Old Mystic Fire Chief Kenneth Richards Jr.

Old Mystic Fire Chief Kenneth Richards Jr. Sun file photo

MYSTIC — Old Mystic Fire Chief Kenneth Richards Jr. has been appointed to serve on the National Fire Protection Association’s Standards Council, the highest U.S. authority overseeing firefighter standards and practices.

The appointment, which Richards accepted in January, is a three-year term that will begin immediately and will put the long-serving fire chief in position to help agencies across the nation, he said. With the appointment, Richards will be the only active fire services administrator to serve on the council.

“It’s humbling,” Richards said in a phone interview Monday. “They haven’t had anyone on the board in some time that has directly represented fire services and I am excited to be able to fill that role and hopefully provide insight on behalf of those in the field.”

Richards said he was appointed only after an extensive vetting process that spanned several months. The committee is often likened to “the Supreme Court of fire services,” he said.

According to the NFPA website, the Standards Council is a 13-member committee appointed by the NFPA Board of Directors. The site states that the council “administers about 250 NFPA technical committees and their work on nearly 300 documents addressing topics of importance to the built environment.”

The national council has members from across the country and meets three times each year. The first meeting in 2019 will take place in April.

Dawn Michele Bellis, secretary for the Standards Council, said the panel is responsible for a variety of tasks including issuance of all NFPA codes, standards, practices and guidelines; establishment and appointment of NFPA’s technical, code-making and correlating committees; approval and assignment of committee scopes; administration of rules, regulations and guidelines that govern the NFPA standards development process; and adjudication of all appeals concerning NFPA standards.

“We are grateful for (his) willingness to lend us (his) talents and energy in guiding NFPA’s standards development process,” James T. Pauley, council president and chief executive officer, said in a letter to Richards.

For Richards, who has served the Old Mystic Fire Department for the past 42 years, including as chief the past 25, the appointment is only the latest in a long history of leadership on the regional and national level.

In addition to his role with the NFPA, Richards will also begin serving as the president of the New England Division of International Fire Chiefs in April. He is also coming off a three-year term as a member of a national UL Fire Safety Research Institute panel that was tasked with evaluating the technical aspects of fire response. That panel concluded its work in 2018.

In addition to his experience, Richards has also earned a master’s degree in executive fire services administration and leadership.

Richards said he is looking forward to the new challenges and will remain focused on firefighter safety, training and response standards.

“My top priority is to make sure fire services has a voice in the process,” he said. “There are many standards that are out or are going to be put out that were made by those who may not have the experience necessary to make the most informed decision. I want to be the voice for those who are working everyday to protect our communities.”

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