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2018

The updated 2018 edition of the NFPA Glossary of Terms (GOT) has been published and is available for free online. Visit www.nfpa.org/got to download your copy.

 

The GOT is a list of the defined terms in all of NFPA's published codes, standards, guides and recommended practices. Over 18,000 terms are listed alphabetically and assembled into a free PDF available on the NFPA website. The document is used in a number of ways. It helps NFPA Technical Committees who are looking to define new terms or compare existing terms. It also helps members of the public who are interested in learning about how NFPA documents define specific terms. The GOT contains the following details about each term:

  • Term: The word being defined.
  • Definition: The description of the term.
  • Document (Edition): Where the term and definition are found (document #) and the edition year of that document.
  • Document Defining Same Term: A list of all documents that also define the same term.
  • Document Using Same Definition: A list of all documents that also define the same term in the exact same way

 

See the figure below for an example of how the GOT is organized. The term "Barrel" is defined in three documents: NFPA 1, NFPA 30, and NFPA 80. NFPA 1 and NFPA 30 both define the term in the exact same way. The first two definitions refer to a unit of volume while the last definition, from NFPA 80, refers to a rolling steel door component. To learn more about any of the documents defining a term, visit the NFPA Document Information Pages at https://www.nfpa.org/insert doc #. For example, NFPA 80 can be found at www.nfpa.org/80.

 

 

NFPA 1975, Standard on Emergency Services Work Clothing Elements, specifies the requirements for the thermal stability of station wear (garments under bunker gear), which affects the burn protection provided by this apparel. However, we speculate that the fire service is generally unaware of the risk associated with the use of non-certified NFPA garments, including synthetic fabrics, and that firefighters are wearing garments under bunker gear that are putting them at risk to burns and chemical exposure.


To more accurately assess this level of awareness, the Fire Protection Research Foundation is conducting a project that helps clarify what garments are safe for the fire service to wear, and those that present potential risks. As part of our Student Project Initiative, we're working in coordination with Florida State University to collect supporting data. A questionnaire was sent to fire departments across North America, asking firefighters about the station gear they wear, why they choose it, and their awareness of potential risks associated with non-NFPA 1975 certified garments. The university, which is hosting and collecting the data, received over 1,700 responses.


Visit the Research Foundation's project page to learn more about this project, or feel free to contact me with questions or comments at dgorham@nfpa.org

The 2018 NFPA Standards Directory is now available for download. The directory contains standards development information, including:

  • an overview of the standards development process;
  • the Regulations Governing the Development of NFPA Standards, Technical Meeting Convention Rules, and other procedures;
  • members of NFPA's Board of Directors, Standards Council, Advisory Committees, and Committees (with scope and responsibilities); and
  • additional contact information and resources.

 

The NFPA Standards Directory is your guide to NFPA’s standards development process - download it for free today!

Last month, a Japanese company named Sumitomo Forestry announced conceptual plans to build the world’s tallest wooden building in Tokyo. The 70-story, 350-meter mixed-use skyscraper would use about 185,000 cubic meters of timber and cost an estimated $5.6 billion to build, according to the company, which is targeting a 2041 completion date. 
While it’s too early to know if the project will actually ever be completed, the Tokyo “woodscraper” is just the latest and most eye-popping of a linty of tall wooden building projects that have been completed or contemplated in recent years. Those include a proposed 34-story building in Stockholm, and a 19 story wood building in Vancouver. Last year, the current world’s tallest wooden building, an 18-story, 174-foot-tall dormitory tower, opened at the University of British Columbia.
While architects and environmentalists tout wood’s strength, versatility, and sustainability, some worry how these structures withstand fire. The concerns are that the timber construction could increase the fire load, impact fire growth rate, and could possibly overwhelm suppression systems.  
To help answer some of those questions, the Fire Protection Research Foundation has undertaken a project called the “Fire Safety Challenges of Tall Wooden Buildings.” Phase 2 of that project, which consisted of six large-scale test burns, was released last week.
For Phase 2, researchers from the National Research Council of Canada and the National Institute of Standards and Technology teamed up to find out how exposed mass timber in a residential dwellings might impact fire behavior. The researchers built essentially six simulated studio apartments—each 30 feet long, 15 feet wide, and nine feet high—with four walls and a ceiling. Each was filled with typical modern furnishings.
The rooms, or compartments as their known, were made of 175-mm thick five-ply cross-laminated timber panels (CLT) panels. CLT, perhaps the most popular material used in mass timber construction, generally consists of three to seven layers of timber boards crisscrossed and bonded together with glue for maximum strength. In most tall wooden structures, interior CLT panels are covered in gypsum board to add a level of fire protection, however design trends could eventually lead architects to leave the timbers partially exposed. Fire protection researchers wanted to know what those exposed boards could mean for fire growth, heat release, toxicity, and other factors.
“We have limited information on compartment fires in these types of buildings, so it was a knowledge gap that we were looking to fill,” said Amanda Kimball, the research director at the FPRF.
Each of the simulated studio apartments in the burn tests had varying levels of exposed wood—two rooms had one wall with exposed boards, one had a ceiling exposed, and one had both. Two of the rooms were fully encapsulated in gypsum board, and were burned to form a baseline measurement. In two of the four tests, researchers adjusted the amount of ventilation in the room to see how that would impact the fire.
Ultimately, researchers found that the exposed timber did influence the way the fire behaved.
“In all tests with exposed CLT surface(s), flashover occurred approximately three to five minutes earlier than the two baseline tests (i.e., ≈ 15 min),” the report concludes. “The peak compartment temperatures were similar to the baseline. However, the heat release rates and heat fluxes to the exterior facade were higher than the baseline.”
Kimball noted that the tests did not include fire sprinkler systems, which would be required in any tall wooden residential building. The data collected from the tests, however, will inform “the fire service, codes and standards bodies, designers, and insurers about possible risks with these structures,” Kimball said.
There are no plans currently for a phase three study, but several knowledge gaps still remain. Two of those include how the connectors that hold the timber elements together perform in fire; there are also questions about how holes in the wooden panels—cut to allow for passage of cables, HVAC, and other systems—might affect fire behavior. As tall wooden buildings become more popular, studies to answer these and other questions are underway around the world, Kimball said.
NFPA Journal published a feature on the fire and life safety considerations of tall wooden buildings, and other novel types of building design and construction in a 2017 feature, “Different by Design.” In addition to tall wooden buildings, the article details a slew of other designs including pencil buildings, shipping container buildings, tiny homes, and a skyscraper in Miami with a built-in car elevator. 

No further detail is needed to understand that the events that took place last week in Parkland, Florida were horrific and devastating.  It will no doubt have an impact on building and occupant safety going forward and the issues that our Codes face in the future. 

 

As both a mom and fire protection engineer I find myself bouncing back between thoughts…from ”I’ll do whatever it takes to keep kids safe” to “I need to be smart and think about fire safety, too”.

 

How do we keep our children secure in schools (and malls, and movie theaters, and concert venues) but how do we keep them, and all occupants, fire safe, too?  It’s easy to react and let emotion take over but I can’t let the clear need for increased security result in overriding other safety issues that can put occupants at risk, such as fire, and the issues that could arise by not thinking about consequence of emotional reactions.  This is a battle we, as fire safety professionals, will continue to address, especially in light of current events, during the upcoming Code development cycle for NFPA 1.  How can we further integrate provisions for security while achieving that safe balance with life safety from fire and other emergencies?  It’s a discussion I wish we didn’t have to have, but one that I am looking forward to participating in to make positive and impactful changes in our Codes.

 

A facility’s emergency action plan (EAP) is a critical component to being prepared for a (hopefully unlikely) emergency.  A coordinated effort, via the execution of an EAP, can no doubt contribute to a more successful response and outcome during and after an emergency.  NFPA 1, Fire Code, requires in Section 10.8.1 that emergency action plans be provided for high-rise, health care, ambulatory health care, residential board and care, assembly, day-care centers, special amusement buildings, hotels and dormitories, detention and correctional occupancies, educational, underground and windowless structures, facilities storing or handling materials addressed in Chapter 60 (hazardous materials), or anywhere required by the local AHJ.  The Code is a minimum.  Nothing prohibits a building that may not be listed above from developing their own emergency action plan.

 

The details regarding the emergency action plans are extracted from NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, whose Technical Committee on Fundamentals manages the requirements for what should be included in the emergency action plan in Chapter 4 of that Code.  A minimum of (7) items must be addressed in a facility’s EAP:

  1. Procedures for reporting of emergencies
  2. Occupant and staff response to emergencies
  3. *Evacuation, relocation and shelter-in-place procedures appropriate to the building, its occupancy, emergencies, and hazards
  4. Appropriateness of the use of elevators
  5. Design and conduct of fire drills
  6. Type and coverage of building fire protection systems
  7. Other items required by the AHJ

 

EAPs are to be submitted to the AHJ for review, if required, and must be reviewed and updated also as required by the AHJ.  Provided in the Code is lengthy Annex language to supplement the provisions for the emergency action plans.  While the Code mandates a minimum of (7) items that every EAP should address, it also provides a list of (18) additional items that should be considered in preparing an EAP (See NFPA 1, A.10.2.8.1).  These items include, for example: roles and responsibilities, procedures specific to each type of emergency, assisting people with disabilities, training, documentation, inspection and maintenance of building’s life safety features, drills, and post-event planning and review.  EAPs will be and should be different for each facility.  While fire is one of the prominent emergencies that the Code addresses these EAPs will address any likely emergency that a building may encounter.

 

In my opinion, one of the most important details of an EAP, and even more so I believe after last week’s tragedy, is identifying and describing the appropriate evacuation strategies for each emergency event.  Evacuation may be specific to the building, its occupants and occupancy and the types of emergency.  The referenced Annex section contains an abundance of information to provide to building owners or inspectors when developing and reviewing EAPs. It is assumed that a majority of buildings will use a total evacuation strategy during a fire, the primary emergency addressed by the Code. But, evacuation from a building could occur for reasons other than a fire, and for those events, careful consideration should be given to evacuation strategies.  I encourage all who read this to also read the information in A.10.8.2.1 to further your knowledge and understanding about the types of evacuation strategies, what’s appropriate, and how to manage and implement such strategies. 

 

Requiring an EAP is just one piece of the Code that can address both security and safety from fire.  NFPA is also furthering its efforts to address security and hostile acts with the development of a new standard, NFPA 3000.  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 and will provide 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.  Please check out the document information page for further information on the scope and development of this important document.

 

Do you have ideas for how the Code can improve its requirements for emergency action plans?  Have you worked with facilities in developing, implementing or reviewing EAPs?  Please leave a comment below, your ideas can impact the next edition of the Fire Code.  You may also submit any proposed changes online here.

 

If you've played the NEC Challenge App, then you have answered the questions, competed against electrical code fanatics from around the country and improved your NEC knowledge. But do you have what it takes to come up with the actual questions for the Challenge? If so, NFPA has a way for you to join in its creation. If you can send an email; you can be participate! NEC Challenge

 

How? It's easy. Just submit your questions to NECChallengeQs@nfpa.org. Questions should be submitted in  a word document attached to the email, and they must meet the following criteria for consideration:

  • Multiple choice with four (4) options
  • Word document must contain the question, choices, and the correct answer
  • Only one correct answer choice (no "pick all that apply")
  • Answer should include a brief explanation (2-3 sentences)
  • General knowledge categories are best
  • Questions that involve calculations are not a good idea

 

Keep in mind that selected questions will be entered in the NEC Challenge App game and contestants only have a limited time to answer. Also, this is not the place to submit questions for NFPA technical experts; these questions are best handled by calling 1-800-344-3555 and submitting your question through NFPA's technical question service. Please note that the technical question service is available to NFPA members and AHJs. 

 

So what are you waiting for? Get your questions in today and be part of the NEC Challenge!

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Making matters worse for the millions of Americans who lost their homes to hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters in 2017 are hundreds of thousands of fraudsters trying to capitalize on their losses. The Economist reported earlier this month that more than 200,000 applications for disaster aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are suspected to be fraudulent. 
As I reported in the current issue of NFPA Journal, about 4.7 million Americans registered for federal disaster aid in 2017, a tenfold jump from 2016–a result of the three massive hurricanes that pummeled parts of Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico in late summer and the deadly Western wildfires that followed in the fall.  My colleague Jesse Roman and I covered the hurricanes extensively in a package called "Storm Season," which appeared in the November/December 2017 issue of NFPA Journal
According to The Economist, it's unclear if there's a link between the fraudulent disaster aid claims and the 2017 Equifax data breach, which compromised the personal information of more than 143 million Americans, although experts say it could have made disaster victims' information more accessible. An FBI task force has been formed to investigate fraudulent claims related to the northern California wildfires. Visit FEMA's disaster fraud page for information on how to prevent fraud and what to do if you think you're a victim of fraud. 
Since this blog is dedicated to NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace®, readers should be aware that it is time to submit a public input to improve electrical safety for all employees. The public input process is now open for the 2021 edition of the standard. As an industry we must be doing something right. There were over 580 electrocutions in 1981 whereas there were 134 electrocutions in 2015 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and its precursor. But there is still work to be done. You are in the field applying the requirements of NFPA 70E and regulations set by OSHA. You have seen what works and what doesn’t. You may have been injured and have idea on how to prevent it from happening to someone else. 
Submit a public input to the standard if you think it needs a change or to address an electrical safety issue not currently covered. NFPA has a process for you to do this for each of its standards. When you submit a public input, you will need to provide technical substantiation why the change is worthy of being made. “Because it seems to make sense to me” or “that is how I apply the requirement” are not sufficient. Make sure you know how to correctly apply the requirements because using the standard wrong does not warrant a change no matter how many people ignore the current requirements. Provide supporting documentation if available.To submit a public input using the online submission system, go directly to the NFPA 70E document information page. Once on the NFPA 70E 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.
Contrary to what you may think or have been told, it is you who plays a role in the standard’s development. It is not arbitrary by the technical committee. It is also not dictated by any specific interest since each NFPA committee can only have set number of manufacturers, installers, users, enforcers, etc. It takes many different views before a requirement is added or an old one changed. The public has a say in accepting the changes to an NFPA standard. If you really feel your change is important there are steps you can follow to make sure it has received due consideration and public review. However, for there to be improvements in safety there must be inputs submitted by you.  If you want to witness part of the process, please come to the first draft meeting in St. Louis during the week of August 11-18th, 2018. You will be able to find out more when the meeting notice information is posted under the “Next Edition” tab. It is not posted yet so please check back.
One thing to remember is that NFPA 70E is not a “how to” manual for specific work programs, procedures or techniques for your specific equipment. It is not a training manual for qualifying employees or for detailing a risk assessment procedure. There are millions of pieces of equipment out there. There are thousands of ways to conduct a risk assessment. Training is typically an individual thing. However, by providing the ground work and concepts for a safer electrical environment, you will be helping prevent injuries and fatalities throughout the world.
You have until June 27, 2018 to submit your idea. I look forward to seeing your input. 
For more information on 70E, read my entire 70E blog series on Xchange
Next time: You never forget your first brush with death.

 

Our hearts are heavy as details emerge from Parkland, Florida about yet another active shooting incident in our country. While the refrain, “when will it end?” has been uttered by politicians, pundits, and the public since a 19-old pulled the fire alarm at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida school and killed 17 members of an unsuspecting community, NFPA has been focused on another question, “how can we help?”

 

NFPA can’t prevent these tragedies, but we do think there is more to be done in how they are responded to. NFPA has sped up its typical standards development process to develop the world’s first standard to help communities prepare, respond and rebound from hostile events. NFPA 3000™ Standard for Preparedness and Response to Active Shooter and/or Hostile Events, slated to be available as early as this April, is being developed by a technical committee comprised of representatives from FEMA, DHS, the FBI, the fire service, law enforcement, emergency medicine, hospitals, facilities, the government, and public education.

 

While no standard or code in the world can prevent horrific attacks from occurring in the future, NFPA 3000™ is intended to make communities better-equipped to deal with such tragedies by providing guidelines for cooperative planning, integrated response, and whole community recovery. The document will hold policymakers and authorities accountable for cross-collaboration, enforcement, and public outreach; while emphasizing Run. Hide. Fight. and Stop the Bleed - key messages to minimize loss at the hands of perpetrators.

 

FBI statistics tell the story of the disproportionate number of active shooter and hostile events in the United States; and underscore the need for guidance for communities. NFPA 3000™ and efforts to make Active Shooter Hostile Event Response (ASHER™) programs mandatory will go a long way in helping cities, towns and jurisdictions establish safe infrastructures. But it’s going to take buy-in, practice, and coordination from policymakers, first responders, skilled professionals, code enforcers, and the general public. Without such an ecosystem, we will not only fail our citizens, but all those that have lost their lives in these tragedies.

 

The deadline to submit public input on NFPA 3000, Standard for Preparedness and Response to Active Shooter and/or Hostile Events is this Friday, February 23 at 5:00p.m. (EST).

ESS
In mid-February, about 50 people across a spectrum of industries met in Denver to discuss some of the potentially fraught aspects of the surging world of energy storage systems (ESS) for first responders, authorities having jurisdictions (AHJs) and others. How should fire departments handle an ESS on fire? What gaps in training exist? What questions should AHJ’s be asking in the permitting process?
NFPA posed these questions and others to the AHJs, responders, inspectors, facilities managers, and others gathered in Denver in an intensive day-long summit. The aim of the day was to get a better handle on what issues professionals are facing in the field as this technology quickly spreads. The information gathered will aid NFPA in developing updated training on ESS and photovoltaic panels for first responders, and could also inform the development of the new NFPA 855, Installation of Energy Storage Systems.
“These guys started talking and just didn’t want to leave—it was a very successful day,” said Andrew Klock, a senior project manager at NFPA who is working to develop the training. “I thought the conversations were very revealing.” 
More information is crucial as larger and more powerful battery systems continue to be installed in greater numbers across the world—in homes, office buildings, businesses, in industrial parks, and more. 
The summit, training, and new standard development, are only a few of the several things NFPA is doing to address safety for this still-emerging technology. A more in-depth article on this topic will appear in the May/June, 2018 issue of NFPA Journal
NFPA Journal has published several feature stories on ESS, including my 2016 story “Power Packed.” For the article, I travelled to Silicon Valley to meet with representatives from Tesla, one of the world’s leading producers of ESS, to discuss the company’s vision for transforming the electrical grid. I also met with leaders at the Fire Department of New York, who are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of big batteries installed all across the city.  
Later in 2016, I conducted a long form interview with battery researcher David Rosewater who tests battery systems large and small at the Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico. Rosewater, who is on the NFPA 855 technical committee, shared his thoughts about how technology is evolving, and how the new standard is needed to keep residents, installers, inspectors, and first responders safe. 
Look for another detailed update on ESS in the May/June issue of NFPA Journal.
Since February is half over I can now say we are closer to March, which means we are closer to spring, which means warmer weather. But, who’s counting?  But, until then, the inevitable cold winter weather means a more frequent use of portable electric heaters (space heaters) and other heating appliances to get us through. While it may seem like a harmless practice, portable heaters come with a risk. Both users and code officials must be aware of safe practices to help ensure fires caused by heating devices are kept to a minimum. 
NFPA 1, Fire Code, provides requirements for portable electric heaters in Section 11.5.3 as follows: 
11.5.3 Portable Electric Heater. 11.5.3.1 The AHJ shall be permitted to prohibit use of portable electric heaters in occupancies or situations where such use or operation would present an undue danger to life or property. 11.5.3.2 Portable electric heaters shall be designed and located so that they cannot be easily overturned. 11.5.3.3 All portable electric heaters shall be listed.
UL listed space heaterPortable electric heaters are used in many locations, including a common used under desks in offices. Although placing a heater under a desk or table lessens the chance of the heater being easily overturned, the heater also can easily be forgotten. A heater that is left on for an extended time can overheat combustible materials that might also be stored under the desk or table. Managers of facilities that allow the use of electric space heaters should be instructed to remind employees to shut them off at the end of the day and keep combustible material away from the heater.
In addition, because of the amount of electric current drawn by space heaters, electric heaters should be used only where they can be plugged directly into appropriate receptacles or extension cords of adequate current capacity. (See 11.1.5 for requirements addressing extension cords.) Just the other day I was at a Doctor’s appointment and the room that I was in had a space heater to supplement what I was told was unpredictable temperatures throughout the building. Most rooms that I poked my head into had their own space heater, too. Fortunately, they were plugged directly into a wall receptacle, were not near combustible materials and were clear of anything that could potentially fall onto them or knock them over. While I was waiting to be seen I even checked that they had a mark from a recognized testing laboratory (they did!)  
The AHJ is permitted to prohibit the use of space heaters where an undue danger to life or property exists. The AHJ can use past inspection findings, such as portable heaters that were left turned on and unattended, fire incidents, and other reasons to prohibit the use of such heaters.
Within Section 11.5, the Code also addresses the installation of stationary liquid fuel-burning appliances, including but not limited to industrial-,commercial-,and residential-type steam, hot water or warm air heating appliances; domestic-type range burners; and portable liquid fuel-burning equipment. In addition to compliance with Section 11.5, these devices are to be installed in accordance with NFPA 31, Standard for the Installation of Oil-Burning Equipment. For the installation of gas-fired heating appliances, in addition to compliance with Section 11.5, they must also comply with NFPA 54, National Fuel Gas Code. NFPA 54 addresses the installation of fuel gas piping systems, fuel gas utilization equipment, and related accessories, including piping systems, operating pressure, installation, combustion, ventilation air, and venting. The use of unvented fuel-fired heaters is prohibited by NFPA 1 and NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, in numerous occupancies, unless they are approved units that comply with NFPA 54. The use of such equipment is prohibited in all residential board and care occupancies regardless of compliance with NFPA 54.
To view all the requirements for heating devices you can use our free access feature to read NFPA 1 at www.nfpa.org/1
And, for additional information on heating safety, check out NFPA's Safety Tip Sheets. 
Thanks for reading, stay safe! 
Stay connected, follow me on twitter @KristinB_NFPA

Ninety years ago, 14 men lost their lives and 11 people were injured when a large fire and explosion occurred at an oil refinery located in Everett, Massachusetts.

 

 

From the NFPA Quarterly, v.21, no.4, 1928

 

At 3:03 P.M. on February 10, 1928, a vaporizer exploded, showering burning oil upon all employees in the vicinity. A portion of the vaporizer was thrown 120 ft., landing on two men. The shower of burning oil was responsible for the fourteen deaths and eleven serious injuries. Great heroism was shown by other employees in rescuing those enveloped in flaming oil. It is reported that men who wore heavy winter clothing suffered less seriously than those lightly clad…Public and private fire alarms were given, the private fire brigade assembled and soon foam streams from the foam fire pump and portable foam generators, as well as streams from private hydrants, were in service… Meanwhile the public fire department arrived and immediately a third alarm was sent in which summoned four pumpers with two others from Chelsea and two from Boston, although the latter were not used. This equipment used nine hose streams, principally for cooling purposes on exposed apparatus.

 

 

At the time of the fire, the property damage was estimated to be about $172,000.


 

For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Research Library & Archives.

 

The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic.

Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public.


Photo: Milo Ventimiglia via Twitter

 

In January, the hit NBC drama series "This Is Us" aired the first in a string of episodes that highlighted critical fire safety messages such as the importance of replacing smoke alarm batteries. The show, which is watched by upwards of 10 million people, managed to spark a nationwide conversation about fire safety. 

 

As a recognized leader in fire safety, NFPA found itself at the center of the discussion, posting about the show on NFPA Xchange and social media. Since it's not every day that NFPA has an opportunity to weigh in on the goings-on around Hollywood, NFPA Journal decided to feature an article about "This Is Us" and the fire safety conversation it created in the Dispatches section of its upcoming March/April issue. 

 

Cultural coverage has been an important part of NFPA Journal's effort to grow Dispatches—the front section of the magazine featuring short, news-centric articles—over the last year or so. Anytime I or other Journal staff members have come across a book or movie or TV show that intersects with the world of fire and life safety, we've made note of it as a potential Dispatches opportunity. We've run stories on a wildfire movie starring Josh Brolina book about arson fueled by a troubled romance, and even a documentary film about the Titanic.

 

Read the article on "This Is Us" here, and make sure to look for the latest issue of NFPA Journal, which will be available online and in print next month.

 

Last week NFPA introduced EFFECT™ (the Exterior Facade Fire Evaluation Comparison Tool) to help building owners and managers assess risk in their properties, and stem the tide of fires in high-rise structures with combustible cladding. Now, coming on the heels of that release, we see yet another harrowing example of a building with combustible exterior wall panels going up in flames in Malaysia.

 

At NFPA, we spend a lot of time peeling away layers so that we can better understand fires and the related hazards that often lead to loss of people and property. After 120 years, we know that when it comes to big fire events, it’s never just one thing that goes wrong. It’s often more than one factor so you have to look at fire and life safety more holistically – and you need a variety of stakeholders supporting and advocating for a solid safety infrastructure. We call this the fire protection and prevention ecosystem.

 

Epic blazes running up the sides of skyscrapers in cities from Dubai, to Shanghai, to Atlantic City, to Melbourne, were vivid examples of breakdowns in this ecosystem where the proper use and application of referenced codes were lacking. Then the world watched in horror as a similar fire ripped through the Grenfell Towers in West London, killing 71 last June.

 

In response to all of these, NFPA created a risk-based tool to help building owners, facility managers and authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) evaluate their inventory of potential at-risk buildings from the convenience of their desktop.

 

Assessing risk is not easy work, but it is necessary. EFFECT™ helps time-crunched property managers and enforcers proactively assess the entire building – taking into account the facade, the building itself, fire protection systems and features, egress design, communications and notification systems, and any exterior ignition sources.

 

When the investigative commission in London releases their findings on Grenfell, the topic of fire safety will once again be thrust into the spotlight in a big way – and rightly so. In the meantime, governments have mandated risk assessment of buildings; communities have created cladding tasks groups; and building owners and registered design professionals are being held more accountable for the safety of exterior wall systems.

 

This is a great start, but we need more proactive measures to promote the full fire protection and prevention ecosystem. This means maintaining an effective policy and regulatory environment supporting fire and life safety; using the latest codes and standards; choosing safety over cost-cutting; applying the referenced standards within a code; promoting the development of skilled professionals who can apply the code; supporting effective code enforcement; educating the public and policymakers about the dangers posed by fire and other hazards; and providing effective response capabilities.

 

Without adherence to every piece of the system, we are destined to stall or reverse the reductions in fire loss that we have achieved by these very practices.

Spire London – Image via Greenland Group

When I look at my new copy of the 2018 edition of the Life Safety Code, there's a sense of accomplishment for the fire protection and life safety community in advancing the safety of building occupants from the effects of fire. Indeed, fire deaths are unusual in buildings in which the code’s requirements are met, and when they do occur, NFPA’s technical committees are quick to revisit those requirements and modify them as necessary. We’ve come a long way from the days of the fires that precipitated the development of what was then known as the Building Exits Code. For example, a fire at the Iroquois Theatre in Chicago killed more than 600 people in 1903, and another at the Triangle Waist Company in New York City killed 146 workers in 1911. We’ve learned from these fires and applied those lessons to our ever-evolving codes so those deaths were not in vain. 

The provision of multiple exit stairs has been a fundamental requirement for apartment buildings since the 1956 edition of NFPA 101. How is it, then, that in 2018 I’m reading in the Times of London about the development of not one but seven high-rise, residential towers that will each contain only a single-exit stair serving the highest floors? It’s mind-boggling to me with what we know about life safety from fire that anyone would consider designing—and any building code would allow—a high-rise building with a single exit.

The proposed Spire London will have a single stair serving the apartments on floors 55 through 67 (presumably equivalent to floors 56 through 68 in the U.S., since the first level above the ground floor is typically designated as the first floor in Europe). This was likely a design decision to allow for larger luxury apartments on the upper floors, since increased living space equals increased price. This is about money.

While the building will be equipped with automatic sprinklers and smoke extraction systems, these are active systems. Any active system (or passive life safety feature for that matter) has the potential to fail. It is this potential that makes redundancy critically important when it comes to means of egress. Anyone with any fire service experience knows that if something can go wrong, there’s a good chance it will. The risk of system failures can be minimized by performing the needed routine testing and maintenance, but it can never be eliminated entirely. Putting residents 770 feet above ground level with only a single-exit stair for the sole purpose of profit creates a completely unnecessary risk.

Compounding the Spire London exiting issue, travel distance from the furthest apartment entrance to the single stair will reportedly be about 70 feet, while the usual “government guidelines” call for a distance of no more than about 25 feet. This increased distance is based on “fire engineering solutions,” which is fine as long as all the systems on which the engineering solutions are based function as intended and the real fire does just what the design fire did. How can all this be assured? There’s not much of a safety factor when there’s only one way out, especially when there’s 70 feet of corridor between you and one exit. By comparison, the Life Safety Code would require at least two exits, and the maximum permitted common path of travel (the distance between an apartment door and the point at which an occupant would have a choice of going in two directions to reach separate exits) would be 50 feet.

What makes this story all the more unbelievable is it comes just seven months after the horrific Grenfell Tower fire in London, in which 71 people died. While the combustible exterior cladding and lack of automatic sprinklers and functioning fire alarms significantly contributed to the large loss of life in that fire, so too did the building’s single-exit stair. The proposed construction of these single-exit residential towers, nearly three times the height of Grenfell, is a slap in the face to those victims.

Grenfell Tower – Image via telegraph.co.uk

Let me put it in terms that the developers of these buildings can understand. You don’t put all your investments in only stocks, bonds, or real estate. You diversify your holdings. Why? Because each market has vulnerabilities, and you protect your assets by spreading your investment portfolio across multiple markets. To put it simply, you don’t put all your eggs in one basket because if you drop the basket, you can say goodbye to all your eggs.

In this case we’re not talking about investments. We’re talking about diversifying life safety features and providing redundancy so that when the bubble bursts (a system doesn’t work the way it was supposed to or the fire does something unanticipated), you don’t lose all your assets (the lives of the residents who have no idea what risk they’re being exposed to because they will assume the building is safe). Maybe residents of Spire London and the other single-exit high rises will be safe if everything works the way it’s supposed to. But what about if and when it doesn’t? How many lives might be placed at risk for the sake of an additional few hundred square feet of living area?

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 www.nfpa.org/101 and click on “FREE ACCESS.”

Follow me on Twitter: @NFPAGregH

As you know, the 2018 edition of 70E is now available. To help you navigate through some of the key changes, we’ve developed a five-part video series hosted by NFPA’s technical experts that helps explain some of these changes. 

In our fourth video, Chris Coache, NFPA’s senior electrical engineer, reviews Table 130.5(G) – Selection of Arc-Rated Clothing Using Incident Energy Analysis Method. 

 

Table 130.5(G), as Chris points out, used to be in the annex but is now in the mandatory text section. Why? Because when doing an incident energy analysis, employers often have been incorrectly using the PPE category table to determine the required PPE. As employers we are committed to protecting our staff from an arc flash hazard. So to help, we put this table up front to help guide you on how to select the appropriate gear for the incident energy analysis method. 

 

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 www.nfpa.org/70E.     

 

The storage and management of gas cylinders in health care facilities is an ongoing compliance issue. During my recent NFPA Live presentation I provided an overview of the requirements in NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities Code for their storage. I addressed the differing requirements based on volume stored as well as the criteria for the small volume of gas that is allowed to be stored outside of an enclosure.  nfpa 99 - medical gas cylinder storage for healthcare facilities

 

During the live event I received these two follow-up questions from members. I'm now sharing them with you. I hope you find some value in it.

 

Also, I've attached a brand new fact sheet that you can download on this same topic.


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!

From my years working as a political reporter, I can assure you that everything we humans touch eventually turns political as long as someone somewhere has something at stake. When the stakes rise to the level of life and death, the politics are ratcheted up even higher.  
That explains why something as seemingly ho-hum as smoke detector technology can turn into a lightening rod issue if you’re hanging with a certain kind of crowd. It’s the same with code and standard adoption. These are complex and thorny public policy issues that most people spend almost zero time thinking about. I didn’t before I started working here. But they are critical to ensure public safety.
To give more time and thought to these important issues, NFPA Journal debuted a new Safety Policy column in November, which will explore a range of perplexing and difficult policy questions that lawmakers across the country struggle with.
Not coincidentally, the column’s debut coincided with the launch of the NFPA Fire and Life Safety Policy Institute, a think-tank of sorts that studies a range of safety and policy issues and provides guidance to government decision makers and safety advocates. Also not coincidentally, Meghan Housewright, the Institute’s executive director, is writing the Policy column. Who better to do the job?
In her most recent column, “Safety Delayed,” Meghan writes about the sometimes frustrating realities of code adoption and why many local governments are severely lagging in updating these critical documents. Guess what? It’s political. 
I hope you read Meghan’s latest column in the January/February issue of NFPA Journal and every issue after. A list of her past columns is also on the Institute’s website


Photo: U.S. Chemical Safety Board

 

This week marks 10 years since the fatal event on February 7, 2008, at the Imperial Sugar Company manufacturing facility in Port Wentworth, Georgia. Fourteen workers were killed and 36 others were treated for serious burns and injuries after a series of sugar dust explosions. 

 

In its investigation report released in September 2009, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) found that an initial dust explosion originated in the enclosed steel belt conveyor located below the sugar silos where high concentrations of sugar dust had accumulated inside the enclosure. The initial explosion stirred up sugar dust that had built up on the floors and other surfaces, causing a chain reaction of additional dust explosions through the buildings. Fires resulting from the explosions destroyed the packing buildings, silos, and palletizer building and severely damaged parts of the refinery and sugar loading area. The investigation conducted by the CSB highlighted many safety concerns regarding buildings where dust explosions are a risk and resulted in providing a list of recommendations to ensure that buildings at risk for dust explosions reduce that risk and even prevent such explosions from occurring.

 

But, what does this have to do with the Fire Code?

 

Chapter 40 of NFPA 1 addresses dust explosion and fire prevention provisions. In past editions of the code, a majority of the requirements found in Chapter 40 were extracted from NFPA 654, Standard for the Prevention of Fire and Dust Explosions from the Manufacturing, Processing, and Handling of Combustible Particulate Solids, the then main document for dust hazards. After several investigation reports and studies, the CSB recommended that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) develop a comprehensive federal standard to address the numerous workplace hazards found in facilities where combustible solids are handled, used, or stored in a manner that has the potential to generate and release combustible dusts. It was the tragic event at the Imperial Sugar refinery that pushed this recommendation into action. OSHA later announced that they would initiate the rulemaking process in order to develop a federal standard addressing these needs. 

 

Fast forward a few years, and a new committee structure was put in place at NFPA to oversee the standards-making process for these documents related to dust hazards. As a result, NFPA 652, Standard on the Fundamentals of Dust, was born. This document provides the basic principles of and requirements for identifying and managing the fire and explosion hazards of combustible dusts and particulate solids.

 

The first edition of NFPA 652 was issued in the summer of 2015 with a 2016 edition date. The latest edition of NFPA 1, 2018, is first referencing this document as the source for extracted requirements in Chapter 40. During the 2018 revision cycle for NFPA 1, a majority of requirements, previously extracted from NFPA 654 as noted above, were deleted and replaced with the appropriate requirements from NFPA 652. NFPA 652 is now considered the fundamental document for combustible dust. It establishes minimum requirements for managing combustible dust hazards and it directs the user to other NFPA standards for industry- and commodity-specific requirements, including:

 

  • NFPA 61, Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Dust Explosions in Agricultural and Food Processing Facilities
  • NFPA 484, Standard for Combustible Metals
  • NFPA 654, Standard for the Prevention of Fire and Dust Explosions from the Manufacturing, Processing, and Handling of Combustible Particulate Solids.
  • NFPA 655, Standard for the Prevention of Sulfur Fires and Explosions
  • NFPA 664, Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Explosions in Wood Processing and Woodworking Facilities

So how does Chapter 40 impact fire inspectors using NFPA 1? It outlines operating procedures and practices;  inspection, testing and maintenance of equipment; maintenance programs and procedures; training and hazard awareness; qualifications and training for contractors; emergency planning and response; management of change; documentation; and management of systems.  An inspector/AHJ must be aware of the provisions related to these facilities and confirm that these protection strategies and procedures are in place and that facilities are maintaining safe conditions for the protection of the building and workers.  

 

For more detailed information on the history and development of NFPA 652 check out the NFPA Journal article, “Credible Risk”.

 

Get free access to the 2018 edition of the code and check out the updates to Chapter 40.

 

Thanks for reading, stay safe!

 

Do you know that there are three chapters in NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace®? Although Chapter 1 is the most well-known there are two other chapters applicable to the users of the standard. Chapter 2 applies to any facility that conducts maintenance. Chapter 3 addresses specific equipment and may not be applicable to all users of the standard.


Chapter 2: Article 205 contains basic information that is critical to maintenance. Without proper maintenance, not only are workers put a risk when performing energized work or establishing an electrically safe work condition, but the production line worker doing their job is also put at risk. Everyone knows that someone conducting energized work must be a qualified person but that person must also be qualified to conduct those maintenance tasks and tests. For example, special knowledge is necessary to maintain a motor and its protection technique in hazardous locations. A single-line diagram is crucial to conducting a risk assessment and but the document is of no use unless it is legible and current. Maintenance must follow the manufacturer’s instructions and industry standards but 205.3 points out who is responsible for making sure maintenance is conducted and documented.


Clear and ample working space around electrical equipment is necessary to safely conduct maintenance whether an electrically safe work condition is established or justified energized work is conducted. Enclosures need to be maintained and safety equipment must be functional to provide the designed protection. Cables and cords need to be free from damage to provide insulation and appropriate grounding. Many people associate personal protective equipment (PPE) with arc-rated clothing and voltage rated gloves. Article 250 points out that personal safety and protective equipment is not limited to protective clothing. Other Chapter 2 articles address the maintenance of several types of electrical equipment also in general terms. Although Chapter 2 does not provide information on how to conduct the inspections, tests or maintenance, without thee requirements to do so many would not perform these tasks.


Chapter 3: The special equipment addressed in Chapter 3 lends to it being the least used among the three chapters. Electrolytic cells, battery and battery rooms, power electronic equipment, lasers, and research and development laboratories all present unique electrical hazards. If your facility includes any of these locations or equipment, the general safety requirements from Chapter 1 may not adequately protect your employees. It is possible to place employees at additional risk of injury without using the modified or additional requirements from Chapter 3 to address these unique hazards.


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


Next time: Increasing electrical safety for all employees.

NFPA 70, NEC
A few years back, if you had described an emerging technology that enabled lighting to sense varying conditions within a building and seamlessly integrate with the building automation system to return everything to the optimal use of energy and the optimal conditions for occupants, I would have said, “You’re crazy!”
But today, we know this technology isn’t merely emerging—it’s in full force, and it’s evolving daily in the form of Power over Ethernet, or PoE. As those of us in the electrical industry have come to learn, PoE technology is leaving the confines of the communication world and expanding into the electrical industry as electrical equipment has become much more energy efficient. 
In my latest “In Compliance” column, I talk about how the latest edition of the NEC (2017) addresses two key fire hazards associated with PoE equipment:
  • The threat of the electrical equipment starting a fire
  • The threat the electrical equipment poses during a fire
And it doesn’t stop here. There’s much more we need to learn about PoE as it relates to electrical equipment installations. Answering questions about electrical shock hazards, fire ignition issues, flame spread characteristics, what the addition to a building’s fuel load might look like, and what products of combustion might be added, will help us effectively protect the world from potential hazards, and be done in a way that allows this technology to grow.
Read the latest In Compliance column for insights into this growing technology and the related NEC requirements. 

 

The growing popularity of energy storage systems (ESS) is perhaps no more evident than in Honolulu, where applications for permits rose more than 1,700% last year, according to PV. The number of requests granted by Honolulu city and county officials increased to 731, representing an astounding jump from the 40 ESS permits issued in 2016.


ESS installations are occurring in many corners of the world, and on vastly different scales, because utility companies, businesses, government agencies, and consumers are increasingly smitten with new energy sources, reduced costs, and the prospect of going green. GTM Research reports that by 2022 the U.S. energy storage market is expected to be worth $3.1 billion - a 9-fold increase from 2016 levels. The anticipated growth is due, in part, to states like New York, Massachusetts, and California facing imminent shutdown of nuclear power plants that provide significant amounts of power. Additionally, Texas, Oregon, Colorado, and Hawaii, have already mandated widespread energy storage systems deployment.


Yesterday in Denver, about 70 representatives from all sides of the ESS equation gathered at the NFPA Battery Energy Storage Systems Safety Summit to address a host of ESS concerns. Emergency responders, authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs), manufacturers, facility managers, testing professionals, researchers, code officials and government representatives spent the day reviewing, discussing, and validating fire safety protocol for high powered batter energy storage and solar systems.


Participants asked questions, shared experiences and raised concerns in an effort to enhance NFPA’s Energy Storage System training for the fire service. NFPA recently received a second round of funding to update this first-of-its-kind ESS educational track with new market considerations and photovoltaic integration.


Consumers, utilities and businesses are working fast to take advantage of declining battery costs, government incentives, and integrated systems. Stakeholders are optimistic about ESS innovation but agree there are safety questions that need to be addressed long before an ESS project gets underway. What are the potential fire hazards? What codes or standards are in place to protect people and property? What monitoring, suppression and communications systems are available to minimize harm? Who’s ultimately responsible for an ESS site? Where are the shutoffs located? How will fire be suppressed? What are the commissioning and decommissioning protocols?


As the number of ESS installs rise so, too, will the propensity for emergency response. NFPA is updating its training so that first responders are prepared when they get the call for an ESS incident. NFPA’s Technical Committee is also working on NFPA 855 Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems so that authorities have defined benchmarks for energy storage systems.

 

The content and context for the ESS training and NFPA 855 is largely dependent on input from diverse stakeholders like those that gathered in Denver yesterday. In the long run, the collective wisdom of this highly engaged audience will benefit many different disciplines.


Lenovo and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced Tuesday a recall involving about 80,000 of the Chinese technology company's best-selling laptops.
 
The fifth-generation ThinkPad X1 Carbon laptops were recalled because a small screw was left unfastened inside certain units, according to the CPSC. The unfastened screw can damage the laptop's lithium-ion battery, potentially causing it to overheat and catch fire. Although there have been no reports of fires caused by the defect, the CPSC advised consumers who own the defective units to "stop using them immediately."
In the latest issue of NFPA Journal, I reported a similar recall involving hoverboards powered by lithium-ion batteries, as well as new research that explores using lithium-ion batteries infused with a flame-retardant chemical to lessen the fire risk. Read the article here.
ANGELO VERZONI is staff writer for NFPA Journal. 

In my recent NFPA Live I discussed the upcoming release of NFPA 3000; Preparedness and Response to Active Shooter and/or Hostile Events. The purpose of NFPA 3000 is to identify the minimum program elements necessary for organizing, managing, and sustaining an active shooter and/or hostile event response program and to reduce or eliminate the risks, effect, and impact on an organization or community affected by these events. 
I talked about the purpose for developing the draft, who is involved, what it contains, and how you can get involved in its further development.
The document addresses the following areas and others:
• Risk assessment
• Planning
• Resource management
• Organizational deployment
• Incident management
• Facility readiness
• Finance
• Communications
• Competencies for law enforcement
• Competencies for fire and EMS
• Personal protective equipment
• Training
• Community education
• Information sharing
• Readiness of receiving hospitals
• Recovery
Public Input Closing Date is February 23, 2018. If you'd like to participate in the process by submitting a public input, you can do so here.
John Montes is an Emergency Services Specialist at NFPA, and Staff Liasion for NFPA 3000.  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 99
Each year ECRI Institute releases an annual list of the top 10 technologies and patient care developments it recommends hospital executives pay attention to. The 2018 list includes at least two items that have implications on how fire and life safety codes, such as NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, and NFPA 99 Health Care Facilities Code, must be applied. 
The two trends which building and life safety professionals should be most aware of are a trend toward acuity-adaptable rooms and the construction of microhospitals.
Acuity-adaptable Rooms
Risks in health care are much more than just fire and life safety issues. Hospital acquired infections, medication errors, and patient falls are just some of these additional risk and those are increased each time a patient must be moved from one unit or area of a hospital to another, such as from an intensive care unit to a step down unit. What some facilities have begun to implement are acuity-adaptable rooms which can allow for hospitals to keep patients in the same room from admission to discharge regardless of their acuity level. 
While this approach has several benefits to facilities and is a patient-centered care model it will also introduce many complex challenges that will have to be addressed in order to successfully implement. While many of these relate to staffing, equipment logistics, and clinical issues, we’ll take a look at the NFPA codes and standards impact. 
In looking at NFPA codes and standards, the most immediately impacted code application will likely be NFPA 99 in how these rooms will need to be designed in order to meet gas and vacuum system requirements and electrical system requirements. 
The application of NFPA 99 is based on risk to patients. Rooms with higher acuity patients, where the risk of a system failure can have significant impacts, require more protection. All rooms designed to accommodate the acuity-adaptable approach will have to meet the requirements for the higher level of risk. This will likely mean a higher number of rooms that need to meet the increased requirements for the higher risk. Some of the impacts this could have would be additional medical gas and vacuum outlets and inlets, increased number of electrical receptacles at patient beds, additional zone valve boxes, and increased loads on the critical branch of essential electrical systems.
Microhospitals
Typically designed with 15,000 to 25,000 square feet of space, microhospitals are a concept which has gained a lot of traction over the past couple of years. These buildings are neither urgent care centers nor full-service hospital but act as a way for health care providers to increase community access by distributing care throughout the system’s region without undertaking huge infrastructure projects. There is no definition of what a microhospital is or what services it provides. Many will provide a range of services typically found in traditional hospitals, including inpatient services and emergency care, but generally have a lower acuity patient population.
For some, these facilities, which are a fraction of the size of traditional hospitals, might seem to be buildings which can have a lower level of protection than what is expected in full size hospitals. This is not the case based on the services and patient population expected in these microhospitals.
They will need to be classified as a health care occupancy per NFPA 101 if providing care to 4 or more patients on an inpatient basis who are incapable of self-preservation. This threshold is just 1 or more patients based on Centers for Medicare & Medicaid -CMS- interpretations. The classification as a health care occupancy will require automatic sprinkler protection throughout the building and each story used by inpatients for sleeping or treatment to be subdivided into at least two smoke compartments. This could result in relatively small smoke compartments given the condensed footprint of these building but is necessary to provide the “defend in place” concept needed for  building occupants who are in a compromised state.
Medical gas and vacuum systems and electrical system requirements will be based on the risk assessment approach defined in NFPA 99. If failure of these systems are likely to result in major injury or death of patients or caregivers, then the most stringent requirements will need to be followed. A multidisciplinary committee should be brought together to look at the expected services and patient populations to determine the inputs into such a risk assessment.
NFPA Technical Committees and the future of health care
The technical committees for NFPA 101 and NFPA 99 will continue to monitor trends and changes in health care delivery to ensure that the codes are still providing adequate levels of safety to patients and other occupants of health care facilities in a flexible manner that allows improvements in health care delivery models of the future. Both codes are currently accepting public input for their 2021 editions until June 27th. 
For more information on NFPA resources for health care facilities see www.nfpa.org/cms

Photo courtesy of Good Housekeeping

 

Over the past few weeks, the NBC television show “This Is Us” has effectively dramatized home fire missteps that can have deadly consequences. These dramatizations have turned lots of attention to fire safety, offering powerful opportunities to talk about what can be done to prevent fire fatalities in real life.


In the most recent episode, the Pearson family made critical errors in escaping a home fire. First and foremost, no one should ever re-enter a burning building, as Jack (the father of the family) did. If a person is still trapped inside a burning building, you should tell the firefighters where you think that person might be. Never ever go back inside a burning building.


After Jack escapes the fire, his daughter urges him to save the family dog. Jack accommodates her request, emerging through the front door of the home moments later with the dog and mementos in hand. In reality, with a fire quickly raging throughout the home, it is highly unlikely that Jack would have been able to do this and escape safely.


Lastly, a home escape plan would have been a big help to the family, ensuring that they each knew how to exit the home as effectively and efficiently as possible. They also would have known to call the fire department immediately upon getting out.


Previous “This Is Us” episodes highlighted the vital importance of installing batteries in smoke alarms, as well as making sure cooking appliances are in good working order and kept well away from anything that can burn. According to NFPA research, the majority of fire deaths happen in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. 

 

 

What did you think about the way “This Is Us” presented fire safety messages? Let us know in the comments section below.


Driven by a desire to have more energy-efficient buildings, it’s an unfortunate truth that many of today’s high-rises in cities around the globe are sheathed in combustible materials. Whether it’s foam insulation board attached to the structure or plastic sandwiched between thin metal cladding panels, a number of components commonly found in modern exterior wall assemblies are combustible and can cause fires to rapidly grow out of control and race from story to story.


To help fight the problem, NFPA has released a new tool—named the Exterior Facade Fire Evaluation Comparison Tool, or EFFECT™—that allows building owners, facility managers, authorities having jurisdiction, and others to determine if one or more buildings they are responsible for are at risk for these types of fires, which have occurred in cities like Dubai, Melbourne, and London. “This is not just in one country,” said Birgitte Messerschmidt, director of applied research at NFPA. “This is a global issue that’s happening.”


With funding from NFPA, global engineering firm Arup developed the technical basis for the tool, which prompts users to input information about not only a building’s exterior wall materials, but also its height and configuration, fire protection equipment like sprinklers, emergency notification system, escape routes, and more to determine its risk level.


It’s this all-factors approach that makes the tool so powerful. “When it comes to big fire events, it’s never just one thing that goes wrong,” Messerschmidt said. “It’s often more than one thing, so you have to address the building more holistically when you want to do a risk assessment. So yes, you’d have to look at the facade and the materials that are used there, but you also have to look at the building itself—is there a sprinkler system available that could suppress any fire that happens inside the building, are there any potential ignition sources close to the building, how fast can people get out of the building, what’s the alarm system, what are the escape routes, etc.”


The facade risk assessment tool is the first of its kind and will provide a much-needed service for those trying to get a handle on this problem, said Messerschmidt. It joins a collection of resources NFPA had already offered on combustible exterior wall assemblies, such as a tool released in August for designers and architects trying to determine whether NFPA 285, Fire Test Method for Evaluation of Fire Propagation Characteristics of Exterior Non-Load Bearing Wall Assemblies Containing Combustible Components, is a local requirement. This tool, the new one, and more can be found at nfpa.org/exteriorwalls.

Caption: Construction boomed in Mountain Shadows section of Colorado Springs in 2013, a year after the destructive Waldo Canyon Fire.
In preparing to write the cover story, “Build. Burn. Repeat?,” for the latest issue of NFPA Journal, I tried to find answers to a basic question: Why, when faced with indisputable risks and potentially devastating outcomes, do some wildfire-prone communities enact policies to prepare for and reduce the risk, while others seem to ignore the risks entirely? Even in cases where wildfire had just recently destroyed large portions of whole towns, many leaders choose to do nothing to stop it from happening again. 
NFPA Journal NowI asked around NFPA’s Wildfire Division and was pointed to El Paso County, Colorado. In back-to-back years the most destructive wildfires in state history lay waste to portions of the county—first 2012’s Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs, which burned 347 homes; then 2013’s Black Forest Fire, which burned about 500 homes just 20 miles away. The response from local leaders in the aftermath of these events have been very different. Why? 
This case study came out of conversations with Colorado Springs Fire Marshal Brett Lacey and others in the area, and I think it sheds some light on the political, cultural, and economic forces that local officials are up against when they try to enact smart building practices to mitigate wildfire's impact. These challenges seem to be common across the nation for wildfire safety advocates in the crusade to protect more homes from burning. 
Read: Miles Apart, Worlds Away How the post-fire stories of Colorado Springs and El Paso County illustrate the political challenges of enacting community wildfire mitigation measures
JESSE ROMAN is associate editor for NFPA Journal.

NFPA has issued the following errata on NFPA 25, Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems:

 

  • NFPA 25, Errata 25-17-1, referencing table cross references in various chapters of the 2017 edition, issued on January 18, 2018.
  • An errata is a correction issued to an NFPA Standard, published in NFPA News, Codes Online, and included in any further distribution of the document.
What Percentage of Fire Door Assemblies Fail the Required Yearly Inspection?
As part of the process through which NFPA staff provides answers to technical questions received from members and AHJs, one stakeholder recently asked about compliance rates for fire door assemblies inspected yearly, as required by NFPA 80, Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives. I took the question to mean: “What percentage of fire door assemblies fail the required yearly inspection?” 
In my mind, the inquiry asks the wrong question; even if I had the statistics requested, providing them would not be helpful. A fire door assembly can fail the inspection if any of scores of elements/features have anything wrong with them. The failure of some of those features should carry a heavier weight than others, but they don’t; a violation is a violation; any violation fails the fire door assembly. Thus, we are hearing fire door assembly inspectors say things like ___% fail the inspection (I’m leaving it to others to fill in the blank, but I’m often hearing numbers as high as 50, 60, 70, or even 80 percent). 
Consider three examples of violations that have differing importance:
  1. Some metal plates for attaching the arms of a hydraulic door closer to the top jamb/soffit are fabricated with five pre-drilled holes for the passage of screws for attaching the plate; very often one of those holes does not have a fastener; a missing fastener is a violation; such violation fails the fire door assembly. The deficiency can be repaired, almost immediately, using readily available tools, like a drill and screwdriver, and readily available parts, like screws matching those provided by the manufacturer of the closing device. The repair takes almost no time and can be performed without disassembling the fire door. The door assembly can then be removed from the failures portion of the report or, perhaps, not added to the failures report in the first place, especially if the facility performs a pre-inspection prior to the required yearly inspection or has an effective on-going maintenance program.
  2. A door leaf has sagged, within its frame, such that the clearance is excessive between the top edge of the latch stile and the rabbet at the top of the frame. Relatedly, the clearance is excessive between the upper portion of the edge of the hinge stile and the rabbet at the side of the frame. The clearance violations can be corrected by installing steel shims behind portions of one or more of the hinges. Effective shimming takes considerable skill; the facility has no one on staff who can successfully accomplish the needed shimming; a professional will be brought in to perform the work. The violation cannot be immediately corrected; such condition must be reported as a failure. Had the facility performed a pre-inspection or had an effective on-going maintenance program, the condition could have been noted earlier and corrective action taken so the door would pass the required yearly inspection.
  3. A fire door assembly has a door leaf that is so warped that the door leaf face is not in alignment with the face of the door frame, meaning that some portion of the latch stile doesn’t contact the stops built into the frame. The gaps are noticeable and, obviously, the fire door assembly will not prevent fire from getting to the unexposed side. The door leaf, at minimum, and perhaps the door frame, must be replaced. Based on availability of a door leaf that meets the facility’s needs, the violation might not be able to be corrected for days or weeks. Such condition must be reported as a failure on the inspection report. Remedial action must commence immediately.
Rather than asking for a statistical report of the overall failure rate of fire door assemblies inspected, a more useful request might be: What percent of the fire door assemblies in a facility would fail a re-inspection conducted a few days after the initial inspection? This would help weed out the noise created by minor violations in contrast with violations that your gut feeling tells you might keep the fire door assembly from performing as intended under fire conditions.
Such question could help to ensure that inspection reports get utilized immediately to commence remedial action, especially for minor issues that might have been avoided by an effective maintenance program or if pre-inspections had been conducted. Where a facility ignores the inspection report and does not immediately correct the violations that are easy to correct, all violations will be considered to carry equal weight. Together, the violations might place the facility into serious non-compliance.

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