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

NFPA Today

5,198 posts

The Second Draft Reports for NFPA Standards in the Fall 2020 revision cycle are available with a deadline to submit a Notice of Intent to Make a Motion (NITMAM) of August 27, 2020.


These proposed NFPA Standards with Second Draft Reports in the Fall 2020 revision cycle are as follows:


  • NFPA 11, Standard for Low-, Medium-, and High-Expansion Foam
  • NFPA 32, Standard for Drycleaning Facilities
  • 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 35, Standard for the Manufacture of Organic Coatings
  • NFPA 36, Standard for Solvent Extraction Plants
  • NFPA 37. Standard for the Installation and Use of Stationary Combustion Engines and Gas Turbines
  • NFPA 53, Recommended Practice on Materials, Equipment, and Systems Used in Oxygen-Enriched Atmospheres
  • NFPA 79. Electrical Standard for Industrial Machinery
  • NFPA 87, Standard for Fluid Heaters
  • NFPA 92, Standard for Smoke Control Systems
  • NFPA 102, Standard for Grandstands, Folding and Telescopic Seating, Tents, and Membrane Structures
  • NFPA 170, Standard for Fire Safety and Emergency Symbols
  • NFPA 204, Standard for Smoke and Heat Venting
  • NFPA 214, Standard on Water-Cooling Towers
  • NFPA 225, Model Manufactured Home Installation Standard
  • NFPA 318, Standard for the Protection of Semiconductor Fabrication Facilities
  • NFPA 418, Standard for Heliports
  • NFPA 450, Guide for Emergency Medical Services and Systems
  • NFPA 501, Standard on Manufactured Housing
  • NFPA 501A, Standard for Fire Safety Criteria for Manufactured Home Installations, Sites, and Communities
  • NFPA 520, Standard on Subterranean Spaces
  • NFPA 555, Guide on Methods for Evaluating Potential for Room Flashover
  • NFPA 901, Standard Classifications for Incident Reporting and Fire Protection Data
  • NFPA 909, Code for the Protection of Cultural Resource Properties - Museums, Libraries, and Places of Worship
  • NFPA 1802, Standard on Two-Way, Portable RF Voice Communications Devices for Use by Emergency Services Personnel in the Hazard Zone
  • NFPA 1937, Standard for the Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Rescue Tools


Structural and wildland firefighting turnout suits are primarily developed for the male firefighter, despite the growing number of women firefighters in the fire protection community. Studies have shown that women firefighters wear the same turnout suits as their male counterparts and are at a higher risk of injury and fatality due to ill-fitting personal protective equipment (PPE). Research has also found that female firefighters are wearing turnout suits that are not sized for the female human form and therefore possess an unsatisfactory fit. Sizing data from other organizations have demonstrated the need for uniforms to be designed specifically for women and that simply sizing down the garment is not an appropriate solution.

To further address this issue, a research project led by Florida State University and North Carolina State University in collaboration with the Fire Protection Research Foundation, NFPA’s research affiliate, was initiated to research and investigate the root causes of design, comfort, and mobility issues of firefighter personal protective clothing for the female human form. For more information, a project summary is available here. This research, funded by DHS/FEMA Assistance to Firefighter Grant (AFG) program, will provide the practical and marketing bases for the initial steps of developing a female turnout suit that meets NFPA standards. To meet the project objectives, it is imperative for the voice of the female first responders in the United States to be heard.

Thus, we would like to inform you of an opportunity to participate in a nationwide survey, led by Dr. Meredith McQuerry at Florida State University, to provide feedback on the current design and functionality of female firefighter personal protective clothing. For further information, and the link to the survey, please see the invitation below.


Dear Participant,

You are being invited to take part in a research study to collect feedback from female firefighters regarding the design, fit, and mobility of their personal protective clothing. You are being invited to take part in this research study because you are an active-duty female firefighter in the United States. If you volunteer to take part in this study, you will be one of hundreds to do so nationally.

This study is being conducted by Dr. Meredith McQuerry (Principal Investigator, PI) of the Retail Entrepreneurship department in the Jim Moran College of Entrepreneurship at Florida State University. The purpose of this study is to obtain data on the end user’s experience and impact from wearing their current turnout suit and/or wildland personal protective clothing, related to improper fit.Responses will be anonymously coded and synthesized to determine the overarching impacts and issues related to the current design and functionality of female firefighter personal protective clothing.

If you agree to be in this study, we ask that you complete an online survey gathering information on demographics and your personal protective clothing’s fit, mobility, and design. It is estimated that the survey will take approximately 10-15 minutes to complete.

If you are not currently an active-duty female firefighter in the United States, we ask that you do not complete this survey.

I thank you in advance for completing the survey.

Meredith McQuerry, PhD
Assistant Professor
Retail Entrepreneurship
Florida State University
236 Shaw Building
Tallahasse, FL 32306
(850) 644-6838

Two reports from the Surprise, Arizona Energy Storage System (ESS) explosion that occurred in April, 2019 were published this week.  One report, titled, “Four Firefighters Injured In Lithium-Ion Battery Energy Storage System Explosion – Arizona” is written by the UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute and is part of a Study of Firefighter Line of Duty Injuries and Near ESSMisses. The other report, “McMicken Battery Energy Storage System Technical Analysis and Recommendations” by DNVGL, on behalf of Arizona Public Service, is an investigation report into the incident. The DNVGL report looks at how we can prevent this incident from happening again and the UL report analyzes first responder considerations with regards to the incident. Both documents are examples of how we can learn from past incidents to improve our codes and standards, increase the safety of our first responders, and build a safer environment.


The Incident

On April 19th, 2019 an explosion occurred at the McMicken Battery ESS in Surprise, Arizona injuring four firefighters. The battery ESS was placed into service in 2017, which is prior to the publication of NFPA 855. The system was comprised of 10,584 Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt (NMC) battery cells organized in modules and racks within an ESS specific walk-in enclosure. The system included a total flooding clean agent fire suppression system, a very early smoke detection apparatus, and an HVAC system. The entire system could supply 2MW over one hour (2MWh) and was used to supplement solar panels at the time of the incident.


While there was some information about the incident already known, these reports provide a great level of detail, insight and recommended paths forward.


Technical Analysis Report

The DNVGL report documents a thorough investigation that was conducted on the incident. It gives a lot of relevant background on the technology, the layout, and associated hazards. After building a foundation of knowledge about how batteries fail, the report analyses the factors that contributed to the failure and how we can prevent this from happening in the future. Some of the major conclusions reached in the report are as follows:  


  • The cause of the incident was most likely an internal failure in a single battery cell which was caused by a defect in the cell.
  • The clean agent fire suppression system that was installed was not designed to prevent or stop thermal runaway.
  • The absence of barriers allowed thermal runaway to propagate from cell to cell.
  • Flammable off-gases concentrated to create a flammable atmosphere and did not have a means to ventilate.
  • The emergency response plan did not address extinguishing, ventilation, or entry procedures.


Some of these items are addressed by NFPA 855, Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems while others are included in the section of the report, “ Shortcomings that should be addressed in NFPA 855.” NFPA codes and standards are living documents that are constantly looking for ways to improve and keep up with new technology. Recommended improvements are always welcome in the form of Public Inputs or Public Comments


First Responder Report

This UL report gives an overview of the fire department and the incident. When addressing the responding fire departments, the document talks about their training, experience, equipment, and personnel. Regarding the Arizona incident, the report covers the building construction, the energy storage system, and responder PPE, and it walks through the timeline as well as provides a detailed incident narrative. This report does a great job addressing some of the contributing factors that led to the incident and firefighter injuries. Some of those factors include:


  • HAZMAT training curricula does not cover basic ESS hazards.
  • There was no way to monitor the conditions of the ESS container from a safe location.
  • The emergency response plan didn’t address mitigating ESS hazards and the plan was not provided to the responding personnel before the incident.
  • Deflagration venting and explosion prevention systems were not provided in the ESS unit.


The issue of training first responders on the basics of ESS hazards can be addressed through an updated NFPA online training course, Energy Storage and Solar Systems Safety Online Training for Fire Service Personnel.


It is encouraging to see that such a collaborative approach was taken in response to this incident to determine what happened and what could be done to prevent this type of equipment failure in the future. In the field of ESS, one of the major needs of the industry is better information like this or other publicly available test data to help guide our codes and standards. A number of related reports, articles, relevant standards, and other content can all be found on NFPA’s ESS webpage


Let us know what your thoughts are on these reports or if you’ve had any recent experience with ESS installations by commenting below.

A question that we receive from time to time involves the location of fire alarm control units (FACU). This question typically comes in as someone asking if NFPA 72, Fire Alarm and Signaling Code specifies the location of where these need to be located.


The short answer is that no, NFPA 72 does not specify where a fire alarm control unit needs to be installed. The code simply states that the system must be installed in accordance with the plans, specifications, and standards approved by the authority having jurisdiction.


And there you have it. If I was writing this on a Friday afternoon, I could call this a complete blog and move on. But since I’m writing this earlier in the week (to post on Friday morning) and have a had a fair amount of coffee, let’s check out some of the other considerations here. 


One of the places where a specific location could be required is through a building code or life safety code. The best example of this would be in high-rise buildings, where the codes will require the fire alarm control unit to be located in the emergency control center. For almost all other buildings however, NFPA 1, Fire Code, NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, and NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code will say that the unit must be installed at a convenient location acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction. “Convenient” is always a fun word to agree upon.


As we can see between NFPA 72 as well as the building, fire, and life safety codes much of the final determination is left to the AHJ. Many jurisdictions adopt their own specific language and incorporate it into their building codes upon adoption or include supplementary information through resources or other means often available on their websites. Many jurisdictions will specify that the FACU must be located near the main entrance or it will require approval if located elsewhere. In many cases, where the FACU is not located near the main entrance, AHJs will require annunciator panels near the main entrance and/or other entry points based on expected fire department response points so that when responding to an alarm they can quickly assess what the fire alarm system is indicating including the zone or specific location the alarm is originating from.


Another thing to consider for the location of the FACU is that if it is not located in a continuously occupied area then early warning fire detection needs to be provided at the FACU. This needs to be done by means of an automatic smoke detector or an automatic heat detector where ambient conditions prohibit the installation of an automatic smoke detector. A new requirement for the 2019 edition of NFPA 72 also specifies the maximum and minimum mounting heights for control equipment as 6 ft (1.8m) and 15 in. (375 mm), respectively.


So, as you can see there is no definitive answer as to where a fire alarm control unit needs to be installed. For the most part, NFPA 72 and the other applicable codes leave that determination to the AHJ. Designers should be aware of any specific criteria within certain jurisdictions and, as always, getting buy-in from the AHJ as early as possible can prevent headaches at the plan review stage.


Have you seen any jurisdictions with rather unique criteria for control unit locations? What is the most interesting location for a FACU you have ever seen?


If you found this article helpful, subscribe to the NFPA Network Newsletter for monthly, personalized content related to the world of fire, electrical, and building & life safety

This is a semi-annual update on Fire Protection Research Foundation activities. Although we may not be running into you at meetings and conferences these days, or seeing you at NFPA Headquarters - our team remains focused on generating the research needed to reduce loss in our world. Here is a quick summary of our recently completed, on-going and upcoming activities to provide you with the information and knowledge you need to do your job successfully.  For the complete list of current projects, visit here.


2020 Q1 & Q2 Completed Projects 


Featured Publications 



Projects initiated in 2020 Q1 & Q2  

  • Assessment, Improvement, and Application of Multi-Hazard System-Level Performance Evaluations of First Responder Ensembles 


Q1 & Q2 Webinar Update 

  • Review of Audible Alarm Waking Effectiveness Webinar was held on February 5th, 2020.  Recording available here. 
  • Digitized Fuel Load Survey in Buildings using Machine Vision Webinar was held on April 2nd, 2020. Recording availablehere. 
  • Modern Vehicle Hazards in Parking Garages and Vehicle Carriers webinar was held on June 2, 2020, Recording available here. 

Upcoming Webinar 

  • Time-restricted eating for improving overall health and sleep among firefighters, onAugust 11, 2020, 12:30pm - 2pm ET. Register here.  


FPRF News 

  • Awards: Research team from Johns Hopkins University and University of Buffalo were awarded the 2019 Foundation Medalfor theDigitized Fuel Load Survey in Buildings using Machine Vision project. 
  • Event Cancelled:Suppression, Detection and Signaling Research Applications Conference (SUPDET 2020) and the 17th International Conference on Automatic Fire Detection (AUBE’20), originally scheduled for September 15-17, 2020 in Mulheim an der Ruhr, Germany, has been postponed until September 2021. 
  • Staff News: FPRF Executive Director, Amanda Kimball was re-appointed to a 2nd term on the SFPE Board of Directors. Amanda was also elevated to Fellow of SFPE. Out of 4,600 SFPE members, there are only 313 fellows.  
  • Upcoming Events this Fall: 



The following proposed Tentative Interim Amendments (TIAs) to NFPA 61, Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Dust Explosions in Agricultural and Food Processing Facilities; and NFPA 70, National Electrical Code; are being punfpa 61nfpa 70blished for public review and comment:


  • NFPA 61, proposed TIA No. 1485, referencing A. and Table A., 2020 edition
  • NFPA 70, proposed TIA No. 1524, referencing 680.2 Storable Swimming, Wading, or Immersion Pools; or Storable/Portable Spas and Hot Tubs, 2020 edition


Anyone may submit a comment on these proposed TIAs by the September 9, 2020 comment closing date. Along with your comment, please identify the number of the TIA and forward to the Secretary, Standards Council by the closing date.

Townhouse complex fire in Reno, NV - Photo courtesy of Reno Gazette Journal


Two massive fires in the last ten days occurred at residential complexes under construction, reinforcing the critical importance of following the fire and life safety requirements and guidelines addressed in NFPA 241, Standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alteration, and Demolition Operation.


Most recently, a fire at a six-story townhouse complex occurred in Reno, NV, early Thursday morning, resulting in the destruction of the majority of buildings under construction, according to local news reports. The Reno Fire Department confirmed that 14 of the 21 buildings were either destroyed or damaged.


On July 16, a fire at one of two apartment buildings under construction in Everett, WA, reportedly spread throughout the structure, igniting nearby homes, decks and cars. While the cause of the fire has not yet been determined, fire investigators reportedly stated that the findings so far do not suggest criminal activity.


Both fires reflect the latest in a series of significant fires in buildings under construction in recent years. While NFPA 241 works to mitigate the factors that often contribute to such incidents, several processes and procedures must be strictly implemented and followed for them to be effective.


NFPA offers a series of resources around buildings under construction to help contractors, building owners and managers, code official and enforcers, and AHJs better understand the requirements and guidelines within NFPA 241, and to more effectively ensure that all parties involved in the construction process have the tools and support to adequately adhere to them. Most recently, we created a new fact sheet that provides statistical data around the frequency, causes, and financial impact of associated fires.


Similarly, as COVID-19 has delayed many building projects already underway and, in some instances, forced construction sites to be left unattended for extended periods of time, comparable concerns around elevated fire risks have been raised. For the most up-to-date information from NFPA regarding fire and life safety in the midst of COVID-19, check out

The use of renewable energy is on the rise and one popular source is photovoltaics (PV). Section 11.12 in the 2018 Edition of NFPA 1, Fire Code covers everything related to PV installations from marking to rapid shutdown to accessways. There are a number of things to consider when installing a PV system on the roof of a building, but perhaps the most popular topic for questions has to do with the required pathways. Providing proper pathways is extremely important because firefighters need access to the roof for firefighting operations. Often, there is confusion about the size and location of the required pathways. The pathway requirements are different for PV arrays installed on one- and two-family dwellings and townhouses than they are for all other buildings. Here, we will focus on the pathway requirements for all those other buildings.


There are essentially three types of pathways that are required. The first type ensures firefighters will be able to get on the roof and are often called perimeter pathways. The second type of pathway ensures that firefighters can move around the roof once they have gained access. These are referred to as “other pathways” in the Code. The final type of pathways provide access to areas for ventilation. The size of the perimeter pathways is going to depend on the building size. For any building with a length or width greater than 250 ft (76.2 m), a minimum 6 ft (1829 mm) pathway is required on all sides. If both the length and width are 250 ft (76.2 m) or less, then the pathway is only required to be a minimum of 4 ft (1219 mm). The images below show what these pathways look like in plain view.

The “other pathways” required by the Code allow firefighters to move around the roof as needed. These types of pathways are required under three different conditions. The first is to provide straight line access to ventilation hatches and/or roof standpipes. Wherever ventilation hatches and standpipes are located a pathway of at least 48 in (1219 mm) must be provided.  A 48 in (1219 mm) pathway around all roof access hatches must also be provided. In addition to the pathway around the roof access hatch, at least one 48 in pathway must be provided from the roof access hatch to the roof edge or parapet. The last type in this group is to ensure that there is a pathway every 150 ft (46 m). The 150 ft distance cannot be exceeded in either the length or the width of the building. This essentially limits the PV array to a maximum size of 150 ft by 150 ft (46 m by 46 m).


The final category of pathways required are for smoke ventilation. The third type of pathway listed in the “other pathway” paragraph, which limits the array size to 150 ft by 150 ft (46 m by 46 m), will be used to provide ventilation options. The width of this pathway will depend on what, if any, type of ventilation options If there aren’t any ventilation options provided (such as skylights or smoke and heat vents) then the pathway must provide a minimum 96 in. (2438 mm) between array sections. If there are existing roof skylights or dropout smoke and heat vents are provided on at least one side    of the pathway, then the pathway must only be a minimum of 48 in (1219 mm) wide. A 48 in. pathway is also permitted where there are 48 in. by 96 in. (1219 mm by 2438 mm) venting cutout options every 20 ft (6096 mm). The last type of required pathway for venting is where nongravity-operated smoke and heat vents are provided. For those, a 48 in. (1219 mm) pathway must be provided around the vent.




It is not uncommon to see PV systems connected to energy storage systems (ESS). This allows the energy generated from the PV system to be stored and used later on when it is needed. For more information on ESS take a look here and at NFPA 855. There are many components to ensuring a PV system is installed correctly. Here we’ve focused on the pathway requirements for buildings other than one- and two-family dwellings and townhouses. Other requirements such as marking requirements and requirements for rapid shutdown can all be found in NFPA 1, The Fire Code, Section 11.12.


If you found this article helpful, subscribe to the NFPA Network Newsletter for monthly, personalized content related to the world of fire, electrical, and building & life safety.


UPDATE: Last month, I posted a blog (see below) that addressed fire and life safety considerations for restaurants and other businesses using tents to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As a follow-up to that blog, a new fact sheet, Building and Life Safety for Tents, has been created. Reinforcing associated requirements and guidelines, this new resource works to help code officials, AHJs, business owners, and facility managers ensure that tents are used properly and safely in their jurisdictions.


Please feel free to download this resource and share it as needed. Our goal is to make sure communities are operating as safely as possible under today’s circumstances. Reach out to us in the comments section below if you have any questions.


As states continue looking for ways to safely reopen the economy, many jurisdictions are allowing businesses, specifically restaurants, to open, provided that the seating area for customers is located outside, tables are located at least 6 feet apart, and the number of patrons at each table is limited. As I spent some time driving around Massachusetts recently, I could not help but notice the large number of tents erected in the parking lots and around properties of restaurants and businesses allowing them to provide outdoor seating.


Some may think that because these tents are temporary structures that precautions for fire protection and life safety isn’t needed, but in truth, it is more important than ever. This July 6th will mark the 76th anniversary of the Hartford Circus fire, which killed 168 people and injured over 500 when a fire broke out in a circus tent and spread rapidly due to the combustible canvas. The occupants within the tent were unable to evacuate in time due to the limited means of egress that was not properly maintained.


NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, section 11.11 and NFPA 1, Fire Code, chapter 25 contain requirements that address the use of tents and membrane structures. First, tents are only permitted to be used on a temporary basis and cannot be used as a permanent structure, which means they should not be erected for more than 180 days. The means of egress must comply with the requirements for the occupancy of the tent. Restaurants with an occupant load of 50 or more people are classified as assembly occupancies, while restaurants with less than 50 people are classified as mercantile occupancies. To determine the appropriate occupancy, the number of occupants in the space needs to be calculated to ensure that there is proper exit capacity and a proper number of exits. Additional egress features to consider include exit marking and emergency lighting within the tent. It is also important to make sure that exits from a tent cannot be blocked. For example, if the tent is erected in a parking lot, it is possible for a vehicle to park against an exit and block it. This could be mitigated with the use of barricades and signs as well as educating the staff. This education is important as the maintenance of the means of egress in these tents is important to ensure that nothing (including the tent wires and supports) obstructs the exits, aisles, and other means of egress.


The location of the tent must be approved by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) (i.e., the building department, fire department, etc.) to ensure that it does not block fire department access or the means of egress from other buildings, and is not located too close to other buildings or lot lines. Additionally, at least a 10 ft (3 m) distance around the tent must be maintained free of combustible material. There also should be a distance of at least 10 ft (3 m) between stake lines of multiple tents to provide means of egress from the tents.


One of the biggest concerns with a tent as demonstrated during the Hartford Circus fire is the flammability of the tent fabric, and because of this, both NFPA 1 and NFPA 101 require that the tent material meets the flame propagation performance requirements of NFPA 701, Standard Methods of Fire Tests for Flame Propagation of Textiles and Films. This is a test performed on the fabric of the tent by a testing organization, who will issue a certificate if the fabric has passed the test.

In order to limit the exposure to fire, several safety measures must be put in place. Smoking within the tent is not permitted and “NO SMOKING” signs need to be posted. Restaurants in some states are only permitted outdoor seating at this time and will be using these seating areas in all weather conditions, perhaps seeking to use heaters if it gets cool.  All heating equipment used within the tent must be listed for that use and all containers for LP gas need to be at least 5 ft (1.5m) from the tent. Fire extinguishers are required within the tent as directed by the AHJ.


In sum, there are multiple safety precautions that must be followed if you are going to erect a tent or membrane structure, and this was not an all-inclusive review of all requirements. For any restaurant, business or other group planning to use a tent, make sure to contact the AHJ, review all applicable requirements in NFPA 1 and NFPA 101, and have the plans reviewed by a qualified person.


For the most up to date information from the NFPA regarding fire and life safety in the midst of COVID-19, be sure to check out

On Tuesday, August 4th, NFPA will celebrate a new milestone in its long, storied history.


Over the last century-plus, a wide range of stakeholders have turned to NFPA codes and standards to do their jobs efficiently and effectively. The reality is that people learn and work differently these days. They want to connect the dots on safety, and glean real-world, real-time solutions – not necessarily read a technical book cover-to-cover. 


On August 4th at 1:00 p.m. (EST), NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley will explain how the Association is transitioning to meet the needs of today’s engineers, designers, code enforcers, responders, trade workers, building authorities, and policy makers. The virtual product reveal will touch on the changes going into effect this fall at NFPA; offer a sneak preview of an exciting new digital platform; and feature a round table of experts discussing what the future of fire and life safety holds.


If you play a role in protecting people and property from harm and are ready to have access to extensive NFPA codes, context and content – make plans to tune in on August 4th. Register here today.

Damage from a kitchen fire in a Virginia apartment was limited thanks to the help of an automatic sprinkler system. According to a report in the Loudoun News, the fire was extinguished before the fire department arrived. The Fire Marshal’s office reported that the fire was the result of unattended food cooking on the stove.


Fire Chief Keith Johnson, who was on the scene and quoted in the article, says the incident illustrates both the dangers of unattended cooking and the importance of lifesaving sprinkler sprinkler


“It’s important to educate the public about how fire sprinklers help to contain and prevent fires from becoming more significant emergencies,” Chief Johnson said. “Fire sprinklers save lives, including those of first responders, and greatly reduce the physical, emotional and financial damages that fires bring to a community.”


NFPA continues its focus on cooking fire safety in response to home cooking fires representing the leading cause of U.S. home fires. According to NFPA research, nearly half (49 percent) of all home fires involve cooking equipment; unattended cooking is the leading cause of these fires.


This year’s theme for Fire Prevention Week is “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen.” The campaign, which runs October 4 – 10, works to better educate the public about where potential cooking hazards exist and basic but critical ways to prevent them.


Learn about Fire Prevention Week and share safety messages, materials, videos, and more now available on the website.  Additional information about the importance of home fire sprinklers can be found by visiting  




For those of us who utilize NFPA 70National Electrical Code (NEC) and NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, on a regular basis, we know the importance that the NEC plays when it comes to the installation of safe electrical systems and the safe work practices that 70E provides, allowing us to perform those installations and maintenance, safely.


But there’s a third document that’s key to this equation: NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance, which covers equipment maintenance. 70B offers guidelines for maintaining equipment after the initial installation is done and regular usage begins to impose wear and tear on the equipment. While each document covers a specific area, by using them together, it helps provide the safest electrical system possible while maintaining a safe working environment for those performing the necessary tasks. For example, NFPA 70B deals with electrical equipment maintenance, the NEC stipulates the installation rules necessary for a proper installation, and NFPA 70E addresses safe work practices needed to help ensure that the installation and maintenance are done safely. When the three are used in concert, and correctly, they provide for a complete electrical safety cycle. When one or more pieces are missing, it may leave the door open to catastrophic accidents—even death.


To help workers navigate this “cycle of safety,” NFPA has developed a new NFPA 70B fact sheet that explains its purpose and highlights its relationship to related codes and standards. It also points out key chapters and the value of an effective electrical preventative maintenance program (EPM).



Learn more about NFPA 70B by downloading the free fact sheet. For additional information, visit NFPA’s document information webpage.


If you missed last week’s NEC Facebook Live event, you can still catch the video with host Derek Vigstol and two special guests, Jim Dollard and Tom Domitrovich who discussed, “The Electrical Safety Cycle: NFPA 70, NFPA 70E & NFPA 70B.” Visit the NEC Facebook page to see the discussion.



There are many different requirements for obstruction in NFPA 13 Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems  based on the type of sprinkler being used as well as the distance, type, and size of the obstruction. This blog will address suspended or floor mounted vertical obstructions requirements from the 2019 edition of NFPA 13 since this is a topic NFPA has recently received several technical questions on.


What are suspended or floor mounted vertical obstructions?

An obstruction is something that affects the discharge pattern of one or more sprinklers. An example of what a discharge or distribution pattern looks like is provided below:


(This is from the 2019 edition of NFPA 13, Figure A.


NFPA 13 section gives a few examples of things that could be considered suspended or floor mounted vertical obstructions which include privacy curtains, freestanding partitions, and room dividers.


The basic rule for these obstructions is simple. There are tables in NFPA 13 which contains horizontal distances and the required minimum vertical distance that the obstruction must be from the sprinkler deflector. There are also figures to help you understand how the table should be used. Below are the table and figures for standard spray upright/pendent and sidewall sprinklers but the same table and figures are located in the extended coverage and residential sprinkler chapters.



(This is from the 2019 edition of NFPA 13 Table and Figure



(This is figure from the 2019 edition of NFPA 13)


You will notice that the relationship between the horizontal and vertical distances forms an umbrella shape similar to Figure A. above. The intent of this is to make sure the obstruction doesn’t block the development of the sprinkler pattern which occurs within the first 18 vertical inches (450 mm) of the sprinkler.


What about non-light hazard occupancies?

You’ll notice that the requirements for suspended or floor mounted vertical obstructions only apply to light hazard occupancies. These requirements shouldn’t be applied for anything except light hazard occupancies because the testing that was done to justify the addition of this code section only evaluated sprinkler performance in a light hazard environment.


Well, what do you do when you are in something other than a light hazard occupancy? The answer is that you should follow the general obstruction rules of NFPA 13. For obstructions below 18 inches for standard pendent and upright spray sprinklers this means that as long as the obstruction is less than 4ft (1.2 m) wide that it is not considered an obstruction. For obstructions less than 18 inches (450 mm) below the sprinkler deflector there are additional diagrams and tables you need to follow because of the potential to disrupt the sprinkler pattern development. A common rule that is followed for obstructions within 18 inches of the sprinkler deflector is the “three times rule”. This requires sprinklers to be positioned away from obstructions a minimum or three times the maximum dimension of the obstruction.


Are there any exceptions?


Have you ever noticed that in healthcare facilities the privacy curtains are mostly solid except for the top 22 inches (550 mm)? According to NFPA 13, those privacy curtains are not considered obstructions if they follow three rules: 


  1. Curtains need to be supported by fabric mesh on a ceiling track
  2. The openings in the mesh part of the curtain needs to be at least 70% of the area
  3. The mesh portion of the curtain needs to extend at least 22 inches (550 mm) from the ceiling


Those rules allow heat from the fire and sprinkler water discharge to pass through the mesh portion of the curtain without having a major impact on the sprinkler discharge pattern development or sprinkler activation time. Once again this exception to the rule can only be applied to light hazard occupancies.


With all of this being said, it is also important to understand how the building will look when it is finished by reviewing all of the architectural, structural, and MEP drawings. Changes in any one of those drawings can create an obstruction to your once properly designed sprinkler system.

Let us know what your experience is with suspended or floor mounted vertical obstructions in the comments below.


If you found this article helpful, subscribe to the NFPA Network Newsletter for monthly, personalized content related to the world of fire, electrical, and building & life safety.

With COVID-19 still gripping the world, it may be a while before you find yourself in a large crowd. But when that day comes, perhaps you'll be under the watchful eye of new crowd monitoring technology. 


The latest episode of Learn Something New by NFPA Journal details the future of crowd monitoring. Specifically, it examines a current Fire Protection Research Foundation project to create a low-cost, web-based crowd monitoring tool expected to be available this fall. 


The problem with current crowd monitoring technology is that it's typically complicated and expensive, Foundation research project manager Victoria Hutchison explains in the video. "So we're building this on a web interface, so it can be accessed from your iPhone, a tablet, laptop, whatever you have available to you," she says. "It tracks [crowds] over time. So every interval, at whatever interval you'd like it to be captured at, it tracks that in a trending graph. So you can see the profile of the crowd over time, and it also produces density maps. So you can see kind of a heat map, you know, of where the highest densities are within the areas that could be problematic."


Hutchison also wrote a feature story on the new tool, which appears in the July/August issue of NFPA Journal. Read that article here, and watch the video below. 




For those of us that employ NFPA 70, National Electrical Code (NEC) on a regular basis we understand the importance the NEC plays when it comes to the installation of safe electrical systems. In the early pages of the standard its purpose is clearly stated as the practical safeguarding of persons and property from hazards arising from the use of electricity. The purpose of the NEC could never be accomplished without the proper application of Article 250 – Grounding and Bonding. 


While all of Article 250 is crucial to a safe installation, many installation errors evolve from incorrectly using the tables that size grounding electrode conductors, bonding jumpers, and equipment grounding conductors.  Whether you are an engineer designing the job, and electrician doing the installation, or an inspector verifying a correct installation, applying these tables in Article 250 is paramount to ensuring the safety of both persons and property.


To help workers understand the crucial role these tables hold in a safe electrical system, NFPA created a new fact sheet that walks you through the proper application of the following tables within Article 250:


  • Table 250.66 - Grounding Electrode Conductor for Alternating-Current Systems
  • Table 250.102(C)(1) - Grounding Conductor, Main Bonding Jumper, and Supply-Side Bonding Jumper for Alternating-Current Systems
  • Table 250.122 – Minimum Size Equipment Grounding Conductors for Grounding Raceway and Equipment


For more information on grounding and bonding within Article 250, join us on the NEC Facebook page this Friday, July 17th at 3:30PM EST as the NEC goes live (#NECLive) to discuss: The Top 10 Grounding and Bonding Questions. Additional information about grounding and bonding is available on our website.


For more information related to the NEC, please visit NFPA’s electrical solutions webpage.

Filter Blog

By date: By tag: