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No one knows risk and the consequences of poor or no action better than first responders. Afterall, the incidents and accidents that they respond to often occur because the general public was complacent in some way, and didn’t take action for their own safety. They may have ignored common sense or basic safety tips during cooking, grilling, heating, or when using candles, electrical devices, and other potential sources of combustion resulting in fire, and firefighters responding.


Firefighters also know about the hazards that arise when workers get careless. For example, when welding takes place without proper knowledge; fire protection systems are bypassed during design and construction; or when the standards that ensure that people and property are kept safe are not followed and enforced. If key safety benchmarks are ignored by workers, there’s a good chance that fire will occur and firefighters will need to respond.


The latest in the Everyone Goes Home Speak Up video series from the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) turns the mirror of risk inward, and asks firefighters to think and take action to better protect themselves. In the video, retired Chief Robert Fling from the Dix Hills, New York Fire Department asks firefighters to prioritize their health and safety for their own protection and the benefit of loved ones; and highlights the importance of diet, decontamination, and proper cleaning.


Carcinogens take root in firefighter gear, fire stations, on the apparatus floor, in PPE (personal protective equipment), in vehicles, living quarters, on the fireground, and during overhaul of the scene. Ignoring the reality of these threats, disregarding standard operating procedures (SOPs), and not learning important information laid out in research and resources increases risk and is the reason why Chief Fling (and others) want to see a cultural shift in the fire service.

 

Watch and share the latest video from NFFF. It is in all our best interests to keep firefighters safe.

Effective this week, NFPA has a new local representative who will oversee the overall regional planning, direction, coordination, and support of international development functions in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).


This role is a natural step for Anas Alzaid, who has been a longtime advocate for NFPA codes and standards. An electrical engineering consultant with more than 30 years of experience working with facilities management and safety professionals, Alzaid will assess local safety concerns; build strong relationships throughout the region; develop safety strategies with existing and new alliances; and represent NFPA in regulatory, legislative, and technical circles.


The Saudi Arabia native’s professional background includes stints in the oil and gas industry, the defense department, utility engineering, the healthcare sector, and telecommunications. An active member of the Saudi Accreditation body in both standards development and the code compliance process, Alzaid will focus on translating codes for local use; making NFPA training and resources available to local leaders and practitioners; and serving as an authoritative representative for the media, government, and other decision makers.


NFPA has had a notable presence in MENA territories for decades. Given unprecedented growth in the region, the Association established a MENA Advisory Committee in 2017 that works to cultivate an effective safety infrastructure throughout the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), an intergovernmental political and economic territory that includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. Working with the MENA Advisory Committee, Alzaid will ensure that the design and construction community utilizes fundamental standards like NFPA 1, the Fire Code, NFPA 13, the Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, NFPA 72, the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, and NFPA 101, the Life Safety Code.


“NFPA is committed to improving fire and life safety throughout the world. Expanding NFPA presence and purpose in MENA countries is an important part of this effort,” NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley said. “Anas Alzaid is well-suited to successfully engage with local stakeholders and underscore the importance of The NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem.”

 

Alzaid and NFPA Global leaders will partake in Intersec, the world’s premiere trade fair for safety, security and fire protection, Sunday through Tuesday in Dubai. If you are attending, please plan to stop by Hall 3, E 24 and say hello.


Hardie Davis, Jr., mayor of Augusta, Georgia, speaks during the First Annual Central Savannah River Area Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response Training Symposium in downtown Augusta on January 16. 

As the sun rose in the city of Augusta, Georgia, this morning, over 250 people gathered inside the historic First Presbyterian Church downtown to attend the First Annual Central Savannah River Area (CSRA) Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Training Symposium.

 

The January 16 symposium marked the start of a yearlong project for Augusta––a city of 200,000 situated on the eastern edge of Georgia, about 60 miles west of Columbia, South Carolina—to implement NFPA 3000 (PS), Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program. About eight months ago, Augusta became the first city in the world to approach NFPA and ask for its involvement in helping to implement the standard, which was released in May 2018.

 

"This is one of the most significant training opportunities our community has ever been a part of," Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis, Jr. said during his opening remarks at the symposium. "In Augusta, our emergency response agencies are already collaborating and working together, but to bring NFPA and all of these community partners and stakeholders together here today is incredible. Real events are taking place all across this nation, [and this project] will make Augusta a strong community for years to come."

 

The symposium, which lasted about eight hours, drew a crowd from multiple fields and areas of expertise, from the emergency medical and fire services to medicine, higher education, law enforcement, and city government—a testament to the need for unified command and integrated response during active shooter and other hostile events, which are concepts taught in NFPA 3000.

 

 Dr. Richard Kamin, a trauma surgeon who responded to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012, speaks during the First Annual Central Savannah River Area Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response Training Symposium in downtown Augusta on January 16. 

After attendees learned the basics of NFPA 3000 and heard stories from individuals who responded to some of the nation's deadliest, most well-known mass shootings, like Sandy Hook and Las Vegas, the day's afternoon events consisted of breakout sessions in which attendees separated into groups and discussed topics ranging from what civilians can do in the event of an active shooter or hostile event to how health care facilities can prepare for the flood of patients during these incidents. 

 

The project will culminate with a large-scale simulation next winter, and the hope is for not only Augusta to grow stronger from the experience, but also for the community to serve as a model for others hoping to become better prepared. 

 

"You are a model for the rest of the country," John Montes, the NFPA staff liaison to NFPA 3000, said during the symposium, speaking to the many locals in the audience. "We can't wait to show other communities how strong Augusta is and how Augusta became even stronger."

 

NFPA Journal will be providing periodic coverage of the Augusta project, in videos and magazine articles, throughout the year. Our last issue included a short piece previewing the project, and our March/April issue is slated to include a more extensive article on the project. 

 

Calling all fire protection professionals! Are you an expert in inspection, testing and maintenance (ITM) of fire protection equipment? Do you manage ITM data activities and reports at a facility? Are you an inspection or contracting company that conducts inspections and testing of fire protection equipment? Are you an AHJ that manages the inspection data of the properties in your jurisdiction? Do you provide software or platforms to inspection companies or AHJ’s to capture ITM data? If so, we are looking for participants like you to help inform an ITM data model that accurately reflects the activities of the fire protection community!

 

As background, many NFPA codes and standards establish minimum frequencies for periodic inspection, testing, and maintenance (ITM) for fire protection systems, however, these frequencies are often historical requirements that are often not based on empirical ITM data or observed deficiencies. In recent years there has been growing interest in risk/occupancy-based and performance-based ITM frequencies; however, to be effective there is a need for a more data-based approach to ITM frequencies. While the use of digital ITM data collection software are evolving, there remains great variation in the format that ITM data is collected, stored, and analyzed. Due to the inconsistency in ITM data collection methodologies, it is difficult to implement data-informed decision-making regarding system reliability, ITM frequencies, and risk acceptability. 

 

The Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF) has previously lead projects and workshops on ITM Data Collection and Analytics that have concluded that additional work needs to be done in order to evaluate and correlate fire protection equipment reliability with code requirements. Some of the identified gaps are the lack of standardization of ITM data format, collection, and submission processes, among others. Despite the widespread appreciation of the importance of ITM data, there is currently no universally adopted data model, or standardized data format, that all stakeholders utilize to share and compare data. This lack of standardization not only limits the ability to determine sound performance-based inspection frequencies, but it also limits the abilities of all stakeholder groups to exchange and analyze data to inform decisions for their own local needs.

 

In response to this need, the Fire Protection Research Foundation has initiated a research project titled the "ITM Data Exchange Model" with the goal of developing and pilot testing a comprehensive, scalable, and extensible ITM data exchange model to facilitate ITM data sharing from diverse data sources. The success of this project depends heavily on understanding the wide variety of data formats and nomenclatures that are currently used to document ITM activities for fire protection systems.  For that reason, the Foundation is seeking samples of ITM data from all sources, including (but not limited to) vendors of any size, contracting/inspection firms, software vendors, custom platforms or forms, etc.  The ITM data samples will help inform the data model.  

 

We are now ready to start collecting samples of ITM Data! 

 

Please read below for more information on how you, or other representatives, can contribute. 


What we want:

  • A representative sample of ITM activity data (i.e. raw data, formatted reports) for inspection and testing activities for one or all the following systems: 
    • Sprinkler systems (wet, dry, pre-action, deluge, antifreeze), 
    • Fire pumps (diesel or electric), 
    • Fire alarm systems
  • The samples of ITM data should clearly identify all data elements collected and their respective format for each ITM activity for the specific system types identified above.
  • To the extent possible, please ensure that any data you intend to share has been stripped of any personally identifiable information (e.g. name of inspector, name of inspection company, name of building owner, etc.), prior to contributing the data. 

 

Note: While large quantities of data are helpful, we are more focused on collecting quality samples of data rather than large quantities at this time. The goal, at this stage, is to capture and understand the diversity of the data by obtaining different types of inspections reports (i.e. fire pump, fire alarm, etc.) from different sources to see the variation in terminology, format, data elements, etc. 

 

Why do we need samples of ITM data? 

  • To understand the variety of data and formats collected, we need to look at the actual data itself. 
  • Once the model is developed, we intend to use actual samples of ITM data to test and confirm the model's ability to analyze diverse data formats.

 

Desired Format:

  • Electronic data (xls, csv, json, or similar file types)
  • The model cannot accept:
    • Paper reports
    • Scanned PDF reports
    • PDF Reports created from digital forms
  • Note: While paper and scanned PDF reports will not be able to be directly imported into the model, they can be used to inform the model development, and thus are still encouraged.

If you would like to contribute data for this project:

  1. Contact Victoria Hutchison, Research Project Manager at the Fire Protection Research Foundation        at vhutchison@nfpa.org indicating you have ITM data you would like to share;
  2. A data contribution agreement and a link to confidentially upload your data will be sent to you. 

 

Note: Any data collected will not be shared; it will only be used to inform the development of the data model.

 

Any contribution would be immensely valuable for this research project, whether it be completed inspection/testing reports of fire protection equipment or blank inspection forms/templates.

 

Additional information on this project can be found here


The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) recently announced the appointment of new members to their Board of Directors including the addition of Lorraine Carli, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) vice president of Outreach and Advocacy.


In her role overseeing media, public affairs, and advocacy activities; the NFPA Journal magazine; and the Association’s wildfire, public education and US/Canada regional operations divisions, Carli has spent the last 14 years cultivating relationships and spearheading collaborative efforts in fire prevention that better protect the public and first responders. NFFF and NFPA undertake critical, challenging work to educate audiences about the impact of fire and help to spur action that reduces loss – including the ultimate sacrifices made by first responders.


Established by Congress in 1992, NFFF partners with organizations, influencers, individual contributors, and private businesses to ensure that America’s fallen firefighters and their families are not forgotten. They proactively partner with the fire service community to reduce firefighter deaths and injuries – a focus that connects seamlessly with the work that NFPA’s data, analytics and research division and the Fire Protection Research Foundation, an affiliate of NFPA, are doing. In addition to tracking firefighters’ injuries and deaths on an annual basis (among many other things), NFPA generates highly relevant reports on modern day fire concerns and emerging issues. The Association also produces more than 100 codes and standards that pertain to emergency responders, as well as training, educational resources, and widely consumed content related to fire, electrical and life safety hazards.


“Having worked very closely with NFFF on a number of initiatives, I’m excited to work in this new capacity. The objectives of NFFF directly correlate to NFPA’s mission and my own personal quest to ensure the highest levels of safety for members of the fire service. It is a great opportunity to honor those that have lost their lives, and to work on strategies that will ensure all firefighters are better protected,” Carli said.


Prior to her arrival at NFPA, Carli oversaw far-reaching awareness efforts for healthcare, technology and government entities. In addition to her leadership role at NFPA and her service on the NFFF Board of Directors, Carli is the President of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, President of the Board of Directors for The Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, and is a member of the Executive Committee of the Electric Safety Foundation International (ESFI) Board of Directors.

Sprinklers

Almost every day in the news, we read about (another) house fire. Families, first responders, communities severely affected. Homes damaged or completely destroyed. Last year, unfortunately, was no different.

In particular, the last few months of 2019 were difficult for the fire department in Worcester, Massachusetts, a city not far from NFPA headquarters. In November, a Worcester firefighter, Lt. Jason Menard, died battling a home fire. Menard’s death occurred just weeks before events to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse Co. fire, a devastating event that killed six of the city’s firefighters. In the wake of this tragedy, news outlets, including The Boston Globe and The Worcester Telegram, and others close to the event, have urgently called for more sprinklers in residences.

As home fire sprinkler adoption continues to be debated in many states, there remains much misinformation about the effectiveness and benefits of home fire sprinklers. But NFPA and like-minded organizations see, first hand, the benefits of sprinklers. In the January/February 2020 edition of NFPA Journal, NFPA President and CEO, Jim Pauley, takes a hard look at the realities of these devastating home fires, and explains why home fire sprinklers must be at the forefront of our fire and life safety discussions.

With a new year upon us now, it’s a good time to reflect on what’s been happening in the fire and life safety world, how far we’ve come, and just how much more we have to do to help keep people and property safe from hazards. The reality is, while there are still many incidents happening here and across the globe, our work can never truly be done. Ecosystem

 

When recognizing these challenges, though, it’s important to note that no one organization or group can solve all of the problems by itself. It requires a holistic approach, one that includes collaboration across all disciplines, and a shared view that safety is a true system – not a singular action, piece of equipment, or even one event.

 

To help guide us through this approach, NFPA has developed a concept called the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem. It’s a framework that identifies eight key components that must work together to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. Many of you are already talking about this concept and incorporating it into your daily work. In so doing, you’ve asked about resources to help share this concept with others. We’re pleased to say we’ve developed a new Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem PowerPoint Deck you can use when making presentations or engaging in conversation with staff, your peers, colleagues, and other industry professionals with whom you interact. Just pick and choose the slides and the information you need from the original deck template.

 

The deck includes:

  • A brief history of NFPA and the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem
  • The full Ecosystem graphic and individual cogs for easy download
  • Talking points

… and more

 

Find the deck on our Ecosystem webpage (Resources section), together with related information, and stay tuned for additional resources and tools that will become available throughout the year.

 

As 2020 swings into gear, don’t just think about the role you play in making the world a safer place; consider taking real action. The Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem can help be your guide.

 

The hazards that firefighters face on the job continue to expand. In recent years, responders have been asked to learn more about handling incidents involving energy storage systems (ESS), alternative fuel vehicles, natural disasters, and active shooters. They’ve been forced to learn, oftentimes the hard way, about occupational exposure and behavioral health issues. Some have taken proactive approaches to better understand these new threats, and embrace new training, research, resources and data.

 

As we enter a new year and a new decade – it's important that we take the time to learn about a new potential threat on the horizon. If history repeats itself, firefighters may very well see it as a non-issue at first – that is until an incident occurs like we saw with ESS last April. Despite NFPA offering (the world’s first) online ESS training for the fire service since 2015 – it, sadly, took eight first responders getting seriously injured when a grid battery exploded in Arizona for members of the fire service to want to learn more about ESS risks and response.

 

So, what’s the newest challenge on the radar? Flammable refrigerants.

 

More than 200 countries begin ushering in low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants this year – including the US. The new technology will be in residential and commercial refrigeration units and air conditioning systems – driving the need for firefighters to learn all they can about flammability and toxicity risks, asphyxiation concerns, jet stream fires, transportation issues, and other life safety considerations.

 

FEMA provided funding to NFPA so that an approximately one-hour, free online curriculum could be developed. The program provides an overview of the GWP transition and highlights specific dangers that firefighters may encounter when responding to incidents where new flammable refrigerants are present. At its core, the training emphasizes strict adherence to standard operating procedures (SOPs), PPE and SCBA protocol, and decontamination practices. Four modules feature videos, animations, simulations, and review missions so that students can:

 

  • Describe why the new generation of refrigerants has been developed
  • Identify where flammable refrigerants are likely to be found in residential, commercial, industrial, and transportation contexts
  • Describe the main hazards presented by the new generation of refrigerants (flammability, toxicity, pressure release)
  • Relate the refrigerant charge size to the level of risk
  • Evaluate the hazards present in a particular situation involving flammable refrigerants
  • Adapt response tactics to mitigate consequences from refrigerants in different types of emergencies

 

Those that successfully take the training – the convenient online course or the instructor-led curriculum that’s available – will receive a certificate of completion and be better prepared for incidents involving flammable refrigerants. Doesn’t that sound like a great way to start off 2020?

Fire doesn’t take vacation over the holidays, it doesn’t care where we live, how we celebrate, or the new decade ahead.  In fact, it didn’t take long before fire made headlines news in 2020.  And just like the fire problem continuing to impact communities around the globe, we as fire safety professionals, fire inspectors, standards developers, educators, engineers, laborers, and members of the public, must continue to be impactful by investing in safety and reducing the worldwide burden of fire that seems all too prevalent today. 

 

The NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem is a framework that identifies the components that must work together to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. When they work together, the Ecosystem protects everyone. If any component is missing or broken, the Ecosystem can collapse, often resulting in tragedy.

 

Some level of fire code adoption and use will serve as a foundation for building and life safety and fire prevention in communities and touches each component (‘cog’) that is part of the ecosystem.  Those responsible for enforcing codes and performing inspections are likely familiar with NFPA 1, Fire Code

 

Let’s take a look at some fire events that have occurred just in the last couple of weeks, worldwide, that prove we in the fire safety community not only have a lot of work ahead of ourselves in 2020 and beyond, but also the importance of the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem and having some type of fire prevention regulations (such as NFPA 1) in place throughout the world:

 

  • Australia is burning. It is in the midst of some of the most devastating and catastrophic wildfires in its history. They have killed at least 18 people, damaged over 1000 homes, stranded people in wildfire zones, killed hundreds of thousands of animals, and prompted mass evacuations of the largest scale. And they are not ending anytime soon. NFPA 1 touches briefly on the wildland fire problem in Chapter 17, requiring the planning, construction, maintenance, education, and management elements for the protection of life and property from wildfire to comply with NFPA 1144.  While no one component of the ecosystem may have failed, ensuring all 8 components are addressed will help communities better prepare, respond and recover from natural disasters such as wildfire.
  • On New Year’s Eve, a fire in Germany killed at least 30 animals, many endangered or protected species likely because of the illegal use of sky lanterns. Reports state that sky lanterns are prohibited in Germany.  They are also prohibited by NFPA. We must continue to educate the public on the dangers posed by fire, electrical and related hazards.
  • On December 27, firefighters from numerous communities helped fight a large fire at a historical residence in Concord, MA. The 3-million-dollar home was lost in the fire. Numerous issues with water supply as well as building construction contributed to the challenging firefighting efforts.  NFPA 1 addresses fire department access, water supply and hydrant design in Chapter 18.  Local government responsibility, investment in safety, code compliance, and emergency response are all components that impacted this event.
  • On December 21, 2019, six people and three animals were killed and over 13 injured in a fire at a three-story apartment complex in Las Vegas. The fire was reported to have started near a stove on a fire floor unit.  It was also reported that many of the units lacked heat, and residents were using the stoves as a heat source. There are reports of residents that a back exit door was bolted shut and lack of fire alarm.  City records also show that the building was subject to at least eight code enforcement complaints from 2016 to 2018.  NFPA 1 addresses safety requirements for residential occupancies, mandated by reference and extracted Code sections from NFPA 101, Life Safety Code. We must support effective code enforcement, investing in safety for all, and maintaining an effective regulatory body to support building and fire safety.
  • On the same day as the deadly Las Vegas fire, firefighters responded to a fire in Winnipeg, Canada, at a high-rise apartment complex under construction. Fires in buildings under construction continue to occur.  NFPA is investing in standards, such as NFPA 241, mandated by referenced in NFPA 1, that provide measures for preventing or minimizing fire damage to structures during construction, alteration, or demolition.

 

There are only some of the fire events that have impacted communities worldwide in the last couple of weeks.  We have a tough job ahead of us in 2020 and beyond.  As fire inspectors, you are on the front lines, working day in and day out ensuring buildings, events, communities, and other activities and processes comply with local regulations. We NEED you, we THANK you for what you do.

 

Let’s all commit to maintaining an effective regulatory environment, participate in the development and use of current codes, apply referenced standards, invest in safety, promote the development of skilled professionals, support code compliance, provide effective preparedness and response capabilities, and never let up on educating the public about the dangers posed by fire, electrical and related hazards.

 

IT’S A BIG WORLD. LET’S PROTECT IT TOGETHER.

Don't miss another #FireCodeFridays blog! Get notifications straight to your email inbox by subscribing here! And you can always follow me on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA

 

Thanks for reading!

 

If you’re having trouble parting with your Christmas tree, hopefully this fact will motivate you: Nearly one-third (29 percent) of U.S. home fires that begin with Christmas trees occurs in January. Christmas trees are combustible items that become increasingly flammable as they continue to dry out. The longer you keep one in your home, the more of a fire hazard it becomes.

 

NFPA statistics show that on average each year, one of every 52 reported home fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in a death, compared to one death per 135 total reported home structure fires. In other words, Christmas tree fires don’t happen all that often, but when they do occur, they’re much more likely to be serious.

 

At NFPA, we recommend using the local community’s recycling program for tree disposal, if possible; trees should not be put in the garage or left outside.

 

Also, here are tips for safely removing lighting and decorations and storing them properly to ensure that they’re in good condition the following season:

 

  • Use the gripping area on the plug when unplugging electrical decorations. Never pull the cord to unplug any device from an electrical outlet, as this can harm the wire and insulation of the cord, increasing the risk for shock or electrical fire
  • As you pack up light strings, inspect each line for damage, throwing out any sets that have loose connections, broken sockets or cracked or bare wires.
  • Wrap each set of lights and put them in individual plastic bags, or wrap them around a piece of cardboard.
  • Store electrical decorations in a dry place away from children and pets where they will not be damaged by water or dampness.

 

For more information on home fire safety all winter long, visit “Put a Freeze on Winter Fires,” a winter safety campaign NFPA promotes annually with the U.S. Fire Administration.

As 2019 comes to a close, the NFPA Journal editorial staff has each chosen his favorite articles from the past year. From a moving piece on violence against EMS workers that warranted an angry blue fist trying to punch its way out of the magazine cover to a story about a booming new gaming industry, here are our picks—as well as the ones that were most popular based on website page views.  
Executive Editor Scott Sutherland's top picks: "After Effect," November/December; "Big Assist," July/August; "135 Minutes," January/February  
This the second year that Journal staff has forced itself to pick its favorite stories of the year. As I observed the first time around, it's a very difficult task, and having done it once doesn't make it any easier. I still think the task is somehow fundamentally unfair.

But I've squared my shoulders, taken a deep breath, and picked three of my favorites for 2019—in part because each of them came from sources outside the immediate Journal staff and contributors. My mantra is that it takes a village to construct a magazine like NFPA Journal every eight weeks, and the stories described here illustrate the breadth and depth of the topics that outside contributors can provide.

In no particular order:

"After Effect," by Matthew Foley, November/December. This was our cover story marking the 20th anniversary of the Worcester Cold Storage fire, a blaze that killed six firefighters and generated long-lasting repercussions through the fire service and the fire research community. It also had a lasting impact of sorts on Matt, who was 6 years old when he observed the fire from his family's car, en route to a birthday dinner for his mother. The fire would shape both his education and his career, and Matt—now a research associate at NFPA—brought a first-person aspect to the story that was both meaningful and engaging. The story is among the year's most-read on nfpa.org/journal.

"Big Assist," by Robert Duval, July/August. Another cover story, this one took an up-close look at the importance of incident command and regional mutual aid in dealing with a large-scale disaster. The disaster in question was a series of natural gas fires and explosions that rocked three communities in Massachusetts in 2018, and the scale of the response, coupled with the chaos of the event, produced a highly complex and challenging theater of operations. Bob's account for Journal, which included insight from the three chiefs directly involved, managed to be both instructional and engaging—a mutual-aid how-to that kept readers on the edges of their seats.

"135 Minutes," by Ryan Ashlock, January/February. Ashlock went to work on November 8, 2018, like any other day. Except that his place of work was Feather River Hospital, in Paradise, California, and the just-ignited Camp Fire was exploding out of a ravine on the edge of town as he was pulling into the hospital's parking lot. Ashlock, the hospital's chief financial officer, was "administrator on call" that morning, and as a result assumed a key role in keeping patients and staff safe. "135 Minutes" is his gripping, minute-by-minute Perspectives account of evacuating the hospital's campus with virtually no notice. Ashlock's story is among the most compelling Camp Fire accounts I've read, and I'm grateful that he was willing to share it with us.
Associate Editor Jesse Roman's top picks: "Front & Center," May/June; "The Toll of Violence," January/February
Looking back at the stories I wrote and reported on in 2019, it feels impossible to pick a favorite between two profoundly different pieces: "Front & Center," a profile of Fire Chief Charles Hood of the San Antonio Fire Department, and "The Toll of Violence," an expose on the shocking levels of violence committed against EMTs and paramedics. The former is an uplifting tale about selfless leadership and an unwavering commitment to excellence, and the latter a heartbreaking example of everything wrong with this world.

Following around Hood, as I did for two days last March, the thing that quickly became clear is that he is a leader of uncommon energy and devotion to his troops. Like a magic trick, he seems to know the names of every one of the thousands of firefighters under his watch—and often their spouses' and children's names, too—and treats his obligations to them as the most important thing you can imagine.

After riding with Hood for two straight days, I was admittedly exhausted—not by the hours he keeps, but by the constant swirl of activity. He is always on, always smiling, and engaging each person in his orbit with his utmost attention. It was like watching a figure skater perform an Olympic level routine; I saw it happening, but couldn't imagine how someone could do it. And so, on the last day I asked him an objectively stupid question, but one I can't help: Does he ever get tired?

I remember him grinning and he confirmed that yes, he's human, but then said something I didn't expect. This isn't an optional part of his job—it is the job.

"It takes energy to be a leader, you can't sit around and be invisible. I have to talk with and engage every single person I see," he said, looking me square in the eye. "I may not like all of my firefighters or all of my civilians, in most cases I do, but as a leader of this organization I have to love them. Love is consistent. Love is fair. Love understands the dignity of a human being. If I walked around here all pissed off, not talking to people, treating them like shit, I still may have this job, but you would not be sitting here talking to me, or wanting to talk about our programs or efficiencies. You wouldn't be here, because unless you are investing in the people, nothing gets done. You invest in the people and the people invest in the fire department. I value the people I work with and I think it shows, and I think they know that I care about them, that I'm not just in it for me. I'd have it no other way. I only know one way to be."

As inspiring as being around Hood was, the inverse was true as I did my reporting for "The Toll of Violence." Listening to EMTs tell me about the violent indignities they suffer at the hands of those they are selflessly trying to help, made me feel hopeless. "I have been kicked, punched, bitten, spit on, verbally abused. You name it, I’ve had it all," one EMT said in a survey.

The thing that struck me was how open and willing these EMTs were to discuss their abuse. It was like they had been just waiting for someone to ask. This is a huge and underreported problem. These public servants mostly suffer in silence. I hope that the story was able in some small way to shed a light on this problem so that more can be done to protect them
.
Staff Writer Angelo Verzoni's top picks: "Safe Escape," July/August; "Ready for 'Action!'?" May/June
 Some of my favorite stories to report on come together when the world of fire and life safety collides with the world of pop culture and social trends. I've written articles about Uber, Airbnb, NBC's hit TV show "This Is Us," and other topics you might not think fit into the mold of what NFPA is all about—but there are always connections to be made. Both of my picks for 2019, "Safe Escape" and "Ready for 'Action!'?" are further examples of this. 

The first, "Safe Escape," chronicled the rise of a booming new gaming industry, escape rooms, and the concerns over escape room occupant safety, which were thrust into the international spotlight when in January 2019 five teenage girls died in a fire in an escape room in Poland. I had never done an escape room before reporting on this piece, so on a gray, drizzly afternoon in May, my girlfriend, her sister and brother-in-law, and I all packed inside an Uber to head to downtown Boston to see what all the buzz was about. We tried our luck inside the steampunk-decorated Clock Tower room at Escape the Room Boston. I, of course, was there to take notes—see if the exits were clearly marked, if there were sprinklers, if the doors were actually locked or if being locked in was simply an illusion. But I also had a genuinely fun time. In fact, my girlfriend and I are planning to do our third escape room in the next couple of weeks, when we head down to her family's house in North Carolina for Christmas.

While I left the Boston escape room thinking, "That definitely seemed safe," I was later surprised to hear from my more technically minded colleagues at NFPA that the setup I encountered—a button that you need to press before the door of the escape room will unlock—is actually not compliant with NFPA 101, Life Safety Code. Turns out, the vast majority of escape rooms operating across the country are likely not in compliance with the code, and I was able to report on that somewhat troubling information in my piece. 

My second-favorite piece from 2019 was the Dispatches lead item in the May/June issue, "Ready for 'Action!'?" Born out of a tragic incident in which a firefighter died responding to a blaze on a movie set in New York City in March 2018, the story dove deep into the world of fire safety on movie and TV sets—something I knew nothing about before writing it. An employee of NFPA for over two years at the time, I wasn't even aware that we have a standard on set safety, NFPA 140, Standard on Motion Picture and Television Production Studio Soundstages, Approved Production Facilities, and Production Locations!

I walked away from my reporting with an entirely new understanding and appreciation for film and television set safety. "These aren't just movie or TV sets," a veteran of the set safety industry told me. "This is an industrial process and that requires all the necessary safety steps to be taken."
What did readers think? Based on nfpa.org/journal page views, the top 10 most popular Journal articles in 2019 were as follows: 
9. "Front & Center," May/June 
8. "Mind the Gap," January/February 
7. "Safe Escape," July/August 
5. "Big Assist," July/August 
4. "Ramp Risk," March/April 
3. "Juice Box," May/June 
2. "After Effect," November/December 
1. "Power Aid," May/June 
NFPA Journal will be back in 2020 with a brand-new issue featuring stories on electric vehicle fire safety, fires in international hospitals, the community health care model and NFPA 451, and more. In the meantime, check out our picks from last year.

As 2019 and the 2010s draw to a close, it’s a good opportunity to reflect on our accomplishments as a fire protection and life safety community in reducing loss of life from fire and similar emergencies. It’s also an opportunity to reflect on where room for improvement still exists. While people continue to die in fires, we continue to have work to do.

For me, 2019 was punctuated by two occurrences: mass shootings (or more broadly, mass violence) and the fire at Cathedral Notre Dame in Paris. To date, there have been 409 mass shootings with 486 people killed in 2019 in the U.S. (based on the unofficial definition of ‘mass shooting’ being four or more people shot in a single incident). Nine of these incidents occurred at schools or universities. The Code doesn’t regulate buildings to protect occupants from these acts of violence, but mitigating the risk certainly has life safety from fire implications. (I’ve always contended that security and life safety from fire are diametrically opposing forces.)

NFPA has been responsive to the gun violence crisis in this country by facilitating, in 2017 following the Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting, the development of NFPA 3000 (PS), Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program. This provisional standard was developed on an emergency basis under ANSI regulations to respond to the need of communities for a framework for the development of programs to prepare for, respond to, and recover from active shooter and other hostile events. NFPA continued to work this past year to assist its stakeholders by providing training and a roadmap for the implementation of NFPA 3000, and it continues to facilitate the development of NFPA 3000 as a full-fledged, ANSI accredited standard, the issuance of which is scheduled to occur in 2020.

In the Life Safety Code arena, the technical committee responsible for requirements in educational occupancies (K-12 schools) recognized in 2019 the need for practical, cost effective, and most importantly, safe classroom door locking solutions that could be implemented on existing doors without meeting the strict, single-motion lock/latch releasing requirement present in the 2018 edition of NFPA 101. Lacking a code-compliant, cost effective solution, the alternative for many school districts was to purchase and equip classrooms with dangerous barricade devices, and other makeshift arrangements, such as five-gallon plastic buckets containing rope, a hammer, a wooden wedge, and duct tape. To preemptively mitigate the hazards of these unsafe alternatives, NFPA issued a tentative interim amendment to the classroom door locking provisions in the 2018 edition of NFPA 101, and carried the same concepts forward in the draft 2021 edition slated for publication in 2020.

The Cathedral Notre Dame fire last April drove home an important lesson in my mind; I wrote about it in my #101Wednesdays blog shortly following the fire. Although this particular fire resulted in no loss of life, it demonstrated where a fire protection (or life safety) plan relies on human intervention, the plan must accommodate, and compensate, for the very real potential for human error. The need for quality and consistent training can’t be overstated. The Code can only do so much; unless communities and society embrace the concepts it embodies, the words in the book aren’t worth the cost of the paper they’re printed on. Following the Oakland Ghost Ship fire in 2016, I wrote about the need for a new way of thinking – a paradigm shift, of sorts – to prevent such recurring tragedies. I believe one such new way of thinking has been realized by the development of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosytem, a framework that identifies the components that must work together to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem to have an impact, it’s up to us to continue to talk about it and educate. This is no easy task and will be an ongoing challenge in 2020 and many years to come.

The past year and decade have seen important advancements in NFPA 101, including: new requirements for carbon monoxide detection; significant changes to health care occupancy requirements to accommodate homelike settings (e.g., community kitchens), particularly in nursing facilities, to enhance patients’ cognitive abilities and dignity (so-called “health care culture change”) – these provisions were incorporated into the 2012 edition, which was subsequently adopted by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; and recognition of hazardous materials emergencies and targeted violence events in the 2018 edition.

The area of fire protection and life safety in which I fear significant progress has not been made is home fire deaths. Fire data compiled by NFPA indicates somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,500 to 3,000 people die in home fires in the U.S. each year. These numbers haven’t changed much in the last 20 years, let alone the last decade. NFPA 101 requires all new one- and two-family dwellings to be protected by automatic sprinklers; however, as long as trade organizations continue to successfully advocate against sprinkler legislation, that requirement, and a companion requirement in the International Residential Code, will have no impact. Granted, the vast majority of the population lives in existing housing stock and the installation of sprinklers in all new homes would not have a measurable impact on fire death statistics for decades, most likely. However, the impact would come one day; it’s never going to come at the rate we’re going. The question I ask myself heading into the 2020s, then, is, “Are we doing what’s needed to reduce the burden of fire on society, or are we doing what’s needed to maintain the status quo?” The numbers seem to point towards the latter. I don’t know what it will take to drive the home fire death numbers down appreciably. Maybe it’s sprinklers. Maybe it’s stricter smoke alarm requirements. Maybe it’s something else. I do know that I’m not content with maintaining the status quo; it’s not good enough and it’s not why I got into this business. I would challenge you to think about whether it’s good enough for you as well, and if not, what are we going to do about it.

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy holiday season. We’ve done a lot of good work together this past year and decade; I’m looking forward to the good work we’ll do together in 2020 and beyond.

Thanks for reading, and as always, 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 following two proposed Tentative Interim Amendments (TIAs) for NFPA 58, Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code; and NFPA 70, National Electrical Code, are being published for public review and comment:

NFPA 58, 2020 edition

  • NFPA 58, proposed TIA No. 1481, referencing 2.3.3, 5.2.8.3(C)(13), 11.3.4(B)(13), and N.1.2.3, 2020 edition
  • NFPA 70, proposed TIA No. 1479, referencing 800.100(B)(2) Informational Note and Informational Note Figure caption, 2020 edition

NFPA 70, 2020 editionAnyone may submit a comment on these proposed TIAs by the January 29, 2020 closing date. Along with your comment, please identify the number of the TIA and forward to the Secretary, Standards Council by the closing date.

Glittering decorations, holiday meals and treats, enjoying the warmth of home on a wintry day – these are hallmarks of the holiday season. However, these traditions and festivities also present an increased risk of fire, making December a leading month for U.S. home fires. Christmas Day and Christmas Eve are two of the top three days for home cooking fires and the top two days for home candle fires.

 

Following are NFPA statistics that underscore the increased risk of fire during the holidays:

 

Decorations:

Home fires that began when decorations caught fire caused an average of three civilian deaths, 34 civilian fire injuries and $12 million in direct property damage per year from 2013 to 2017. In 44 percent of these fires, the decoration was too close to a heat source. Fifty-seven percent of December home decoration fires were started by candles, compared to 32 percent in January through November. In addition, December is the peak month for candle fires. Sixty percent of home candle fires started because a flammable item was too close to the candle. In 13 percent of the fires, the candle was left unattended or abandoned.

 

Christmas trees:

Christmas tree fires are not as common as fires started by other decorations, but when they do occur, they are much more likely to be serious. An annual average of 160 home fires began with Christmas trees. On average, one of every 52 reported home Christmas tree fires resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 135 total reported home fires. Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in more than two of every five (44 percent) home Christmas tree fires, with decorative lights the leading type of equipment involved.

 

Cooking:

Cooking is the leading cause of U.S. home fires year-round; unattended cooking is the leading cause of these fires, accounting for 31 percent of home cooking fires. Christmas Day is the second-leading day for home cooking fires, with 69 percent more fires than the average daily number. Christmas Eve is not far behind, with 58 percent more fires than the daily average.

 

Heating: Heating equipment is the second-leading cause of U.S. home fires, with nearly half of all home heating fires occurring in December, January and February. The leading factor contributing to home heating fires (27 percent) was failure to clean, principally from solid-fueled heating equipment, primarily chimneys. Most home heating fire deaths (86 percent) involved stationary or portable space heaters. In the majority of these deaths, something that could catch fire was too close to the heater.

 

All that noted, there's no need to be bah humbug about the holidays! Once you know where potential hazards exist, there are many simple steps you can take to ensure a festive, fire-safe season, and we’ve got plenty of them! Check out our tips and resources at www.nfpa.org/holiday.

 

Fire protection systems are increasingly networked to Building Control Systems (BCS), Internet of Things (IoT), and other platforms that are, by design or oversight, exposed to the public-facing Internet. This emerging environment could lead to unique and novel cyber vulnerabilities, and attacks on fire protection systems have the potential to have significant consequences. However, a thorough understanding of cybersecurity issues related to fire protection systems is lacking. The expansiveness of these vulnerabilities, the severity of the consequences, and the awareness of the fire protection community of these vulnerabilities is not well understood.

 

The Fire Protection Research Foundation recently distributed a new “Request for Proposals” for a project contractor to address this issue. The goal of this current project is to assess the cybersecurity threats of fire protection systems connected to BCS, IoT, and other potential Internet-facing platforms.

 

Please see the attached PDF for the scope of work or go to the Fire Protection Research Foundation’s website at www.nfpa.org/foundation for more information. Please submit your proposals by January 10, 2020 at 5:00pm EST.

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