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Source: Pawan Singh / The National


House fires are tragic in and of themselves but when they occur and take the lives of young children, it just makes everything more painful.

According to ABC News, residents of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and in particular the community of Fujairah, are feeling excruciating loss as a result of an early morning blaze last week that killed seven children ranging in age from 5 to 13 years-old. It was the county’s biggest fire-related tragedy in recent years. The children reportedly died of complications due to smoke inhalation at a local hospital. The mother is the lone surviving family member.

The UAE has been working closely with NFPA for decades to incorporate building and life safety codes in a region that is burgeoning. The government has also stepped up efforts to inform audiences about the importance of fire protection systems. In the wake of last week’s fire, UAE prime minister and vice president Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum ordered the Civil Defense to install smoke alarms in every citizen’s home, stating that the government will pay for the fire notification units if residents cannot afford to purchase and install them.

The seven young victims of last week’s fire in the coastal community of Dhadna died from suffocation in one room of the family’s home, begging the question, “If there had been smoke alarms and a fire escape plan, would there have been a different outcome?”

The heartbreaking incident in Fujairah illuminates the unwavering need for a full fire and life protection system that includes working smoke alarms, home escape planning, and government leaders proactively educating the public about fire safety.


According to the BBC, nearly 40 people perished and more than 130 were injured this week in a hospital fire in South Korea. It was the country’s deadliest fire in nearly ten years. The blaze comes on the heels of another deadly fire incident at a public gym last month where 29 were killed and just as many were injured. In both instances, working fire sprinklers were lacking.

Yesterday’s fire occurred in the emergency room at Sejong Hospital in the city of Miryang, where 200 patients were present and an additional 89 were in an adjacent nursing home. News outlets reported that the victims, mostly elderly and severely ill patients, were simply unable to escape alone and likely died of smoke inhalation.

Last month, The LA Times wrote that 29 people died when fire broke out at the Noble Fitness and Spa in Jecheon, southeast of Seoul. As was the case with the hospital fire, the victims were overcome by deadly smoke and were trapped inside.

News outlets reported that the gym owner and manager were arrested because of building safety lapses, including a malfunctioning sprinkler system. The hospital did not have fire sprinklers. Hospitals in South Korea are not required by law to have fire sprinklers. The nursing home next door; however, was in the process of installing sprinklers because a new law requiring them goes into effect in June.


Last year there were 280 total fire deaths in South Korea, according to the Korean Statistical Information Service. Conversely, the number of fire fatalities in the United States has been holding firm at 3,300 each year.

Looking back, one part of the Code that I don’t spend a lot of time talking about, but should, is how it is applied and how it is enforced.  Practically speaking, when does one even use a Fire Code?  Who needs to know how to enforce it?  When is it enforced? How often does the fire inspector, responsible for the enforcement of NFPA 1, need to inspect a building for fire safety provisions? These administrative requirements and general provisions, as contained in Chapter 1, Chapter 4 and parts of Chapter 10, provide the fundamental provisions for those responsible for its application and enforcement.  Compliance with these requirements is critical to the effectiveness of NFPA 1.


NFPA 1 is applicable to both new and existing occupancies.  Per Section 10.1.1, every new and existing building or structure shall be constructed, arranged, equipped, maintained, and operated in accordance with this Code so as to provide a reasonable level of life safety, property protection, and public welfare from the actual and potential hazards created by fire, explosion, and other hazardous conditions. I highlight the words constructed and maintained to emphasize how the Code plays a role in a building during both construction of the building as well as maintenance throughout the life of the building. The enforcement of a building does not stop once its construction is complete and a certificate of occupancy is received. 

New to the 2018 edition is Section 10.2.7 which prescribes the minimum fire prevention inspection frequencies for existing occupancies.


This Section was added, in part, to recognize the publication of new NFPA 1730, Standard on Organization and Deployment of Fire Prevention Inspection and Code Enforcement, Plan Review, Investigation, and Public Education Operations, and in addition, to provide guidance to AHJs and inspectors for ensuring existing occupancies remain in compliance with the fire code. Section 10.2.7 reads as follows:


10.2.7 Minimum Fire Prevention Inspection Frequencies for Existing Occupancies. Fire prevention inspections shall occur on existing premises in accordance with the minimum inspection frequency schedule specified in Table [1730: Table 6.7]

Table life safety code Where required or permitted by the AHJ, the required fire prevention inspection shall be conducted by an approved party that is qualified in accordance with NFPA 1031. The AHJ shall be permitted to approve alternative qualifications for the approved party specified in The provisions of 10.2.7 shall not apply to detached one- and two-family dwellings or townhomes.

NFPA 1730 contains minimum requirements relating to the organization and deployment of code enforcement, plan review, fire investigation, and public education operations to the public.  The addition of new 10.2.7 incorporates the standard of care, as specified in NFPA 1730, into NFPA 1. The default is that the local AHJ should conduct the inspection. However, if staffing does not permit or if the local jurisdiction does not have a qualified individual, the owner, occupant or operator can retain an AHJ approved NFPA 1031 qualified individual to conduct the inspection. Thereby, fire code compliance is achieved in accordance with the 1730 standard.


The frequencies of the fire prevention inspection are based on the occupancy risk classification.  Table includes four classifications: high, moderate, low and critical infrastructure with frequencies ranging from annual to triennially or per the AHJ.  What is a high risk occupancy? What is critical infrastructure? The 2018 edition of the Code also added the corresponding definitions from NFPA 1730 to Chapter 3 to assist with the application of the new table.  For example, a low risk occupancy is “an occupancy that has a history of low frequency of fires and minimal potential for loss of life or economic loss.  Examples of low-risk occupancies are storage, mercantile, and business.


How does your jurisdiction manage fire prevention inspections for existing buildings?  Do you use the provisions in NFPA 1730?  What issues have you faced with existing building inspection?


Thanks for reading, 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

2017 James M. Shannon Advocacy Medal Ann Jones (center) with NFPA President Jim Pauley (left) and NFPA Board of Directors Chair Randolph Tucker. Jones received the award for her work in passing a requirement to sprinkler all new homes in Wales.
The James M. Shannon Advocacy Medal was established to recognize those who take a firm stance on fire and life safety issues through advocacy. The award was named after former NFPA president James M. Shannon. Under his leadership, NFPA significantly advanced the mission of protecting the general public and fire service members by advocating for key changes to reduce fire loss. He led the Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes and reemphasized NFPA’s push for requirements for fire sprinklers in new, one- and two-family homes. 
NFPA is currently accepting applications for the 2018 James M. Shannon Advocacy Medal. Nominations are open to members of the fire service and any groups or people advocating for causes concerning fire and life safety. Download the application, and please submit your entries to by February 23, 2018. 
The recipient will be honored at NFPA’s Conference & Expo in Las Vegas in June. NFPA will cover the recipient’s travel and lodging. Know a stellar life safety advocate? Nominate them today.


If you’re one of the few people who doesn’t watch “This is Us”, here's an update on what's been happening with the show and fire safety. "This is Us" is a highly popular, one-hour program on NBC that’s brought quite a bit of attention to two fire safety issues. In a recent episode, viewers learned that a lead character died in home fire as a result of smoke alarms with missing batteries. In the latest episode, it was revealed that the cause of said fire involved a slow cooker.

Showing that smoke alarms need to have working batteries in order to protect you, and more pointedly, dramatizing the deadly consequence that can result when batteries are missing, is an incredibly powerful message. The show was able to reinforce the potentially life-saving importance of making sure smoke alarms are always equipped with batteries, which has immeasurable impact on the show's millions of viewers.

Unfortunately, the show missed the mark in representing a realistic cause of home fires. While cooking is, in fact, the leading cause of U.S. home fires, slow cookers do not play a significant role in them. Between 2011 and 2015, an annual average of 70 cooking fires involving slow cookers resulted in two civilian injuries, no deaths and $3.3 million in direct property damage. This data shows that slow cookers are a statistically insignificant factor in the home cooking fire equation and can be used safely.

So the next time you're planning to use your slow cooker or small appliance in the kitchen, consider the following action steps:

  • Inspect plugs and cords to make sure they are not frayed or broken (and replace if necessary), which will help keep electrical fires at bay
  • Keep the slow cooker (or other small appliance) away from the edge of the counter so hands and elbows don't push it off the edge causing burns or scalds from the hot liquid and food inside
  • Follow the manufacturers' instructions for proper and safe use of the appliance
  • Follow instructions for recipes carefully using the right amount of liquid and heat when preparing your meal to prevent overheating


For additional cooking fire safety tips and data on cooking fires, visit


Here is a pop quiz on the lockout and electrically safe work condition requirements in NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace®. True or false?
1.    Lockout and tagout devices are the same thing.
2.    You may choose to use either lockout or tagout.
3.    Multiple locks indicate that a complex lockout procedure has been used.
4.    The required procedure for lockout and for tagout is the same.
5.    A written plan is required for all lockout applications.
6.    Lockout is synonymous with establishing an electrically safe work condition.
7.    Any lock can be used as a lockout device.
8.    Verification of a de-energized state must be made with a portable meter.
9.    Temporary grounding must always be used before an electrically safe work condition can exist.
10.    Electrical lockout devices must be distinct from mechanical lockout devices.
11.    A lockout program does not apply to temporary electrical equipment.
12.    Lockout procedures must be audited every 3 years.
13.    Once lockout has been applied and an electrical safe work condition established, there is no need to re-verify that condition.

This was not meant to be a trick quiz. The answer to each question is false.

1.    Lockout requires a lock and tagout does not include a lock. [120.3(C) and 120.3(D)]
2.    Tagout can only be used when the isolation device cannot accept the application of a lock. [120.4(B)(11)(4)]
3.    Multiple locks may be used in a simple lockout process. [120.4(A)(4)]
4.    If tagout is used without a lockout device, an additional safety measure must be used in addition to the application of the tagout device. [120.4(B)(11)(4)]
5.    Simple lockout applications do not require a written plan however, a written plan may be developed. [120.4(A)(4)]
6.    Lockout is a single step in the process of establishing an electrically safe work condition. [120.5(6)]
7.    The lockout device must be unique and readily identifiable. [120.3(B)]
8.    Listed, permanently mounted meters are permitted. [120.5(7) Exception No.1]
9.    Temporary grounding equipment is necessary if induced or stored energy is present or if there is a possibility of energization by contact with other electrical parts. [120.5(8)]
10.    Electrical lockout devices are permitted to be similar to other lockout devices. [120.2(H)(3)]
11.    A lockout program must include temporary as well as portable equipment. [120.1(A)(3)]
12.    Lockout procedures require an annual audit. [110.1(K)(3)]
13.    Unattended job locations, including for a lunch period, require re-verification of the electrically safe work condition. [120.4(B)(6)(4)]

This was refresher of some lockout basics. Sometimes details get lost or forgotten but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important. If you are responsible for a lockout program, this should have been easy.

For more information on 70E, read my entire 70E blog series on Xchange.  
Next time: How many chapters are in NFPA 70E?

New research was completed this month on High Rise Buildings with Combustible Exterior Wall Assemblies. Arup, a global engineering firm working across every aspect of today’s built environment, conducted the comprehensive project with sponsorship from NFPA. 

The impetus for the research was international concern about fires in high-rise buildings that contain combustible cladding. AHJs around the world appealed to NFPA for assistance in identifying hazards and developing a system for inspecting, prioritizing and remediating risk factors in their building portfolio.

The Arup report was the springboard for a new NFPA risk assessment tool that helps enforcers, building owners and facility managers determine which properties in their jurisdiction need attention. Research lead Susan Lamont with Arup will explain the risk assessment methodology; while NFPA’s Birgitte Messerschmidt will discuss EFFECT – NFPA’s tool that assists global authorities in determining and addressing high-rise building cladding concerns.

If you want to proactively determine what risks exist in your building inventory, register for the webinar on Monday, February 5th (10:00-11:30 ET). Learning about holistic high-rise combustible facade risk factors is your first step to ensuring that the people and property you are responsible for are safer from harm.

First responders at Vegas shooting
The deadline to submit public input on NFPA 3000, Standard for Preparedness and Response to Active Shooter and/or Hostile Events, is February 23—four weeks from tomorrow. NFPA Journal has been covering the development of the standard since July. 

My first article on NFPA 3000, "Threat Prep," came on the heels of shootings in Alexandria, Virginia, and San Francisco, both of which occurred on June 14. Coincidentally, the incidents took place on the same day the NFPA 3000 technical committee met for the first time at NFPA headquarters outside of Boston. My second article, "The New Deadliest," focused on the October 1 Las Vegas shooting. 
I also released a podcast in August that includes interviews with NFPA 3000 technical committee members who responded to two of the nation's deadliest mass shootings—the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, in 2016, and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012. 
The NFPA Standards Council recently gave the green light for NFPA 3000 to be released as a provisional standard, which means it could come out as early as April. As a result, public safety media outlets have buzzed with the news. In an op-ed for Fire Chief magazine, fire service veteran Rob Wylie lauded NFPA's efforts. "It is important and it is needed today," he said of the standard, while also stressing the need to prepare citizens—not just first responders—for active shooter and hostile events. 
The need to fast-track NFPA 3000 is clear. Just this week, two school shootings—one in Texas and one in Kentucky—have left two teenagers dead, and dozens more wounded. Submit public input on NFPA 3000 here, and continue to look for NFPA Journal coverage of NFPA 3000 as the standard is developed.  


When I’m asked, “What is the required rating for a door in a particular wall?” nine times out of 10 my answer is, “It depends.” (This is the standard answer for nearly everything code-related.) In the Life Safety Code, required ratings for doors and other opening protectives (e.g., windows) depend on the required hourly, fire-resistance rating of the barrier in which the opening is located and the function the barrier is serving.

Not all fire barriers are created equal. A door in an exit enclosure fire barrier will probably require a different rating than a door in a similarly rated corridor or hazardous area enclosure. Or a smoke barrier. Or a smoke partition. Or a shaft enclosure. (You get the idea.) At first glance it may seem convoluted, but the code does a good job of consolidating the opening protective rating requirements in one location. In the 2018 edition, you’ll find the required door rating in Table (what I’ll refer to as “the table”). In the 2015 and earlier editions, the required ratings were located in Table Prior to the 2003 edition, there was no handy consolidated table. If you’re using the 2000 or earlier edition, you’ll have to sort through a series of requirements and exceptions to determine the required door rating. (If you’re using the 2000 or earlier edition, you’re using a code that’s some 20 years out of date, and it might be time to join the rest of us in the 21st century. But I digress.)

To use the table, you’ll first need to establish the fire barrier’s purpose as required by the code. The table lists the purpose under the heading “Component.” Components include:

  • Elevator hoistways
  • Elevator lobbies
  • Vertical shafts
  • Horizontal exits
  • Exit access corridors
  • Other fire barriers
  • Smoke barriers
  • Smoke partitions

This is where the table has, at times, caused some confusion. Some have misinterpreted it as prescribing minimum fire-resistance ratings for various fire barriers. For example, the bottom row addresses smoke partitions. The second column specifies fire-resistance ratings for smoke partitions (half hour and one hour). Some have been led to believe that based on the table, all smoke partitions must have a minimum fire resistance rating of a half hour. This is not the case for smoke partitions or any of the other components listed in the table.

The requirements for smoke partitions are located in Section 8.4; you’ll find no fire-resistance rating requirement there. Smoke partitions require a rating only where required by another section of the code. An example would be corridor walls in new, large, residential board-and-care occupancies, which require a half-hour rating ( Once it’s determined that the smoke partition requires a fire-resistance rating, then refer to the table to determine the required fire-protection rating of any doors. In the case of a half-hour rated smoke partition, doors must have a one-third hour, or 20 minute, fire-protection rating. In short, use the table to determine the required opening protective rating when a barrier is required by another section of the code to have a fire-resistance rating.

Fire barriers having a one-hour rating might require one-hour doors, three-quarter-hour doors, or one-third-hour doors. Again, it depends on the barrier’s application. Fire barriers having a two-hour rating generally require one-and-a-half hour doors. Fire barriers with a rating exceeding two hours are rarely required by the code, except for a few occupancy separation fire barriers involving relatively hazardous occupancies.

I sometimes get the question, “Why does the code allow a 20-minute door in a one-hour barrier? Why not just require a one-hour door?” This would certainly make life easier when applying the code, but it also might require a more expensive door than is actually needed for life safety. Where the code requires 20-minute doors, it’s usually in a barrier that the committees primarily wanted to be smoke resistant. Before the days of smoke partitions, which first appeared in the 2000 edition, when a committee wanted a smoke resistant barrier (e.g., a corridor wall), it was simpler to mandate a one-hour barrier than to come up with criteria to evaluate smoke resistance. Since they really wanted a nominal degree of fire resistance, rather than mandating a substantial one-hour door, they were comfortable with a 20-minute door, which would inherently resist the passage of smoke.

Other reasons for the difference in fire barrier ratings and door ratings are the tests used to establish the ratings. You might have noticed I refer to the fire-resistance rating of a fire barrier, whereas a door has a fire-protection rating. Fire barrier assemblies are tested at a lab using a standard like ASTM E119, Standard Test Methods for Fire Tests of Building Construction and Materials, which yields a fire-resistance rating. Fire doors are tested using a standard like NFPA 252, Standard Methods of Fire Tests of Door Assemblies, which yields a fire-protection rating. Comparing the ratings from the different tests is not an apples-to-apples comparison. An hour’s worth of fire resistance (fire barrier) is not necessarily equivalent to an hour’s worth of fire protection (fire door).

And although it’s not a very scientific reason, this is the way the code has done it for many years and it seems to work. To this point, there has been no compelling reason to change the approach. If it’s not broken, there’s no need to fix it.

For more details on fire door installation, inspection, testing, and maintenance, check out NFPA 80, Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives. NFPA also offers online training for NFPA 80 ITM requirements and classroom training on NFPA 101 and NFPA 80 fire door inspection for health care facilities.

Thanks for reading, and 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.”

Follow me on Twitter: @NFPAGregH

Wow, we are already three weeks into 2018, and believe it or not, already into the 2021 code development cycle for NFPA 1. (More details on 2021 below). In the meantime, there is a lot to be shared about the newest edition of NFPA 1 (2018) that was released last fall. This post from December provided an overview of what I thought to be the key changes for the 2018 edition. There are of course many more than just that list and users can view those changes via the First Draft Report and Second Draft report online at (scroll down on that page and you will see links to both). In the coming weeks I hope to dive a bit deeper into the Code changes by discuss the reasoning behind the changes and what they mean for the application of NFPA 1.

The first change I will discuss is new provisions in Chapter 1 that mandate minimum qualifications to enforce the Code. The new text reads as follows:

  • 1.7.2* Minimum Qualifications to Enforce this Code. The AHJ shall establish minimum qualifications for all persons assigned the responsibility of enforcing this Code.
  • Fire inspectors and plans examiners shall meet the minimum professional qualifications established in NFPA 1031.
  • The AHJ shall be authorized to approve alternative qualifications for personnel conducting fire inspections and plan examination if the AHJ determines the individual possesses the knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform the job performance requirements of the position.
  • Fire marshals shall meet the minimum professional qualifications established in NFPA 1037.
  • The AHJ shall be authorized to approve alternative qualifications for personnel performing the position of fire marshal if the AHJ determines the individual possesses the knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform the job performance requirements of the position.


Past editions of the Code contained the language in 1.7.2 which put reliance on the AHJ to establish minimum qualifications for persons whom are responsible for enforcement of NFPA 1. Advisory language in the annex provided suggested NFPA standards which contain information on qualifications of code enforcement personnel. For 2018, new language was added to the body of the Code in subsections through which mandates compliance with the minimum professional qualifications from NFPA 1031, Standard for Professional Qualifications for Fire Inspector and Plan Examiner, for fire inspectors and plans examiners and mandates compliance with NFPA 1037, Standard on Fire Marshal Professional Qualifications, for fire marshals. In both cases, the AHJ can approve alternative qualifications for those serving those roles if the AHJ determines that they possess adequate knowledge and skills to perform the job.


NFPA 1031 identifies the professional levels of performance required for fire inspectors and plan examiners and specifically identifying the job performance requirements necessary to perform as a fire inspector or a plan examiner. It defines three levels of progression for fire inspectors and two levels of progression for plan examiners. Job performance requirements include detailed skills and knowledge that fall under categories of plan review and field inspection.


NFPA 1037 identifies the professional level of performance required for Fire Marshal, specifically identifying the minimum job performance requirements (JPRs) necessary to perform as a Fire Marshal. Chapter 4 of the standard outlines the core job performance requirements of the Fire Marshal including administrative duties, community risk reduction, community relations, and professional development.


It was the committee’s opinion that NFPA 1 has, in past editions, adequately addressed the obligations of design professionals, contractors and owners in order to provide an environment that provides reasonable life safety and property preservation. However, the Code was lacking with addressing the competency of those individuals enforcing the Code. The new language of 1.7.2 shown above helps to ensure the Code is correctly enforced and also makes use of well-established documents published by the NFPA. It provides the necessary guidance to the AHJ as to how to determine competency and qualifications for Code enforcement.


Regarding the NEXT edition of NFPA 1…the Code is now open for public input. This allows anyone (NFPA members, industry experts, committee members, users, AHJs…any and all are welcome and highly encouraged to participate) to submit a proposed change to the Code for consideration by the Fire Code Technical Committee during the upcoming revision cycle. Public inputs received by the closing date of June 27, 2018 will be acted on at the First Draft meeting to be held sometime this fall. You can follow along this next revision cycle at Please remember that it’s your participation that makes our codes and standards better with each edition. We look forward to hearing from you!


Thanks for reading, 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

As an employer in the electrical field, NFPA appreciates your dedication to one of the most rewarding professions. Safety is a top priority for you and everyone on the job and NFPA 70E: Standard for Electrically Safety in the Workplace, can help you make good decisions when it comes to your team.   
As many of you know, the 2018 edition of 70E was recently released. To help you navigate through some of the top changes, we’ve developed a five-part video series hosted by NFPA’s technical experts. In our third video, Chris Coache, NFPA’s senior electrical engineer, reviews Table 130.5(C) – Estimate of the Likelihood of Occurrence of an Arc Flash Incident.  
Table 130.5(C), as Chris points out, is a helpful tool in estimating the probability of an arc flash incident occurring. Scenarios include:  
  • Installing and removing circuit breakers 
  • Taking voltage readings at panelboards and distribution equipment
  • Operation of circuit breakers and disconnecting means 
Chris adds that because of this revision to the table, it can now be used for both the PPE category method and for the incident energy evaluation analysis method when assessing an arc flash risk. Want to learn more? Get the full explanation from Chris below. (NOTE: This clip is part of a pre-recorded full webinar presented in July 2017).    
Let NFPA provide you with everything you need to take your electrical safety skills to the next level with knowledge gained right from the source. Find this information and additional resources related to 70E including articles, blog series, a fact sheet, trainings. products and more, at     
(The mock revision shown in the photo wouldn’t be accepted because it isn’t in mandatory language, although it has merit.) 

We recently released the 2018 edition of the Life Safety Code and its companion Life Safety Code Handbook. (I’m still catching my breath.) The cycle of code revisions never stops, so here we are, ready to start working on the next, the 2021 edition. NFPA 101 is now open for public input, along with a number of other standards in the Annual 2020 revision cycle, which includes NFPA 1, Fire Code, and NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code.


I often tell attendees of NFPA’s Life Safety Code Essentials Seminar that you don’t get to complain about what’s in the code if you don’t participate in the process, similar to not complaining about politicians if you don’t vote. You don’t have to be an NFPA technical committee member to participate. Anyone can participate by submitting public input (PIs) and public comments (PCs) on proposed revisions. NFPA has made the process incredibly easy. Login to the NFPA website, navigate to the appropriate document information page (e.g.,, click on ‘Next Edition’, and click the link to submit a PI or PC. The current code text will come up. All you have to do is type your revisions and a substantiation and you’re done.


The applicable technical committee will review and consider your submittal. Granted, the 2018 edition of NFPA 101 just hit the streets, so chances are you’re not familiar with all the new requirements. If you’re an NFPA member, you can view my one hour 2015 to 2018 NFPA 101 Changes webinar at no charge. The Origin and Development section of the code also provides a summary of the key changes. If I had to narrow it down, I would say the top five changes to the 2018 edition are:


• New requirements for hazardous materials protection that goes beyond fire-related hazards

• Added criteria for door locking to prevent unwanted entry in educational, daycare, and business occupancies to accommodate active-shooter/lockdown emergencies

• New provisions that permit health care and ambulatory health care smoke compartments up to 40,000 ft2 (3720 m2) in area

• New requirements for risk analyses for mass notification systems

• New testing requirements for integrated fire protection and life safety systems in accordance with NFPA 4, Standard for Integrated Fire Protection and Life Safety System Testing


If any of these or any other life safety topics are of interest to you, you’re encouraged to look at the requirements and provide recommended revisions. Our technical committees can’t operate effectively in a vacuum; input from the people directly affected by the code’s requirements is vital.


The clock is ticking; the public input closing date for NFPA 101 is June 27, 2018. If you miss that deadline, any new proposed revisions won’t be able to be considered until the 2024 edition cycle. (That’s a long wait.) Visit our website for more details on the NFPA code development process or to submit public input on NFPA 101.


Thanks for reading, and 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.”


Follow me on Twitter: @NFPAGregH

Honolulu Civil Beat photo


People are simultaneously scratching their heads and breathing a sigh of relief about what occurred in Hawaii this weekend.

What happened? Why is Hawaii insistent on safety drills and test warnings? Why the delay in retracting the alert? How did citizens react?

The notification snafu in Hawaii did not pertain to a building. It was much bigger than that. The incident involved false notification of a statewide threat. Authorities there, however; more than likely used the same process for developing a risk analysis and an emergency response plan that is outlined in NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code.

NFPA 72 addresses the latest safety provisions in fire alarm systems and mass notification systems for fire, terrorist, biological, chemical and nuclear events, active shooter, carbon monoxide, and weather emergencies. It is designed to meet emergency communications demands in individual facilities, multiple buildings operated by one entity, and entire campuses. Colleges, universities and schools often rely on NFPA 72 so that they can optimize campus and community safety, and comply with federal requirements. Military facilities follow the United Facilities Criteria and Chapter 24 of NFPA 72 for designing mass notification systems on military installations. 

The process of informing the masses about threats or hazards typically begins with an in-depth risk analysis of all possible scenarios; the people and processes potentially affected; response elements; communication methods and backups; system pre-programming and shutdowns; and training requirements.


The next step is to devise proactive and reactive plans based on identified risks.


A key part of the plan is communications. In November, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency began a monthly emergency notification drill. It was the first time the state activated an emergency alert program since the Cold War. Notification elements include an alarm that blares for 50-seconds, a 10-second pause, a 50-second wailing sound, and messages being broadcast on TV and radio.

Based on news accounts, it appears that Hawaiian and federal officials fell short in the area of emergency notification back-up plans. What stop gaps were identified for preventing human error or responding in the event of a misstep? What strategies were identified for reversing a warning or updating the public quickly?

Notification protocol was not the only thing called into question in Hawaii. News reports highlighting the human experience during those excruciating 38-minutes – showed that citizens lacked knowledge about what to do during a nuclear event. One concerned parent placed a child in a storm drain to minimize exposure. This reaction underscores how little people know about emergency response, and in particular, the dangers that exist within confined spaces such as storm drains, sewers and manholes. Unless you are properly trained on how and when to enter a confined space for work or for emergency response, it is not prudent to enter one – not even in the midst of utter chaos and concern.


The harrowing false alarm in Hawaii reinforces the need for local, federal and facility authorities to ensure that they have a solid mass notification system in place. It also emphasizes the need for governments and emergency response agencies to educate citizens about ways to protect themselves and shelter during emergency events, including nuclear blasts. As evidenced in Hawaii this past weekend, the public needs to know what to do when catastrophes threaten so that they can keep themselves and their loved ones safe.


The Boston Fire Department has released the fourth video in a series addressing firefighter contamination and occupational cancer. The most recent video, Fighting Back, shows powerful vignettes from survivors, firehouse colleagues, a Boston-area doctor, Commissioner Joe Finn and Mayor Marty Walsh.

Throughout the ten-minute clip the city’s first responders share their personal experiences, diagnoses, the traumatic toll that cancer has had on them and their loved ones, and the new safety perspectives they are embracing and advocating for today.

Since 2015, BFD has creatively shared health and safety statistics and messages with the global fire community and the general public through their Take No Smoke campaign.

BFD’s initial video focused on the toll that cancer has taken in the ranks of their department. It had an emotional impact on the fire service and the average Joe.

The second piece shed light on the prevention measures that firefighters need to take to ensure that they are safer from the carcinogens that lurk in their PPE, equipment, apparatus and firehouses.

In December, the third installation debuted with 40-year-old Boston firefighter Glenn Preston in the spotlight. A married father of four children under the age of 10, Preston is in the fight of his life. NFPA Journal’s May 2017 issue covered Preston’s journey in an article called, Facing Cancer.

Boston has made firefighter contamination and cancer their mission these past few years by developing emotionally-charged videos; by working with Dana Farber on researching firehouse hazards; and by adopting a tactical approach to health and safety. Boston is certainly not alone in this fight. NFPA, national fire organizations, and authorities in communities from North Carolina, to Texas, to Florida, and in wildfire territories are passionately looking at ways to protect the nation’s first responders.

The January 2018 issue of NFPA News, our free monthly codes and standards newsletter, is now available.
In this issue:
  • NFPA 3000 proceeds in an expedited process
  • Public input being sought on new documents NFPA 78 and 1078
  • Proposed Tentative Interim Amendments (TIAs) seeking comments on NFPA 31, NFPA 99, and NFPA 130
  • Issued and not issued TIAs
  • Committees seeking members
  • Committees seeking public input and public comment
  • 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. 


In 2015, NFPA introduced a first-of-its-kind Energy Storage System (ESS) Safety Training Program for the United States fire service, thanks to support from FEMA. The training was developed with the support of several first responder organizations, FDNY, DNV-GL, and the California Energy Storage Alliance, a 90-firm energy ESS membership organization. FEMA has granted another two-year grant to NFPA so that ESS training can be updated and promoted to the nation’s 1.1 million firefighters.


The new program will address pre-incident planning; tactical training; hazards involved with many common battery chemistries; extinguishing techniques to minimize re-ignition; an overview of residential and commercial systems; photovoltaic safety training; and standards alignment. Training will be delivered via train-the-trainer, classroom, online self-paced, and virtual live instructional mediums using interactive animations and scenario simulations, educational videos, and quick reference materials. The new grant effort coincides with the work that NFPA’s Technical Committee is doing to develop NFPA 855 Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems.




For several years now, the energy sector has been experiencing a revolution. According to GTM research, by 2022 the U.S. energy storage market is expected to be worth $3.1 billion, which would be a 9-fold increase from 2016 levels. This trend comes at a time when tens of millions of New York, Massachusetts, and California residents are facing the imminent shutdown of nuclear power plants that provide significant power. In response to this impending deficit, the aforementioned states plus Texas, Oregon, Colorado, and Hawaii, have already mandated widespread ESS deployment.


High power battery energy storage systems (BESS) are comprised of hundreds or even thousands of smaller battery cells, similar to those found in cell phones and hover boards. These systems are often connected to a micro grid that houses power reserves. The idea of less expensive commercial power from solar panels or wind farms - that can be used, stored and available during peak hours or blackouts - is very attractive to business leaders and consumers.


The U.S. fire service, however; has little experience with potential ESS hazards and response scenarios involving these high-powered systems. This lack of knowledge could potentially pose risks to the public and first responders. As part of the ESS training revision process, NFPA is set to host a free BESS Safety Summit in Denver, Colorado on February 7, 2018 where stakeholders can review, discuss and validate fire service tactics and best practices.


NFPA first identified firefighters’ vulnerability to ESS incidents after reviewing the U.S. Department of Energy’s “ESS Strategic Plan” in December 2014. The organization has been working collaboratively with a host of subject matter experts to provide information and knowledge to the fire service and others ever since.

NFPA 3000, Standard for Preparedness and Response to Active Shooter and/or Hostile Events, is seeking public input on its preliminary draft. This preliminary draft allows the public to review and submit any suggested revisions prior to its publication.

NFPA 3000 provides the minimum criteria for the level of competence required for responders organizing, managing, and sustaining an active shooter and/or hostile event preparedness and response program based on the authority having jurisdiction’s (AHJ) function and assessed level of risk. The standard covers: a review of the laws; regulations; consensus standards; guidance documents; guidance for risk assessment; training materials; active shooter response planning; resource management; staffing, training, and financial management; medical treatment modalities; and information on resiliency, recovery, and developing relationships. NFPA 3000 applies to any community, AHJ, facility, and member of any organization who responds to or prepares for active shooter and/or hostile events.

To submit a public input using the online submission system, go directly to the NFPA 3000 document information page or use the list of NFPA codes & standards. Once on the NFPA 3000 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.

The deadline for submitting public input for this new standard is February 23, 2018.


Building security and life safety from fire have polar opposite objectives. The former is to make it as difficult as possible to get in or out of a building, and the latter is to make it as easy as possible. While NFPA 101 recognizes the need to provide security for occupants’ safety (especially now given the “new normal”), life safety from fire must also be maintained. This is a tricky balancing act. Many lives have been lost in fires due to locked or otherwise compromised egress doors.


During my recent NFPA Live presentation I provided an overview of the Code’s egress door requirements and the provisions that allow for special locking arrangements, including requirements that are new to the 2018 edition addressing classroom door locking to prevent unwanted entry.


During the live event we received this follow-up questions from a member. I'm now sharing it with you. I hope you find some value in it.

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 451, Guide for Community Health Care Programs, 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 Guide provides direction for planning, preparing, implementing, and evaluating community health care programs to agencies supporting the emergency medical services (EMS) mission in an effort to meet the changing needs of the communities they serve. NFPA 451 provides a framework for the design and evaluation of comprehensive community health care programs based in local EMS systems that may include disparate elements of government and/or various disciplines of the private sector. The foundation of this document is based on multiple references, including NHTSA’s publication, Emergency Medical Services: Agenda for the Future.

The deadline for submitting public input for this new standard is March 7, 2018.

To view the preliminary draft and submit a public input using the online submission system, go directly to the NFPA 451 document information page or use the list of NFPA codes & standards. Once on the NFPA 451 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.

Keeping sufficiently warm during the winter months can prove challenging, particularly when frigid temperatures persist, as they have recently for much of the country. While portable space heaters can help generate heat, NFPA is reminding the public that they do present potential fire hazards and must be used with caution.


Between 2011 and 2015, portable and stationary space heaters accounted for more than two of every five (43 percent) U.S. home heating fires and five out of six (85 percent) home heating fire deaths.

To use portable space heaters safely, make sure they are placed a minimum of three feet away from anything that can burn (that includes people and pets). They should never be left unattended, and must be turned off when people leave the room or go to sleep.

According to NFPA’s latest U.S. Home Fires Involving Heating Equipment report, which was released today, heating equipment is the second-leading cause of U.S. home fires and the third-leading cause of home fire deaths. More than half (53 percent) of all home heating fire deaths resulted from fires that began when heating equipment was too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses or bedding.

Following are important home heating safety tips and recommendations for the colder months ahead:

  • Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
  • Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
  • Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
  • Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
  • Install wood burning stoves following manufacturer’s instructions or have a professional do the installation. All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
  • Install and maintain CO alarms to avoid the risk of CO poisoning. If you smell gas in your gas heater, do not light the appliance. Leave the home immediately and call your local fire department or gas company.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.


You can also check out “Put a Freeze on Winter Fires,” our annual campaign with the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), which provides a wealth of information and resources to help reduce the risk of home fires during the heating season.

John Portman, a famous  architect who had a major impact on hotel design in the U.S., died in the last week of 2017. Portman was the architect who realized the atrium in commercial and hotel buildings – not only in design but in construction methods.  
But the obituary I read didn't mention that, in fact, John Portman had one of the largest impacts on our building codes in the 20th century. John wasn't a fire safety professional; in fact, like many architects he saw fire safety regulation as a barrier to innovation. He had grand spaces in mind; building codes at the time were based primarily on the concept of compartmentation, the antithesis of grand soaring spaces.  In particular, opening up stories in a high rise building, effectively removing horizontal compartmentation, violated many of the basic tenets of the building codes at the time. But John was a determined innovator and by working with fire protection engineers and building authorities to develop alternative means to provide equivalent safety, he persevered in his desire to create beautiful large interior spaces in public buildings.  

These alternative means included fire sprinklers, smoke management systems, and other features which are now common in fire safety design and code requirements in highrise structures. His determination not only enabled a new form of urban architecture, but it also opened the door for a more scientific approach toward the development of fire safety design and building codes which has been applied to other innovations in building design. His signature design, Atlanta's Peachtree Center, the first Hyatt Hotel that featured a Portman designed atrium, was arguably the gateway to a revitalization in U.S. downtown urban environments. And for us, in the fire safety community, particularly at a time when once again fundamental tenets of our building codes (for example combustible facades and construction for highrise buildings) are being challenged, it's a reminder that we need to keep pace with building innovation with innovation in our own understanding and application of the principles of fire safety engineering.  
To explore how NFPA’s life safety code addresses Portman’s innovation, please read my colleague Greg Harrington's recent blog: #101 Wednesdays: Soaring to new heights - atriums and the Life Safety Code.
Photo: John Portman & Associates website

In my recent NFPA Live Chad Duffy — NFPA's Senior Fire Protection Specialist — and I discussed fire pump power supply requirements and the intersection of NFPA 20, Standard for the Installation of Stationary Pumps for Fire Protection
and the NFPA 70, National Electrical Code®.


During the live event we received this follow-up questions from a member. I'm now sharing it with you. I hope you find some value in it.

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!

Download and share this new fact sheet


Hostile events are our sad, new reality. Active shootings and mass killings fill our news feeds on a regular basis.


According to the FBI, the U.S. witnessed 160 hostile events that killed 486 and wounded 557 (not including suspect injuries or deaths) from 2000-2013. These tragic incidents robbed families of loved ones and citizens of their peace of mind – and challenged first responders, healthcare providers and facility managers.


During the years 2014 and 2015, there were 40 incidents that resulted in 231 casualties not including perpetrator outcomes.


Then over the course of less than 17 months, from June 2016 through November 2017, three outliers created more than half of the bloodshed that occurred from 2000 through 2013 during just three active shooter incidents in Orlando, Las Vegas and Texas. Let that sink in – over 50% of the havoc previously inflicted during the course of 13 years, occurred in less than a year and a half in our country. In fact, two of the deadliest tragedies on record happened within 5 weeks of each other.


For only the second time in NFPA’s 121-year history, provisional standard status has been authorized by the NFPA Standards Council for NFPA 3000, Standard for Preparedness and Response to Active Shooter and/or Hostile Events. As part of the standards process, NFPA 3000 is now open for input until February 23, 2018. NFPA 3000 may be available for use as early as this April.

The 46-member Technical Committee includes authorities from the fire service, law enforcement, EMS, federal agencies, healthcare, private security, universities, and local jurisdictions, among others. Participants are sharing front line lessons and operational insight as they strive to produce the first national standard on active shooter and hostile events. The document will provide a framework for organizations around the world to establish protocols that are aligned with unified response strategies.


Representatives from the Department of Homeland Security; Department of Justice; the FBI; NSA; emergency response agencies, and others have established the preparedness, response and recovery benchmarks with a focus on civilian and responder safety. Learn more about NFPA 3000, and take action by:


  • providing input on NFPA 3000;
  • downloading and sharing the new NFPA 3000 fact sheet;
  • accessing the full draft text of the proposed standard online for free; and
  • following the development of NFPA 3000 by receiving updates as soon as they are available


Our world is changing. It’s critical that we take steps to protect people from today’s threats – and that you let your voice be heard during the process.

NFPA 770, Standard on Hybrid (Water and Inert Gas) Fire Extinguishing Systems, is seeking public inputs on its preliminary draft, which is presented for public review prior to publication as a First Draft Report.

NFPA 770 is prepared for the use and guidance of those charged with the purchasing, designing, installing, testing, inspecting, approving, listing, operating, or maintaining of hybrid fire-extinguishing systems, in order that such equipment will function as intended throughout its life.

To view the preliminary draft and submit public input for NFPA 770, visit and select the "Submit a Public Input" link 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 online submission system, a chat feature is available or contact us by email or phone at 1-800-344-3555.

The closing date for submission of public inputs for this document is June 27, 2018.

NFPA 78, Guide on Electrical Inspections, and NFPA 1078, Standard for Electrical Inspector Professional Qualifications, are seeking public inputs on their preliminary drafts. These preliminary drafts allow the public to review and submit any suggested revisions prior to the publication as First Draft Reports.

NFPA 78 is designed to produce a systematic, working framework or outline by which an effective electrical inspection can be accomplished. It contains specific procedures to assist in the inspection process. These procedures represent the judgment developed from the NFPA consensus process system that, if followed, can improve the probability of protecting persons and property from the hazards arising from the use of electricity.

NFPA 1078 specifies the minimum job performance requirements for serving as an electrical inspector. This standard shall be to ensure that personnel serving as electrical inspectors are qualified.

To view the preliminary drafts and submit pubic inputs for NFPA 78 and NFPA 1078, go to or and select the "Submit a Public Input" link 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 online submission system, a chat feature is available or contact us by email or phone at 1-800-344-3555.
The closing date for submission of public inputs for both documents is February 14, 2018.


The NFPA and Fire Protection Research Foundation are working on several projects related to Energy Storage Systems (ESS) including research reports, training for first responders, and the development of standards. These projects are highlighted in a recent article by Utility Drive, a utility news outlet that caters to busy industry professionals.

The piece looks at NFPA 855, the Standard on the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems, as well as other efforts that NFPA, the Fire Department of New York City (FDNY), and UL are undertaking to help build a safety foundation for the ESS industry.

The article features comments from Davion Hill of DNVG who is involved with several of the NFPA projects listed above as well as insight from Ken Boyce from UL, who is collaborating with NFPA on the development of energy storage safety standards. Representatives from NFPA are also working closely with FDNY leaders on several different projects to optimize the well-being of the general public and champion first responder safety.

ESS is not new and it's certainly not going away. Feel free to use the comment box below to ask questions or to start a discussion. 


You who read this blog are a curious bunch. When I write that a consensus standard is the minimum of what is expected of you, comments pour in that a standard is a best practice or that requirements would never be the absolute safest. Then when I post that you must first attempt to eliminate a hazard, the comments pour in from the other direction. A hazard cannot be eliminated so just start at the next control or that is no need to even consider elimination as an option. Some of the comments regarding both blogs are from the same people even though the concepts being discussed are contradictory. 
I commend all of you who go beyond the minimum requirements. Whether you realize it or not, most of you do exceed the requirements.  I also typically exceed the requirements of a standard. However, when someone asks me about the specific use of a standard, my answers are limited to the requirements of the standard. I can only mention that additional steps, actions or requirements may be prudent.  Why do I say that it is a contradiction to have a mindset that a standard is the most you can do yet think elimination is not possible? Why can’t it be both ways?
NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace® currently protects employees from two defined electrical hazards; shock and arc-flash. What voltage level is necessary for a shock hazard to exist? A shock hazard in NFPA 70E is defined as a source of possible injury or damage to health associated with current through the body caused by contact or approach to energized electrical conductors or circuit parts. This definition includes an informational note that injury and damage to health resulting from shock is dependent on the magnitude of the electrical current, the power source frequency (e.g., 60 Hz, 50 Hz, dc), and the path and time duration of current through the body. The physiological reaction ranges from perception, muscular contractions, inability to let go, ventricular fibrillation, tissue burns, and death.  
The consensus standard does not require that an electrically safe work condition be established when the voltage is less than 50 volts. There are no specified approach boundaries so there are no approach boundaries to drive the need for an energized work permit.  There are no boundaries to base the need for shock protection. Below 50 volts, the shock risk assessment must determine if there is a risk of an arc-flash or electrical burns. If these additional hazards are not present, NFPA 70E does not require that the equipment be shut off or that PPE be used. Does this mean that you cannot be electrocuted or even suffer a shock at a voltage less than 50 volts? No, either may could occur under the right conditions. In the field, what constitutes a shock hazard is often different than what a standard considers a shock hazard. Other conditions may need consideration and you may determine that a shock hazard exists at a lower voltage for your assigned task. This fact emphasizes the need for a proper risk assessment before beginning any task. 
The same holds true for the arc-flash hazard. Below 1.2 cal/cm2, there is no arc-flash boundary. There is no requirement to provide arc-flash protection. Does this mean that the employee will not be injured below this minimum energy level?  No, a burn injury may still occur at a lower incident energy but the injury is considered to be at an acceptable level. You may want to have all employees wear FR clothing as everyday work gear to protect from energy levels not addressed by the standard. 
Your shock and risk assessments must determine if a hazard and risk of injury exists when conducting a task under your specific conditions. Barring any onsite circumstances, below the specified shock and arc-flash thresholds, a hazard may not exist if you follow the minimum requirements. Only you can decide the need for protection at a voltage or incident energy level below that required by the consensus standard. Thankfully, most of you go beyond the standard in this area. However, without attempting to first eliminate the electrical hazards, risk assessments are falling short of what is obligatory under the minimum requirements of the consensus standard. 
For more information on 70E, read my entire 70E blog series on Xchange.  
Next time: A lockout quiz.
Exciting news, everyone! Preparing for your CFI-I Certification has never been easier! NFPA is now offering a Certified Fire Inspector - I (CFI-I) Practice Exam!  fire inspectors
The CFI-I Practice Exam is 100 questions and exam uses retired CFI-1 exam questions, or new practice questions written specifically for this product so now you can prepare more effectively for the certification exam than ever before. When you take the practice exam, you will get feedback on which answers were answered right and wrong, which domain from the exam blueprint each question is testing on, and where in the NFPA code books you can go to find more information on the topic. This practice exam is applicable to both the 2012 NFPA Code Set and the 2015 NFPA Code Set. 
The new CFI-I Practice Exam went on sale at the end of December 2017 for $75 to non-members (NFPA members get a 10% discount) and is available for purchase through the NFPA catalog.   
Marriott Marquis New York designed by John Portman. Image via Wikimedia Commons
During NFPA’s winter shutdown between Christmas and New Year’s, I stumbled upon a New York Times obituary for architect John Portman, a pioneer of the modern atrium building design and a true visionary. Mr. Portman was famous for designing Hyatt hotels with soaring atriums, including the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta’s Peachtree Center, the first of its kind. When it was built, this Hyatt defied accepted building design practices.
 A fundamental tenet of building codes at the time and today, including what’s in the Life Safety Code, is to compartmentalize buildings to prevent the effects of fire from spreading beyond the floor of origin, allowing occupants remote from the fire adequate time to evacuate. Atrium design scuttles that notion by opening up the building interior, allowing multiple floors to communicate amongst each other. This radical departure from conventional building design necessitated cooperation between the designers, code officials, and fire protection engineers to develop alternative means of compliance. As noted by Kathleen Almand, NFPA's vice president of Research, Data, and Analytics, in a recent blog she wrote to NFPA staff, “These alternative means included fire sprinklers, smoke management systems, and other features which are now common in fire safety design and code requirements in high-rise structures … (Portman’s) determination opened the door for a more scientific approach toward the development of fire safety design and building codes, which has been applied to other innovations in building design.” 
The proliferation of atrium buildings in the 1970s and 1980s meant codes like the Life Safety Code needed to adapt so as to not hinder innovation, but still maintain the required level of safety for occupants. Requirements for atriums first appeared in the 1981 edition of the code as an exception to the requirement for the enclosure of floor openings. At the time, the requirements included: 
  • a minimum opening dimension of not less than 20 feet and an area of not less than 1000 square feet
  • automatic sprinklers throughout the building
  • an engineered smoke control system acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ), with factors such as means of egress and smoke control of adjacent spaces considered
  • separation from the remainder of the building by one-hour fire barriers or glass walls with closely spaced sprinklers, with an allowance for up to three stories open to the atrium 
The 1981 edition included in Annex A prescriptive criteria for smoke removal systems, which were permitted in lieu of engineered smoke control systems. These criteria did not, however, take into consideration the anticipated fire size based on the actual fuel load, the time to egress based on the anticipated occupant load, or the physical building configuration. Fire and egress modeling was in its infancy in 1981, and the computing power needed to perform complex calculations was available only to a select few. It was a start, and it was based on the best information available at the time. 
Times have changed. Today most of us carry around more computing power in our pockets than was carried into space on the first space shuttle. Fire protection engineers today have access to powerful computational fluid dynamics fire models that can predict fire and smoke spread in buildings based on the actual building configuration and fuel load. Egress models also continue to evolve and can be used to predict where building occupants will be when the effects of fire might potentially impact a specific area.  
Because no two atrium building designs are the same, the 1988 edition of the Life Safety Code deleted the prescriptive smoke removal system criteria in favor of an engineered approach specific to the building design. In the 1997 edition, the minimum size requirements were removed, and an allowance for an unlimited number of stories to be open to the atrium was added based on a required engineering analysis. The engineering analysis was required to demonstrate that the building was designed to keep the smoke layer interface above the highest unprotected opening to adjoining spaces, or six feet (1.85 meters) above the highest floor level of exit access open to the atrium for a time period equal to 1.5 times the calculated egress time or 20 minutes, whichever was greater.
The Life Safety Code requirements for atriums haven’t changed much since the 1997 edition. Over the last 20 years, however, the tools to perform the required engineering analysis have matured, and the fire protection engineers who utilize them have gained invaluable experience. John Portman’s legacy will live on in every new atrium building. More importantly, perhaps, his legacy will also live on in the partnership between building designers, AHJs, and standards development organizations as codes like NFPA 101 continue to undergo revisions to promote, and not hinder, advancements in innovative building design. 
Thanks for reading, and 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.” Follow me on Twitter: @NFPAGregH

If you're a fire service professional who would like to learn more about the science of how homes ignite during a wildfire but your department has limited resources at this time for you to host a training, now is the time to apply. NFPA is offering three FEMA funded trainings in 2018 called "Assessing Structure Ignition Potential from Wildfire (ASIP)." The trainings for ASIP (formerly known as HIZ, or high ignition zones) will address the science of how homes ignite during a wildfire, and how you can share that knowledge with homeowners who want to improve their wildfire safety.


The application period for the first class, which will be held in San Diego, California on February 6-7 is now open, and is limited to 35 students. Applications will be accepted on a first come, first serve basis; you must be working for a local or state department as a fire service professional to qualify. For accepted applicants, the funding will cover all costs of the training, including materials, lodging and travel.


The skills you gain will enable you to share with residents in your community about how they can better prepare their families, homes, and properties from wildfire. There will be two other training opportunities in 2018, including one in Denver, Colorado, April 24-25, and another at NFPA headquarters in Quincy, Massachusetts, May 8-9. The application period for the Denver training will open on February 12; the application period for Quincy will open on March 19.


Students who have taken the training have told us how it has helped them not only be able to better share with their community members what their risks are, but also to make suggestions about how they can take simple steps to make their homes safer in the event of a wildfire. According to a student who participated in our Santa Fe training, “The training is fantastic. Having the science foundations makes the class more viable!”

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