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Are those palm trees outside your hotel window real or simulated? Could they be made of plastic? If so, they can pose a significantly greater hazard than real palm trees in a fire event.


The nature of that hazard, both inside and outside buildings, and how it is addressed by NFPA codes and standards is the focus of "Looks Nice. Burns Hot," a feature story in the new May/June issue of NFPA Journal by staff writer Ashley Smith.


The story is tied to an education session at the upcoming NFPA conference in Las Vegas, and while the ed session will concentrate on decorative features on the Las Vegas Strip, the problem is actually international in scope. Buildings around the world include decorative features, either on or adjacent to the structures, that are made of various types of plastic that can burn much hotter and quicker than conventional construction materials. A fire at a Las Vegas hotel last year, pictured at right, involved plastic palm trees on the hotel's pool deck; a local fire official said the plastic trees acted like "solid gasoline" in helping the fire "take off like a rocket." The blaze resulted in $2 million in damage.


Codes currently do not address exterior decorations, though some safety officials are advocating for the inclusion of exterior elements. The codes do cover a variety of interior decorations.


The story is part of NFPA Journal's comprehensive Conference & Expo preview coverage.

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In his most recent research column in the new NFPA Journal, Fire Protection Research Foundation Executive Director Casey Grant tackles the subject of robotics.


"The potential for robotics to assist with dangerous professions like firefighting is great—the possibilities are limited only by our imaginations,” Grant writes in the piece, “Machine Age.”


As this field expands and reinvents itself almost daily, researchers and standard developers must be diligent to keep up to date and address any issues and concerns that arise. Read more on this issue in Grant’s column in the new May/June issue of NFPA Journal.


Other columns in the new May/June NFPA Journal include:


NFPA Government Affairs Division Director Gregory Cade writing about the many ways NFPA is addressing emerging threats of violence;


NFPA Vice President of Outreach and Advocacy Lorraine Carli writing about why NFPA continues to push the home smoke alarm theme for Fire Prevention Week;


NFPA Vice President of Field Operations Don Bliss discussing the increasing use of NFPA codes and standards across the globe;


NFPA Public Fire Protection Division Manager Ken Willette writing about the many forward-looking education sessions being offered to the fire service at this year’s NFPA Conference & Expo in Las Vegas;


And, Lucian Deaton of NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations Division writing on prescribed burning and how the tactic can be a critical tool for many communities in the Wildland/Urban Interface.


Read all of that in the print edition of the May/June NFPA Journal, or online at

Kathleen warsaw.jpgThis week, NFPA's Vice President of Research Kathleen Almand delivered a keynote address to the 11th biennial Conference on Performance-Based Codes and Fire Safety Design Methods, hosted in Warsaw by the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE).


The conference has become a global destination for people working in fire safety engineering, regulations development and enforcement, testing, standards of development and engineering design methods.


Almand's presentation entitled "Using Data to Enhance Fire and Life Safety Inspection and Enforcement Programs," focused on how the use of data analytics can aid the fire service in community risk reduction. As she explained, fire departments draw data from various sources to improve the efficiency of their inspection and enforcement efforts. More and more, this data is being collected and analyzed to better understand the patterns behind fire mitigation. She related the outcomes of a recent workshop attended by 16 different U.S. fire departments and service providers who use data analytics to gather, share and evaluate information on electronic tools and strategies.


Almand told the group that the Fire Protection Research Foundation is sponsoring an NFPA initiative to discover and share the best practices for collecting data for use by code enforcement agencies. This project aims to show the benefits of applying data to inspection and enforcement programs and increase awareness of data sets, tools and best practices already in place in the inspection and enforcement fields. In addition, the Foundation hopes to identify existing gaps in data sets, find opportunities for standardization of data gathering tools and application strategies, and provide guidance and input for NFPA Technical Committees.


During her keynote, Almand also explained that as an independent, neutral non-governmental organization, NFPA is well-positioned to coordinate the next generation of data that will allow our stakeholders to apply relevant and timely information for better decision-making. NFPA has created a Data Analytics Sandbox where the fire service, municipalities and others can combine their big and small data with other data in an innovative, secure test-bed. The data is then analyzed and utilized to fulfill fire protection, life safety, community engagement and business operations objectives.

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