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What goes into the design of the electrical system in a residential building? The answer to this varies with the complexity of the installation. A single family home has less to consider than a large multi-family apartment complex with common areas and amenities for the residents. In a single family dwelling unit, the major considerations are usually just the size of the service, receptacle outlet layout, and whether or not the appliances are electric or gas. There might be some variations on this - maybe there are outbuildings or a pool, or maybe a PV system - but those are not the norm for the majority of new construction. However, that’s not to say they won’t be in the future.

So what are the design considerations for the service? Well, again, this is determined based on the answers to many questions. What is the square footage of the house? Are the appliances gas or electric? Is there going to be air conditioning? Is the furnace/boiler electric? Do we know what other special electrical needs are being requested by the homeowner? For the most part, most single family homes fall into the 100, 150, or 200 ampere service range and in some cases a 200A might even be a request even though a 100A service would suffice per Article 220 of the National Electrical Code® (NEC®). For instance, my house was probably adequately supplied by a 60A service back in 1938 when it was built, long before the 100A minimum requirement. However, when I bought the house and changed out the service, I was more than happy to pay the extra money for the 200A service since now I know that I will be covered in my electrical needs down the road. This attitude, though, is something above and beyond what the NEC® requires.

The next big consideration that comes up is the layout of receptacle outlets. For the most part, the NEC allows you to place receptacles as you wish with a couple of conditions to keep in mind. Remembering that the purpose of the NEC is the practical safeguarding of persons and property from the hazards arising from the use of electricity, it helps to give some context to the minimum receptacle outlet requirements. When building a home, you often have no idea what types of equipment the homeowner is going to use, what the furniture placement will be, or how the electrical system is going to be used. This is theelectrical reason for certain requirements in Article 210 for maximum spacing of receptacle outlets and for requiring that receptacle outlets be within a certain distance of a feature of the home. For example, there must be a bathroom receptacle outlet supplied by a 20A branch circuit dedicated as a bathroom branch circuit, and located within 3’ of the outside edge of each basin or sink. Why? Because it can be reasonably assumed that the occupants are going to be using some form of hair care or beauty appliance like a hair dryer or curling iron while in that location. This eliminates the need for an extension cord to be used to supply power to this location. Not that the use of extension cords is inherently dangerous, but when used as the normal way to supply power to an area, they are being used in a way that they were not intended to be used and can be exposed to damage if they are left in place.

In addition to the requirement for placement of bathroom receptacle outlets, there are also maximum spacing requirements for receptacle outlets serving counter-tops or other work surfaces, maximum spacing requirements for receptacle outlets in habitable rooms, and minimum requirements for providing receptacle outlets in other areas of a residence where electricity is likely needed such as in the garage or outside. Keep in mind however that these requirements are just a minimum and that what you are asked to consider in the design of the building might be different. However, the final lay out must still meet the minimum. An example that always seemed to come up for me was installing receptacle outlets in a bedroom. Like I mentioned earlier, you don’t always know what the furniture layout will be but sometimes we can take an educated guess. It is often evident in floor plan of a master bedroom as to where it makes sense to put the bed. As a homeowner there is nothing worse than finding that perfect spot for the bed and when you finally get your new room put together, BAM! The only receptacle outlet that is even close to your nightstand is right in the middle behind the headboard. For this reason, I would always lay out the receptacle outlets based on whether a room has a logical spot for a bed. This might have caused me over the years to have put in an extra receptacle outlet or two, but it saved me from being the guy getting cursed out by the new homeowner because they don’t have power where they need it. But again, it’s important that I point out here that the NEC does not require that this approach be taken. The requirement in the NEC is that no point be farther than six feet from a receptacle outlet measured along the floor line. And while the receptacle outlet in the middle of the bed space might be annoying, it is probably also code compliant.

When it comes to design considerations for a residential installation I am always reminded of the fact that the NEC is not a design specification or an instruction manual for untrained persons. This point means that those who are installing systems covered by the NEC are intended to know what they are doing. It is also important to remember that the requirements that are found in the NEC are there to safeguard people and property from electrical hazards and that nothing in the NEC prevents a system from having convenience and functionality baked into the design or providing for peace of mind in knowing that the future was considered in the initial installation, even though it is 100 percent not a code requirement to account for future additions. As long as the minimums are met and the maximums aren’t exceeded, taking more than code into account during the design of residential occupancies can often be the difference between good reviews and rave reviews.

To the electrical contractor, it is a job or a project, but to the homeowner it is their world.

For more about this topic, subscribe to NFPA's NEC Connect Newsletter and visit our NEC webpage for additional information including related codes and standards, helpful products, training, certfications, news and resources, and more.


NFPA will be conducting a FREE active shooter/hostile event program for emergency managers, policymakers, fire, police, EMS, school officials, and facility managers in San Antonio, Texas on Tuesday, June 18. Attendees will enjoy a half-day public session featuring Michele Gay, co-founder of Safe & Sound Schools who lost her daughter during the Sandy Hook School tragedy; an overview of NFPA 3000™ (PS) Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program; and perspective from some of the diverse subject matter experts that developed the world’s first guidance to help communities deal with mass casualty event planning. In the afternoon, attendees will be granted complimentary access to two relevant active shooter and preparedness educational sessions that are part of the larger NFPA Conference & Expo at the Henry B. González Convention Center. 


The Texas program is designed to be a valuable learning opportunity for those charged with protecting people and property from harm – just as other summits like this provided to be in the fall. At that time, NFPA hosted three successful Massachusetts symposiums, in conjunction with the governor’s office, the state fire marshal, educational secretary, and public safety officials. In today’s volatile world, it is essential for different authorities to understand and champion integrated preparedness, response, and recovery. NFPA 3000 and this program provide the framework to do just that.


In addition to the FREE access offerings, NFPA is also conducting a limited-space, deeper dive for 70 participants in the afternoon. The hands-on, 3-hour workshop presents a scenario, guides participants through high-level coordination, addresses ASHER program benchmarks, and looks closely at recovery – the most enduring aspect of these devastating incidents. Space is limited, and the fee for the exclusive afternoon workshop is $250 per person.


Registration is required for both the FREE program and the smaller workshop in the second part of the day. Visit today to register.

Employee safety training usually isn’t the first thing that a CEO or business owner thinks about when he/she wakes up in the morning. However, it can often be the difference between business as usual, staring down millions of dollars in OSHA citations or worse, an incident that got an employee injured or killed. The good news is that there is so much training available today that it should be easy for employers to bring their employees up to speed on the information they need to ensure a safe workplace, right?

Unfortunately, if the answer were yes, we wouldn’t be having this conversation today. In fact, over the years I have gotten questions from stakeholders all over the country asking such questions as: What do my employees need to be trained on? What type of training is acceptable? How often do they need this training? 70e

As we head into National Electrical Safety Month here in May, it is important that we pause to think about items like this.

I recently did a webinar for EC&M magazine that broke down the requirements for training found in NFPA 70E: Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace. View the full webinar here.

In this webinar I went through what training does NFPA 70E require for qualified persons? How about unqualified persons? I also explored some of the ups and downs of the current training landscape and explored some new frontiers that electrical safety training is entering.

In this day and age of instantaneous access to information, we should and must be able to answer all of the questions surrounding electrical safety training so that no workplace is left in the dark. (Yes, that is a little bit of electrician humor because if your electrician is lying on the ground after getting shocked, who is left to connect the lights?) In all seriousness though, we do have the ability to get information into the hands of those that need it almost instantly today and there really is no excuse for not knowing anymore. When it comes to electrical safety in the workplace, there is so much information available and more ways to consume it than ever before. However, none of that matters without making an effort. You shouldn't view training as something you are being forced to do;  consider taking the necessary training because you know it will help keep you and others around you safe while at work.

Through continued engagement in the electrical safety culture we CAN make an industry shift from taking safety training because we have to, to taking training because we need to know how to make a safe workplace. At NFPA we are happy to continue with resources that can help, such as the above mentioned webinar and the various other channels with which we try and get information out to the world.

Check out the webinar, leave a comment, ask a question, and spread the word. Also, make sure to follow me here on NFPA Xchange as I plan to roll out a series of blogs during the coming weeks in the spirit of National Electrical Safety Month; your interaction and engagement is what keeps us going at NFPA!

Last August I wrote a blog about using the hierarchy of risk controls when the policy is to establish an electrically safe work condition (ESWC). That blog closed out by asking why go through the additional steps of the hierarchy when the hazard will be removed. The example provided was that I am aware of situations where equipment has an incident energy higher than what currently available PPE is rated to provide protection from. Hopefully, this situation will not occur at your facility for any newly installed equipment since you plan to address this hazard early on. But I have been asked what should be done in the cases where equipment is already installed and installation practices cannot be employed to reduce the hazard or risk. In other words elimination, substitution and engineering controls from the hierarchy cannot be employed (at this time.) The work has to be conducted but it is not possible to safely establish an ESWC.

Many simply use the “theory” that since the policy is to eliminate the hazard through an ESWC that the hierarchy need not be used to lower the risk or hazard. The equipment is installed and nothing can be done regarding the installation. They will use this “theory” every time the employee is put at risk of injury performing that same task on that installed piece of equipment. Safe installation and normal operation of the equipment does not have a limit on the voltage, current, or energy levels present in that equipment. Those levels are generally a concern once an employee is exposed to them under conditions that are not normal operation. After all these years I do not condone ignoring electrical safety of the employee during design and installation. Every case is different and this blog should in no way be used as a basis for a policy. Some of the examples may seem extreme but remember, this is about not injuring the employee. This will discuss establishing an ESWC when hazards are excessive since very few situations actually qualify as justified energized work. 

If the work can be delayed, a full electrical shutdown by the utility during a facility closure is an option. Even if the facility does not normally close there may be slow times when it is ideal to have the electric supply removed to protect the employee. The utility has policies, practices and procedures that deal with electrical hazards beyond what is typically present on the load side of the service point. Remember this is for the purpose of establishing an ESWC. This typically does not take days or even hours. Once the ESWC is established for that equipment, the remainder of the facility could be brought back online. If this is not an option, the individual equipment may provide guidance on how to perform the task. All loads should be removed. Although non-contact methods are not permitted to verify an ESWC at lower voltages, they may be used to indicate that the voltage has not been properly interrupted thereby avoiding an unexpected outcome. Higher incident energies may also be associated with higher voltages where non-contact methods are acceptable. With arc-flash boundaries at higher incident energies often exceeding 10 feet, it is difficult to remain outside the arc-flash boundary when verifying an ESWC. However, it may be possible to use probes while not standing directly in front of the equipment and away from the arc-flash direction. This could be via remote control or special probes. It may be possible to design a mobile arc-flash barrier to allow closer approach while verifying the ESWC. I would brainstorm solutions with a group. I would exhaust all possible ideas, concepts, and approaches to verifying the ESWC in these cases. I would not condone having an employee don an 80 calorie rated suit while subjected to a possible 200 calorie incident energy. Whatever solution I came up with to deal with this situation, I would probably perform the task myself. If I was not comfortable with the solution I would never put another person at risk.

This goes back to my blog discussing installation and electrical safety of future employees. These should not be independent considerations. I would use this out of the ordinary solution once. Now is the time to use the hierarchy of risk controls to mitigate this dangerous situation in the future. As a safety professional I would feel obligated to better protect the employee the next time this task must be conducted. This may involve modification of the installation. If not now, when? It would be remiss to not correct a known hazard exposure for the employee. At the very least, I would work to have the voltage and incident energy values lowered to ones where appropriate protection is available. At the best, I would strive to have the levels lowered to the least practicably possible. I might also consider installing a permanently mounted test device. 

No matter what you decide to do in these situations consider the outcome. If an employee is injured or killed under the current policy permitting high incident energy levels, how will you justify why you had them do what they did? If an injury happens the third or fourth time that you expose them to these elevated levels, what will be your reason for not addressing it the first time? For that matter, you might want to use this concept anytime an employee is put at risk. What will you say you did to protect that employee from a hazard you had the possibility of mitigating?

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

Want to keep track of what is happening with the National Electrical Code® (NEC®)? Subscribe to the NEC Connect newsletter to stay informed of new content. The newsletter also includes NFPA 70E information such as my blogs.

Next time: The NFPA 70E question asked the most often.

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On April 25, 1935 multiple forest fires swept through the Deer Park area of Long Island, New York. Before firefighters were able to gain control, the largest blaze swept through 10,000 acres and destroyed the Abraham Golden pickle factory.

The image above shows an aerial view of the forest fire as it swept the area around Deer Park. The fire was first reported by fire warden James P. Larsen while he was stationed in the watchtower at Camp Upton, in Yaphank. Shortly before nightfall police picked up four young men for questioning regarding the origin of the fire. According to the officers, an empty gasoline canister was found in the vehicle the four young men were traveling in.


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. 


To stay up to date on news and information, sign up for NFPA Newsletters.

Notre Dame FirePhoto Credit: Associated Press/Thierry Mallet

It’s been a little over a week since I watched Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris burn on live TV. In addition to my responsibility for the Life Safety Code at NFPA, I also staff the Technical Committee on Cultural Resources, which develops NFPA 909, Code for the Protection of Cultural Resource Properties - Museums, Libraries, and Places of Worship, and NFPA 914, Code for the Protection of Historic Structures. Having worked for the past dozen years with professionals dedicated to preserving our cultural heritage, the Notre Dame fire was like a punch in the gut. On a personal level, I had the opportunity to sing at Notre Dame 31 years ago with my college choir as part of a European tour. It was an experience I’ll never forget, and a memory that is now all the more poignant.

If there was any good news to come from the Notre Dame fire, there was no loss of life or serious injuries. Nonetheless, I believe there are life safety lessons to be learned. A recent New York Times article reports that some 31 minutes elapsed between the time of the first alarm and the time the fire department was notified. In the life of a fire, 31 minutes is an eternity. The reason for the delay was the reliance on human intervention in Notre Dame’s fire safety plan. No automatic fire department notification was in place to avoid nuisance alarm responses – one link in the “accident chain.” When the first alarm activated, employees climbed a steep staircase to the attic, did not immediately detect a problem, and left – a second link in the chain. It was only when a second alarm activated and guards returned to the attic that a fire was confirmed. The guards then had to walk back to a location from which the fire service could be notified, adding to the delay – a third link in the chain. Under ideal conditions, it would have taken at least 20 minutes from the time of alarm to the time of suppression operations. If any of the accident chain links had been broken, perhaps the fire damage might have been limited. However, given the assumed 20-minute delay, that is questionable, even if the plan had been perfectly executed.

So what is the life safety lesson? To me, it’s simple: if your fire/life safety plan is dependent on actions by people, your risk assessment needs to assume some degree of failure of the human intervention component, and that failure needs to be balanced by other fire/life safety features. In my previous fire service experience I learned that if something can go wrong on a fireground, it probably will. In some occupancies, NFPA 101 relies on people to perform specific duties as part of an emergency action plan for the protection of occupants from fire. A common example is in health care occupancies; we rely on staff to relocate patients from the smoke compartment of fire origin to an unaffected smoke compartment because patients are assumed to be incapable of self-preservation. The Code does not, however, rely solely on staff. Other protection features, such as automatic sprinklers and fire alarms, are mandated. The human intervention component is one element of a complete life safety package. If the human intervention link is broken, or bent, the other features work together to protect occupants. I sometimes hear of proposed equivalencies to reduce or eliminate life safety systems or features based on the presence of “trained staff.” I would caution authorities having jurisdiction to carefully evaluate what might happen if the trained staff do not perform as expected for whatever reason.

The real tragedy of Notre Dame is it did not need to happen. Had the lessons of other losses been heeded, any number of measures would have been taken to prevent it. Automatic sprinklers were not considered for the protection of the heavy timber attic space because they would have “drowned the structure” – a misconception at least partially responsible for the structure’s destruction. I have no doubt the stewards of Notre Dame would rather be mopping up a bit of water damage than contemplating how to restore a magnificent, iconic structure that will never be the same.  

Thanks for reading, and stay safe.

Got an idea for a topic for a future #101Wednesdays? Post it in the comments below – I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Did you know NFPA 101 is available to review online for free? Head over to and click on “FREE ACCESS.”

Follow me on Twitter: @NFPAGregH

Keeping the responders safe is one of the primary focuses of NFPA, and to help them do their work more effectively, the Standards Council has decided to consolidate more than 100 emergency responder standards into 38 key documents.


The consolidation plan applies to current 114 NFPA, Emergency Response and Responder Safety (ERRS) standards, guides, and recommended practices. Beginning in January 2020 for the next five years, 20-25 standards will be combined each year, in a proper cycle.


This project will benefit anyone who uses NFPA ERRS standards, as well as the thousands of volunteers who work to develop these key documents. For example, TC members and other stake holders have expressed concerns about the following:


  • A lack of knowledge about what different TCs are doing
  • Conflicting information from one standard to the next
  • The need to purchase multiple standards to get a well-rounded view of a topic
  • Planning and scheduling difficulties for TC members and representative groups
  • And the inability to have representation on some TCs due to the sheer number of standards


Related standards will be incorporated into all-inclusive standards with existing documents becoming separate chapters. Blending applicable information into one-third of the existing standards will allow responders to access, understand, and utilize complete PPE manufacturing guidance; selection, care and maintenance tips; professional qualifications benchmarks; and other important info that will help them do their jobs effectively.

Both the First and the Second Draft Meetings of the standard process, as well as any necessary Correlating Committee meetings, will now occur during the same year – with one meeting in January and another one in November. Any required additional meetings, such as pre-draft sessions will occur when there is a need for them.

All of the information currently contained in ERRS standards will remain.


In my recent NFPA® Live session I covered the challenges of managing the high pressures needed in the standpipe and sprinkler systems in high-rise buildings. This included various techniques related to the following: moving water to the upper floors of a high-rise building, helping prevent exposure to firefighters and system components from the dangerously high pressures in a standpipe system, accepted methods of water storage in high-rise buildings, and how certain pressure regulating components work and how they are used.

I received this follow-up question from a member. I hope you find some value in it.

NFPA Live is an interactive video series in which members of NFPA staff address some of the most frequent topics they receive through the Member's Only Technical Question service. If you are currently an NFPA Member you can view the entire video by following this link. If you're not currently a member, join today!


This past Friday evening, eight firefighters were injured when an energy storage system (ESS), which was connected to a solar panel array and operated by Arizona Public Service Company (APS), was involved in a fire and subsequently, an explosion. According to media sources, responders were called to the scene in response to a smoke condition from an ESS container. When they arrived on-scene, they saw white smoke billowing from a Conex container and called a hazardous materials unit to respond. Soon after they inspected the container, an explosion took place that blew the heavy metal doors off their hinges. Injuries sustained by the first responders included both thermal and chemical burns, as well as multiple fractures, lacerations, and a collapsed lung. As of the writing of this blog, one responder was critically injured and two others were seriously injured, however all three are reported in stable condition. Thankfully the remaining five have been released and are recovering at home.


This incident is a reminder of the challenges faced by first responders as new technology such as ESS are mainstreamed into everyday living. Use of ESS is growing not only in the U.S. but also on a global scale, as renewable energy is implemented around the world.  These systems are showing up in myriad environments, including residential homes, commercial buildings, hospitals, and dedicated utility operated sites, like this installation.


Since 2014, NFPA has been working to identify the hazards associated with this emerging and growing technology.  Research from the Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF), expansion of ESS criteria in NFPA 1, Fire Code, development of our new NFPA 855 stationary energy storage standard, and the construction and deployment of the U.S.’s first Energy Storage and Solar Safety training program for first responders demonstrate NFPA commitment to providing and sharing the knowledge necessary to help with the design and ongoing operation of ESS, regardless of the size or location of the system. (On that note, the Boston Fire Department and other departments in the greater Boston area are attending an ESS training at our headquarters today.)


Equally, if not more important is the need to offer first responders the information and education they need when they encounter a fire event or incident at an ESS facility. ESS owners, operators, and designers for these facilities are encouraged to utilize the resources provided by NFPA to ensure that the best design and installation practices are being followed.  Pre-planning and coordination with the first responders is a critical need, since ESS technology can vary between battery chemistries, arrays, and location options.  Firefighters need to be aware of the underlying hazards in these environments and the additional precautions that need to be taken when conducting operations involving ESS. NFPA offers free online self-paced training, as well as classroom training, interactive scenario modeling apps, and reference materials so knowledge about these systems can be propagated.     


NFPA has consolidated all of our available resources at  Many of these materials are readily and freely available to all members of the public and responder communities.  This Arizona event and the serious dangers it revealed for the firefighters involved allows all of us to pause and step up our efforts on educating the broader fire protection community about ESS .  It is also a good reminder that as new technology comes into our lives, new potential hazards often follow.  Raising awareness of these hazards and offering solutions is a fundamental part of NFPA’s mission.       

new york public library


Since the historic fire at Notre Dame this past Monday, I have found myself fascinated with the flood of analyses and photos and information about the fire, the building design and construction, its history and a global desire to rebuild.   I am confident that for the weeks and months to come we will continue to see and hear information as plans solidify and a community joins together to plan and prepare for moving forward with redeveloping and reimagining this global icon. 


A few days ago, a local Boston news website wrote an article about a local monument, Cathedral of the Holy Cross, and its recently completed fire protection upgrades.  The last sentence of the article resonated with me the most.  Chris Gedrich, an executive at Boston-based Suffolk Construction stated “We rely heavily on teamwork and partnerships . . . and a lot of pre-analysis of hazardous areas before we start to work.”  Designing, building, protecting and maintaining has to be a team event.  Those partnerships and shared conversations that are held up front set the stage for success among all those involved in such a unique large scale project that carries such a variety of goals and objectives held my numerous stakeholders.  When the Notre Dame community is ready to move forward following the fire, this quote will have to hold true to ensure a safe and resilient structure.  


You read in Robert Solomon’s post about the challenges of protecting historic buildings from fire and the codes that NFPA produces that address these challenges.  Both NFPA 909 and NFPA 914 are referenced in NFPA 1.  Inspectors and AHJs are provided the direction to comply with NFPA 914 when faced with historic buildings in their jurisdiction.  For buildings that display cultural resources, including museum or library collections, or spaces within other buildings used for such culturally significant purposes, inspectors have available to them NFPA 909.


What is so unique about NFPA 909 that also relates to the quote noted above from Mr. Gedrich is its emphasis on the planning process when preparing a protection plan for a cultural resource property. The governing body of these properties is responsible for developing and adopting a protection plan for the property.  In addition, a planning team must be identified in order to oversee the development of the protection plan.  The planning team collects all relevant information, standards and regulations to begin the development of a protection plan.  Chapter 5 of NFPA 909 provides the governing body of a cultural resource property with the framework to develop the protection plan.


Throughout NFPA 909, for the variety of culturally significant properties, is the common theme of teamwork, either during day to day protection of the property and even during construction and renovation projects.  Identified and agreed upon roles, responsibilities and documentation are a minimum to ensuring the adequate protection of such valuable and treasured property.


Whatever transpires with the future of Notre Dame or other communities around the world that may be reassessing the safety, security and resiliency of their own cultural and historical structures, one thing is for sure, it will involve teamwork, contributions and buy-in from all stakeholders involved in the process.  It will be an effort and undertaking with a global impact and with modern fire safety and technology in the spotlight.  I, for one, will be following along with the rebuilding of this icon every step of the way.  Will you?


Do you have any historical or cultural buildings in your jurisdiction?  What challenges do you face?  Comment below and join the discussion!


Don't miss another #FireCodeFridays blog! Get notifications straight to your email inbox by subscribing here! And you can always follow me on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA

Thanks for reading!

Late in the morning on Friday, April 20, 1928, three explosions shook the property at the Alexander Industries plant in Engelwood, Colorado. At least eleven people lost their lives due to this tragedy.

The cause of the explosions was undetermined at the time, but it was widely believed that the ignition source was from an electric motor that sparked while operating a ventilation fan and then set fire to a pan of silver nitrate in the paint shop. This shop was used as a “Dope Shed” where airplane wings would be coated with a nitro-cellulose compound called “dope”. Because of the highly flammable nature of the materials involved, the fire spread quickly and destroyed most of the complex.

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. 

To stay up to date, sign up for NFPA Newsletters.

Photo Courtesy of Andysmith248 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]


As a staff engineer I often get the question through our technical question service (TQS) if a smoke control system is required. Although there are a few times where NFPA 101®  prescribes the use of a smoke control system, for the most part it is a choice by the building designer to comply with performance criteria in the Code.

Smoke control is an engineered system that is designed to modify the movement of smoke. Where the NFPA 101 requires a smoke control system, it is required to comply with NFPA 92, Standard for Smoke Control Systems. There are two main types of smoke control systems per NFPA 92: smoke containment systems and smoke management systems. The purpose of smoke containment system is contain smoke to a given area and prevent it from entering another area, such as with a stairwell pressurization system. The purpose smoke management system is maintain tenability of an area or means of egress and reduce migration of smoke between the fire area and adjacent spaces, such as with an atrium smoke control system.

There are several times in which NFPA 101 prescribes the use of smoke control:

  1. New underground buildings or portions of buildings that have an occupant load greater than 100 persons underground, has a human occupied level more than 30 ft. or more than one level below the lowest level of exist discharge, and has combustible contents, interior finish or construction, is required to be provided with an automatic smoke venting.
  2. The second is for levels in new assembly occupancies 30 ft. or more below the lowest level of exit discharge which are required to be divided into two smoke compartments, each provided with its own independent smoke control or smoke exhaust system.
  3. Enclosed mall concourses connecting more than two stories.

There are other times that a smoke control system may be required in order to meet a performance criterion. Such as new atria which require an engineering analysis to demonstrate that the smoke layer interface is maintained above the highest opening or at least 6 ft. above the highest floor level for a time period of 1.5 times the calculated egress time or at least 20 minutes. An atrium may be able to achieve this performance criteria without the use of a smoke control system, however, for some buildings the installation of a smoke control system may be necessary to achieve a desired atrium design.


Stairwell pressurization systems as a means to provide a smokeproof enclosure is another common example of smoke control systems. Smokeproof enclosures are required to be designed to limit the movement of smoke, this is permitted to be achieved through natural ventilation, mechanical ventilation incorporating a vestibule, or by enclosure pressurization.


In addition to atria and smokeproof enclosures, smoke control systems may be utilized to meet a design criterion for buildings and designs including underground and limited access buildings, smoke-protected assembly seating, stages in assembly occupancies, detention and correctional occupancies, mall concourses, as part of an engineered life safety system, or in performance-based designs in accordance with Chapter 5.


For most buildings and designs, with the exception of underground buildings and mall concourses, the Code will not prescribe the use of a smoke control system. However, based on the use and design of the building, the use of a smoke control system may be desired or necessary to meet the prescribed performance criteria in the Code.


Did you know NFPA 101 is available to review online for free? Head over to and click on “Free access." 

A national proclaimed recognition week (second week in April) was established in 1991 honor the 9-1-1 Public Safety Telecommunicators. This year, April 14 - 20 is dedicated to the men & women who serve as public safety call takers & dispatchers in our 9-1-1 centers. We at the NFPA thank all who stay on the line and help us in our times of greatest needs.  Many don’t realize the challenges our 911 telecommunicators face every day.  They are the first to know when something has happened and attempt to remotely make calm out of chaos, gather critical information; including information to help protect the safety of first responders, and then provide lifesaving instructions over the phone that could potentially save someone’s life.   

In 2009, I had major back surgery that would limit my ability to work on an ambulance for a significant amount of time. For the better part of the next two years, I worked as a dispatcher, 911 call taker, and C-Med radio operator (coordinating regional ambulance to hospital communications).  In the center where I worked, we averaged processing approximately 140,000 calls for service a year. I can honestly say, the time I spent in dispatch made a huge difference in my life and career. It opened my eyes to other divisions of my department and other things I could do to serve my community.  It afforded me the opportunity to learn different operational and managerial roles that would benefit me later on. But most importantly it taught me to use other senses and critical communication and thinking skills to process information and emergency scenes without being able to see or touch the patients. In the long run this improved my leadership, communication, and organizational skills.

While in dispatch I managed many major multiple casualty incidents from the dispatcher chair. I also took calls from women in active labor and coached them through what to do until help arrived, I talked members of the public through Hands-only CPR, and even talked with many people who were contemplating suicide and tried to keep their attention and focus on staying with me until help arrived.  I always thought being an EMT and going through the emotions of the challenges we face every day was hard.  I didn’t know how good we had it until I went into dispatch!  It’s all the same challenges and feelings, but you can’t see or feel them for yourself. You have to hope that people are following your instructions and learning the results of your efforts is extremely rare. This puts an incredible mental strain on you because while most don’t realize it, our dispatch professionals are there with all other first responders on the very same front lines trying to help other in need. Their ability to quickly multi-task, get resources moving, and provide guidance in a fog of confusion, is a most admirable and critical skill for the safety of the public.

One of the things I’m most proud of in our work at the NFPA, is that long before I ever came along, the NFPA has been working with the dispatch community to incorporate them into the codes and standards we develop. This is indicative of the critical nature of the work of our dispatchers and the absolute fact that they too are first responders.

Through NFPA 1221; Standard for the Installation, Maintenance, and Use of Emergency Services Communications Systems we set the minimum standard to which our dispatch centers and Public Answering Points are designed and used. Through NFPA 1061; Standard for Public Safety Telecommunications Personnel Professional Qualifications we set the training and educational minimums that telecommunicators must demonstrate in order to perform their jobs. More recently, we have looked at the expanded role of our dispatch centers and personnel play in active shooter and hostile event incidents them having their own chapter in NFPA 3000; Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program and their expanded medical screening role in order to reduce the burden of non-emergent medical calls in our 911 EMS systems in NFPA 451; Guide for Community Healthcare Programs.  Today and every day, we at the NFPA thank and appreciate those professionals on the other side of the line from all of us who stand ready to help complete strangers in their times of need.  Happy Public Safety Telecommunicators Week!!!!


I just returned from Paris this past Saturday after a week of meetings with the ISO committee that deals with Sustainable Cities and Communities.  Part of the goal of this committee is to look at a range of critical issues such as resilience, community risk reduction, smart city concepts and transportation options, and the ways in which we measure how good, or how not so good we all are doing in these areas. Recognition of the importance of preservation of heritage sites and historically significant buildings is among the topics that we often discuss either in the meetings or during the more informal settings.


Like many others, I heard about the awful fire at Notre Dame Cathedral yesterday afternoon. While I had the privilege to tour the building when I was there in 2007, I simply did a “walk by” during some free time I had on my most recent trip. While it is way too early to determine or speculate why this fire occurred, that will come later, there is no argument or question that the loss of significant portions of this magnificent structure and some of its contents will have a lasting impact not only on the citizens of Paris and France, but clearly on the world community as a whole. I do not overlook the fact that no one was killed or seriously injured. Likewise, I also acknowledge that sometimes losing a piece of history can also be a devastating experience.


Fires in historic buildings are often times difficult to judge, extinguish or control.  Failure of wood structural members alter the behavior of remaining structural elements. Exterior walls that were once tied together by overhead elements become freestanding façades that could collapse on first responders for any number of reasons. Beyond the physical loss, such fires leave a gaping hole in a community or a larger society. Application of best practices in the form of codes, standards — norms as they are sometimes referred to in Europe — can all work to help minimize the impact of fire even in buildings that are more than 800 years old.  Innovative and novel designs have allowed sprinkler systems to be retrofitted in these older structures. Use of specialized systems such as beam detection and air aspirating devices can be used to apply and blend in effective smoke detection into the architectural features of these buildings.


These and other measures require the delicate balance of providing fire protection and life safety systems that are both effective, yet minimally obtrusive. Maintaining the historic fabric of the structure is a critically important goal of the designer. Determining what operating plans can be put in place to supplement the systems must also be considered. In other words, what roles can the staff members who are at the building day in and day out play in keeping the occupants as well as the building safe from the effects of fire. All of these measures are among the criteria provided into specialized NFPA codes that deal with these environments. NFPA 909, Code for the Protection of Cultural Resource Properties — Museums, Libraries, and Places of Worship and NFPA 914, Code for Fire Protection of Historic Structures can work hand-in-hand to offer meaningful solutions to protect these important buildings from fire as well as other potential hazards.


NFPA 914 in particular is developed by a committee of experts who know about the delicate balance mentioned above.  The requirements in this code have been carefully evaluated to bring to bear all of the unique options and solutions that might be applied to these structures.  From management operational systems, fire prevention, security and special precautions that should be taken during renovation projects, NFPA 914 provides a wide range of criteria that can mitigate the effects of the fire.


While the fire at Notre Dame will bring attention to the importance of having the right measures in place to prevent or minimize the impact of a fire, it is important to not lose sight of the fact that fires in places of worship are not totally unheard of. At about the same time the fire in Paris was burning, another fire was burning at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Early reports are that this fire was contained rather quickly in this 1300 year old structure and that perhaps minimal damage occurred to the Mosque. Most of us probably never heard of St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre or the Greater Union Baptist Church or the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, both located in Opelousas. These three churches in Louisiana were targeted by an arsonist in the last three weeks. Historic by US standards, the churches stood for over 100 years and were a focus of the local community. As the caretakers for these structures, used for religious purposes or not, historic or not, applying the right mix of building design, operating features and vigilance requires a group effort to protect and maintain the heritage that these buildings represent.


Those that are interested in historic preservation or protection of specialized cultural resource facilities might be interested in these NFPA Journal articles:




Health care facilities contain countless doors serving numerous purposes. Some doors require routine inspections, and the items to be inspected vary depending on the application of the door. In this NFPA® Live I guided viewers in determining which doors require routine inspections and where to find the required inspection frequencies and criteria in NFPA codes and standards.

In my recent NFPA Live I provided an overview of the code requirements and compared those with the expectations of surveyors when they are in a facility. I received this follow-up question from a member. I hope you find some value in it.

NFPA Live is an interactive video series in which members of NFPA staff address some of the most frequent topics they receive through the Member's Only Technical Question service. If you are currently an NFPA Member you can view the entire video by following this link. If you're not currently a member, join today!

On April 10, 1935, the Massachusetts fire departments of Weymouth and Braintree were called upon to fight a large fire that swept over Weymouth Landing after a gas explosion early in the morning.



At the time of the incident, there had been a suspected gas leak. The manager of the store was heading to the basement to inspect the leak at about 1:30 A.M, when the blast occurred. Considerable confusion was caused in the surrounding streets by flooding and a fire soon broke out among the debris in the store. The blast also was credited with shattering the window glass of most of the surrounding buildings.


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.

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Local authorities announced this week that the cause of the massive fire that gutted Brazil's 200-year-old National Museum in September 2018 was an improperly installed air conditioning unit on the ground floor of the museum. The fire destroyed roughly 90 percent of the facility's 20 million artifacts. 


"[The] air conditioners failed to meet manufacturer recommendations regarding the use of separate circuit breakers and grounding devices, according to an Agence France-Press report," an article published in Smithsonian magazine reads. "The Associated Press adds that units received a stronger electrical current than they were made to conduct, created a powder keg situation poised for disaster." A page on NFPA's website details the adoption and use of NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code®, in Latin America. While 12 countries are listed, including ones that border Brazil like Venezuela and Peru, Brazil is not.


On top of the unsafe electrical practices, a number of other factors at the museum contributed to the fire's rapid spread and severity. I reported on these in a November 2018 "Dispatches" article in NFPA Journal. 


"According to museum experts, fire safety officials, and politicians who were interviewed after the incident, it was a loss that could have been prevented with additional attention and resources for the museum, which could have paved the way for critical fire safety upgrades," the article says. "The 200-year-old building, a former palace for the Portuguese royal family, lacked fire sprinklers and fire doors. Fire hydrants close to the museum failed to provide responding firefighters with an adequate water supply to fight the flames." The article goes on to explain how similar fire safety deficiencies exist in many historic buildings worldwide—not just museums—"because of a lack of government support, misconceptions among property owners, and the intrinsic challenges—and costs—of retrofitting historic, sometimes centuries-old structures with modern fire and life safety technology."


A sidebar to that piece included interviews with NFPA staffers who reflected on the Brazil museum fire. "Brazil’s economy, which has been experiencing ups and downs, doesn’t help the situation, as issues with more immediate importance get addressed while preventing tragedies like the museum fire are put on the backburner," Anderson Queiroz, NFPA's representative to Brazil, told me. "I simply don’t see any tangible solution in the short-term, except to count on luck and divine help that more fires like this don’t happen."

The Report of the Motions Committee addresses the following six Standards in the Annual 2019 revision cycle and contains Certified Amending Motions eligible for presentation and action at the 2019 NFPA Technical Meeting:

  • NFPA 58, Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code
  • NFPA 130, Standard for Fixed Guideway Transit and Passenger Rail Systems
  • NFPA 302, Fire Protection Standard for Pleasure and Commercial Motor Craft
  • NFPA 502, Standard for Road Tunnels, Bridges, and Other Limited Access Highways
  • NFPA 654, Standard for the Prevention of Fire and Dust Explosions from the Manufacturing, Processing, and Handling of Combustible Particulate Solids
  • NFPA 1961, Standard on Fire Hose


Please note:  The NFPA Technical Meeting agenda (Tech Session) which incorporates the Fall 2018 and the two Annual 2019 Motions Committee Reports will be posted at a later date. The agenda will include the order in which the Standards will be presented.



The Report also identifies a list of 15 Standards in the Annual 2019 revision cycle that have been determined by the Motions Committee to be Consent Standards and shall be forwarded to the Standards Council for balloting.  The final date to file an appeal on these Consent Standards is April 18, 2019

  • NFPA 55, Compressed Gases and Cryogenic Fluids Code
  • NFPA 405, Standard for the Recurring Proficiency of Airport Fire Fighters
  • NFPA 412, Standard for Evaluating Aircraft Rescue and Fire-Fighting Foam Equipment
  • NFPA 414, Standard for Aircraft Rescue and Fire-Fighting Vehicles
  • NFPA 556, Guide on Methods for Evaluating Fire Hazard to Occupants of Passenger Road Vehicles
  • NFPA 557, Standard for Determination of Fire Loads for Use in Structural Fire Protection Design
  • NFPA 780, Standard for the Installation of Lightning Protection Systems
  • NFPA 820, Standard for Fire Protection in Wastewater Treatment and Collection Facilities
  • NFPA 1082, Standard for Facilities Safety Director Professional Qualifications
  • NFPA 1300, Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development
  • NFPA 1452, Guide for Training Fire Service Personnel to Conduct Community Risk Reduction
  • NFPA 1710, Standard for the Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Career Fire Departments
  • NFPA 1720, Standard for the Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations and Special Operations to the Public by Volunteer Fire Departments
  • NFPA 1936, Standard on Powered Rescue Tools
  • NFPA 1961, Standard on Fire Hose
  • NFPA 2113, Standard on Selection, Care, Use, and Maintenance of Flame-Resistant Garments for Protection of Industrial Personnel Against Short-Duration Thermal Exposures from Fire

Note:  For the 15 preceding standards, issuance by the Standards Council is anticipated to be April 28, 2019.


Additionally, the following Standards have modified/custom schedules and therefore, have later NITMAM closing dates.  The posting of the Report of the Motions Committee for these documents having Certified Amending Motions is May 17, 2019:

  • NFPA 2, Hydrogen Technologies Code
  • NFPA 25, Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems
  • NFPA 70, National Electrical Code®
  • NFPA 78, Guide on Electrical Inspections
  • NFPA 451, Guide for Community Health Care Programs
  • NFPA 855, Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems 
  • NFPA 1078, Standard for Electrical Inspector Professional Qualifications
  • NFPA 1851, Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting
  • NFPA 1936, Standard on Powered Rescue Tools

Development of the 2021 edition of the Life Safety Code is well underway. The NFPA 101 First Draft Report, which contains the NFPA 101 First Draft with all approved first revisions (FRs), committee inputs (CIs), and resolved public inputs (PIs), is available for review online. Any topic addressed by an FR, CI, or PI, can be commented on by anyone. The public comment closing date is May 8, 2019, so if you would like to participate in the process, now is the time to submit public comments. If you’re new to the NFPA standards development process or could just use a refresher, head over to the codes and standards page on the NFPA website.

The NFPA 101 First Draft contains a total of 316 FRs (334 including first correlating revisions). A comprehensive understanding of the proposed revisions requires reviewing the entire First Draft Report. I realize relatively few people have time for such an undertaking, so I’ve identified what I think are some of the highlights (noted paragraph numbers are consistent with the First Draft numbering):

  • Revised definition of ‘personal care’ to include limited skilled nursing services (3.3.216, A.3.3.216)
  • New provision clarifying that non-required fire doors do not require compliance with NFPA 80 (, A.
  • New term ‘clear floor area’ used in Ch. 7, Means of Egress (numerous locations, draft definition in CI
  • Revised interior exit discharge provisions (7.7.2)
  • Revised communicating space provisions to permit smoke detection in lieu of openness (8.6.6)
  • New requirements for low-frequency alarm signals (,
  • New requirement for fire department two-way radio communication enhancement systems in new and existing buildings in accordance with the fire code (9.15)
  • New requirements for outdoor furnishings adjacent to buildings (10.4)
  • New requirement for automatic sprinklers in all new assembly occupancy bars and restaurants (
  • Revised classroom door locking requirements for existing educational and day care occupancies (,
  • Revised construction limits for existing nursing homes (19.1.6)
  • New requirement for automatic sprinklers in existing high-rise buildings containing ambulatory health care occupancies (
  • New requirement for carbon monoxide detection in existing hotels and dormitories (
  • New provisions for valet trash services in apartment buildings (30.7.5, 31.7.5)
  • Removal of engineered life safety system option for existing, high-rise apartment buildings; new 12-year phase-in for mandatory automatic sprinkler systems (

Several CIs were also developed for the purpose of soliciting public comments:

  • Proposed Annex A language on dynamic exit signage (7.10.2, CI-6568)
  • Proposed mezzanine area limits with automatic sprinklers (, CI-6598)
  • Proposed revised school fire drill provisions (, CI-6914)
  • Proposed mandatory requirement for automatic sprinklers in all new day care occupancies (, CI-6910)

While this list is not intended to be all-inclusive, it touches on what I think are the “big proposed changes” for the next edition of the Code. Your comments are vital to ensuring that a broad range of stakeholder interests are considered by the NFPA 101 technical committees. For a video overview of these proposed revisions, NFPA members can check out my NFPA Live ARCHIVE: A Preview of the NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, 2021 Edition FIRST DRAFT from this past January.

Thanks for reading, and until next time, stay safe!

Got an idea for a topic for a future #101Wednesdays? Post it in the comments below – I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Did you know NFPA 101 is available to review online for free? Head over to and click on “FREE ACCESS.”

Follow me on Twitter: @NFPAGregH

The First Draft Reports for NFPA Standards in the Annual 2020 revision cycle are available.  Review the First Draft Reports for use as background in the submission of public comments.

To submit a public comment using the online submission system, use the List of NFPA codes & standards  to search for the Standard or select the link below in the list.  Once on the document page, select the link "Submit a Public Comment" to begin the process. You will be asked to sign-in or create a free online account with NFPA before using this system. If you have any questions when using the system, a chat feature is available or contact us by email or phone at 1-800-344-3555.

Unless otherwise noted below*, The deadline to submit a public comment through the online system is May 8, 2019. These proposed Standards with First Draft Reports in the Annual 2020 revision cycle are as follows:

  • NFPA 1, Fire Code *June 5, 2019
  • NFPA 3, Standard for Commissioning of Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems
  • NFPA 4, Standard for Integrated Fire Protection and Life Safety System Testing
  • NFPA 17, Standard for Dry Chemical Extinguishing Systems
  • NFPA 17A, Standard for Wet Chemical Extinguishing Systems
  • NFPA 30A, Code for Motor Fuel Dispensing Facilities and Repair Garages
  • NFPA 54, National Fuel Gas Code
  • NFPA 59, Utility LP-Gas Plant Code
  • NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace®
  • NFPA 73, Standard for Electrical Inspections for Existing Dwellings
  • NFPA 90A, Standard for the Installation of Air-Conditioning and Ventilating Systems
  • NFPA 90B, Standard for the Installation of Warm Air Heating and Air-Conditioning Systems
  • NFPA 96, Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations
  • NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities Code
  • NFPA 99B, Standard for Hypobaric Facilities
  • NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®
  • NFPA 160, Standard for the Use of Flame Effects Before an Audience
  • NFPA 220, Standard on Types of Building Construction
  • NFPA 221, Standard for High Challenge Fire Walls, Fire Walls, and Fire Barrier Walls
  • NFPA 303, Fire Protection Standard for Marinas and Boatyards
  • NFPA 307, Standard for the Construction and Fire Protection of Marine Terminals, Piers, and Wharves
  • NFPA 312, Standard for Fire Protection of Vessels During Construction, Conversion, Repair, and Lay-Up
  • NFPA 496, Standard for Purged and Pressurized Enclosures for Electrical Equipment *May 16, 2019
  • NFPA 497, Recommended Practice for the Classification of Flammable Liquids, Gases, or Vapors and of Hazardous (Classified) Locations for Electrical Installations in Chemical Process Areas *May 16, 2019
  • NFPA 499, Recommended Practice for the Classification of Combustible Dusts and of Hazardous (Classified) Locations for Electrical Installations in Chemical Process Areas *May 16, 2019
  • NFPA 703, Standard for Fire Retardant—Treated Wood and Fire–Retardant Coatings for Building Materials
  • NFPA 770, Standard on Hybrid (Water and Inert Gas) Fire Extinguishing Systems
  • NFPA 790, Standard for Competency of Third-Party Field Evaluation Bodies
  • NFPA 791, Recommended Practice and Procedures for Unlabeled Electrical Equipment Evaluation
  • NFPA 1006, Standard for Technical Rescue Personnel Professional Qualifications
  • NFPA 1126, Standard for the Use of Pyrotechnics Before a Proximate Audience
  • NFPA 1192, Standard on Recreational Vehicles
  • NFPA 1194, Standard for Recreational Vehicle Parks and Campgrounds
  • NFPA 1801, Standard on Thermal Imagers for the Fire Service
  • NFPA 1952, Standard on Surface Water Operations Protective Clothing and Equipment
  • NFPA 1953, Standard on Protective Ensembles for Contaminated Water Diving
  • NFPA 3000™ (PS), Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program *June 5, 2019
  • NFPA 5000®, Building Construction and Safety Code®

The First Draft Reports for the following Standards are delayed and thus, have revised public comment closing dates.  Check the document information pages for current posting and closing date information:

  • NFPA 30, Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code  
  • NFPA 921, Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigation
  • NFPA 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus
  • NFPA 1906, Standard for Wildland Fire Apparatus

The First Draft Report serves as documentation of the Input Stage and is published for public review and comment. The First Draft Report contains a compilation of the First Draft of the NFPA Standard, First Revisions, Public Input, Committee Input, Committee Statements, and Ballot Results and Statements. Where applicable, the First Draft Report also contains First Correlating Revisions, Correlating Notes, and Correlating Input.

Stay up to date by signing up for NFPA Newsletters.

Disasters can occur anywhere, and they often occur when we least expect it. NFPA standards provide ways to prevent their occurrence, manage their impact, and protect society. One of the most notable features of NFPA’s standards development process is that it is a full, open, consensus-based process. “Full consensus” means that anybody can participate and expect fair and equal treatment because safety is everybody’s business.

What's more, NFPA Standards are used throughout the world. Whether a computer room in the Pentagon, a research station in Antarctica, a power plant in the Middle East, the space shuttle, the hometown dry cleaner, or a historical library in Scotland, NFPA Standards are used every day to saves lives and protect property.

To this end, NFPA is pleased to announce that the 2019 edition of the NFPA Standards Directory is now available to download, for free. The Directory contains great information including:

  • An overview of the full standards development process
  • The Regulations Governing the Development of NFPA Standards, Technical Meeting Convention Rules, and other procedures
  • Members of the Board of Directors, Standards Council, Advisory Committees, and Committees (with scope and responsibilities)
  • Additional contact information and resources

NFPA mission's is accomplished by advocating consensus standards, research, training, and education for safety-related issues. Learn more about the process and how you can get involved. Download your free copy of the NFPA Standards Directory today. 


Why do so many of us get wrapped around the axle? We are all committed to electrical safety. We all know that removing an electrical hazard is a good thing. But is removing the hazard the same as eliminating the hazard? Can a hazard only be permanently eliminated? If so, does this mean a hazard can only be temporarily removed but not temporarily eliminated? I might be an instigator of this confusion because I never expected it to be an issue. I do believe that a hazard that never exists should be the goal. I have often stated that “full elimination of the hazard is often not an option for installed equipment. Although elimination also can be achieved by applying other controls such as through establishing an electrically safe work condition (ESWC), these other controls introduce a potential for human error. Therefore, the initial attempt should be full elimination of the hazard.” I do not believe such a statement alters meaning of the word elimination. I was not aware that elimination has a time component for many of you. I haven’t found a definition of elimination that includes a time base. Here is the problem.


Many in the electrical safety industry consider the hierarchy of risk controls to first eliminate the electrical hazard. This is such that there is no electrical hazard at any time. I agree. NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace® states that it includes installation of electrical equipment but such work is typically not conducted while energized. I believe the electrical safety of employees should be addressed at design and installation regardless whether NFPA 70E applies at that time or not. Under this belief, I have stated that full elimination of the hazard should be considered at design of the equipment as well as the design of the electrical system. I hold on to that belief since attempting it will protect future employees by making electrical installations safer. I would then consider the rest of the hierarchy for the installation to further control hazards and risks while the system design, equipment selection and installation are being considered.


For many of users of NFPA 70E, a problem comes with requirement in 105.4 that hazard elimination be the first priority. Another issue is many reference another standard where elimination only means “total elimination.” That fixed idea may not be applicable to elimination within NFPA 70E. It is typically not possible to permanently eliminate the hazard using work the practices required by NFPA 70E. Once equipment has been installed my concept of hazard elimination shifts but my definition of elimination does not. When using the hierarchy of risk controls for work practices on installed equipment, I run down the list again. Full elimination, substitution, and engineering controls are typically not possible. This brings me to the other controls (administrative, awareness, personal protective equipment (PPE). Under NFPA 70E these lead to establishing an ESWC which temporarily removes (or eliminates) electrical hazards in a specific location for a finite period of time. This leads many to believe that they have not met the goal of “elimination” of the hazard as a first priority. Many consider only full removal of the hazard as in the first context (previous paragraph) to be elimination, therefore removal of the hazard in this second context cannot also mean elimination.


I must be missing something. A sports team is eliminated from the playoffs, they are not eliminated from the league. It is a temporary thing. When a hazard is verified as not being present, it has been removed or eliminated regardless of time. There are many intricacies of requirements in a standard that you must handle on your own. NFPA 70E is no different and elimination is one of those. NFPA 70E does not mention permanent or temporary elimination of a hazard, it is simply elimination. To my knowledge I have never stated that the only elimination of a hazard is permanent elimination. I have said that the process of establishing an ESWC is not the elimination control but it results in the elimination of the hazard. There is a difference. But it is just what the standard required by eliminating the hazard through work processes. The employee will not be injured since there is no electrical hazard present where the task is being performed. You will not convince me that permanent elimination should not be considered first. However, if permanent removal of the hazard is not possible then removal of the hazard on a temporary basis is a very effective method of protecting an employee. I also do not believe that an ESWC be a default work practice without further considering ways to mitigate the hazard or risk.


I expect that much of the second draft meeting will be spent addressing the meaning of the word elimination. If full elimination or an attempt to mitigate a hazard is not addressed, many of you will ignore the hierarchy and only establish an ESWC on all equipment. On the other hand, if elimination only means an ESWC, the safety of future electrical employees will continue to be jeopardized by not mitigating the exposed hazard during the process of establishing the ESWC. Since the concern has been raised, we are getting wrapped around the axle on meaning of the word elimination. But I am not sure how many do not understand what it means and how to use it in regards to NFPA 70E. The solution may be worse than the problem it is trying to solve.


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


Want to keep track of what is happening with the National Electrical Code® (NEC®)? Subscribe to the NEC Connect newsletter to stay informed of new content. The newsletter also includes NFPA 70E information such as my blogs.


Next time: Equipment that has electrical hazards beyond what safety equipment is designed for.


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.

fire in building under construction

March was a rough month for fires in buildings under construction, wreaking millions of dollars in damage and undoubtedly causing major headaches for public officials.  Thankfully, no one was killed or seriously hurt in these fires, but their toll can be added to the over 6,310 fires in buildings either under construction, demolition, or major renovation between 2010 and 2014, which caused 9 deaths and $280 million in direct property damage.  Add to that at least $210 million in losses—and 2 fatalities--from construction site fires in 2017 and 2018, and it’s clear that a lot of construction sites have neglected fire safety.

Last month, fires included:

To help prevent these fires from happening, local officials must insist fire safety is a high priority for construction site owners, managers, and workers. To do this, they can take three critical steps:

  • Require the use of NFPA 241 Standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alteration, and Demolition through the fire code.  Make sure your community enforces the most recent one to keep up to date as construction practices change;
  • Follow the standard and make sure your community requires written fire prevention plans as part of the construction permit process; and
  • Talk to your community’s fire officials to go beyond the minimum requirements—consider extra security, a higher trained workforce, and more fire suppression and detection measures.

To raise awareness of this issue and offer steps policymakers should take to reduce risk in their communities, the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Policy Institute developed this policy brief.  Download it today to learn more. Find additional information and resources on the Policy Institute’s webpage.

A few weeks ago, the comprehensive First Draft Report along with the First Draft of NFPA 1, 2021 edition, was published. In the report, documentation of all first revisions, committee inputs, and responses to public inputs, are available for public review. The First Draft is the public’s first view of the current state of the document and the newly introduced changes and topics that were voted on by the Fire Code Technical Committee.

NFPA’s codes and standards must remain relevant and useful to our variety of customers who use them. One way to do this is to continue to evolve and introduce requirements for new and emerging technology into our codes and standards. NFPA 1 did just that in its First Draft by adding a chapter on Additive Manufacturing (3D printing).

Additive manufacturing is defined as ‘a process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer, sometimes referred to as 3D printing’. There are two types of this process that are addressed in NFPA 1. Industrial Additive Manufacturing is 3D printing operations that utilize combustible powders or metals, an inert gas supply, or a combustible dust collection system or that create a hazardous electrical classification area outside of the equipment. Nonindustrial Additive Manufacturing do not create a hazardous electrical classification area outside of the equipment and do not utilize an inert gas supple or combustible dust collection system. In general, it’s a process in which a material, such as plastic or metal, is added in layers until a fully designed item is whole and complete.

3D printing is not a completely new process, but its popularity has been growing, the technology is evolving and 3D printers are becoming more mainstream and more widely available to businesses and to the public. It is being conducted in a variety of occupancies: personal residences, healthcare, businesses and industrial operations and can produce everything from small plastic gadgets to large metal jet engine parts.

But what place does additive manufacturing have in a fire code? In the September/October 2018 edition of NFPA Journal, Angelo Verzoni cited a study published in the Environmental Science & Technology journal which found that the plastics used in smaller, desktop 3D printers (nonindustrial processes) can produce hazardous volatile organize compounds and should be used in well ventilated areas. Because most of the materials used in the process are combustible, the primary concern of larger 3D printers, likely classified as industrial additive manufacturing, is the production of combustible dust. The printing process generates dust and can produce very small particles. Some metals used in the process can burn very quickly and produce high temperatures. All of this being a concern to building owners, fire inspectors, equipment operators and occupants.

The Fire Code is addressing these issues by requiring listed equipment, safe dust collection and management processes and safe use and handing of any associated hazardous materials. Other NFPA documents such as NFPA 652 and NFPA 400 are referenced for their expertise on the relevant topics associated with the additive manufacturing process.

3D printing is an exciting technology and we are sure to see more of it in the future as the equipment advances and products that impact our day to day lives are produced by 3D printers. The Fire Code is sure to follow these advances and ensure that our customers are provided with requirements to keep their buildings, occupants and property safe from fire incidents involving this process.

To view the details of the NFPA 1 First Draft Report and new Chapter 46 visit We are also seeking input from the public on the recent changes made to the Code. We invite you to participate in the process by submitting comments to NFPA 1 using the link on the page above.

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The following proposed Tentative Interim Amendments (TIA) for NFPA 86, Standard for Ovens and Furnaces; NFPA 1221, Standard for the Installation, Maintenance, and Use of Emergency Services Communications Systems; and NFPA 1977, Standard on Protective Clothing and Equipment for Wildland Fire Fighting; are being published for public review and comment:

  • NFPA 86, proposed TIA No. 1439, referencing 8.10.6 of the 2019 edition, closing date:  May 8, 2019
  • NFPA 1221, proposed TIA No. 1435, referencing,,, and of the 2019 edition, closing date: May 8, 2019
  • NFPA 1977, proposed TIA No. 1422, referencing Table,, Table, Figure,,, and Figure of the 2016 edition, closing date: May 14, 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.

After a long period of drought conditions, much of the western and central portions of the United States have been saturated by flooding in recent weeks. Today the NFPA Archives takes a look back at an incident from April 3, 1958.


It all started out innocently enough. Sixteen year-old, Ronald Gregory of Oakland, California was wading through the flood-swollen waters of a local creek bed when he was caught by surprise and swept away with the strong current. He ended up traveling a fair distance downstream before he managed to grab the trunk of a willow tree and pull himself up to a precarious position in its branches. The image above shows the final rescue that was made by the San Leandro police and fire personnel.


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.

New York State has implemented a new law requiring retailers to only sell smoke alarms that feature 10-year, non-replaceable batteries. This requirement comes in response to people removing smoke alarm batteries, or not testing and replacing them as needed.


According to a CBSNewYork/AP story, New York experiences the highest number of fire fatalities each year; the goal of the new law is to help bring those numbers down.


“If I need a battery for the remote for the TV, I’m going to take it from the smoke detector. If I need a battery for a toy for my child, I’m going to take it out of the smoke detector. If the alarm keeps going off when I’m cooking, I’m going to take the battery out, and then they don’t put it back in,” said Tom McDonough, a firefighter and board member of the Fireman’s Association of the State of New York.


McDonough fought for the ban of smoke alarms with removable batteries for years. His efforts paid off yesterday when the ban went into on Monday, April 1.


New York State’s new law reinforces the importance of working batteries in smoke alarms. When batteries are dead or removed from alarms, the consequences can be fatal:


  • Almost three out of five U.S. home fire deaths result from fires in homes with no smoke alarms (40%) or no working smoke alarms (17%).
  • In fires where smoke alarms were present but didn’t operate, more than two of every five (43%) of the smoke alarms had missing or disconnected batteries.
  • Dead batteries caused one-quarter (25%) of the smoke alarm failures.


Smoke alarms with non-removable batteries typically feature 10-year batteries so that they don’t have to be replaced for the life of the alarm. Smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years, or when the alarm begins to chirp, signaling that it’s running low. Also, to find out how old a smoke alarm is, look at its date of manufacture on the back of the alarm. The smoke alarm should be replaced 10 years from that date (not the date of purchase or installation).


What do you think of New York State’s requirement requiring retailers to only sell smoke alarms that feature 10-year, non-replaceable batteries? We welcome your thoughts!


I still refer to the building rehabilitation chapter of NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, as the “new Chapter 43.” It’s been in the Code since the 2006 edition; that’s something like 13 years. I guess it’s not so new anymore. Nonetheless, when I teach NFPA’s three-day 2018 Life Safety Code Essentials seminar, I sometimes encounter some confusion in the class with the concepts of change of use and change of occupancy. Here’s how it works:


Chapter 4, General, mandates any rehabilitation work on an existing building must comply with Chapter 43 (see 4.6.7). One of the rehabilitation work categories is change of use or occupancy classification. It should be noted that change of use or occupancy classification does not necessarily have to involve a physical change to the building; Chapter 43 applies whether a physical change occurs or not. To understand the difference between change of use and change of occupancy classification, refer to the special definitions in Section 43.2: Change of Use. A change in the purpose or level of activity within a structure that involves a change in application of the requirements of the Code. Change of Occupancy Classification. The change in the occupancy classification of a structure or portion of a structure.


The key words in the ‘change of use’ definition are, “that involves a change in application of the requirements of the Code.” An example I give is converting an office in a business occupancy into a storage room. The occupancy classification has not changed; it’s still a business occupancy because storage is permitted by to be considered incidental. However, general storage areas are considered to be hazardous in business occupancies per and This results in a change in the application of the requirements of the Code and is a change of use. Chapter 43 describes the requirements for change of use in 43.7.1. For this example, the creation of a hazardous area is covered by, which requires a new hazardous area to comply with the requirements applicable to the new use as though it were new construction. This means we would have to apply the requirements for new business occupancies in, which sends us back to Section 8.7. This requires either: 1) separation of the hazardous area from the remainder of the building by one-hour fire barriers and 45-minute doors, or 2) the installation of automatic sprinklers with a smoke partition separation and self-closing doors. Either way, some modification to the room and/or door is likely going to be required. Changes of use to other than hazardous areas might require compliance with the existing occupancy chapter requirements.


Change of occupancy is pretty straightforward: changing a building’s occupancy classification from one classification to a different classification. An example I give is when I worked in the fire marshal’s office in San Antonio (home of the 2019 NFPA Conference & Expo!) in the 1990s, we had several old office buildings on the Riverwalk that were bought by developers and converted into hotels. The former occupancy classification was business and the new classification was hotel and dormitory (this was back before Chapter 43 existed, so it’s a hypothetical application). To determine the requirements, the former and new occupancy classifications are assigned a relative hazard category classification in Table 43.7.3; these categories relate to the relative occupant risks for the various occupancies. In my example, both business occupancies and hotels and dormitories are assigned hazard category 3 (hotel and dormitory is a residential occupancy by definition). Where a change of occupancy creates other than an assembly occupancy, and the change occurs within the same hazard classification category or to a lesser hazard category, the building must meet the requirements of the applicable existing occupancy chapter for the occupancy created by the change, except that the requirements for automatic sprinklers, fire alarm systems, and hazardous areas must comply with the new occupancy chapter. For my office building-hotel example, the hotel would be required to comply with the requirements of Chapter 29 applicable to existing hotels and dormitories, except that automatic sprinklers, fire alarm systems, and hazardous areas would have to be provided/protected as required by Chapter 28 applicable to new hotels and dormitories. For other changes of occupancy, the requirements vary depending on the relative hazard categories.


Hopefully this will help you to better understand how the Life Safety Code applies to changes of use and occupancy classification and make your job a little easier. Join us at the NFPA C&E in San Antonio in June and check out some of those changes of occupancy for yourself!


Thanks, as always, for reading, and until next time, stay safe!


Got an idea for a topic for a future #101Wednesdays? Post it in the comments below – I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Did you know NFPA 101 is available to review online for free? Head over to and click on “FREE ACCESS.”


Follow me on Twitter: @NFPAGregH

Within days of Florida Power & Light announcing plans to build the world’s largest solar-powered battery systems by 2021, NFPA has released its updated and expanded Energy Storage (ESS) and Solar Systems Safety Online Training. FEMA, underwriter of the initial training in 2015 (the world’s first), once again provided Assistance to Firefighters Grant money so that the free, self-paced training could be updated and promoted to the nation’s 1.3 million firefighters. This begs the question, “Are you prepared to respond?”

The Energy Storage and Solar Systems Safety Training, Fire Service Edition* will go a long way in Florida when that state’s proposed ESS facility eclipses the current largest system in Australia. Given the environmental, economic and sustainability virtues of solar and storage, Florida is just one of many states looking to revolutionize their electrical infrastructure with green technology. Texas, Massachusetts, Oregon, Colorado, and Hawaii have also mandated widespread energy storage system deployment.

NFPA has been attuned to the solar and ESS industries for years and offers the fire service and others a host of research and resources at The updated 3-hour education module entails more solar content, new technological considerations, and relevant research so that firefighters are keeping pace with the potential fire and life safety hazards that may exist with these new energy innovations.

Firefighters taking the NFPA training will receive a certificate upon successful completion and learn critical insights including basic battery and solar system function and design; various failure modes and hazards associated with ESS and solar; pre-incident planning considerations; emergency set up and disconnect details; mitigation and emergency response strategies including investigations and air monitoring; and tips on dealing with electrolyte release, overheated batteries, and fires involving alternative energy systems. The goal is to keep first responders and others safe from HAZMAT issues, thermal runaway, battery explosion and re-ignition, and off-gassing.

To help a wider swath of professionals understand, install and deal with ESS – later this year NFPA will release NFPA 855, Standard for the Installation of Station Energy Storage Systems. The Standard, which aims to establish criteria for minimizing hazards, received over 800 public comments during a recent comment phase and attracted standing-room-only crowds during two workshops in the last year.

Applicants with code enforcement experience, research/testing skills, and manufacturing knowledge are being sought to participate in drafting the proposed NFPA Standard on Spaceports. Submit an application online by May 17, 2019.  
As some background on the project, the NFPA Standards Council approved a new project to develop requirements for privately operated spaceports.  After a review of all information provided, the Council voted to approve the development of a new technical committee and directed that a call for members be published.  Staff will return to the Council meeting in August, with a proposed start-up roster and a scope for the committee. 
This new standard will establish guidance on the construction and operation of facilities used to house, maintain, and deploy rockets (solid and liquid), space planes, and other similar craft.  It will also provide recommendations on static stands used for testing and the development of rockets and space planes, among others.



The 2019 Safety Stand Down online interactive quiz is live. Test your knowledge of firefighter decontamination at and be automatically entered into a sweepstakes to win a limited edition challenge coin commemorating this year’s Safety Stand Down theme, “Reduce Your Exposure: It’s Everyone’s Responsibility.” 


Studies indicate that firefighters are diagnosed with cancer more often than the public, and that firefighters experience more cancer-related deaths than the general population. To keep the topic of occupational exposure at the forefront, the NFPA, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) Safety Health & Survival Section, and the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) are asking all fire and emergency services personnel to promote and take the 2019 Safety Stand Down quiz. First responders are encouraged to try their hand at 13 questions related to decontamination statistics, tips and resources through June 19.


Safety Stand Down is a joint educational and awareness initiative of the IAFC, NVFC, and NFPA. This year’s event takes place June 16-22. Agencies across the country are encouraged to suspend all non-emergency activities during that time so that they can focus on decontamination techniques, training, and education. An entire week is provided to ensure that all shifts and personnel can devote the necessary time to learning best practices and discussing key concerns. Topic information, training downloads, and videos can be found at, the official website for the Safety Stand Down event.

A bus fire in a remote part of Kazakhstan killed over 50 people in January 2018. (Associated Press)

Last week, a bus carrying tourists to Mao Zedong's hometown in southern China burst into flames, killing more than two dozen people. The cause of the fire wasn't initially reported, but one survivor said it seemed to break out at the back of the bus and quickly overcame passengers who didn't have time to escape, the New York Times reported


The Times said the incident exposes China's poor record of transportation safety. While government statistics claim an annual death toll of about 65,000 from transportation accidents in China, the World Health Organization estimates the real figure is closer to 250,000.


But, as I reported in the Dispatches: International section of the July/August 2018 issue of NFPA Journal, bus fires aren't all that uncommon in countries around the globe. In January 2018, a bus fire in a remote part of Kazakstan killed over 50 people. A couple of months later, 20 people died in a bus fire in Thailand. And in October of last year, children narrowly escaped death or injury when a school bus ignited in Wisconsin


The July 2018 Journal article was prompted by a spate of bus fires in Rome, and points out that even in countries like the United States, bus fires occur with some regularity—although they're far less common than other types of fires.


"A report published in November 2016 by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which analyzed data from 2004 to 2013, found that fires in motor coaches (defined as buses designed for long-distance passenger transportation) occurred almost daily on average, while fires in school buses occurred more than daily for a combined average of over 550 each year," the article says. "And that’s just for two types of buses." Mechanical failures are usually to blame for the blazes. 


In 2005, 23 people died in a bus fire that occurred in a bus that was evacuating nursing home patients from Houston as Hurricane Rita marched toward the coast. In response to that incident, NFPA released a report that found about six bus fires occurred on average each day in the US from 1999 to 2003. More recent NFPA data suggests that figure has dropped to between four and five. 

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