The newest edition of NFPA 1983 came out in 2017, and by now you will be seeing equipment that is marked to the new standard. This naturally leads some rescue organizations to ask, “do I need to throw away all my gear that is marked to NFPA 1983-2012 and replace it with gear that is marked to NFPA 1983-2017?”

As much as we might like for you to replace all your equipment right away, the truth is it really isn’t necessary. Here’s why.

NFPA 1983 contains test methods and performance requirements for Life Safety Rope and Equipment used in Technical Rescue. It is a manufacturing document; that is, it was written specifically to be used by manufacturers and test laboratories, to establish minimum performance requirements for testing and reporting information about equipment used for rescue in the fire service. This document has little to no field relevance, although some people use it as a specification document for purchasing.

NFPA standards are revised every five years, with updates to test methods, new requirements to match advances in technology, and tweaks to improve precision, accuracy, and usability. Every time a new edition of this standard is published, manufacturers are required to test products to the new standard… even if none of the test methods have changed. And the reality is… the test methods rarely change much.

So… when do you have to comply? When should you plan to switch over your purchasing to the new standard?

For starters, consider that with standards, there is always some delay between the
 ACCEPTANCE date – which in this case was November 2016 – versus the
 EFFECTIVE date – which in this case was December 2016 – versus the
 DOCUMENT date – which in this case is simply 2017 – versus the
 PUBLICATION (Print) DATE – which in this case was several months into 2017, actually not until the second quarter of the year – and this date differs from the
 DATE TEST LABS actually start testing to the standard

So, there is inevitably a delay – sometimes significant, as in a year or more – between the acceptance date of the standard and the date you start seeing equipment marked to it. In the meantime, the equipment that you purchase, and use, will be marked to the previous edition. At some point, of course, you will have no choice but to change because gear marked to the current standard will be all that is available in the marketplace because after a short grace period to accommodate the certification process, manufacturers are not allowed to mark equipment to the old standard anymore.

Just to be clear regarding NFPA 1983-

2017: none of the equipment or test methods in the 2012 version of the document were deemed unsafe, and most test methods remained quite consistent with the 2012 edition. So, it is perfectly fine to continue to purchase new equipment that is marked to the 2012 edition. Likewise, if you still have equipment in use that is certified to a previous version of NFPA 1983 (even an edition prior to 2012), it is fine to continue using that equipment to the end of it’s normal service life.

If you would like to compare performance requirements for specific products yourself, or to see what has changed you can look up both old and new versions of the standard free of charge online at NFPA.ORG; you can also purchase hard copies there.

Or, of course, you are always welcome to give us a call or drop us a note at PMI to discuss this or any other questions you might have.