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Last week I was in Fort Lauderdale staffing the NFPA 1 First Draft meeting.  We spent two full days addressing 125 public inputs, generating revisions to the Code and discussing newly proposed ideas.  In those two days we addressed topics ranging from valet trash services to repair garages for alternative fuel vehicles, to cannabis, artificial vegetation, extension cords, portable generators, energy storage systems, and PV systems.  And that is just the beginning.  One of the reasons I enjoy working with this Code as much as I do is the wide variety of topics that it addresses. A fire code is far reaching, and impacts us on a daily basis. I am constantly learning something new, and how important this code is to fire inspectors.


Of that variety of safety issues that the Code addresses, corn (crop) mazes is one of them. When I first opened NFPA 1 I had no idea it addressed anything as specific as crop mazes, but even corn mazes require diligent preparation and understanding of the Fire Code and its application to these seasonal attractions.
One might not think of a corn maze as somewhere with a great fire safety risk.  However, crop mazes pose unique fire safety problems due to their configuration (confusing paths and lack of marked egress) and the inherent combustibility of the maze materials (drying corn stalks.)


Corn Maze - fire code


NFPA 1 addresses a number of requirements pertaining to these crop mazes.  Some of the biggest concerns are communication of regulations and instructions to both employees and visitors and making sure there is a way to make announcements to visitors should an emergency occur.  It is also important to reduce the likelihood for a fire to occur by keeping potential ignition sources, such as open flames, pyrotechnics, smoking materials, and special effects at a safe distance from the maze.


Section 10.14.11 of the Code contains the following provisions related to crop mazes:

  • The owner/operator is required to advise all employees of the fire and life safety regulations as well as provide safety instructions to the visitors and patrons of a crop maze prior to their entrance to the maze.
  • The owner/operator must contact the local fire department and provide them with the opportunity to prepare a pre-plan of the maze prior to the start of seasonal operations.
  • A minimum of two employees shall be on duty to monitor a crop maze during hours of operation and at least one of the employees shall be located on an elevated platform a minimum of 10 ft above the maze.
  • Motorized vehicles shall not be parked within 75 ft of a crop maze and a fuel break of a minimum of 20 ft wide shall be cleared between a crop maze and any vehicles or vegetation outside the maze.
  • A public address system is required to make announcements during an emergency.
  • The entrance and exit from the maze cannot be blocked or obstructed anytime the maze is open to and occupied by the public.
  • No more than 200 persons per acre can occupy the maze at one time.
  • No open-flame devices are permitted within the boundaries of the maze, including no smoking.


Do you have crop mazes in your jurisdiction? Have you inspected corn mazes for compliance with NFPA 1?  What are the common deficiencies you see in your jurisdiction?  The requirements from NFPA 1 will help ensure we all stay safe and have fun while enjoying these outdoor attractions this season.


Check out these other blogs related to seasonal attractions you may find in your jurisdiction:

Haunted Houses
Combustible Vegetation

Special Outdoor Events


Thanks for reading.  Stay safe and Happy Friday!


Please visit to view the free access version of NFPA 1 2018 edition.  Follow along on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA.  Looking for an older #FireCodefriday blog?  You can view past posts here.

With Fire Prevention Week right around the corner (October 7-13, 2018), we thought we would take the opportunity to highlight something from our FPW Archives. Fifty years ago, when Sparky the Fire Dog was still just a puppy, NFPA designed and distributed book covers as part of their Fire Prevention Week campaign materials. These covers not only provided kids with a groovy way to protect their books, they also offered helpful tips on how to stay safe in the event of a fire.



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.

Getty Images

While the news coverage of the Brazil museum fire has largely focused on the fact that it was a museum that burned—raising questions over the value society places on preserving artifacts—the fact that it was a historic building is just as significant. 
Museums or not, historic buildings are at high risk for catastrophic fires unless modern fire and life safety systems have in some way been added to them, and the incident in Brazil was the latest in a series of recent, massive blazes in historic buildings. In June, fire gutted a 110-year-old building in Glasgow, Scotland, that was being used as a library by the Glasgow School of Art, and in August, a fire spread through a 233-year-old retail building in Belfast, Ireland. 
The problem of fires in historic buildings is a well-documented one, and solutions do exist. NFPA 914, Fire Protection of Historic Structures, outlines measures that can be taken to protect historic buildings from fires, including installing automatic fire sprinklers. But too often, these solutions aren't implemented. 
Read why in "Saving History," available  now and which will appear in the November/December 2018 issue of NFPA Journal


“Toyota builds for redundancy; I never thought this would happen,” Engineer Ryan Grimes said as he reflected on lessons learned when a natural disaster disrupted operations at a Toyota pickup truck plant in San Antonio, Texas for ten weeks. Grimes is charged with plant planning and provided insight on an unanticipated weather event that challenged business continuity, lead to new partnerships, and resulted in some surprisingly positive operations efficiencies.

In May 2016, a microburst brought intense wind and rain which caused roof drains to close. The steel roof ripped like paper causing leaks that then prompted power problems in the facility. As a result, production halted to a stop. When the elements subsided, the Toyota team needed to find solutions and resources; and, in the process, identified new business approaches.

Speaking to attendees at NFPA’s Conference & Expo in Las Vegas, Grimes offered a snapshot of the car maker’s operations in North America - 14 manufacturing plants, 26 million square feet (~600 acres) under roof, 250+ substations (primary-transformer-secondary) and over 50 miles of busway before detailing the devastation at the plant in Texas.



Despite the top ten Fortune 500 company’s strong preparedness culture, they were not entirely ready for Mother Nature’s wrath or the fallout that ensued in the weeks and months after violent weather hit San Antonio.



Given their lengthy delays in manufacturing and insurance claims that amounted to tens of millions of dollars – Toyota is sharing their experience so that others will benefit and be forthright about their own operational challenges.



Grimes shared the following 13 lessons learned that may help you plan for both the anticipated and the unexpected.

  1. Emergency plans need to be up to date, and include responsibilities. A lack of understanding about roles and direction were obstacles that could have been avoided.
  2. When there’s a roof on the floor no one thinks about electricity. Workers were standing in water with live electrical cable nearby. Look for all hazards, not just the obvious one. Locate and repair existing and potential unsafe conditions with stringent inspection and assessment. Is it safe for all? Could there be additional failures? What is damaged? What are the priorities?
  3. Ironworkers know more than you think. The roof in the Toyota incident was sitting on cable. When the iron worker was told to cut the cable, he realized it was holding up part of the roof. He stopped immediately and informed the project team. 
  4. Supplier relationships are important. Toyota did not have a relationship with a generator company, and spent a great deal of time working on logistics. 
  5. Know your load – not just how much but what kind. Cyclical loads aren’t necessarily the same as others.
  6. Think about cable runs before you run. Planning where to run cable is important. Decide where they should go and how to protect them while they are in place.
  7. Quick isn’t always the best. Long lead items are sometimes important and can save time in the long run.
  8. Sometimes you really can’t get there from here. Restoring a facility or operations back to the original condition may not be the best option.
  9. A good design firm can be invaluable. Partnering with a design firm that has capacity in all disciplines can make all the difference.
  10. Not all cable tests are created equal. Toyota needed to test cable that had the roof sitting on it. They considered partial discharge which was potentially damaging and only allowed for detection of gross/major insulation defects. Tan-Delta was not damaging, and could distinguish between new, medium and strongly aged insulation. Additionally, it has a low power requirement.
  11. Test your work after it’s complete. Look at reoccurrence prevention. Why did this happen? What can we do if it happens again?
  12. What comes in, must come out. Decommission!
  13. Big cranes are fun to watch. Incidents like the one at Toyota’s Texas truck plant require difficult decisions and tasks – and very long hours of working with the same team for weeks on end. You have to look for bright spots, celebrate the wins, and apply learnings to ensure that you are better prepared for business continuity in the future!


Looking to learn more about the steps you can take to optimize safety in the event of a natural disaster? NFPA offers facility emergency preparedness planning training and a course to help develop an electrical safety program based on the 2018 NFPA 70E, as well as a web page devoted to disaster preparedness.


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!

You would think that the concept of properly installed electrical equipment would be easily understood. However, there are some areas in United States that do not adopt the most recent National Electrical Code® (NEC®) and therefore may not have installation requirements for new technologies or alternate methods. Also, there are counties that do not follow the state’s adoption of the NEC. Some areas are more concerned with residential installations than commercial or vice versa. In many areas, the service and initial electrical distribution system are inspected by a local authority at the time of building construction. However, commercial, industrial, and residential electrical installations have additions to the electrical system and additional installed electrical equipment that have been done in-house. Many times an outside contractor performs that work. Installations could have been done by someone who may or may not know the correct NEC installation requirements.
Often the installation is in accordance with NEC requirements. Occasionally, installations deviate from those requirements. The conductor or cable that is on the truck or available in-house is used rather than what is specified. A different fuse or circuit breaker is used because it was less expensive. Conduits or tubing are installed in locations not appropriate for compliance with the NEC. Grounding and bonding may not be completely accomplished. Some of the time this occurs due to an error. Other times this occurs by choice. Either way an inspection of the installation will help correct these before someone is harmed.
Whether we want to admit it or not, at some point in our career, we have all done something that we felt was “good enough.” We may have done this under the assumption that we would be the one responsible for dealing with that piece of equipment. If we were lucky enough, someone inspected the installation and pointed out areas that were lacking. When an installation is done in a neat and workmanlike manner and compliance with the requirements, almost everyone would welcome an inspection by someone else. Most of us take pride in our work and having it validated is rewarding. 
Regardless of who did the installation, inspections are not for the purpose of assigning blame. Electrical inspections are conducted to verify that installations are in compliance with requirements set in place for safety. NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace® requires proper installation as a basis for minimizing electrical injuries. A safe installation is necessary for not only for any person operating the equipment but also for those maintaining the equipment. Although the NEC and NFPA 70E address electrical safety, safe operation of equipment is not limited to complying with electrical standards since things like improperly installed pressure systems may affect the safety of that equipment. If an outside authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) does not perform inspections of these installations, you are by default the AHJ. It is your responsibility to have installations verified as being are in compliance with the NEC and manufacturer’s requirements before permitting an employee to interact with the equipment in any manner. This is true whether the work is done in-house or by an outside contractor. How are you doing this?
For more information on 70E, read my entire 70E blog series on Xchange
Next time: NFPA 70E audits.
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 for instructions.

In 2017, the U.S. experienced $16 billion dollars worth of damage from weather- and climate-related disasters. This astounding figure underscores the necessity of staying prepared in case a flood, tornado, or some other force of nature hits your community.

Health care facilities are no different. Specific steps can be taken to better plan for and recover from a natural disaster. Since its National Preparedness Month, we wanted to share some idea from Anne Guglielmo with Liberty Mutual Insurance. She spoke at NFPA's Conference & Expo this year about pre- and post-disaster tasks for health care facilities. Guglielmo also emphasized the importance of utilizing NFPA 1600, Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity/Continuity of Operations Programs. In the following video, Guglielmo shares some important highlights:

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!


A series of California wildfires that killed 44 people was the deadliest fire event in the country in 2017.


That event was one of 21 fires and explosions that were considered catastrophic multiple-death fire events last year, and is presented as part of the excerpted report “Catastrophic Multiple-Death Fires and Explosions in the United States in 2017,” which appears in the new September/October 2018 issue of NFPA Journal.


NFPA defines catastrophic multiple-death events as fires or explosions that cause five or more deaths in a home or three or more deaths in non-home structures, or in fires outside of structures such as wildfires. In 2017, these events

killed 150 people, including 21 children under the age of six. Of those 21 fires, 14 occurred in homes and accounted for 84 deaths.


By far the largest loss of life occurred in an event known as the 2017 October Fire Siege in Northern California. In addition to the 44 people who died, fires destroyed an estimated 8,900 structures, burned 245,000 acres, forced the evacuation of more than 100,000 people, and resulted in property damage of more than $9 billion.


The September/October issue of NFPA Journal also includes an excerpted version of another report, “Fire Loss in the United States in 2017,” along with a cover story on how colleges and universities are rethinking campus safety in the age of active shooters.

On the night of September 20, 1929, a deadly night club fire killed 22 people and injured over 50 more in Detroit, Michigan.


The Study Club was a popular cabaret on the edge of Detroit's downtown district that offered dining and dancing. There's evidence it also served liquor, which was illegal at the time under Prohibition. The club opened about a year before the fire and had a reputation for being "patronized by an outwardly respectable clientele" (Fire Engineering955).

The club had several fire hazards. Along the walls and hanging from the ceilings were highly flammable decorations, including wooden lattice work, hanging oak leaves that had been covered with wax or lacquer, and cloth draperies. About a year prior to the fire, the building department ordered that a new fire escape be installed before the club could open. However, the proprietor was able to get approval to open the club by assuring officials he would install a fire escape shortly. However, that never happened.



Escaping the Fire

When fire broke out around 1:30 a.m. on Friday, September 20, 1929, the Study Club was in full swing with a large after-theatre crowd. It's difficult to know how many people were in the club when the fire broke out, because few people who escaped without injuries reported their presence at the club. Estimates range from 75-175 people, well below the club's maximum capacity of 250. The fire originated from a drapery at the bottom of the stairs on the first floor. The drapery covered a walled partition that blocked the stairs leading down to the basement. The cause of the fire was never determined, but the most likely cause was a match carelessly cast aside by a patron coming down the stairs.


The fire was seemingly first noticed by a man and a woman on their way out around 1:30 a.m. As the couple passed the coat room, the man told the attendant, "Did you know there is a fire back there, girlie?" The girl rushed down the corridor, saw the fire at the foot of the stairs, and ran to the kitchen to get a pail of water. But by the time she returned, the flames had spread too much for her to handle, so she ran out of the building yelling "Fire!" The chef in the downstairs kitchen heard her cries and tried to go upstairs to warn patrons on the second floor, but the flames had already begun making their way up the stairs, so he ran out the door as well. Everyone on the first floor, who were mostly employees, had no trouble escaping. But on the second floor, panic quickly ensued, as "it was only a matter of seconds from the time the fire was first noted until flame and smoke were belching into the dance hall area" (NFPA Quarterly122).


As flames came up the stairs and into the front of the dance hall "with a lightning-like rapidity" (NFPA Quarterly122), most patrons ran toward the back of the room, where the only opening was a doorway to a small dressing room used by entertainers. People rushed into the tiny 5x13 room, thinking there was a fire escape. Unfortunately, the only possible means of escape from the dressing room were two windows, one of which was blocked off. Still, apparently a few people escaped through these windows. At least one person jumped 22-25 feet down into the alley below, and reportedly, a woman slid down a telephone pole several feet from the windows. However, soon "bodies were inextricably wedged together in this small space, making further escape by this route impossible" (NFPA Quarterly 123).


Next to the dance hall entrance were swinging doors that opened into the upstairs kitchen, where there was a service stairway. While some reports indicate a number of people escaped by this route, the NFPA Quarterly stated this seemed "very questionable in view of the location of the opening," since "the flame and smoke coming from the main doorway soon cut off access to the kitchen door." Not to mention, most patrons wouldn't have been aware of this stairway.


One employee rushed to the door where the fire escape was supposed to be, had it ever been installed. He found the door locked, but broke through the glass to jump the 20 or so feet to the ground below. It's possible a few others escaped this way as well, but the NFPA Quarterly concluded it was unlikely anyone could have reach the fire escape door after the first few moments because of how quickly the flames spread to that side of the room.



Fighting the Fire


There was a fire station just a few blocks away from the club, so the fire department responded within two minutes of the alarm sounding at 1:32 a.m. Firefighters had no indication that anyone was inside, because the electricity had gone out early in the fire and most of the windows were either covered by decorations or plastered off. It wasn't until firefighters made their way upstairs and into the dance hall, extinguishing flames along the way, that they realized victims were inside. Thirty-five to forty bodies were trapped in the dressing room, all dead or unconscious except for one girl who was wedged under several bodies.

Of those the firefighters found inside the building, 18 were dead at the scene, largely due to suffocation and crushing. Four others died later in hospitals, bringing the total deaths to 22. At least 45 cases of serious injury were reported, but presumably a number of others who escaped were also injured and left the site without reporting it.



Impactful Developments


Half a dozen city and state departments conducted an investigation of the fire. They concluded that the fire, which began as negligible, grew out of control so quickly because of highly flammable drapes and decorations, along with a draft caused by the front door being left open as people escaped. This draft was further fueled by a fan on the ceiling of the dance hall. It was determined that the club had undergone a routine fire inspection by the Fire Prevention Bureau on May 31, almost four months before the fire. No recommendations were made at that time, because the building had two means of exit, which is all the building required.

The day after the fire, Detroit officials met to discuss how to prevent a tragic night club fire from happening again. In Detroit at the time, it was the recreation department that issued licenses to operate night clubs. The city's fire marshal wrote in his report of the Study Club fire that night clubs "have never come under the jurisdiction of the Fire Prevention Bureau in relation to obtaining a certificate of approval from the Fire Department…before a license is issued" (Fire Engineering 956). He stated it was the building department's responsibility "to determine the adequacy of exits or other means of egress" (Fire Engineering 956) before a license could be issued. In the Study Club's case, the building department had in fact ordered the removal of the old, unsafe fire escape and the installation of a new one prior to opening. However, because the owner agreed to install a new fire escape soon, the building department signed off on the recreation department issuing a license.
In their meeting the night after the fire, Detroit officials unanimously agreed to require night clubs to pass an inspection and receive approval by the Fire Prevention Bureau before the recreation department would issue a license to them. In the week that followed, the city fire marshal "made a flying tour of the city's night resorts" (Fire Engineering 956) and ordered remedial fire prevention measures at some of them, such as the removal of draperies or other inflammable materials or the addition of a fire escape.



  • Daly, William Jerome. "Draperies in Night Club Proved Serious Life Hazard." Fire Engineering (October 16, 1929): 955-956.
  • Morris, R .J. "The Study Club." The Slate (undated).
  • Moulton, Robert S. "The Study Club Fire." Quarterly of the National Fire Protection Association 23, no. 2 (October 1929): 115-125. (Available through the NFPA library)


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 Research Library & Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic.

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 Study Club Fire.

As students head back to school, chances are they’re not thinking about all of the fire safety requirements that keep them safe during the school year. As professionals in the field, however, we’re trained to know and follow the Fire Code and related requirements that play a critical role in ensuring the safety and security of our school campuses. 
In my recent NFPA Live session, I take a look at ‘back to school’ code enforcement issues including furnishings and contents, inspection of exit facilities, emergency action plans, and fire drills, and how these provisions relate to NFPA 1, Fire Code.
I received this follow up question from a member and I thought I’d share it with you. We hear this question often here at NFPA. I hope you find the question, and the answer, helpful.
Val Ziavras is a Principal Engineer and Staff Liaison for NFPA 1. 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, join today and start enjoying all of the great benefits that come with being an NFPA member!

Responders search for victims among the rubble following a bridge collapse in Genoa, Italy, in August (Getty Images)

This article was first published in NFPA Journal on September 4. Read more articles from the "Dispatches" section of the September/October 2018 issue of NFPA Journal here.
In August, a bridge built in the 1960s collapsed in Genoa, Italy, killing 43 people. Photos from the incident show firefighters and other responders searching for survivors and victims among giant slabs of concrete and twisted metal.
As Miami-Dade (Florida) Fire Chief and NFPA member Dave Downey watched the news unfold, he identified parallels between it and what his department experienced in March, when a bridge collapsed and killed six people on the campus of Florida International University. A few days after the bridge collapse in Italy, Downey shared his thoughts about the Italy incident and the one he experienced in Florida months earlier via email with NFPA Journal.
Do you think Italian officials are experiencing similar challenges to the ones your department faced?
While the Italian bridge collapse and the details surrounding the search and rescue efforts are still unfolding, I am sure that some of the challenges we faced during our event in March will be present here as well. While the magnitude of the Italian incident exceeds ours incident exponentially, I am sure there are similar challenges.
What’s the biggest challenge?
First and foremost for us was accountability. We had to ask ourselves, how many people were on, under, and around the bridge when it collapsed? This is not like a typical building collapse where you might be able to more quickly determine who was in the building and who is missing. Like I am sure is happening in Italy, we had to rely on witness statements, direct observation, and gaining access to as much security video footage as possible. That process is very time-consuming.
What are some of the other challenges?
The second major concern, but the primary with respect to rescue operations, is the stability of the already collapsed sections of the bridge, as well as the still-standing portions that have the potential to collapse. In our case, we were dealing with a 174-foot continuous span of concrete that was intended to be stabilized through post-tensioning, which failed during the collapse, resulting in large, unsupported sections of concrete that could not be easily lifted or removed.
After my 30-plus years in the fire service and working in the urban search and rescue environment, I have come to the conclusion that regardless of what engineers and construction experts say, the only way to move large sections of concrete is to make them smaller sections of concrete. This takes an incredible amount of time, but fortunately in our case, it strictly affected recovery and we did not have to break up large sections of concrete to rescue survivors.
The final challenge in these types of events is when to make the decision to transition from rescue to recovery when you are still perhaps uncertain as to the total number missing people. It can be a really hard decision to make, but it’s essential.
What are your thoughts on the efforts of Italian responders?
From the footage I have seen, it appears the Italian rescuers have a good strategy for the rescue operation, utilizing all search techniques available including canines. Access to parts of the collapse appeared to be a challenge but the utilization of cranes and other vertical options appeared effective. It’s a tough way to work hanging from a rope, cable, or even in a basket, and I applaud their hard work.


In the wake of a massive fire at the 200-year old National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, cultural leaders, fire officials, life safety authorities, and the press have zeroed in on the widespread underfunding of cultural institutions; the overall disrepair of arts buildings; and the safety deficiencies that further exacerbate fire incidents in museums around the globe.


This year’s National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar Hugh Eakin wrote an op-ed piece in The Washington Post about the treasure trove of Latin American history that went up in flames at the Museu Nacional on the evening of September 2. As reported, the former 19th century royal palace was home to more than 20 million artifacts, including audio recordings of languages no longer spoken, Greco-Roman artifacts, dinosaur fossils, Egyptian mummies, and many more irreplaceable finds. Lives were spared because of the timing of the fire, but the building and an estimated 90% of the contents were ravaged by smoke, flames, and water.


For years, NFPA has worked with the Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro fire departments, and more recently with the fire service in the states of Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo, Paraná, Pará, Ceará and Goiás to help authorities address fire safety challenges and strengthen local protocol. Interestingly enough, last October NFPA technical staff presented on NFPA 909, Code for the Protection of Cultural Resource Properties - Museums, Libraries, and Places of Worship and NFPA 914, Code for Fire Protection of Historic Structures at a seminar organized by Fundabom (São Paulo Fire Department Support Foundation), in partnership with the São Paulo Fire Department and Brazilian Architecture Council. During that program, NFPA and others addressed different aspects of historical building fire protection so that the São Paulo Fire Department could review and revise their standard related to the protection of historical and cultural buildings.


Data from the American Association of Museums (now the American Alliance of Museums) indicates that budgets for cultural institutions have dropped from 38% to 24% since 1989. In the Post piece, Eakin wrote, “As we witness the Brazil tragedy, it may be all too easy to conclude that this is a poor-country problem. It’s not. It is a warning for all of us.” The article goes on to quote J. Andrew Wilson, a museum adviser and former head of the United States’ Smithsonian’s fire protection program, as saying, “There exists a cavalier attitude in this country that ‘fire won’t happen to me.’” This same sentiment was echoed in The Los Angeles Times story entitled, “Think the museum fire in Brazil can’t happen here? Think again.”


By all accounts, the museum in Brazil was seriously underfunded. Other transgressions have been noted as well, including political issues, ignorance of safety concerns, disregard for employee warnings, and a general disinterest in the arts and history that put the building and its contents at risk. The building also lacked sprinklers and working fire hydrants.


With all these factors at play, what happened in Brazil is certainly saddening, but not surprising.


Clearly, more can and should be done to protect institutions that house the history and heritage of any group, culture or nation. Without proactive, practical steps in place to champion and enforce fire and life safety, public buildings will continue to be at a greater risk for hazards and heartache.

As the southern East Coast of the U.S. braces for Hurricane Florence, one group is urging healthcare facilities and others to take important steps now to safeguard emergency power. 
Powered for Patients, which was formed in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy to raise awareness of the importance of bringing people together before a disaster to help avoid a loss of power, has issued a checklist of key steps for facility managers to help keep back up power running as smoothly as possible during what could be extended power outages. This information also encourages emergency managers, public health officials, utilities and healthcare facility administrators to have conversations prior to Florence's landfall to clarify notification protocols for any critical healthcare facility that may experience a threat to its emergency power.
Such preparations are also an integral part of an emergency preparedness rule passed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that took effect in November 2017. The new criteria requires healthcare providers to have extensive plans in place for numerous types of events including hurricanes. Requirements for emergency and backup power supplies as well as consideration of other logistical needs for long-duration events are an important part of the rule. NFPA has a resource page explaining the expected planning provisions to help medical providers with their emergency preparedness needs. 
September is National Preparedness Month and with hurricane season lasting through November, many healthcare facilities and related businesses in coastal regions are taking action now to ensure they are prepared for impending storms. The checklist is a great resource to use as you work on preparations.
In 2015, NFPA Journal interviewed the co-founder of Powered for Patients, Eric Cote, who credited NFPA with helping the group understand the technical aspects of backup power in terms of codes and standards and accreditation guidelines. 
Industry professionals looking for additional information about Powered for Patients and how their organization can become involved can visit its website
Since its release in December of last year, EFFECT, NFPA’s electronic tool to assess the risk of high-rise buildings with combustible cladding, has seen widespread use across the globe by engineers, AHJ's and others interested in assessing risks and prioritizing mitigation in these structures.  Over 300 corporations are now using the tool worldwide and its utility has been highlighted by global research organizations. 
The Autumn issue of the Journal of the National Institute of Building Sciences discusses the features and functionality of the EFFECT tool and how it is used to assess the fire risk in high rises with combustible cladding. In Australia, the Queensland Building and Construction Commission established Safer Buildings to help identify buildings in Queensland that may have potentially combustible cladding and will now require building owners to register their building and complete the combustible cladding checklist. 
Learn more about EFFECT and try it out for yourself by visiting our website,

On September 15, 1936, a fire destroyed the historic Mt. Lowe Tavern. Located on Mt. Lowe in California, the wreckage was estimated to be worth about $250,000.



Since this fire was the third incident to threaten the structure in as many days, an immediate investigation was started to determine whether the origin was of an incendiary nature. The official finding of the Deputy Sheriffs’ office was that “the fire started in the pantry from a short circuit in a compressor.”

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.

While devastating beyond expectations, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma were not surprises to the residents of Texas and Florida, respectively. But even with advanced warning for these storms, residents of several licensed nursing homes and assisted living facilities found themselves in life-threatening circumstances that were, in fact, avoidable.

Using these and other incidents as examples, Shawn Gillen, DFD Architects, Inc., and Fred Worley, Fred Worley Architect, who co-hosted “Emergency Planning in Long Term Care Facilities – Advanced Warning Doesn’t Ensure Safety” at NFPA’s Conference and Expo in Las Vegas this past June, addressed the critical importance of advanced planning and preparation in the event of an emergency at long-term care facilities.


Gillen and Worley strongly encouraged facility managers to identify the hazards that are most likely to occur in their communities, and to prepare for them first. Gillen reinforced the importance of writing out a plan (not just discussing it), as well as maintaining ongoing communications with staff at all levels to ensure that they’re well aware of the facility’s emergency plans, and to encourage their insights and feedback. Continued re-evaluation of the plan as hazards and circumstances evolve and change is also critical, as is regular training.


In addition, both speakers addressed the determining factors that help assess whether it’s safer to shelter in place or evacuate residents. In the event of sheltering in place, back-up systems for heating and cooling systems are needed, as is generator back-up to ensure that those systems can function. They also pointed out that while evacuation is a serious endeavor, it’s not always a last resort, and may in fact be the safer option in some situations.

In planning for an evacuation, facility managers need to determine where residents and staff will go; how they’ll track and account for them; how they’ll track their records and medications; and how medications will be administered. For people on IVs, oxygen or are incontinent, managers need to figure out how these needs will be taken care of not only at the sheltering location, but in transit from the nursing home to the shelter.


Lastly, the speakers discussed recovery after an emergency, pointing to NFPA 1600®, Standard on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity/Continuity of Operations Programs as a resource for managing those efforts.



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!

Fires on college campuses can have devastating consequences, impacting learning and everyday activities. But according to NFPA member, Mike Halligan from UL, safety professionals can take steps to evaluate fire risks and identify gaps to reduce (and hopefully one day eliminate) fire hazards on campus. How? It's all in the planning. And to do so means as a campus fire safety professional, you need to develop a business continuity plan that works together with fire inspections. By doing so, says Halligan, you’ll see the positive impact on your institution as operations quickly get back to normal after a fire incident. He explains below:



When it comes time to decide how you'll tackle the plan, Halligan stresses the importance of focusing on particular areas of campus that are more prone to fires, and not just looking at the campus as a collective whole. Addressing these places of interest and including regular fire inspections, Halligan says, have made a difference in mitigating the risks. Some of the key areas are: 


  • Research facilities like chemistry and biology labs
  • Housing locations
  • Special event facilities
  • Physical plants
  • Remote sites (i.e, research offices, campuses abroad)
  • Urban/wildlands


And it should be noted that these areas not only create challenges on main campuses but they can also present problems at satellite locations, as well. As more and more higher education institutions expand across the country and around the globe, safety plans can and often do vary from one location to another. Take for instance remote campuses oversees where each country relies on its own codes, standards and safety practices; they are different than here in the U.S. Halligan explains some of the challenges:



So whether your campus sits squarely in the middle of a bustling city or nestled among the hills of a suburban town, if you have one campus or multiple locations, all higher education institutions face similar challenges in keeping students, teachers and property safe from fire, electrical and related hazards. Take this opportunity during Campus Fire Safety Month to review the resources you have. Even with limited budgets, Halligan says that having professionals on your staff who possess the right skills and knowledge to understand the important link between business continuity plans and inspections can make a world of difference, as he points out in the video below:



Did you know that NFPA Conference & Expo attendees and NFPA members have access to all 2018 NFPA Conference & Expo education session recordings, including this one? Learn more about campus fire safety by watching Mr. Halligan’s full session video and browse the full list of additional education sessions here.


Additional information about campus fire safety for students can be found at

There must be an increase in the need to perform justified, energized work on equipment with high incident energy levels. Questions have come in regarding the restriction for incident energies above 40 cal/cm2. Many believed that NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace® requirements “really” only applied above 40 cal/cm2. Others believed the standard did not cover incident energies above 40 cal/cm2. It took some time to realize what everyone was considering to be a restriction. Prior editions of NFPA 70E contained an informational note that stated when incident energy exceeded 40 cal/cm2 at the working distance, greater emphasis may be necessary with respect to de-energizing when exposed to electrical hazards. The purpose of this note was to re-emphasize the requirements of the standard. Establishing an electrically safe work condition (ESWC) was and still is required regardless of the incident energy.
One problem with the informational note was that many where incorrectly interpreting it to mean that it wasn’t necessary to worry about incident energies below 40 cal/cm2. These people felt that this note meant that an ESWC was not “really” necessary or required until 40 cal/cm2. Below this level it was just a suggestion to establish an ESWC. This may be why I receive so many questions about using PPE when working on energized equipment rather than establishing an ESWC. Those who thought that way have put many employees at a greater risk of injury. 
Another group was interpreting the informational note to mean that NFPA 70E placed a limit on the permissible incident energy. The PPE category tables are limited to address equipment that is permitted to be worked on while wearing at least 40 cal/cm2 gear. If you have equipment that is listed on the PPE category tables but the specified parameters are not met then the equipment must be evaluated under the incident energy analysis method. There is no limit to the incident energy that can be calculated. However, finding PPE rated to protect at high energy levels may be difficult. 
Misuse of the standard and specifically of the 40 cal/cm2 informational note is one reason for the removal of that informational note. Once you have a system that exceeds the threshold limits in NFPA 70E, you must minimize the hazard and risk that hazard presents to your employees. An electrically safe work condition must be established if an employee is to enter the limited approach boundary. NFPA 70E is about protecting the worker from injury but there may not be equipment available to protect from all levels of a hazard. That is one area where the hierarchy of risk controls comes into play. Although there is no limit to the amount of incident energy that may present, if energized work is justified, you are responsible for protecting your employees from whatever level of hazard exists. 
For more information on 70E, read my entire 70E blog series on Xchange
Next time: Properly installed equipment.
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 for instructions.

Since 1997, the Fire Protection Research Foundation has organized SUPDET®, an annual symposium which brings together leading experts in the field of fire protection engineering for the purpose of sharing recent research and development on techniques used for fire suppression, detection, and signaling. These events are generally attended by a variety of fire protection professionals, such as engineers, researchers, insurers, designers, manufacturers, installers, and AHJs.



This year, the weather was unwilling to cooperate with our planned 2018 SUPDET® symposium. Due to the likelihood of Hurricane Florence’s impact on the region later in the week, the decision was made to cancel part of this week’s SUPDET® program.



The Detection portion of the program was held as scheduled on Tuesday, September 11-to Wednesday, September 12, ending at 11:30 am on September 12.

Tuesday started with a keynote by Chris Jelenewicz, the Technical Director at SFPE. His presentation “Research Needs for the Fire Safety Engineering Profession: The SFPE Roadmap”. The program continued with presentations that included research on smoke alarms, pre-ignition detection algorithms, code requirements and new technologies.



The workshop planned for the afternoon of Wednesday, September 12 and the Suppression portion of the program scheduled for Thursday, September 13 and the morning of Friday, September 14 has been cancelled.

We know that the speakers have put in a lot of effort to develop their presentations and papers, so the Fire Protection Research Foundation is currently looking into options for possible webinars to cover both the workshop and suppression presentations. The Foundation will follow up on this as well as on refund options as soon as the details are worked out.

For more information, please visit the SUPDET page on

Today marks the seventeenth anniversary of 9/11, and is one of those days that always makes me stop and reflect on those we lost and on all the lives affected.  On this day last year, I shared a remembrance from Stephen King who I have had the pleasure of getting to know through his role as the Chair on the Technical Committee for NFPA 1971 and NFPA 1851. Prior to that, Steve was the FDNY Chief of Safety, and 9/11/2001 was his last day on the job.


I thought it would be fitting to share Steve's powerful thoughts again today. 


9/11/2001 – A Remembrance

As I drove to work on September 11th, 2001, I remember thinking that it was an incredibly beautiful morning.  The New York skyline was crystal clear on the horizon even though I was still many miles from the city line.  The twin towers stood tall and proud welcoming everyone to the city.


I arrived at my headquarters a little before 8 A.M.  I was reporting for duty as the citywide safety chief for a 24 hour shift.  From my office windows I could look out directly at the twin towers looming tall in the sky just across the East River. It was so close that I felt that if I leaned out of the window I could almost touch the towers.


It was my first tour back after finishing several weeks of vacation so that I could take care of my wife who was terminally ill.  I wanted to continue to stay home with her, but she understood that I had an important job in the FDNY and that I was needed back.


I started the tour the same way firefighters start the job throughout our country.  I headed straight to the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee and to find my relief so he could brief me on events in the city during the last 24 hours.  After debriefing I made my way back to my office which was right down the hall.  As soon as I entered the room I saw a massive explosion in the North Tower that seemed to engulf at least ten stories.  My heart sunk immediately.  In 34 years on the department I had never seen anything like it even though I had worked through the “war years” in the city.  I immediately turned to my aide Bobby Crawford and told him “Let’s get going”.  Usually when there is a fire or emergency you get notified by a “ticket” to respond.  There was no reason to wait for a ticket for this because there was no doubt that we wouldn’t be assigned to this alarm.


Within minutes we were on the Manhattan Bridge with a clear view of the towers the entire way.  If I thought that it looked foreboding before, now it was much worse.  I could see many workers from the building either leaning as far out the windows as they could to avoid the intense heat and smoke or outright choosing to jump.  I remember thinking it was unlike anything I had ever witnessed in my career or even thought was possible. It seemed to me like a terrible nightmare but it was very real and I knew it. There would be no putting this fire out. FDNY had known for years that any fire of this magnitude in a high-rise would be almost impossible to extinguish. Too many floors with too much fire.  Fire being fueled by jet fuel.


We arrived at the towers in nine minutes, well before the second plane hit the South Tower.  We transmitted our arrival to headquarters, pulling our vehicle dangerously close to the North Tower, too close. Bobby quickly realized that our position put us in immediate danger from falling aircraft and building debris and people who were jumping.  He backed the car further away from the tower, placing it under a building undergoing construction.  The building had a scaffold offering enough protection to allow us to open the trunk of our car and put on our equipment without being hit. At this time there was so much debris and bodies falling that we had to look up into the air to avoid being hit while trying to run into the tower.


Once inside I reported to the lobby command center and was issued orders to go up the “B” staircase looking to see how the evacuation was unfolding and if there was any signs of panic from the many civilians rushing, rather calmly, to exit the tower. As we slowly made our way up we could see many of the civilians taking the time to pat a firefighter on the shoulder or to whisper “God Bless You”.  They couldn’t believe that firefighters were going up.  It was a memory that will stay with me always. Bobby and I continued up to the eighth floor where I took a moment to try to give my report to the Command Chief, via our department issued handi-talkies.  It was useless.  There was too much radio traffic with many transmissions either being unable to transmit or unheard.  I decided that we would have to go back down to the command center to relate the status of the evacuation in person.  I told Bobby to follow me down.  With all the people exiting via the staircase Bobby and I became separated somehow.  I didn’t realize that Bobby wasn’t behind me until I reached the command center. I tried almost continuously to make contact with him via the handi-talkie but it never happened.  Bobby Crawford never made it out alive.


While it was never discussed directly, I knew that all the chiefs were thinking the same thing.  If the fire continued to burn it would eventually cause the steel girders which supported the floors and exterior walls to fail.  Steel starts to soften and fail quickly at around 1000 degrees and a fire fueled by jet fuel burns at around 2000 degrees.  This was almost certainly going to be my last day alive! There was no way any of us were going to survive this.  Those of us at the command post knew that we would not abandon the firefighters that we sending up the stairwells; we were all in this together.


While all this was going on, I couldn’t help but remember the destruction that I witnessed when I responded to the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993.  I remember the many sub floors that were destroyed.  These same sub floors gave much needed lateral support to the massive vertical girders which held the towers up. There was genuine concern that these vertical girders would buckle without this lateral support, leading to a collapse of the tower.  I vividly recall trying to remind myself to pay attention to all that was going on because no matter how long I continued to work in the department nothing could ever begin to approach the magnitude of the destruction I witnessed that day. I couldn’t have been more wrong.


As an aside, I always found it interesting that even though my job required me to take in all major events that occurred within the city, that was the only two times I ever responded to the World Trade Center. 


At some point, upon my arrival back at the command post, we received a report that a second aircraft hit the South Tower.  This couldn’t just be a terrible accident.  We had to be under attack.  I remember thinking it couldn’t get any worse.  How could any of us survive this?


Shortly after, while assisting at the command post, there was a radio transmission. It stated “Oh my God!  The Towers coming down.”  With no other information available to me I immediately assumed that this was the North Tower, the tower I was in.  Even if I couldn’t believe what I heard transmitted, I could start to hear a deep rumbling coming from above.  It sounded like the noise you heard when you waited for the subway train to come into the station.  It was getting steadily louder.  You could sense the air pressure compressing. I remember thinking there would be no escaping death now! Of course that sound was the South Tower collapsing.  The tower that was hit second was coming down first.  At that point I didn’t understand what was happening.  In my mind and in many of our minds it was our tower coming down. How could it not be?  We could hear it and feel it.


They say it took ten or eleven seconds for the South Tower to come down completely.  Mere seconds! Yet I distinctly remember seeing before my eyes my complete life unfolding. Everything from my childhood, my school days, time in the Navy, raising our children, my entire life.  I could write a 300 page novel about those ten seconds.


Suddenly the noise stopped.  I seemed to still be alive unless I was dreaming.  I was covered in debris and engulfed in smoke and heavy dust unable to see or barely breathe.  Somehow I had shattered my left knee.  I wasn’t alone.  There were some other voices, not many.  It was impossible to see anyone.  Our sounds brought us together and we decided if we were to get out it had to be quickly.  All of us were having extreme difficulty breathing.  Since we couldn’t see we grabbed onto each other’s fire coats and tried to find a way out.  Eventually we found it.  Once outside I quickly became detached from everyone else.  My leg injury was making it impossible to keep up with anyone else.  Outside was a world of grey-white.  You couldn’t see far at all and definitely couldn’t see up.  It was like I was floating in some cloud. Debris was still falling around me. I had to try to get away from the other tower.  It was only a matter of time before the second tower would fall. 


I had only gotten a short distance away when I could hear the second tower starting to come down.  I would be caught in the collapse.  Where to go?  I saw a subway entrance across the street from me.  Could I make it in time?   I had to try.  As soon as I reached the subway entrance I threw myself down the stairs.  There was no time to walk.  I was starting to get hit by small debris. The best I could do was sit along the wall immediately adjacent to the staircase.  Within seconds I was being covered by debris which came tumbling down the stairs.  When it stopped I couldn’t see my legs.  Did I really manage to survive both collapses? I just sat there for a while basically giving up, thinking was I really already dead and I just didn’t know it?  Finally I started removing the debris from my legs.  I really could not get myself up to walk and I don’t quite remember how I ended up in the street.  I think I passed out at some point. 


The next thing that I recall was someone poking at my shoulder.  It was a doctor wearing a white uniform.  He arrived with an ambulance. I was very confused at this time.  I remember riding in the ambulance with several people working quickly on me trying to ascertain the extent of my injuries.  It was chaos to me.  I started to go unconscious.  I remember feeling like I was floating a couple of feet above myself in the ambulance, looking down at the doctor and nurses working on me. I thought it doesn’t look good at all.  I think I came about as close as you could to dying in that ambulance.  And I was watching it all.  I thought that I had to be already dead.


The next thing I remember was awakening in a hospital emergency room somewhere.  A nurse standing over me asked if there was anything that I needed.  I told her that I wanted my rosary beads that I always kept in my fire coat.  She told me that all of my gear was missing and that while they knew I was a firefighter, they had no idea who I was.  I passed out again.  I don’t know how long.  When I next awoke I found a pair of rosary beads in my hands and two Franciscan priests praying over me.  I passed out again.  When I awoke next there was a detective in my room waiting to find out who I was.  After asking me several questions he asked me if I wanted to phone anybody.  At this point I wasn’t sure where I was and certainly had no idea of how much time had passed since I was found in the street.  The detective handed me a phone.  I remember calling home and my wife answering the phone and bursting out crying the second I said “Hi”.  She had been told that I was missing in action and that I probably didn’t survive.  She told me days later that it was the worst thing that she ever had to go through in her life.


What I remember most that day was the incredible bravery of all the first responders and their willingness to run into the towers when everyone else was trying desperately to get out.  I remember the occupants, while desperately trying to leave the towers, taking time to help those who were having difficulty making their way out.


I will forever remember the many, many friends and colleagues that I lost that day. All of them, heroes!


Stephen J. King
Former Chief of Safety, FDNY

Retired on disability due to injuries sustained on 9/11, his last day of work.

As the summer months slowly fade away and we head into fall (and gasp, winter!), our thoughts and actions steer toward the start of school and even the upcoming holidays. But in fact, the fall season is actually a time when hurricanes, thunderstorms, wildfires, and other natural disasters make their impressive mark and affect the way we live our daily lives. If you've seen the news lately, you know that the east coast is currently bracing for Hurricane Florence, and expected to make landfall this week. Did you know that while hurricane season begins May 15 and ends Nov. 30, according to the National Weather Service, most of these storms peak in October? You don’t have to look too far back to remember Superstorm Sandy that hit the east coast in October 2012 to understand how powerful these storms can be.
And it’s not just hurricanes that make the news: Southern California begins experiencing troublesome Santa Ana winds in October, which have been known to increase the intensity of an existing wildfire or turn a small brush fire into an a blaze, and the Plains and Great Lake regions often start their battle with freezing conditions and snow. 
According to the Weather Channel, other memorable storms that have battered the U.S. in October include:
  • October 2013: Winter Storm Atlas hammered the High Plains with blizzard conditions
  • October 2011: The "Snowtober" storm knocked out power to over 3 million in the Northeast.
  • October 2010: The "Octobomb" storm set all-time low pressure records in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and spawned severe thunderstorms and tornadoes in the Ohio Valley and Mid-South.
  • October 2006: Heavy lake-effect snow damages many trees, knocks out power to one million customers in Buffalo, New York.
With National Preparedness Month upon is, it’s incumbent upon all of us who are tasked with protecting people and property from fire, electrical and related hazards to work with each other and with our communities before emergencies affect our areas. Being better prepared for and collaborating during and after an emergency is key to also getting operations back to normal as quickly as possible.
NFPA provides a wealth of information for professionals including building owners and facility managers, first responders, health care facility managers, electrical professionals, and more. The following is a sneak peak of what's available on our website:
  • First responders face many hazards when working with vehicles that have been submerged in water, particularly with hybrid or electrical vehicles. Our newest Submerged Hybrid/Electric Vehicle Bulletin breaks down the safety issues to help keep first responders safe.
  • Electrical professionals are often tasked with equipment maintenance for electrical, electronic and communication systems and equipment found in multi-family residential complexes, industrial plants, and commercial buildings to prevent equipment failures and worker injuries. Chapter 32 of NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance, provides a useful framework for recovering electrical equipment and systems after a disaster.
These are just a few of the great resources NFPA provides to help guide you in your emergency preparedness efforts. With so much “weather” happening across the country these days, don’t wait until it’s too late to take advantage of this great material. Let us know how we can help.
For these and other sources of information including related blog posts and articles, visit

Emergency responders train during an active shooter drill at Missouri State University. Credit: David Hall


The threat of an active shooter attack weighs heavily on college and university emergency managers these days—more so than even fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, and crowd control at sporting events, many say. “Even though there is so much planning in place, it’s that unknown human element that is so hard to control,” Alan Sactor, fire marshal at the University of Maryland and assistant director for the university’s Office of Emergency Management, told NFPA Journal. “In my job, the concerns are whether we got people prepared, and how well we handle an event.”


“The New Normal” the cover story of the September/October issue of NFPA Journal looks into how preparedness for shooting incidents has become a central focus over the years on university campuses—a trend that has accelerated as of late. Colleges and universities have invested heavily in technology, training, planning, and outreach campaigns. At some schools, incoming freshman are even now being taught at orientation what to do if a person opens fire in a residence hall. A new standard, NFPA 3000™ (PS), Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program, is starting to gain traction at some schools where it is being used to bolster existing emergency plans.


The watershed moment most point to was April 16, 2007, when a student at Virginia Tech University killed 32 people with two semi-automatic pistols, at the time the deadliest mass shooting committed by a lone gunman in U.S. history. Since then, the violence has continued. According to a recent study by Collegiate Times, there have been 172 shootings on college campuses since Virginia Tech (defined as one or more people being shot at a two- or four-year college or university), resulting in 122 deaths and 198 injuries.


To learn much more about how this threat has evolved, why protecting campuses is such a daunting task, and the new innovations and tactics being used, read “The New Normal” in the latest issue of NFPA Journal.

Since a gunman took 32 lives on Virginia Tech's campus in 2007, campus safety officials nationwide have worried about the potential for an active shooter event on their campus. Between 2000 and 2017, FBI statistics show there was almost one active shooter attack on a college campus every year. 
Active shooter events in general have become more frequent and more deadly in recent years, prompting campus safety officials to further evaluate their preparedness for such events and conceive new solutions. My colleague, Jesse Roman, explores this topic in the new cover story for NFPA Journal, "The New Normal," which came out last week and coincides with National Campus Safety Awareness Month. 
But shootings aren't the only threat facing campuses. As students flocked to campuses in the past few weeks, two incidents proved fire remains a threat, even in on-campus housing. At the University of North Carolina's Asheville campus, students were barred from moving into five newly built dorms after officials discovered unsafe conditions including wood inside stairwells and elevator shafts and water pipes that hindered egress paths. A couple of weeks later, after students had moved onto Boston University's campus, a fire sparked by a candle forced the evacuation of about 40 students from a dorm. 
A sidebar I wrote for "The New Normal," titled "Old Foe," discusses the threat of fire on college campuses. On average, over 4,000 fires occur on campuses in the United States each year, according to NFPA data that's cited in the piece. Since 2000, 92 of these blazes have been fatal, the vast majority of which have occurred in off-campus housing and Greek housing like frat houses. 
Other sidebars included in "The New Normal" examine emerging threats on campuses, including the introduction of 3D printers and vaping devices. Read it all here.


A couple weeks ago, I was in Minneapolis attending the second week of Technical Committee meetings for NFPA 101 and NFPA 5000 working on the development of the 2021 edition of the Codes. I found out that week that I was scheduled to leave Minneapolis one day before the start of the state fair, and was disappointed to miss it. It’s one of the largest, by attendance, in the United States and this year broke its own attendance record with 2,046,533 attendees. Twenty-seven new foods were introduced at the fair. That’s a lot of concession stands feeding a lot of people!

NFPA 1, Fire Code, Section 10.14 provides requirements for special outdoor events, carnivals and fairs. Concession booths are a popular attraction and also a particular concern at fairs if not designed and setup safely. Many contain flammable liquids, commercial cooking equipment, and are producing grease laden vapors. Often times concession stands are crammed into one small pedestrian area, concentrating the potential hazard into a confined, high-traffic zone.


Overall, the AHJ is permitted to regulate all outdoor events such as carnivals and fairs as it pertains to access for emergency vehicles, access to fire protection equipment, placement of stands and concession booths, and exhibits, as well as the control of hazardous conditions dangerous to life and property. The AHJ plays an important role in reviewing the layout of the event; where concessions and vendors can be located, making sure proper egress is maintained, and keeping the necessary access for fire department vehicles available in case of an emergency.

NFPA 1 specifically addresses the protection of concession stands with the following requirements:


  • 10.14.5 A minimum of one portable fire extinguisher be provided for each concession stand where required by the AHJ.
  • 10.14.8 Concession stands utilized for cooking shall have a minimum of 10 ft (3 m) of clearance on two sides and must not be located within 10 ft (3 m) of amusement rides or devices.
  • Cooking equipment used in fixed, mobile, or temporary concessions, such as trucks, buses, trailers, pavilions, tents, or any form of roofed enclosure, shall comply with NFPA 96
  • New Section 50.7 mandates requirements for mobile and temporary cooking operations, defined as “Any cooking apparatus or equipment operated on a one-time basis, interim basis, or for less than 90 days in the same location, other than at a fixed location, building, or structure that has been inspected and permitted under another section of this Code, regulation, or statute.”
  • Additional guidance is provided in Section 10.14 for electrical equipment, communications, power sources, and life safety evaluations for fairs and carnivals.


Other Code requirements for consideration at fairs and carnivals: maintaining acceptable fire department access and water supply as required (18.2, 18.3); completion of a life safety evaluation where ordered by the AHJ (10.14.3); standby generators and power systems that may be used to power attractions and facilities (11.7); special amusement buildings such as mirror mazes and haunted houses (20.1.4); and permitting (1.12)

By following the necessary precautions in NFPA 1, carnivals and fairs can continue to be a fun and memorable event for everyone.

What Code enforcement issues related to fairs and carnivals have you faced while reviewing and enforcing these event details in your jurisdiction?

Thank you for reading. Stay safe!


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Michele Gay is all too familiar with the heartbreak of active shooter incidents. Gay’s daughter Josephine Grace was among the 20 children and six staff members killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012.


One of two co-founders of Safe and Sound Schools, Gay’s current role and mission to “support school crisis prevention and protect every school and every student, every day” brought her to NFPA’s headquarters for the first of three Massachusetts School Active Shooter Symposiums this month. The mother-turned-advocate hailed organizers for setting the bar for other policymakers across the country to hold similar programs and support efforts that will reduce risk in schools.



"Without strong leadership and leaders putting money where their mouth is, it’s like pushing a giant boulder uphill,” Gay said. "Safety is something we all say we want. The mission statement for every single school in America says something about providing a safe and secure environment but when it comes down to the realities of what it takes to keep people safe, we often turn away because it’s uncomfortable, expensive, or may cause us to get into arguments. We need community leaders to work together, and our policymakers to champion, endorse and support collaboration.”


The Massachusetts School Active Shooter Symposium was developed at the request of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, and co-hosted by State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey and NFPA President/CEO Jim Pauley. Following the release of NFPA 3000TM (PS), Standard for an Active Shooter / Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program, Baker asked the fire marshal, the Secretary of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, and the Undersecretary of Homeland Security for the State of Massachusetts to bring together school, police, fire and EMS officials to discuss the unified planning, response and recovery strategies outlined in NFPA 3000. It is believed that Governor Baker is the first governor in the country to convene such a summit on school active shooter protocol. Two additional summits will be held later in the month. In total more than 500 first responders and educators are expected to participate.



NFPA 3000, the first standard of its kind, provides the framework for entire communities to organize, manage, communicate, and sustain an active shooter/hostile event program. NFPA’s Jim Pauley told the full-to-capacity crowd, “What brings us here today is a whole different level of concern. Without question, schools and campuses have been the most engaged audience since we released NFPA 3000; this is not surprising, considering the lives you are entrusted to care for.”



The state fire marshal underscored the importance of developing and reviewing comprehensive school emergency plans annually before school starts – a requirement that has been in place in Massachusetts since 2002. “We’ve worked together to develop medical emergency response plans, protocol for bomb threats, and to place defibrillators in schools. These joint efforts, and the dialogue today, are the building blocks that we can use to address this next major school safety issue," Peter Ostroskey said.

Rounding out the program were presentations from:


  • the Department of Fire Services Fire Safety Division about maintaining building and fire safety while addressing new threats
  • Town of Needham fire, police and school leaders highlighting the rescue task force concept they employ for a variety of school emergencies
  • Northeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (NEMLEC) members sharing what they are doing to help communities identify at-risk students to prevent incidents from happening in the first place


For more information on NFPA 3000, visit

London, England had recently gotten over a plague outbreak that had killed 68 people in the previous two years. (1) The city was primarily constructed with wood and the structures were very close together which made them susceptible to fire. There was no fire service. (2)



This oil painting by artist, Rita Greer, depicts the third day of the fire (Sept. 4th) - Such Such terrifying destruction is on a par with the firestorms after World War II bombings. The narrow streets, timber-framed, thatched houses would later be replaced by brick, stone and tiled buildings to prevent such a tragedy happening again.

Sequence of Events:

September 2, 1666:

The fire began on the early morning of September 2, 1666 at the house of Thomas Farynor, the king's baker, on Pudding Lane. The baker and his workers woke up to the smell of smoke at 2:00 am. The narrow streets and wooden structures allowed the fire to spread rapidly. The Mayor of London, Sir Thomas Bloodworth, did not take the news seriously when he was woken up. (3)

Samuel Pepys saw the fire and told the king and the Duke of York. The King ordered the mayor to create a fire break by destroying houses in the fire's path. However, the strong wind enabled the fire to travel over the gaps created by the firebreaks. By morning, the fire was heading north and west towards a wealthy area of the city.

September 3, 1666:

The next day, the King and the Duke of York were helping efforts to extinguish the fire. They had the fire contained for a short period, but then it began burning again in Cheapside, the wealthiest street in London. People continued demolishing houses attempting to stop the fire but it continued burning destroying houses, prisons, and even St. Paul's Cathedral.

September 4, 1666:

The fire stopped burning when the wind changed course and it encountered the Middle Temple, a brick structure, at Fetter Lane.

September 5, 1666:

The fire was finally extinguished completely and attention turned to finding out who started the fire.



The fire destroyed 373 acres of the city:

  • 13,200 houses
  • 84 churches
  • 44 company halls





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 Research Library & Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic.


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


*Special thanks to Caitlin Walker for her work in researching and writing this synopsis of The Great London Fire.

The September/October issue of NFPA Journal features a cover story on how colleges and universities are addressing the threat of active shooters and other hostile events.


In his story, “The New Normal,” associate editor Jesse Roman looks at how campuses are using a range of strategies, from elaborate simulation drills to increasingly sophisticated technology, to prepare for hostile events.


Schools are also turning to the new NFPA 3000™ (PS), Active Shooter and Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program, for guidance.


Among the voices in the story is that of David Hall, a former fire chief who is now the emergency manager at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri. “Universities have always had to prepare for many different threats, some more central than others,” he told NFPA Journal, “and active shooting preparedness is definitely becoming one of those central issues.”


The issue also includes a feature story on protection challenges related to old courthouse buildings, which many communities seek to preserve.


Elsewhere, the issue includes the 2017 reports on U.S. fire loss and catastrophic multiple-death fires; a compelling “Perspectives” conversation on the challenge of recovery following a hostile event; a “Dispatches” article on the controversy surrounding inmate wildland firefighters in California; and much more.


NFPA’s hot work safe practices training received a gold medal from the most prestigious awards program for the learning, talent and business executive industry. The Brandon Hall Group Excellence Awards hailed NFPA’s Hot Work Safe Practices eLearning module for encouraging interaction, interest, and motivation in the interest of job site safety.


NFPA began working with the Boston Fire Department, Boston Inspectional Services, and the Building and Construction Trades Council of the Metropolitan District after welding prompted a nine-alarm fire that killed Lieutenant Edward Walsh and firefighter Michael Kennedy in March 2014. The Boston City Council responded by amending the Boston Fire Prevention Code and requiring trade workers to obtain a Hot Work Safety Certificate by January 1, 2017. This same requirement became mandatory throughout Massachusetts in July of this year.  The collaboration with Boston officials (and statewide leaders) serves as an outstanding example of how authorities can work together to address breakdowns in fire and life safety.


Initially, NFPA released classroom training that covered the basic fundamentals required to ensure hot work safety in a practical way. That training lead to 33,000 workers in the Boston area being educated, to date. NFPA then introduced its award-winning  course earlier this year to inform those working on or supervising any activity involving flame, spark production, and heat, such as welding.


Content is presented in an interactive and engaging 90-minute eLearning module that opens with news footage from the deadly Boston blaze, then cuts to an interview with the mother of one of the lost firefighters. The story is woven throughout and conveys the seriousness of the safety information from the start. The program helps workers to:


  • Identify relevant standards, regulations, and ordinances that are applicable to hot work 
  • Describe the systems approach to hot work safety
  • Define and identify hot work and hot work hazards
  • Describe hot work evaluation requirements
  • Describe hot work safety team roles and responsibilities
  • Describe hot work permit requirements


Upon completing and passing the course, learners obtain a certificate and are eligible to pull hot work permits throughout the state.


To learn more about NFPA hot work training and other resources, visit  

NFPA 51B Standard for Fire Prevention During Welding, Cutting, and Other Hot Work is also viewable for free .

Wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes and floods; this past year Mother Nature has spoken loudly and clearly about the importance of preparing ahead. Today, it’s not a matter of “if” a natural disaster will occur where we live, but when. Are your communities prepared to handle whatever weather event Mother Nature throws our way in the coming months? In the coming years? This September we’re highlighting National Preparedness Month sponsored by to remind first responders, fire and life safety educators, and others tasked with helping keep citizens safe, that now is the time to help residents plan and prepare before an emergency happens. This year’s theme: Disasters Happen. Prepare Now. Learn How.


As safety educators we have a role to play in raising awareness in our neighborhoods and our communities about taking action to create safer places to live. Each week during National Preparedness Month, NFPA will provide tips, resources and information that can get you started. Check out our blog, Fire Break, where we’ll talk about adapting to and preparing for wildfires that can threaten homes, businesses and a community’s way of life. Our public education blog, Safety Source, and NFPA’s signature blog, NFPA Today, will highlight how building owners, facility managers, electrical professionals, first responders, policymakers and other professionals tasked with helping save lives and property from fire, electrical and other hazards and emergencies, can make a difference in areas where they live and with the people they serve. In all of these blogs you’ll find toolkits, checklists, videos and more that are easily shareable and some even customizable. Additional information will be shared through our social channels.


So don’t delay. Use National Preparedness Month as the catalyst for taking action. Stay tuned throughout September for continued updates and ways you and your community can work together to make a difference. For additional information about preparing for disasters, visit


NOTE: Not a member of our Xchange platform? You’ll want to be! Go beyond just reading the blogs; take advantage of easy access to great content, connections with other professionals, and to ask questions. It’s simple to do and it’s free. Don’t delay, register today!

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