It’s always such an exciting time of year when the NFPA Conference & Expo gets kicked off, and this year is no different. Opening General Session typically starts us off, and it’s where we get to hear from NFPA President Jim Pauley as well as the current chairman of the board of directors, Keith Williams, who give an update on what we have been doing at NFPA to help attendees do their jobs better. This year was a bit different. We did hear from Jim and Keith, but instead of an update on new tools, resources, and plans that attendees will learn about throughout the rest of the event, we heard more about making the world safer.
Safety does not exist in a vacuum. However, Jim Pauley told the crowd that we have been treating it like it does. The policy maker makes isolated or ill-informed decisions and everyone else has to compensate for the consequences. Valuable research falls on deaf ears because few outside of the research community are paying attention. Fire departments focus on responding quickly with enough equipment. Building owners worry about energy efficiency because fires are really rare, right? School officials talk about removing pull stations because they think they are not needed at a time when the threat of active shooters consume their attention.
But as Jim pointed out, it’s time to change the way we are all thinking. Safety is a system – an ecosystem.
NFPA designed the Fire and Life Safety Ecosystem as the framework to tie all of the key efforts or components together – all of the essential elements to keep people and property safe in today’s world. It is a tool for everyone to use to organize their thinking and have a greater impact on fire safety.
This is becoming the NFPA mantra. We have translated the information into a number of languages. We are speaking throughout the world helping those devoted to safety understand the ecosystem and work on the various elements. This notion is resonating from a post Grenfell London to the smallest of Caribbean islands. It speaks to code officials thwarted by insufficient resources, policy makers designing a regulatory framework and first responders seeking to better protect their communities from fire and every other hazard they face.
We need a renewed commitment to the very things that have driven down the number of people who have lost their lives in fires and the amount of loss. It takes all of us working together, promoting and doing our part to shore up the Fire and Life Safety Ecosystem.
Jim’s challenge to the audience and all of you reading this now. is to change your thinking. Don’t think only about your piece of the puzzle – think about the system. Where there are gaps, work to fill them. What can you learn that will help you shore up the ecosystem? What are you going to do once you have gotten that information?
Chairman of the Board, Keith Williams, added more weight to the importance of the Ecosystem by talking about how different shifts and changes occur internationally, in our respective backyards and in our industries, so does the safety landscape, and as a byproduct – the challenges ahead of us. And yet what is paramount is people, the communities that we serve, the professionals that use our resources, and seek our services – they rely on us to effectively keep up with new hazards that surface across the globe.
Keeping up with that progress or potential issues can be daunting. And at the same time exhilarating. Keith said that he knew “this from the work that [he does] at UL and sees it as a member of NFPA’s board of directors. NFPA’s board is especially excited about the direction the association is taking to meet the ever-changing needs of society. It truly is an invigorating time to be aligned with NFPA, whether as a member of the staff who works so hard to bring ideas to life, a member or a volunteer who adds your expertise to the codes and standards process, or as a professional, who benefits from the great research, resources and respected expertise that has been the hallmark of NFPA for more than a century.”