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Jim Pauley at Hawks Cay Conference 2019 


This past week NFPA President Jim Pauley spoke to attendees at Hawks Cay 2019, a Florida Fire Sprinkler Association conference held in the Florida Keys. Jim shared a different way to think about safety.


Reflecting on past catastrophes including the Notre Dame Cathedral fire, and the explosion at a chemical plant in Yancheng, China, Jim shared, "These tragic, telling incidents, and so many more, are exactly what is on my mind and outlines our single biggest challenge: why can't we seem to find the elements to get safety right?"


"Everyone is focused on their particular piece that we have forgotten that safety is a system - not a singular action, piece of equipment or event," he continued.


In short, safety is an ecosystem.


Jim continued, “Time after time when we have seen calamities, we can trace the cause of those situations to a breakdown in one or more of the elements of this ecosystem.”



After explaining the eight components that make up the ecosystem, Jim Pauley issued a challenge to the audience:


“Which part of this ecosystem needs your attention? One, two, three, all of them? Change how you are talking about safety," he shared, "What are you going to do in fire protection? What are you going to do in terms of code enforcement? How can you influence policymakers? What can the build community do better? How can the fire service collaborate with other influencers to reduce risk? How can we educate the public about taking responsibility?"


Here are some steps to guide your assessment:


-Create a discussion group for each component.


-Determine where the gaps are.


-Prioritize which ones need to be addressed first.


-Then create an action plan you can work on, over time, to fill the gaps and ensure the ecosystem remains intact.


"It's a strategic way to approach to what all of you love to do - keep people and property safe," Jim concluded.


When things go well - and when they don't: In Ecosystem Watch, the NFPA Journal team has highlighted recent news events and research findings as examples of successes or failures in the context of the Fire and Life Safety Ecosystem.

The Rawlins Fire Department in Rawlins, Wyoming hosted a side-by-side burn to promote home fire sprinklers and the impact was clear. As fire ravaged the unsprinklered room, "bystanders dumbstruck by the spectacular sight" as Rawlins' longtime fire chief John Rutherford narrated the "controlled catastrophe" reported Rawlins


For the second part of the demonstration, the outcome was much different thanks to sprinklers. Even a stuffed monkey, which was placed on a small table survived the fire without a scratch. 


If the demonstration wasn't enough, the chief then drew attention to the Carnes family who was in the crowd at the event. They have been displaced from their home for nearly four months, following a fire that was believed to have been caused by a "shoddy lightbulb."


From the outside, Michelle Carnes, explained you wouldn't know the devastation had occurred. "But, inside the house," she said, "It’s a complete loss."


John Carnes said sprinklers would have made a difference; had sprinklers been installed he said that the property damage could have been in the $500 ballpark as opposed to "$200,000."


A sprinkler system "would've prevented 98% of the damage," said Michelle.


In the City of Rawlins, residential structures are not required to have sprinkler systems.

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