NFPA Helmet Standards and EMS

NFPA has created science based standards for firefighters world-wide. They have done more to save responders lives than anyone else. The problem is some of the safety equipment they advise for EMS is really fire & rescue gear.

When EMS was young they first gave us hospital equipment. I don’t see how giving us turnout gear to do EMS work now will turn out much better.

Current NFPA rescue & EMS helmet standards require a ribbon-cradle type suspension system. This is basically the same type liner used in the Roman Empire.

The ribbon cradle suspension system was first used on military helmets. It is still used today on most ANSI Safety Helmets. It keeps the helmet shell off the head. This promotes air circulation. It also does a decent job of absorbing vertical impact forces. Better, it is cheap to produce. One size fits all, which is really the same thing as everyone wears an extra large.

Unfortunately it does not protect you very well in a lateral impact. ANSI Helmets are built and tested to a standard which assumes your impact is from a falling object from above. It is from a construction hard hat standard based on protecting the wearer from falling metal bolts.

Paramedics are rarely struck by falling objects from above. They do get killed in accidents resulting in head injury. The current NFPA standards do not address this transport safety issue

Current standards don’t even fully address the risks to firefighters from responding. NFPA recommends that firefighters should not wear their big helmets when the apparatus is in motion.

Paramedics are always in motion. Their work environment is a moving wheeled large motor vehicle. EMS calls are the majority of FD responses. Over half of EMS works for Fire Departments. They are getting killed every week in accidents.

I have a better idea. How about EMS providers wear a helmet built for EMS certified to a federal motor vehicle safety standard?

It is not be possible to meet any motor vehicle safety standard with a ribbon-cradle suspension liner. Motor-vehicle helmets use an impact liner in specific sizes instead.

My hope is that one day NFPA will recognize they are promulgating helmet construction standards which are not compatible with the practice of EMS. I can suggest one solution.

The EMT-1 Helmet from B2  Helmets is built to protect Paramedics both inside and outside of an ambulance. It is a flight helmet for ground transport.


About Dan White

I'm a retired Paramedic and EMS Instructor with 35 years EMS and emergency medical product experience. I love canoes, cars and EMS. I have written a lot about EMS Technology on the Paramedic Blog, the Insights on Innovation column for, on and I can be reached directly at 573-240-0002.
This entry was posted in EMS Safety, Paramedic Helmet, Safety Apparel Standards for EMS, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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