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what liability do you have if you don't adopt 1710 or any NFPA standard?

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  • what liability do you have if you don't adopt 1710 or any NFPA standard?

    Okay here's the story. I am a career FF in a medium sized city. I have been appointed to the Union's 1710 committee to look at ways of implementing it.

    There is a comment that comes up over and over from members of the FD..."If the city doesn't adopt 1710 they will still be held liable for the standard and can be successfully sued for non-compliance." Is that true? I don't believe it is. Does anyone know of any FD that was successfully sued for not adopting a standard and thereby being in non-compliance with that standard? I don't want anecdotal info here I want names of FD's or cities involved.

    Before anyone jumps on me and says he must be anti 1710...I am not. But what I don't want to do is try to use a tactic for pushing compliance that is false and will make us look bad.

    I believe in order to be held liable the standard must be adopted by either your city or state or be a federal law. If I am way off base here someone straighten me out.

    I plan to post this on several forums so I don't miss any opinions.

    If you aren't comfortable giving info on here please e-mail me.


    Crazy, but that's how it goes
    Millions of people living as foes
    Maybe it's not too late
    To learn how to love, and forget how to hate

  • #2
    Your right in that it would have to be adopted by state or feds to be LAW. Any of the standards could be looked at by a court as a reasonable standard and a sympathetic jury could find the city liable. Your best argument may be to look at all the other standards you have asked the city to adopt.. 1500, 1901, 1983, etc... and ask them to look at this one as well and develop a plan for compliance.


    • #3
      NFPA Standards are exactly that,"standards". The city only needs to abide by them if the state adopts the standard into the their OSHA system. The federal government can also adopt the standards and require them in the OSHA laws.

      Yes someone could claim that a violation occured using the reasonable standard argument, although I have never heard of this argument being accepted by the courts.

      The one thing I've noticed is that a lot of cities pick and choose what standards they will accept and not accept. This usually relates to the cost factor involved.

      More unions need to become pro-active to demand that these standards be incorperated within the state and federal OSHA laws. I believe that 1710 is a good standard and should be a requirement.

      Every state is different and this will effect the standards also. Here in Michigan, it is somewhat difficult to get these standards adopted by the state and incorperated into the MIOSHA system.

      A city can adopt the standard but most will have to be forced by state or federal OSHA laws and this also relates directly to the cost $$$$$$. It's an unfortunate set of circumstances but one we have to accept now and always try to change in the future.

      I know of no city in Michigan that has ever been sued successfully using the reasonable standard argument.


      • #4
        A standard is basically a guideline to go by. Most NFPA standards have been around for so long that now they are easily met by the fire service and the fire apparatus and equipment manufacturers. I would love to see NFPA 1710 implemented nationwide in career departments. The only problem is funding. Most FD's have taken the back seat to the School and Police Departments, "hot button" topics of the last few decades. I hate to say this, but I believe that it will take a line of duty death and a lawsuit to give the real world a wake up call to realize the importance of the NFPA 1710 standard.

        [ 07-26-2001: Message edited by: Captain Gonzo ]
        ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
        Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY


        • #5
          Seems to me the city doesn't have to adopt 1710, like most have said, but if they ignore it, and don't develop a plan to adopt it, there could be a problem if something bad happens.

          The obvious would be a Firefighter injury or death, but in todays litigious society, and esp since Insurance Companies are always looking for someone to sue, a large fire could become the Lawsuit in which 1710 rears it's ugly head...

          So. Mr. Mayor, what exactly about 1710 did you disagree with? Did you feel 4 pp on an Engine was too many, or did you just think it was too much money? Did anyone come to you to tell you they felt that way? How much money did you spend on your Police Dept last year? Thelist goes on. I think Cities need to at least develop a plan. Look yrs down the road, that way they can make steps to compliance, but leave it for the next Admin to work out.

          Just a thought, certainly not a legally tested answer....


          • #6
            Here is the only good example of a case where NFPA standards were used in part to win a lawsuit that I could find...

            The case was tried in the State Supreme Court of New York. Drennan v. City of New York.

            It was in regards to a fire in SoHo that killed 3 FDNY firemen in 1994.

            Although NY is an OSHA state the NFPA standards regarding PPE were used to bolster the Plantiffs case.

            Although it isn't a law it is a "National Standard" and unless a Dept. has true independent research to dictate otherwise then most courts will have a hard time not deciding against any Dept that doesn't abide by the "National Standard".

            Many Depts I imagine will just take their chances instead of doing the right thing.

            Two cents from a fireman.

            [ 07-27-2001: Message edited by: FRED ]


            • #7
              Maybe a better question is what about all the rest of the NFPA standards you don't follow? 1710 is new others are decades old, where are the lawsuits?

              No such thing as a rural fire department if you followed NFPA 1231. No such thing as an under equipped department either, or under trained.

              As far as NY PPE, the rest of the world was doing the right thing decades before that case, that was department negligence, not an NFPA thing or OSHA thing. The department selectively chose to follow whatever they chose. IF NFPA 1001 was followed the firefighters would not have gone in the building dressed that way, would they? If 1021 was followed the chiefs wouldn't have allowed them in either. Where were the union letters about safety prior to the event?


              • #8
                sorry to take up space without any factual info, but i agree with you and others in here that it is not something you can be held accountable, it is a guideline for a way of doing something, i am volunteer but i know the troubles fire departments all over the country are having with staffing paid or volunteer, this standard doesnt help at all
                9/11/01 forever in our hearts


                • #9
                  "this standard doesn't help"


                  It does help!... It's a defnitive document that outlines what a FD should look like. There are so many Firehouses around the country with an Engine and an Ambulance sitting in it, and staffed with 2 or 3 Firefighters. The public sees 2 trucks, and figures that means about 5 or 6 Firefighters, and they are well protected. At last someone has said, that this is not safe!

                  And along with that they have had the gonads to say that Fire Apparatus should be at your house in a definitive amount of time. There is finally something that tells the public what too long is.

                  This should be a huge help for much of the Country!

                  And these comments about NFPA standards not being followed. I think there are many FD's trying to follow these standards. NFPA approved gear/ equipment/ apparatus is becoming the rule, not the exception around here. 1500 is on everyones mind, and is being followed by many FD's. And the forward thinking FD's are already working to conform to 1710 (or 1720) now. Hiring is only part of the standard. Requirements about Special Ops staffing, EMS staffing (2 medics on runs)... Read the standard before you make assumptions. It is pretty good, and for forward thinking FD's, it's gonna be great!


                  • #10
                    Thank you FRED, for finally reminding me of the case that was used here in NY. I stated the same in a post on emergency response, and couldn't remember any cases to prove my point about whether your NFPA state or not it still can be argued in court.

                    Postal, and CC it is true. If you are sued in civil court. Any lawyer, can utilize and argue that NFPA is a standard, adopted by a vast network of fire/EMS service personnel, and manufacturers, etc. May not work criminally, but civilly, where its just reasonable doubt to prove some point of negligence. It has and will make you look bad to a jury. There its not simple as guilty/not guilty. Its what percentage of fault they find. You get sued for 10 million, and they find you 50% at fault, that's 5 million. As far as the NY case, it was argued about the NFPA standard to prove any part of negligence was present. OSHA in NY doesn't require bunkers. Fact is I never knew you could argue utilizing NFPA standard in NY, till I was told in EVOC in the academy, that was given by the head of EVOC for NY State Police. So how many others may or may not know. My spouse does now

                    And anything is better then nothing. At least now there is a standard, for career and volunteer to follow.

                    The above is my opinion only and doesn't reflect that of any dept/agency I work for, deal with, or am a member of.


                    • #11
                      Thanks for your responses. Sorry for my late reply.

                      Again, across the entire firehouse forum, only one lawsuit. Doesn't seem to be much of an incentive to follow the standard does it?

                      I hope we can get compliance.

                      Thanks FyredUp
                      Crazy, but that's how it goes
                      Millions of people living as foes
                      Maybe it's not too late
                      To learn how to love, and forget how to hate


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