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“The public needs and relies on all of you and your departments to be there for them every single day – no matter what the emergency is or what new threats occur,” NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley said at the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) Fall Board Meeting in Nebraska today.


Pauley explained that to reduce loss from fire in society it will take a full fire prevention and protection ecosystem that is either intentionally or unintentionally broken. The public, however, believes such a system exists and relies on it. “We are letting them down. We can do better."


NFPA’s leader pointed to the Ghostship tragedy in Oakland, Grenfell fire in London and fires happening across the country in buildings under construction. “NFPA, the NVFC, the fire service, enforcers, legislators and local leaders – all need to connect the dots on fire safety.” He encouraged attendees to inform community members and local officials about what fire departments do, tell them which resources are lacking, and emphasize the improvements needed to ensure that fire departments are providing optimal fire safety.


Pauley applauded the proactive steps that NVFC is taking to champion firefighter health and safety via creative cancer and contamination videos, a Firefighter Strong newsletter, and a diet study with Harvard’s School of Public Health. He acknowledged the recruiting issues, staffing shortages, shrinking budgets and uphill municipal battles that many volunteer fire departments deal with. “We know that it is not an exaggeration to say that you are struggling to keep the lights on, to fill your ranks, to equip your firefighters, and to engage others in what you do – let alone to address today’s new hazards.”


NFPA supports the fire service on many levels – codes, training, public education, data, research and enforcement. Programs and initiatives that resonate with the volunteer and rural fire communities include Firewise USA, the Rural Fire Symposium, the Rural Firefighters Connection group on NFPA’s Xchange, and new disaster resources. In October, a new podcast series entitled, “The Survivors” that profiles a volunteer firefighter and the devastating impact of fire will also debut.


As he wrapped up his remarks today, Pauley said, “Each of us in this room is responsible for making our communities safer from fire. It’s an awesome responsibility that I know you take seriously.”

A lot of confusion exists around what makes an NFPA code or standard different from a handbook. While NFPA codes and standards provide the requirements, the handbooks take a deeper dive to understand the reasoning behind those requirements.


NFPA codes and standards impact almost every building, process, service, design, and system installation. More than 300 codes and standards are all available for free online access, and they are regularly updated to reflect changing industry needs and evolving technologies, supported by research and development, and practical experience.


One of the most notable features about NFPA’s code development process is that it is open and consensus-based. What that means is that anybody can participate in the development of these important documents. All NFPA codes and standards are periodically reviewed by more than 9,000 volunteer committee members with a wide range of professional expertise.


To assist the enforcer or user of the documents with better understanding how to apply the requirements, NFPA offers handbooks for some of these codes and standards.


The handbooks provide users with answers to the how and why questions surrounding the requirements that might not be easily found in the standard itself. The commentary and explanatory features give users the perspective of the technical committee and allows them to feel like they were in the committee meetings listening to the experts who develop the requirements. Gaining this understanding and perspective can provide users with the tools that they need to do their job and help give them a competitive edge to more efficiently and cost effectively navigate through the aspects of their jobs that are impacted by these requirements.


We hope this helps clear up the confusion! Take a look at NFPA's available codes and handbooks through the NFPA catalog.


Fire service leaders from Houston, Miami, Orlando, and the United Kingdom spoke about some of the biggest emergency response incidents of the last 15 months during the Urban Fire Forum (UFF) held at NFPA headquarters in Quincy, Massachusetts. The UFF brings together fire chiefs from some of the world’s largest urban centers to discuss relevant emergency response issues. Members also endorsed important papers on violent incident response, cancer awareness, field decontamination, and the opioid crisis.


Weeks after Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma devastated Texas and Florida, Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña, Miami-Dade Fire Chief Dave Downey, and Orange County Fire and Rescue Chief Otto Drozd talked with fire leaders about how they prepared and responded to the recent natural disasters.


Houston’s Peña talked about proactive steps taken before Hurricane Harvey, and detailed how his department and others responded to more than 5,500 emergency calls due to the Category 4 hurricane. The powerful storm delivered more than 50 inches of rain, affected 6.8 million people in 18 counties, and killed 82 people. According to Peña, the deluge of rain, compounded by two local dams being opened, created unprecedented flooding. Despite having plenty of staff available, Houston Fire’s recovery efforts were limited because they did not have enough equipment suitable for high water emergency response.


In Florida, Miami-Dade Chief Dave Downey dodged a bullet when Hurricane Irma switched paths sparing Miami from the worst of the storm. Downey’s department helped South Florida and the Keys, areas that were hard hit. Both Downey and Chief Otto Drodz from Orange County spoke about the lessons they learned from Hurricane Andrew in 1992. That hurricane prompted Florida fire departments to be well-prepared for Irma’s wrath. Emergency responders in that state collaborate, communicate and develop critical response strategies beginning in the spring so that they are ready when mother nature strikes later in the year. Orlando was not initially in harm’s way but when the hurricane shifted, that area of the state sustained substantial damage.


Fire leaders across the pond have also been contending with major incidents that have put great demands on the fire service. There were three terror events this year that created havoc and loss of life; then there was the devastating Grenfell Tower fire in June. CFO Roy Wilsher, Chair of the United Kingdom’s National Fire Chiefs Council and CFO Peter Holland, the UK’s Chief Fire and Rescue Advisor spoke about the West London fire that took 80 lives. The hi-rise façade had insulated exterior cladding and the building was known for having persistent fire and life safety issues. NFPA’s Robert Solomon, division manager for Building Fire Protection, also provided technical insight on exterior cladding to the group.


Chief Drozd from Orange County shared lessons learned from the Pulse Nightclub tragedy in Orlando too. His department responded when a gunman opened fire and killed 49 people. He encouraged fire leaders to train; develop hostile incident response plans; work with other organizations; practice roles and responsibilities; and establish communications protocol.


To learn more about the UFF, its members, the topics discussed this year and in the past, and to access key Forum documents, please visit the Urban Fire Forum page.

When should a portion of a building should be treated as an incidental use or as its own occupancy?


A topic that sometimes prompts a bit of animated discussion when I teach NFPA’s three-day Life Safety Code Essentials seminar is incidental uses. It is not always clear when a portion of a building should be treated as an incidental use or as its own occupancy. In today’s #101Wednesdays post, I will attempt to provide some guidance.

Before getting into the NFPA 101 requirements, it’s important to recognize we live in a world in which the Life Safety Code co-exists with building codes. In most cases, the building code is the International Building Code (IBC), which is promulgated by the International Code Council. Both the IBC and NFPA 101 use the term incidental; however, the term has different meanings in each code. In NFPA 101, incidental refers to “minor” uses that are accessory to and/or support the predominant occupancy and do not warrant their own occupancy classification. This concept in the IBC is known as accessory occupancies. In the IBC, the term incidental uses refers to what NFPA 101 calls hazardous areas. The concepts are very similar, but the terminology is different. Be sure to understand how each term is used in each code so you’re not comparing apples to oranges.

Classification of occupancy is addressed by Chapter 6 of NFPA 101, and it is based on how a building is used. The Code’s requirements are predicated on occupancy classification, which directly relates to occupant characteristics and their associated risks. It is common for buildings to be comprised of more than occupancy; these are known as multiple-occupancy buildings (see 6.1.14 of NFPA 101, 2015 edition). Multiple occupancies are then treated as either mixed multiple occupancies ( or separated multiple occupancies ( In each case, the requirements applicable to all involved occupancies must be evaluated. However, permits some, but not all uses to be considered incidental. For example, where an office building (business use) has an office supply closet (storage use), the AHJ is permitted to judge the storage use to be incidental to the predominant business use and classify the building as a business occupancy, not a multiple occupancy (business and storage). The requirements of Chapter 38 (new business) or 39 (existing business) apply, as applicable, and the AHJ ignores the storage occupancy requirements of Chapter 42. If that same office building has a cafeteria with an occupant load of 50 or more, however, that is an assembly occupancy, and the building must be treated as a multiple-occupancy building (business and assembly). Here is how it works:

Certain uses that are permitted to be considered incidental subject to the determination of the AHJ are specified by mercantile, business, industrial, and storage uses. Examples of each might include:


  • Incidental mercantile: newsstand in an office building lobby (business occupancy)
  • Incidental business: supervisor’s office in a distribution warehouse (storage occupancy)
  • Incidental industrial: repair shop in a bicycle store (mercantile occupancy)
  • Incidental storage: raw materials storage in a manufacturing plant (industrial occupancy)


For these uses, no measurable threshold in terms of area or occupant load applies. Whether one of these uses is incidental or its own occupancy is strictly up to the AHJ. This requires sound, reasonable judgment.


Other nonresidential uses having an occupant load fewer than that established by each occupancy classification’s definition are also considered incidental. Determining whether these areas are incidental requires no judgment. The occupant load based on how the area is used is determined, and if the occupant load is less than that established by the occupancy’s definition, it’s incidental. Examples of these might include:


  • Incidental assembly: café with an occupant load of fewer than 50 in a book store (mercantile occupancy)
  • Incidental educational: tutoring for fewer than four students through the twelfth grade in an office building (business occupancy)
  • Incidental day care: child care service for fewer than four kids at a health club (assembly occupancy)
  • Incidental health care: limited skilled nursing care for fewer than four patients in an assisted living facility (residential board and care occupancy)
  • Incidental ambulatory health care: oral surgery and recovery provided to fewer than four patients in a dentist’s office (business occupancy)


Note that residential uses (one- and two-family dwellings, lodging or rooming houses, hotels and dormitories, apartment buildings, and residential board and care) can never be considered incidental. This is to ensure that the requisite protection for sleeping occupants, namely smoke alarms, is always provided. An on-call physicians’ sleeping room in a hospital is NOT incidental; rather, it’s usually a lodging or rooming house occupancy, and the requirements of Chapter 26 apply in addition to the requirements of Chapter 18 or 19 for health care occupancies. Also be aware that even though an area is incidental, it might still need to be protected as a hazardous area by automatic sprinklers, 1-hour separation, or both (e.g., a soiled linen storage room in a hospital).

It’s interesting to note that the IBC takes a different approach to accessory occupancies. The IBC states that occupancies can be considered accessory if they are ancillary to the main occupancy of the building and do not exceed 10 percent of the floor area of the story in which they are located and do not exceed the allowable area for nonsprinklered buildings for each accessory occupancy. For example, in a 500,000 ft2 building used predominantly as a warehouse, up to 10 percent of the area (50,000 ft2) could be used for offices (assuming Type I construction), and the office area could be considered an accessory occupancy subject only to the requirements applicable to the storage use. To me and to the Safety to Life Technical Committees, 50,000 ft2 of offices is a lot of business use area to treat as accessory (IBC) or incidental (NFPA 101). This is not to disparage the IBC; it’s only to point out the different protection philosophies provided by each code.

I hope this overview of incidental uses in the Life Safety Code has been useful. Thanks for reading, and until next time, stay safe!

Got an idea for a topic for a future #101Wednesdays? Post it in the comments below – I’d love to hear your suggestions! Follow me on Twitter: @NFPAGregH

Did you know NFPA 101 is available to review online for free? Head over to and click on “Free access to the 2015 edition of NFPA 101.”


Image above courtesy of


My entire career has been dedicated to preventing injuries associated with electrical equipment. The injuries I have been concerned with were not only for an individual touching the equipment but an entire workforce at risk due to an explosion or mine collapse caused by the equipment. The goals were clear: keep people uninjured and don’t level the building. More often than not, to achieve that goal to my satisfaction I needed to go beyond the words in the code, standard, regulation, or insurance directive. Not one of those have ever included a requirement or statement that common sense be used. No standard kept reminding me to use the whole standard whenever I applied a requirement. The same is true for requirements in NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace®.

A recent glut of questions regarding the exemptions to the work permit prompted this blog. The exemptions to the work permit do not grant permission to ignore the rest of the standard. NFPA 70E requirements apply to the tasks listed in the exemptions. You only do not have to have generate that piece of paper. See my earlier blog on why you might want to do a work permit anyway.

The person conducting the exempt task must be qualified to perform that task on that piece of equipment. Knowing how to use an infrared camera to track wildlife does not qualify a person to use a thermal camera on open switchgear. The qualified person must know what safe work practices to follow and to use appropriate PPE if necessary. Even though thermography is included in the exemptions, the qualified person may be at risk of injury. A risk assessment is necessary to determine if shock or arc-flash hazards exist for that assigned task. For example, an open terminal box may not pose the same risk of an arc-flash incident as exposed, operating, open contacts. However, if someone else is interacting with or conducting other tasks in proximity to the terminal box, or if there are other exposed hazards in the area, the risk to the person using the camera is substantially different. If the person performing the thermal imaging is closely watching the opening of the enclosure rather than entering the area after the opening has been completed, the risk is substantially different. A scan from ten feet away does not pose the same shock hazard as one conducted from six inches away. Same task, different risks. The thermography task is included in the exemptions but the task is not necessarily what puts the person at risk. These types of issues are inherently included in the NFPA 70E requirement that employees be protected from electrical hazards.

Many complain, often without considering the entire standard, that the exemptions include the need to use PPE to conduct an exempt task. NFPA 70E only requires PPE when specific boundaries are crossed. If the thermal scan can be conducted from outside of the arc-flash boundary there is no requirement to use arc-rated PPE. The terminal box and open contacts are good examples of how a risk assessment could determine the presence of a shock or arc-flash hazard for the task. An assessment may require considering other tasks occurring simultaneously or other equipment operating in the area. The risk assessment determines the hazards, risks and need for PPE. The assessment may also lead to the need for an energized work permit to conduct the thermal scan. Policies and procedures have a great impact on how to address an exempt task on specific equipment or in a specific area.

Simply justifying work based on one of the tasks exempt from a work permit is not using the entire standard. A risk assessment is necessary anytime an employee is exposed to energized electrical circuits. The standard does not detail what or how to conduct a risk assessment. Many factors, such as those in the previous paragraphs, could influence an exempt task. A risk assessment should consider as many issues as you can identify. The goal of NFPA 70E is preventing injury to an employee conducting a task on electrical equipment. Keep that in mind when making a decision.


For more information on 70E, read my entire 70E blog series on Xchange.

Next time: The 2018 Edition of NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace®

Moisture from flood water or contaminates in the water may affect the reliability and functionality of electrical equipment. Electrical equipment exposed to water can be extremely hazardous and must be properly assessed before it can be put back into service.
Last week I covered these topics during my NFPA Live, an exclusive for NFPA Members. During the live event I got this follow-up question. I'm now sharing it with you. I hope you find some value in it.
Also, check out this free download of Chapter 32 of NFPA 70B, which provides a useful framework for recovering electrical equipment and systems after a disaster.


Gil Moniz is a Senior Electrical Specialist at NFPA.

NFPA Live is an interactive video series in which members of NFPA staff address some of the most frequent topics they receive through the Member's Only Technical Question service. If you are currently an NFPA Member you can view the entire video by following this link. If you're not currently a member, join today!

On Saturday, September 16, Florida Governor Rick Scott issued an Emergency Action requiring all nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have an emergency power plan. This directive follows the death of 10 residents in  a Hollywood, Florida nursing home as a result of Hurricane Irma. These needless deaths occurred days after the hurricane had passed the region and appear to be the result of heat-related health problems that ensued as a result of the facility air-conditioning system not being functional.


Legislators, nursing home owners, state health care agencies, and emergency management authorities discussed the need for backup power and general natural disaster care for residents at a Nursing Center Emergency Preparedness Summit in Tallahassee today. A part of the emergency action includes:  

  • Acquisition of generator capacity to ensure ambient temperatures will be maintained at 80° or less for a four-day period as a result of the loss of electrical power
  • Acquisition of fuel for the generators for a four-day period


Most striking, perhaps, is the directive that the rule be implemented by facilities within 60 days, which puts the deadline at November 15, 2017. A New York Times article on the rule noted the need to address the problem but raised concerns about the proposed time line. This fast-track schedule and deadline will require an immense coordination between the design community, facility operators, manufacturers of generator equipment, and the contracting companies who will ultimately be responsible for the installation. Several state agencies will have oversight, review and approval of the proposed installation solutions including the Agency for Healthcare Administration, Department of Elder Affairs and the State Fire Marshal’s office.


With an estimated 680 nursing homes and 3,100 assisted living facilities in the state, Governor Scott’s 60-day proposal is certain to challenge inspection and enforcement authorities, as well as nursing home administrators who may still be recovering from the hurricane. NFPA offers a range of resources that can be used to assist in this effort, predominantly involving NFPA 110, Standard for Emergency and Standby Power Systems. Related training and certification programs surrounding this life-saving element also include NFPA 110 and NFPA 111 (2016) Online Training Series and Certified Emergency Power Systems Specialist (CEPSS-HC) for Health Care Facility Managers.


While the actions being taken in Florida are consistent with the ultimate goal of the CMS Emergency Preparedness rule that goes into effect this November, it will be important for the state to not cut any corners with respect to the design and installation upgrades for emergency power during this accelerated phase in. More information on the federal rule can be found on the NFPA CMS resource page.    

This week I had a coworker ask me about whether or not they could have hay bales on display as part of a fall holiday event they were planning.  Working at NFPA makes me very thankful that we have staff who are careful and aware enough to ask us these questions and want to make sure we hold events that ensure employee safety and are fire safe! The risk becomes when groups are unaware that their festive event has not been evaluated by a fire code official and they are unaware of the risks they have created for occupants.  Fortunately, we have requirements in NFPA 1 to address their question.

This time of the year always brings up enforcement issues that face fire inspectors and they should be aware of how they are addressed in the Fire Code.  Fall festivals, haunted houses, and holiday events often utilize large quantities of decorations, scenery or combustible materials and may alter occupants egress or their awareness of their surroundings with the additions of special effects and lighting.  NFPA 1 contains requirements that address these seasonal events and aid fire inspectors in evaluating requests and performing their inspections.

Hay bales are a form of combustible vegetation.  Combustible vegetation can include a variety of items, such as hay bales, corn stalks, limbs, leaves, Christmas trees and other decorative materials based on the particular season or holiday. These items, by their nature, are initially fire retardant. The problem arises when they have been cut and packaged without access to water for extended periods of time. 


Section 10.13 of NFPA 1 addresses requirements for combustible vegetation, both natural and artificial.  In any occupancy, limited quantities of combustible vegetation shall be permitted where the AHJ determines that adequate safeguards are provided based on the quantity and nature of the combustible vegetation.  Adequate safeguards might include, but are not limited to, the presence of sprinkler protection and other fire protection systems , limited quantities, moisture content, and placement of the vegetation (hay bales in our case.)  This requirement relies heavily on the judgement of the local AHJ.  It is their role to evaluate each event individually taking into consideration the hazards present, the requested quantities of combustibles, their proposed location, use and most importantly the fire protective measures in place.  Each AHJ will use their judgement to determine a safe arrangement and use of the materials. Other requirements addressed in this sections are as follows:

  • The hay bales cannot obstruct corridors, exits or other parts of the means of egress.
  • Open flames such as from candles, lanterns, kerosene heaters, and gas-fired heaters must not be located on or near the hay bales.
  • Hay bales shall not be located near heating vents or other fixed or portable heating devices that could cause it to be ignited.


The requirements are not only applicable to the fall and holiday season but should be applied year round, indoors and outdoors, to ensure the safe use of combustible vegetation at all events and activities.


What types of issues have you seen arise with seasonal events? 


Thanks for reading this week, stay safe!


Don't miss another #FireCodeFridays blog! Get notifications straight to your email inbox by subscribing here! And you can always follow me on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA

In the September issue of NFPA News: NFPA 855, NFPA 1700, and NFPA 2400 open for public input; new projects seeking comments on Fire Investigation Units, Fire Service Support Personnel, and Fire Test for Wall Panels; request to merge NFPA 16 and NFPA 11; and more...


In this issue:
  • New documents open for public review and input: NFPA 855, NFPA 1700, and NFPA 2400 
  • Request to merge NFPA 16 and NFPA 11
  • New projects seeking comments on Fire Investigation Units (FIUs); Professional Qualifications for Fire Service Support Personnel; and Fire Test for Wall Panels
  • NFPA 285 and 1951 returned to committees for further processing
  • Comments sought on Tentative Interim Amendments to NFPA 25, 30A, 101, 1006, 1126, 1221, and 5000
  • NFPA 350 First Draft Report special notice
  • Change indicators in NFPA codes and standards
  • Committees seeking members
  • Committees seeking public input
  • Committee meetings calendar
Subscribe today!  NFPA News is a free monthly codes and standards newsletter that includes special announcements, notification of public input and comment closing dates, requests for comments, notices on the availability of Standards Council minutes, and other important news about NFPA’s standards development process. 
The National Volunteer Fire Council is working with researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to determine the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet for volunteer firefighters. The study is designed to help first responders and their families adopt good eating habits and improve their health by using key principles defined in the Mediterranean Diet.  According to the Mayo Clinic, the Mediterranean Diet emphasizes:
  • Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
  • Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
  • Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
  • Enjoying meals with family and friends
  • Drinking red wine in moderation (optional)
  • Getting plenty of exercise
The health and wellness of firefighters is a very hot topic right now. Heart disease, diabetes, and cancer are well-known fire fighter occupational hazards. Participants in the NVFC study will have access to online tools and strategies for implementing healthier eating habits to minimize the risk of developing serious chronic diseases.    
If you're interested in getting involved, complete an introductory questionnaire. Then once every three months, you will receive some follow up questions to see how you are progressing. The study is free, confidential, and you can stop participation at any time. Volunteer/call firefighters, EMTs, and rescue personnel ages 18 and older, as well as their spouses or significant others are eligible to participate. Sign-up here

NFPA 1700, Guide for Structural Fire Fighting, is seeking public input on its preliminary draft. The preliminary draft allows the public to review and submit any suggested revisions prior to the publication of its First Draft Report.
The deadline for submitting public input for this new standard is January 4, 2018.

To submit a public input using the online submission system, go to the NFPA 1700 document information page or use the List of NFPA codes & standards to search. Once on the NFPA 1700 page, select the link "Submit a Public Input" to begin the process.  You will be asked to sign-in or create a free online account with NFPA before using this system.  If you have any questions when using the system, a chat feature is available or contact us by email or phone at 1-800-344-3555.
Public input is a suggested revision to a proposed new or existing NFPA Standard submitted during the Input stage in accordance with Section 4.3 of the Regulations Governing the Development of NFPA Standards.

residential sprinkler, campus fire safety

As of this writing, students have moved into their dormitories, orientation has been completed, safety meetings have taken place with the RAs so residents of the dorm understand what to do in the event of an emergency. Students are now ready to face the school year. If you're a building owner or project manager, sprinkler system contractor, maintenance professional or enforcement official who oversees dormitory properties: are your sprinklers ready, too? As we honor Campus Fire Safety Month, now is a great time to inspect and test these systems.


On many campuses, dorm buildings have sat dormant for the summer so very few issues need to be addressed (some cleaning, some painting perhaps) to gear up for the upcoming semester. For other buildings however, construction projects (new or remodels) are wrapped up and commissioned but is everything really done and accounted for? When it comes to sprinkler systems of course, the most important issue is the water supply valve open, thus maintaining water pressure in the system? We know that sprinkler systems perform exceptionally well but when they do fail, the majority of system failures are caused by a water supply control valve that is shut. Are the valves open?  Next, have alarms (both waterflow and supervisory) been tested and verified as functional? These tests are usually stringently enforced and buildings cannot be occupied until the tests are completed.  But there is much more to sprinkler system performance that may not be as obvious. 


Beyond the system valves and alarms, my biggest concern has always been, “What is the condition of the sprinklers in the system”?  Frequently the sprinklers themselves are overlooked. I have personally seen sprinklers in a wide variety of occupancies (including dorms) that are covered with dust, painted, corroded, obstructed or generally neglected. What can be done about this?


Let’s start with testing; not flow tests or alarm tests, but an actual sprinkler performance test that is completed in a laboratory setting. Did you know that a sprinkler sample is required to be removed from the system and sent to a testing laboratory periodically? The sprinklers typically found in a residential environment (quick response and residential sprinklers in particular) need to be tested after 20 years of service and that test needs to be repeated every 10 years thereafter. That’s a very aggressive test cycle, much more so than for standard response sprinklers that are usually installed in a much more hostile environment. The test sample should include 1% of the total number of sprinklers installed, but not less than four.  Have you sent a sample of the sprinklers installed in your dorms for testing?


An annual inspection, specifically of sprinklers, is required in NFPA 25-2017 Standard for the Inspection, Testing and Maintenance of Water Based Fire Protection Systems. This inspection focuses on the general condition of the sprinkler. For example, is the sprinkler damaged? Is it covered with dust, corroded or of more concern, is it painted (other than from the manufacturer – more on this later)? Is it installed in the proper orientation or has the fluid in the glass bulb leaked out? We sometimes see examples of upright sprinklers that have been installed in the pendent position or pendent sprinklers that have been installed in the upright position but, I have seen cases where even sidewall sprinklers have been installed upside down! 


residential sprinkler, campus fire safety


Installation mistakes aside, most of the other issues can be easily corrected.  Up until recently, NFPA 25 simply required replacement of the sprinkler if it is covered in dust (a very common issue).  Well, that is not always the best, most convenient or economical answer. 


It is very common for building owners to ask, can I simply clean off the sprinkler?  My answer to that question has always been, yes if it is just a light coating of dust that can easily be removed.  But, if the sprinkler needs to be scrubbed, using a cleaner or worse; any type of solvent, then the answer is emphatically NO!  Now NFPA 25 recognizes cleaning some light coating of dust from the sprinkler by use of either compressed air (not the industrial strength compressed air but a spray can of the same product you might use to clean your computer keyboard) or a vacuum. Just be careful and do not make contact with the glass bulb.  Don’t forget, quick response sprinklers and residential sprinklers the two types of sprinkler typically used in residential occupancies are manufactured with a 3mm diameter glass bulb and they are VERY fragile!


What if the glass bulb is empty? Closely examine the sprinkler to make sure that it is actually empty before replacing. In some cases the colored fluid in the glass bulb may have faded due to exposure to sunlight. While loss of color might be of concern (that is how we determine the temperature rating of the sprinkler), this does not necessarily drive the need to replace the sprinkler. Tests have shown that loss of color does not affect the operating characteristics of the sprinkler, however, loss of the fluid does and this must be corrected immediately since the sprinkler will not operate.


And finally, painting. I think painting is one of the biggest issues affecting sprinklers. A concealed sprinkler (a sprinkler with a flat, usually white cover plate), is the easiest to overlook as far as painting is concerned. A coat of paint applied in the field can delay sprinkler operation considerably and if this occurs the sprinkler must be replaced immediately. For other types of sprinklers, however, painting may impact more than the thermal element. Any paint that adheres to the sprinkler deflector can affect the spray pattern of the sprinkler and of equal concern is any paint that is applied to the seat of the sprinkler. If the paint is thin enough, it can migrate into the seat through capillary action and cause the seat to seal tightly. The laboratory test I mentioned earlier not only tests the sprinklers ability to respond to heat but it also measures the sprinklers ability to release the cap and seal with as little as 5 psi acting on it. Should paint enter the seal and cure, the seat can adhere to the sprinkler frame and not release at all. This situation is very difficult to discern from a visual inspection and therefore, if any paint is found on the sprinkler, the sprinkler should be replaced.


Keeping water supply valves open and testing sprinkler alarms is critical to maintaining an operable sprinkler system. But paying attention to the condition of the sprinkler itself is equally important. Make sure your sprinklers have been tested at the correct frequency and inspect them for proper orientation, corrosion and loading. Now, it’s back to class! 


New to the field or looking to enhance your skills and build on your current knowledge of water-based fire protection systems? Check out our suite of training opportunities, which include online and classroom workshops. Whatever format you choose, our training will provide you with a clearer understanding of NFPA 25 so you can better protect the people on your campus. Get additional information and find the course that best fits your needs by visiting NFPA's webpage.

Drones were once viewed as tech toys only purchased for the novelty of taking pictures and videos from new angles. The uses for drones, however, have changed and so too have perceptions about them.


In recent weeks, we have seen drones effectively employed during recovery efforts in Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Drones can be used in disaster areas long before its safe for humans to get there. They work in tandem with helicopters flying overhead to give authorities a better sense of what they will need to prioritize in the rebuilding process. Companies are also using small UAS to survey devastated areas so they can strategize rebuilding efforts. For example, drones may capture images of infrastructure like railroads or roadways to determine how they can transport necessities and building supplies to the affected areas.


The concept behind small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) is simple, but their systems can be complex. They are generally comprised of four propellers attached to a body in the middle (a quadcopter). Typically, they carry a camera on-board, and can range in size from less than a pound to 60 pounds.


The topic of drones have spurred countless conversations and endless possibilities, typically tinged with elements of fear, regulatory considerations, privacy issues, hope, and innovation. NFPA is currently working on NFPA 2400 Standard for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) used for Public Safety Operations. The proposed standard will cover the minimum requirements for operation, deployment, and implementation of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) for public safety operations.


Companies are also using drones to assess damage to their buildings and real estate in Texas. Helicopters may be unable to see structural problems from afar. Companies like AT&T can use drones to assess damages to cell towers early in the game so that cell service can be preserved or restored; and the oil and gas industries can use sUAS to determine if there has been any damage to refineries or storage facilities in the wake of natural disasters.


Drones not only give their human pilots an aerial view, but can also document history. Insurance companies are assessing home damage with drones by taking before and after photos of devastation. The pictures taken help companies know what the properties in the affected areas looked like before Harvey. High definition drone photographs save time, allow for immediate damage to be documented, and can speed up the overall number of claims that adjusters can handle. This information exchange expedites the insurance process, helps homeowners to tackle home repairs quickly, and move on with their lives.


Whether you are excited for what the future might hold for drones, or remain skeptical about the idea of a sUAS flying overhead, they certainly have shown that they can be beneficial in assessing damages to properties, especially during natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey. 


Tuesday, September 12, began with sunshine and an opportunity to meet and greet the presenters and attendees at the registration table at the 16th International Conference on Automatic Fire Detection & Suppression, Detection and Signaling Research and Applications Conference (AUBE ’17/SUPDET® 2017).


While the Fire Protection Research Foundation has been hosting SUPDET for 21 years, this is the first time the conference has had concurrent sessions running at the same time in separate rooms. With so many things happening in different places, it can be difficult to cover all of the exciting research that it happening.



During the first day of this year’s conference, I was able to sit in on sessions focused smoke aerosol characterization. And while I am not an expert in the subject material, I was able to appreciate the work that is being done in this field. I heard quite a bit about broiled hamburgers vs. fried hamburgers… And I was surprised by the significance between the two when it comes to aerosols and how they are detected.

For a full list of what is being covered at this week’s AUBE ’17/SUPDET® 2017 conference, please see this year’s program.


During the session Promoting A Culture Of Safety And Fitness To Prevent Cancer, Heart Disease, and Injuries in Boston Firefighters at NFPA’s Conference & Expo (C&E), Dr. Michael Hamrock, a former firefighter and medical director for the Boston Fire Department (BFD), made an impressive case for prioritizing firefighter health and safety.



A primary care and addiction medicine specialist at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Boston’s Brighton neighborhood, Hamrock answered questions about the toll that firefighter cancer, cardiovascular issues, occupational exposure, behavioral health, and orthopedic injuries are taking on the nation’s more than 700,000 volunteer firefighters and 300,000 career firefighters; and spoke about the tremendous price that firefighters are paying for their service.  



Hamrock, working with BFD, local researchers and national organizations, advocates for firefighter health and wellness with an emphasis on education, cultural change, and strong leadership. He addressed “preventable” injuries and illnesses; and shared some troubling statistics including:

  • Firefighters in Boston contract cancer 2.5 times more often than regular citizens. BFD learns about a new cancer diagnosis every 3 weeks and had 20 diagnoses in total last year. Four active duty deaths from cancer occurred last year and even more are experiencing advanced stage malignancies right now. Since 1990, there have been more than 190 cancer deaths within BFD.
  • Firefighters in Boston average 3 orthopedic injuries per alarm – largely due to repetitive stress from fire duties, restrictive bunker gear and improper weight training techniques. Issues are exasperated when firefighters wait too long to seek treatment and return to active duty before being fully healed.
  • Boston firefighters are diagnosed with acute coronary events 2.5 times more than the average Bostonian. They experience an acute coronary syndrome (ACS) every three weeks. Additionally, nearly 80% have elevated blood pressure, and yet only 30% are being seen by their primary physician and getting physicals.
  • Firefighting attracts risk-takers. They are known to adopt self-medicated behaviors to “cope” with witnessing human trauma, suffering and deaths. They may have PTSD symptoms from prior military service, subscribe to a firefighter lifestyle including alcohol-centered activities, and experience enabling behavior by colleagues and superiors. Fire officers need to recognize the warning signs of substance abuse, depression and anxiety; and address the issues head on.


To underscore the importance of improving firefighter health and lifestyle practices, Hamrock also shared case studies and a primary care letter with recommended exams, labs and screening tests. He consolidated his observations and best practices into a list of 10 ways to improve health and safety in your fire department.



Hamrock and the City of Boston’s top down wellness strategy includes educating and drilling firefighters on safety measures, holding officers more accountable, encouraging comprehensive physicals and cancer screenings, and better protecting firefighters from toxins. Firefighters at different firehouses throughout the city are embracing the BFD-O2X Human Performance Program – a system that encourages line firefighters and department brass to train like tactical athletes, subscribe to yearly physicals, eat healthier, increase hydration, change lifestyle habits, and recognize the importance of a good night’s sleep. 


BFD’s awareness efforts, attention to occupational hazards, and commitment to developing a fitness-focused culture is working – and firefighters in Boston and beyond are a lot healthier and safer because of it.


The full audio from this session is available here. 


Did you know that NFPA Conference & Expo attendees and NFPA members get full access to all the 2017 NFPA C&E education session audio & video files? Browse the full list of education sessions - with attached audio/video - here.

What started as a regular business day in Mexico City, enjoying breakfast with colleagues and gearing up for meetings, was soon followed (to my surprise) by an annual safety drill as the country remembered the devastating September 19, 1985 earthquake that killed approximately 9,500. 


I was fortunate to be part of yesterday's disaster preparedness evacuation drill at the Marriott Reforma, located along Paseo de la Reforma. This is one of the most important avenues in Mexico City, home to some of the tallest buildings and the country’s most historical monuments. The Marriott personnel took the drill very seriously. It was an impressive process. I witnessed professionalism, organization and collaboration all around me. They had a gathering place identified by different signage. Employees were assigned to ask guests who they were, and another staff member updated the crowd with a loudspeaker. Civil Protection representatives, firefighters and paramedics were on the premises.


After the drill, I headed to the World Trade Center to attend the International Fire Protection Forum organized by the Mexican Association of Automatic Sprinklers. As the meeting got underway, the safety maneuvers we learned just a few short hours before quickly became a necessity as the southern section of Mexico City was rocked by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake.


The “shake” was incredible. People started evacuating at a quick pace, but it’s important to note that everything was done in an orderly fashion.  Our group was located on the second floor of the convention center. We filed down two sets of stairs to the designated gathering spot in front of the building, and waited to learn how the city was affected and next steps.  Cell communications were down for at least 45 minutes.  You could see the anguish on the faces of people as they tried to locate their loved ones. Close by, there were gas leaks, road closures, and shattered glass from doors and windows. 


I have never been in an earthquake before. Admittedly, I

was shaken by the experience, but I can’t help but point out the work that Mexico City has done to educate the public in the aftermath of the 1985 quake. From what I experienced early in the day during the drill and what I witnessed during the real deal, Mexico’s commitment to educating citizens on how to respond in natural disasters is working. The ongoing efforts of the country to practice safety measures showed in the way that people calmly handled themselves and comforted each other.


Back at the hotel, I was safe but sad to see the many images being shown by media outlets. It was heartbreaking to learn that so many lost their lives and that the region experienced extensive damage to infrastructures and property. The city was so quiet last night, which is not typical at Paseo Reforma.  Sirens sounded, but it was as if the city and its people were mourning the loss from yesterday’s quake, as well as recalling heartbreaking memories from 1985.


As we so often do, NFPA will work with Mexican authorities to see what kind of resources and expertise we can offer as they rebuild this world-class city, once again.

I'm excited to be presenting a free webinar on Thursday, September 28 at 1 p.m. ET, which will provide an overview of the key changes in the 2018 edition of NFPA 101, Life Safety Code. This will be a great opportunity to learn about new provisions as jurisdictions update their adoptions to this latest edition. Some of the new provisions I'll be reviewing include:

  • New requirements for hazardous materials protection that goes beyond fire-related hazards 
  • New occupant load factors for business uses
  • New requirements for risk analyses for mass notification systems
  • A new reference to NFPA 4, Integrated Fire Protection and Life Safety System Testing  
  • Animal housing facilities added as special structures
  • Added requirements for carbon monoxide detection in new assembly occupancies and new residential board and care occupancies
  • Added criteria for door locking to prevent unwanted entry in educational, day care, and business occupancies
  • A new mandatory sprinkler requirement for all but very small new educational occupancies
  • New provisions that permit health care and ambulatory health care smoke compartments up to 40,000 ft2 (3720 m2) in area
  • Added requirements for bathtub and shower grab bars
  • Added requirements for attic protection requirements that impact certain new hotels, dormitories, and apartment buildings
  • A new reference to NFPA 99,  Health Care Facilities Code, for medical gases in business occupancies
  • A new annex that offers guidance on several NFPA hazardous materials standards

These are changes that you'll need to be aware of once the code hits the streets in the coming weeks. Register for the free webinar. By taking an hour out of your day on Sept. 28th, you'll save yourself hours of reviewing the new code on your own to determine what changed from the previous edition. I'll also be able to answer some of your questions, time permitting. 

I look forward to seeing you virtually on September 28th! Until then, as always, stay safe.

Got an idea for a topic for a future #101Wednesdays? Post it in the comments below – I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Did you know NFPA 101 is available to review online for free? Head over to and click on “Free access to the 2015 edition of NFPA 101.”

Follow me on Twitter: @NFPAGregH


Large wildfires in wildland‐urban interfaces (WUI) are associated with severe negative consequences, including massive community evacuation, property losses, damage to infrastructure, injuries, and in some instances, fatalities. Very often, the wisdom derived from previous WUI disasters in other regions is the only source available to identify scenarios and plan the response of a given community. But there is no guarantee that these past experiences correlate with the next disaster to be faced.


In this context, a simulation toolkit that can test ahead of time, and with little cost, the hypothetical response of a community would be highly useful. The toolkit could predict how the evacuation develops based on different fires spreading at a range of speeds and directions and different evacuation decisions (e.g., staggered evacuation by neighborhoods, arrangement of traffic flow on highways, or the appearance of congestion).


Next week's FREE webinar, "Wildfire Urban Evacuation Modeling," will address a review of open‐source simulation tools and conceptualize a framework that can forecast the progress of a WUI incident and the effectiveness of pedestrian and traffic responses, according to the time and information available, incident scale, model capabilities and resources available. The Fire Protection Research Foundation is overseeing a project related to this issue.


"Wildfire Urban Evacuation Modeling" will be held on Wednesday, September 27, 12:30-2:00 pm ET. Featured presenters include:

  • Steven Gwynne, National Research Council Canada
  • Guillermo Rein, Imperial College London
  • Enrico Ronchi, Lund University  


Register for the webinar today!   

Just as Texas, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina begin the long task of recovery in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the country now braces for Hurricanes Jose and Maria, which are bringing extreme rain, wind and flooding back to the Caribbean and along the mid-Atlantic and New England coasts over the next few days.


During this hurricane season that runs through November 30, many coastal areas from the Atlantic to the Gulf and over to the Pacific can expect to see tropical storms, hurricanes or typhoons (the names of these events differ based on the area where you live). According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), even if you don’t live directly on the coast, these storms can cause flooding hundreds of miles inland and can persist for several days after it has dissipated. Storm surges, which are defined by NOAA as abnormal rises of water generated by a storm’s winds, are the leading cause of hurricane-related deaths in the U.S. and not only cause massive destruction along the coast, but can travel several miles inland, affecting bays, rivers and estuaries. So it's important to be prepared to evacuate when authorities tell you to do so.


If you live in an area prone to these types of severe storms or know someone who does, NFPA provides action steps for residents to take before, during and after an event. The resources are free to download and can be shared easily. For first responders, electrical professionals and others who work with communities on preparedness activities and post-event recovery, NFPA also provides a number of resources to aid you in your efforts.


Find these resources and much more visit


NFPA’s thoughts are with the residents of communities affected by these recent hurricanes. Please stay safe!


Photo: courtesy of the National Hurricane Center/NOAA

Residents described Goose Rocks Beach, a neighborhood in Kennebunkport, Maine, as looking like Europe after WWII after wildfires tore through the residential area in the fall of 1947, leaving only chimneys in their wake.


As wildfires continue to devastate the Western United States, prompting experts to remark on how long this year’s wildfire season is stretching, I’m reminded of a spate of similar late-season wildfires that struck my home state of Maine 70 years ago next month. I wrote about these fires in “Maine Burned,” the latest installment of NFPA Journal’s Looking Back section.


After an especially rainy spring and a hot, dry summer, the fall of 1947 brought massive wildfires to the Pine Tree State. Striking mostly in October, the blazes torched over 200,000 acres of land and destroyed more than 1,000 homes, many of them mansions in coastal resort areas like Kennebunkport and Mount Desert Island. What we’ve seen happening this year in Western states, including Montana, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, California, and Utah, has followed the same pattern: Rain, vegetation growth, and heat, followed by wildfires. It’s a cycle wildfire experts know well.


These fires and the ones that struck Maine in 1947 underscore the importance of being prepared for wildfires anywhere, anytime. While you might not think of wildfires occurring in a state like Maine—let alone Maine in October—history proves otherwise. Visit for tips and tools on preparing for a wildfire.

Late last month, Margaret Law died peacefully at her home in London. She was a true pioneer.


Law was known worldwide for her early foundational fire science work at the Fire Research Station in the UK. The visionary contributed to the formation and leadership structure of fire engineering consultancy at Arup, Inc.; and was highly regarded for her persistent focus on the application of science to solve practical fire engineering problems.

We, in North America, perhaps know her best for her groundbreaking work analyzing the performance of exposed structural steel in fire. Her research on this subject has many applications in the United States and Canada. Law was also an advocate for the fire engineering profession. During her impressive career, she helped to garner charter engineer status for fire engineering in the UK and was a tireless contributor to the recognition of engineering codes and standards around the globe. She was also steadfast in her efforts to make others aware of the impact that fire engineering has had on life safety. 


Margaret Law was a passionate mentor and patient teacher for many. She was a role model for me and other women in the profession at a time when there were very few of us. 

This year’s joint conference in College Park, Maryland with AUBE’17 and SUPDET 2017 provided an opportunity for those of us in the United States to learn about some of the latest research abroad in Europe, Asia and South America.
On the second day of the conference, there was a session dedicated to oxygen reduction and special suppression systems. As a librarian and archivist, I have a special interest in fire protection systems that are used to protect objects of special cultural and historic value. So when provided with an opportunity to sit in on Markus Mueller of Wagner Schweis AG’s presentation on “Active Fire Prevention by Oxygen Reduction Systems”, I jumped at the chance.
The oxygen reduction systems used and discussed by Mueller increased the amount of nitrogen (up to 78%) in the atmosphere. These conditions have been shown to be safe for environments like warehouses, archives, museum storage, and other sensitive containment areas where people do not spend a majority of time.
It is important to note that what is best to objects is not necessarily best for people though. Life safety should always be the priority. It was noted by both Mueller and his colleague, Frank Siedler, that the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) considers any atmosphere with an oxygen level below 19.5% to be oxygen-deficient and dangerous to life or health. With this in mind, I think that this continues to be a fascinating area of research and look forward to learning more.

The following 23 proposed Tentative Interim Amendments (TIAs) for NFPA 101, Life Safety Code®; NFPA 407, Standard for Aircraft Fuel Servicing; NFPA 1981, Standard on Open-Circuit Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) for Emergency Services; NFPA 1982, Standard on Personal Alert Safety Systems (PASS); and NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code®, are being published for public review and comment:


Anyone may submit a comment on these proposed TIAs by the October 19, 2017 comment closing date. Along with your comment, please identify the number of the TIA and forward to the Secretary, Standards Council by the closing date.

Unfortunately, portable generators have been a life safety problem for years, especially when storms knock out power for extended periods of time, particularly during hurricanes or snowstorms. I recently heard that close to 15 million people in residences and business are without power in Florida. Many of these people will inevitably turn to portable, gas-powered generators for power as they begin to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.  
Each year, many people are killed or injured by carbon monoxide due to improper placement and use of portable generators. People often purchase generators without knowing the associated risks and end up using them improperly or wiring them incorrectly. A tragic incident occurred in Orange County, Florida, where a running generator was reportedly the likely cause of death of three family members. The incident also injured four others, who are recovering from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. A first responder on the scene, for instance,  was immediately overcome by the CO fumes. Additionally,  in Palm City Florida, a woman was taken to a hospital likely due to CO poisoning. A running generator was discovered inside the garage. The generator’s fumes had filled the garage, the attic, and other portions of the woman’s home.
NFPA 1, Fire Code, contains requirements for portable generators in Section 11.7.2 which address use, location, and fueling. Combined, these requirements help ensure the safety of those using the generators as well as those located in the building in which the generator is providing power. The code provides the following requirements for portable generators: 
  •  Portable generators must never be run or fueled indoors (or on balconies or on roofs) unless the room has the proper fire protection and ventilation required in the building code.  
  • Fueling from a container is permitted only when the engine is shut down and the engine surface temperature is below the auto ignition temperature of the fuel.  
  • The exhaust of the generator must be directed at least five feet in any direction away from any openings or air intakes and also away from the building.  
  • Wiring should never be directly tied into the distribution panel, where it could potentially feed back into the electrical distribution system, endangering electrical company workers who are restoring power. A properly installed transfer switch should be provided.

The requirements in NFPA 1 prescribe minimum requirements necessary to establish a reasonable level of fire and life safety as well as property protection from the hazards created by fire, explosion, and dangerous conditions. Additional resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide additional information on CO exposure and generator use. The CDC recommends that portable generators be located at least 20 feet from any window, door, or vent. The Consumer Product Safety Commission also provides additional safety information in addition to their recommendation of locating portable generators at least 20 feet away from the house and any open window or vent. NFPA also offers a generator safety tip sheet and other resources.
Thank you for reading, stay safe!    

The Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance (Alliance) has created the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Toolkit to provide comprehensive guidance regarding the risk and prevention of cancers caused by fire service occupational exposures. 


In January of 2015, over 50 fire service leaders, physicians, government officials, and scientists met in Washington, D.C. to address occupational cancer in the fire service. The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) facilitated the meeting; and the Alliance was formed.


One Alliance recommendation was to develop and distribute a firefighter cancer toolkit, which was modeled after the successful Fire Service-Based EMS Electronic Toolkit. The new Fire Service Occupational Toolkit provides comprehensive guidance to firefighters and command staff about on-the-job hazards and strategies for preventing exposure to carcinogens.

policy institute

I’m excited to tell you about the launch of NFPA’s new Fire and Life Safety Policy Institute. NFPA established the Policy Institute to develop an arms-length view on policy issues that impact fire, life and electrical safety. Policymakers, elected officials and other government leaders play a critical role in the development and maintenance of a strong fire prevention and protection system including using the most current fire and building codes to diligent code enforcement. The Policy Institute will develop proposals and best practice recommendations to guide policymakers toward decision making that best protects citizens. Hear how NFPA president, Jim Pauley, describes the Policy Institute in our short video below:



Right now, our work includes investigating what U.S. consumers expect of their government when it comes to safety and codes. We’ll also take a look at the electrical code adoption process across the country to understand the pain points and provide suggestions to make the process more efficient. Going forward, we’ll look at the safety infrastructure in the U.S. and abroad and how government decision-making can help or hinder hazard mitigation. Ultimately, our goal is to provide key analysis and ideas that can help governments meet one of their core responsibilities—protecting public safety.  


So stay tuned for more Policy Institute announcements, including current and upcoming projects. Download for free our Policy Institute one-page fact sheet to get the overview (hyperlink one-pager). You can find this along with other great information and resources about the Policy Institute by visiting our webpage at


Reuters photo


How many children have to die in orphanages, shelters and schools around the globe before the danger of blocking building access and egress is realized and safety measures are enforced?


According to Reuters, 23 people, mostly students, have died in a fire at a Malaysian boarding school dormitory. Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah, a private religious school, featured one door and metal grills on the windows. The youngest victim was seven years of age. Two school wardens also perished. Reports indicate that the cause of death was smoke inhalation.


The tragic incident calls to mind a devastating fire in a Guatemalan orphanage in March where 40 children died in an overcrowded, locked room at a youth shelter. That fire and this most recent international incident underscores the importance of NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, which ensures occupants can easily exit a building in case of fire or other hazards.


This spring, NFPA Fire Protection Engineer Greg Harrington told NFPA Journal, “Ensuring that egress doors are not compromised must be the top priority. Don’t be misled into thinking that security takes precedence over life safety.” An exception to the rule is detention facilities, but the buildings in Malaysian and Guatemala were not classified as such.

NFPA 101 is a widely used code designed to protect people based on building construction, protection, and occupancy features. First published in 1927, NFPA 101 minimizes the effects of fire and related hazards in both new and existing structures.


Sadly, this morning’s incident in Malaysia was not an anomaly. Since 2011, there have been at least 30 fires reported at schools in Malaysia. In the United States, we have also witnessed tremendous loss in schools due to fire during the last century including Our Lady of the Angels fire in 1958, the largest loss school fire in U.S. history that took the lives of 95 people.


The safety of students should take priority over security.

After the first five risk controls have been implemented and there is a residual hazard or risk of injury, the sixth and final risk control provides the last option to limit the severity of an injury from the known and present hazard. The hierarchy of risk controls is:
(1) Elimination
(2) Substitution
(3) Engineering controls
(4 ) Administrative controls
(6) Personal protective equipment (PPE)



The use of personal and other protective equipment is the least effective of the risk controls and is the last line of defense when an incident happens. PPE is used when there is a hazard which presents a risk of an injury to an employee performing a justified task. PPE has an impact on limiting the severity of an injury but has no impact on the hazard or on the likelihood of an incident. The equipment being worked on can be damaged and an arc-flash can occur. In such an incident, the employee could suffer an injury albeit a nonpermanent, recoverable injury when the appropriate PPE is properly used.  

Successful use of this control is directly impacted by human effort. A human must properly use the PPE category or incident energy method to determine the level of hazard. A human must select appropriate PPE including the proper rating and must refrain from purchasing substandard or counterfeit PPE which can increase the severity of injury to the employee. A human must correctly don or use the PPE. A human may not understand the need for PPE, PPE may create a barrier to the effective completion of their work, a human may specify PPE inappropriate for the hazard, and a human may neglect to use PPE when needed. Each of these instances can defeat this protection method. 


However, PPE is the final opportunity to limit the severity of injury when a hazard exists and an employee must interact with the equipment. When establishing an electrically safe work condition, the PPE should (hopefully) never need to prevent an injury but it is there in case something goes wrong in the process. When an employee is performing justified energized work, the PPE is protecting the employee from an exposed hazard and when an incident occurs should limit their injury.  


The hierarchy of risk controls must be applied when using either of the risk assessment methods (PPE category or incident energy analysis). Regardless of the intent to require the establishment of an electrically safe work condition or to justify energized work, the hierarchy of risk controls must be implemented to minimize the hazard or risk of injury.  Often a combination of controls is necessary to achieve the desired result.  It may not be possible to utilize every control for a given situation. The goal of NFPA 70E is protecting an employee from an electrical injury. The hierarchy of risk controls guides you through steps that can provide a more safe work environment for your employee or at least minimize the risk or severity of an injury.

For more information on 70E, read my entire 70E blog series on Xchange.

Next time: A revisit to exemptions to the work permit.


With the present growth of the energy storage industry, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is actively engaged in a number of diverse initiatives including standards development, training, and research projects aimed at promoting the continued safe and sustainable expansion of this renewable technology. This presentation will talk about some of the standards that address energy storage systems as well as training that NFPA has developed to assist first responders who may encounter these unique hazards.


I presented on this topic during my latest NFPA Live. I got this great follow-up question at the end of the presentation. I hope you find some value in it.


NFPA 855 is now open for public input. What is a Public Input? This is a way for the public (anyone) to communicate the changes they would like to see in the standard and provide an explanation as to why the change should be implemented.


Public Input Closing Date is October 4, 2017. To participate go to and click on the blue “Submit a Public Input for the Next Edition” link.


NFPA Live is an interactive video series in which members of NFPA staff address some of the most frequent topics they receive through the Member's Only Technical Question service. If you are currently an NFPA Member you can view the entire video by following this link. If you're not currently a member, join today!


Multiple media outlets are reporting that at least eight residents of a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida have died, possibly due to a combination of rising temperatures and a failure of the building’s air-conditioning system.  News reports say that first responders were called to the facility at 4:00 AM this morning.  A full evacuation has been under way to relocate residents to a safer environment.


This tragedy underscores the importance of an emergency preparedness (EP) rule being mandated by the federal government for all health care providers that will take effect on November 16th.  The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has been working to develop appropriate criteria, provide educational updates and establish online resources to help facilities create such a plan. While surviving the wind and water associated with Hurricane Irma was a first step, the ability to continue to function days after such a storm is critically important. An emergency preparedness plan needs to account for elements such as building heating and cooling, provisions for continuous care of residents, and considerations for maintaining adequate staffing levels. Formally known as the Emergency Preparedness Requirements for Medicare and Medicaid Participating Providers and Suppliers rule, it is intended to provide an outline and process for developing a comprehensive plan that looks at the most challenging conditions and scenarios. Although the effective date is approximately two months away, many provider types affected by the rule have been planning for this day.


The new EP rule was also the topic of one of the sessions held this past June at the NFPA Conference and Expo.  You can see the entirety of that presentation entitled “EMERGENCY! Preparedness, Planning, Generators: The New Rules Affecting Health Care”.  NFPA has also established a CMS resource page which provides more information about the EP rule, and features a user’s guide to help navigate the requirements.

The 16th International Conference on Automatic Fire Protection & Suppression, Detection and the Signaling Research and Applications Conference (AUBE ’17/SUPDET® 2017) commenced this week in College Park, Maryland. This year's program for the joint conference features more than 80 presentations over a three-day period focused on the latest development in research, technology, and applications for the fire protection community, and how they can be put to use by this community.
AUBE ‘17/SUPDET 2017 features a variety of topics, including smoke aerosol characterization for detection applications, new detection technologies, and detection of wildfires. Other focus areas include new suppression research, new statistics and tests related to unwanted alarms, relevant standard updates, smart applications, unique modeling investigations, research on oxygen reduction systems, and fire protection in aircraft, vehicles, and tunnels.
Thank you to our sponsors: Siemens, Viking, Kidde, NEMA, Victaulic, UL, Zurich, and Hekatron.

campus fire safety

If you’re a facility manager, building owner or enforcement official in charge of emergency preparedness for a college or university campus, you know a one-size-fits-all emergency management plan won’t cut it when it comes to the safety of students, faculty, staff and your facilities. You need a plan specifically tailored to your school’s needs and priorities with the ability to review and revise the plan as needed.

In honor of Campus Fire Safety Month this month, now is a great time to revisit that current plan or learn how to create one for the first time for your facility. Not sure where to start? The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is hosting a one-day training (in October and December) that will have you feeling confident and ready for the task at hand. Through interactive discussions and scenario-based instruction you’ll learn why it’s important to implement an emergency management plan and the best way to do so. What’s more you’ll get a good grasp of how to identify components of mitigation, response, continuity and recovery, and how to perform a resource needs analysis. In addition, you’ll learn how standards such as NFPA 1600: Standard on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity/Continuity of Operations Programs can be an invaluable tool throughout the entire process. 

Once you’ve completed the training, you'll be fully prepared to critically review your facility's current plan to identify areas that need improvement and/or be ready to develop a new plan based on the strategies, tools and resources you receive at the training.

Let Campus Fire Safety Month be the jumpstart you need to start focusing on facility safety and preparedness at your school. Visit NFPA’s training page for more information including locations and dates, and to register.


BREAKING NEWS: On Thursday, September 14, a fire broke out at an apartment building under construction in Weymouth, Massachusetts. According to local news reports, the structure has been destroyed.


Multiple large-scale fires have occurred at construction sites in 2017, resulting in multi-millions dollar losses - both in direct property damage and losses beyond the structure of origin. Many, if not all, of these incidents could have been prevented with the safeguards included in NFPA 241, Standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alteration and Demolition Operations.


The requirements in NFPA 241 are not optional. They are required in every state that has adopted NFPA 1, Fire Code®, NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code®, the International Building Code® or the International Fire Code® (IFC), regardless of a construction project’s size. Unfortunately, many people aren’t aware of this requirement.


Building owners, contractors, installers, insurance companies, facility managers, system designers and code officials all carry some responsibility for ensuring fire safety throughout the construction process. Each plays a role in following and implementing NFPA 241:

  • Code officials must know and enforce the requirements of NFPA 241 on the building owner.
  • Fire chiefs must be involved in the creation of a pre-fire plan and train all personnel on that plan.
  • Building owners and facility managers responsible for a building under construction, alteration, or demolition must have a fire prevention program manager (FPPM) per NFPA 241.
  • Contractors and others working on a job site must follow NFPA 241 and the direction of the FPPM.


To learn how NFPA 241 can help prevent damage to construction sites and adjacent buildings; help keep workers, civilians, and first responders safe; and help avoid potential work stoppages, delays and costly fines, sign up for our new online NFPA 241 training series, which is targeted to anyone responsible for building fire safety. Completion of the three-hour online course series allows participants to qualify for .3 CEUs, which have been approved by the American Institute of Architects (AIA).


You can download our NFPA 241 bulletin, which provides an overview of NFPA 241 and the reasons why construction sites present increased fire risks.

The NFPA Standards Council met on August 15-17, 2017 in Quincy, MA.  At the meeting, the Council acted on various agenda items including the issuance of documents in the Annual 2017 revision cycle and the consideration of several appeals. 
The final decisions on these appeals have been issued on the following six documents: 
  • NFPA 30, Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code, 2018 edition
  • NFPA 101, Life Safety Code®, 2018 edition
  • NFPA 285, Standard Fire Test Method for Evaluation of Fire Propagation Characteristics of Exterior Non-Load-Bearing Wall Assemblies Containing Combustible Components, 2018 edition  
  • NFPA 2112, Standard on Flame-Resistant Garments for Protection of Industrial Personnel Against Flash Fire, 2018 edition  
  • NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code®, 2018 edition  
  • TIA No. 1292 on NFPA 1994, Standard on Protective Ensembles for First Responders to Hazardous Materials Emergencies and CBRN Terrorism Incidents, 2018 edition  
The NFPA Standards Council is a 13-person committee appointed by the NFPA Board of Directors that oversees the Association's codes and standards development activities, administers the rules and regulations, and acts as an appeals body. The Council administers about 250 NFPA Technical Committees and their work on nearly 300 documents addressing topics of importance to the built environment.


NFPA 2400, Standard for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) Used for Public Safety Operations, is now open for public input. This standard is being developed by representatives from all types of public safety departments with unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), including the fire service, law enforcement, and emergency medical services.


I presented on this topic during my latest NFPA Live. I got this great follow-up question at the end of the presentation. I hope you find some value in it.


NFPA 2400 is your standard, and you can be a part of the public safety community that drives its direction! Public Input Closing Date is October 13, 2017. Go to and participate by submitting a public input to help drive changes for your industry.



NFPA Live is an interactive video series in which members of NFPA staff address some of the most frequent topics they receive through the Member's Only Technical Question service. If you are currently an NFPA Member you can view the entire video by following this link. If you're not currently a member, join today!

NFPA staff members focused on research and support of first responders gathered with peers from other top fire service organizations in Phoenix last week to discuss a topic that is hotter than the Arizona sun - firefighter cancer.


Hundreds convened at the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Symposium hosted by the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance (FSOCA). Attendees listened and learned from thought leaders, including Casey Grant with the Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF), the research affiliate of NFPA. During the two-day program contamination, cancer, research, education, outreach, prevention, and support for firefighters and their families were explored during informative presentations and breakout sessions. FSOCA is addressing the cancer issue with a common voice among fire service organizations, and asked the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation to serve as a facilitator for meetings.

Grant updated the audience on three important research projects that the Foundation is currently involved in to reduce firefighter cancer and exposure to harmful contaminants. The FPRF executive director shared key takeaways from last month’s Campaign for Fire Service Contamination Control research project workshop in Columbus, Ohio where stakeholders with a vested interest in firefighter health and safety discussed the development of best practices, fire station and equipment design, codes, standards, and other resources. The one-year study, which is currently wrapping up, will serve as an educational tool for the fire service, so that those on the front line and in the upper ranks are well-informed about safety risks and strategies for controlling contaminant spread. Grant also informed attendees about two other FPRF studies currently underway:

  • Validation of Cleaning Procedures for Fire Fighter PPE (a three-year study due in late 2018) that is taking a hard look at general PPE cleaning procedures to identify modern-day best practices and scientific methods for removing toxins.
  • The “Fire Fighter Cancer Cohort Study” is a 30-year information collection campaign, led by the University of Arizona, to fully understand which exposures are responsible for cancer in firefighters, how exposures cause cancer, and the effective methods needed to reduce exposure.

Fire service members and subject matter experts flocked from all over the country to the cancer symposium in Arizona. Topics of discussion included labor and management collaboration; presumptive legislation; healthy lifestyles; cultural change; carcinogens in fire stations and apparatus; hazards associated with today’s fires; the role of leadership; support of colleagues with cancer; and fire investigation cancer.

In its long history, NFPA has done a great deal of work to understand the firefighter cancer conundrum. As new observations arise and new challenges surface, the association protects first responders by raising awareness, analyzing data, sharing best practices, and collaborating with emergency responders around the globe. These efforts go well beyond NFPA’s codes, standards, and training and demonstrate that, “NFPA goes where the fire service goes”.


As floodwaters recede and communities in Texas and Florida begin the slow task of rebuilding neighborhoods and businesses in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, President Jim Pauley has affirmed NFPA support to residents and first responders as they engage in recovery efforts.



NFPA offers a number of resources for residents, including tips, toolkits and emergency planning information, in addition to key action steps they can take when returning home to help reduce the risk of injury from electrical hazards due to the submersion of electrical systems and appliances in floodwaters. These steps include:

  • If your home has experienced flooding, it’s important to keep your power off until a professional electrician has inspected your entire home for safety, including appliances. Water can damage the internal components in electrical appliances like refrigerators, washing machines and dryers, and cause shock and fire hazards. Have a qualified electrician come visit your home and determine what electrical equipment should be replaced and what can be reconditioned.
  • If you smell gas in your home or neighborhood, notify emergency authorities immediately. Do not turn on lights, light matches or engage in any activity that could create a spark.
  • Treat all downed wires as if they are live even if you don’t see any sparks, and especially if there is standing water nearby. Alert authorities immediately if you see downed wires in your area.
  • In the event that electricity may not be available to your home yet and you have not experienced any water in your home, generators are a viable option to power some of your small appliances. However, if used improperly they also pose a fire hazard, risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and electrocution. Tips for safe use of generators.


NFPA also provides guidelines for electrical professionals to help prevent equipment failures and worker injuries when they are tasked with recovering electrical equipment after a disaster:


Additional disaster-related safety information and resources include:


Find these and other NFPA tips and resources by visiting

Earlier this year, NFPA introduced the concept of "It's a big world. Let's protect it together." As the 16th anniversary of 9/11 approached, I couldn't help but think of all of the amazing people from the fire service that have worked together with the NFPA to make sure the world has, and continues to become, safer.


One of those people stood out in my mind for his unique story and perspective. Stephen King, whom I have had the pleasure of getting to know through his role as the Chair on the Technical Committee for NFPA 1971 and NFPA 1851, was the FDNY Chief of Safety, and 9/11/2001 was his last day on the job.


In honor of remembering why it is our mission to protect the world together, I asked Steve if he would be willing to share a remembrance of that day 16 years ago. The below is what he wanted to share with the NFPA family.


9/11/2001 – A Remembrance

As I drove to work on September 11th, 2001, I remember thinking that it was an incredibly beautiful morning.  The New York skyline was crystal clear on the horizon even though I was still many miles from the city line.  The twin towers stood tall and proud welcoming everyone to the city.


I arrived at my headquarters a little before 8 A.M.  I was reporting for duty as the citywide safety chief for a 24 hour shift.  From my office windows I could look out directly at the twin towers looming tall in the sky just across the East River. It was so close that I felt that if I leaned out of the window I could almost touch the towers.


It was my first tour back after finishing several weeks of vacation so that I could take care of my wife who was terminally ill.  I wanted to continue to stay home with her, but she understood that I had an important job in the FDNY and that I was needed back.


I started the tour the same way firefighters start the job throughout our country.  I headed straight to the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee and to find my relief so he could brief me on events in the city during the last 24 hours.  After debriefing I made my way back to my office which was right down the hall.  As soon as I entered the room I saw a massive explosion in the North Tower that seemed to engulf at least ten stories.  My heart sunk immediately.  In 34 years on the department I had never seen anything like it even though I had worked through the “war years” in the city.  I immediately turned to my aide Bobby Crawford and told him “Let’s get going”.  Usually when there is a fire or emergency you get notified by a “ticket” to respond.  There was no reason to wait for a ticket for this because there was no doubt that we wouldn’t be assigned to this alarm.


Within minutes we were on the Manhattan Bridge with a clear view of the towers the entire way.  If I thought that it looked foreboding before, now it was much worse.  I could see many workers from the building either leaning as far out the windows as they could to avoid the intense heat and smoke or outright choosing to jump.  I remember thinking it was unlike anything I had ever witnessed in my career or even thought was possible. It seemed to me like a terrible nightmare but it was very real and I knew it. There would be no putting this fire out. FDNY had known for years that any fire of this magnitude in a high-rise would be almost impossible to extinguish. Too many floors with too much fire.  Fire being fueled by jet fuel.


We arrived at the towers in nine minutes, well before the second plane hit the South Tower.  We transmitted our arrival to headquarters, pulling our vehicle dangerously close to the North Tower, too close. Bobby quickly realized that our position put us in immediate danger from falling aircraft and building debris and people who were jumping.  He backed the car further away from the tower, placing it under a building undergoing construction.  The building had a scaffold offering enough protection to allow us to open the trunk of our car and put on our equipment without being hit. At this time there was so much debris and bodies falling that we had to look up into the air to avoid being hit while trying to run into the tower.


Once inside I reported to the lobby command center and was issued orders to go up the “B” staircase looking to see how the evacuation was unfolding and if there was any signs of panic from the many civilians rushing, rather calmly, to exit the tower. As we slowly made our way up we could see many of the civilians taking the time to pat a firefighter on the shoulder or to whisper “God Bless You”.  They couldn’t believe that firefighters were going up.  It was a memory that will stay with me always. Bobby and I continued up to the eighth floor where I took a moment to try to give my report to the Command Chief, via our department issued handi-talkies.  It was useless.  There was too much radio traffic with many transmissions either being unable to transmit or unheard.  I decided that we would have to go back down to the command center to relate the status of the evacuation in person.  I told Bobby to follow me down.  With all the people exiting via the staircase Bobby and I became separated somehow.  I didn’t realize that Bobby wasn’t behind me until I reached the command center. I tried almost continuously to make contact with him via the handi-talkie but it never happened.  Bobby Crawford never made it out alive.


While it was never discussed directly, I knew that all the chiefs were thinking the same thing.  If the fire continued to burn it would eventually cause the steel girders which supported the floors and exterior walls to fail.  Steel starts to soften and fail quickly at around 1000 degrees and a fire fueled by jet fuel burns at around 2000 degrees.  This was almost certainly going to be my last day alive! There was no way any of us were going to survive this.  Those of us at the command post knew that we would not abandon the firefighters that we sending up the stairwells; we were all in this together.


While all this was going on, I couldn’t help but remember the destruction that I witnessed when I responded to the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993.  I remember the many sub floors that were destroyed.  These same sub floors gave much needed lateral support to the massive vertical girders which held the towers up. There was genuine concern that these vertical girders would buckle without this lateral support, leading to a collapse of the tower.  I vividly recall trying to remind myself to pay attention to all that was going on because no matter how long I continued to work in the department nothing could ever begin to approach the magnitude of the destruction I witnessed that day. I couldn’t have been more wrong.


As an aside, I always found it interesting that even though my job required me to take in all major events that occurred within the city, that was the only two times I ever responded to the World Trade Center. 


At some point, upon my arrival back at the command post, we received a report that a second aircraft hit the South Tower.  This couldn’t just be a terrible accident.  We had to be under attack.  I remember thinking it couldn’t get any worse.  How could any of us survive this?


Shortly after, while assisting at the command post, there was a radio transmission. It stated “Oh my God!  The Towers coming down.”  With no other information available to me I immediately assumed that this was the North Tower, the tower I was in.  Even if I couldn’t believe what I heard transmitted, I could start to hear a deep rumbling coming from above.  It sounded like the noise you heard when you waited for the subway train to come into the station.  It was getting steadily louder.  You could sense the air pressure compressing. I remember thinking there would be no escaping death now! Of course that sound was the South Tower collapsing.  The tower that was hit second was coming down first.  At that point I didn’t understand what was happening.  In my mind and in many of our minds it was our tower coming down. How could it not be?  We could hear it and feel it.


They say it took ten or eleven seconds for the South Tower to come down completely.  Mere seconds! Yet I distinctly remember seeing before my eyes my complete life unfolding. Everything from my childhood, my school days, time in the Navy, raising our children, my entire life.  I could write a 300 page novel about those ten seconds.


Suddenly the noise stopped.  I seemed to still be alive unless I was dreaming.  I was covered in debris and engulfed in smoke and heavy dust unable to see or barely breathe.  Somehow I had shattered my left knee.  I wasn’t alone.  There were some other voices, not many.  It was impossible to see anyone.  Our sounds brought us together and we decided if we were to get out it had to be quickly.  All of us were having extreme difficulty breathing.  Since we couldn’t see we grabbed onto each other’s fire coats and tried to find a way out.  Eventually we found it.  Once outside I quickly became detached from everyone else.  My leg injury was making it impossible to keep up with anyone else.  Outside was a world of grey-white.  You couldn’t see far at all and definitely couldn’t see up.  It was like I was floating in some cloud. Debris was still falling around me. I had to try to get away from the other tower.  It was only a matter of time before the second tower would fall. 


I had only gotten a short distance away when I could hear the second tower starting to come down.  I would be caught in the collapse.  Where to go?  I saw a subway entrance across the street from me.  Could I make it in time?   I had to try.  As soon as I reached the subway entrance I threw myself down the stairs.  There was no time to walk.  I was starting to get hit by small debris. The best I could do was sit along the wall immediately adjacent to the staircase.  Within seconds I was being covered by debris which came tumbling down the stairs.  When it stopped I couldn’t see my legs.  Did I really manage to survive both collapses? I just sat there for a while basically giving up, thinking was I really already dead and I just didn’t know it?  Finally I started removing the debris from my legs.  I really could not get myself up to walk and I don’t quite remember how I ended up in the street.  I think I passed out at some point. 


The next thing that I recall was someone poking at my shoulder.  It was a doctor wearing a white uniform.  He arrived with an ambulance. I was very confused at this time.  I remember riding in the ambulance with several people working quickly on me trying to ascertain the extent of my injuries.  It was chaos to me.  I started to go unconscious.  I remember feeling like I was floating a couple of feet above myself in the ambulance, looking down at the doctor and nurses working on me. I thought it doesn’t look good at all.  I think I came about as close as you could to dying in that ambulance.  And I was watching it all.  I thought that I had to be already dead.


The next thing I remember was awakening in a hospital emergency room somewhere.  A nurse standing over me asked if there was anything that I needed.  I told her that I wanted my rosary beads that I always kept in my fire coat.  She told me that all of my gear was missing and that while they knew I was a firefighter, they had no idea who I was.  I passed out again.  I don’t know how long.  When I next awoke I found a pair of rosary beads in my hands and two Franciscan priests praying over me.  I passed out again.  When I awoke next there was a detective in my room waiting to find out who I was.  After asking me several questions he asked me if I wanted to phone anybody.  At this point I wasn’t sure where I was and certainly had no idea of how much time had passed since I was found in the street.  The detective handed me a phone.  I remember calling home and my wife answering the phone and bursting out crying the second I said “Hi”.  She had been told that I was missing in action and that I probably didn’t survive.  She told me days later that it was the worst thing that she ever had to go through in her life.


What I remember most that day was the incredible bravery of all the first responders and their willingness to run into the towers when everyone else was trying desperately to get out.  I remember the occupants, while desperately trying to leave the towers, taking time to help those who were having difficulty making their way out.


I will forever remember the many, many friends and colleagues that I lost that day. All of them, heroes!


Stephen J. King
Former Chief of Safety, FDNY

Retired on disability due to injuries sustained on 9/11, his last day of work.

In the midst of a very active and powerful hurricane season, many building owners and managers of industrial and commercial facilities are facing the daunting process of disaster recovery. In determining the best means of restoring electrical systems and equipment to full operation, a decision must be made whether to repair or replace each damaged piece of equipment. Chapter 32, Electrical Disaster Recovery, of NFPA 70B: Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance, 2016 edition, is now available as a free, standalone, downloadable resource from NFPA and includes the following guidance on making these important assessmentsNFPA 70B, 70B

  • Seek the services of qualified equipment assessment personnel, whether manufacturer representatives or subject matter experts.
  • Establish priorities for each system and/or piece of equipment. This will become important as you consider lead times and resource allocation for different recovery options.
  • Determine the availability of parts, direct replacement equipment, and/or dissimilar replacement equipment. It could be necessary to modify the existing system in order to accommodate a different model or a newer technology as a replacement.
  • Understand the effect of each recovery option on the future performance of the equipment and the system, as well as the ability of the original manufacturer to support the equipment. Equipment performance could be compromised as a result of repairs.
  • Consider the lead time and financial impact of each recovery option. Costs associated with an extended downtime could exceed the additional material and labor costs associated with a more rapid recovery solution.
  • Determine whether the repair contractor is qualified to do the work and whether the repairs can be made on site.
  • Consider the age of the damaged equipment and any planned obsolescence.
  • Verify that the authority having jurisdiction will allow repair or replacement of the affected equipment.
  • Review the list of other industry standards and guidelines in 32.2.8 for pertinent information.


Even with these factors in mind, the choice between repair and replace will not always be a simple one. However, following these simple suggestions can be the difference between an impossible task and an informed decision.


Remember to always document the details of the recovery process in a project summary report. See 32.2.16.


The complete current edition of NFPA 70B and related resources are available for free access or to purchase at


Additional disaster-related resources can be found on NFPA's disaster webpage, including tip sheets, related code information, articles, and more.

5 things a facility manager should consider when preparing, responding, and recovering from a major hurricane
We have just experienced two major hurricanes here in the United States over the last several weeks, and are sure that there will be more natural disasters in our future. The responsibility for preparedness is a whole-community approach that rests on the shoulders of many stakeholders.  Each segment of the community has a role in prevention, mitigation, response, continuity and recovery that can be addressed in a holistic manner.  Facility managers are a vital cog in this chain. NFPA 1600, Standard on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs, one of NFPA’s most widely implemented standards, establishes a common set of criteria that sets a foundation for disaster management, emergency management, and business continuity programs using a total program approach (plus the PDF version of this standard is free to download!). 
Here are five things to consider as you prepare, respond, and recover from a major hurricane:   
1) The most important thing to do is prepare and know you are part of a larger community and you need to help each other.  As outlined in chapter 5 of NFPA 1600, Standard on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity/Continuity of Operations Programs conduct a risk assessment, business impact analysis, and resource needs assessment before the event occurs. This will give you an idea of what you are facing and what you will need prior to the event.  
2) Know your stakeholders; These are the people that utilize your facility every day. Poll them to know what their plans are and let them know what yours are. Keep track of those that are staying and make sure to account for anyone with access and functional needs. 
3) Talk to your neighbors; keep track of local emergency management’s instructions and follow them. If you have capabilities and services to offer, let them know. Also, if you have resource needs, let them know. Being a good neighbor for others may save the life of one of your stakeholders or that of one of your neighbors in the event of a disaster. 
4) Communicate;  As early as possible, activate your plan and make sure that your stakeholders are aware of it.  Assure that they know their roles and expectations if any.  If you are operating a facility that is a critical infrastructure location, make sure that your on-duty staff have (to the best of their ability) secured the safety of their family and pets so that they can focus on the tasks at hand. Be sure that your support of this effort is communicated to them.  For more see NFPA 1600 Annex K.
5.) Trust the plan, but don’t let it hold you back; Even the best and smartest emergency preparedness planner can’t think of everything, and we know that mother nature isn’t interested in their best intentions.  Your plan may be a script, but you will need to be flexible and make decisions and improvisations based on the need of the event.   
At the end of the day remember:   
  • The time of the emergency is not when you should be exchanging business cards for the first time with your local partners. 
  • Take care of you and your own first, so you can focus on the rest. 
  • All plans and activities are fluid and dynamic based on the needs of the event.    


Photo courtesy of the United States Navy.


Thanks to all the fire departments that signed up this August to participate in Domino’s Fire Prevention Week program, October 8 - 14, 2017. All departments were automatically entered into a sweepstakes to receive an “FPW in a Box 300” package. Domino’s, which annually sponsors the contest, has officially announced the three randomly selected winners, as follows:


Elkin Fire Department - Elkin, NC
Attn: Capt. Theresa Knops


Grand Rapids Fire Department - Grand Rapids, MI

Attn: Dawn Kulak


City of Snoqualmie Fire Department - Snoqualmie, WA
Attn: Lt. Jake Fouts


Congratulations to all of you, and best of luck implementing Fire Prevention Week in your communities this October! Each of you will be receiving your FPW in a Box package shortly.


To all fire departments: Even though the contest is over, you can still sign up to participate in the Domino's Fire Prevention Week program. Please contact Danielle Bulger at
to get started and for more information.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. For some of you that might mean sending your kids back to school. For me it means fall in New England.  It’s the best time of year. It also means a busy time of year for code enforcers and fire inspectors. Fall festivals, back to school preparations, requests for haunted houses, special events, and even corn mazes require diligent preparation and understanding of the Fire Code and its application to these seasonal activities. 


Did you know that NFPA 1 contains provisions for corn (crop) mazes?  


One might not think of a corn maze as somewhere with a great fire safety risk.  However, crop mazes pose unique fire safety problems due to their configuration (confusing paths and lack of marked egress) and the inherent combustibility of the maze materials (drying corn stalks.)



NFPA 1 addresses a number of requirements pertaining to these crop mazes.  Some of the biggest concerns are communication of regulations and instructions to both employees and visitors and making sure there is a way to make announcements to visitors should an emergency occur.  It is also important to reduce the likelihood for a fire to occur by keeping potential ignition sources, such as open flames, pyrotechnics, smoking materials, and special effects at a safe distance from the maze. 

Section 10.14.11 of the Code contains the following provisions related to crop mazes:

  • The owner/operator is required to advise all employees of the fire and life safety regulations as well as provide safety instructions to the visitors and patrons of a crop maze prior to their entrance to the maze.
  • The owner/operator must contact the local fire department and provide them with the opportunity to prepare a pre-plan of the maze prior to the start of seasonal operations.
  • A minimum of two employees shall be on duty to monitor a crop maze during hours of operation and at least one of the employees shall be located on an elevated platform a minimum of 10 ft above the maze.
  • Motorized vehicles shall not be parked within 75 ft of a crop maze and a fuel break of a minimum of 20 ft wide shall be cleared between a crop maze and any vehicles or vegetation outside the maze.
  • A public address system is required to make announcements during an emergency.
  • The entrance and exit from the maze cannot be blocked or obstructed anytime the maze is open to and occupied by the public.
  • No more than 200 persons per acre can occupy the maze at one time.
  • No open-flame devices are permitted within the boundaries of the maze, including no smoking. 


Do you have crop mazes in your juridiction? Have you inspected corn mazes for compliance with NFPA 1?  What are the common deficiencies you see in your jurisdiction?  The requirements from NFPA 1 will help ensure we all stay safe and have fun while enjoying these outdoor attractions this season.


Thanks for reading.  Stay safe and Happy Friday!

Data and scientific proof hold tremendous value in our world. This is certainly the case in legal, investigative, manufacturing, insurance and fire service circles that in the past put greater emphasis on just the expert’s opinion. Today those same authorities overwhelmingly consider “the how” of fire origin and the cause behind that opinion.

Experience is not the same as competency, especially in the field of fire investigation where reliable scientific methodology is king. When it comes to fire investigations, there are basic job performance requirements (JPRs).
NFPA 1033 The Standard for Professional Qualifications for Fire Investigator identifies the duties a fire investigator needs to facilitate a safe, scientific based investigation. The document takes into account responsibilities; duties; tasks, tools, equipment and materials; evaluation parameters; desired performance outcomes; and the requisite knowledge and skills required to perform the role. It states that investigators consider scientific method; safety assessment; collaboration with interested parties; legal or regulatory requirements; and how investigative teams are organized and operated. It does not, however, explain how to perform these actions. Those critical steps are covered in NFPA 921 Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations.  
NFPA 921 explains how a fire investigator can locate and apply scientific methodology in order to render scientific-based opinions about fire origin, cause and responsibility. It is regarded as the foremost guide in the field, in training, and in court for fire and explosives investigation. Both public sector employees who are responsible for fire investigation and private sector professionals who conduct investigations for insurance companies or litigation purposes use NFPA 921 to conduct scientific investigations.  
Today more than ever, it is essential to marry the JPRs outlined in NFPA 1033 with the scientific methodologies and practices covered in NFPA 921. To simply know the JPRs is not enough; a fire investigation professional needs to understand how to employ systematic investigation and analysis; basic scientific principles, eliminate junk theories and determine where the facts are pointing.  
To help investigators prepare for the complexities of their job, NFPA has developed Using NFPA 921 to Meet the Professional Qualifications for Fire Investigator in NFPA 1033. The two-day training program teaches participants how to navigate both documents core to their industry. The course is offered at a reduced NFPA training rate, with further discounts for municipal employees
Authorities that investigate just one fire per year are still required to meet the JPRs identified in NFPA 1033 and to demonstrate that the investigation was conducted in accordance with NFPA 921 methodology. The elements of NFPA 1033 and NFPA 921 are married. Now there is a training session that explains that bond to all those associated with fire investigations.    

FEMA recently posted an article pointing to a report on violence against EMS practitioners. It shows what EMS are up against in the field; yet as a 16-year EMS veteran I can’t help but think no matter how thorough the report is, it only tells half the story.


EMS professionals often don’t report the violence they encounter on the job. Physical abuse can take many forms. Assaults can be minor or may not result in injury to the provider. Some are downright deadly like an incident in Arkansas last year when a volunteer firefighter was fatally shot while on an EMS call. Others are fatal for the assailant, as was the case in 2016 when a Boston Police officer shot and killed a mentally unstable man that was assaulting officers and the EMS workers who were trying to help him. The same day that FEMA posted their article about EMS violence, the district attorney in Boston ruled that the police officers were justified in killing that man.


In my experience riding the ambulance, managing emergency services for large municipalities and as the NFPA liaison responsible for engaging with stakeholders about EMS best practices and health and wellness, I’ve learned that many providers do not report instances of violence for many of the same reasons that I didn’t. During my career, I was assaulted several hundred times by patients but only reported about 15 incidents (because I suffered some form of injury) and only went to court six times when charges were pressed.


It is believed, although it has not been studied yet, that not reporting violence against EMS is widespread throughout the United States. Providers don’t report assaults to law enforcement or supervisors, so oftentimes administrators are unaware of the magnitude of this problem.  There are many individual factors why EMS workers don’t report violent incidents. Here are the ones that influenced my decisions:

  •  I felt sympathetic towards the sick and impaired, and didn’t want to get them in trouble 
  • I was assaulted by patients who were suspected to be under the influence of some controlled substance, and law enforcement was hesitant to charge them because they wanted them to be medically cleared
  • I may have not had a visible injury
  • There was no injury
  • I felt peer pressure to act like I was tough and that the assault didn’t affect me
  • I simply accepted it as “part of the job”


The EMS violence study is a tremendous starting point - although it only focuses on EMS workers employed by large, urban fire departments. This is likely due to lack of data. There are some noteworthy observations from the study including:

  • EMS workers are more likely to be assaulted by patients than their firefighter colleagues
  • Gender does not determine who gets assaulted
  • There is a disconnect between EMS workers in the field and the dispatchers who collect information about the medical emergency
  • There is a general lack of knowledge about preventing violent EMS attacks. Free online training opportunities, like this National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health course, can help
  • Signage in the back of ambulances stating “it is a felony to assault a first responder” may deter patients from assaulting EMS workers. These are used in Canada and the United Kingdom. They show support for EMS workers
  • Computer-aided dispatch (CAD) systems should utilize a flag system so that dispatchers can alert EMS workers about prior patient-initiated violence at the location. Urban departments in Dallas and Montgomery County, Pennsylvania have this feature
  • Fire departments can reduce provider stress levels by looking into more personnel to ensure that EMS workers have breaks during their shifts to encourage occupational recovery
  • Management should support EMS providers during legal proceedings after an assault occurs


The strength of the data out there clearly demonstrates a need for further and deeper exploration into this subject.  Another consideration is encouraging EMS workers to report violent incidents to programs such as the CLIR EMS self-reporting tool so that more robust data can be collected.

With Fire Prevention Week right around the corner, we thought we would take a look back at previous efforts to educate the public on the dangers of fire and how to prevent it over the years. While NFPA has been the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week since 1922, in the early 1900’s communities observed Fire and Accident Prevention Day.   
Fire and Accident Prevention Day demonstration in Grand Rapids, Michigan school (October 9, 1917).
From the NFPA Quarterly v.11, no.3, 1918:
“We are indebted to our member, the Michigan Inspection Bureau, for the above photograph, showing how on October 9th, 1917 the pupils in the schools of the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan, were instructed in the mechanism of a public fire alarm box. This particular picture was taken on the stage of the auditorium of the Central High School, but similar instruction was given in all schools. So great was the interest aroused by this little demonstration that our member was encouraged to take up the idea of giving a fire prevention exhibit at the West Michigan State Fair to be held in 1918, and it is understood that plans are now well under way for this exhibit. The City Fire Department will co-operate and space has already been promised by the Fair Association.”  
For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Library.
The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic.
Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public.

NFPA’s Jim Pauley traveled to China for the second time in two years this week. The NFPA president and other staff members are attending China Fire, the 17th International Fire Protection Equipment Technology Conference and Exposition, organized by the China Fire Protection Association (CFPA).  Pauley spoke to hundreds of government officials, firefighters, training professionals, code enforcers, fire protection advocates, manufacturers and distributors of goods during the opening session on Tuesday; and thanked the audience for all that they do to keep China’s 1.4 billion residents and property safe from fire.


Prior to his presentation, Pauley renewed an MOU with CFPA.  NFPA and CFPA have collaborated for more than 20 years, exchanging fire education materials, web information, code schedules, fire regulations and opportunities for subject matter experts to attend key events.


NFPA has a long history of working with government, private business and fire protection authorities in China.  Approximately 30 NFPA codes and standards have been translated into Mandarin - mostly by the China Fire Service and research institutes. NFPA's widely used public education materials have also been translated into Mandarin. NFPA’s roots with China run deep. The organization has a representative stationed in Beijing, and recently hosted a professional from the Shanghai Fire Research Institute at NFPA headquarters for eight months of mutual learning.




Besides attending China Fire, NFPA staff met with members of the private sector interested in establishing a safety infrastructure that entails a world class firefighter training program and effective enforcement tools. Tomorrow as the NFPA team wraps up a busy week in the most populous country in the world, they will visit the Tianjin Fire Research Institute, one of four leading fire research institutions in China.  During their visit, the NFPA contingent will discuss future synergies that will help to reduce loss from fire and related hazards in China.


Images courtesy of and
Mother Nature is in the midst of unleashing a brutal, one-two punch unlike anything I can remember. Our thoughts are with all those in Texas and Louisiana who were impacted by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey and anyone in Hurricane Irma's path. When I came up with the idea for this post, I had no idea that the monstrous Hurricane Irma would be poised to make landfall. If you’re in Irma’s path, please stop reading and start making preparations for this historic storm to protect yourself and your family. If you’re in an evacuation zone, the time to get out is now.
When the winds die down and the flood waters recede, the clean-up and rebuilding will commence. It is undoubtedly already under way in places like Houston and Galveston. At NFPA we’ve already been fielding questions from our stakeholders about how NFPA 101, Life Safety Code applies to rebuilding efforts following disasters like Harvey and Irma. Up until a few editions ago, the Code was very specific if not always “reasonable” or practical: if you “touched” something, it had to comply with the requirements for new construction. It didn’t matter if you were replacing flood-damaged flooring and drywall or rebuilding a structurally compromised building; whatever work was performed had to meet the Code’s new-construction criteria.
In the 2006 edition, the Life Safety Code introduced the concept of building rehabilitation in its then-new chapter 43, which was based on guidance published by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in its Nationally Applicable Recommended Rehabilitation Provisions (NARRP). The idea behind NARRP, and subsequently Chapter 43 of NFPA 101, was to promote the adaptive reuse of existing buildings by tempering model building code requirements when applied to building rehabilitation projects while still maintaining a reasonable, minimum level of safety. Using Chapter 43 when replacing flood-damaged drywall, instead of applying the requirements for new construction, perhaps the project can comply with the less-restrictive requirements for existing buildings. The level of required code compliance depends on what the Code calls the "rehabilitation work" category. The categories are explicitly defined, and correctly categorizing the rehabilitation work project is, perhaps, the most important aspect of Chapter 43. The categories that will most likely apply to disaster recovery efforts are repair, renovation, modification, and reconstruction.
Repair. The work to be performed in buildings damaged by Harvey and Irma will probably exceed the category of repair for all but the most minor damage. Repair work, for example, involves not much more than patching a hole in the drywall membrane of a fire barrier. In most cases, the provisions for repair will not apply.
Renovation. Renovation amounts to replacing-in-kind without reconfiguring the space. Provided the rehabilitation work relates only to replacement and not to reconfiguration of the space, the project must only meet the requirements applicable to existing buildings. For example, a corridor wall that was compliant with the requirements for existing buildings is permitted to be replaced, in the same location, by a newly constructed corridor wall that meets the requirements for existing buildings (see An exception to the rule, however, applies. If renovation work involves the replacement of interior finish materials (e.g., wall, ceiling and floor coverings), the interior finish must meet the classification applicable to new construction. If the project involves reconfiguration of the space, the applicable rehabilitation work category changes from renovation to modification or reconstruction.
Modification. With the rehabilitation work category of modification, there must be a reconfiguration of space, an addition or elimination of an element or system, or the installation of new equipment. Building owners need to be aware that if their rehabilitation work falls into the category of modification, all work performed must be in accordance with the requirements for new construction. Further, where the work is extensive (see 43.5.2), as it will likely be in many cases where the entire ground level of a building was flooded, the rehabilitation work category gets bumped up from modification to reconstruction.
Reconstruction. As explained above, reconstruction involves a reconfiguration of space. If a building’s space is not reconfigured, the rehabilitation work can be classified as renovation no matter how extensive the renovation work area is. With the rehabilitation work category of reconstruction, all elements and systems touched by the rehabilitation must meet the requirements applicable to new construction. Additionally, where the reconstruction involves more than half of a floor or more than half of the building area, automatic fire sprinklers must be installed in some or all of the building per the requirements for new construction applicable to the building’s occupancy classification.
For example, a nonsprinklered hotel is flood damaged throughout its ground floor. To repair the damage, the guest room and corridor walls are gutted to the building’s structural frame. The building owner decides to take this opportunity to reconfigure the floor with larger guest rooms. Because of the reconfiguration and the extensive work area, the rehabilitation is categorized as reconstruction. Because the reconstruction work area involves more than 50 percent of the ground floor area, automatic sprinklers must be installed throughout the ground floor because Chapter 28 of the Code requires the installation of sprinklers in all new hotels. If the reconstruction work area involves more than 50 percent of the building area, automatic sprinklers must be installed throughout the highest floor level containing reconstruction work and all floors below.
If you haven’t had much experience using Chapter 43, it can seem a bit daunting at first glance. NFPA is here to help. If you have questions and you’re an NFPA member or code enforcer, you can submit your questions online  (click on the "technical questions" tab). Our staff engineers will get back to you as soon as possible. While I hope you’re spared Irma’s wrath, I’m also realistic and I suspect some of you are in for some rough days and weeks ahead. We stand with you and will provide whatever support we can.
Thanks for reading as always, and particularly in the coming days, please stay safe.
Ron Coté, P.E., life safety technical lead at NFPA, contributed to this post.
Got an idea for a topic for a future #101Wednesdays? Post it in the comments below – I’d love to hear your suggestions!
Did you know NFPA 101 is available to review online for free? Visit the NFPA site and  click on “Free access to the 2015 edition of NFPA 101.”
Follow me on Twitter: @NFPAGregH

photo courtesy of Duke Energy


NFPA is collaborating with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Sandia National Laboratories (Sandia), and NEC Energy Solutions to deliver Energy Storage Technology – Fundamentals, Applications and Safety, an educational session on energy storage systems (ESS) this fall in Sterling, Massachusetts.


The free one-day learning opportunity on October 19 is being offered in support of the U.S. DOE Office of Electricity Energy Storage Program ESS Safety Roadmap. The classroom portion of the event will cover ESS fundamentals and safety tips at the Chocksett Inn; hands-on field training will take place nearby in the afternoon at an ESS installation at the Sterling Municipal Light Department. SMLD is the largest energy storage grid solution of its kind in New England. It was installed and commissioned by NEC Energy Solutions and was the first utility scale ESS project in Massachusetts.


State and local authorities including public safety officers, code enforcers, contractors, installers, inspectors and first responders will all find the session worthwhile. The class is suitable for those that work on the review and approval of plans and specifications, installation, field inspection, the approval process, or incident response. Participants will learn about technology, how it works, various applications, safety issues, mitigation tips, recommended response strategies, and updates to standards so that ESS safety is addressed. 


NFPA staff members are scheduled to discuss the codes that apply to safe ESS installation, as well as emergency response best practices. Subject matter experts from the different collaborating organizations and representatives from Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) will share insight on testing, certification and experiences with ESS installations.


NFPA is actively engaged in a number of ESS initiatives including standards development, training, and research projects aimed at promoting the continued safe and sustainable expansion of this renewable technology. Additionally, NFPA has created a quick reference guide for first responders and the nation’s only online training to help the fire service handle the unique challenges presented by new technologies. NFPA’s free Energy Storage System Safety Training Course is a four-hour, self-paced, online program that uses engaging videos, animations, simulations, and review exercises to inform emergency responders about ESS.


Energy Storage Technology – Fundamentals, Applications and Safety is a first-time education program for New England stakeholders that currently ensure the safety of ESS or may do so in the future. The educational session has been scheduled in a convenient location so that New England authorities can drive to and from the event from different parts of the region without overnight accommodations. Attendees are encouraged to offer feedback on program content and structure so that the training can be enhanced and implemented in other parts of the country.


ESS is a hot topic, and this complimentary training promises to inform different stakeholders who are looking to be well-informed in their various roles. If you are interested in attending, register today.

Fort McMurray Fire, wildfire, wildfire hazards

The wildfire disaster that struck Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada in May 2016 destroyed more than 2,400 structures and created insured losses of more than $3.5 billion. The incident captured the hearts and minds of the media and citizens the world over, and all eyes were focused on how Canada was coping with one of the most destructive wildfires ever. To that end, Canada's Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR) set out on a mission to investigate why some homes survived the fire while others were vulnerable to ignition.

According to Alan Westhaver, principal of ForestWise Environmental Consulting, Ltd., who reported on the investigation in his session at NFPA’s 2017 Conference & Expo in June, the root of the problem was home ignition by embers. This is not a new problem as post-fire data from other large wildfires (check out my post about CAL FIRE) have shown us that it’s not the big flames that engulf a house and burn it to the ground; it’s those tiny little embers flying through the air for a mile or more that land on homes and yards, and ignite all that is flammable in its path.
Westhaver explains that embers act very much like how snow falls. Hear his description of ember showers in this clip from my interview with him.
After listening to Westhaver's explanation you realize it makes sense, right? And yet, not only are people unaware of the kinds of activities that can help counteract the destruction that embers cause, but according to Westhaver, wildfire safety advocates are also not pushing this message hard enough.
Westhaver shared this and other lessons he and his colleagues learned from the Fort McMurray Fire. He even compared the data of this fire to two other large-scale fires in Canada: Slave Lake and Kelowna. Given the studies conducted by all three fires, Westhaver told his audience that they now have a better understanding of the cause of home ignition, home attribute and fire pathways, and he believes this information can (and does) help inform more effective approaches to wildfire risk mitigation.
As a firefighter, a public safety professional, a homeowner, planner, policymaker or municipal leader you'll want to hear the entire audio presentation, which provides the full scope of the investigation and lots more insight into the great work Canada continues to do around wildfire safety and preparedness. Once you've listened to it, let us know what you think.
Did you know that NFPA Conference & Expo attendees and NFPA members get full access to all the 2017 NFPA C&E education session audio & video files? Browse the full list of education sessions - with attached audio/video - here.

National Preparedness Month, natural disasters

September is National Preparedness Month with the theme, "Disasters Don't Plan Ahead. You can.," which serves as a reminder that we all must take action to prepare–now and throughout the year–for the types of emergencies that could affect us where we live, work and visit. As the southeastern U.S. braces for its second hurricane in a couple of weeks, Hurricane Irma, NFPA can help by providing action steps that will help you prepare your family and your home for the storm, flood waters and a possible evacuation:

  • Make an emergency supplies kit including water and copies of important documents, in a waterproof, portable container. Keep the kit in an easily accessible location so if you need to evacuate, you can grab it quickly
  • Fill your car's gas tank in case you need to leave the area
  • Bring in all outside furniture, decorations, garbage cans, etc. to reduce the risk of damage these items can cause in severe winds
  • Turn off utilities if instructed to do so; unplug electrical appliances and move them to high points if possible
  • Turn off propane tanks 
  • Evacuate your home when told to do so by authorities

Additional information about hurricane safety, including a free, downloadable tip sheet on flooding safety, can be found on NFPA's "Get Ready" webpage.


In the west, wildfires continue to threaten communities in Montana, California, Idaho and other northwest and central states. NFPA offers helpful tips and resources to help you prepare ahead of an evacuation. Consider the following action steps you can put into motion now:

  • Sign up for local emergency notifications/alerts
  • Have an evacuation plan and a designated meeting place where family members will reconnect after the evacuation
  • Make an emergency supply kit and keep it handy when evacuation is necessary
  • Remove deck/ patio furniture, cushions and door mats to prevent ember ignitions
  • Remove portable propane tanks from the deck/patio and turn them off
  • Know how to turn off the gas to the home
  • Make sure windows, doors and garage doors are closed; close the windows of vehicals that will remain at the residence while you’re evacuated

Find these tips and more on NFPA's Firewise USATM webpage.


Starting this week, check back with us on our Fire Break and Safety Source blogs for resources, tips and ideas that will help you and your family prepare for a crisis, whether you live in the wildland-urban interface, the suburbs or downtown. And stay tuned to our social media channels that will highlight preparedness messaging you can share with family members, neighbors and your community.


Learn what you can do before, during and after each type of emergency. Get started now! Join us for National Preparedness Month and together let's do our part to help reduce our risk.

campus fire safety, best roommates evahSurrounded by college safety, fire and building officials, and fire safety advocates, Massachusetts Public Safety Secretary Daniel Bennet launched Campus Fire Safety Month (September) at The College of the Holy Cross by reminding college students and their parents to make fire safety a priority in off-campus housing.


According to the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services, while colleges work to make sure dormitories have fire alarm systems and fire sprinklers where required, officials are most concerned about the safety of off-campus housing. Since 2006, 100 percent of all campus-related fire deaths have occurred in off-campus housing. Five college students aged 19-22 have died in Massachusetts off-campus housing fires in the past decade. The lack of working smoke alarms or a second exit was a factor in these deaths. 


To this end, Public Safety Secretary Bennet announced the start of Best Roommates Evah!, a Massachusetts public awareness campaign that focuses on two aspects of fire safety in off-campus housing: the importance of having working smoke alarms and having two ways out of the homeThis is the second year of the campaign, which provides posters, talking points, a customizable local press release, logo, and links to college fire safety resources for students, parents, colleges and resident assistants to share. Electronic bulletin boards and highway flash signs will also be evident across Massachusetts roadways to remind students and parents as they head to college this fall.


As part of the campaign, a local PSA was developed that features Boston firefighters who responded to a fatal off-campus fire (see PSA below):



As Best Roommates Evah! kicks off this month and students begin moving into college housing, public safety officials want to make one thing clear: no matter what college or university a student attends here in the Commonwealth, parents and young adults are encouraged to contact local housing, building or fire authorities for an inspection if they have any concerns about the safety of an apartment or house they have rented.


Learn more about this campaign and find information and resources you can share with students and others interested in college fire safety by visiting

industrial hazards, chemical plant fire, texas, hurricane harvey

Since Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the coast of Texas on August 25, its devastating impact has been felt across dozens of towns, cities and nearby states in a number of ways, many of which have played out for the past several days on whatever device you use to obtain your news. The latest challenge being several fires that occurred at the Arkema chemical plant in the town of Crosby about 30 miles away from Houston.


Houston and the surrounding area is home to a vast array of chemical and petroleum plants and associated pipelines like Arkema, which means an impact of a different and challenging nature when the integrity of such facilities is compromised. As a result of the loss of power throughout the area, Arkema experienced fires involving stored chemicals used in their chemical process. These fires and related hazards (such as exposure to combustion byproducts released to the area) while serious, posed far less consequence overall because of the planning and preparedness steps that were in place well before such an emergency as the hurricane and attendant flooding and loss of power.


NFPA codes and standards contribute to that preparedness and planning and protect emergency responders during such challenges. For example, NFPA 400: Hazardous Materials Code provides safeguards to be followed when storing, handling and using hazardous chemicals including the organic peroxides at the Houston plant. Hazardous chemicals are often evaluated based on one of three hazardous conditions or characteristics – flammability, instability and health. These particular organic peroxides become unstable when their temperature is not managed through refrigerated storage. Because this facility conducted hazard assessments and implemented various safeguards called for by the codes, they have been better able to cope with this unique condition caused when they could no longer maintain the required refrigeration for the chemicals and fires that started due to the self-heating reaction. The emergency response system and the community effectively responded to the incident because of that prior planning and the information that was shared by the facility with the emergency responders and the community preparedness network. NFPA 400 calls for this type of planning and fire risk control.


Emergency response personnel are also prepared for active response to hazardous materials incidents through training and competency specifications contained in NFPA 472: Standard for Competence of Responders to Hazardous Materials/Weapons of Mass Destruction Incidents. With unstable materials the training and competencies ensure that there is a clear understanding of the hazards, which leads to proper decision making when a response is considered. In this case, through the information shared by the facility and the understanding that came with the specialized training of the emergency responders, coupled with the flooding that restricted fire department access, the decision was to order an evacuation of residents in advance of the fires and not attempt to fight these fires once they ignited.


In the aftermath of this horrible natural disaster, those involved with emergency planning and preparedness will be able to use this incident as a case study for many things going right in the face of challenging conditions. It should highlight the importance of these steps for the emergency response network – the responders, the facility owner/operators, and the public.


An event like the chemical plant fire in Crosby can raise questions for residents living near similar chemical or industrial plants in areas across the country. If you are or someone you know is looking for information, the local Emergency Planning Committee can provide information about the hazardous materials that may be stored at that location. During emergency events like Harvey, it’s important that residents monitor local media for updates, listen for evacuation orders and comply with them as quickly as possible.


For more information to help prepare you and your family for an emergency involving hazardous materials, visit NFPA’s “Get Ready! Preparing Your Community for a Disaster” webpage, which provides an informative Hazardous Materials Fact Sheet available in English and in Spanish. It’s free and easy to download and a great resource to share with friends, neighbors and family, and members of your community. The Get Ready! Toolkit also includes tools, tips and resources for first responders to help their communities prepare for other possible future disaster events.


NOTE: Ken Willette, NFPA’s segment director for first responders, contributed to this piece.


Photo: Reuters

This past Monday I returned to work after being on maternity leave for 3 months.  It was an exciting time at home with my family.  Preparing to come back to work this week brought back memories of being a kid and preparing to go back to school after a long summer vacation. Some students have already returned to school for a new year, others will start after the long holiday weekend.  Students may not think of the fire safety requirements that impact their return to school or how the Fire Code plays a critical role in helping ensure our students and schools stay fire safe throughout the year. Those requirements for operating features in schools which impact students on a daily basis, are as follows:



Emergency Action Plan

Emergency action plans are required for educational occupancies.  Emergency action plans must contain information such as procedures for reporting of emergencies, occupant and staff response to emergencies, evacuation, relocation and shelter-in-place procedures appropriate to the building, its occupancy, emergencies, and hazards, appropriateness of the use of elevators, design and conduct of fire drills. See 10.8 for additional information.


Emergency Egress Drills

Upon returning to school, students will participate in emergency egress drills.  The purpose of emergency egress and relocation drills is to educate the students in the fire safety features of the school, the egress facilities available, and the procedures to be followed. Section 10.5 of NFPA 1 requires drills be conducted as specified by the provisions of Chapter 20 of NFPA 1 or Chapter 11 through Chapter 42 of NFPA 101, Life Safety Code.  Additional details applicable to all drills can be found in 10.5, if required.  For example, in educational occupancies, drills are required as follows: Emergency egress drills shall be conducted as follows:

   (1) Not less than one emergency egress drill shall be conducted every month the facility is in session, unless both of    the following criteria are met:

(a) In climates where the weather is severe, the monthly emergency egress drills shall be permitted to be deferred.

(b) The required number of emergency egress drills shall be conducted, and not less than four shall be conducted before the drills are deferred.

   (2) All occupants of the building shall participate in the drill.

   (3) One additional emergency egress drill, other than for educational occupancies that are open on a year-round basis,    shall be required within the first 30 days of operation. [101:; 101:]


The local AHJ may also require additional action and drills must always be designed in cooperation with the local authorities. In some cases, emergency egress training programs may be substituted for up to four of the required monthly drills (see Section


Among the hustle and bustle of a new school year drills must not be overlooked.  While students might think they are familiar with their school, they must relearn the location of their new classroom and surroundings.  Local authorities play an important role in assisting and verifying educational facilities in their jurisdiction are aware and compliant with the regulations for conducting egress drills and the minimum provisions found in the Fire Code. More details about drills in schools can be found in this post.


Inspection of Exit Facilities

Principals, teachers, or staff have a required duty to inspect all exit facilities daily to ensure that all stairways, doors, and other exits are in proper condition, with extra surveillance in open plan buildings to ensure that exit paths are maintained clear of obstruction and are obvious.  While the provision permits staff to make such inspections, the inspection function is often better performed by maintenance personnel who have responsibility for, and intimate working knowledge of, the many building features and systems. Particular attention should be given to keeping all doors unlocked; keeping doors that serve to protect the safety of paths of egress closed and under no conditions blocked open, such as doors on stairway enclosures; keeping outside stairs and fire escape stairs free from all obstructions. (See


More formally, door openings are required to be inspected in accordance with Section of NFPA 101.  The requirements apply only to specific doors noted in, such as those with panic or fire exit hardware, be inspected and tested not less than annually.


Furnishings and Decorations

Educational occupancies regulate draperies and curtains, the storage of clothing and other personal items, and also artwork as follows:

  • Draperies, curtains, and other similar furnishings and decorations must meet the flame propagation performance criteria contained in Test Method 1 or Test Method 2, as appropriate, of NFPA 701, Standard Methods of Fire Tests for Flame Propagation of Textiles and Films. (See
  • As clothing hung on hooks along corridor walls or on racks in school lobbies greatly increases the combustible load and will generally allow flame to spread quickly, it cannot be stored in corridors unless meeting one of the allowable conditions (control of fire by sprinklers, early warning of incipient-stage fire via smoke detection, or isolation of fuel packages by locating the clothing in metal lockers.)  (See
  • Artwork and other teaching materials are permitted to be attached directly to the walls as long as it does not exceed 20 percent of the wall area in a nonsprinklered building and 50 perfect in a fully sprinklered building. Because the combustibility of the artwork cannot be effectively controlled, the quantity, in terms of the percentage of wall area covered, is regulated to avoid creating a continuous combustible surface that will spread flame across the room. (See


Don't forget to check out NFPA's additional resources for school safety.  And for additional information on NFPA 1 you can view the Code free of charge.


Happy Friday, thanks for reading! Stay safe!

campus fire safety, fire safety abroad, student fire safety

September is Campus Fire Safety Month and this year NFPA and The Center for Campus Fire Safety (The Center) are teaming up to host their third national “Campus Fire Safety for Students” campaign. The campaign raises awareness about the dangers of fires among college-aged students who live in on- and off-campus college housing.


According to NFPA’s latest report, “Structure Fires in Dormitories, Fraternities, Sororities and Barracks,” between 2011 and 2015, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 4,100 structure fires in dormitories, fraternities, sororities, and other related properties. Approximately seven in 10 (72%) fires in these properties began in the kitchen or cooking area, accounting for 44% of civilian injuries and 14% of direct property damage. The report also states that fires are more common between the hours of 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. and on weekends; September and October are the peak months for fires in dormitories.


To help address this issue, the campaign provides a host of resources for students, parents and fire safety educators that focus on reducing fire risk in college housing, including video tips and checklists made by students for students. Each week on our Safety Source blog, we’ll share these resources plus a host of other tips and information you can share via social media, on college websites and in campus newspapers, for posting in dorms and on common area bulletin boards, and many other places.


Learn more about campaign at and

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