One hundred and twenty years ago, our efforts to keeping the world safe from fire looked very different than it does today.
During his remarks at the General Session at the NFPA Conference & Expo in Boston on Sunday, June 4, NFPA President Jim Pauley welcomed attendees to Boston, where NFPA was founded in 1896.
“We sit a short walk from the original headquarters of NFPA,” he said. “Picture this – it is the late 1890’s, most buildings are wooden industrial structures containing a variety of commodities. A fire breaks out and quickly stretches for blocks, consuming everything in its path. Horse-led fire apparatus fills the streets. Getting water on these fires is not an easy task. The losses are enormous.”
Mr. Pauley noted that while some of the buildings in Boston had sprinklers at the time, not all of them were effective due to the inconsistent ways there were installed. With growing frustration that there must be a better way to save lives and property from fire, a small group of insurance executives gathered to discuss how to standardize our efforts.
Those discussions led to the development of NFPA’s first standard, Rules and Regulations for Sprinkler Equipment Automatic and Open Systems, and marked the beginning of NFPA’s work to revolutionize fire, life and electrical safety.
But NFPA did not do it alone, said Mr. Pauley. “We did it with people just like all of you – engineers, contractors, installers, designers, builders, electricians, fire fighters who joined with us to make that small world safer. All of them worked with us to create a new level of fire safety. All of them helped to revolutionize fire and life safety.”
Despite our collective accomplishments, we all know our work is not done. Mr. Pauley said today, the world is much bigger place: buildings are taller, our challenges are greater, and the demands for our talents and expertise are constant.
“While the times have changed, NFPA’s commitment is exactly the same and fueled exactly the same way – by our quest to make your job easier, our quest to help you be more effective,” said Mr. Pauley. “Because when you do your job well; when you are able to be more effective; together we save lives.”
How are we moving forward? Mr. Pauley said the key is talking to and listening to the needs of our members, customers, and partners – and then delivering solutions.
Mr. Pauley announced the development of a new NFPA mobile app that will allow first responders access to some of the most relevant knowledge and information available. He also discussed responding to calls for training in different formats, and the move away from traditional code-based training to role-based training.
“We focused on giving you opportunities to carry-out the same physical activities of your job with hands on experience for inspection, testing, and maintenance on fire suppression systems,” he said.
Mr. Pauley noted that NFPA’s new hot work training program, created after the deaths of two Boston firefighters, has already been completed by more than 14,000 workers.
Understanding our stakeholder’s need for better data, NFPA is working to develop a flexible platform to capture and process data from fire departments across the country, new artificial intelligence tools to guide inspection prioritization, and GIS-based programs to help fire departments visualize their existing data.
Mr. Pauley said that NFPA is also heeding the call for more information on important emerging issues.
How do we all stay connected during these times of rapid change? Mr. Pauley noted that NFPA Xchange™, an online community where users can network with their peers and NFPA staff, has more than 30,000 (and growing) registered users. And real-time connections are happening by the minute with our more than 250,000 fans on Facebook and 55,000 followers on Twitter.
“As we engage more and more with all of you, we are having greater impact,” he said. “That impact can be seen across the globe.”
From our efforts in Bangladesh to help stem factory fires, to our work in the Middle East to help protect some of the world’s tallest buildings, to our efforts to promote requirements for home fire sprinklers, to our work to lead change in the wildland urban interface -- all of this activity brings us closer to our vision of eliminating loss.
“Just like that group of individuals in 1896, we are being bolder than before, we are working smarter,” said Mr. Pauley. “Together, we are leading in fire, life and electrical safety. Thank you for your part in it. The world needs us more than ever we still can’t do it alone. The more we do together the more we accomplish. It’s a big world. Let’s protect it together.”