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No matter where we live in the world, when it comes to fire prevention and protection in our homes and in public spaces, safety is not something we can (or should) take for granted. Recent headlines have told the story too many times of a safety system gone wrong: the London Grenfell Tower apartment building fire and the Oakland, California Ghost Ship fire - both examples of horrible tragedies that ultimately exposed a lapse in applying a code(s), enforcement, awareness and/or education around fire safety. These examples and many others signal that unless we all work together on this problem, these tragedies will continue to occur.


In Tuesday’s session, “Prioritizing Fire Prevention & Protection Through the Lens of a Safety Ecosystem” at NFPA’s Conference & Expo, Guy Colonna, NFPA Senior Director of Engineering, spoke about this safety ecosystem concept and what it means not only for NFPA but for organizations across the globe. Colonna’s presentation comes on the heels of the conference’s Opening General Session, where NFPA president Jim Pauley spoke at length about the need to focus on collective action and to create a fully functioning fire and life safety system.


guy colonna


“The NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem is made up of eight key elements that play a critical role in protecting people and property,” said Colonna. “We identified eight because, keeping people and property safe from fire and related hazards is not the work of any one stakeholder or element of this system; it takes all of us working together and practicing it every day no matter what our role.”


The challenge is how can we plan, manage, build, and operate safe structures while at the same time meet the needs of everyone involved. It starts, he says, with understanding how important our work is to the people who depend on us. 


Colonna asked members of the audience to consider his/her role in a project. He went on to ask them to consider the stakeholders involved and their interactions with them – what is their role and responsibility in the project? Then he asked, what happens if these stakeholders are not involved in discussions and decisions, or what if an identified role or function for one of these stakeholders does not exist in their jurisdiction. “Time after time, when we have seen incidents involving fire, electrical or related hazards,” he says, “we can trace the cause of those situations to a breakdown in the safety ecosystem. Now is the time to understand the role we play and to work together to achieve our vision to eliminate death, injury, property and economic loss from fire, electrical and related hazards.”


As we participate, support and promote the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem going forward, says Colonna, NFPA pledges to work with everyone involved in the system and to be a source of information and knowledge for all. Stay tuned for more information about the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem and visit our website for resources at

Seated, left to right: John Montes, NFPA; Otto Drozd, Orange County (Florida) Fire Rescue; Craig Cooper, Las Vegas Fire & Rescue; and Richard Smith, Wakefield (Massachusetts) Police Department

Hundreds were in attendance this morning as four panelists discussed NFPA's groundbreaking new provisional standard, NFPA 3000™ (PS), Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program, during an education session at the 2018 NFPA Conference & Expo at the Mandalay Bay Conference Center in Las Vegas. It was an eerie coincidence that less than eight months earlier, a shooter perched on the 32nd floor of the same building killed almost 60 people attending a concert on the ground below in what is America's deadliest mass shooting, but one that shows the urgent need for the new standard, which came out May 1. 

Ten of the 15 deadliest mass shootings in modern United States history have occurred in the last 12 years, claiming the lives of over 250 people, according to multiple sources. "They're coming more often, and they're more deadly than previously," Orange County (Florida) Fire Chief and NFPA 3000 technical committee member Otto Drozd told session attendees. Drozd, whose department responded to the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in June 2016, submitted the request for NFPA to develop a standard addressing active shooter events a few months after the Pulse shooting. "[NFPA 3000] is designed to unify communities so when one of these events happens we can mitigate it to the greatest extent possible and expedite recovery in our communities," he said. "We built it as an umbrella, an umbrella that everybody can stand under comfortably, whether you're a large community or a small community." 

The importance of NFPA 3000 being an inclusive document that brings communities of all sizes and public safety professionals from all fields together was emphasized by all of the panelists. "It's important that we're all operating on the same principles, the same guidelines, and going on the same book," said Wakefield (Massachusetts) Police Chief and NFPA 3000 technical committee member Richard Smith. Craig Cooper of Las Vegas Fire & Rescue, also an NFPA 3000 technical committee member, explained to session attendees how practicing and ultimately executing an integrated response between fire and EMS and law enforcement helped saved lives in the October 1, 2017, Mandalay Bay shooting. Although some fire and EMS professionals from his department had voiced concerns over operating in a situation like that, he said they rose to the challenge during the incident and showed no hesitation to enter warm and even what were believed to be possible hot zones. (Hot, warm, and cold are used to describe the danger level in descending order in a given area during these events.)

It's experiences like Cooper's that helped shape the writing of the standard, which was chronicled in the May/June NFPA Journal cover story, "Writing History." For all of NFPA's resources on NFPA 3000, including videos, fact sheets, and more, go to

First responders, facility managers, AHJs, designers, and members of the building community packed the NFPA Energy & Solar Safety Training for the Fire Service at NFPA’s Conference & Expo pilot session in Las Vegas. Although NFPA’s new training is geared toward educating first responders and keeping them safe as innovative technologies emerge, it is clear that a myriad of professionals have a vested interest in learning about the potential hazards associated with ESS, photovoltaics (PV), and other alternative power sources.


Utility companies, business owners, and consumers are increasingly drawn to energy storage technology for a variety of reasons including:


  • backup capabilities that are especially important for continuity when the power goes out;
  • the prospect of cost-savings and storing energy for off-peak hours;
  • the ability to support and share the power being generated by other renewable resources including hydropower;
  • and the inter-connectivity of systems.


This keen interest prompted NFPA to take steps to update its three year old ESS training for first responders. The new module, which will debut later this summer, was funded by FEMA (they also provided support back in 2015 when NFPA first introduced ESS training to help the nation’s 1.1 million firefighters mitigate risk and respond to hazards).

Ron Butler, a former Detroit firefighter and president of Energy Storage Safety Products International, conducted the four-hour session beginning with an introduction to ESS and solar energy, an overview of key terminology, and some basic electrical information. He then spoke about different energy storage systems including lead acid, lithium ion, sodium sulfur and flow battery before explaining various PV technology such as monocrystalline, polycrystalline (mono/poly SI), thin film amorphous and concentrated PV cell (CVP) systems. Once the audience had a sense of the new and varied technology being used today in commercial and residential settings, Butler used videos, animation, case studies and best practices to demonstrate the ways that the fire service should handle failure modes and respond to dangerous incidents. This part of the training was highly interactive with audience members providing input and asking questions about pre-incident planning, thermal runaway, re-ignition, ventilation, air quality, emergency response, and disconnecting strategies.

NFPA’s updated ESS and Solar training helps practitioners properly identify the presence of PV and battery energy storage systems. Those that take the training will emerge with an understanding of the different types of battery chemistries and their related hazards; how to implement proper response procedures based on the type of incident; an understanding of the two common applications for energy storage systems and four types of energy storage systems; and knowledge about pairing photovoltaic (PV) systems and energy storage systems (ESS).


As was evidenced during the training rebirth in Vegas, NFPA’s updated ESS and solar training for the fire service provides a strong educational overview of today’s alternative fuel technology, proper mitigation practices, and the best ways to respond to fire and life safety hazards that often come with innovation.

At Las Vegas conference, NFPA president outlines eight elements of the Fire and Life Safety Ecosystem that must work in harmony to protect people and property.


Jim Pauley speaks  at NFPA Conference & Expo in Las Vegas
In the year since NFPA president Jim Pauley spoke to attendees at our 2017 Conference & Expo in Boston, Grenfell Tower in London went up in flames, killing 71 people and injuring many more. We also witnessed more than five dozen deaths as wildfires spread through Portugal, a tragic example of the wildfire story playing out all across the globe. Last July, three people died in a high-rise fire in an unsprinklered apartment building in Hawaii. And last fall at the Harvest music festival in Las Vegas, nearly 60 people including 12 off-duty firefighters, lost their lives in the deadliest mass shooting event in the United States.


Mr. Pauley said that these incidents and others that played out on the world stage in the past 12 months beg the questions: How are these events possible in this day and age, and what is it that we need to be doing?


"Each of these events is a tragedy on its own," said Mr. Pauley. "Taken together, they represent a catastrophic failure of what I call the 'Fire and Life Safety Ecosystem'. We are backsliding when we need to be forging ahead."


The good news: the number of fires is declining. But statistically, if you have a fire in your home, you are more likely to die today than you were 20 years ago. We do have many of the tools we need to prevent damaging fires – sprinklers, smoke alarms, codes, and enforcement. But they are being met with resistance -- underused, ignored, or allowed to become outdated. 


"We have failed to connect the dots," said Mr. Pauley. While everyone is so focused on particular aspects of incidents, collectively, we have forgotten that safety is a system – not a singular action, piece of equipment, or event.



"From NFPA's perspective, the full Fire and Life Safety Ecosystem includes eight elements that play a critical role in protecting people and property," said Mr. Pauley. "Time after time when we have seen calamities, we can trace the cause of those situations to a breakdown in one or more of the elements of the ecosystem."


NFPA Fire and Life Safety Ecosystem


Element 1 of the Ecosystem is government responsibility. Federal, state and local elected officials must create a regulatory environment where laws, policies, and spending priorities are dictated by public safety needs, not by special interests. "That is their job, to protect their citizens," he said. "And citizens expect them to do it."


To help educate and support policy makers, NFPA launched the Fire and Life Safety Policy Institute. The Institute studies a wide range of issues and provide information and guidance on the best approaches to improve safety for the citizens they serve. The Institute has already shed light on some serious issues including the gap between public expectations of safety and the reality of timely code use.


Element 2 focuses on the development and use of current codes. "Safety codes developed by experts from all over the world, many of you in this room, ensure minimum levels of safety," said Mr. Pauley. "The current editions of codes and standards incorporate learnings from recent research, technology advances, case studies, loss experience, and proven best practices."


Jim Pauley speaks  at NFPA Conference & Expo in Las Vegas


Element 3 addresses the issue of reference standards. "We all talk about the use of the 'code itself' – the building code, life safety code, electrical code," said Mr. Pauley. "But we have to spend more time talking about the importance of the referenced codes and standards as well."


To support Elements 2 and 3, Mr. Pauley announced the launch of NFPA CodeFinder, an online portal that showcases a map of the key codes and standards used in North America and around the world, as well as insights into the reference standards that relate to the particular codes. CodeFinder also offers a place for users to provide NFPA with information about code use if it is not already in the tool.


Element 4 of the Fire and Life Safety Ecosystem ensures that safety is prioritized. "Whether we are talking about using and enforcing codes, training workers, or choosing products, safety must be top of mind," said Mr. Pauley. "Uninformed decisions to simply cut costs can lead to disastrous and expensive consequences. Even in an anti-regulatory and cost-cutting environment, life safety measures should never be disregarded to save a few dollars."


Element 5 focuses on maintaining a skilled workforce, as employers in many trades are struggling to find competent staff.



Element 6 of the Fire and Life Safety Ecosystem deals with code compliance. "Whether a house or a new office building, the places people live and work are only as safe as the construction and code compliance in place," said. Mr. Pauley.


"Without sufficient resources to ensure construction and maintenance meet code requirements, communities are missing a critical step in the safety ecosystem."


Compliance is integral throughout the entire lifecycle of a building – every phase from planning and zoning through demolition. Mr. Pauley noted that NFPA has assembled an enforcers forum whose members represent the spectrum of a building's compliance issues who are having great conversations about how to better work with developers, owners and facility managers. In addition, NFPA just launched a new Member Section to give electrical inspection members a specific place to gather and take action.


Element 7 address preparedness and emergency response. Because first responders are on the front line for offense and defense for fires, car crashes, medical emergencies, natural disasters, and man-made catastrophic events, they must be well-trained, well-resourced, and well-prepared.


In May, NFPA issued NFPA 3000 (PS), Standard for an Active Shooter / Hostile Event Response Program, to help communities holistically deal with the fast-growing number of mass casualty incidents. The document is the first of its kind and provides unified planning, response and recovery guidance, as well as civilian and responder safety considerations. "Our work in this area represents NFPA’s growing significance in the full range of safety issues beyond fire," said Mr. Pauley. "We go where our first responder go." (See overview of NFPA 3000 resources and training.)


Element 8 of the Fire and Life Safety addresses the need for an informed public.


Mr. Pauley also announced the kick-off of a new project that combines public education and state-of-the-art technology to drive home critical safety lessons for all ages.


"NFPA has signed on to be the title sponsor for the 'NFPA HEROES Experience' a new attraction at the National Center for Fire and Life Safety," he said. "To be located in Alabama, the NFPA HEROES Experience will immerse visitors in authentic stories, exhibits and experiences that dramatize the importance of preventative fire and life safety measures. Think Disney meets fire and life safety. This will be unlike anything that has ever been done in fire prevention education.

It will impact not only Alabama but the rest of the country and the world."


Jim Pauley speaks  at NFPA Conference & Expo in Las Vegas


Mr. Pauley closed his remarks by encouraging attendees think about their role in the Fire and Life Safety Ecosystem. "What more can you be doing to better protect people and property?" he asked. "What more can we do together?


Mr. Pauley said there is not a single answer to safety. "We may not be able to prevent every tragedy from occurring, but by recommitting to and promoting the full safety ecosystem of prevention, protection and education, we can further our work to help save lives and reduce loss. It’s a big world, let’s protect it together. This is not a slogan. It is a call to action. That ladies and gentlemen is the focus of your association."


Read the full transcript of Mr. Pauley's presentation.

Watch the full video of Mr. Pauley's presentation.

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