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UL recently posted a Public Notice for a suspension of standard UL 2196 that impacts some fire resistive electrical cables and systems, specifically Electrical Circuit Protective Systems (ECPS) within the categories FHIT for UL and FHJR for ULC. NFPA recommends you review this public notice on UL’s website. UL offered the following additional background and recommendations:

LOCATION OF THESE WITHDRAWN SYSTEMS:
These systems are primarily installed in mixed occupancy high-rise buildings, and in tunnels, bridges, and other commercial infrastructures.  In many circumstances, the referenced systems exist in conjunction with other fire mitigation system options, which are not in question.  Within a building or structure, the locations of these fire resistive circuit cable systems are typically found as part of in the following life safety installations:

  • Fire pump- Feeder/controls
  • Elevators
  • Smoke control equipment
  • Command center critical systems
  • Pressurized stairway systems
  • Smoke management systems
  • Fire alarm systems
  • Electrical Equipment Rooms -      Feeders/Service
  • Emergency Generators and Standby Power      Systems

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR BUILDINGS CLOSE TO COMPLETION OR AWAITING SIGN-OFF
UL is recommending you consider a “performance approach” to assessing the building’s unique situation. First, utilize a team to review and identify risks in the building (e.g. are there redundant systems in place and is there a need for an additional fire mitigating system?)  Specific to the installed or almost installed ECPS, guide the team to consider the following variables:

  • Distance of cable in ECPS
  • Location of current system
  • Redundant systems currently in place
  • Is COPS classification essential to owner?
  • Number of stories in building
  • Use of the building
  • Occupancy of building
  • Fuel loading
  • Sprinkler system coverage  
  • Fire alarm systems

Assessing these variables will help evaluate risk and determine next best steps.  Because there is so much variability to buildings that may have an Electrical Circuit Protective Systems (ECPS), it is impossible to recommend one solution to fit all building/structure types.

A FAQ is also posted on the UL website.

For additional questions, please contact, Bob James, Robert.J.James@UL.com; phone 813-956-8669. He is a member of UL’s Regulatory Services Staff, whose general email address is: ULRegulatoryServices@UL.com.

NFPA will be reviewing this Public Notice to determine its impact on any NFPA codes or standards and working with the appropriate technical committees. 

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The number of people killed in this week's garment factory fire in Karachi, Pakistan, is neither final nor official, but the operative description in most press reports is "at least 289"—which, according to NFPA's Fire Analysis & Research Division, would make it by far the deadliest industrial building fire in history.

That unfortunate benchmark had previously been established by the Kader toy factory fire, which killed 188 workers near Bangkok, Thailand, in 1993. Before Kader, the deadliest such incident had been another garment factory fire: the Triangle Waist Co. fire in New York City in 1911, which killed 146 people and led to sweeping reforms in workplace safety in the United States, including the creation of NFPA's Life Safety Code.

Last year, when I was writing the story for NFPA Journal that marked the 100th anniversary of the Triangle fire, I was struck by the lockstep similarity of many of the deadliest garment factory fires over the last century, which now tend to occur in developing (and often struggling) nations from Honduras to Bangladesh: few accessible exits, locked doors, little or nothing in the way of fire protection systems, lax inspection, non-existent enforcement. Such conditions are part of the collateral danger associated with the global garment industry's so-called "race to the bottom," the ongoing search for manufacturing locations that offer the cheapest labor and the fewest regulatory concerns. Every day, millions of workers around the world walk into garment factories that can accurately be described as death traps.

That description is being widely applied to the Ali Enterprises factory in Karachi, which reportedly produced clothing for American and European labels. Reports estimate as many as 2,000 workers were in the multi-story factory on Tuesday evening when the fire began, but that only one exit was available—the rest had been locked. Most of the building's windows were barred. Some people were killed or injured trying to jump to safety, but most of the casualties were workers who, suddenly confronted by smoke and flame, had nowhere to go.

Early reports suggest the fire was caused by an electrical short, which would present yet another layer of regulatory need. "Wali Muhammad, a former electrical inspector, said that most accidental fires are caused by short circuits in equipment," The New York Times reported. "But since 2003, he said, inspectors had been forbidden by law from visiting factories in Karachi and Punjab; it was not immediately clear why." 

Perhaps, but it doesn't require a conspiracy theorist to come up with some plausible guesses—none particularly flattering to factory owners or local officials—as to why such a law might exist.

The sad and unnecessary events in Karachi come at a time when NFPA is working with stakeholders around the world to adopt our codes and standards, and when it is partnering with other standards development organizations to promote the use of the most up-to-date versions of safety codes. If anything, the circumstances around the Karachi fire highlight just how advanced and forward-thinking those efforts really are, while people across much of the planet, for a host of reasons, still face staggering fire risks in the course of something as simple as getting up in the morning and going to work. For much of the developing world, the question persists: What will it take to spur the adoption of relevant codes and standards, and even more importantly, what will it take to ensure even a modicum of enforcement?

Meanwhile, opportunity loves a vacuum. The global garment industry has time and again proven itself predatory, unapologetic, and largely unaccountable for its labor and safety practices, and until it is met with code adoption and the will to enforce those codes, it will continue with business as usual, and at a terrible cost. Yesterday's Triangle becomes today's Karachi becomes tomorrow's new deadliest industrial building fire. As a Triangle survivor once put it, the fire still burns.

(Photo: AFP) 

The First Draft Reports for 16 NFPA documents in the Fall 2013 revision cycle are now available.  Review the First Draft Reports for use as background in the submission of public comments. The deadline to submit a public comment on any of these documents is November 16, 2012. The list of NFPA documents in the 2013 fall revision cycle is as follows:

  • NFPA 37, Standard for the Installation and Use of Stationary Combustion Engines and Gas Turbines
  • NFPA 69, Standard on Explosion Prevention Systems
  • NFPA 82, Standard on Incinerators and Waste and Linen Handling Systems and Equipment
  • NFPA 730, Guide for Premises Security
  • NFPA 731, Standard for the Installation of Electronic Premises Security Systems
  • NFPA 750, Standard on Water Mist Fire Protection Systems
  • NFPA 921, Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations
  • NFPA 1005, Standard for Professional Qualifications for Marine Fire Fighting for Land-Based Fire Fighters
  • NFPA 1192, Standard on Recreational Vehicles
  • NFPA 1194, Standard for Recreational Vehicle Parks and Campgrounds
  • NFPA 1521, Standard for Fire Department Safety Officer
  • NFPA 1561, Standard on Emergency Services Incident Management System
  • NFPA 1670, Standard on Operations and Training for Technical Search and Rescue Incidents
  • NFPA 1963, Standard for Fire Hose Connections
  • NFPA 1965, Standard for Fire Hose Appliances
  • NFPA 1975, Standard on Station/Work Uniforms for Emergency Services

The First Draft Report serves as documentation of the Input Stage and is published for public review and comment. The First Draft Report contains a compilation of the First Draft of the NFPA Standard, First Revisions, Public Input, Committee Input, Committee Statements, and Ballot Results and Statements. Where applicable, the First Draft Report also contains First Correlating Revisions, Correlating Notes, and Correlating Input. The Report also contains a list of Technical Committee and Correlating Committee Members and instructions on how to use the First Draft Report in submitting public comments.


Waldo_canyon_300x200“For years, NFPA has pushed hard through our Firewise® program for a much more active approach to reducing risk in the wildland/urban interface,” says NPFA President Jim Shannon in his "First Word" column in the most recent issue of NFPA Journal, “And we recently expanded the scope of our work with a grant from the U. S. Forest Service to launch the Fire Adapted Communities™ program.” 

With the support of the Forest Service, NFPA expects the Fire Adapted Communities program to get off to a fast start. According to Shannon, however, that is not enough. The whole fire safety community should understand that this is no longer a regional or seasonal problem that can be solved by a single agency, but an issue of urgent national concern with implications for all of us.

“At NFPA,” he says, “We are not waiting for this problem to get further out of control. We are acting now.”

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