Hopkins: NFPA 1194 Standards Are Key For Parks (1/29/2019)

Story by Woodall's Campground Management

Editor's Note: Bruce Hopkins has been in the RV business since 1965, working for a dealer, three different manufacturers, a third-party inspection/consulting firm and has been with the RV Industry Association for over 40 years. He is currently the vice president of standards and education. He has worked on many standard making committees, including the NFPA 1194 committee, and has worked to promote U.S. RV standards internationally. 

With the explosion of new RVs being manufactured, it is a fact that more campgrounds are needed. With the addition of more than 500,000 RVs shipped in 2017, the estimated number of RVs in the U.S. now exceeds 12.5 million.

The growing numbers have left a lot of opportunity for park developers and current park owners, as they look to capture more growth in the coming years. However, it is important for anyone looking to build or expand a campground to follow industry standards and that starts with the Standard for Recreational Vehicle Parks and Campgrounds, from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1194.

It provides safety requirements and design guidance that will result in safe and modern campsites, built to serve current and future generations of RVers.

The 1194 standard addresses minimum safety requirements for general design, fire safety, environmental health and sanitation, and establishes uniform definitions. It also includes valuable “annex” sections that address typical site plan safety, sanitary disposal stations, operational guidelines, detailed site layout drawings, examples of the variety of RV types and a comprehensive glossary of relevant terms, with detailed descriptions.

The 1194 standard has been around since the 1940s and a revised edition was adopted in 1952, after World War II. The standard at that point addressed fire prevention and fire protection for both trailer coaches and trailer coach courts.

There were continuous debates during the 1950s on how to separate mobile homes and travel trailers, as their uses are very different. Mobile homes are used as dwellings, whereas RVs, as you know, are for temporary seasonal use, travel and camping. 

In the early 1960s, a standard for travel trailers was created addressing plumbing, heating and electrical systems. A similar, separate standard for mobile homes was created at the same time. With the products separated from each other, there was a need to separate the trailer court standards into manufactured housing parks and RV parks; this happened in the early 1970s. Early on, requirements were set to address firesafety within the parks and overtime, environmental health and sanitation criteria were added. Eventually, issues relating to propane safety were addressed. In 2018, an annex titled, “Operation Guidelines” was included.

These rules were developed by an accredited committee under the requirements of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Requirements dictate the committee’s voting membership structure to ensure any interest group cannot comprise more than one-third of the committee. This prevents a single interest group from “stacking the committee” to get their issues addressed and adopted. Other key requirements ensure the standard is available for public input, changes to the standard receive public review, and to permit public comment on proposed changes to ensure adopted requirements are applicable and reasonable.

The current NFPA committee, responsible for both the campground standard and the RV standard followed by RV manufacturers, is comprised of 27 individuals; only three are from the campground sector. The National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC) has an internal structure for collecting, discussing and making proposals to modify the 1194 standard. Their structure includes a Public Affairs Committee with subgroups that specifically address proposals for the standard and the requirements they believe to be important.

As an example, a recent change addressed quantity of fresh water usage within the parks. Water and drainage usage levels for residential and commercial buildings are often used by local officials when working with RV park developers, as they don’t have any other guidance. With the use of 1194 requirements, water and drainage usage levels were established to reflect actual campground use. This resulted in designs permitting less water usage, which has benefited owners.

Revised editions of the standards, available every three years, are important to the industry, as we continue to grow. It is great that the parks and campground standard (1194) and the standard RV manufacturers follow (1192) are developed by the same committee. This helps ensure utility connections on the RVs (NFPA 1192) match the mating location requirements of the utility connections at the campground (NFPA 1194) for drainage hoses, fresh water hoses and electrical attachments. As a result, utility connections can be safely made without the need for consumer-provided extensions.

As an example, RV manufacturers are required to provide a power cord that connects the RV to the power supply pedestal at the campground. This is particularly important, so extension cords (which are typically under sized and potentially hazardous) are not needed.

Currently, there is a national ongoing effort to adopt NFPA 1194. The biggest obstacle in accomplishing the national adoption of the NFPA 1194 standard is education. Most public agencies, whether Federal or State, are unaware that this standard exists.

The RV Industry Association (RVIA), the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) and ARVC all support and encourage campground operators to provide quality camping experiences by adhering to all applicable laws and regulations, and by operating campgrounds in compliance with the national consensus standard. All three associations are consistently promoting the NFPA 1194 standard at applicable events and through direct lobbying efforts to educate our public agencies about this standard and its benefits.

If you are building or expanding an RV park or campground, it is highly recommended that you consult and consider using the NFPA 1194 standard. The impact on a consumer’s RV will result in safer usage, it will assist in keeping your park or campground compatible with new RVs, will ensure there are adequate bath and toilet facilities in your support buildings, and will make sure there is adequate power to each campsite.

As you are out in the camping world and have an opportunity to talk about campgrounds in our beautiful country, take a few minutes to discuss the benefits of the national campground standard. As interest in RVing and camping continues to grow it will be imperative that future parks are built to standards that will make the camping experience an enjoyable one for all campers.

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