Skip navigation
All Places > NFPA Today > Blog
1 2 3 Previous Next

NFPA Today

4,295 posts

food trucks, NFPA 1

I’ve written about it in past posts, but this time of the year seems to bring to light many fire code issues and violations.  Whether it be haunted houses, fall festivals, fairs, school activities, corn mazes, seasonal decorations or other special events, fire inspectors are busy in the fall and soon after will be preparing for winter holiday activities (think Chrismas trees, snow removal, candles, holiday lights, and more special events to review and approve).

 

Here are some of the stories that I have come across this week related to local fire code issues, some seasonal, others more generic, and how NFPA 1 would apply to these scenarios if it was the fire code enforced in that jurisdiction:

 

  • Cancelled event with sky lanterns, North Carolina: Two events in North Carolina were cancelled because they included the release of sky lanterns.  NFPA 1, Section 10.10.9.3 states “The use of unmanned, free-floating sky lanterns and similar devices utilizing an open flame shall be prohibited.” The potential hazard posed by sky lanterns is that once ignited and released, the device becomes an uncontrolled, flying ignition source, whose direction of travel is dependent on the wind direction, which can change unpredictably. Although the combustible fuel load of the device itself might be small, the potential exists for the device to ignite vegetation or other combustibles in the area and cause a significant fire if it is not quickly extinguished.

 

  • Delayed opening and cancellation of haunted houses: In Mansfield, OH a haunted house had a delayed opening due to fire code violations and in Baltimore, MD, a haunted house at a local college was cancelled due to local fire code violations. In NFPA 1, haunted housed are classified as special amusement buildings, a type of assembly occupancy.  Automatic sprinkler protection, smoke detection, and other fire protection features are required throughout the haunted house.  Common violations may include unmarked egress, lack of fire protection systems, excessive combustible materials and decorations, or obstructed exits. 

 

  • Food truck explosion in Portland, OR: An explosion and fire on a food truck in Portland, OR occurred when a food cart employee was re-fueling a hot generator that they use for power. Some of the fuel spilled and fumes generated from re-fueling were blown into an ignition sources and ignited. Two food carts and 10 vehicles were damaged. Two additional propane tanks exploded in the fire. Fortunately, there were no injuries or fatalities.  NFPA 1, 2018 edition will include new provisions specific to mobile and temporary cooking equipment, including food trucks. NFPA offers a plethora of free food truck safety resources to address this recent trend in food truck popularity and safety concerns.

 

  • Enforcement of fire lanes and fire department access: In Owensboro, KY, a new ordinance will go into effect to enforce maintaining fire lanes clear and unobstructed. NFPA 1 requires a fire department access road with an unobstructed width of not less than 20 ft to extend to within 50 ft (15 m) of at least one exterior door of the building that can be opened from the outside and that provides access to the interior. Where required by the AHJ, approved signs, approved roadway surface markings, or other approved notices shall be provided and maintained to identify fire department access roads (fire lanes) or to prohibit the obstruction thereof or both. The required width of a fire department access road shall not be obstructed in any manner, including by the parking of vehicles.

 

Thanks for reading, stay safe!

 

Follow along on twitter, @KristinB_NFPA

 

PHOTO: Portland, Oregon food truck fire

 

Society has had fires in buildings under construction since we first started building them. Buildings in the course of construction have many additional fire hazards not found in completed structures. Fire protection equipment to restrict the spread of fire and extinguish it promptly has not yet been installed. Fires are also often difficult to access by the fire department. Every opportunity exists for serious fire loss.

 

NFPA 241, Standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alteration, and Demolition Operations is a unique standard in that it’s not a “brick and mortar” standard but a standard about the process of putting the “brick and mortar” in place.

 

Last week I covered this topic during my NFPA Live, an exclusive for NFPA Members. During the live event I got this follow-up question. I'm now sharing it with you. I hope you find some value in it. Also, check out our free bulletin on preventing construction site fires.

 

NFPA Live is an interactive video series in which members of NFPA staff address some of the most frequent topics they receive through the Member's Only Technical Question service. If you are currently an NFPA Member you can view the entire video by following this link. If you're not currently a member, join today!

 

Halloween is fast approaching, and with it, the rush to find the perfect costume, that great pumpkin, and just the right decorations to cover your house. Hidden within all this fun and excitement are potential fire hazards, and NFPA wants to remind everyone about some simple Halloween safety tips to help avoid seasonal hazards.

 

During the years 2011-2015, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 840 home structure fires  annually that began with decorations. These fires caused an average of 2 civilian deaths, 36 civilian injuries, and $11.4 million in direct property damage per year. Almost half (45%) of these fires were tied to decorations being too close to some type of heat source, such as a candle. A fire can start when candles are too close to decorations or when long, trailing costumes come into contact with candles.


To help others safely enjoy fall festivities, NFPA has created a Halloween safety video and a Halloween fire safety tip graphic that you can share with family and friends. The following tips can help ensure a harm-free holiday season:

 

  • Candles - Refrain from having an open flame. Use battery-operated candles or glow-sticks in your jack-o-lanterns.
  • Costumes - Choose the right costume. Stay away from long or flowing fabric, and skip extraneous costume pieces.
  • Decorations - Avoid flammable decorations including dried flowers, cornstalks and crepe paper that are highly flammable. Keep decorations away from open flames and other heat sources, including light bulbs and heaters.
  • Exits - Remember to keep all decorations away from doors so that they are not blocking any exits or escape routes.
  • Smoke alarms - Make sure all of your smoke alarms are working and up to date.
  • Visibility - Provide flashlights to children or have them carry glow sticks as part of their costumes. Make sure if a child is wearing a mask that the eye holes are large enough to see out of them.

 

Have a great Halloween!

The Report of the Motions Committee addresses five Fall 2017 NFPA Standards with certified amending motions that may be presented at the NFPA Technical Meeting (Tech Session) in Las Vegas, NV on June 11-14, 2018: 

  • NFPA 241, Standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alteration, and Demolition Operations 
  • NFPA 260, Standard Methods of Tests and Classification System for Cigarette Ignition Resistance of Components of Upholstered Furniture 
  • NFPA 289, Standard Method of Fire Test for Individual Fuel Packages 
  • NFPA 1001, Standard for Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications 
  • NFPA 1981, Standard on Open-Circuit Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) for Emergency Services
This Report also identifies a list of 28 additional standards that have been determined by the Motions Committee to be Consent Standards and shall be forwarded to the Standards Council for balloting.  In accordance with 1.6.2(a) of the Regulations, a fifteen day appeal period follows the publication date of this Report in which one may file an appeal related to the issuance of the Consent Standards listed below. The filing deadline for such appeal is October 27, 2017.
These Consent Standards are as follows:   
  • NFPA 12, Standard on Carbon Dioxide Extinguishing Systems 
  • NFPA 12A, Standard on Halon 1301 Fire Extinguishing Systems
  • NFPA 22, Standard for Water Tanks for Private Fire Protection
  • NFPA 33, Standard for Spray Application Using Flammable or Combustible Materials 
  • NFPA 34, Standard for Dipping, Coating, and Printing Processes Using Flammable or Combustible Liquids 
  • NFPA 68, Standard on Explosion Protection by Deflagration Venting
  • NFPA 79, Electrical Standard for Industrial Machinery
  • NFPA 92, Standard for Smoke Control Systems
  • NFPA 204, Standard for Smoke and Heat Venting
  • NFPA 259, Standard Test Method for Potential Heat of Building Materials
  • NFPA 261, Standard Method of Test for Determining Resistance of Mock-Up Upholstered Furniture Material Assemblies to Ignition by Smoldering Cigarettes
  • NFPA 270, Standard Test Method for Measurement of Smoke Obscuration Using a Conical Radiant Source in a Single Closed Chamber 
  • NFPA 274, Standard Test Method to Evaluate Fire Performance Characteristics of Pipe Insulation
  • NFPA 495, Explosive Materials Code
  • NFPA 498, Standard for Safe Havens and Interchange Lots for Vehicles Transporting Explosives
  • NFPA 705, Recommended Practice for a Field Flame Test for Textiles and Films
  • NFPA 1026, Standard for Incident Management Personnel Professional Qualifications
  • NFPA 1061, Standard for Professional Qualifications for Public Safety Telecommunications Personnel 
  • NFPA 1081, Standard for Industrial Fire Brigade Member Professional Qualifications 
  • NFPA 1404, Standard for Fire Service Respiratory Protection Training
  • NFPA 1451, Standard for a Fire and Emergency Service Vehicle Operations Training Program
  • NFPA 1855, Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Technical Rescue Incidents
  • NFPA 1858, Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Life Safety Rope and Equipment for Emergency Services
  • NFPA 1925, Standard on Marine Fire-Fighting Vessels
  • NFPA 1962, Standard for the Care, Use, Inspection, Service Testing, and Replacement of Fire Hose, Couplings, Nozzles, and Fire Hose Appliances
  • NFPA 1964, Standard for Spray Nozzles
  • NFPA 1982, Standard on Personal Alert Safety Systems (PASS) 
  • NFPA 2001, Standard on Clean Agent Fire Extinguishing Systems
The anticipated issuance date for these consent standards is November 10, 2017 with an effective date of November 30, 2017.   

 

Last month, Florida Governor Rick Scott issued an emergency action requiring all nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have an emergency power plan. This includes acquisition of generator capacity that ensures ambient temperatures of 80 degrees or less for a four-day period in the event of electrical power loss. The plan also mandates acquisition of a four-day fuel supply for those generators.


These requirements will need to be met by building owners, facility managers and designers in order to receive approval from numerous authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ), including the state fire marshal, for compliance with the original installation. Many other requirements need to be met for accreditation at the state and federal level, and for reimbursement from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).


As building owners, facility managers and designers work with contractors to adequately meet the governor’s mandate, there are many electrical, fire, and life safety provisions that need to be considered.

 

NFPA's upcoming webinar, “Florida Nursing Home/Assisted Living Emergency Power, Fire and Life Safety Considerations,” on October 26, 12:30-1:30pm, EST, will cover the associated essentials of meeting this requirement, with an overview of applicable NFPA codes and standards, including NFPA 30, Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code; NFPA 37, Standard for the Installation and Use of Stationary Combustion Engines and Gas Turbines; NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities Code; and NFPA 110, Standard for Emergency and Standby Power Systems.


While this information applies to all nursing homes and assisted living facilities that must comply with CMS’s healthcare requirements, Florida providers, facility managers, building owners and designers are strongly encouraged to register for the webinar and ensure that they receive the needed approvals and accreditations by the state’s November 15, 2017, deadline.


John Hart, PE, senior fire protection engineer, NFPA, and Ken Willette, NFPA segment director, will be co-presenting.

I’ve had a couple questions come across my desk asking what the Life Safety Code would require for wall construction to subdivide a building into separate smaller “buildings.” This subdivision is for the purposes of avoiding a requirement for automatic sprinkler protection by reducing the height or area of the smaller buildings to below the prescribed threshold values at which sprinkler protection is required. 

The short answer is that the Life Safety Code contains no such provision. It is not a building code, therefore it does not contain requirements for barriers to create “separate buildings.” If the code requires automatic sprinkler protection throughout the building, it is then up to the authority having jurisdiction to determine what constitutes the boundaries of the building, usually with the help of the applicable building code.  Having said that, there are some provisions in the code that flirt with the concept of building separation walls, so the questions I received were not without merit. 

One of those provisions deals with separating portions of buildings with different types of construction for the purpose of classifying the construction type:

8.2.1.3 Where the building or facility includes additions or connected structures of different construction types, the rating and classification of the structure shall be based on one of the following: 

(1) Separate buildings, if a two-hour or greater vertically aligned fire barrier wall in accordance with NFPA 221 exists between the portions of the building

(2) Separate buildings, if provided with previously approved separations

(3) Least fire-resistive construction type of the connected portions, if separation as specified in 8.2.1.3(1) or 8.2.1.3(2) is not provided   

For example, if I have an existing building of Type II(222) construction (noncombustible, two-hour rated structure), and I add on to it using Type II(000) construction (noncombustible, nonrated structure), the building’s overall construction classification will be downgraded to Type II(000). This is the least fire resistive type present, unless the addition is separated from the existing building by a two-hour or greater vertically aligned fire barrier wall in accordance with NFPA 221, Standard for High Challenge Fire Walls, Fire Walls, and Fire Barrier Walls, in which case the existing building continues to be classified as Type II(222) and the addition is classified as Type II(000). From the Life Safety Code’s perspective, however, it is still one building, and if the building requires automatic sprinkler protection throughout, then both the existing building and the addition must be protected. The provision of 8.2.1.3 relates only to separating different types of construction for the purpose of construction classification. 

Another question I received asked whether an existing building with two, side-by-side dwelling units could add a new third dwelling unit separated by a two-hour fire barrier and classify the addition as a new one-family dwelling (sprinklered) and the existing portion as an existing two-family dwelling (nonsprinklered). Or would the entire building be classified as an apartment building (three or more dwelling units) and require sprinklers throughout? The Life Safety Code says if there are three or more dwelling units, it’s an apartment building, and Chapter 43, Building Rehabilitation, says automatic sprinklers would be required throughout the building. However, NFPA’s building code, NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code, says you can separate townhouses with not more than two dwelling units from each other by two-hour fire barriers and classify them as a series of attached, one- and two-family dwellings (see Section 22.5 of NFPA 5000 for details). The International Building Code, which is widely used here in the U.S., might have similar criteria. 

Another (paraphrased) question asked whether a new school could be subdivided into fire compartments formed by two-hour fire barriers, each not more than 12,000 square feet in area, to avoid requiring automatic sprinklers under the 2015 edition of NFPA 101. (Note that the 2018 edition was revised to require sprinklers in all new educational occupancies other than those not more than 1,000 square feet in area or consisting of a single classroom. See 14.3.5.) The answer to this one was “maybe,” because Annex A contained the following provision:

A.14.3.5.1 It is the intent to permit use of the criteria of 8.2.1.3(1) to create separate buildings for purposes of limiting educational occupancy building area to not more than 12,000 square feet (1120 square meters). 

So this suggestion left it up to the AHJ to determine if subdivision by two-hour barriers was permitted in lieu of sprinklers. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a fan of this language. Either permit something via code language or don’t. It doesn’t help anyone to have wishy-washy “suggestions” in Annex A and then force me to tell people “it’s up to the AHJ.” Frankly, I’m glad this provision in Annex A is gone (thank you, Technical Committee on Educational and Day Care Occupancies). It’s not uncommon to hear me say in technical committee meetings, “I’m going to have to answer questions on this…” The code isn’t perfect, but we try really hard to make it as perfect as we can. You can help; participate in the process by submitting public input for revisions. The 2021 edition revision cycle is right around the corner. Your opportunity to make your voice heard is now!

 

Got an idea for a topic for a future #101Wednesdays? Post it in the comments below – I’d love to hear your suggestions! Did you know NFPA 101 is available to review online for free? Head over to www.nfpa.org/101 and click on “FREE ACCESS.” Follow me on Twitter: @NFPAGregH

John Sullivan, deputy chief of the Worcester Fire Department/vice chair of the IAFC health and safety section, discusses why it's so important for firefighters to get physical exams each year.

 

The average age of a first heart attack for the general population is 66. For the fire service, it’s 49. It’s a sobering statistic that underscores the critical importance of annual exams for firefighters.

The presentation, “Every Firefighter Needs An Annual Physical: An Interactive Discussion on Why and How to Make It Happen” at NFPA’s 2017 Conference & Expo in Boston, underscored the potentially life-saving difference annual exams can make by monitoring and/or detecting health issues as early as possible.

Strategies for ensuring that all firefighters get an annual exam, as well as the challenges for doing that, were addressed by David Fischler, JD, CFO, with 28 years of experience at Suffolk County (New York) Fire Rescue; Dr. Michael Hamrock, who practices internal medicine and addiction medicine at Elizabeth’s Medical Center; and John Sullivan, deputy chief of the Worcester Fire Department/vice chair of the IAFC health and safety section.

Most fire departments require a physical in order for firefighters to get on the job, but it’s not clear how many firefighters actually receive annual exams thereafter. According to Chief Sullivan, many factors play into whether a fire chief places a priority on annual exams.

While NFPA 1582, Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments, is considered the gold standard, Sullivan notes that not all fire departments have access to it.

With those limitations in mind, Dr. Hamrock says that primary care physicians need to be trained about firefighter health issues and the unique risks associated with the job so that they understand why firefighters need comprehensive physicals.

To learn more about the importance of annual exams for firefighters, listen to the full audio of this presentation.
NFPA Conference & Expo attendees and NFPA members also have full access to ALL the 2017 NFPA C&E education session audio & video files. Browse the full list of education sessions with attached audio/video.

 

“This weekend we lost a truly nice and genuine man whose passing marks the end of a legacy for the fire service,” NFPA’s Fire Service Segment Director Ken Willette said after hearing that former Phoenix Fire Chief and fire services icon Alan Brunacini died this weekend at age 80.

 

Chief Brunacini began his career in 1958 as a firefighter, promoting to engineer, captain, battalion chief, and assistant chief before holding the position of fire chief in Phoenix from 1978 to 2006. In his retirement, he was a sought-after speaker, contributor and thought-leader.

 

Brunacini had a long relationship with NFPA, grounded in mutual respect for the fire service, a passion for learning; empowerment of the next generation of firefighters, and a focus on the needs of those we serve. He held a seat on the NFPA Board of Directors from 1978 until 1984 when he was nominated Second Vice Chairman, then rose to the role of First Vice Chairman in 1986, and ultimately became NFPA’s Chairman of the Board from 1988 until 1990. Brunacini continued to be involved with the NFPA Board until 1994, holding the position of Past Chairman, and then serving as a member of both the Long Range Planning Committee and the Nominating Committee.

 

Chief Brunacini was chairman of the technical committee for NFPA 1500 Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety, Health, and Wellness Program and NFPA 1710 Standard for the Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Career Fire Departments. He was also a strong proponent of using residential sprinklers; and was actively involved in research projects related to fire science, and firefighter health and safety. Brunacini published his Fire Command texts in 1985 and in 2002. These documents transformed fire and emergency services management, and prompted NFPA to develop a multi-part series of training slides and workbooks as supplements to the texts.

 

Chris Dubay, NFPA’s vice president and chief engineer, recalled the impact that Brunacini had on his career. “Chief Brunacini challenged me to lead and think differently. It was a blessing to have him as a mentor. He provided a clear model of how to lead the way, even in controversy and when others might disagree with the direction,” Dubay said. “I cannot explain or justify why he invested in me, but I am forever grateful to him. He has left a large and long standing impact on the fire service, and on me, personally.”

 

In 2001, Brunacini received NFPA’s Paul C. Lamb Award, an honor bestowed on individuals who demonstrate the height of volunteer spirit and deed. Like Lamb, Brunacini’s career reflected a broad range of responsibilities and decades of achievements.

 

The next year, Brunacini was recognized by the Metro Chiefs with a “lifetime achievement” award. Large urban fire department peers applauded Brunacini’s leadership skills and his knack for employing common-sense customer service concepts within the fire service. Chief Brunacini’s refreshing takeaways were documented in a 1996 humorous, conversational-styled book, Essentials of Fire Department Customer Service, which became a bible for firefighters, administrators and officers, and is still considered a go-to resource today. The affable fire chief was also known for reminding the fire service to remember what matters most to “Mrs. Smith,” a character he established to encourage the personalization of fire service.

 


For nearly four decades, Brunacini was a friend to NFPA. He made a special appearance at the NFPA Responder Forum in Charlotte, North Carolina last fall, sharing his wit and wisdom with representatives from 13 different fire organizations. Dressed in one of his signature Hawaiian shirts, Brunacini’s remarks were simple, straightforward and timeless – even as he addressed the topic of technology within the fire service. In this clip, he talks about setting expectations and firefighter culture.


Chief Brunacini was a legend, and yet one of the most approachable talents out there. His light never dimmed. Earlier this year, he participated in an NFPA podcast on firefighter safety and NFPA 1500, which was then covered in an NFPA Journal® article entitled, “We drove like we were crazy.” This title was a direct quote from Brunacini, who shared his comedic, yet invaluable insight on PPE, daredevil driving practices – and the alarming number of firefighter deaths and injuries that preceded the development of NFPA 1500 in 1987.

 

Chief Brunacini leaves a legacy that will serve generations of the fire service for years to come.

In 2016, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) adopted the 2012 edition of NFPA 101, Life Safety Code®, which requires compliance with the 2010 edition of NFPA 80, Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives. As of January 1, 2017, all healthcare facility managers who work in hospital settings must comply with NFPA 80.


NFPA 80 covers the installation, care and maintenance of many types of fire doors and protective openings. More specifically, it requires that yearly inspections and testing are conducted on all fire door assemblies, ensuring that deficiencies are corrected; follow-up reacceptance testing is conducted; and records are properly maintained for review by the authority having jurisdiction.

 

Our new NFPA 80 fact sheet provides an overview of these requirements, pinpointing:

  • which door components need to be tested and inspected;
  • who is qualified to perform the inspections; and
  • how those efforts can be documented.

Phoenix Society Walk of Remembrance 2017

 

Earlier this month I attended the 29th Phoenix World Burn Congress (PWBC), the largest gathering of the burn survivor community. It is a poignant reminder of why fire prevention and life safety is so important. This is the annual gathering of those impacted by fire – survivors, caretakers, healthcare professionals, fire service - supporting one another and talking about prevention and advocacy strategies. It is an incredible experience.   

 

I went to my first PWBC in 2009 and am always amazed at how quickly 1000 people can come together in such an accepting and compassionate way. What is equally impressive is the strength, resiliency and optimism of those whose lives have been impacted by burns. In addition, their desire to help prevent future fie tragedies from occurring is remarkable.   


NFPA has had a longstanding partnership with Phoenix Society because the work of the Phoenix Society is a critical component in the full fire prevention system and intertwined with everyone who works in fire and life safety. Without the Phoenix Society, NFPA cannot fully achieve our mission. We work with Phoenix Society on the Fire Sprinkler Initiative’s Faces of Fire campaign and other projects. Most recently we produced a podcast series called The Survivors, that will be released later this month.    

 

This work is important. Survival from a burn injury in a United States hospital is nearing 96% and that is good news. But it means there are more and more people who need support throughout their life. I am honored to be the board president of the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors on behalf of NFPA and help them expand their mission of building a community for transformational healing.   

 

For years, Phoenix Society has been developing leading edge resources for the burn community and continues to do so today. They amplify the survivor voice in conversations that influence the future of acute and long-term care, psychosocial support, and research. They work alongside NFPA and other partners for fire prevention and advocating for up to date fire and life safety codes.    

 

This is a critical organization doing incredible work. NFPA is excited about what the future holds and is supporting their efforts to expand services so they can reach more people in more places, increase their advocacy voice and further their leadership role in burn care.   

 

At NFPA, we often say that we never do anything alone. We have much greater impact through by working with others. Our work with Phoenix Society is moving us closer to our vision of eliminating loss from fire. 

I will be the first to admit that I am no expert on wildfire protection. In fact, my area of focus is usually in building and life safety and passive fire protection methods, far from the world of wildfires. But, working with NFPA 1 has required me to expand my knowledge of other fire protection topics as the Fire Code is all encompassing when it comes to fire protection and fire prevention.


Anyone who has been paying even the slightest attention to national news can’t help but notice the complete devastation that wildfires are causing right now in Northern California. I was amazed at the statistic that, at one point, the fires were advancing at a rate of more than a football field every three seconds. Unfathomable to a person like me, who hasn’t experienced a major wildfire where I live. As of this morning the statistics show the following:


• 23 fatalities
• 285 missing
• 170,000 acres burned
• 3,500 structures burned
• 20,000 people evacuated
• 8,000+ firefighters working to control the fires

 

 

NFPA 1 addresses the Wildland Urban Interface in Chapter 17 of the Code. Chapter 17 and NFPA 1144, Standard for Reducing Structure Ignition Hazards from Wildland Fire, provide minimum requirements for planning, construction, maintenance, education, and management elements for the protection of life and property in areas where wildland fire poses a potential threat to structures. The term wildland/urban interface is defined in 3.3.275 as “the presence of structures in locations in which the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) determines that topographical features, vegetation fuel types, local weather conditions, and prevailing winds result in the potential for ignition of the structures within the area from flames and firebrands of a wildland fire.” Although the term wildland/urban interface implies that the primary concern is the location of structures relative to the wildland, it is actually the combustibility and density of structures that plays a larger role in establishing the risk from the hazard of wildland fires. The wildland/urban interface should not be thought of as a specific geographic location, but rather a set of conditions that can exist wherever structures are exposed to potential wildland fires. Where unusual conditions exist, the AHJ can approve alternative methods of providing a level of protection at least equivalent to that required by this chapter. See Section 1.4 for additional guidance on equivalencies, alternatives, and modifications.


Chapter 17 was expanded in the 2012 edition of the Code by extracting some of the major requirements of NFPA 1144. This expansion is intended to make the Code more self-contained and user-friendly for jurisdictions subject to potential wildland fire hazards. NFPA 1144 provides a methodology for assessing wildland fire ignition hazards around existing structures, residential developments, and subdivisions as well as for evaluating improved property or planned property improvement that is to be located in a wildland/urban interface area. The standard also provides minimum requirements for new construction to reduce the potential of structure ignition from wildland fires.

 

While I will emphasize that I am no expert on wildland fire protection or prevention, NFPA is. NFPA’s team of experts offers free resources, fact sheets, research and reports, and other educational materials to help jurisdictions protect their communities from the devastation of wildfire. Firewise USA™, a project of NFPA cosponsored by the USDA Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters, is a recognition program for small communities that take action to reduce wildfire risks. The Firewise website (www.firewise.org) offers a wealth of information including on-line education. In addition, NFPA offers a professional, two-day, on-site training course, Assessing Structure Ignition Potential from Wildfire, based on the principles of NFPA 1144 and NFPA 1141, Standard for Fire Protection Infrastructure for Land Development in Wildland, Rural, and Suburban Areas. For more information, you can visit www.nfpa.org/wildfire.

 

Thanks for reading. Stay safe!

 

(you can follow me on Twitter for more information, @KristinB_NFPA)

A common question we hear is “why is the code handbook so much bigger than the code?” To really see the difference, let’s look at one specific section of a code and the corresponding material found in the handbook. Below is what you see when you look at 8.5.2 in NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems (2016 edition):

In the Automatic Sprinkler Systems Handbook example shown below, commentary immediately follows the code to explain the requirement in greater detail and artwork illustrates it further:

And to give an even deeper understanding of the requirement, in the handbook this code section also has an NFPA 13 Lesson to explain how to determine sprinkler spacing and location:

 

While this example is specific to NFPA 13 and the 2016 edition of that handbook, every NFPA handbook is different and each one offers unique features and material to help you understand the code requirements. If you have thoughts on what you’d like to see in a future handbook, let us know! We’re developing these products as tools to help you do your job.

Home in flames, Los Angeles "La Tuna" wildfire

As I write this on the afternoon of Wednesday, October 11, 2017, firefighters in California are battling 22 large wildfires that have burned nearly 170,000 acres - most of that acreage in 8 counties in the northern part of the state. According to CAL FIRE, firefighters are bracing for the winds to shift this evening and increase in speed. Seventeen people are confirmed to have died in the wildfires this week. Eleven people died in the Tubbs Fire alone, making it the 6th deadliest fire in California's history.

 

Watching this horrific disaster unfold is devastating and depressing. Knowing all the good that so many residents, firefighters, and agencies have done over so many years in California to prepare for wildfire makes it harder to accept that at last count 3,500 structures have been destroyed and that the region is experiencing a tragic loss of life. (Note: news sources on Thursday morning, October 12, cite the rising death toll at 23 people killed). This outcome is what NFPA staff and so many other safety advocates dread and spend our careers trying to avert. 

 

Fielding media inquiries this week has been difficult - but of course nowhere near on the scale of difficulty of fighting the fire, carrying out evacuation orders, or watching one's home and neighborhood go up in flames. The unfortunate trend of the media is to play the blame game. I can't and won't play that game, by calling out any single entity to say it is their fault the fires happened, or homes burned, or people died. What I can do is to point out the tremendous and humbling complexity of the wildfire problem when it comes to the disastrous loss of homes and lives. What I can do is call on everyone in our society to look in the mirror and to think - whether in your personal or professional lives - what must I do to stop this happening over and over again?

 

What I can do is to try to shake people out of complacency. Yes, it will happen. You need to be prepared. It's very likely that firefighters can't rescue you if there are coping with multiple large, fast-moving wildfires. Yes, if your home is already burning during a major wildfire, the firefighters are going to try to save the home next door. You need to be ready to be on your own for up to 72 hours. Yes, you need a plan. Yes, you need a go-kit for evacuation. If neighboring homes are closer than 100 feet to yours, you pose an ignition risk to each other. Yes, you need to work on becoming a Firewise USA site with your neighbors. Yes, you need to participate in Wildfire Community Preparedness Day. You need to do a home inventory in case your home burns to the ground and you need to make an insurance claim. When you rebuild you need to make your home fire-resistant. And we all need to come to terms with a new normal of large and frequent wildfires.

 

You may already know these things and be acting on the sound advice provided by NFPA and its partners. If this information is new to you, we have wonderful examples for you to emulate. Ordinary people, whether in the 140 Firewise USA sites in California, participants in the Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network, or in local Fire Safe Councils have looked in the mirror, learned what they need to do, and taken action. Follow their lead - these people are your neighbors, and they are the ones who are truly making a difference in wildfire safety at the local level.

 

Finally, if you are in an area with a Red Flag Warning - where conditions are ripe for wildfire - stay alert and be ready to leave. Please don't wait for an official evacuation order. Trust your gut, prepare for the worst, and with you, I will hope for the best.

 

Resources:

 

 

Photo: Home burning during the September 2017 La Tuna Fire in Los Angeles, provided courtesy of Jeremy Oberstein,  Los Angeles City Fire Department.

In what seems like a continuous string of tragedies (earthquakes in Mexico; hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean; and the deadly Las Vegas mass shooting), Northern California is now in the grip of devastating wildfires, which have left at least 17 people dead and another 180 missing – a sad, ironic twist to 2017’s Fire Prevention Week. I’ve been able to connect some of the earlier events to my #101Wednesdays posts, but wildfires are a bit of an enigma to me, and there’s no direct correlation to the Life Safety Code. My experience with wildfires was limited to strapping on an Indian can in my late-teens and early twenties as an on-call firefighter in Central Massachusetts and wetting down the edges of relatively small brush fires. We never had fires where I grew up like they have out West. Fortunately, NFPA has a group of experts dedicated to the wildland fire problem. I invite you to check out their Fire Break blog posts for the latest information.

On a happier note, the 2018 edition of NFPA 101 has officially hit the street. If you were unable to view my one-hour webinar on changes from the 2015 edition, it was recorded and can be viewed here free of charge. One of the changes I touched on was the addition of new occupant life safety requirements for animal housing facilities, which are now categorized as special structures in Chapter 11 of the code. Animal housing facilities are defined as areas of a building or structure, including interior and adjacent exterior spaces, where animals are fed, rested, worked, exercised, treated, exhibited, or used for production (3.3.19). Note that an animal housing facility is not an occupancy classification; an animal housing facility could be a storage occupancy (e.g., barns and stables), a business occupancy (e.g., a veterinary hospital), or a mercantile occupancy (e.g., a pet store), among others. As with other special structures, the usual occupancy-specific requirements apply in addition to any modifications by the special structure provisions of Chapter 11. In the case of a horse stable, for example, the storage occupancy requirements of Chapter 42 would apply as modified by the new animal housing facility provisions of Section 11.1.

Section 11.1 provides a reference to NFPA 150, Standard on Fire and Life Safety in Animal Housing Facilities, 2016 edition. While the scope of NFPA 150 includes the safety of both human and animal occupants, the scope of NFPA 101 is limited to the safety of human occupants. Section 11.1 indicates that where human occupants are expected to delay their egress to care for animals or assist with their evacuation in the event of a fire, the means of egress requirements of NFPA 150 are to be applied where they are more restrictive than those of NFPA 101.

Chapter 8 of NFPA 150 specifies requirements for means of egress in animal housing facilities where handlers will assist with animal evacuation:

  • At least two means of egress must be provided
  • Doors must have a clear width of not less than 32 in., 1.5-times the average width of the largest animal expected to be accommodated, or 1.5-times the width of any equipment needed to facilitate evacuation, whichever is greater
  • Door height must also be sufficient to accommodate any animals or evacuation equipment
  • In nonsprinklered facilities, the travel distance to an exit meeting the aforementioned requirements is limited to 75 feet
  • With automatic sprinklers, the permitted travel distance increases to 100 feet

 

It is expected these travel distance limits will be more restrictive than the typical NFPA 101 travel distance limits. For example, in ordinary-hazard storage occupancies, exit travel distance is limited to 200 feet (nonsprinklered) or 400 feet (sprinklered) (42.2.6); so the reduced exit travel distance limits of NFPA 150 are probably the most significant implications of the new animal housing facility requirements in the Life Safety Code. As noted in Annex A of NFPA 150, these reduced travel distances recognize the difficulty associated with evacuating panicking animals from a facility during an emergency.

It should be noted that NFPA 150 contains additional requirements which help to protect animals and their handlers from the effects of fire. For example, facilities that house what it refers to as Category A animals (animals that pose a potential risk to the health or safety of rescuers or the general public; animals that cannot be removed without potential risk to the health and welfare of the animal or other animals; animals that are impossible or impractical to move; animals that are not mobile or not in a mobile enclosure) or horses must be protected by an approved automatic sprinkler system. Although NFPA 101 requires compliance only with the means of egress provisions of NFPA 150, application of its numerous other requirements should be considered where humans might need to remain in the facility to assist with the evacuation of animals during a fire.

I hope this glimpse at one of the new requirements of the 2018 edition of NFPA 101 has been useful. I’ll look at highlighting additional revisions in the coming weeks. Until then, thanks again for reading and stay safe.

Got an idea for a topic for a future #101Wednesdays? Post it in the comments below – I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Did you know NFPA 101 is available to review online for free? Head over to www.nfpa.org/101 and click on “FREE ACCESS.”

Follow me on Twitter: @NFPAGregH

 

The 2018 Edition of NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace® was issued by the NFPA Standards Council on August 1, 2017, with an effective date of August 21, 2017; this new edition supersedes all previous editions. This edition was approved as an American National Standard on August 21, 2017. As important to employee safety as NFPA 70E is, it is not a legislated standard like NFPA 70, National Electrical Code® or NFPA 101, Life Safety Code®. Although, NFPA 70E is included in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) as a United States of America consensus standard for electrical safety in the workplace, this most recent edition will not be specifically called out until the CFR is revised. So, if no one mandates that you use a standard, why would you use the new edition? If you follow a previous edition and do not have to comply with the newest one for some time, why should you use it now? In the case of NFPA 70E, the answer is to protect your employees from electrical hazards to the best of your ability.


First, safety standards are not changed to become “less safe”. The changes in a consensus standard are driven by the public and industry. Changes to the standard are to increase the electrical safety for the employee. Going back to a standard being the minimum set of requirements, there is nothing preventing you from implementing a more stringent safety program. If the requirements in the newer edition are “safer” you can and should implement them even if you have to use the older edition. Even if what you implement is not in any edition, you are not prohibited from applying something if it exceeds the standard requirements.


Second, many of you will state that you are mandated to follow the previous edition of a standard. Again that may be mandated but see the previous paragraph. It may require providing some education to the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) who often expects to see conformance to the minimum set of requirements. No AHJ should require that you to do something “less safe” than you want to do. However, since NFPA 70E is typically not mandated by a governmental authority, most often it is you or your employer who determines which edition will be enforced or it is you who is the AHJ for electrical safety in your workplace.


Third, there are changes to technology, an understanding gained about a particular issue, improvements in processes, etc. that drive change in a safety standard. The most recent edition addresses any of those that are brought up during the standard’s revision cycle. For example, the 1988 edition did not include arc flash as a hazard. The 1995 edition introduced concerns about an arc-flash injury. Since then the arc-flash phenomena has been researched and changes implemented to better protect the employee from this hazard. If you only use previous editions it might be years before your employees benefit from not only being protected from an identified hazard but being better protected as knowledge is gained over the years. Not using the current edition may be placing your employees at a risk that is not necessary. It is hard to explain away an injury from a hazard that industry had identified and provided guidance on protecting from.


Fourth, changes are often made to a standard for it to be easier to use. Requirements are clarified, revised, or edited to make them easier to understand and implement. For example, Article 120 has been reorganized in the new edition to provide a logical sequence of setting a policy for implementing an electrically safe work condition (ESWC) program through the steps of establishing an ESWC.


Fifth, your electrical safety work program and the field work of employees must be audited on a regular basis. Ultimately, these audits serve to determine if employees are being properly protected from electrical hazards. Implementing new concepts or requirements from the most recent edition as part of the process will help keep you current with what industry considers to be a necessity.


Lastly, a consensus standard is improved by you. Using the most recent edition gives you the opportunity to determine if further refinements or new requirements are necessary to achieve the goal of protecting employees from electrical hazards. You can then submit an input to the technical committee so that the next edition can improve on the safety for those employees.


Safety standards are not revised for the sake of revision. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an annual average of192 electrocutions occur over the course of 250 working days, which equates to a worker death every day and a half. Consensus standards are revised by the public, industry and individuals who have the passion to make the workplace safer. If you need motivation to work towards this goal, think of every employee that you put at risk to be a beloved family member.


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


Next time: The ten commandments of electrical safety.

Filter Blog

By date: By tag: