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The aftermath of the King's Dock car park fire in Liverpool in January 2018.


When I began researching for the upcoming cover story of the March/April issue of NFPA Journal on parking garage fires, I had no idea how much the average vehicle had changed since I was a kid. In order to make cars lighter, cheaper, and more fuel-efficient, about half of the average car is now made from plastic—even the fuel tank. Plastic, as many people know, burns fast and hot, unlike the metals that used to make up the vast majority of a car’s body. As a result, when a car, truck, or van catches fire in a parking garage today, the odds of it growing into a hugely-destructive event seem to be much higher than in the past. The best example is the King’s Dock garage fire that happened last year in Liverpool, where about 1,400 vehicles burned over the course of two full days, leaving the eight-story building a smoking hulk of charred concrete (see image above).


But it isn’t just the cars that are changing. In a companion sidebar to the upcoming cover story in the next Journal, I wrote about how garages are evolving in ways that make big fires even more of a potential risk. The main story will be coming shortly on the NFPA Journal homepage in the next week (and in member’s mailboxes soon), but we decided to post the sidebar “Racked & Stacked” below. Please check it out below, and definitely please read the cover story on vehicle fires and concerns about parking facilities when the new Journal is published the first week of March.



The Autostadt garage at the Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg, Germany. 


 The following is from the article "Racked & Stacked," appearing in the upcoming March/April NFPA Journal. This is a companion to the cover story "Ramp Risk," also in the upcoming NFPA Journal.


Parking structures are rapidly evolving in ways that allow them to squeeze many more vehicles into much less space in order to maximize costs and efficiency. 

A garage set to open this year in Houston, for instance, boasts 244 parking spaces squeezed into a building with a footprint of just 700 square feet—according to simple math, that’s one parking spot per 2.8 square feet. By contrast, before being destroyed by fire last year, Liverpool’s eight-story King’s Dock car park—a traditional concrete parking facility built in 2007—could accommodate 1,600 vehicles within its 53,000-square-foot footprint, or one parking spot per 33 square feet. 

The Houston garage, designed by a company called U-tron, achieves its remarkable feat of efficiency by utilizing robots to stack vehicles on mechanical racks 10 stories high. U-tron’s robot attendants can park vehicles 4 inches apart, with 6 inches of overhead clearance, according to a recent article on Currently, the company has eight automated garages in operation, most in high-end residential buildings in New York and New Jersey, with 25 more under development in the United States alone. 

U-tron is hardly the only company building these new-era garages—across the US and around the world, stackable garage configurations are spreading quickly as mechanization and automation become more advanced and more affordable, and as city developers look for parking solutions in areas where land is as valued as gold. 

While the spatial benefits of these new garages are clear, many researchers and code developers are worried about what such tightly packed vehicle arrangements may mean for fire protection. Currently, there is little guidance in NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, or NFPA 88A, Standard for Parking Structures, addressing these new parking configurations. That’s because little research has been conducted to figure out how fires might burn and spread in such densely packed garages and what kind of sprinkler design and density are sufficient to put fires out. 

The NFPA 13 technical committee has received questions about these types of facilities and is aware of the standard’s silence on the issue, said Wes Baker, a committee member and researcher at FM Global. He and others on the NFPA 13 committee have asked the Fire Protection Research Foundation to undertake a project to answer some of the lingering questions to enable them to reliably offer system designers guidance. It’s still too soon to say if the Foundation’s planned project on parking garage vehicle fires this year will include research on these new types of garage configurations.

“We’ve seen car storage racks that are as high as the building, which is a totally different animal than what NFPA guidelines on traditional parking garages were set up for,” Baker said. “Heat likes to travel vertically, but instead of flaming up and hitting concrete, the cars sitting above it could be exposed to flames. Instead of a two-dimensional fire, you have a three-dimensional fire. This to me is a storage type of arrangement, and you’d have to protect it like a warehouse facility that is storing cars.”

Baker believes that only installing overhead sprinklers on the ceiling would be ineffective in these stack arrangements, because cars above would block water from getting to cars below. He imagines an in-rack sprinkler arrangement, where sprinklers are located on each level of the vehicle stack, would likely be necessary. “But the problem with that is these cars are constantly moving in and out and so you have to be careful with all moving parts that you don’t end up knocking off a sprinkler,” he said. “You’ve got to make sure it’s practical as well as functional.” 

On top of those logistical questions, there are dozens of other variables that would make any comprehensive guidance for sprinklers in these new garages tough, said Steven Wolin, an NFPA 13 technical committee member and vice president at Reliable Automatic Sprinkler Co. “There are so many vehicle storage configurations that could exist for any particular garage, which is one of the biggest challenges,” he said. Variables such as the distance between vehicles, how many are stacked on top of one another, and how ventilated or enclosed the space is can make big differences in how a fire burns and spreads, and what sprinkler protection is needed. 

Regardless, construction on these facilities continues across the world. “For now, it is still one of those challenging scenarios where the buildings are being built and somebody has to figure out how to put a protection system in,” Wolin said. “You just have to err on the side of being extra conservative in the design, knowing there isn’t a whole lot of guidance out there right now.” —J.R.

Two men lost their lives and six others were injured on February 21, 1925 when an explosion occurred on an oil barge in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The barge contained 150,000 gallons of crude oil and was located at the municipal garbage disposal plant in the southwest portion of the city when the accident happened.



From The NFPA Quarterly v.18, no.4, 1925:

“Fire apparatus, summoned by two alarms on the east bank of the river and three on the west bank, hurried to the scene in time to check the onrush of flames in the wake of the explosion, which threatened the railroad bridge. Spreading ashore at the disposal plant, the blaze damaged the pier and oil storage tanks.
Drifting patches of blazing fluid on the river’s surface forced the crew of a pile driver to leap for their lives, while the intensity of the heat from the flames drove men off a number of barges moored nearby.”


For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Research Library & Archives or sign up for one of NFPA's newsletters.  

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. 

The following proposed Tentative Interim Amendments (TIAs) for the 2019 edition of NFPA 1981, Standard on Open-Circuit Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) for Emergency Services, are being published for public review and comment:

Anyone may submit a comment on these proposed TIAs by the April 10, 2019 comment closing date. Along with your comment, please identify the number of the TIA and forward to the Secretary, Standards Council by the closing date.


NFPA was saddened to learn of the recent tragic fire that swept through Dhaka, Bangladesh claiming the lives of nearly 80 people and injuring scores more. While a specific cause for what started the fire has yet to be determined, we do know that the intensity and spread of the fire stems from the storage of chemicals in the midst of the mixed-use part of the old city combining residences, shops, and unfortunately, chemical storage warehouses. (We don’t know specifically what chemicals were involved, but news accounts have mentioned flammable gas, flammable or combustible liquids like solvents or similar volatile materials, and have alluded to perfumes, cosmetics, and simple combustibles.)

What is particularly troubling is that a similar incident occurred in Dhaka in 2010. While the event was followed by a government effort to prohibit chemical storage in the city center, the effort was not sustained because it lacked a commitment of all involved parties tasked with protecting people and property. Such collaboration is at the root of what NFPA calls the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, a concept that helps guide all affected stakeholders through the process for identifying fire, life safety, electrical, and related hazards, and creating solutions to manage such hazards. Right now, this safety system is broken. Ecosystem

Take the 2010 incident in Bangladesh. While the process began with government recognition of the hazard, it needed more than just a push from government to build the framework. By way of example, according to the Ecosystem concept, full adherence to the codes and the referenced standards within would provide the process for storing chemicals in designated areas away from the public; an informed and skilled workforce would better be able to identify and respond to dangerous actions (i.e. the movement of stored chemicals from a once designated separate place back to residential areas); and an informed public would be more vocal and diligent in encouraging change in the name of safety. 

We are reminded that what we have seen with this incident in Bangladesh has happened elsewhere in the world:  In the U.S. in 2013, an ammonium nitrate fertilizer plant explosion killed 15 people; in China in 2016, a fire and explosions devastated a warehouse area storing chemicals and killing 170 people. In each of these incidents, the governments’ ill informed decisions related to zoning and compliance with existing fire and life safety codes and standards contributed to the devastating outcomes.  

So, what do the standards say about chemical storage and how they could have applied in Dhaka? NFPA standards, such as NFPA 1, NFPA 30, and NFPA 400, would approach these hazards by ensuring the following:

•    Identifying the hazard classification and characteristics

•    Identifying the types of containers used for storage

•    Limiting the quantities of the more volatile materials

•    Using construction to manage some of the storage (separate buildings or structures for certain materials to keep them segregated from incompatible materials) and enforcing separation distances from other structures, people and public areas

In the days to come, additional facts about this recent incident in Bangladesh will come to light. As we learn more, let it be a reminder that change can and should take root not just in Bangladesh but across the world. And while there is no single solution to fire and life safety, we believe that engaging in a full safety systems approach, as illustrated in the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem concept, will get us closer to solving the world’s fire problem.  

At NFPA, we continue our focus on the entire safety system, working with professionals around the globe in support of the development and use of the Ecosystem concept in their countries and according to local cultures. By working together, recommitting to, and promoting this full system of fire prevention, protection and education, we can help save lives and reduce loss.

Learn more about the Fire & Life Safety ecosystem at


Additional, related information:

February 21, 2019, New York Times, Scores Dead in Bangladesh Fire: ‘This Isn’t About Poverty, It’s About Greed

February 22, 2019 Wall Street Journal, Bangladesh Fire Points to Safety Shortfalls Despite Progress in Garment Industry

There still seems to be a misunderstanding about the responsibility of the purchaser when is comes to personal protective equipment (PPE). As explained in my blog, Who verifies that personal protective equipment (PPE) meets the correct standards, it is and always has been your responsibility to verify PPE meets all standards. From the purchaser to the manager to the wearer of the PPE, as well as the safety manager, facility manager, supervisor, etc. failure to make this determination places the employee at risk of injury. You have the responsibility of obtaining assurance that the PPE complies with the applicable standard. You are responsible for assuring that PPE that makes false claims or that is knock-off or counterfeit is not issued to the employee. It is your responsibility to provide equipment that is suitable for the installation or in the case of NFPA 70E®Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace®, that the PPE has been evaluated to protect an employee.

There are many pieces of equipment, including PPE, in the electrical industry that are not required to be evaluated (listed) by a third party. Just as in previous editions, the 2018 Edition of NFPA 70E requires that PPE conform to the applicable standards without actually requiring the manufacturer submit the PPE to testing. This is because NFPA 70E is a work practice standard that PPE manufacturers do not have to follow. Since evaluation of PPE to any product standard is not a requirement in many codes and standards that address electrical safety, NFPA 70E took steps in the 2018 edition to provide some guidance to assist you in verifying the manufacturer’s claim of compliance to applicable standards. These are self-declaration, self-declaration under a quality management system, and certification (listing) by a third party. Let’s look at what these mean starting from the most understood to possibly the least understood claim.

Certification by a third party is a common way for equipment to be deemed suitable by a purchaser, authority having jurisdiction, or user of the equipment. This is referred to a Listing in NFPA standards. Within the United States of America (USA), OSHA has a process for accrediting organizations for performing evaluations using specific standards. An evaluation of equipment by an independent party to a published standard removes many apprehensions of someone tasked with approving equipment for use or purchase. It allows for a quick determination that equipment is indeed suitable for the use and that it complies with the minimum requirements of the applicable standard. As part of listing, the independent party also audits manufacturing sites to have continued assurance that equipment built over a period of time is identical to what was originally listed. If materials, manufacturing processes, or drawings are different that submitted for the certification, the listing of the equipment may be withdrawn until the “new” version is determined to comply with the standard. Equipment may be listed as complying with many standards. It is also your responsibility to verify that the equipment purchased has met the correct standard.


Self-declaration (Declaration of Conformity (DoC)) is possibly the second most understood of the conformity allowances. This is simply a statement by the manufacturer that the equipment meets a standard. You must be competent enough to know if the specified standard is applicable to the final product. Some standards evaluate fabric only, not the final product (i.e., shirt, pants) that is made of the fabric. A separate standard may be necessary to address the testing of the final product. There is no external oversight of the testing, manufacturing or raw material procurement process under this system. The manufacturer may or may not be able to conduct tests or evaluate the final product for compliance with the applicable standard. Neither prohibits them from supplying this DoC. Outside of the USA, a DoC is a legal document declaring that the equipment complies with the specific laws of the governing country. Some of those DoCs may only cover recycling of the equipment. Those DoCs do not typically address USA standards including the National Electrical Code® (NEC)®. There are substantial liabilities, fines and imprisonment for falsifying those DoCs. However, within the USA, the DoC is not tied to a legal system although the USA is a highly litigious country. The DoC is as good as the credible company backing it with their reputation.


The least understood of the conformity methods is a DoC under a registered quality management system and product testing by an accredited laboratory. A registered quality management system (typically IS0 9000 series) requires documentation of many company functions. Documentation of an engineering change order system for document revisions, of test and inspection procedures, and of returned equipment are examples of topics addressed. This quality system typically does not address required safety standards for the equipment being manufactured but only that documentation is in place to have a manufacturing process followed. The accredited laboratory portion of this method is not necessarily an independent testing laboratory. Many registered quality management companies have an accredited on-site laboratory to conduct evaluations and testing of their products by company employees. The credibility of the manufacturer is once again an important factor with this type of DoC.


Delivery of one of these conformity methods does not absolve you of the responsibility for determining the validity of a claim. You must be competent to understand the standard applicable to the purchased PPE, the correctness of the claim, the validity of the test results, or verification of a listing mark. No matter which conformity assessment you request there will be non-compliant PPE or counterfeit versions of a credible manufacturer’s PPE. False claims may be made. A transient company may market PPE and provide a false listing or DoC to take advantage of a growing market. A company producing counterfeit PPE will provide an apparently valid DoC or listing mark. The “same” arc-flash suit that is substantially less expensive than from a reputable manufacturer or distributor can be purchased from some online party. Caveat emptor (buyer beware) is the rule for anything you purchase but it is even more important when someone’s life is at risk. The approved vendor or distributor, reputable manufacturer, DoC and product listing organization is there for a reason. For the protection of your employee you must do some homework before purchasing the PPE. That requirement has not changed.


For more information on 70E, read my entire 70E blog series on Xchange, or sign up for NFPA's electrical newsletter.


Next time: A normal operation quiz.


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Although the longest-ever partial federal government shutdown is over, having spanned from late December through late January, wildfire experts still fear it could have an impact on the upcoming wildfire season in America. A new NFPA Journal article, "The Cost of Shutting Down," details all of the potential consequences of halting government activity. 

While most mainstream media coverage of such consequences has focused on the canceled trainings and prescribed burns resulting from the shutdown, the Journal piece delves a bit deeper, highlighting less-obvious impacts such as the gap the shutdown caused in much-needed communication between wildfire experts on a global scale.

"Fire scientists and managers not allowed to go to conferences means, for instance, that those involved in the big Camp Fire [in California in November] do not have the opportunity to exchange information with people involved in analyzing the Greek or Portuguese wildfires," one wildfire expert from the Netherlands says in the story. "Despite the differences there are so many parallels between fires and we scientists need to exchange information to learn."

Read the full article here, and look for more new content from NFPA Journal online next week.


Quick. Time is running out for free access to the National Fire Data System (NFDS) update webinar. Are you interested in improving the way that your department applies data to better inform policies, reinforce gut instinct, or communicate effectively with local policy makers about the changing needs of society and the first responder community? If so, we have a webinar for you. Better yet, we have an entirely new information-sharing prototype in the works for the fire service.


Looking back 100 years, our ability to fight fires was limited by difficulties connecting hoses. Today, our ability to protect communities is often limited by difficulties connecting and sharing data. For two-plus years, NFPA has been working on the development of the NFDS, thanks to a DHS Assistance to Firefighters Grant. The mission is to create a flexible, scalable, and modern infrastructure that is designed to receive, process, store, and share data from local fire departments. Fire service data is any type of data that fire departments or other fire agencies collect to document or manage various activities.


Phase I of the NFDS project ran from 2016 through 2018, and focused on emergency response data. Phase II, which will wrap later this year, is considering community risk data with an eye on outreach, smoke alarms and inspections. While specific fire data problems differ there are some themes that have emerged across the fire service that NFDS will address including inconsistent data silos, delayed data access, and underutilized data.


The National Fire Data System: What We've Built and Where We're Going webinar looks at the historical foundation of fire service data, and covers:


  • what has been built over the last two years;
  • who has been involved in the process;
  • the role that different levels of the fire service, AHJs and others play in broadly improving fire data;
  • how stakeholders can get involved in the process; and
  • what’s to come in the second phase of the 4-year project.


The need for reliable and relevant fire data is not a revolutionary concept. We live in a data driven world. Ever-increasing calls for fiscal responsibility and organizational accountability require fire departments to use data to justify their existing and requested resources and deployment strategies. The NFDS webinar, which is open to all until March 8, helps different stakeholders understand where we’ve been, what’s being done today, and what we can expect from the next level of fire service data.


As the head of one of the world’s recognized standards developing organizations (SDOs), imagine my pure delight in reading an opinion piece in this Sunday’s New York Times entitled The Joy of Standards – Life is a lot easier when you can plug in to any socket. The work, written by Dr. Andrew Russell, the dean of arts and sciences at the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute, and Dr. Lee Vinsel, an assistant professor of science and technology studies at Virginia Tech, espouses the benefits of private, non-government organizations facilitating the development of standards that impact everything around us. The authors use modern examples of things impacted by standards such as electrical plugs fitting into any socket, smartphone connectivity to Bluetooth and the dimensions of a concrete block. Although there are many others they could have pointed to, I also liked their great example from an Arizona State University study that concluded a standard laptop incorporates more than 250 standards. 


SDOs provide hundreds of technical, industry and scientific standards that are useful not only to the public each year but also to federal, state and local government, supporting market standardization and business innovation, promoting health, safety and the environment, and saving time and money for governments at all levels. This consensus-based approach ensures that all stakeholders - including (depending on the subject) users, manufacturers, insurance providers, consumers, government regulatory agencies, enforcers, independent experts and academics - can participate and that no special interest can predominate.


To most of the public or policymakers, this work is often not known, not fully appreciated or taken for granted. The reality is SDOs serve the public through the creation of standards that promote reliability, interoperability and quality, bringing economic and other societal benefits and astronomical savings to government.


The savings comes from the fact independent SDOs hold copyright in their standards, and are able to fund their standards development activities from revenue generated from the sale of their standards publications. This allows SDOs to keep the barriers to participation low and to retain their independence and freedom from potential influence by any industry or group. For more than a century, this model has been highly successful and is probably one of the oldest public private partnership. Many SDOs including NFPA also make their standards available for free viewing on their websites.


While we who work in standards developing know the true value of this process, it was great to see it get some broader visibility. I may even hang this quote from the piece on my wall as a daily reminder of the importance of the work we do, “In an age of breathless enthusiasm for the new and 'disruptive,' it’s worth remembering the mundane agreements embodied in the things around us. It’s very ordinariness and settledness of standards that enable us to survive, and to move ahead.”






This article was first published in the January/February 2019 issue of NFPA Journal. 


At 5 a.m. on February 18, 1923, attendants at the Manhattan State Hospital for the Insane, located on Ward’s Island in New York City, noticed a metal ceiling tile glowing red-hot in a hallway leading to patient rooms. Fearing an impending fire, they called patients to breakfast to move them away from the hallway and into the dining room. Minutes later, their fears were realized as flames burst through the ceiling, according to an NFPA bulletin on the incident published later that year.


Although the attendants’ actions undoubtedly saved lives, not everyone escaped. Twenty-four patients and three attendants died in the blaze, according to the bulletin. Three years earlier, officials had identified the facility—one of the largest psychiatric hospitals in the world, with over 6,000 patients—as being at high risk for a catastrophic fire, but fire and life safety improvements were never made.


After the fire spread, rescue work became difficult “as the patients became excited and had to be dragged out by attendants,” the bulletin reported. Firefighting was further hampered by sub-zero weather and the extreme difficulty in getting apparatus to the island. “The New York City force had to go to the fire without equipment as there was only a small ferry, of insufficient capacity for fire apparatus, to the island,” the bulletin said. “Fireboats had to run hose lines for nearly half a mile before water reached the fire.”


The cause of the fire wasn’t reported, but the bulletin explains that the facility was similar to thousands of other institutional buildings throughout the United States and Canada, which at the time often experienced fires due to “defective chimneys, poorly installed stoves and furnaces, defective electrical equipment, careless handling of [flammable] liquids, spontaneous combustion in accumulations of rubbish, smoking, and carelessness with matches.”


In 1920, the National Board of Fire Underwriters surveyed the Manhattan State Hospital and recommended the installation of automatic fire sprinklers and other safeguards because its buildings lacked fire-resistant features and contained blind attics and other concealed spaces that made the structures “veritable fire traps,” the NFPA bulletin says. The board also cited an inadequate and unreliable water supply and a poorly equipped on-site firefighting service, which used “an ancient horse-drawn engine.”


The bulletin noted that the superintendent of the hospital recognized the fire hazard and had repeatedly tried to obtain more equipment and funding from state and city authorities, to no avail.


Read more from the January/February issue of NFPA Journal online

Today’s blog was written by Val Ziavras, a Fire Protection Engineer at NFPA. Special thanks to Val for her contribution to this blog and discussing one of the many subjects addressed in the Fire Code!

Fire-resistance-rated assemblies play a vital role in fire safety. However, an assembly is only as good as its weakest point - the openings. How do you know if an opening in a fire-resistance-rated assembly is protected appropriately, or if the opening is even permitted?


Not all openings are created equal. Door openings, for example, usually can’t be avoided as they are needed for the movement of people and equipment throughout the building, and for security and privacy. Windows or transom openings, on the other hand, are not necessary for the building to function; they tend to be installed for aesthetics, environmental reasons, or other architectural purposes. To understand the requirements for opening protectives, it is required for one to first understand the difference between a fire-protection-rating and a fire-resistance-rating. Although often used interchangeably, they are different.


Most opening protectives (assemblies protecting openings in a fire-rated assembly) have a fire-protection-rating whereas the wall/floor/ceiling assembly has a fire-resistance-rating. There are some exceptions where an opening protective may also be fire-resistance rated, but it is not the majority. There are a number of tests that will result in a fire-protection-rating, such as NFPA 252 and NFPA 257. When a product has a fire-resistance-rating it has been tested to ASTM E119 or ANSI/UL 263. If the opening protective is being tested as a wall; it will be subject to the same fire test as the wall itself. NFPA 252, NFPA 257, and ASTM E119 all expose the test specimen to a fire-based on the standard time- temperature curve.


A big difference between the tests is the performance criteria. For products undergoing a test resulting in a fire-protection-rating, some amount of openings, specifically around the glazing, are permitted and there are no limitations on the amount of heat transferred from one side to the other. Products tested to ASTM E119 are held to different test criteria based on their performance needs. There can be no passage of flame or gases hot enough to ignite cotton waste on the unexposed side and the temperature on the unexposed side of the wall cannot increase more than 250OF above the original temperature.


To properly protect an opening in a fire-resistance-rated assembly, the proper fire-protection-rating is required. Section 12.7.6 of NFPA 1 addresses opening protectives in fire-rated assemblies. It should be carefully noted that this table DOES NOT require the fire-resistance-ratings. The fire-resistance-rating will be mandated somewhere else in the Code and Section 12.7.6 will provide the required fire-protection-rating of the opening based on that mandated fire-resistance-rating. Wherever the Code refers to a fire-protection-rated door assembly or fire door assembly, it is referring to the entire assembly. If any single component is not properly provided, installed, and functioning, the assembly is not a fire-protection-rated assembly. For example, if a listed fire door leaf and frame are installed with positive latch and hinges but the required self-closing device is omitted, the assembly cannot be considered a fire door assembly and is not considered to have any fire-protection-rating.


For example, a new exit stair enclosure that connects 2 stories would require a 1-hour fire-resistance-rating based on how the Code requires exits be protected. Table provides the minimum fire-protection-rating of the openings in “Vertical shafts, including stairways, exits, and refuse chutes”. Based on the Code requirement for a 1-hour fire-resistance-rating, the table tells us that opening protectives must have a minimum 1 hour fire-protection-rating.


How does this impact a fire inspector? AHJs are responsible for confirming that openings have been properly inspected, tested, and maintained and met the provisions as referenced in NFPA 80, Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives (also extracted into NFPA 1, Section 12.4). An inspection of an opening protective will determine if the proper opening has been installed; the proper fire-protection-rating being one of the first pieces of information that an inspector will look at on the label on the opening protective. The inspections themselves, required annually, may be done by a person also serving as a fire inspector, by a facility manager/facility staff, or by someone who is in a role specific to the inspection, testing and maintenance of openings.


NFPA offers a plethora of resources related to protecting and inspecting fire-rated opening protectives including training and online learning. A recent article in NFPA Journal highlights the importance of clearances and gaps around fire door installations, particularly in health care occupancies. It also addresses the connection between the maximum gaps permitted by NFPA 80 versus the criteria tested for by NFPA 252 and how proposed research and testing can further the knowledge on the performance of opening protectives and their impact on building and life safety. NFPA offers annotated handbooks on the 2010, 2013, and 2016 editions of NFPA 80 if you are in a role where you require  expanded knowledge of the standard, in addition to the application for fire-rated openings in NFPA 1.


Thanks for reading, stay safe!


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 #FireCodefridays blog? You can view past posts here.

The February 2019 issue of NFPA News, our free monthly codes and standards newsletter, is now available.


In this issue:


  • New project on Fire Service Analysts and Informational Technical Specialists Professional Qualifications
  • New projects seeking members for Spaceports and Remote Inspections
  • Proposed Tentative Interim Amendments seeking comments on NFPA 285, NFPA 701, and NFPA 1994
  • Errata issued on NFPA 13 and NFPA 400
  • 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.

Smoke alarm and signaling systems are a proven strategy for reduction of fire fatalities in the general population. However, studies have shown that at risk populations such as the elderly, school age children, alcohol impaired, and those that are hard of hearing do not fully benefit from conventional smoke alarm systems, particularly during sleeping hours.   Research has been conducted to develop performance requirements to optimize the waking effectiveness for alarm and signaling systems to meet the needs of these at risk groups.  This includes previous research from the Research Foundation on the waking effectiveness of alarms as well as other research.  One of the main findings of the Research Foundation work is that the 520 Hz T-3 sound was the most effective signal to awaken hard of hearing participants. Other studies have shown the same results for children and other at risk populations.


Performance requirements for a sound pressure level of 85 dBA at 10 feet from the device for single and multiple-station smoke alarms appear in multiple codes and standards, including UL 217, Standard for Smoke Alarms.  This is in contrast to the requirement for UL 268, Smoke Detectors for Fire Alarm Systems, listed smoke detectors, which is to emit 75 dBA at the pillow.   The 85 dBA specification requires significantly more power, which makes the 520 Hz a particular challenge for alarms operating on a battery/battery backup.


There is a need to review all existing data on this topic to clarify the sound pressure level(s) used in previous research and the background and technical basis for the required sound pressure levels in the codes and standards to determine if a lower sound pressure level could provide equivalent alerting when using a 520 Hz frequency.  


This research program will be conducted under the auspices of the Research Foundation in accordance with Foundation Policies and will be guided by a Project Technical Panel who will provide input to the project, review periodic reports of progress and research results, and review the final project report. The Research Foundation will engage a contractor with appropriate technical expertise to conduct the project.

You can find the Request for Proposals (RFP) on the Foundation website. The deadline for proposals is March 8, 2019 at 5pm EST.

NFPA 35, Standard for the Manufacture of Organic Coatings, and NFPA 36, Standard for Solvent Extraction Plants, are currently seeking committee members. We are in need of new professionals to step forward to help staff the following technical committees:


Manufacture of Organic Coatings (MAC-AAA): Applicants are being sought with expertise in organic coatings manufacturing. Stakeholders in all interest categories such as special experts, manufacturers, insurance, users, and applied research/testing laboratory are encouraged to submit an online application. Submit an online application*


  • Committee Scope: This Committee shall have primary responsibility for documents on the fire and explosion hazards associated with the design, construction, and operation of organic coating manufacturing processes and facilities (NFPA 35).


Solvent Extraction Plants (SOL-AAA): Applicants are being sought with expertise in oilseed extraction using solvent methods. Stakeholders in all interest categories such as special experts, manufacturers, insurance, users, and applied research/testing laboratory are encouraged to submit an online application. Submit an online application*


  • Committee Scope: This Committee shall have primary responsibility for documents on safeguarding against the fire and explosion hazards associated with the design, construction, and operation of solvent extraction plants (NFPA 36).


Please note: You will be asked to sign-in or create a free online account with NFPA before using the online application system.

Jennifer Taylor, left, working with San Diego firefighter Ben Vernon, who was stabbed by a patient in 2015.


As detailed in the January/February issue of NFPA Journal, violence against first responders has become a serious issue in many countries across the Western world. Unfortunately, with no adequate system in place to track these incidents, and with many responders feeling pressure not to report patient violence against them, we have very little understanding about the scope or cause of the problem.


Jennifer Taylor, a researcher and founding director of the Center for Firefighter Injury Research & Safety Trends (FIRST) at Drexel University, is trying to change that. With a $1.5 million Assistance to Firefighters grant—the first given for a project addressing the EMS side of the fire service—Taylor and her researchers are working with fire departments in four pilot cities to better understand  how often violence happens on the job, and to test procedures the Drexel team has developed to cutback the number of attacks.    


“If the organizations make these changes, we should see the needles move on lower burnout, higher engagement with work, better morale, and less anxiety and depression—those are our expectations for what we’re doing,” Taylor said in an interview.


To learn much more on the project, and how Taylor and her team aim to achieve their ambitious aims, read “Responder Advocate,” which accompanies the recent cover story, “The Toll of Violence,” in the January/February issue of NFPA Journal.


On a similar note, NFPA Journal “First Responder” columnist John Montes wrote this month about the efforts underway to get first responders the mental health support they need. As on-the-job-violence increases, responders of all stripes have growing rates of depression, substance abuse, suicide, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Newer methods, such as peer-to-peer support groups and working with therapists with responder backgrounds, are increasingly popular and effective ways of helping firefighters, police, and EMS workers deal with the stresses of their work.


Learn much more about this issue and some specific examples of successful programs in Montes’s latest “First Responder” column in the January/February NFPA Journal.

From Volunteer Firemen v.6, no.3 (1939):
“Ignitze” is an ingenious public education device designed by F.L. McCament of the U.S. Forest Service and used at the New Mexico State Fair with the help of the Albuquerque Fire Department. Operated by firemen inside the “fire-proofed” skin, “Ignitze” has matches for horns, moves his eyes, jaws and legs, smokes viciously at a monster pipe and cigarette.
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.

Earlier this week, NFPA was contacted by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (HHS/ASPR) Division, as the agency has made a change in the system platform they use to monitor the location of electricity dependent DME (ventilators, oxygen concentrators, powered suction pumps) populations that reside independently in their communities. The HHS/ASPR program is known as emPOWER; a main part of its function is to give first responders - fire, EMS, law enforcement, and USAR - awareness of where individuals who rely on electricity dependent DME are located.  This can help prioritize resources during natural disasters such as wildfire, floods and wind events, where electrical power may be lost for hours or days, thereby endangering those individuals.


Effective February 12, 2019, the first responder and private sector partners who have been using the HHS emPOWER Program’s Representational State Transfer (REST) Service now need to switch over and register on the new platform, HHS emPOWER REST Service_Public.


The new system will continue to allow the DME information to be overlaid on a community’s own GIS platform.  The data layer displays the total number of at-risk Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Medicare beneficiaries that rely upon life-maintaining and saving electricity-dependent medical equipment and cardiac devices in a geographic area, down to the zip code.  In doing so, partners will be able to continue to gain population-level situational awareness of electricity-dependent populations in their own GIS applications.


Please send any questions you may have to EMPOWER@HHS.GOV and



Background Information

Over 2.5 million Medicare beneficiaries rely on electricity-dependent medical equipment, such as ventilators, to live independently in their homes. Severe weather and other emergencies, especially those with long power outages, can be life-threatening for these individuals.


The HHS emPOWER Map is updated monthly and displays the total number of at-risk electricity-dependent Medicare beneficiaries in a geographic area, down to the zip code.


The HHS emPOWER Map gives every public health official, emergency manager, hospital, first responder, electric company, and community member the power to discover the electricity-dependent Medicare population in their state, territory, county, and ZIP Code. When combined with real-time severe weather and hazard maps, communities can easily anticipate and plan for the needs of this population during an emergency.


Learn more about the challenges of independent living and home health care, including the role of ASPR, from the FPRF/NFPA 2015 Summit on Safe, Independent Living: Home Health Care, Aging Populations and the Residential Environment 


Celebrating Engineers Week!

Posted by ctuttle Employee Feb 11, 2019

Ever wonder what engineers actually do? There are so many disciplines within engineering today that it can be difficult to keep up! Since NFPA employs many engineers, the Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) group at NFPA will be celebrating Engineers Week from February 17th to 23rd to raise awareness of engineers' positive contributions to our quality of life.


The Women in STEM group is sharing some of the cool things engineers do with our NFPA community! We curated a calendar of activities and content, with each day having its own focus (Learn, Visit, Build, Look & Listen, Read, Compete, and Think). There are ideas for all ages. Whether you're looking for something to do with your kids during school vacation or you've been itching to find a new podcast for your nightly commute home, we hope that you'll learn something new while having fun. Make sure to download the attached calendar, browse the links, and share with your friends! 

Getty Images



The findings of a nine-month investigation by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSDHS) Public Safety Commission into the MSDHS shooting, which left 14 students and three staff members dead in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018, were officially presented to Florida state officials last month. This Thursday is the one-year anniversary of the incident, which was the deadliest shooting in the United States in 2018 and one of the nation’s deadliest in modern history.


Outlined in a 439-page report, the findings of the MSDHS Public Safety Commission—a group formed by the MSDHS Public Safety Act about a month after the shooting and made up of law enforcement officials, education leaders, parents of victims, and more—include recommendations on how communities can best prepare for future mass shootings and other hostile events. While the recommendations partly draw on the guidance found in NFPA 3000™ (PS), Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program, some experts say they lack the “whole community” approach of the standard, which was released about two and a half months after the Parkland shooting.


The May/June 2018 NFPA Journal cover story, “Writing History,” chronicles the process that went into releasing NFPA 3000 and explains the concept of the “whole community” approach, as well as the three other main themes of the standard: unified command, integrated response, and planned recovery.


“The report highlights some critical recommendations that are featured in NFPA 3000,” said John Montes, the NFPA staff liaison to NFPA 3000. “Specifically, it highlights two of the four main themes of the standard, unified command and integrated response.” The problem, Montes continued, is that the report recommendations focus primarily on law enforcement. “Everything is viewed from that lens,” he said, missing the perspective of other responders, citizens, health care professionals, and victims. “There isn’t any mention of what tactics to teach students and teachers, such as bleeding control.”


Perhaps the biggest shortfall of the report, Montes said, is its lack of information related to the recovery aspect of mass shootings and other hostile events. “While the report itself is part of the recovery phase of the incident for the Parkland area, it says nothing about recovery,” Montes said. “Recovery is the longest-lasting phase, but the one that is most frequently ignored.” There are no recommendations related to reunification, notifying loved ones, or providing mental health services to the community, he said.


Still, other portions of the report reflect more fully on the guidance in NFPA 3000. For example, the information included in Chapter 16 of the report, which explains a new Florida law requiring school districts to develop and frequently practice plans for active shooter and hostage situations with public safety agencies, “captures much of the messages in 3000,” Montes said. The standard requires annual trainings at a minimum.


Read more in-depth analysis of the Parkland shooting report in the upcoming issue of NFPA Journal, available online in early March. And explore NFPA’s extensive resources on NFPA 3000, including online learning, fact sheets, and more, at

In honor of Black History Month, NFPA is highlighting notable African-Americans who have made contributions to the cause of fire and life safety.

Molly Williams is recognized as the first black female firefighter in the United States. Williams was a slave, and was owned by a Manhattan businessman with an interest in firefighting. In 1818, a blizzard hit the city and an influenza outbreak took many male volunteer firefighters out of work. Williams took the place of the sick men, working at a firehouse in Lower Manhattan, and other firefighters credited her for being as tough as the male firefighters.

Garrett Morgan owned a sewing machine and shoe repair shop in Cincinnati in 1907. In 1911, after hearing about the tragic deaths in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he invented a safety hood and smoke protector for firefighters. The hood, which contained a wet sponge to filter out smoke and cool the air, became the precursor to the gas mask. To sell his safety hood, Morgan had to hire a white actor to pretend to be the inventor.

To learn more about African-Americans and the fire service, visit the website for the African American Firefighter Museum. Located in Los Angeles, the museum contains vintage fire apparatus, stories, and pictures of pioneering African-American members of the fire service, as well as a tribute to the firefighters who perished during the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.

This week we bring you a poster from 1945 than warns of the dangers involved with hot work. According to NFPA, “Hot work is any activity or process that involves open flames or that generates sparks or heat and includes: Welding and allied processes; heat treating; grinding; thawing pipes; powder-driven fasteners; hot riveting; torch-applied roofing; and any similar applications producing or using sparks, flame or heat.”
In March of 2014, a fire in Boston, MA, took the lives of firefighter Michael Kennedy and Lieutenant Edward Walsh. The cause of the fire was determined to be unpermitted welding, where the workers did not take factors such as high winds and nearby combustible material into account. (NFPA - Hot Work Safety Fact Sheet, Sept. 2018)
For more information regarding NFPA’s Hot Work Safety Certificate Programand for further facts and infographics, please visit
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.

Personal accounts of bullying, hazing, and even sexual abuse in the fire service dominated the discussion at last year’s NFPA Responder Forum in Birmingham, Alabama, in October. While the stories were at times hard to listen to, it was a necessary discussion not only for educating responders on the need for wider acceptance in the fire service, but also for driving research into responder behavioral health.


Casey Grant, executive director of the Fire Protection Research Foundation, made the case for discussions like this to advance such research in his latest column for NFPA Journal, “Speak Up.”


“While it’s too early to know what specific projects might directly come out of the conversations at the Responder Forum, I can assure you that these give-and-take discussions contain invaluable insights for researchers—knowledge that would be difficult to gain any other way,” Grant writes. “It’s this type of process that allows the seeds for important projects to begin to take root, which is exactly what is starting to happen around the issues of responder behavioral health, PTSD, and suicide prevention. Not long ago, these issues were not studied extensively, and obtaining funding for projects was difficult.”


Read Grant’s full column here.


NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace® has been processed through the First Draft stage and will soon be open for public comment. The first draft will be posted on or before February 27, 2019 allowing you to review what occurred during the First Draft. When the first draft is posted it will be available at


The 332 submitted public inputs resulted in 86 revisions being made to the standard. A majority of revisions added informational notes to help explain requirements that many were having trouble understanding or to provide additional guidance on where to find pertinent information.


If your submitted input received a reply of Reject But See from the technical committee it means that your idea or concept was included but it was not possible to use the wording as you had submitted. Also, the information from all public inputs on a single requirement are addressed as one revision. This often requires combining the concepts proposed by several inputs to develop a single requirement. This also results in a Reject But See response to all affected public inputs since each may have had different changes. The first revisions created by such inputs should be reviewed to make sure the concept of your input was incorporated in a way to resolve your concern with the standard or the requirement.


Remember that the first draft only contains the changes made to the standard. There were 332 proposed changes submitted for consideration. You should review the public inputs, including those from others, to see if there was something submitted that did not result in a change. Sometimes a submitted comment provides necessary information or further clarifies a concern or requirement. It is not unusual for a comment on a rejected public input to lead to a second revision due to this additional information. Note that without a submitted comment on a particular public input, this second draft stage will be your last chance to have that public input reconsidered.


As a final note, essentially new information or a new requirement cannot be added during the Second Draft stage. However, this does not mean that changes cannot be made. Anything added in the second draft process must be based on something that occurred during the first draft. Changes may also be made if a first revision made another subsequent change necessary during the second draft.


You and your colleagues have ideas on how to better protect yourself or your employees from the electrical hazards faced during a work day. You are the ones who need to understand how to apply the requirements. Everyone wants to make it home safely today. As previously stated in my blogs before - it is your standard. Be a part of it.


For more information on 70E, read my entire 70E blog series on Xchange.


Next time: Verification of manufacturer’s PPE ratings.


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.

Concern for the health of the natural environment is growing as human population grows and as new levels of contamination of scarce resources are revealed. Current efforts to improve the sustainability of buildings focus on increasing energy efficiency and reducing the embodied carbon. This overlooks the fact that a fire event could reduce the overall sustainability of a building through the release of pollutants and the subsequent re-build.
Most fires occurring in the built environment contribute to air contamination from the fire plume (whose deposition is likely to subsequently include land and water contamination), contamination from water runoff containing toxic products, and other environmental discharges or releases from burned materials. The environmental impact also has economic consequences for communities and regions and while the direct and indirect costs of fire on a community can be devastating, they are not usually reported at a local scale beyond an account of the human deaths and injuries and the amount of property destroyed or damaged.
To calculate the true cost of fire to society we need to be able to quantify the impact fire has not only on the people or structures involved but also to the environment.  Studies have been done to examine the environmental impact of fire but we cannot yet fully quantify this impact and its consequences to the local economy. 
Therefore, the Fire Protection Research Foundation has initiated a project with the goal to develop a research road map identifying needed research to be able to quantify the environmental impact of fire from the built environment and its economic consequences. This project will focus on structure fires and exclude wildland and wildland urban interface (WUI) fires.  
This research program will be conducted under the auspices of the Research Foundation in accordance with Foundation Policies and will be guided by a Project Technical Panel who will provide input to the project, review periodic reports of progress and research results, and review the final project report. The Research Foundation will engage a contractor with appropriate technical expertise to conduct the project.
You can find the Request for Proposals (RFP) on the Foundation website. The deadline for proposals is 28 February 2019 at 5pm Eastern time.
NFPA has issued the following errata on NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems:
  • NFPA 13, Errata 13-19-2, referencing various sections in Chapters 9, 10, 16, and 20 of the 2019 edition, issued on January 22, 2019
An errata is a correction issued to an NFPA Standard, published in NFPA News, NFCSS, and included in any further distribution of the Standard.

The Fire Code is a comprehensive document for issues related to life safety from fire to building occupants, property protection, and enhanced emergency responder safety. In fact, there are 15 different items listed under the scope of the Code including but not limited to inspection of buildings, fire investigation, plans review, fire and life safety education, design, installation and maintenance of fire protection systems, storage and use of hazardous materials, conditions impacting fire fighter safety and the design and maintenance of egress systems. Together, the items addressed by the Code provide a single resource that can be utilized by a fire inspector during their day to day jobs.



Chapter 1 of the Code provides many of the ‘ground rules’ for the scope, application and enforcement of the Code. While Chapter 1 provides comprehensive provisions and direction on how the Code should be administered and enforced, these administrative procedures and requirements are frequently customized by the jurisdiction as part of the code adoption process. The remainder of the Code cannot be applied without first understanding the foundation set forth in the provisions of Chapter 1. For those familiar with some other NFPA codes and standards, Chapter 1 of NFPA 1 is quite a bit longer due to the scope of the Code and the responsibilities of a fire inspector.

One of those responsibilities with respect to the application of NFPA 1 is to issue permits. The Code requires a permit for more than 80 different types of operations and activities so a fire inspector must be aware of where and what activities are occurring in its jurisdiction that could affect fire and life safety. They are predicated upon compliance with the requirements of NFPA 1 and constitute written authority issued by the AHJ to maintain, store, use, or handle materials; to conduct processes that could produce conditions hazardous to life or property; or to install equipment used in connection with such activities. By requiring permits and approvals, the AHJ can ensure that the activities or operations are performed safely. In some jurisdictions, the AHJ may allow the permitting of some of these activities through other departments in the jurisdiction. As an example, the AHJ may allow all permits for new construction to be applied for and issued at the building department. In these circumstances, the AHJ still maintains the permit, plan review, and inspection authority granted in this Code.


Permits are sought via an application to the AHJ and may be accompanied by any data or information as required by the AHJ as well as the appropriate fee. AHJs have the responsibility to review all permit applications and issue permits as required. Where an application for a permit is rejected by the AHJ, the applicant is to be advised of the reasons for such rejection. The reasons for rejections should be detailed sufficiently so that the applicant can understand what actions are required to resubmit the permit application and potentially receive approval. Other permitting requirements include, but are not limited to the following (See also NFPA 1 Section 1.12 for all provisions related to permitting and approvals):


  • The AHJ may require an inspection prior to issuance of a permit
  • Permits issued under NFPA 1 can continue until revoked or for the period of time designated on the permit.
  • Permits are issued to one person or business only and only for the location or purpose described in the permit application.
  • Any change that affects any of the conditions of the permit requires a new or amended permit. 
  • Permit extensions may occur if the AHJ has been presented by the permittee an appropriate reason for failure to start or complete the work in the timeframe authorized by the original permit.
  • A copy of the permit must be posted or readily accessible at each place of operation and is subject to inspection as specified by the AHJ


Permit activities regulated under NFPA 1 may also be regulated by other government bodies. One example is the installation of underground petroleum storage tanks. In many jurisdictions, a separate environmental protection agency may be charged with responsibility to review the environmental factors of petroleum storage tank installations. The AHJ for NFPA 1 may wish to withhold fire code permit approval until confirmation is received that an approval from the environmental permitting body has also been received. The fire code inspector however, is not to be held responsible for enforcement of the regulations of other regulatory agencies unless specifically mandate to enforce those agencies’ regulations. Where additional permits, approvals, certificates, or licenses are required by these other organizations, they must be obtained by the applicant before work on the activity can begin. The fire inspector/AHJ serves an invaluable role in the permitting process. Many activities and operations cannot start or continue without issuance of a permit, and without an AHJ approval there is no permit. 


Those serving in a fire inspector role are required to meet the minimum professional qualifications established in NFPA 1031, Standard for Professional Qualifications for Fire Inspector and Plan Examiner. One way to accomplish this is with a Certified Fire Inspector (CFI) certification. These programs were created back in 1998 in response from local jurisdictions for a certification program based on the competencies in NFPA 1031. Starting in NFPA 1, 2018 edition, compliance with NFPA 1031 is mandated for all fire inspectors and plans examiners. The NFPA CFI I and CFI II certification programs are one way to demonstrate compliance with this requirement, promote professionalism in the role of a fire inspector, help demonstrate and understanding of the application and use of codes and standards, and improve job performance. For more information on these programs and how to enroll, visit their page.


Thanks for reading, stay safe!


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