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National Association of State Fire Marshals, iGPS Resolve Lawsuit
Fire Codes: National Association of State Fire Marhals decides to forego issuing enforcement bulletins for pallets used in warehouses after resolving lawsuit with iGPS.

By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 6/1/2010

            The National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) has decided to “permanently abandon all efforts to develop code enforcement guidelines having to do with fire safety standards and various types of pallets. As a result, iGPS has dropped its lawsuit against NASFM, which stems from the association’s efforts to establish guidelines based on a Pallet Working Group of various players, including state fire marshals, insurance companies and industry representatives.

            iGPS filed a lawsuit against NASFM alleging that the association had harmed the company by “spreading false and deceptive statements about iGPS’s plastic pallets to iGPS’s customers and prospective customers.”

            The NASFM is the national trade organization serving the needs of the most senior fire officials across the country. For more than a year, both iGPS and wood pallet interests have been trying to lobby those involved in the fire code process to maneuver advantages for one material type over another.

            NASFM president Alan Shuman stated in a recent letter to iGPS and the Pallet Working Group, “We believe there is ample evidence that any meaningful guidance will entail an analytical process that is far more complicated than what was initially perceived. NASFM underestimated the complexity of the issues and the parties involved. Rather than starting over with an entirely new approach to this controversial project, NASFM believes some other fire safety organization or educational institution would be better suited, and have the resources necessary to address the complex issues involved.”

            NASFM seemed to be caught in a fight that it likely neither wanted nor really cared about other than getting accurate information to local fire authorities. The organization has a limited budget and didn’t want to spend a lot of time and money fighting iGPS in court.

            The whole debate started when aggressive, anti-wood pallet guidelines reinterpreting decades of standards emerged last year and were attributed to NASFM. It became clear that these statements had not worked their way through the proper channels at NASFM. Many in the wood pallet industry believe that iGPS was involved in the drafting of these documents to require wood pallets containing composite blocks to be treated the same as plastic pallets. But the emphasis changed as the National Wooden Pallet & Container Association led an effort to defend wood pallets and develop any new guidelines based on a broad coalition of stakeholders. This led to the Pallet Working Group that developed the guidelines that was the basis for the iGPS lawsuit.

            During the deliberations of the Pallet Working Group, it must have become clear to iGPS that the end result was not going to be favorable to its position. Thus, the company backed out of the conversation and eventually decided to file a lawsuit against NASFM.

            NASFM clarified its previous statements and actions by explaining that it “does not recommend the use of wooden pallets over plastic pallets, nor does the association recommend the use of plastic pallets over wooden pallets.” NASFM denounced any position to the contrary referenced in draft documents.

            In the end, the real loser is state and local fire authorities that may continue to struggle to properly interpret fire codes when it comes to pallets and sprinkler systems.

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