the need survey…it puts most departments with a system.

  • firestudent1 says:

    Can we get a copy of this survey. Or is your point that the survey is slanted

  • firestudent1 says:

    Can we get a copy of this survey. Or is your point that the survey is slanted

  • pfd24 says:

    http://www.firefighternation.com/video/mayday-audio-from-fdny-black

    FDNY Black Sunday, read the write-up and listen to the audio.

  • pfd24 says:

    http://www.firefighternation.com/video/mayday-audio-from-fdny-black

    FDNY Black Sunday, read the write-up and listen to the audio.

  • Kevin says:

    I will post it when I find it. I am putting a kitchen door up at the house. I am way better at tearing them up than putting them in. No the survey is not slanted.

  • Dave LeBlanc says:

    When I first read the title I immediately thought of the Andy Fredericks quote, “if you put the first out, you won’t have to jump out the windows.”

    Obviously there are situations that we cannot account for, no matter how prepared, and situations like “Black Sunday” will happen. But they should be the exception, not the rule.

    One issue I see with bailout systems is the required training for them to be issued and then keeping that training current. It isn’t as easy as hooking up to a hydrant. There needs to be a suitable place to train and safety lines need to be rigged. Not your average “daily drill”.

    Everything we add to our equipment increases weight, training requirements, maintenance costs and replacement costs. All at a time where there is little money do to cover the most basic needs.

    I have to say I am really on the fence about it being part of the standard, for some of the reasons others have mentioned, as well as some of my own thoughts.

  • Kevin says:

    I am in total agreement with “If you put the fire out you don’t have to jump out the windows” but I am also not out of touch to know….
    lines burst
    nozzles break
    firefighters have heart attacks on the line
    Officers have problems with rookies on the line
    Lines don’t always go the right way
    the list goes on
    A wise Officer once told me you can break training down training down to Gott’a know, need to know and nice to know. The common cry is “Do we have to do basics AGAIN! Well when I quit watching Widows weep over Brothers that die advancing handlines because they got lost, the answer is yes. Engine company members don’t loose your line!

  • Dave LeBlanc says:

    Good point Kevin, and I agree the unknown can happen. And we should be prepared for that.

    John Norman writes about never having to rely on someone else to get. Having a way out and then an alternate way out. Good tactics – but how many really practice them?

    We, the Fire Service, are enamoured with “things” to correct actions that are a result of bad training, no training, or complacency. Acountability comes to mind……along with some others.

    Bail out kits are important, but so are 100 other things. I guess I don’t have the faith that making in part of the NFPA Standard will accomplish what we hope it does.

  • Kevin says:

    I agree with Dave on the accountability and I think electronic had led us down a road of “Well we have T-Pass, SCBA alarms” and away from keeping up with our crews.

    I have a “No trust policy” on Thermal Imagers and electronic accountability. As long as I really don’t trust them I stay orientated and if they fail it is no big deal. We navigated without TICS for years. They are great tool no doubt.

    As for escape systems I do trust that the members will do everything in “their power” to come an get us. Keywords their power and should they no longer have that power I still have a way out.

  • Engine Captain Missouri says:

    Ok guys I’m late as usual, but here goes. We go back to training! whether we get these integrated or not, we all must have a plan if we get jammed up. I’ve got my plan and it doesn’t include you probie, for those that know me, they know my humor, Every One Goes Home! Seriously, if we integrate these different type rescue harnesses, but don’t do the proper training, you tube is going to have a mess of videos of Brothers trying to bail and the chute doesn’t open. TRAIN MY FRIENDS! NFPA, IAFC, IAFF, whatever the letters, it’s up to guys like myself, Dave, Firestudent1, the bosses to make our people proficient at using the tools of our trade!

  • HallwaySledge says:

    It’s funny that this topic comes up now. I have just submitted a drill request to the Training Officer to train on everyone’s PES. Our department does not issue them but many guys have bought their own or made their own. It is my personal opinion that if the guys are carrying them, the department is allowing it and it can save someone’s life then we as a Training Division need to ensure that our members can deploy them quickly and safely. I am meeting with opposition thus-far.

    As for becoming part of 1971, I totally understand and agree with many of the opinions that the price will be jacked because the manufacturers know they can. And yes, it happened with the SCBA’s, but no one is questioning how many lives SCBA has saved or cases of cancer they have prevented. There are certain things that I believe are so important that money must be found somewhere, compliant bunker gear, compliant SCBA’s, compliant helmets, etc. Some other things, like the retro-reflective striping on the backs of the rigs, in all reality will probably not prevent anyone from running into us that wasn’t going to in the first place.

    I believe that the PES belongs in the former category, find the money. And this comes from someone who’s department is down 8 positions, has almost all OT cut, almost all outside education cut and almost all Pub Ed cut. I think it’s that important. We all know the dangers of light-weight construction, the poisonous and extremely flammable nature of todays smoke and the fact that almost everyone is responding in on a job with fewer people nowadays. Even good firemen find themselves in situations that went South way too quickly. There should be something more available than the guys who may not be outside to throw a ladder.

  • anchorpoint1 says:

    Wow. I leave the country for 1 week and you guys start hashing out escape systems without me. As usual I’m impressed by ideas brought up here.
    Chris, I loved the rant.
    Cox, I have that integrated system, love the decent device and Crosby hook. In my system that I use on my non integrated harness pants I changed out the carabiner for the hook. I was involved with the testing of a bunch of these systems for my department. My department went with the “We have experience, we don’t bailout” option. Even though we have had an assortment of ladder bails and firefighters cut off from the water supply in the last few years.
    I work in an urban department we NEED these things. Does Humptulips, Washington need them? Probably not. But I also know small departments with HUGE manufacturing plants where the biggest problem is finding your way out, I hope NFPA does not mandate a 1mi search rope also or we will have some useless probies. In the even that I start to get below 2 good options (like stairway exit and ladder exit) I start to think “OK, pay attention now”. When I get down to 1 option left that’s when I check check my bailout system and start calling for outside companies to assist (throw more ladders etc..).
    Sledge, you bring up an interesting point, if a department knows the members are carrying a bailout system what is the departments role/liability on that? But that question could be extended to all equipment modifications.

    My thoughts
    1. I like the survey idea. If you don’t need it, you don’t need it.
    2. American government policy is dictated by big businesses.
    3. NFPA is in the business of self perpetuation. If they stop putting out new and updated codes they will cease to exist.
    4. It is up to YOU to be prepared for the hazards in your area.
    5. It’s up to YOU to go home to your family at the end of your shift.
    6. Crap does happen.
    7. I could say say something about NIOSH too, but we’ll save that for another day. maybe Thursday.
    Be safe.

  • Bill Carey says:

    Marques,
    You asked for my thoughts and here they are. Throughout the years the fire service has dealt with line of duty deaths in a myriad of ways. The currently unchanged shotgun approach is to have nationally recognized associations create and endorse solutions in almost generic, neutral methods. This leaves many departments and municipalities freely able to pick and choose which prevention recommendations and life saving initiatives they wish to incorporate. That in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The problem lies when initiatives and recommendations are tied with merchandising. The saying ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ has been the legacy of the American fire service. Everything from the Halligan bar to high-rise blankets have found their origin in the problem of some fire department. Many of our tools are reactionary, in other words they exist to perform in response to a problem, not prior to a problem. Many of the products designed for our personal safety are reactionary and have a origin based on fatalism. PASS devices; thermal imaging cameras; enclosed cabs; backup warning devices, all were created because someone died and to stop others from dieing in the same manner. It is easy to rectify a tragedy by offering a solution of substance; by saying ‘here, use this and your department will never have to go through this tragedy again.’ Unfortunately human nature prevents this from being successful.

    The same thought applies to strategic and tactical recommendations. Broad neutral remedies are offered as solutions to sloppy, and at times downright shameful firefighting, and are done so without any instruction on how to correct the current culture. Again, this leaves departments to pick and choose what suits them best, or what they find culturally favorable. In most cases, just like with tangible solutions, true change never occurs.

    The only true validation any bailout kit will have, will not come from a NFPA standard, but from departments that take the time to openly investigate their firefighting problems. These departments will first make the necessary personnel, tactical, strategic and cultural changes first and then supplement and reinforce those changes with the appropriate tools. Departments that simply rely on picking and choosing the various association standards and recommendations without bothering to invest in the practice will only look good on paper. They will not be making their firefighters any safer than they had before such standards and recommendations existed. I wrote about this and a series of Houston line of duty deaths. Despite numerous recommendations, and actually having the tool, thermal imaging cameras did not save some of their dead firefighters. Likewise, regarding the FDNY, how many bailout kits could have saved their dead firefighters since Larry Fitzpatrick and Gerald Frisby died? My point isn’t that they do not have a valuable place, but that they are only reactionary life-saving measures. In the end, they will only become an additional burden, as in cost, maintenance, training and replacement, to departments that could make more of an impact by taking a stronger stance on the medical and physical health of its members.

    Finally, through work I see a number of fireground operations and behaviors. The fire service, unfortunately, has a large number of departments that still cannot attack fire properly. Ladders not thrown, hoselines stretched wrong, ventilation done that increases the fire spread and communication issues that are nearly chaotic. Endorsing a bailout kit standard does nothing to rectify those problems, and may well place firefighters in greater jeopardy. Until the errors in the basics are corrected standards attached to merchandise will be nothing more than fire service commercialism.

    Bill Carey

  • I think that all you gentleman have made allot of very valid, insightful and thought provoking points and I can respect everyone of them. In my opinion, the 2012 NFPA 1971 standard should have a PES written into it. I am currently wearing a lumbar bag with 50 feet of Sterling Ropes FireTech 32, a 7.5mm technora sheath and core rope (which Im cutting down to 40), a Sterling F4 auto locking escape descent device and Sterlings three stage Safe-D Carabiner attached to my Gemtor Class 2 external harness. I have a Crosby Hook sewn into the rope for anchoring. All these products have been tested together as a system and individually as well, to meet NFPA 1983 compliance. Is it heavier? Yes. Is it bulkier? Indeed. Do I train with it? Absolutely! I am a big fan of the “If you put fires out you don’t have to jump out of windows” theory. I am also a fan of being alive, and wearing this system gives me a chance to stay that way if something happens to go wrong at a working structure fire. I know the city I work in, I am familiar with the height and condition of the buildings I fight fires in. I am very aware that shit happens at fires regularly and anyone who thinks training is the issue and that as long as everything is done correctly at fires we wont have to bail out, is sadly mistaken. The most experienced and sharpest firefighters can and will get into jams, even if by no fault of their own, and not being prepared for that is shameful. Especially since todays departments are dealing with manpower cutbacks and staffing shortages, one should expect a slower response from a Rapid Intervention Crew especially if mutual aid is involved. When things go badly, from incorrect or inept firefighting tactics to things that are out of our control on the fire ground, it happens very quickly and we need to be prepared for that. Urban Fire Departments Nationwide should all provide their members with some version of an NFPA 1983 compliant personal escape system. As the industry designs and redesigns these systems, they will becomes more and more user friendly and less noticeable to the wearer. In case any one of a thousand variables happens to put a firefighter in an untenable situation, and all other egress options have been exhausted, one of these systems can save a life. Do I want to use the thing real world? Hell No. I am however glad Im wearing it and the piece of mind that comes along with that. My department has secured a grant and will move forward with outfitting us all with a system. As Of right now, we all have been issued an external Gemtor Harness with a 50 foot length of rope, which you can use to wrap the pompier hook and then use to escape if you have to. Does everyone want to wear it? Nope. Can I understand that? Sure… No one, especially firemen, likes change. The same will be true when we are issued our PES’s. It all takes training and a great deal of getting used to. Having said that, it can save your life and anything that does that is A-OK in my book. I am very familiar with the NARS system mentioned above and would highly recommend it. RPI makes a fine product and has been doing so for some time longer than everyone else producing these systems. I work with quite a few guys that have been wearing that setup for years. These are proactive, aggressive firemen that train hard and see the benefit of having an extra tool for their toolbox when and if that emergency situation arises. Department SOP’s/SOG’s should be developed and in place for maintenance, training regularly on the systems chosen and to also discipline any firefighters who unnecessarily deploy the system. I work for a training company that is certified train the trainers for several PES’s and I happen to like the Sterling setup the best out of the half dozen or so I have ran. Whether turnout integrated or not, Personal Escape Systems should become a part of the 2012 NFPA 1971 Standard. While it sure blows that the prices will go up because “the manufacturers can get away with it” you must ask yourself, what is your life worth exactly? Id like to finish my career with my system safely stowed away and never used but If I need it, it is there for me and Im glad I have it. Feel free to contact me or the company I work for at the link provided above to get our thoughts and opinions on any of the systems we are familiar with, give training on or use at our individual departments such as: Sterlings F4, RIT Systems FIRE-AL (we have run the Scott Air Pak System too), NARS, Petzl EXO, the Xtreme system from Chicago and a few others. We are also familiar with Morning Pride and Globe’s turnout integrated systems. Thanks for your time and Stay Safe! -Gabriel Angemi

  • Kevin says:

    The only problem I see with it being on the SCBA is there are times when we are in buildings with out SCBA.

  • Kevin says:

    As you can see on the survey unless you live on an island with 1 story structures and never get on the ferry to mutual aid, you need a system :)

    Again however just buying one and carrying it will not get it done. Several years ago some Brothers went to burn tower and concluded if you have to do much more than hook and go, you could be in trouble.

  • Nate Q. says:

    After reading the posts, I have to say that I am also on the fence. While I understand the theory of standards, I don’t completely trust them. As mentioned, many organizations pick and choose which standards to follow, depending on when it’s convenient to follow them. For example, my organization has the SCBA-integrated escape systems, but never formally trained the members on its use (luckily, most have taken the initiative to use a spare pack to practice…but still, it needs to be engrained like the basics-when the s has hit the f, it’s no time to figure it out.)

    We owe it to ourselves to strive for that proactive aproach. Get your basics down solidly, then start adding. Just as a cool-looking vest shouldn’t be a cure-all for drivers who won’t move over, a bailout kit shouldn’t be a cure-all for sound tactics/decisions…it should be another option available to you if/when (hopefully never)you experience that “all out of options” moment.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get off my rear and go live up to the proactive line I just wrote.

  • Training38 says:

    I believe that firefighters should have the resources to get out alive. I agree with many points from many different authors throughout this thread. I do not believe this has to be a 1971 standard. Create a stand alone standard for bail out systems. Pieces and parts are already in place with life safety rope standard 1983. Build off of that and reference that standard in 1971. Don’t add cost to the turnout gear. Dont make something mandated that might not work for each and every department. The gear has to meet a minimum standard. Pockets, Mic Clips are options, but when intergrated into the gear is compliant. Firefighters have compliant helmets, but install flashlights as a personnel need. It is not mandated by 1971. Don’t get me wrong, are bailout systems needed? Yes. It is another tool if properly trained on that we as firefighters will have in are arsonal. But let the department make the decision on what will best suit their needs. Not one blanket standard. NFPA 1901 works for apparatus, why can’t NFPA 1971 do the same? Many posts state one common theme: Stick to the Basics. Just like this website was designed for.
    Here is a quote that is dear to me, which will hopefully sum it up.
    “On the fireground, if you become involved in a crisis situation, you will not rise to the occasion but, rather default to your level of training”.
    Author Unknown

  • fm114fd says:

    Ladies and Gentlemen, Brothers and Sisters;

    Without reading every word of all your posts above, a thought- This discussion is no different than the post about Apparatus Chevroning .

    We are counting on “Them” to do what WE are responsible for: BE ACCOUNTABLE. Whether it’s being properly equipped, properly trained, adequately staffed, or operating within the best practices and guidelines established by our profession. WE are the ones who must chose to be proactive in training, be proactive in equipping ourselves, and be proactive in acting safely on scene.

    That’s what it all boils down to, in my opinion. We can’t count on NFPA to establish a standard for bail-out systems- lives will be lost while we wait. Look at NFPA 13R: how many fatalities have occurred while the lobbyists debate its cost and effectiveness?

    I’m starting to echo Chris’s lead-off post, so enough from little-old-me for a 2am rant. Get the training, get the equipment, and operate in the most effective, safe manner you possibly can. Your life, and your fellow firefighters’ lives depend on it.

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