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September 22, 2017 Previous day Next day

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!


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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

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