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Early on the morning of December 13, 1977 a fire broke out in the Aquinas Hall dormitory at Providence College in Providence, RI. Ten female students died as a result of this incident.

 

Pictured here: The rear view of the dormitory where two women died after jumping from a window on the third floor, in the room where the fire started.
From Fire Journal v. 72, no. 4 (July 1978): 
“The primary fuel for the fire was highly combustible Christmas decorations that had been put up in the corridors. The extremely rapid fire development and dead-end corridor were the most significant factors that contributed to the multiple loss of life.”
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.

NFPA’s EFFECT (Exterior Façade Fire Evaluation and Comparison Tool) has won an Innovation Award from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH). The world’s premiere authority on skyscrapers honors best in class tall buildings, urban contributions, technologies, and innovations that have emerged during the calendar year and impressed high-rise developers, designers, occupiers, operators and engineers.

 

EFFECT was created in response to fires occurring in tall buildings with combustible exterior wall assemblies around the globe. NFPA first worked with Arup to develop a risk assessment methodology that takes into account the building envelope; potential ignition sources; structure characteristics; and existing fire safety measures such as means of warning, containment, and extinguishment. Then it was time to build a comprehensive tool that would help building owners, facility managers and AHJs proactively assess risk in high-rise building inventory with exterior cladding. Since its release in February, various authorities, consultants and building owners have successfully used EFFECT to prioritize high-rise fire safety mitigation efforts and remediation work.

 

NFPA’s risk assessment tool is free to access and employs a two-tiered review process: 

 

  • Tier 1 entails an AHJ, building owner, or facility manager answering a small number of questions with clearly pre-defined answers, to inform the ranking of tall buildings within their portfolio. Some questions pertain to the combustibility of the insulation and facade cladding; the presence of sprinklers; potential ignition sources; and the type of alarm system.
  • Tier 2 is where authorities will complete a deeper fire risk assessment evaluation of those buildings deemed at risk in Tier 1. Onsite inspection; as-built information; maintenance records; samplings; and laboratory testing of unknown facade materials are considered in this section.

 

“This year’s Award of Excellence Winners communicate the diversity of interdisciplinary thought and innovation that will characterize both current and future generations of urban development around the world,” said Best Tall Building Jury Chair Karl Fender, Director at Fender Katsalidis Architects. NFPA’s EFFECT and other forward-thinking projects will now move on to the next stage of the CTBUH Awards Program in Shenzhen, China and vie for “Best in Category” distinctions in April 2019.

The December 2018 issue of NFPA News, our free monthly codes and standards newsletter, is now available.
In this issue:
  • New potential project on Fuel Gases Detection
  • Proposed Tentative Interim Amendments seeking comments on NFPA 72 and NFPA 291
  • Tentative Interim Amendments issued on NFPA 20
  • Errata issued on NFPA 72 and NFPA 1964
  • Committees seeking members
  • Committees seeking public input and public comment
  • Committee meetings calendar  
Subscribe today! NFPA News is a free, monthly codes and standards newsletter that includes special announcements, notification of public input and comment closing dates, requests for comments, notices on the availability of Standards Council minutes, and other important news about NFPA’s standards development process. 
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From Asia to Africa and even in the United States, informal settlements—often called slums or shantytowns—house the urban poor. With no building codes governing the construction of homes inside these areas, the use of open flames for heating and cooking, and high rates of drinking and smoking, fire is an ever-present threat.
The problem is poised to only get worse. Right now, an estimated 1 billion people live in informal settlements worldwide. By 2050, that number could swell to 2 or 3 billion. How can we keep these people safe from fire? More research and education on the fire problem in informal settlements is a good place to start, experts from the World Bank Group told me in October.
Read what they had to say in "A World Unregulated," which ran alongside "Sound the Alarm," a feature article on a project to install smoke alarms in a shantytown in South Africa, in the November/December issue of NFPA Journal.

Every year I am amazed as how early in the season I see Christmas decorations for sale. This year I saw several locations displaying Christmas trees for sale as early as November 15. Like consumers, fire inspectors are also facing holiday issues long before the actual holiday date, sometimes months in advance. Retail stores, restaurants, and businesses are all jumping on board the holiday season earlier and earlier each year it seems. This requires diligence in ensuring that egress paths are maintained, proper protection is provided for storage and display of merchandise, cooking equipment is being properly cleaned and maintained, cooking is done safely in residences, and fire protection systems are all in good working condition.

Between 2011-2015, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 200 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of 6 deaths, 16 injuries, and $14.8 million in direct property damage annually. Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur, they are much more likely to be deadly than most other fires. On average, one out of every 32 reported home Christmas tree fires resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 143 reported home fires. (See NFPA’s report “Home Structure Fires Involving Christmas Trees”, issued in November 2017) 

NFPA 1 addresses both artificial trees and natural cut trees in all occupancies under Section 10.13 for Combustible Vegetation. Natural Christmas trees, by their nature, are initially fire retardant. The problem arises when they have been cut and packaged without access to water for extended periods of time. The fire danger of Christmas trees and similar vegetation increases when the bottom end of the tree is not freshly cut and immediately placed in water when purchased. Other concerns include the length of time Christmas trees are on display (as noted above, retail stores often set up outdoor displays of natural trees for purchase before Thanksgiving.)  

The species of tree and the rate of moisture loss are important factors in determining the extent of moisture loss. Of the various types of evergreen trees available, the Noble fir retains its moisture longer than other species. The best preventive measures include using a freshly harvested tree, cutting the butt or bottom end immediately before placing it in water, and checking the water level frequently to ensure that the tree water container is filled. The person responsible for the display should check the tree periodically. When needles shed easily, the tree should be removed or replaced, since trees dry from the inside out. 

Artificial Christmas trees come in all shapes and sizes.  They even come pre-lit. In September 2016, UL published a white paper about reducing the fire risk of pre-lit trees.  This publication addresses the research that led to the development of performance testing criteria for pre-lit artificial trees.  It is a valuable resource for consumers and code officials when evaluating the safety of these type of holiday trees. With regards to artificial vegetation, the Code is concerned with its fire retardance (heat release rate or other fire performance criteria) which should be displayed on a label or identification from the manufacturer, ignition sources, and electrical components.

The requirements for artificial and natural cut Christmas trees in NFPA 1 are summarized as follows:

  • Allowances for natural Christmas trees are specified by occupancy and found in Table 10.13.1.1.
    • Note: Christmas trees are prohibited or limited in their placement in occupancies that pose special problems due to the capabilities of occupants, occupant or management control, or the number of occupants. Some exceptions permit live, balled trees, if maintained, and trees in locations where automatic sprinkler systems are installed.
  • Artificial Christmas trees must be labeled or otherwise identified or certified by the manufacturer as being fire retardant. (10.13.3.1)
    • The fire retardance is demonstrated by each individual decorative vegetation item, including any decorative lighting, in an approved manner.
  • Christmas trees cannot obstruct corridors, exit ways, or other means of egress. (10.13.4)
  • Only listed electrical lights and wiring can be used on natural or artificial Christmas trees. (10.13.5)
  • Do not locate open flames such as from candles, lanterns, and heaters on or near Christmas trees. (10.13.7)

 

  • Where a natural cut tree is permitted, the bottom end of the trunk must be cut off with a straight fresh cut at least 1⁄2 in. (13 mm) above the end prior to placing the tree in a stand to allow the tree to absorb water. (10.13.9.1)
  • The tree is to be placed in a suitable stand with water and the water level must be maintained above the fresh cut and checked at least once daily. (10.13.9.3)
  • The tree is to be removed from the building immediately upon evidence of dryness. (10.13.9.4)
  • A method to check for dryness is to grasp a tree branch with a reasonably firm pressure and pull your hand to you, allowing the branch to slip through your grasp. If the needles fall off readily, the tree does not have adequate moisture content and should be removed.

 

 

In addition to the Code requirements, NFPA also provides a valuable resource page dedicated to Christmas tree and decoration fires. 

Have you had any trouble enforcing provisions for Christmas trees? What challenges do you face with Code enforcement during the holiday season?

Thank for reading, stay safe!

Please visit www.nfpa.org/1 to view the free access version of NFPA 1 2018 edition and nfpa.org/doc## to view other standards referenced in this post. Follow along on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA. Looking for an older #FireCodefridays blog? You can view past posts here.

NFPA has issued the following errata on NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code®:
  • NFPA 72, Errata 72-19-1, referencing Table A.18.4.4, A.24.12, and A.24.12.2, of the 2019 edition.  Issued: November 21, 2018  
An errata is a correction issued to an NFPA Standard, published in NFPA News, Codes Online, and included in any further distribution of the document.

Side-by-side Christmas tree burn conducted by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission demonstrates how quickly a dried out tree burns vs. a well-hydrated one, underscoring the importance of watering Christmas trees daily.

 

Festive meals, flickering lights and holiday decorations: they're all hallmarks of the holiday season. Unfortunately, Christmas trees, candles, electrical decorations, and cooking all contribute to an increased number of home fires in December, making it a leading month for U.S. home fires. Here are some statistics that underscore these risks.


Christmas trees: Christmas tree fires are not common, but when they do occur, they’re much more likely to be deadly than most other fires. One of every 45 reported home Christmas tree fires results in a death, compared to an annual average of one death per 139 reported home fires.

 

Candles: December is the peak time of year for home candle fires. In 2016, the top three days for candle fires were Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve. More than half (56 percent) of the December home decoration fires were started by candles, compared to one-third (31 percent) the remainder of the year. 

 

Holiday decorations: Between 2012 and 2016, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 800 home fires per year that began with decorations (excluding Christmas trees). These fires caused an annual average of two civilian deaths, 34 civilian injuries and $11 million in direct property damage. One-fifth (19 percent) of these home decoration fires occurred in December. One-fifth (21 percent) of decoration fires started in the kitchen; 15 percent started in the living room, family room or den.

 

Holiday cooking: While cooking fires are the leading cause of U.S. home fires and injuries year-round, Christmas Day ranked as the second-leading day for home cooking fires in 2016 (behind Thanksgiving Day.) On Christmas Day in 2016, there was a 73 percent increase in the number of home cooking fires as compared to an average day.

 

Don't let these numbers put you in a bah humbug spirit! The vast majority of these fires can be prevented by taking some basic safety precautions. Check out our holiday fire safety tips and information for keeping fire-safe this holiday season; we encourage fire departments to use these materials as they work to promote holiday fire safety in their communities.

The following proposed Tentative Interim Amendments (TIAs) for NFPA 58, Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code; NFPA 291, Recommended Practice for Fire Flow Testing and Marking of Hydrants; and NFPA 1221, Standard for the Installation, Maintenance, and Use of Emergency Services Communications Systems; are being published for public review and comment:
  • NFPA 58, proposed TIA No. 1399, referencing 6.4.3 of the 2017 edition, comment closing date: January 17, 2019 
  • NFPA 291, proposed TIA No. 1411, referencing 4.7.3 Equations a and b, of the 2019 edition, comment closing date: January 9, 2019
  • NFPA 291, proposed TIA No. 1412, referencing Table 4.10.1(b) of the 2019 edition, comment closing date: January 9, 2019
  • NFPA 1221, proposed TIA No. 1413, referencing 3.3.10, 9.6.2.3, 9.6.2.4, 9.6.2.5(new), and A.3.3.10 of the 2019 edition, comment closing date: January 17, 2019  
Anyone may submit a comment on these proposed TIAs by the closing dates listed above. Along with your comment, please identify the number of the TIA and forward to the Secretary, Standards Council by the closing date.
Is your sprinkler system ready for the holiday season? As the temperatures begin to drop, check out this article I wrote for PM Engineer Magazine to make sure your sprinkler system is prepared for this season’s cold-front. 
For more information, visit www.nfpa.org/13 or www.nfpa.org/25

 Read in NFPA Journal about the making of the "Critter Code"

 

By its own rules, every code and standard that NFPA develops must have a diverse committee comprised of a wide range of stakeholders, representing various groups with often divergent viewpoints. Even by these standards, the group that crafted of NFPA 150, Fire and Life Safety in Animal Facilities Code, was a hodgepodge rife with conflict.

 

In how many other circumstances would you see leaders of animal rights groups trying to find common ground with livestock industry executives? How often would fire marshals at zoos work alongside medical researchers, or stable managers, or swine farmers?

 

“This was probably one of the most interesting and complex exercises I’ve ever had as a staff liaison working on a document,” Tracy Vecchiarelli, an NFPA fire protection engineer and staff liaison for the code, told me.

 

NFPA 150 is the first comprehensive code out there dealing with all of the various types of facilities that house animals, from farms, to labs, to zoos, fairs, shelters, kennels, aquariums, and more. How it came to be is a fascinating story involving a bitter fight over fire sprinklers, a contentious letter-writing campaign, field trips, swine farms, and even a few tears.

 

To learn a lot more about the code, why it was necessary, and facts about how and why animals perish from fire, check out my cover story in the November/December issue of NFPA Journal “Critter Life Safety Code.” To get the inside scoop on the development of the code (which is a great tale all by itself) please read the sidebar to the main piece, called “Tension and Uncertainty.”

 

All of that, and a whole lot more is currently in the November/December issue of NFPA Journal.

On the morning of December 6th, 1917 the historic incident known as the Halifax Explosion occurred when two ships collided in the harbor. The temporary morgue that was set up after the event estimated that there were 2,000 fatalities and nearly 9,000 people were injured.
That morning, the Mont Blanc, a French steamer, was headed down the Narrows (a strait that connected Halifax Harbor and the Bedford Basin) towards the Bedford Basin. The steamer was carrying " bensol cargo on her deck, carboys of nitroglycerine in the forward compartments, TNT in midship, and oil in her ballast tanks." [Conlon] 
At the same time, the SS IMO, a Norwegian steamer was also heading down the Narrows towards the harbor faster than the 5-knot speed limit. The ships collided at 8:45am. The SS Imo hit the Mont Blanc on the starboard side. When the Imo pulled away from the Mont Blanc, the benzol was ignited by the sparks. The crew feared that the vessel would explode and abandoned the ship which struck the pier. [Fergusson] 
"Nineteen minutes after the collision, the Mont-Blanc's cargo erupted in a massive explosion, releasing energy equivalent to 2.9 kilotons of TNT." [Robinson] The explosion caused a shock wave and a 59 foot tidal wave. Many ships in the harbor were damaged or destroyed, piers were destroyed, and the city of Halifax and the town of Dartmouth suffered property damage and loss of life. [Fergusson] 
Everything in a 1.2 mile radius of the explosion was destroyed. 13,000 buildings, homes, factories, and schools were damaged or destroyed. 2,000 people died in the explosion or from exposure from being trapped in rubble during the blizzard that started after the explosion. The explosion caused over $35,000,000 in damage. 
Citations:
  • Conlon, Jacues. "The Great Halifax Disaster". 
  •  Fergusson, Charles Bruce "The Halifax Explosion." Nova Scotia Board of Justices (1971). 
  • Robinson, Kathie. "Looking Back: The 1917 Halifax Explosion" NFPA Journal, November/December (2015): 80. 
For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to theNFPA 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.
Many NFPA codes and standards specify the minimum requirements for periodic inspection, testing, and maintenance (ITM) of fire protection systems, but the need for a more data-based approach to ITM frequencies is growing as NFPA develops new documents that involve integrated systems (e.g., NFPA 4). This webinar will address related key issues, including establishing a data framework that standardizes the data collection format, submission process, data security parameters, and data analysis procedures. This is an ongoing effort and there is a need for additional work to be done to collect, evaluate and correlate fire protection system reliability data with existing code requirements. The Research Foundation facilitated a project titled “Applying Reliability Based Decision Making to ITM Frequency” and the project report is available on the FPRF website.
When: Wednesday, December 12, 12:30-2:00 pm ET
Presenters: 
· Casey Grant, P.E., Fire Protection Research Foundation, 
· Francisco Joglar, Ph.D., Jensen Hughes,
· Victor Ontiveros, Ph.D., Jensen Hughes,
· Gayle Pennel, P.E., Jensen Hughes. 
Visit www.nfpa.org/webinars for more upcoming NFPA webinars and archives. 

 

NFPA 2400®Standard for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) Used for Public Safety Operations has been released to help public safety officials integrate drones into their emergency response.


The new body of knowledge supports police, fire and EMS authorities as they put forth sUAS programs that are based on industry standards; and connects with groundbreaking UAS integration advancements identified in Title 14, Code of Federal Regulations, Aeronautics and Space.


Whether you are applying for Part 107, “Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems” Waivers or taking the path of Part 91, “General Operating & Flight Rules” with a Public Operator Status & Certification of Authorization (COA), the FAA will have questions. As a public safety official or an emergency responder in the field, how are you going to demonstrate a truly integrated sUAS program? How are you going to show that you have considered a variety of fly operations? How will you demonstrate that you have considered the associated risks to you and the public, and most importantly your methods to lessen or mitigate those risks?


That’s where NFPA 2400 comes in - the first public safety-centric, ANSI-accredited standard to support your wholesale integration of sUAS. In short, NFPA 2400 will help public safety leaders meet FAA expectations and effectively deploy sUAS programs.


Developed by dozens of representatives from NIST, the fire service, law enforcement, emergency medical services, manufacturing, transportation, aviation, and consultant organizations, NFPA 2400 is a clear, concise, all-encompassing standard that addresses everything from program criteria to Con-Op to training, and so much more. It applies to all public safety departments that operate sUAS, and breaks down SUAS program into three key areas:

 

  1. A section devoted to sUAS organizational deployment, which includes, program criteria, deployment, sUAS selection, and both general and multiple aircraft operations.
  2. A professional qualifications component with minimum JPRs for both the pilot and observer so that they can be trained in accordance with public safety and emergency responder-specific requirements.
  3. An area that identifies maintenance responsibilities such as record keeping, discrepancy reporting, routine cleaning, upkeep, and storage.

 

The consensus process for NFPA 2400 was fairly quick. Over the course of 27 months, a request for the standard was submitted; a Technical Committee was established; public input and comments were sought and received; the Standards Council approved the standard; ANSI accredited NFPA 2400; and the new roadmap on sUAS was released on November 25, 2018 to help authorities establish safe, swift emergency response protocol from up above.

 

To learn more about NFPA’s new public safety drone standard, visit www.nfpa.org/2400.

We are now accepting nominations for the 2019 James M. Shannon Advocacy Medal, which recognizes outstanding advocacy efforts aimed at reducing losses associated with fire, electrical, or other hazards.


The advocacy medal honors an individual or group that shares the values of former NFPA President James Shannon. During his 12-year tenure as president, Shannon had an exceptional record of advocacy efforts tied to life safety issues. Under his leadership, NFPA considerably advanced its mission of fire safety, most notably by spearheading the Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes and advocating for fire sprinklers in all new homes.


Nominees should also be involved in advocacy efforts that advance NFPA’s mission, take into account cost-effectiveness, and involve collaboration with NFPA and other organizations. Previous medal recipients include Jim Dalton, whose efforts supporting a career-long commitment to fire safety led to the passage of the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act. Legislator Ann Jones received the medal in 2017 following her efforts leading to a nationwide requirement for home fire sprinklers in Wales.


Nominations are open to members of the fire service or any other person or group whose advocacy efforts meet the award’s criteria. The medal recipient will be honored at NFPA’s Conference & Expo in San Antonio, Texas, in June 2019. NFPA will cover the recipient’s travel and lodging.


The nominee application, available for download, is due January 11, 2019 and can be sent to publicaffairs@nfpa.org.

NFPA Conference & Expo voting

 

NFPA members have the unique opportunity to apply their professional expertise to improving fire and life safety by participating in the NFPA’s annual Technical Meeting. The Technical Meeting gives members the chance to comment and vote on possible codes and standards changes on a variety of the key safety issues you grapple with every day. Member input on these potential revisions helps ensure the codes and standards reflect the realities of today’s fire and life safety challenges, and help us all stay safer.

 

Join NFPA today to make sure your voice is heard at the Technical Meeting on June 20, 2019 at NFPA’s Conference and Expo in San Antonio. Voting privileges begin after 180 days of membership. The deadline to join is December 22, 2018.

 

As an NFPA member, you will be eligible to vote on NFPA Standards in the Annual 2019 revision cycle. Some of the Standards that could receive a Notice of Intent to Make a Motion and presented for action at the 2019 Technical Meeting include:

 

 

Your NFPA membership provides you year-round benefits—from expert support for your codes/standards questions to exclusive access to Member Sections with your peers. Voting at the Technical Meeting is not only a benefit to you—your input can help us all stay safer.


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Last month, the Smart City Expo World Congresswas held in Barcelona, Spain. The annual event, which showcases the technological innovations of so-called smart cities worldwide, drew over 21,000 visitors from more than 700 cities in 146 countries. 
The growth of smart cities, which employ technologies to collect and analyze data on citizens and infrastructure, is something the fire service should not only be paying attention to but also actively involved in, according to a position paper endorsed by the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association at the 2018 Urban Fire Forum (UFF), held at NFPA headquarters early this fall. I wrote about the chiefs' decision in the recent NFPA Journal article, "Get Smart."
"The safety of the public is one of local government's highest responsibilities," the chiefs wrote in their paper. "Given the unique capabilities now available for harnessing and analyzing data, it is critical that the fire chief be directly and intimately involved in decisions related to the collection, analysis, and dissemination of data used for planning, decision-making, operations, and evaluation of the programs for which he or she is responsible."
Read all of the papers endorsed by the Metro Chiefs at this year's UFF online

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