by Loui McCurley, PMI

Here at PMI we are committed to safety and compliance in equipment for work at height. In fact, we participate in several professional standards development efforts related to ropes, equipment, and training for high angle work and rescue.


In 1992 I was operating a research and testing lab called Alpine Center for Rescue Studies when Steve Hudson approached me and asked if I would represent PMI to the NFPA 1983 committee. Since then I have participated in this and several other NFPA committees including as chairman of NFPA 1958 and as an inaugural member of NFPA 1670.


Those of you who use, or are subject to, NFPA standards for rescue equipment, operations, and training should be aware of some upcoming changes to the NFPA standards that may impact your world.

—Watch the video or keep reading—

“Familiar documents”

A meeting was recently held to discuss the first draft of what will become an NFPA Consolidated Technical Rescue document, soon to be known as NFPA 2500. The official title of NFPA 2500 is: Standards for Operations and Training for Technical Search and Rescue Incidents and Life Safety Rope and Equipment for Emergency Services. Don’t let the fancy title throw you, though. This NFPA 2500 is nothing more than a bundled package containing three documents with which you are probably already familiar:


NFPA 1983 – Standard on Life Safety Rope and Equipment for Emergency Services

NFPA 1858 – Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Life Safety Rope and Equipment for Emergency Services


NFPA 1670 – Standard on Operations and Training for Technical Search and Rescue Incidents


The first, most obvious question is WHY is NFPA doing this?!

“NFPA 2500 is nothing more than a bundled package”

NFPA’s theory in all of this is simple. They want to make the standards more user-friendly while at the same time making them less expensive and time consuming to develop. According to the NFPA website, they’ve got over 250 committees managing more than three hundred standards documents…  with requests on the table for at least a hundred more! By bundling like-documents related PPE and Pro Qual, they’ll be taking 116 separate documents and consolidating them down to 48 –  theoretically reducing the time investment and travel for meeting required by the more than 9,000 committee members who write them.


In implementing these changes, NFPA has acknowledged that there are two things firefighters hate:

  1. change, and
  2. when things stay the same.


So, with this in mind, they are going to accommodate all of us:

First, by changing the way the standards are packaged, and

Second, by keeping the existing reference numbers the same,

so if someone wants to implement just one of the standards in a group you can still do that.

“Combination of the three”

Chapter 1 of the new NFPA 2500 will be kind of an umbrella, outlining the scope of the entire document.  In chapter 1,  each of the existing standards: NFPA 1983, NFPA 1858, and NFPA 1670, will still be called out and identified by name, so your AHJ will be able to continue to adopt whatever it is you already use without having to change any terminology or numerical references. You can choose to adopt just NFPA 1983, just NFPA 1858,  just NFPA 1670, or some combination of the three.

“The meat of the document begins”

The way the new NFPA 2500 is organized you’ll find Chapters 1-3 just to be administrative oversite information. The new chapter 1 is just that high-level overview we talked about, explaining how the documents are bundled. Chapter 2 is nothing more than a list of references – same as it is now – and Chapter 3 is definitions. Then the meat of the document begins. Chapters 4-23 will be the content that you presently know as NFPA 1670.  It will still be called NFPA 1670, so if you presently use 1670 for Training and Operations you will still be able to do that. Chapters 24-28 will be the content that you presently know as NFPA 1983. Again, it will still carry the numerical designator NFPA 1983, so the equipment you’re buying will still have that reference number on it.

And, finally, Chapters 29-35 will be the content that you presently know as NFPA 1858.

“NFPA 1858 just released a year or so ago”

You might not even be familiar with this 1858 document yet, because it was just released a couple of years ago. It is designed to provide guidance for Selection, Care and Maintenance of NFPA 1983 Rope Rescue Equipment.


After this, you will find all of the Annexes and Reference Materials for all three of these documents.


Now, there’s just one thing we want to add, and that is: DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER!!!


Rest assured, this was not PMI’s idea! Although Loui McCurley from PMI has sat on the committee for more than 20 years, she is just one of many members. This action was mandated by the NFPA, not chosen by the committee… so committee members are just doing the best they can to try to catch NFPA’s VISION for this and carry it out in time for a GOOD standard to be produced in 2020. Although we didn’t create it, PMI is – as always – going to do our level best to walk with you, support you, and assist you in navigating this change with as little impact as possible on your organization.


We’d love to hear your comments and questions here, and will try to answer any specific questions you might have along the way.