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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.

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