This week’s post comes from Alex Ing, Associate Engineer in NFPA’s Hazardous Chemicals and Materials group and Staff Liaison to NFPA’s Special Effects Technical Committee responsible for the development of NFPA 1126. Thanks to Alex for sharing his knowledge of this important issue in the Fire Code!
What is the first image that pops into your head when you say “4th of July”? If you imagined a fireworks display you would not be alone. The 4th of July, is the pinnacle fireworks holiday in the United States with cities and towns all over the country putting on their own displays. As the holiday approaches not only does the firework community get extraordinarily busy, but those fire inspectors tasked with permitting and approving these displays also get busy. NFPA produces two standards covering the safe display of fireworks and pyrotechnics, NFPA 1123 Code for Fireworks Display 2018 Edition, and NFPA 1126 Standard for the Use of Pyrotechnics Before a Proximate Audience 2016 Edition.
The main difference between the two standards is distance from the audience watching. NFPA 1123 sets the appropriate display distance for fireworks and pyrotechnics, and NFPA 1126 provides requirements for displays using pyrotechnics at distances closer than those required in NFPA 1123. There is a difference between fireworks and pyrotechnics, based on the fact that manufacture of fireworks is dictated by federal regulation. While most of the celebrations going on this 4th of July will be in accordance to NFPA 1123 some will also be in accordance with NFPA 1126. Additionally, NFPA 1126 will also be used for pyrotechnic displays at concerts and other similar events.
One issue that has been arising lately in the NFPA 1126 world has been the use of pyrotechnic effect simulation equipment. What pyrotechnic effect simulation equipment is, is equipment that is uses a chemical mixture, heat source, and the introduction of oxygen to initiate or maintain combustion and is used to produce visible or audible effects by combustion, deflagration, or detonation. The most common form that pyrotechnic effect simulation equipment takes are machines that imitate gerbs, the pyrotechnics that produce a spray of sparks in of a predictable duration, height, and diameter. These new simulation equipment, will take a chemical mixture (typically a metal mixture) heat it up, and then use a blower to produce a shower of sparks similar to gerbs. Traditional gerbs on the other hand contain a propellant in the mixture which will instead ignite the pyrotechnic material inside and propel it. Both of these pieces of equipment are considered pyrotechnic devices and fall under the scope of NFPA 1126. (see TIA- 16-1, TIA Log #1317) Therefore it is necessary that anytime pyrotechnic effect simulation equipment is used it follows all the same requirements as any other pyrotechnic devices under NFPA 1126. The 2021 Edition of NFPA 1126 will include more requirements specific to pyrotechnic effect simulation equipment such as requiring specific fuel based fire extinguishers, however for the 2016 edition there are no specific requirements for these devices.
Both NFPA 1123 and NFPA 1126 are referenced by NFPA 1 in Chapter 65. Chapter 65 contains general provisions for regulating the storage, use, and manufacture of explosives, display fireworks, and pyrotechnical before a proximate audience; flame effects before a proximate audience; fireworks manufacturing; and model and high power rocketry. This chapter covers the wide range of hazards, like those described above and addressed by NFPA 1126, and associated with the use of materials that potentially can have disastrous consequences if not applied and enforced properly. Adoption of NFPA 1 your jurisdiction also mandates compliance with NFPA’s suite of pyrotechnic documents all referenced in Chapter 65 unless amended locally by your jurisdiction.
Do you have events in your jurisdiction where pyrotechnics will be used? Comment below and share your stories of Code enforcement or compliance issues.
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