Keeping employees safe from electrical hazards is a number one priority in a facility; it is also the law. Developing and implementing an electrical safety program (ESP) is a key step to creating a workplace that doesn’t put employees in harm's way. However, building a program from scratch or rebuilding a flawed program can be quite daunting. To help you, NFPA developed a new workshop that provides you the opportunity to practice many of the steps needed in developing an ESP. The first offering of this application-style workshop is being held in August on the island of Maui in Hawaii and promises to provide attendees with the needed experience to develop effective electrical safety programs in their own facilities.
In my recent NFPA Live session I focused on one of the exercises from this new workshop, which is designed to help you determine if a task is justified to be performed while energized. I received this follow-up question from a member. I hear this question a lot so I’m sharing my answer here with you.
Check out the video to hear the question and response, then get more info and register for this groundbreaking electrical safety training in paradise. I hope you find my response valuable and hope to see you in Hawaii. Mahalo!
Derek Vigstol is an electrical technical lead at NFPA. 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!
The NFPA 101 and NFPA 5000 core chapter Technical Committees just finished up their first week of First Draft meetings in Minneapolis, MN. It was a busy week with multiple meetings, lots of discussion and many beneficial code changes that resulted from hours of work contributed by NFPA staff and volunteers. While these meetings were for our Life Safety Code and building code, some of the discussions that arose crossed into the work of the Fire Code, and I was happy to contribute to those discussions.
One topic that arose during discussion related to a building owner’s responsibility to provide technical documentation about products in their building, specifically, existing opening protectives and glazing products, in order for the AHJ to verify compliance. That had me thinking about the provisions in NFPA 1 that specifically state the owner and occupant responsibilities related to the Fire Code.
Users of the Code would go to Chapter 10 for provisions related to a variety of topics; fire drills, emergency action plans, open fires, seasonal buildings, outdoor events, outdoor storage and even children’s play structures. However, at the front of Chapter 10 (Section 10.2) are provisions for the owner and occupant responsibilities, as follows:
As stated in 10.2.1 of the Code, the person responsible for the property is responsible for complying with this Code. The AHJ should work with property owners, operators, and occupants to educate them on the requirements of this Code. This cooperation can help correct violations and prevent the need to issue citations when inspections are conducted. If a violation notice is issued as a result of an inspection, the responsible party should ensure that the violations are corrected as soon as possible after the notice is received. If management takes a proactive approach to fire safety, others in the organization will likely do the same, thus increasing the fire safety of the property and reducing violations.
If the AHJ is not confident of Code compliance (e.g., where a fire protection system is in questionable working order, or a particular interior finish or opening protective lacks documentation of Code compliance), Section 10.2.3 permits the AHJ to require the property owner to conduct the necessary testing or to produce test reports showing that the system or materials in question comply with the Code. The AHJ can require receipt of the documentation on testing and maintenance of fire protection systems after such work has been performed. The cost of such tests or reports is the responsibility of the property owner or agent.
As AHJs, how do you work with building owners or others responsible for properties to help ensure compliance with NFPA 1?
Almost time to board my flight back to Boston. Looking forward to coming back to Minneapolis in a few weeks to continue the work in NFPA 101 and NFPA 5000. I am confident I will learn something about NFPA 1, too.
Thanks for reading, stay safe.
It is good to hear that this blog is getting those involved with electrical safety to think and talk about what they are doing to protect employees from electrical injury. I have been asked to explain what it means to use the hierarchy of risk controls regardless of a policy requiring the establishment of an electrically safe work condition (ESWC) or permitting justified energized work. How to use the hierarchy is obvious when it comes to justified energized work. However, using the hierarchy when establishing an ESWC is less obvious to many. It should be used the same way regardless of your policy. This comes down to considering the act of establishing an ESWC to be an administrative control to achieve elimination of the hazard. Bear with me and hopefully this will again shed some light on the process. Remember that the act of establishing an ESWC is considered to be energized work.
Consider an electrical installation with a step-up transformer (480/2400 volts) being used for a motor installation. An interrupting switch for a motor load is on the secondary. The primary disconnect and overcurrent device is located back at the switchgear. The incident energy at the transformer input terminal is 22 cal/cm2 with an arc-flash boundary out at 12 feet. Your employee will don 25 cal/cm2 PPE. This will require a full hood and arc-rated gloves. She will complete the eight steps in 120.5. She interrupts the motor circuit then opens the breaker in the switchgear. She goes into the transformer enclosure to verify the absence of voltage. The limited approach boundary is at 5 feet because the secondary is exposed. She is within the restricted approach boundary (2 feet, 2 inches) of the secondary terminals which requires the use of insulated tools and shock PPE rated for 2,400 volts. She will have established an ESWC while being potentially subjected to 2,400 volts and 22 cal/cm2.
If the hierarchy of risk controls was used, here is what the scenario might have been when establishing this EWSC. The overcurrent device is replaced with a current-limiting device with a faster clearing time to lower the incident energy to 8 cal/cm2. The arc-flash boundary has been lowered to 5 feet. There is a viewing window in the motor disconnect to permit visual verification that the load has been isolated. (Yes, this not the disconnect device but it is still used here.) The switchgear is arc-rated so that if an incident occurs when opening the breaker the arc-flash will be directed away from the employee. The input terminals of the transformer are in a separate enclosure allowing the use of shock PPE rated for 480 volts. The limited approach boundary is now at 3 feet 6 inches and the restricted approach boundary is 1 foot. The employee dons 10 cal/cm2 PPE with leather glove protectors and a face shield. She will complete the eight steps of 120.5. She verifies that the contacts isolating the motor load are clear. She opens the breaker in the switchgear then opens the transformer terminal box to verify the absence of voltage. She has also established an ESWC while potentially being subjected to 480 volts and 8 cal/cm2. Other methods might have been used to mitigate the hazard. The point is the hierarchy of risk controls was used to increase safety for the employee rather than solely establishing an ESWC.
Your employee can be injured at 480 volts and 8 cal/cm2 just as she can be injured at 2,400 volts and 22 cal/cm2. However, there is less risk and lower hazard levels in the second scenario. This is why you must consider the hierarchy even when your policy is to establish an ESWC. You may decide not to use some or all other controls but your risk assessment should consider them. There should never be energy present and the voltage measured should always be zero when an ESWC is being properly established. Your employee should truly never be exposed to an electrical hazard.
So why go through these additional steps? I am aware of situations where equipment is labeled with an incident energy higher than what currently available PPE is rated to provide protection from. The apparent “theory” is that since the policy is to eliminate the hazard through an ESWC that the hierarchy need not be used to lower the risk or hazard. Using and wearing inadequately rated PPE might be considered by many to be as irresponsible as not using any PPE. The personal protection your employee is required to use is for no other reason than something unexpected might happen that could injure them. When that does happen isn’t it important to provide, if not at least consider, a higher level of protection for that employee?
Please Note: Any comments, suggested text changes, or technical issues related to NFPA standards posted or raised in this communication are not submissions to the NFPA standards development process and therefore will not be considered by the technical committee(s) responsible for NFPA standards development. To learn how to participate in the NFPA standards development process and submit proposed text for consideration by the responsible technical committee(s), please go to www.nfpa.org/submitpi for instructions.
For more information on NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, read my entire NFPA 70E blog series on Xchange
Next time: NFPA 70E First Draft Meeting
NFPA appointed Andrea Vastis as senior director of Public Education, responsible for overseeing NFPA’s well-respected home fire education and wildfire programs.
Vastis joins us from CVS Health, where she oversaw product development and promoted the role of the pharmacist in the healthcare industry. She spent six years as an assistant professor and program coordinator for Community Health Education at Rhode Island College, and orchestrated educational outreach for the Rhode Island Department of Health and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island. Her ability to oversee strategic, purposeful planning, and management of interdisciplinary teams make her a great fit to lead NFPA’s well-known public education and wildfire mitigation advocacy teams.
“The energy, insight and expertise that Andrea brings to the table is exactly what NFPA is seeking to further our efforts to reach the public with lifesaving information.” NFPA Vice President of Outreach and Advocacy Lorraine Carli said. “The public is more complacent about fire and overloaded with lots of messages in lots of formats, it is critical that we develop innovative strategies and collaborate with others to deliver fire safety messages that resonate with the public and proactively reduce risk.”
Vastis is currently overseeing this year’s Fire Prevention Week, the theme of which is “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere.” The campaign works to educate individuals and communities about three basic, but essential, steps that can be taken to reduce the likelihood of having a fire – and to escape safely in the event of one. Vastis will also direct NFPA’s wildfire efforts including NFPA's Firewise USA® program which teaches people how to adapt to living with wildfire and encourages neighbors to work together and take action to prevent losses.
“NFPA is the go-to authority for fire and life safety educational content, tools, and resources. I am excited to work with the public education and wildfire teams and organizations that share NFPA’s mission so that we can collectively save lives and reduce loss,” Vastis said. “My primary goal is to “engage, inform, and activate the public.”
NFPA hosted the Building Safety and Security Workshop on May 10-11, bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders to help prioritize the next layers of “security safety” to be written into codes, planning documents, and related outreach materials.
In my recent NFPA Live webinar, I provided a synopsis of the workshop report, which brought to light a number of topics:
During the presentation, I received this frequently asked question from a member. I'm sharing it here with you. I hope you find some value in it.
NFPA collaborated with fire and life safety officials in two high-risk states this week to raise awareness of fire safety best practices and persistent community hazards. Fire safety summits were held in both Mississippi and Alabama, two Southern states that respectively had the first and fourth highest fire death rates per million population from 2011 to 2015 in the country, according to a 2017 NFPA research report.
Mississippi has the unfortunate title of being the highest-fire-risk state in the country with 57 unintentional residential fire deaths in 2017, and 42 fatalities so far in 2018. In 19 of these cases, smoke alarms were lacking. During the Mississippi session, the Any fire death is a death too many, people need to take extra fire safety precautions when it comes to protecting their homes and family. I believe this training will help accomplish our goal .”
Alabama is another state with significant fire deaths. This trend prompted the Alabama Fire Marshal’s Office, Alabama Fire Chiefs Association, City of Hoover Fire Department, Alabama Fire College and NFPA to host a . The “Turn Your Attention to Fire Prevention” program brought together over 130 fire prevention advocates.
Alabama experienced a particularly devastating year in 2010 when 122 people perished in fires. While the number of lives lost to fire in Alabama dropped to 79 in 2017, the state average has been approximately 90 in recent years – far too many.
For more than 120 years, NFPA has worked to make the world a safer place by educating audiences about how and why fires start. Our website is filled with consumer-friendly fact sheets on a wide range of timely and important topics that will help to keep you, your family, and your neighbors safe from fire and related hazards. Throughout the year, NFPA helps you and your community stay safe through partnerships like those experienced this week in Mississippi and Alabama.
Those facilities include hundreds of zones and tens of thousands of safety devices such as fire alarms, all of which must be evaluated as part of the commissioning and testing process for new buildings. The challenges associated with making sure those systems work as designed, and that the systems are able to communicate with each other in an emergency, expand as buildings grow from big to bigger to gargantuan.
Those challenges and how they are being met are the focus of “Managing Magnitude,” the cover story in the July/August NFPA Journal. Authors Robert Keough and David LeBlanc of Jensen Hughes share their experiences with an array of casino resorts in Macau and offer readers a handful of takeaways that can be applied to the commissioning and testing process for many types of “megaoccupancies.”
Keough and LeBlanc point to NFPA 3, Commissioning of Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems, and NFPA 4, Integrated Fire Protection and Life Safety System Testing, as valuable tools to help fire commissioning agents manage the complex processes of commissioning and testing.
“Through our work in Macau we have identified important ground rules for each of the four project phases—planning, design, construction, and occupancy—that can help stakeholders avoid common mistakes related to commissioning,” they write. “With the trend of building big being embraced around the world, anyone involved in the commissioning process is urged to consider a handful of key practices that can effectively shape expectations and streamline the steps necessary to getting a facility up and running, on time and on budget.”
Nine-fold. That’s how great the increase was in residential battery energy storage system (ESS) installations from Q1 2017 to Q1 2018, according to PV Magazine. Homeowners are not the only ones going gaga over green technology. State officials and business leaders are also embracing the battery energy storage and solar systems that are revolutionizing our nation’s electrical infrastructure. All this innovation, however, can bring new hazards that emergency responders need to be well-versed on.
To address potential fire and life safety issues that may occur with solar and ESS technology in both housing and commercial settings, NFPA has updated and expanded its Energy Storage and Solar Safety Training for the fire service, with funding from FEMA. In 2015, FEMA funded NFPA’s initial efforts to develop first-of-its-kind ESS classroom training program for the fire service, and recently provided a second round of funding to update and expand the content with solar safety information and the latest in storage research findings.
The instructor-led course explores terminology, basic electrical theory, types of PV installations, battery chemistries (lead acid, lithium-ion, sodium sulfur, and flow batteries), as well as common applications they will be found in. Detailed guidance on handling failure modes and potential hazards associated with these technologies are covered, including pre-incident planning, systems shutdown, battery thermal runaway and re-ignition, ventilation, and other emergency response procedures. Fire service training officers are encouraged to participate in the training, then host classes locally to address the knowledge gaps surrounding alternative energy technology for first responders, AHJs and others in their area.
“We are increasingly seeing more high power battery energy storage systems comprised of hundreds or even thousands of smaller battery cells in our communities. These units connect together to create a much larger power supply capability, and are cropping up in large outdoor shipping containers, inside commercial buildings, at multi-family dwellings, and in residential homes,” NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley said recently. “Our first responders and enforcers need to know about hazards including electrical shock, batteries exploding or reigniting, HAZMAT issues, and flammable toxic off-gassing so that they can keep themselves and others from harm.”
NFPA has been addressing the topics of ESS and solar safety for years via relevant educational sessions, research and content. NFPA 855, Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems, is slated to be released in 2020 and will help create more stringent ESS requirements nationally. The proposed standard will work alongside the new NEC Article 706. There were nearly 600 public inputs submitted on NFPA 855 last fall and more than 800 public comments were received during a recent comment phase, underscoring the strong interest in energy capture, distribution and storage.
For more information on the enhanced ESS and solar classroom training, contact NFPA. FEMA funds have also been earmarked to update NFPA’s self-paced online training with interactive 3D modeling, videos and quick reference materials by the beginning of 2019.
NFPA Regional Director Russ Sanders was honored with the 2018 Everett Hudiburg Award by the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) Executive Board. The prestigious award recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions to the training of firefighters, and is named after IFSTA publications Editor Everett Hudiburg. Sanders accepted the distinguished honor at the 2018 IFSTA Validation Conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma this past weekend.
As NFPA’s regional manager for the central states, Sanders represents NFPA in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Additionally, he is the executive director of NFPA's Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association, and serves as the President of the United States Delegation to the International Association of Fire and Rescue Services, an organization that represents fire professionals in more than 50 countries.
The University of Louisville alumnus is well-known for being a subject matter expert (SME) for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and their partner organizations and educational institutions, on structural firefighting and high-rise firefighting scientific research projects.. This work has guided response training and deployment decisions for fire departments throughout the United States. Prior to joining NFPA, Sanders was Chief of the Louisville Fire Department in Louisville, Kentucky.
On behalf of NFPA’s staff, heartfelt congratulations to Sanders for being recognized for his unwavering commitment to improving and expanding training, and the enforcement of codes and performance standards.
IFSTA could not have picked a better guy!
Michael Crowley, Vice President of Development and healthcare practice leader for Jensen Hughes, and 38 year NFPA member, presented this popular topic to a packed room at the 2018 NFPA Conference & Expo in Las Vegas last month. Crowley is a passionate leader in the healthcare industry and currently serves as the Chair of the Health Care Facilities—Correlating Committee for NFPA 99.
Setting the stage of this session, Crowley compared the recorded health care facility fire losses from 1980 to 2014. Crowley explained, "The Life Safety Code has defined Fire Safety in healthcare since the late 1960’s. The adoption of the Life Safety Code by the precursor of Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) launched it as the premier healthcare fire and life safety document. The modification made over the years identified life safety and healthcare functional issues. These issues were addressed in the Life Safety Code and the positive performance are reflected in the recent Fire Record reports."
Some of the major Life Safety Code changes that were introduced during this time period include:
While the positive impact of NFPA 101, Life Safety Code® is clear, Crowley stressed to the audience that the healthcare industry continues to evolve and so must the code. New patient care options, design trends, more stringent smoking regulations, and a host of new technologies are just some of the topics that will spark code change discussions for the 2021 edition. To stay updated on the document's progress or to become involved visit nfpa.org/101.
Did you know that NFPA Conference & Expo attendees and NFPA members get full access to ALL the 2018 NFPA Conference & Expo education session audio & video files? Browse the full list of education sessions here. If you're not currently an NFPA member, join today!
I'm often perplexed at what is the most effective method of improving the safety of electrical installations around the world. Should we focus on providing the installation community with better tools, assistance and guidance on installing electrical equipment or should we focus on supporting the inspection community and rely on the AHJ community to ensure that installations are safe upon completion? To me it's a little bit of a chicken and egg paradox. On one hand, better and more thorough enforcement of Code requirements will lead to more installations that meet or exceed the requirements of NFPA 70: National Electrical Code (NEC). But on the flip side, if we focus on helping the installation community, it leads to compliant installations long before the AHJ ever steps foot on a job site.
Each approach presents its own unique set of pros and cons. For instance, creating a culture where inspection is less needed due to better installations opens the door down the road for installers to cut corners where they know inspectors won't look. It also allows government officials to use a "lack of citations" as fuel for discussions around manpower. If a jurisdiction is seriously looking at cutting staff salaries to meet budget constraints, they might look upon this as an opportunity to cover larger territories with less inspectors; after all, the electricians in the area must really know what they are doing when inspectors rarely cite NEC® violations. I think for now the answer lies somewhere in the middle between the two extremes: provide tools, training, and solutions that set installers up to be able to install electrical system while reducing the friction that exists when referencing the NEC. At the same time, provide the inspection community with guidance and training on how to perform electrical inspections and needed guidance on professional qualifications for electrical inspectors.
NFPA has been busy over the last year developing two new documents to provide this needed guidance. NFPA 1078: Standard for Electrical Inspector Professional Qualifications and NFPA 78: Guide on Electrical Inspections were created in response to a call for help from the inspection community. Recently, NFPA’s Jeff Sargent discussed the development of these documents during an NFPA Live Member’s Only event. Here is the portion of the video where he breaks it down.
Simultaneously, NFPA has been busy putting together a plan for how to reduce friction between the NEC and its users. As we all know, the book itself can be difficult to read and understand. Providing training and products that offer a better explanation of code requirements and how to apply provisions of the NEC has been a core focus of NFPA lately. Tools and solutions that both save time and present needed information to the installation community at the time that they need it will work two-fold in improving electrical safety. By making both the installer’s job easier and more efficient, they are able to serve more clients while fostering a better understanding of NEC requirements. When more jobs are being completed by qualified personnel and being completed in compliance with the NEC, the safety of our installations increases significantly.
It is an exciting time here at NFPA as we focus on transitioning a 120-year-old standards development organization to a modern-day information and knowledge provider committed to improving the safety ecosystem and eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards.
During the First Draft Meeting for the 2016 edition of NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems the Correlating Committee for NFPA 13 instructed all Sprinkler Technical Committees to develop a plan for streamlining the standard to make it easier to follow; indicating that there are redundancies throughout the standard that have increased the length of the document without adding clarification of the requirements. Since that time a reformatting task group has been diligently working to completely reformat NFPA 13 to follow the logic behind designing a sprinkler system.
In my recent NFPA live session I discussed many of these formatting changes. I received this follow-up question from a member. I'm sharing it here with you. I hope you find some value in it.
I'll also be offering a full webinar tomorrow, Thursday, July 19, 2018 at 1:00-2:00 pm EDT on NFPA 13, 2016-2019 Changes. This webinar is open for free to all who register. Be sure to join me!
Today’s post is from NFPA staff member, Jennifer Sisco. Jen is a Fire Protection Engineer in the Building and Life Safety Department where she serves as Staff Liaison to multiple NFPA Technical Committees, including Smoke Management systems responsible for the development of NFPA 92. Special thanks to Jen for her contribution!
This Friday Code Friday is all about Smoke Control Systems. Unfortunately, they will not help you when the smoke from your campfire keeps changing in your direction, but they are important building fire protection systems which have unique testing and inspection requirements.
Section 11.8 of the Code addresses smoke control systems. It should be noted that Section 11.8 does not require smoke control systems but mandates that, where such systems are installed for Code compliance, an approved maintenance and testing program must be provided to ensure operational integrity. A smoke control system dedicated to emergency use only will not be subject to dialed use, and therefore, maintenance and testing of smoke control systems are necessary.
Per Section 11.8, newly installed smoke-control systems are required to be inspected by the AHJ and tested in accordance with the criteria established in the approved design documents, NFPA 92, Standard for Smoke Control Systems, and NFPA 204, Standard for Smoke and Heat Venting. NFPA 92 applies to the design, installation, acceptance testing, operation, and ongoing periodic testing of smoke control systems. It incorporates methods for applying engineering calculations and reference models to provide a designer with the tools to develop smoke control system designs. NFPA 204 applies to the design of venting systems for the emergency venting of products of combustion from fires in buildings. NFPA 1, 2018 edition, references NFPA 92 2015 edition and NFPA 204, 2015 edition. The smoke control system’s performance objectives and acceptance criteria should be approved by the AHJ prior to its installation. In some cases, the code mandating the system specifies the performance objectives. For example, in accordance with NFPA 101®, atria require an engineering analysis to demonstrate that smoke will be managed for the time necessary to evacuate the building.
In addition to the initial inspection and testing, smoke control systems are required to be operationally tested on an approved schedule, per NFPA 1, Section 126.96.36.199; which NFPA 92, Section 8.6 clarifies is annually for dedicated systems, and semi-annually for non-dedicated systems.
Smoke control systems fall into one or two categories, as outlined in NFPA 92, Section 4.2: Smoke Containment Systems or Smoke Management Systems. Smoke containment systems are designed to either contain smoke to a given zone or keep smoke from entering a given zone through the use of differential pressure. Examples of these systems include zoned smoke control, and pressurization systems for stairwells, elevators, vestibules, or smoke refuge areas. Smoke management systems are designed to maintain tenable conditions, set forth in the design, for large-volume spaces through the use of both natural and mechanical ventilation and air movement. Examples of these systems include atrium and mall smoke control systems.
Smoke control systems can include many components including: initiating devices, fans, dampers, vents, controls, smoke barriers, fire stopping, doors, and windows. Each of these components is required to be inspected, tested, and maintained as part of the smoke control system. Therefore, it is important to understand the individual components of a given system. It is the responsibility of the owner/occupant to retain records pertaining to inspection, testing, and maintenance of the systems per NFPA 1, Section 10.2.5.
Smoke control systems are a significant part of life safety, and therefore any time that a system is impaired for more than four hours, the authority having jurisdiction is required to be notified. The AHJ has the authority to require the building to be evacuated or provided with an approved fire watch for the duration of the impairment per NFPA 1, Sections 11.8.4 and 11.8.5.
Thanks, again, to Jen for contributing to this blog. And thanks to all for reading, stay safe!
We know that summer vacation brings with it lots of travel for some people. So we thought this week would be a good time to remind you to have safe and exciting adventures!
According to NFPA, 173,000 highway vehicle fires occurred in the US during 2016 resulting in 206 civilian fire deaths and 1,075 civilian fire injuries.
There wasn’t much that could be done when an oil truck collided with a passenger car while both were crossing the Atlantic Street Bridge in Compton, CA on July 15, 1935.
The above photo shows the oil truck on the left in flames and the bridge structure on the right.
The truck ran off the bridge, catching fire and burning down the structure. Several men narrowly escaped death as one suffered severe burns.
For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Research Library & Archives.
Library staff are available to answer reference questions from members and the general public.
A new law that requires the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop and maintain a registry to collect data on firefighter cancer was signed yesterday by President Trump.
The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act calls for the collection of voluntary data including whether a firefighter is a career professional or volunteer, years on the job, the number of calls responded to, and incident type so that researchers can better understand the impact of smoke inhalation and other job-related dangers that may lead to cancer.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), firefighters face a 9 percent increase in cancer diagnoses and a 14 percent increase in cancer-related deaths, compared to the general population in the United States. The hope is that the new Firefighter Cancer Registry data will influence firefighter protocol, inform medical research and enhance treatment for firefighters battling the dreaded disease.
The CDC is charged with stimulating participation in the voluntary registry, developing guidance for state agencies, and ensuring that once the information is collected it is made public and available for research purposes. The federal registry will electronically connect to state-based registries to glean local cancer diagnosis, pathological, and treatment details.
Firefighter contamination and occupational cancer have been organizational priorities for NFPA for many years. NFPA and its affiliate, the Fire Protection Research Foundation, have partnered with international fire groups, academic institutions, healthcare leaders, like-minded organizations and others to conduct research, identify safety gaps, develop best practices and educate audiences about the cancer risks that exist on the fire ground, and in firehouses, gear and apparatus. NFPA research reports, editorial content, fact sheets, safety bulletins, and workshops have helped to inform firefighters, their families, and community leaders about cancer in the fire service - and keep this important issue top of mind.
The campaign for the Firefighter Cancer Registry began in February 2017 when Buffalo area state representative Chris Collins proposed a bill to capture firefighter demographic information and exposure data.
After the announcement from the White House, Collins told Buffalo News, "We currently have a lack of information about how being exposed to certain fires will impact a firefighter's health, and this is a common-sense way to collect that data to improve protocols and equipment. I express my deepest gratitude for our nation's firefighters and first responders, and take pride in knowing that this registry could lead to reforms that will save lives."
Well-played and well-said, Mr. Collins. NFPA and the global fire community thank you for leading the charge to protect those who protect us.
Many fire protection and life safety systems are designed to operate together in order to allow occupants to safely escape from a fire or other emergency. For example, if a sprinkler system activates in an office building, it’s expected that the notification appliances activate, magnetic door holders release and the elevator recalls to the appropriate floor. While integrated system testing confirms the “handshake” between these individual systems, this type of testing has not been mandated by any building code until now.
Not familiar with NFPA 4?:
NFPA 4, Standard for the Integrated Fire Protection and Life Safety System Testing, is a standard that was first issued in 2015, and provides the minimum requirements for testing new or existing integrated fire protection and life safety systems where such testing is required by the design documents, commissioning plan, governing laws, codes, regulations, or standards. This does not replace acceptance testing. Acceptance testing must still be conducted to test the performance of the individual system; integrated system testing follows acceptance testing to confirm the handshake between two or more integrated systems.
NFPA 4 does not provide a prescriptive lists of test scenarios, or testing frequencies based on the occupancy classification or the types of systems installed inside a facility. Since the level of testing varies from one building to another, NFPA 4 provides a protocol that will verify the integrated fire protection and life safety systems perform as intended.
The fire protection and life safety systems installed in their facility have been tested to not only work individually, but also in conjunction with one another. While building owners can’t receive the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) without performing acceptance testing to confirm compliance with local ordinances, codes and standards, it is likely that integrated system testing has not been conducted.
NFPA 4 now referenced in multiple NFPA and ICC codes:
NFPA 1, Fire Code, NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, and NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code, all include a reference in their latest editions to NFPA 4. The 2018 editions of NFPA 101 and NFPA 5000 require where two or more fire protection or life safety systems are integrated, testing must be completed to verify proper operation and functions of such systems.. Where two or more integrated systems are located within a high-rise building, or include a smoke control system, NFPA 101 and NFPA 5000 require that integrated system testing must be completed in accordance with NFPA 4 when integrated system testing is required by other sections of the code at intervals not exceeding 10 years unless otherwise specified in a test plan. (See TIA 18-2 and TIA 18-3). The Fire Code extracts the language from NFPA 101.
In addition, the 2018 editions of the International Fire Code and International Building Code include a requirement to verify the operation and function of any two or more integrated fire protection or life safety systems. When these integrated fire protection or life safety systems are located in a High-rise building or include a smoke control system, the integrated testing must be completed per NFPA 4 at intervals not exceeding 10 years unless otherwise specified in a test plan.
The five major items outlined in NFPA 4 include identifying the people on an integrated system testing team who are responsible for writing and executing the test plan, developing test scenarios and test frequencies, and documenting this information in a final test report to submit to the owner. Join Shawn Mahoney and me in San Francisco, CA on July 19th or in Charlotte, NC on September 13th for the 1-day NFPA 4 Fundamentals Program which takes a deeper dive into applying the concepts in NFPA 4!
For more information on NFPA 4, please visit www.nfpa.org/4
This week marks the anniversary of the Hartford Circus Fire on July 6, 1944. So we thought we would repost a previous #TBT blog.
The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Combined Shows, billed as "The Greatest Show on Earth," arrived in Hartford, CT on July 5, 1944, a day before the fire. The oval-shaped circus tent, made of canvas, was approximately 425 ft. x 180 ft. and covered an area of 74,000 square feet. The tent had a seating capacity of 9,048 people: 6,048 in the reserved grandstand seats and 3,000 in the general admission bleacher seats. Attendance on the afternoon of the fire was just under 6,800. The circus had over 1,000 employees, but it's unclear how many of them were inside the tent when it caught fire. Reports estimate that roughly 7,000 people were inside the tent when fire broke out. There were nine exits from the tent, but except for the main entrance and bandstand on the opposite end, the exits were narrow aisles in between the stands used primarily by performers. Additionally, when the fire started, two of the exits were blocked by cage runways, called "chutes" in the circus industry, used to bring the animals to the stage.
People flee as flames consume the "Big Top" during a performance outside of Hartford on July 6, 1944.
The fire was first discovered about 2:40 p.m., 40 minutes into the 2:00 matinee. The fire began on or near the ground 20 or so feet to the right of the main entrance, between the main tent and a small canvas enclosure directly behind it that was the men's toilet. Reportedly, most of the crowd made no effort to leave in the first few minutes after the fire was spotted. According to the NFPA Quarterly v.38, n.1, "it is said that at the outset the crowd viewed the fire incredulously, thought it part of the show, or believed it to be an incipient fire that would quickly be controlled"
As the animals were being led through the chutes at the end of their act, cries of "Fire" rang out from the general admission bleachers to the right of the main entrance, directly in front of the where the fire had started. It was at this time when people began to take the fire seriously, as flames burned slowly up the canvas wall to the tent's top and then shot rapidly to the opposite corner of the top.
Diagram of the Hartford Circus Fire, July 6, 1944. There were 167 confirmed fatalities.
Most people in the front and back few rows were able to escape-- those in the front rushed directly to an exit, and those in the back jumped 10-12 feet to the ground and escaped under the canvas walls. But many people in the middle rows stumbled and fell because of loose folding chairs scattered about in the mad dash by those in the rows ahead of them. Some who fell were trampled to death, and a few people were killed by the collapse of the poles holding the tent up or from the burning tent falling on top of them. However, the majority of those who died were people sitting along the left hand wall from the main entrance. Two of the three exit aisles on this side were blocked by the animal chute cages. The steps that went over the chutes quickly proved inadequate, and attempts to climb over the chutes were largely futile. People began to pile up against the sides of the chutes, where most of the bodies were found. In all, 167 people died in the fire, and many hundred were injured, some hospitalized for months.
For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Research Library & Archives.
Library staff are available to answer reference questions from members and the general public.
Special thanks to Laurel Wilson for her work in researching and writing this synopsis of the Hartford Circus Fire.
The second of three training courses developed to educate communities on NFPA 3000TM (PS), Standard for an Active Shooter / Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program is now available. NFPA 3000 provides unified planning, response and recovery guidance to help different authorities integrate and minimize harm if a mass casualty event occurs in their city or town.
The three-part NFPA 3000 online, self-paced training series covers key elements of the standard, including:
On May 1, the first 2-hour training course debuted along with the new standard. It focused on three components - “Program Overview”, “Risk Assessment” and “Program Development”. The new Respond course highlights “Incident Response” and “Public Education and Information”; and builds on the lessons learned during the Plan training. The new modules underscore the benefits of communicating and practicing procedures with other agencies; methods for notifying first responders and the community if an ASHER event happens; and the development of targeted public information and training programs to minimize chaos.
Throughout the development process for NFPA 3000, Technical Committee (TC) members tied to hostile events in Boston, Wisconsin, Orlando, Sandy Hook, and Las Vegas emphasized the importance of working together to save lives and reduce angst. They echoed the sentiments of their fellow TC members from law enforcement, the fire service, emergency medical services, hospitals, emergency management, security, private business, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Department of Justice, in stressing that, “the days of working in silos are gone”.
Later this summer, the final NFPA 3000 training course will be available. In addition to qualifying for CEUs, those that complete NFPA 3000 online training will receive a badge after each of the three courses (Plan, Respond and Recover), as well as a Program Specialist Badge for completing all of the courses. More importantly, those that take the comprehensive online learning courses, will be better equipped to protect citizens and first responders if a perpetrator strikes.
It’s not often a massive industry emerges seemingly overnight, but that’s what’s happened with legal marijuana. In just a few short years, the drug has gone from total prohibition to a thriving legal industry in states across the nation. The staggering growth has led some analysts to predict that, in less than a decade, the American public will spend more money on marijuana products than on chocolate—more than $24 billion annually.
As the industry expands to more states and countries—the Canadian parliament voted to legalize cannabis nationally this past June—companies and investors are building millions of square feet of pot growing and processing facilities. Suddenly, fire officials from Newfoundland to California are being asked to oversee the build-out and operation of a new massive and unfamiliar industry—they face steep learning curves and many unknowns.
The feature article “The New Face of Pot,” in the new July/August issue of NFPA Journal, dives into some of the unique fire safety challenges of the marijuana industry and what lessons can be learned from Denver, the city that has all but pioneered the regulation of industrial marijuana facilities. For the article, I met with government officials, equipment manufacturers, growers, regulators, fire inspectors, engineers, industry groups, and more. They paint a picture of an industry in constant motion, always advancing, as regulators struggle to stay a step or two behind.
In addition to the feature, please read my interview with Molly Duplechian, Denver’s deputy director of policy and administration, who has led the city’s government in dealing with the regulatory and policymaking challenges of the emerging pot industry. Also, read “NFPA 420?” about one Denver firefighter’s push to create a new NFPA standard to address the unique challenges of the marijuana industry.
THC-A crystaliine, above, which can be 99.9 percent pure THC, is one of the hottest products in Colorado's thriving marijuana market