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Chicago symposiumFor its 25th birthday in 2007, the Fire Protection Research Foundation developed a seven-point agenda to help guide its research for the next five years. In the latest edition of NFPA Journal, the Foundation's executive director Kathleen Almand has benchmarked the Foundation's progress since establishing the agenda, which includes initiating research related to new fire protection technologies, new hazards, and restraints to fire safety solutions.

Almand gave the Foundation a "B+" for its efforts, particularly for projects that have helped NFPA's codes and standards address new technologies, emerging hazards in buildings, and new firefighter equipment. However, there are areas that need further analysis, says Almand, particularly how NFPA's standards can adapt to a rapidly aging population and assessing how fire safety can contribute to a more sustainable environment.

Here's a snippet from her column: In Chicago on November 7, the Foundation, together with NFPA, will address a piece of this puzzle by holding a discussion with the architectural community on the intersection of fire and sustainable building design. We must understand the forces driving changes in the built infrastructure so that we can adapt our fire safey solutions to them.

To learn more about the Chicago symposium, visit the Foundation's website. After reading Almand's additional thoughts on the state of the Foundation in the latest issue of NFPA Journal, watch a video of Foundation director Casey Grant highlighting achievements from NFPA's Code Fund:  


-Fred Durso, Jr.

Lightweight construction
It was a tragedy that saddened an entire New York community, and reignited a nationwide debate.

In May, an early-morning fire ripped through the two-story home of Thomas Sullivan, a captain with the Larchmont Police Department. His son, Thomas Jr., awoke to the screams of his father and managed to escape, but Sullivan; his wife, Donna; and his two daughters, Megan and Mairead, all died in the blaze that decimated their unsprinklered home in Carmel, New York, according to a CBS affiliate.

The incident has once again prompted a debate on popular, lightweight construction used in newer homes that homebuilders say have superior qualities over conventional building materials. What's causing concern, however, is the rapid rate at which these materials seem to burn.

An NFPA Journal feature story underscores these concerns and related findings from separate studies by Underwriters Laboratories and the National Research Council of Canada.

"In recent decades, an expanding range of construction methods and building products...often termed 'lightweight construction' have been widely embraced by residential builders for their ability to deliver economy and functionality," says the story's author Alan R. Earls. "However, findings [from both reports]  confirmed what firefighters have long suspected about what happens to lightweight construction when it is exposed to fire. In repeated tests by both groups, under carefully controlled conditions, lightweight structures were found to burn faster and lose their structural integrity quicker—in some cases much quicker—than those built with dimensional lumber, with obvious ramifications for the fire service and for anyone who lives in a residence constructed with lightweight materials."

A new discussion group on the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition's LinkedIn page is currently weighing in on this topic and how home fire sprinklers can assist in safeguarding lives and property. (Sign up for a LinkedIn account if you haven't already to join the discussion.) For additional information on the benefits of home fire sprinklers, visit NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative site.

-Fred Durso, Jr.

Grove FireFrom the Boston Globe
July 15, 2012

It was over in minutes.

The fire began in the nightclub’s basement Melody Lounge and swept upstairs into the main dining room, where a fireball shot through the packed space and into a cocktail lounge opened only days earlier. Hundreds banged helplessly on locked exits and piled up inside a jammed revolving door.

The fire that destroyed the Cocoanut Grove that cold night of Nov. 28, 1942, killed 492 people. It was and remains the worst fire in New England history.

An investigation failed to determine the cause. Club owner Barnett Welansky was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, setting the legal precedent that a conscious failure to address dangerous conditions was basis enough for guilt.

Still, fundamental questions remain. How did the fire start, and why did it spread so quickly? Why did it stay close to the ceiling of the dining room, leaving tablecloths and menus untouched? Who wrote threatening letters to investigators seeking the truth?

As the fire’s 70th anniversary approaches, a local group of librarians and historians hopes to find clues that will shed new insight on those long-held mysteries and make the facts available to future researchers.

The Cocoanut Grove Coalition formed early this year with two goals: creating a central online access point for materials about the fire, located in the collections of archives and museums across Greater Boston, and gathering previously unknown writings, recordings, photographs, and recollections.

“One of my concerns is that we’re getting further and further away . . . from the fire itself, and materials are being lost,” said Sue Marsh, librarian for the Quincy-based National Fire Protection Association, who formed the coalition.

Read the entire article on

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Firefighters react to a church fire that killed one firefighter last year in Indiana.


Despite data from NFPA's latest "Firefighter Fatalities in the United States" report indicating the number of on-duty firefighter deaths in 2011 is the lowest annual total in 35 years, fire service experts continue to promote an analysis that has the ability to further decrease this figure.


In the latest issue of +NFPA Journal+, columnists Ben Klaene and Russ Sanders outline a risk-versus-benefit fire analysis that identifies the likelihood of firefighters being injured or killed in a fire and weighing those factors with others related to saving endangered lives. NFPA 1500, +Fire ++Department Occupational Safety and Health Program,+ provides guidance on developing this analysis.

"Until the fire is controlled, the risk to firefighters increases and the possible benefit of saving lives decreases," state the authors in their column. "It is critically important that first-arriving units and the incident commander conduct a risk-versus-benefit analysis, which includes continuously reevaluating and reassessing the situation and developing a strategy and incident action plan that adequately protects firefighters."


Read the full column in the July/August issue of+ NFPA Journal.+


-Fred Durso, Jr.</p>

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