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September 15, 2014 Previous day Next day

First responder imageBuyer’s remorse is a terrible feeling. Spending thousands of dollars on firefighting equipment that doesn’t work as intended is more than terrible—it’s dangerous.

In his “First Responder” column in the new September/October issue of NFPA Journal, NFPA Division Manager Ken Willette writes about how NFPA codes can assist with the purchase of fire equipment.

There are more than a dozen NFPA standards to help fire-service buyers make smart choices. The standards recommend practices for the design, testing and certification of personal protective equipment (PPE) and electronic safety equipment (ESE). The standards also recommend that each piece of compliant equipment “have a permanent label affixed that explicitly states it meets the requirements of the relevant standard,” Willette writes.

“When evaluating PPE or ESE, look for the label—it’s your confirmation that the equipment is NFPA-compliant and can serve as a benchmark as you evaluate comparable, labeled products,” Willette writes. 

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I’m working in NFPA’s exhibit booth at a conference for local government administrators in Charlotte, NC, helping city managers and other attendees better understand the value of home fire sprinklers.

Just after 12:30 pm, as attendees were strolling through the exhibit hall - networking and enjoying their lunches - the facility’s fire alarm began blaring - loudly. A looped recorded message told us that an emergency had been reported in the building and instructed us to walk, not run, to the closest exit.

I grabbed my laptop and backpack, and started toward the exit door, located at the end of the next aisle over. I was joined by only a handful of others, but I could see down to the other end of the expo hall, where hundreds of people were backed up in long lines — barely moving - at the escalators that would take them one flight up to street level.

My exit took me up a long staircase and dumped me on the sidewalk near the convention center’s main entrance. Several fire trucks were already outside — and after a few minutes, we were given the “all clear” message and were allowed to re-enter the building.

I’ve been in buildings that had to be evacuated a few times in my life — but never where thousands of people were gathered for a conference. And I’m struck by the fact that the majority of people in the exhibit hall automatically re-traced their steps and waited in long lines to exit the doors they had entered through rather than use the other clearly-marked exits located in the hall.

In a real emergency, I would hate to think what might have happened as hordes of people pushed to escape through a single point of egress.

It’s a good reminder about situational awareness — and not being a creature of habit when it comes to fire safety. Here’s the information you need to know about escape planning in any situation.

248250DF5AF044E0BBBDEEE372F45E2EDoors in exterior walls allow people to enter and leave a building, but they also introduce security challenges, says Ron Cote, NFPA's principal engineer for life safety. Building operators try to provide systems and procedures to limit admission to those who legitimately belong in the building without unreasonably inconveniencing them.

To do this, they may introduce systems that control entry, such as turnstiles. However, these systems must not adversely affect the safe egress of building occupants, as required by NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, which regulates egress in significant ways but does not require ingress. According to Cote, the 2015 edition of NFPA 101, available this fall, will now include provisions for security access turnstiles positioned in  building lobbies to prevent unauthorized access.

For more information, read Cote's  column "Two-Way Traffic" in the September/October 2014 issue of NFPA Journal.

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Receive the print issue of NFPA Journal and browse online member-only archives as part of your NFPA membership. Learn more about the many benefits and join today.

by NFPA's Michele Steinberg

In the current issue of NFPA Journal, NFPA President Jim Pauley shares some numbers and stats on wildfire and gives his assessment: we still have work to do. 

Read or listen to what Jim has to say about the growing threat of wildfire and where we need to take action. Learn about NFPA's successes in promoting Firewise and Fire Adapted community approaches, including the launch of a national Wildfire Community Preparedness Day. Jim calls out USAA Insurance for its leadership with its new initiative in Firewise communities in California as a great example of innovative thinking and action.

 

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