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September 29, 2016 Previous day Next day

Life safety rope image.jpg


Should there be a requirement for the maximum number of years life safety rope is used? If so, what should the retirement age for such rope be? Share your thoughts and insights with the Technical Committee on NFPA 1858, Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Life Safety Rope and Equipment for Emergency Services. Public Comments are being accepted now through November 17, 2016.


The photo, taken at the height of the fire, shows the grain elevator where the fire started, and a nearby warehouse.  Both structures were destroyed.


From the NFPA Quarterly v. 16, no. 2, 1922

"Lightning hit Elevator "B" at about 5:30 P.M. A watchman was in the top of this elevator but he escaped injury and turned in a fire alarm immediately from an ADT box, at hand. The private fire brigade responded immediately, taking hose into the building. However, the fire spread so rapidly that the brigade could do nothing with the standpipe and hose in the building and were forced to use the spiral slide fire escapes to get out of the building. The city fire department responded quickly to the first alarm and a "third" alarm was sounded immediately on their arrival, quickly followed by a general alarm, bringing out all the companies in the city (51 engines), more than half of which were held at the fire. All five of the city fire boats and several tugs of various railroads, equipped with fire apparatus, responded. The fire spread rapidly and soon set fire to the warehouse on Pier 5 despite closed iron shutters, Pier 5 being west of Elevator "B" and wind being from the east. At that time streams were being directed on Elevator "C" from outside and also over the side of buildings from inside standpipes. Fire boats were in the slip between the two elevators. About 7:30 to 8:00 P.M. the wind suddenly shifted, due to another storm, and blew from north and west, and toward Elevator "C," setting that building on fire and causing fire boats to abandon their positions. The wind continuing from the north and west, embers and heat were carried to Pier 2, igniting that structure despite efforts to save it. Then wind again shifted to northeast, enabling firemen to save Pier 1 and Annex Pier 2. Twenty-eight standard hose streams were used on the plant water system, with pumps maintaining from 100 to 130 pounds. There was no break in the water lines, nothing went wrong with the pumps, the fire alarm system functioned, the plant fire brigade responded in minimum time, and altogether it would appear that the fire was fought as efficiently as possible, with all the protection, which was excellent, working properly."



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     General advice about major disasters says each of us will very likely need to take care of ourselves for the first 24 to 72 hours. The former chair of the National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) Disability Access and Review Committee said "Every one of us should be prepared to take some responsibility for our own safety regardless of our circumstances."


     To that end, the NFPA has created the Emergency Evacuation Planning Guide for People with Disabilities which provides assistance to people with disabilities, their employers, building owners and managers, and others as they develop emergency evacuation plans that integrate the needs of people with disabilities. This guidance can be used in all buildings, whether old or new.


     This webinar will review the 2nd edition of this Planning Guide and provide major topics and updated materials.


Learning objectives:

  • Identify the specific functions that are part of a process of evacuating a building and how to build a successful plan.


     Allan Fraser is the Senior Building Code Specialist on the National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) staff. Before joining NFPA, he had been the Building Commissioner in 5 different Massachusetts municipalities over twenty seven years. He is a Certified Building Official and a Certified Professional Code Administrator. He staff's NFPA's Disability Access Review and Advisory Committee. He represents NFPA on a number of committees of other standards developers.


Click here to register!

70E BLOG.pngIt is surprising that users of a consensus standard think that by applying the requirements they are always following best practices. Although standards are a starting point they are more often than not only a starting point. In other words, the requirements of a standard or code are at a level that the public or industry came to a consensus on. Some wanted it to do more and some wanted it to do less. Of course, there is a practical limit to a return on the investment. You could spend billions of dollars to achieve a negligible increase in electrical safety. That is also a factor when it comes to a best practice. In any event, I am not aware of any available standard which requires the absolute most that can be done. NFPA 70E® is no exception since it is a consensus standard.


If NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace® were the “best practice” it would only need to contain one requirement. That requirement would simply state ENERGIZED ELECTRICAL WORK SHALL NOT BE PERMITTED.  That would be it. End of standard. Use an on/off switch. An inexpensive way to achieve an extremely high level of electrical safety. If there is no electricity then there should be no electrical hazard. That would be the best available practice (FACT: it is the primary method of protecting an employee required by both NFPA 70E and federal regulations). Doing anything other than this would not be the best practice since it would only serve to increase the risk of injury to the employee.  Everyone should agree that something that greatly increases the potential for a negative outcome should not be considered to be the best practice.


We all know that it is not an option to have this one requirement. So, the consensus standard provides a compromise of what can be done if the best practice is not applied. Again, these compromises are not the limit of what can be done and should not be considered as such. The requirements serve to establish an accepted consensus level of safety. I cannot think of any code or standard that prohibits you from doing more than what is required. There are many things that could be used to illustrate this point but I will pick one.  Think about what you do when you have justified energized electrical work, have exhausted the hierarchy of risk controls and are at the step of specifying arc-flash PPE. Do you use the minimum of the standard or do you go beyond it?


You have done an incident energy analysis and have determined through calculation that the incident energy will be 11.8 cal/cm2 at a working distance of 18 inches. If available do you permit the use of gear rated 11.8 cal/cm2? Do you round it up to 12 cal/cm2. The standard would allow either. Do you try to rationalize that the calculated energy should be a higher value than the real world arc-flash were one to occur? Do you keep it at less than 12 cal/cm2 because an arc-flash hood is necessary if it were greater? Do you specify something else? Maybe something rated even higher? Think about your answer before continuing on.


Thought about what you would do? Now consider how you arrived at this point. You applied risk controls which included administrative and behavioral controls. You selected one calculation method which used the expected parameters and relied upon the function of several pieces of electrical equipment. This provided you with an anticipated incident energy at a very specific working distance. You will specify arc-flash PPE which has a 50% chance of the wearer receiving a 2nd degree burn based on testing of samples at a specific incident energy.  Is it a “best practice” to use 11.8 cal/cm2 rated PPE for a calculated incident energy of 11.8 cal/cm2? Would the answer be the same if you were the one wearing the gear to perform the energized work?


Standards are written through a consensus process involving all types of interests, industries and the public. Some of these entities will have needs which exceed the requirements of a general standard. Standards and codes have to provide some guidance but only you can decide if the requirements are your “best practice.”


Next time: The burden of increasing the likelihood that you return home each day.

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