Skip navigation
All Places > NFPA Today > Blog > 2017 > September > 06

NFPA Today

September 6, 2017 Previous day Next day

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.

Filter Blog

By date: By tag: