The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recently released a new standard, NFPA 1802: Standard on Two-Way, Portable RF Voice Communications Devices for Use by Emergency Services Personnel in the Hazard Zone.
In June 2011, 2 firefighters were tragically killed while fighting a residential fire in San Francisco, California. Their portable radios and remote speaker microphones failed due to exposure to heat from the fire. They were unable to transmit a mayday.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s firefighter fatality investigation report recommended continued research and efforts to improve radio system capabilities. This led to the development of NFPA 1802, initiated in 2013 and finalized this year.
The new standard defines the parameters for an extremely rugged radio and speaker microphone capable of performing in hostile environments. It is wide-ranging and is organized around 3 areas of portable radio design: ergonomics, feature set and environment.
Radio frequency (RF) devices and remote speaker microphones will pass unprecedented durability testing and include data-logging capability to meet the standard. Environmental testing criteria include continuing to operate in 500-degree oven temperatures for 5 minutes as well as multiple cycles of a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes and subsequent water quench.
These stringent requirements offer firefighters new levels of ruggedness, ease of use and improved voice quality and functionality, which will all lead to improved safety. However, the new requirements also set a challenging benchmark for vendors.
Departments and personnel should understand basic radio principles to remain safe on the fireground and use communications equipment effectively. USFA’s Voice Radio Communications Guide for the Fire Service provides comprehensive information on radio communications.