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NFPA's Jim Shannon makes opening remarks at the home fire sprinkler summit
Speaking before a crowd comprising fire service representatives and other safety advocates from every state, President Jim Shannon this evening promised that NFPA would continue to lead the fight to require the installation of fire sprinklers in all new one- and two-family homes.

Mr. Shannon was the featured speaker at tonight’s kick-off dinner for a one-day home fire sprinkler summit in Chicago. The event brings together sprinkler advocates for networking and the sharing of lessons learned and best practices. Attendees will also go home equipped with the information and resources they need to help make the case for sprinkler requirements.

Currently, three states (California, Maryland, and South Carolina) and scores of communities across the United States have adopted requirements for automatic fire sprinkler systems in new one- and two- family dwellings. And Mr. Shannon admits the effort has been an uphill battle.

“We knew right from the start that we were going to run into opposition, especially from homebuilders, who have a great deal of influence and seasoned lobbyists working on their behalf,” he said. “And we knew that they would fiercely oppose our efforts to get states to require sprinklers. But we are not discouraged because the logic of our efforts will ultimately prevail.”

Jim Shannon makes opening remarks at the NFPA home fire sprinkler summit

Mr. Shannon compared the fire sprinkler campaign to an initiative that NFPA launched several years ago to save lives and prevent injuries from cigarette-ignited fires.  

The concept of fire-safe cigarettes (cigarettes that have a reduced propensity to burn when left unattended) had been floating around for decades, but it never went anywhere, namely because of the power of the tobacco lobby, said Mr. Shannon. “But finally, New York State decided to take a stand, and passed a law that allowed only the sale of fire-safe cigarettes."

The New York law went into effect on June 28, 2004 – the first time that cigarette manufacturing had been regulated in the history of the world. Canada became the first country to require fire-safe cigarettes when its law became effective on October 1, 2005.

NFPA's Jim Shannon makes opening remarks at the home fire sprinkler summit

After the New York experience, Mr. Shannon said that NFPA started thinking that a state-by-state effort to require fire-safe cigarettes might be a more workable strategy than a national campaign. “When we started, we figured it would take eight or nine years to accomplish our goal. But in just under four years, we had worked with the fire service and other advocates to pass fire-safe cigarette laws in all 50 states.”

And according to an NFPA report just released today, civilian deaths attributed to smoking material fires in the United States in 2010 were at or near an all-time-low. Several factors, including a decline in smoking, stricter fire resistant standards on mattresses and upholstered furniture, and the new fire-safe cigarette laws are being credited with the decrease in smoking material fire deaths.

“The point is that we didn’t settle and we didn’t give up,” said Mr. Shannon. “And by using our new strategies and working with the committed members of our nation’s fire service, we believe we can save even more lives with home fire sprinkler requirements.” 

Mr. Shannon said the effort to require home fire sprinklers in every state might take 3 years, or 5 years, or 10 years, “but we are in this fight for the long haul because it’s the right fight,” he said. “We have to push for change like this, because it will ultimately protect us and our homes. And it will protect the lives of our future generations, whose safety depends on our success and our efforts today.”

Watch our Fire Sprinkler Initiative blog on Tuesday for more updates for NFPA’s home fire sprinkler summit in Chicago.

- Mike Hazell

At its March 5-6, 2012 meeting, the NFPA Standards Council considered the issuance of several proposed Tentative Interim Amendments (TIA).  The following TIAs on NFPA 13D, NFPA 30B, NFPA 51A, and NFPA 75 were issued by the Council on March 6, 2012:

  • NFPA 13D, TIA 10-4, Referencing Section 6.5.3 
  • NFPA 30B, TIA 11-1, Referencing Sections 2.3.2, 6.1.1, 6.2.1.1, A.6.2.1.1(c), A.6.2.1.1(d), and 6.2.2
  • NFPA 51A, TIA 12-1, Referencing Sections 3.3 (New), 10.6, 11.2.1.3, and B.1.2.1
  • NFPA 75, TIA 09-1, Referencing Sections 10.4.4 and A.10.4.4 

Tentative Interim Amendments (TIAs) are amendments to an NFPA document processed in accordance with Section 5 of the Regulations Governing Committee Projects.They have not gone through the entire codes and standards-making process of being published in an ROP and ROC for review and comment. TIAs are effective only between editions of the document. A TIA automatically becomes a proposal for the next edition of the document, as such is then subject to all of the procedures of the codes and standards making process.  TIAs are published in NFPA News, NFCSS, and any further distribution of the document after being issued by the Standards Council.

Early in the morning of April 2, 1973, a fire involved a second-floor night club in a 12 story hotel in Rosemont, Illinois.  This fire was of particular interest because it exposed a 10 story atrium in the center of the hotel, and even though property damage was high, only one of the 1,000 guests required hospital treatment.  The fire was discovered coming from the nightclub at 4:30 a.m. by a maintenance employee, who activated a manual fire alarm station and then pulled out a standpipe hose and began applying water.

The atrium, located in the middle of the building was filled with smoke when firefighters arrived, and visibility was down to 10 feet in most areas.  Most of the firefighters were assigned to prevent panic among the occupants and assist with evacuation.  NFPA’s Fire Journal article regarding the incident found several items of note:

  • The building’s mechanical exhaust system did not operate; because the switch connecting the smoke detection system to the smoke exhaust system had been turned off (the system had to be manually turned on during firefighting operations)
  • Visibility was severely reduced, to the point of obscuring exit signs
  • Exit doorways were painted the same color as the surrounding wall, obscuring their location to occupants in the dense smoke
  • Guests attempted to use the automatic elevators for escape; since the elevators could not be manually controlled for escape, firefighters had to ride the cars to prevent their being used
  • The large volume of the atrium permitted dilution of smoke in the early stages of the fire, enabling some guests to escape without much confusion
  • Quick action by firefighters to control panic probably held injuries to a minimum; one firefighter was injured in this incident

NFPA members can read the Fire Journal article.

NFPa product innovationA common question of people and businesses is “what do you do?” Most of our customers would probably answer “NFPA makes code books.”  

At first glance, they’re right, of course. We’ve got a phenomenal staff that produces over 300 codes and standards, the handbooks for some of those codes and standards, and a variety of supporting material.

But that’s not the whole story. What about our training programs, public education programs, web tools, and mobile device apps? Once you start piling it up, you realize that maybe our eye is drawn to the physical object on the shelf, and that we overlook the less tangible answer:

NFPA’s core product is information.

And not just any information, but the collected, debated, and exhaustively researched answer to a broad question: What is the minimum safe way to…?

As technology marches on, we often focus on information as a valuable resource in its own right. But the diffuse knowledge that is forged from our technical committees isn’t terribly portable. We add a lot of value to information when we make it easier to use, and relevant to the task at hand. Strategically, we design products with three major factors in mind:

  • Convenience – portable formats where and how you need them
  • Enhanced content – explanatory, supporting material
  • Customer-based customizability – assemble the right toolkit for your job

We are looking at ways to deliver code and code-related content that is more useful to our customers. Does the customer sit in an office all day at the computer? NFCSS and necplus are ideal products. Is the customer in the field? We’ve got physical books, e-books, mobile device apps. And that’s just the beginning. We are building solutions that give the customer more control over what they see and how they see it. Self-customization is one of the hallmarks of modern smart devices, and we’re building solutions to match.

Customer feedback is the primary driver for this initiative, so reach out to your NFPA friends, or drop us a note with your vision of the perfect NFPA code product.

-Sam Driver

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