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September 12, 2018 Previous day Next day

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.
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