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The Fire Protection Research Foundation, the research affiliate of NFPA is overseeing a two-year project on the Economic and Emotional Impact of an Active Shooter/Hostile Event – thanks to Fire Prevention and Safety Grant money from FEMA.

 

The technical committee for NFPA 3000, Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program (the world’s first standard to help communities holistically plan for, respond to, and recover from mass casualty events) will play an integral role in the research effort.

 

Emergency responders, who are directly involved with horrific active shooter/hostile event tragedies can suffer life-long impact. This toll is felt acutely by the individual sufferer, but it is also affects the 29,819 fire departments in the U.S; 18,000 law enforcement agencies (according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics); and 51,808 local government units (per 2012 Census of Governments data) - most of which bear the costs associated with expanded mental health resources, staff turnovers, early retirements, and staff reassignments. Additionally, victims and community members experience ongoing trauma, and yet, there is little information available on the cost of these impacts to inform resource allocation and public policy.

 

The AFG-funded project will define a sustainable, quantified approach to measure the impact of ASHER incidents by:

 

  1. establishing valid economic measures for the fire service and others;
  2. quantifying the short-and-long-term emotional impact on emergency responders;
  3. justifying resources needed for preparedness, training, equipment, and other critical needs;
  4. and supporting the unified approach outlined in NFPA 3000

 

In May 2018, Chief Otto Drozd of Orange County, Florida asked the Research Foundation to look at how a first responder’s psyche and physical well-being are affected, and departmental budgets are impacted by hostile events. Drozd is passionate about the topic given that his department responded to the Pulse Night Club shooting incident in Orlando. In September of that same year, the topic was discussed at the Urban Fire Forum and a position paper that touched on the impact to the fire service was released. As the year rounded out, the Research Foundation convened a sub-group of the full NFPA 3000 Technical Committee to determine what they considered to be an ASHER-related research priority. Representatives from the fire service (International Association of Fire Fighters, Metro Chiefs, NFPA, Orange County Fire/Response Department); emergency medical services (American Ambulance Association), and law enforcement (Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training, Department of Justice, Fraternal Order of Police, International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the National Police Foundation) supported the proposed economic and emotional impact research project, and the Assistance to Firefighter Grant (AFG) proposal was submitted, on their behalf.

 

The project will quantify the toll on public safety departments, including the long-term emotional impact on personnel; and highlight costs that can help justify the necessary resources to plan and train for all phases of active shooter and hostile event incidents, including the highly-complex recovery phase. The project will:

 

  1. identify the relevant impacts on public safety departments, as well as available data and methodologies to estimate their costs in dollars;
  2. develop a framework to benchmark costs, and identify gaps in data;
    use the framework to complete three case studies utilizing communities of different sizes and demographic compositions;
  3. establish recommendations for planning, training, and recovery for active shooter and hostile event response that could help reduce or avoid costs;
  4. and disseminate methodology/framework, case studies, and recommendations to appropriate audiences.

 

The ASHER economic and emotional impact research will begin this fall, and the final report and other deliverables are expected to be completed by September 2021.

pstaples

Halting Halloween Hazards

Posted by pstaples Employee Oct 16, 2019

Halloween has become a hugely popular time for fun and festivities, but with it comes the potential for a variety of fire hazards. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) encourages everyone to take these simple precautions to stay safe without sacrificing that fun.

 

According to NFPA research, between 2012 and 2016, decorations were the item first ignited in an estimated average of 800 reported home structure fires per year, resulting in an average of two civilian deaths, 34 civilian injuries and $11 million in direct property damage. The decoration was too close to a heat source such as a candle or equipment in almost half of these fires.

 

NFPA offers these tips to stay safe during the spooky season:

 

Costumes: Avoid fabric that billows or trails behind you, as these can easily ignite. If you are making your own costume, avoid loosely woven fabrics like linen and cotton, which can be very flammable.

 

Decorations: Many common decorations like cornstalks, crepe paper, and dried flowers are very flammable. Keep these and similar decorations far away from any open flames or heat sources, like candles, heaters, and light bulbs.

 

Candles: Using candles as decoration can be risky if not done correctly. Keep them in a well attended area out of the path of potential trick-or-treaters. Remind children of the dangers of open flames, and make sure they are supervised at all times when candles are lit. Extinguish candles before leaving an area.

 

Jack-o-lanterns: Glow sticks or electric candles are the safest choice when it comes to lighting up your jack-o-lantern, but if you choose to use a real candle, do so with extreme caution. Light a candle inside a jack-o-lantern using long fireplace matches or a utility lighter, and keep it away from other decorations.

 

Visibility: Give children flashlights or glowsticks for lighting, these can even be incorporated into the costume. If your child has a mask, ensure the eye holes are large enough for them to see clearly.

 

Smoke Alarms: This is a great time to make sure your smoke alarms are functional and up-to-date.

 

Exits: Exits are NOT an appropriate place for decorations. When decorating, ensure that nothing is blocking any escape routes.

 

 

For more info, check out our Halloween safety video on ways to reduce risk associated with Halloween. You can also visit Sparky the Fire Dog at his website to find tip sheets, kids activities, a pumpkin-carving template, and more!

 

Have a spooky (but safe) Halloween!

Not Every Hero Wears A Cape

Since 1922, the NFPA has sponsored the public observance of Fire Prevention Week. In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed Fire Prevention Week a national observance, making it the longest-running public health observance in our country. During Fire Prevention Week, children, adults, and teachers learn how to stay safe in case of a fire. Firefighters provide lifesaving public education in an effort to drastically decrease casualties caused by fires.

Fire Prevention Week is observed each year during the week of October 9th in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire, which began on October 8, 1871, and caused devastating damage. This horrific conflagration killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures, and burned more than 2,000 acres of land.

 

1979 Fire Prevention Week poster featuring Sparky the Fire Dog

This week’s throwback from the NFPA Archives has us visiting 1979 and checking out what Sparky the Fire Dog looked like then.

 

Sparky the Fire Dog was created for the NFPA in 1951 and has been the organization’s official mascot and spokesdog ever since. He is a widely recognized fire safety icon who is beloved by children and adults alike. In addition to connecting with the public through educational programs, he has a very active website, sparky.org, which allows kids to explore and learn about fire safety in a trusted, interactive environment.

 

 

For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Research Library & Archives.


 The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic.
 Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public.

According to the Farmers Almanac, this winter will be freezing, frigid and frosty with wide temperature swings reminiscent of a Polar Coaster. Here’s how you can prepare your building’s fire protection systems to cope with the cold.

Wet pipe systems as their name suggests are filled with water and we know that water will freeze when temperatures drop below 32°F (0°C). And when water freezes it expands and can cause cracks in the pipe or fitting in which it resides. If any part of your wet pipe system is exposed to freezing temperatures, the system should be equipped with a heat trace system which is one accepted method of freeze prevention. Heat tracing is simply an electrical conductor which produces a small amount of heat when electricity is passed through it. This heat is usually sufficient to prevent a pipe, fitting or sprinkler from freezing. It is important to have this system inspected to ensure that it is functioning, is not damaged, and pipe insulation is intact. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for inspecting this type of system. (NFPA 25: 5.2.7).

Another method of freeze protection is to add liquid anti-freeze to the piping system which is very similar to the anti-freeze that is in your cars radiator. Anti-freeze solutions should be tested to make sure that the mixture will not freeze at the lowest anticipated temperature. If the mixture is not correct, replacement may be necessary, be sure to use a listed anti-freeze solution. Your sprinkler contractor can complete this test very easily. (NFPA 25: 5.3.4)

Where heat tracing or anti-freeze is not practical, a dry pipe system is normally installed. As its name suggests, the piping in a dry pipe system is not filled with water but is pressurized with air or nitrogen gas. Unlike a wet pipe system where the pipe can be installed level, the piping in a dry pipe system must be pitched to drain automatically. This can result in trapped sections of pipe which must be drained manually. To drain a system manually, a drain connection called a drum drip or simply low point drain is installed. This type of drain assembly permits releasing accumulated water without releasing sufficient pressurized air to trip the dry pipe valve. Water that accumulates in the system (due to condensation or testing) should be removed before freezing temperatures set in. In Figure 16.10.5.3.5 from NFPA 13 (below), close valve “A”, remove the 1” (25 mm) plug, open valve “B: until all moisture has drained. Close Valve “B” and open valve “A”. Repeat this process until all moisture has been removed. (see NFPA 25, Chapter 13).

Where a dry pipe, pre-action or deluge system is installed, the system control valve must be installed in a heated enclosure. This enclosure must be heated since water is always present in the bottom of these valves and of course in the supply main. Now is a good time to test the heater and verify that adequate heat will be provided when the temperature outside drops. (see NFPA 25, Chapter 13).

Don’t forget the outside of the building! This can include a number of things such as hydrants and water tanks! We very rarely think about hydrants until they are needed but now is a good time to flush that hydrant and get rid of any debris inside. More important, take note of how well (or how poorly) the hydrant drains. In cold climates if the hydrant has to be used and does not drain properly it will freeze. (NFPA 25: 7.3.2.3) On the subject of hydrants, now is also a good time to flag that hydrant so it can be located when the snow piles up high. (NFPA 1:18.5.10.2). Don’t forget some clear space around the hydrant after the snow starts falling. A good guide is 36 in. (900 mm) all around the hydrant and 60 in. (1500 mm) in front of the steamer connection. (NFPA 1:18.5.10.2).

If your system is supplied by a water tank, for most locations in the US, that tank must have a heating system. Is the heating system functioning correctly? (NFPA 25:9.2.3) The temperature of the water inside that tank is required to be maintained at 40°F (4°C). Low and high temperature alarms are required to be tested prior to the heating season. (NFPA 25:9.3.3 & 9.3.4). This is important because the tank is sized with a specific amount of water based on the calculated system flow and required discharge duration. If substantial ice builds up inside the tank, the ice will reduce the amount of available water from this required amount of water not to mention the possibility of damaging the tank itself.

Speaking of ice buildup. If your fire protection system is supplied by a pond or other natural or man-made source of water, does that water source freeze over? If it does, is there sufficient water left once frozen to meet the fire protection system demand? NFPA 24 is being revised to address such issues in Chapter 5 “Water Supplies”. The proposed revision includes a method for determining ice thickness to make sure that sufficient water is left over for fire protection purposes. It may be time for an evaluation to ensure that your natural source of water has sufficient capacity during the winter months.

Remember, according to NFPA statistics, 10% of sprinkler system failures are due to lack of maintenance and 7% of failures are due to damaged system components. With a little care these types of failures can be avoided when the temperature starts to drop!

 

Wherever there is electrical energy there is a potential for an exposure to an electrical hazard. What makes a work environment safe from electrical hazards? For that matter, who makes sure that you are not exposed to electrical hazards? Is it the equipment manufacturer, your employer, or someone else? Although all of these play a part in electrical safety in the workplace, there is only one who truly has control over it. That person is you and there are steps you can take to keep yourself safe while at work.

Step One: Overcome our own ignorance. It only takes a little bit of knowledge and by reading this blog the hard part is already over. You are now aware that there are electrical hazards out there that can kill you. That was easy. Step One: done. 

Step Two: Recognize when you might be exposed to electrical hazards. NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace lists conditions of equipment that should permit normal operation of that equipment without exposing you to an electrical hazard. These are properly installed, properly maintained, used in accordance with the instructions, doors closed and secured, covers installed and secured and no sign of impending failure. You should know what the equipment you are working around looks and acts like when it was new. If something has changed or if anything looks out of place (i.e. broken parts, smoke, or funny smell) you may be exposed to an electrical hazard. Step Two: done.

Step Three: Recognize exposed known electrical hazards. The first hazard is a shock hazard. If there is an exposed, conductive, electrical part there is most likely a shock hazard. The exposed part could be a wire, circuit in an open enclosure or broken light bulb. There is a possibility that electrical current will pass over or through your body with fatal consequences if you contact the exposed part. The second hazard is an arc-flash hazard. If electrical equipment is not under normal operating conditions (see Step Two) there might be a possibility of an arc-flash. Unless your employer has done a comprehensive hazard assessment throughout the facility, you should not assume that the absence of an arc-flash label means that there is no arc-flash hazard. Step Three: done.

Step Four: Trust your instincts. A gut feeling often lets you know that something does not seem safe to do. You know when you are out of your comfort zone. You know when equipment appears to be acting funny. You know that is not a normal situation for everything to seem OK, but you still experience near-death experience (receive a shock). Step Four: done.

Step Five: Do not interact with the equipment. If everything is normal (see Step Two) you should be good to go. If it is not normal do not touch, operate or remain around the equipment. Step Five: done.

Step Six: Report the situation. You have recognized a problem. You may have been lucky enough to have just missed becoming a fatality when you received a shock. Without this important step the next person around the equipment could become a fatality. Make sure that you properly report the hazard and you might want to have it documented. Remember, if something is not documented it did not happen. Step Six: done.

Step Seven: Do not assume that someone has fixed the problem. If you have received an electric shock do not let someone tell you not to worry about it. The next shock may be fatal to you. I have many incident reports where the employee reporting more than one shock incident ended up being a fatality due to that same circuit. If the equipment is damaged make sure it has been repaired. Confirm that the hazardous situation has been satisfactorily addressed. Until someone assures you that the problem has been fixed do not interact with the equipment. Step Seven: done.

Step Eight: Enjoy the rest of your workday. Continue to be aware of the electrical hazards around you and how to avoid them. Step Eight: done.

Step Nine: Go home. The most important step for your family. Return home uninjured from your workday. Remember that all of these steps apply to the administrative assistant and the production line worker, as well as the master electrician. Step Nine: done?

For more information on 70E, read my entire 70E blog series on Xchange

Want to keep track of what is happening with the National Electrical Code (NEC)? Subscribe to the NEC Connect newsletter to stay informed of new content. The newsletter also includes NFPA 70E information such as my blogs.

Next time: Smoke on the Horizon (Signs of Weaknesses in a Safety Culture).

Please Note: Any comments, suggested text changes, or technical issues related to NFPA Standards posted or raised in this communication are not submissions to the NFPA standards development process and therefore will not be considered by the technical committee(s) responsible for NFPA Standards development.  To learn how to participate in the NFPA standards development process and submit proposed text for consideration by the responsible technical committee(s), please go to www.nfpa.org/submitpi for instructions.

Fires in wildland-urban interfaces (WUI) are associated with severe negative consequences, such as large community evacuation, property losses social disruption, short- and long-term damage to infrastructure, injuries, and evacuee and responder fatalities. Wildland fires represent an important safety issue in many regions of the world. The future expansion and increased complexity of wildland urban interfaces (WUI) pose severe challenges to community safety from an evacuation perspective.

 

WUI incidents require a multi-domain approach to assess their impact and the effectiveness of any mitigation efforts implemented. A simulation framework that can establish evacuation performance ahead of time (before responses are implemented), would complement current planning and educational approaches and broaden the scope of the evidence available in a cost-effective way. Such a framework might be used to predict how an evacuation develops based on current and possible future fire conditions, given different affected populations and evacuation decisions and the access/availability of different resources (e.g., road access, public transport, traffic congestion, etc.). To achieve this, the simulation framework would need to represent the core components driving the incident; e.g., a predictive model of residential response, fire development and traffic flow.

 

A specification for such an integrated platform architecture was developed during a 2017 FPRF research project. The WUI-NITY project aims at developing an integrated software platform for the simulation of wildland-urban interface (WUI) evacuation scenarios that can be used both before an incident for planning and during an incident to inform decisions. The primary application of this platform is the ability to generate dynamic vulnerability maps from coupled fire, pedestrian and traffic sub-models. The webinar will discuss the outcomes from this effort. The final project report will be available on the FPRF website.

 

Register for the webinar today. Visit www.nfpa.org/webinars for more upcoming NFPA webinars and archives.

 

When: Tuesday, October 22, 2019, 12:30-2:00 pm ET.

 

Presenters:

 

  • Enrico Ronchi, Lund University
  • Guillermo Rein, Imperial College London
  • Max Kinateder, National Research Council Canada
  • Steven Gwynne, Movement Strategies

IMPORTANT NOTE: This video was designed with messages for adult audiences, not children.

 

Fire Prevention Week, October 6-12, is officially here, and we’re encouraging all fire departments and safety educators to make the most of it!


With this year's theme year, Not every hero wears a cape. Plan and practice your escape.," our ultimate goal is to motivate as many households as possible to develop and practice a home escape plan. Our “Make your plan” page provides all the information needed - please share this resource as you work to promote the campaign in your communities.


We'll also be posting content on our social media platforms each day this week in support of Fire Prevention Week. To kick things off, the above video was posted this morning and is available for you to share. (IMPORTANT NOTE: Although this video is animated, it is intended for adult audiences, not children!)


As we continue to post Fire Prevention Week content on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages, we encourage you to share these resources as well, so that together we can reach as many people as possible. Meanwhile, our Fire Prevention Week website includes a wealth of free resources, including lesson plans, media materials, videos, activities, and more, which can all be used to help promote the campaign locally - make sure to take full advantage of them! 


Thanks to all of you for your hard work, and best of luck promoting Fire Prevention Week!

 

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. Please read and share.

 

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.

Happy Fire Prevention Month everyone! Let’s spend some time getting to know one of our favorite characters and look back at some of Sparky the Fire Dog’s appearances through history.

 

Smokey the Bear introduces the world to Sparky the Fire Dog (circa 1952)Pictured here: An advertisement with Smokey the Bear introducing the world to Sparky the Fire Dog (circa 1952).

 

Sparky the Fire Dog was created for the NFPA in 1951 and has been the organization’s official mascot and spokesdog ever since. He is a widely recognized fire safety icon who is beloved by children and adults alike. In addition to connecting with the public through educational programs, he has a very active website, sparky.org, which allows kids to explore and learn about fire safety in a trusted, interactive environment. The story of Sparky and a museum chronicling the changes in his appearance can also be found on the website. In addition to the name and image of Sparky, the title Sparky the Fire Dog is a registered trademark of NFPA. The name and image of Sparky have appeared on literally millions of copies of brochures, posters, workbooks, videos and other material distributed by the NFPA in the U.S. as well as internationally since the character’s initial creation.

 

Sparky has partnered with fire professionals, teachers, civic organizations, corporations and the media to deliver invaluable fire and life safety educational messages to children and adults alike. Over the years, the iconic fire dog has  used a multitude of educational techniques, including books, tip sheets, online resources, videos, apps and NFPA’s national public safety campaign, Fire Prevention Week, to share important safety messages like “Stop, drop and roll”; “Get out, stay out”; “Dial 9-1-1”; and “Know two ways out.” His dogged determination has ultimately helped reduce fire loss and injuries in North America. Be sure to visit www.sparky.org for safety educational materials; and follow Sparky’s

adventures on the Sparky website, Twitter, and Facebook.

 

The name and image of Sparky and the title Sparky the Fire Dog are registered trademarks of the National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA 02169.

 

For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Research Library & Archives.


 The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic.

 Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public.

Over the weekend, an explosion and fire aboard the Stolt Groenland, a 25,000-tonne, Cayman Island–flagged oil tanker, left 10 people injured, one of them critically, Reuters recently reported. The blast and subsequent blaze occurred while the ship was docked at the Port of Ulsan in South Korea.

 

The incident is exactly the type of scenario safety officials in the United States worry about. It also serves as a perfect illustration of the danger fires or explosions on large marine vessels pose, especially when those incidents occur when the ship is at or close to port. I explored this topic in detail for the cover story of the September/October 2019 issue of NFPA Journal, "Close Quarters." 

 

"People have this misconception that if a fire or explosion happens on a boat, even in a port, it'll be contained," a Navy fire chief told me for the article. "But that's not necessarily true." The chief's words rang true during the incident in South Korea. The fire on the Stolt Groenland was so large that it spread to another, nearby ship, the 9,000-tonne, South Korean–flagged Bow Dalian. And most of the people who were injured were not even on board either of the ships when the fire broke out—they were workers at the terminal. 

 

While the US has been fortunate to not have experienced a large ship fire or explosion at a port, officials I interviewed for the story pretty much unanimously agreed that if one did occur, many cities' local fire service wouldn't be prepared. "We've started to see ships that are a lot bigger than anything we're used to," a veteran marine firefighter told me. "These vessels are huge, and I don't think any major city, much less a smaller one, is truly prepared."

 

The Agence France-Presse reported that South Korean firefighters "struggled to contain [Saturday's] blaze and prevent it from spreading." Still, all of the 25 people aboard the Stolt Groenland and the 21 aboard the Bow Dalian were rescued—and that represents one of the most difficult aspects of incidents like this, given ships' narrow passageways and limited access points. The cause of the explosion is under investigation, AFP said.

The following three proposed Tentative Interim Amendments (TIAs) for NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code®, and NFPA 1851, Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting, are being published for public review and comment:

 

 

Anyone may submit a comment on these proposed TIAs by the November 7, 2019 closing date. Along with your comment, please identify the number of the TIA and forward to the Secretary, Standards Council by the closing date.

 

Fire Prevention Week, October 6-12, is just around the corner! This year’s campaign, “Not Every Hero Wears a Cape. Plan and Practice Your Escape!, works to better educate the public about the importance of home escape planning and practice while recognizing the potentially heroic impact of everyday people who put these messages into action.

 

Here are key reasons behind this year's focus on home escape planning and practice:

 

  • Today’s home fires burn faster than ever, which is largely the result of several contributing factors, including the construction/design of newer homes, and the use of synthetic materials in modern products and furnishings.
  • Studies show that in the past, people had approximately 17 minutes to escape a typical home fire from the time the smoke alarm sounds. Now they may have as little as two minutes to get out safely.
  • While the number of reported U.S. home fires in 2018 is half that in 1980, the death rate per 1000 reported fires has remained fairly steady, reflecting the continued challenges of safely escaping today’s home fires.
  • Home is the place people are at greatest risk to fire, but it’s the place they feel safest. About 80% of all U.S. fire deaths occur in homes.

 

Overall, we know that home escape planning and practice can deliver potentially life-saving outcomes.

 

A home escape plan includes working smoke alarms on every level of the home, in every bedroom, and near all sleeping areas. It also includes two ways out of every room, usually a door and a window, with a clear path to an outside meeting place (like a tree, light pole or mailbox) that’s a safe distance from the home. Home escape plans should be practiced twice a year by all members of the household.

 

To all the fire departments, organizations and groups preparing to launch Fire Prevention Week in their communities this October, we wish you the best of luck. And to all the people who develop and practice a home escape plan with their households as a result of learning about this year’s campaign, please know your efforts truly are heroic!

 

For more Fire Prevention Week details and resources, visit fpw.org.


What on earth is a breeching valve?


A breeching valve, also known as a safety shutoff valve or excess flow valve, monitors pressure and flow in a system. Upon seeing excessive flow, the valve will automatically close, essentially shutting off or “breeching” any flow to the system.

 

This safety feature works very well when a piping system is used for transporting hazardous materials such as petroleum, gas, or chemicals. It is also effective in pollution control applications. Breeching valves, however, are also finding their way into other systems including fire protection systems in high-rise buildings. At first glance, this may cause some concern since the fire protection community has spent a great deal of time and effort to ensure that control valves are OPEN at all times. NFPA statistics, however, show us that although sprinklers are exceptionally effective, the number one cause of system failure is, and has been for quite some time, due to a shut valve.


taken from NFPA U.S. Experience with Sprinklers report

 

So what are the benefits of installing a valve that will intentionally close upon excessive flow? Before we answer that question, we need to define excessive flow.


What is considered excessive flow? A sheared riser, leaving an open-ended pipe, is certain to cause excessive flow. A failed fitting on the upper stories of a building might also result in excessive flow. If we wanted to, we could come up with a list of other potentially catastrophic failures, but the real questions we should be asking are, “How often do such failures occur and should we design for them?”


Keep in mind, NFPA standards are minimum standards and such design concepts are usually left up to a risk management approach.


But, let’s just assume that an excess flow valve is going to be installed in a sprinkler system. How would excessive flow be defined? We calculate flow for sprinklers on every project so determining flow is already part of the design process. For example, a light hazard occupancy can be calculated at a density of .1 gpm/ft2 applied over an area of 1500 ft2. If we do the math quickly, we see that.1gpm/ft2 x 1500 ft2 = 150 gpm. If we add 20% for balancing, a conservative figure will result in a total flow of about 180 gpm. So, would we say that anything above this number is considered excessive flow? Of course, this number is based on the traditional concept of “remote area” or can be better identified as the area furthest away or space creating the highest-pressure demand on the water supply. The idea is that if we can supply that area of the system, we can supply any area of the system.


Now, did you notice that I used the words, pressure demand? How would things change if it was flow demand?


Let’s delve into some “what if” cases here. What if the operating area took place immediately adjacent to the riser? What if we calculated the system using an actual “C” value and not the 20 or so year old “C” value required by NFPA 13? For example, new steel pipe has a “C” value of closer to 140, whereas NFPA 13 requires a “C” value of 120 for wet systems. What if we calculated based on a zero cushion or calculated based on what the actual water supply will deliver? NFPA 13 does not require such a calculation but NFPA 16 does for the purpose of determining the reduced duration of foam concentrate. The difference in flows between those two calculations can be significant. What if there are hose racks or a standpipe system involved? No doubt, that could create a significant, variable water demand.


At this point in time, NFPA 13 does not address the issue of excess flow valves. It neither permits nor prohibits the installation of such valves; there is essentially no guidance given on the subject. As revisions are being made to NFPA 13 for the 2022 edition, perhaps it is time to look at the installation and application of these valves? For example, the standard could provide guidance on how much water is too much? Is 50% over the calculated flow the right setting? What should be done about inspection, testing and maintenance? Should breeching valves be prohibited altogether? The correlating committee for NFPA 13 will be looking at these issues in depth during their upcoming meeting in December. In the meantime, if an excess flow valve is specified for a project, the best course of action is to discuss the situation with the project engineer and fire marshal to determine what the proper settings should be and whether the valve is essential in the first place.


As noted previously in this piece, the number one cause of sprinkler system failure is a shut valve. Do we really want to install a valve that will intentionally shut off the water supply to a sprinkler system?”

After a week full of informative and innovative presentations and discussion, the Fire Protection Research Foundation’s Suppression, Detection and Signaling Research and Applications Conference (SUPDET 2019) has officially concluded.

 

Since 1997, the Research Foundation has organized SUPDET, an annual symposium which brings together leading experts in the field of fire protection engineering for the purpose of sharing recent research and development on techniques used for fire suppression, detection, and signaling. These events are generally attended by a variety of fire protection professionals, such as engineers, researchers, insurers, designers, manufacturers, installers, and AHJs.

Over the course of this year’s 4-day conference, participants were given the opportunity to exchange ideas and learn from colleagues within the fire protection engineering field that are putting old ideas to the test and advancing research in new areas.

 

On Wednesday afternoon, SUPDET 2019 attendees were invited to participate in a Workshop on Automatic and Remote Testing and Remote Monitoring of Fire Protection Systems. The objective of the workshop was for participants to discuss how technology can be used to perform automatic and remote tests and remotely monitor fire protection systems and identify what may be needed to ensure system reliability in the future.

 

Representatives from more than 30 organizations were represented at this year’s event. While the focus of the conference was on suppression and detection, sessions covered topics on Notification, Data and Modeling, Standards, Life Safety and Emerging Technologies and Storage Protection, among others.  Thank you to all the researchers and presenters who shared their knowledge and insight this week. As Casey Grant stated at the beginning of the program on Tuesday, “If we didn’t keep doing these sessions and programs, we wouldn’t continue to keep making the kind of progress we’ve been making.”

 

Thank you again to our sponsors for their support: Gentex Corporation, Viking, Zurich, Victaulic, Fire & Risk Alliance, Underwriters Laboratories, Siemens, National Fire Sprinkler Association, and Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.

 

For copies of this year’s Suppression, Detection and Signaling Research and Applications Conference (SUPDET 2019) presentation, please visit https://www.nfpa.org/supdet19presentations

 

And don’t forget to save the date for next year’s AUBE’20/SUPDET2020 which will be held September 15-17, 2020 at Katholische Akademie ‘Die Wolfsburg’ Mülheim an der Ruhr, Germany.

 

A tragic fire at Hospital Badim in Rio de Janeiro killed 11 patients last week.

 

We have taken a different approach with this blog than what we normally do. Security camera video obtained by various Brazil news outlets gives an inside perspective from the very beginning of this event when the fire started. I worked with several of my NFPA colleagues, including one who is fluent in Portuguese to help understand what we were seeing and hearing from the government officials who were interviewed. We have included links to those news stories that include the video.

 

When deadly incidents like these occur, the usual questions arise. Why did it happen? How do we prevent future tragedies? While we don’t know yet why it happened, we do know that benchmarks exist to prevent loss of life and property in the health care environment.

 

Buildings and facilities that care for the sick and injured, require additional code provisions in order to protect vulnerable hospital patients from fire. Although many of the Hospital Badim victims were elderly, the risks remain largely the same for any patient whose medical condition makes them incapable of self-preservation. During a fire event, patients are essentially dependent on the facility’s building construction features, fire protection systems, emergency management plan, and staff.

 

According to initial and ongoing news reports out of Rio, an emergency generator that was located in the basement level is considered to be the cause and origin of the fire. The generator was located in an open area that housed vehicles and building materials. It was a space that was either normally not occupied or that apparently had a relatively small building population that worked in that space. Security camera video on this level showed some type of arcing or sparking coming from the generator at approximately 5:45 PM. Although it is not known if the generator was operating, this is the first indication that something was amiss. In addition, four 250-litre (approximately 265 gallons total) diesel fuel storage tanks were located adjacent to the generator. Other security cameras on different levels of the hospital showed clear signs of smoke migration into different spaces and offices. Even in the midst of having clear signs of a significant fire, there seemed to be no sense of urgency, at least initially as the events unfolded on the basement level. Several attempts were made to control or extinguish the fire with portable fire extinguishers, but those efforts were not successful. Approximately 15 minutes into the fire event, it appears that decisions were being made to begin relocation or evacuation protocol for the staff, as well as patients.

 

At some point, a large flame can be seen coming out of the basement area and shooting above the street level. Thick black smoke accompanied this part of the fire while at the same time it was migrating throughout multiple levels of the facility. Although TV news coverage, photos and video allow us to make some assumptions about the incident, we obviously do not know the complete circumstances behind the fire or the hospital’s fire protection features, construction, or emergency plan. These are all important elements that should be considered as part of the formal investigation into this particular fire; and, for the record, should always be part of a comprehensive plan for fire and life safety in health care facilities.

 

Whenever a large loss incident like this occurs, NFPA has an obligation to share information about the various NFPA codes and standards that exist to prevent such tragedies-even when they occur beyond the borders of the United States. NFPA 101, Life Safety Code; NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities Code; and NFPA 110 Emergency and Standby Power Systems are among the documents that have the most relevancy to this fire. NFPA 101 establishes a comprehensive and holistic method to health care fire safety. Known as the “total concept” approach, the code mandates a combination of controls over building construction types and construction materials, extensive use of crucial fire protection systems including fire alarm and automatic sprinkler systems, and reliance on a properly trained and drilled staff who are able to take life-saving measures to protect patients as part of the emergency planning concept. When even one of these three elements are not at the level it needs to be, less than desirable outcomes are inevitable.

 

Likewise, NFPA 99 also establishes supplemental criteria that allows health care facilities to plan for a wide variety of emergency contingencies including total evacuation of the facility. As noted previously, it is presumed that the occupants that the facility is there to serve will largely be incapable of self-preservation. It is for this reason that total building evacuation is literally a measure of last resort when it comes to hospital fire safety. However, for those extraordinary conditions, NFPA 99 provides requirements for comprehensive emergency plans including plans for such a contingency. At some point during the Rio de Janeiro fire, the decision was made to evacuate the facility. This required a carefully coordinated effort between hospital staff, first responders, and even groups of ad hoc volunteers from the neighborhood who worked to move the patients to adjoining buildings and structures. These actions, no doubt, helped to save many lives during the fire.

 

As in any fire investigation, determining the cause and origin is a key part of the process. With video evidence of a problem with the emergency generator, investigators could utilize standards such as NFPA 110 to help determine if the system was in proper working and operating order. It is not known if the generator was in operation at the time that the fire started or if it was an idle position. Other requirements of NFPA 110 include having the generator located in a separately housed space or compartment with fire-resistance rated construction — a circumstance that was clearly not the case in this particular fire. In addition to these provisions, NFPA 110 also covers requirements for ongoing inspection, testing and maintenance (ITM) of the generators. ITM records are likely to be reviewed as well.

 

Other video evidence shows smoke spreading from the basement level to all floors of the building, the circumstances of which must be evaluated and understood. Codes like NFPA 101 establish very conservative rules to minimize the number, type and size of unprotected vertical openings to avoid such avenues for smoke spread. This particular area was closely scrutinized following the 1980 fire at the MGM Grand Hotel Las Vegas where many of the fatalities occurred on the upper levels of the building, far away from where the fire originated on the first floor. Preventing smoke movement and migration to upper levels is normally controlled through a combination of HVAC fan shutdown, fire and smoke dampers, and by ensuring that vertical penetrations for everything from exit stairways, to pipe and electrical chases, to building expansion joints are properly sealed and protected to all but eliminate the possibility of vertical smoke movement.

 

In the US, fatalities from a fire in a hospital are rare, although that hasn’t always been the case. In NFPA’s report, U.S. Structure Fires in Health Care Properties, the U.S. averages two deaths per year in these occupancies. Incidents that have occurred over the years have prompted changes to NFPA 101, NFPA 99, NFPA 110, and other standards. As a result, current standards address important issues such as emergency management, egress requirements, hazard vulnerability and risk assessments, construction requirements, emergency power supply systems and many other safety practices designed to make health care facilities safer.

 

The history and knowledge gained through lessons learned from previous fire events, can be used to design a comprehensive fire safety plan for your facility. Unfortunately, there will be more lessons learned from the Hospital Badim fire; but hopefully as we move forward and work to reduce loss of life due to fires at health care facilities, the lessons learned from this incident can be applied globally.

 

Click here to see the blog in Portuguese or Spanish.

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