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Side by side pictures of pine needles and leaves under a deck.Like many of you, I live in an area with high potential for wildfires.  With spring officially here, we are starting to see temperatures rise, the lingering snow melt, showing us all the work we have to do to prepare  for this year.  When you look around your home, it might seem a bit overwhelming but rather than endeavoring to do it all at once, try breaking your home and yard in to projects, prioritize them based biggest threat or easiest win, and work on one at a time.  Since my state is under a 'stay at home' order due to COVID-19, now is a great time to tackle our priority list, with just a little bit of work each day. 


Science tells us that one of the most important areas you can focus on is your home and the 0-5 foot around the base of it Home ignition zone map highlighting the immediate zone (0-5 feet) from the base of the structure.and attached structures.  This area should be free of combustible materials, which can be a landing bed for embers or can help carry surface fires up to the house.  Much of the work in this area tends to be annual maintenance, raking up leaves, needles, and other vegetative debris.   


Since my family's house is well built with fire resistant construction materials and there isn't much to do there, I decided to focus on what needs to be done the immediate zone (0-5 feet from the base of the house).  One area that stood out is our deck. 


Decks can be a source of vulnerability for your home, a burning deck can ignite the siding or break the glass in windows or doors, allowing fire into the house.  When I looked around

and under my deck, there was a build-up of needles and leaves, which are susceptible to ember ignition.  Armed with a simple rake, less than an hour saw the debris cleared away and our immediate zone looking much better. 


One fifty gallon leaf bag and part of a fifty gallon leaf bag filled with pine needs and oak leaves with rakeWe still have more work to do but I can check this off my annual maintenance list.  For more tips on what actions you can take check out our Preparing Homes for Wildfire page and our Wildfire Research Fact Sheet featuring the Immediate (noncombustible) zone. 


In light of the current COVID-19 situation, it is reasonable that folks aren't necessarily in the mindset of preparing for fire season, but now might be the perfect time.  Many states, counties, and cities across the U.S. are under stay at home orders.  To help break up the monotony, get outside for 30-60 minutes and do something to help improve your home's chances of survival during a wildfire. 


As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage. 

Meghan Housewright, Director of NFPA’s Fire & Life Safety Policy Institute, has a great blog about the impacts of COVID-19 response on local fire department readiness and available PPE equipment.  As she points out in the piece, “In the U.S., every 24 seconds, a fire department responds to a fire. Well before this crisis, every 1.3. seconds, a fire department responded to a call for medical aid. Our nation’s first responders were 24-7 well before this national emergency.” 

This got me thinking about the upcoming spring/summer “wildfire season” in many parts of the U.S. and how demands on emergency services now will impact both the preparations and response to wildfires looming on the seasonal horizon. 

The San Francisco Chronicle shares that preparation for a predicted dry wildfire season is being, “crippled as the coronavirus pandemic prompts fire agencies across the West to cancel or delay programs aimed at preventing catastrophic wildfire.”  These include impacts to fuel treatments, prescribed burning allowances, firefighter training, and even planning for physical distancing needs of wildfire teams. 

I’ve seen internationally as well that the demands of COVID-19 response on services is impacting prescribed burn allowances in the UK and their ability to respond to active rural fires.  In South Africa, which is in the height of its summer, wildland firefighter crews are isolating from their own families so they can remain healthy for wildfire response calls. 

Meghan’s blog goes into depth on the needs of emergency responders during this time.  We deeply thank all of them for their service to community now and in the face of additional challenges that lie ahead. 

As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

Follow NFPA’s FireBreak blog and you can also follow me on twitter @LucianNFPA for more international wildfire and policy related topics.

NFPA and State Farm are committed to safety from wildfire, but we’re also concerned for your personal and family safety, and the safety of your community in the face of the coronavirus threat. We created the annual Wildfire Community Preparedness Day campaign as a way to rally people around the cause of wildfire safety and to turn ideas into action that can make a difference. But, we’re facing a global public health threat today, and we realize that COVID-19 may be preventing you from meeting to carry out your plans or to do the activities you would normally do together, now and on May 2.


NFPA and State Farm urge everyone not to feel pressured to have gatherings or events that may compromise public health at this time; we support efforts to postpone your event and planning activities until the end of the year or such time that it is safe to do so.


In place of in-person events, NFPA and State Farm suggest conducting activities you can do from home and still help raise awareness of wildfire safety such as posting and sharing Facebook and Twitter messages and tips with others in your community. Other home activities include:

  • Raking and removing pine needles and dry leaves within a minimum of 3 to 5 feet of a home’s foundation. As time permits – continue up to a 30-foot distance around the home. Dispose of collected debris in appropriate trash receptacles.
  • Cleaning pine needles from roof and gutters and paying attention to maintaining the home ignition zone.
  • Getting out your measuring tape and seeing how close wood piles are located to the home. If closer than 30 feet, they need to be relocated and moved at least 30’ away from structures.
  • Sweeping porches and decks clearing them of leaves and pine needles. Raking under decks, porches, sheds and play structures.
  • Mowing grasses to a height of four inches or less.
  • Removing items stored under decks and porches and relocating them to a storage shed, garage, or basement. Gasoline cans and portable propane tanks should never be stored indoors and should be located away from the home.

Find these NFPA resources and more on our website. Please contact us if you have any questions or need additional information regarding Wildfire Community Preparedness Day.


In the meantime, as we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.



As the world grapples with the unprecedented health crisis known as COVID-19 or the coronavirus, NFPA, like many organizations, is monitoring the U.S. Centers for Disease Controland Prevention and other governmental sources for COVID-19 updates and adjusting business practices as recommended.


We know that the information available through NFPA is of paramount importance to safety in both ordinary times and extraordinary ones. NFPA is fully operational and providing our tools and resources to those who depend on them to continue to do their jobs safely and protect their communities. Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve put out a number of communications related to the pandemic.  For your convenience, here’s an overview of them and some additional information in one single post.


Emergency Planning

In a blog earlier this month, our Emergency Services Specialist John Montes wrote a blog entitled, Organizational Planning Tips for Pandemic Preparedness. While many may not immediately think of NFPA as the first place to go for resources in a medical emergency, Montes points to NFPA 1600, Standard on Continuity, Emergency, and Crisis Management  which was recognized as the US National Preparedness Standard by the 9/11 Commission. Widely used by public, not-for-profit, nongovernmental, and private entities on a local, regional, national, and global basis, NFPA 1600 has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as a voluntary consensus standard for emergency preparedness. The standard is available on the NFPA website for free viewing, and offers key information for entities who want to conduct a risk assessment, business impact analysis, capabilities and needs assessments, and develop emergency and recovery plans.


He also references NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities Code which provides critical safety information and requirements for isolation spaces, emergency planning, IT and data infrastructure, and more. An additional resource is the NFPA Emergency Preparedness Checklist.


Responder Safety During Pandemics

When tragic events unfold, it is our first responders that are on the frontline, risking their own safety to help others. Staff Writer Angelo Verzoni speaks to a number of fire service professionals in the latest NFPA Journal Podcast. The timely podcast looks at the additional precautions that can be put in place to enhance the well-being of first responders.


Fire Doors and Life Safety

Kristin Bigda, the NFPA technical lead on building and life safety posted a blog - Don't Compromise Fire Safety While Responding to Coronavirus: Keep Fire Doors Operable after hearing that  facilities had begun propping fire doors open so that people didn’t have to touch handles for egress. While she recognizes the logic in terms of germ spread prevention, Bigda stresses that propping fire doors open presents significant hazards and risks in the event of a fire.  “It is imperative that we not forfeit institutional elements of safety while working to address others. In this case, we need to balance the risk of the coronavirus against other real hazards that have the potential to harm multiple people in a very short window of time,” the popular NFPA 101 blogger said.


NFPA codes and standards such as NFPA 1, Fire CodeNFPA 101, Life Safety Code, and NFPA 80, Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives, govern the installation, inspection, testing and maintenance of fire doors.  Fire doors and other opening protectives such as shutters and windows must be operable at all times. 


Trainings and Certifications

Amidst travel bans and cancellations of face-to-face gatherings, we understand that individuals are not able to participate in live training programs or conferences aimed at keeping them up to date on the latest learnings for their professions or meeting various certification requirements. NFPA offers a full array of online training and certification programs to help meet those needs.


During this time, we are all focused on responding appropriately and continuing our efforts to enhance safety. Thank you for the work you all do. For the latest from NFPA, please visit our website.

Wildfire Prep Day

Individuals and organizations from across the nation applied for Wildfire Community Preparedness Day awards to help them complete a risk reduction project on Saturday, May 2, 2020. Thanks to the seventh year of generous support from State Farm, 150 applicants in 26 states are due to receive $500 project awards to help create neighborhoods safer from wildfires.


NFPA started the national Wildfire Community Preparedness Day campaign in 2014 as a way for people living in areas of wildfire risk to come together to improve their readiness across the community. In some cases, people are taking their very first steps on the first Saturday in May toward a safer future. Others are using the day as a rallying point for their ongoing efforts as a recognized Firewise USA site, or to implement their Community Wildfire Protection Plans. May 2 is a great time to get started on the road to wildfire risk reduction!


Will your home and neighborhood survive the next wildfire?  Find out how you can be a winner and encourage others to be a part of this national campaign this spring. 

The well-earned recognition for the local accomplishments of Firewise communities knows no borders.  This rang true once again as the Beacon Road Firewise community in Dorset, United Kingdom, recently received the Neighborhood Watch Group of the Year Award from the Dorset Police Service. 


I caught up with Lin Kettley, manager of the Firewise UK effort in Dorset, who shared her praise for the community.  Lin said, “I am so pleased that the Beacon Road Firewise community has been recognized for all their hard work. From being evacuated following a large fire back in 2011, to being approached by us to become our first Firewise community and gaining this award, they have worked together tirelessly to make their homes, gardens and surrounding areas safer from the threat of wildfires.”  Lin went onto say that, “They are a fantastic example of what community spirit looks like and I know that they will continue to thrive and are very keen to encourage other communities to join them.”


Community leader, Susan Jefferies, shared with me that, “The group was established formally 18 months ago, assisted by the [Dorset] Urban Heaths Partnership, to draw the community together to protect ourselves, our homes and the heathland from heathfire.  We live on the edge of a large well established area of heathland where traditionally, regular and dangerous large fires have occurred every ten years or so when the gorse gets overgrown and dries out.”


Historic wildfires can be a strong community motivator.  Susan explained that, “The sparks for this group were laid 8 years previously, directly after an extensive fire when neighbors got together and realized that better planning was needed ensure everyone knew about Heathfires and how to act sensibly and safely.”


Now, brought together by Firewise, the community hosts seasonal work parties to clear ditches, undergrowth, and their own properties.  Susan noted that, “This way we all get together, help those less able to clear their gardens and keep the neighborhood safer.” 


Beacon Road also hosted its first Wildfire Community Preparedness Day in May, 2019.  In an innovative approach, they partnered with the UK’s Exeter University to measure the risks and flammability of their yard debris to influence future landscaping.   


This focus on community-led action was highlighted by the award event’s program that stated, “The whole community is involved and the creation of the group and the excellent work of its members has brought forth a stronger, sustainable, and empowered community that cares for each other.”  


Susan echoed this connection, sharing that, “We all know each other and are aware who might need assistance if they needed to evacuate in the case of a large fire causing a lot of smoke.”


NFPA applauds their well-deserved recognition as a great example of neighbors working together to reduce their wildfire risk.  We hope others will follow their lead in the UK and everywhere else. 


Photo Credit: First: Award photo of Paul Attwell, UHP, and Susan Jefferies, courtesy of Lin Kettley.  Second: Upton Heath Dorset May 2019, courtesy of Andy Elliott, @WildfireTacAd


Follow NFPA’s FireBreak blog and you can also follow me on twitter @LucianNFPA for more international wildfire and policy related topics.



NOTE: This blog was originally posted on NFPA Today in October, 2019, and has been edited. As spring and summer months approach, the topics of durable medical equipment, patient safety, and their relationship to natural disasters is once again, a timely one. 


As so often is the case when you work in building and life safety, and strive to bring attention to potential hazards, a tragic incident has occurred to underscore the concerns and opportunities noted in this blog. Newsweek reports that, a 67-year old, oxygen-dependent Northern California man with COPD and congestive heart failure, died when a utility company cut power to his home. His medical equipment required power to deliver the needed oxygen. Within 15 minutes of PG&E turning off electrical service in the area due to the threat of wildfire, local first responders received and responded to an emergency call from someone on life-saving medical equipment. Despite their rescue attempts – while using flashlights - the man died. 


Durable medical equipment (DME) is the term used for medical equipment that patients use in the home to maintain optimal health. In recent years, there has been a paradigm shift in health care placing a greater emphasis on controlling patient health and the transitioning of health care from hospitals and doctors’ offices to patients' homes and mobile devices. Given this shift, it is safe to say that the use of DME will increase in the future.


The use of DME makes sense for health care organizations looking to reduce overhead and operational responsibilities; insurance industries interested in paying less in premiums; and patients hoping to save some money on medical expenses. Some studies show that patient healing is also enhanced while being treated or recovering in familiar surroundings. The thing is, those that use DME including oxygen concentrators, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines, ventilators, IV infusion pumps, suction pumps, electric beds, and various other pieces of equipment, rely significantly on a dependable power source to ensure their safety and well-being. Most DME is electrically-powered, therefore if there is a loss of primary power to the home, patients could be at grave risk if there are no alternate power plans in place.

Power loss can stem from a natural disaster, power grid issues, or intentional controlled power outages (sometimes referred to as a “public safety power shutdown”), like those being considered in areas of Northern California by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). PG&E power lines have been responsible for some recent wildfires in their market, including the 2018 Camp Fire that killed 86 people, so the company is hoping to reduce or eliminate potential ignitions from its power lines by initiating controlled power outages in areas where there might be a high risk of a wildfire occurring.

According to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness & Response, approximately 2.5 million people covered under Medicare in the United States use some form of DME, thus the reason it is essential that we have a resilient power supply infrastructure in place to ensure that DME is fully powered for proper use. The number of DME users covered by other programs such as Medicaid, private pay insurance and VA programs are unknown. Some DME may be equipped with back-up battery power, but that source will typically only last a few hours.

Ensuring the safety of patients reliant on DME should be a priority among emergency managers and those responsible for policy planning too. Jurisdictional emergency plans should include a way to identify the most vulnerable residents who rely on DME. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) program, emPOWER, which uses the Medicare claims database to identify patients that utilize DME, can help with that effort. Emergency plans, for example, might call for the evacuation of the patient, if possible, and relocation to a health care facility that has a back up power system in place. Other plans may call for the patient to be checked on, if they have a generator or other means that enable them to defend in place. The latter option may be a better strategy, in some cases, if relocating the patient is impractical due to the patient’s condition, environmental conditions, resources available at the time, and logistics associated with moving the patient and multiple pieces of DME. Beyond evacuating and defending in place, the emPOWER database can also be used to help utility companies prioritize power restoration efforts and emergency managers to focus their response resources.

In June, NFPA staff members joined representatives from the Meridian Institute, Clean Energy Group, the health care industry, energy sector, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and several other organizations at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts to discuss today’s resilient power supply system and potential issues for patients that use DME. Two common methods of supplying back up power – generators, and combination solar/energy storage systems (ESS) – were considered.

Generators, it was noted, have their limitations as the equipment must be maintained, refueled, can be noisy, and are likely to produce pollutants. Solar and battery storage systems may be a good option, it was determined, but the cost can be prohibitive, especially for low-income patients. Key findings were shared in the Meridian Institute report, including recommendations that solar and ESS options be further researched to see how patients can affordably access and pay for potentially life-saving alternative energy solutions.

NFPA recognizes there is also a need to address resilient power for DME in its codes and standards. To that end, the National Electrical Code (NEC) Correlating Committee is currently forming a task group to examine how the current requirements in the NEC should be managed for DME. The objective will be to determine if changes need to be made to the code to address the interface criteria between alternate power sources and the distribution system for the DME. Additionally, the new NFPA 855, Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems and NFPA 110, Standard for Emergency and Standby Power Systems may also play a role in addressing DME resiliency; those documents will need to be reviewed to see how their requirements can further support the infrastructure for DME.


NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities Code already contains requirements for patient care, electrical appliances, and equipment, however, the current application of NFPA 99 excludes home health care. Therefore, there are currently no requirements for DME in NFPA 99. The correlating committee on Health Care Facilities is meeting in Phoenix, Arizona next month to complete their work on the 2020 edition of NFPA 99. The topic of DME will be on the agenda and dialogue about whether DME should be factored into the standard in the future is expected.

Addressing the resiliency aspect of DME in emergency management protocol, via forward-thinking collaborations and in the codes and standards that provide benchmarks for safety, will help to ensure that the most vulnerable members of our community are safe the next time power is compromised by weather events, power outages, and forced shutdowns.


Over time, fire research has tended to focus on structure fires and how homes and possessions burn, but relatively little attention has been paid to how wildfire impacts human settlements. Recent wildfire events around the world, however, have given researchers enough reason to flip that equation around.

To this end, Birgitte Messerschmidt, director of applied research at NFPA, writes about the largest fire research project currently underway in the world, in her latest NFPA Journal column.


The project, called PyroLife, begins April 1, and aims to shed light on wildfire unknowns. It will also train a new generation of experts in holistic fire management. As a global project, PyroLife combines the strengths and knowledge bases of 21 international partners.


According to Messerschmidt, wildfire is one of the great challenges of our time for the global research community, and she is excited to see more resources and effort going into the issue.


Read about this exciting project in “Wildfire 101” in the March/April issue of NFPA Journal.

Kate Cotter, CEO of Bushfire Building Council of Australia, conducts a home inspection

The March/April issue of NFPA Journal includes a Perspectives piece on wildfire risk reduction by Jesse Roman. Wondering if Australia's historic bushfire (wildfire) season will be a catalyst for change, he spoke to Kate Cotter, founder and director of the Bushfire Building Council of Australia. Cotter\s organization is working on a tool to quantify and rate individual property wildfire risk to help homeowners reduce their risk before the next fire happens.


The interview covers Cotter's view of the Australian mindset and how it's changed in the wake of fires that affected the entire nation, and outlines her plan to help Australians quickly and effectively learn about wildfire risk before purchasing or building homes, and what they can do to reduce risk on existing homes. Read the full story online to learn more! 


Accepting that humans cannot stop wildfires from happening, no matter how much effort and money we throw at the task, is a necessary cultural shift that many wildfire experts believe is long overdue. As wildfires continue to burn across the country and around the globe, we must adopt the mindset that fire is a natural part of the landscape that cannot be eliminated and as such, we need to get serious about finding ways to effectively live alongside it.


In her current wildfire column in NFPA Journal, Michele Steinberg explains how one diverse group of experts, from academia to the fire service to public policy, came together in a two-day workshop to help identify new approaches to the wildfire problem, including the importance of incorporating more research into the narrative to help our understanding of how we can build better communities to resist wildfire.  


Read "A Way Forward" in the March/April issue of NFPA Journal.

The Bureau of Land Management, part of the US Department of Interior, has issued notices of funding opportunities for Alaska and Wyoming. These Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Community Fire Assistance funds are available to eligible entities including state and local governments, tribal governments, institutions of higher education and nonprofit organizations.


According to the grant announcements, the grant program uses a risk-based approach that supports the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy goals of restoring and maintaining Fire Resilient Landscapes, Creating Fire Adapted Communities and Responding to Wildfire. Program goals include:

  1. Accomplish Hazardous Fuels Reduction Activities by reducing wildland fuels on the landscape or making structural and landscape modifications to create survivable space;
  2. Develop and implement fire education, training, and/or community action plans/programs to include mitigation and prevention, planning or zoning ordinances and education around managing combustible vegetation, and prevention of structural ignition;
  3. Conduct Community Wildfire Protection Assessment and planning activities or develop an maintain a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP);
  4. Expand community capability to enhance local employment opportunities;
  5. Develop and implement short and long term Monitoring and Maintenance Plans for Hazardous Fuels Reduction, b) Community Fire Education and Training, and/or Community Action Programs.


Each state has a separate announcement and deadline. Applications from Alaska are due March 30, 2020 while applications from Wyoming are due May 30, 2020. Need ideas for projects? Be sure to visit NFPA's Wildfire Community Preparedness Day page for tips, and review details on how to prepare homes to resist ignition from wildfire. Follow me on Twitter! @Michele_NFPA

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