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2019

A call for papers has been issued for AUBE ‘20/SUPDET 2020, a joint conference of the 17th International Conference on Automatic Fire Detection (AUBE ’20) and the Suppression, Detection and Signaling Research and Applications Symposium (SUPDET 2020).  The conference will be jointly hosted by the Department of Communication Systems NTS at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany and the Fire Protection Research Foundation.  The combination of these two international conferences continues the tradition of presenting the latest developments in research, technology and applications for the fire protection community.  The joint conference will be held September 15-17, 2020 in Mülheim an der Ruhr, Germany.  

Interested presenters are asked to submit an extended abstract (3 pages) by email not later than December 31, 2019 to aube@uni-due.de.  Submitted abstracts must include the full title, and name(s), affiliation(s), address(es), telephone number(s), and email address(es) of the author(s), with the presenter identified (underlined).  Abstracts must be original work and will be accepted on the basis of their quality and originality in the field of automatic fire detection, security systems and their applications.  Abstracts should be absent of commercial overtones, be based on scientific aspects, present objective and credible results, and be without inherent bias.  Abstracts that do not meet these criteria will not be accepted.

For the full call for papers that includes topics of interest and other conference details, please visit the SUPDET website.  For an idea of topics that are of interest, past proceedings of the 2017 joint conference are posted on the Foundation website.

Save the date!  Registration information will be available soon.

"The Magnitude and Cost of Firefighter Injuries in the U.S." is an upcoming, free webinar that will present the results of work by NFPA and the Fire Protection Research Foundation on the extent, economic cost, and causes of firefighter injuries in the U.S. An economic model will be presented which links injury type with cost. Case studies will illustrate the cost of injury at the local level.

According to the most recent study by NFPA on firefighter injuries, 68,085 firefighter injuries were reported in the United States in 2015. Of these, 29,130 occurred at the fireground. Strain, sprain, muscular pain resulted in more than half of the injuries received during fireground operations (53%) and non-fireground activities (60%). In addition to injuries, there were 8,350 documented exposures to infectious diseases (e.g., hepatitis, meningitis, HIV, other) in 2015. This amounts to one exposure per 2,500 emergency medical service runs by fire departments. There were an estimated 27,250 documented exposures to hazardous conditions (e.g. asbestos, chemicals, fumes, radioactive materials, other) in 2015. This amounts to one exposure per 40 hazardous condition runs by fire departments. In 2015, there were an estimated 16,600 collisions involving fire department emergency vehicles responding to or returning from incidents. This is the highest number of collisions since NFPA began collecting this information in 1990. 

Firefighter injury studies by the NFPA indicate that although other loss indicators of the nation’s fire problem are declining, the rate of firefighter injury per fire incident is not. A deeper understanding of the costs associated with these injuries will illuminate their impact on the nation’s resources dedicated to fire safety and provide benchmarks to evaluate strategies to reduce these numbers in the future.

Register for the webinar today! 

When: Thursday, December 5, 2019, 12:30-2:00 pm ET

Presenters: 

  • Benjamin Evarts, National Fire Protection Association
  • David Butry, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Visit www.nfpa.org/webinars for more upcoming NFPA webinars and archives.

NFPA 101, 2018 edition

NFPA has issued the following errata on the 2018 edition of NFPA 101, Life Safety Code; and the 2020 edition of NFPA 1851, Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting:

 

  • NFPA 101, Errata 101-18-3, referencing A.8.3.3.2.2, issued on November 18, 2019
  • NFPA 1851, Errata 1851-20-1, referencing 8.1.7, 8.1.7.1, 8.1.7.2, A.8.1.7, 12.3.3.1, A.12.3.3.1, and B.1.2.1 of the 2020 edition, issued on October 30, 2019

    NFPA 1851, 2020 edition

An errata is a correction issued to an NFPA Standard, published in NFPA News, Codes Online, and included in any further distribution of the Standard.

Reply to this statement if you are capable of being truthful to yourself. I have always followed my electrical safety training. Unfortunately, for majority of us, the honest answer is no, I have not always followed my safety training. For some of us it may have been when working on a 120-volt circuit. For others it may have been a 13.8 kV system. It really doesn’t matter what the voltage, current or incident energy was. Nearly 25% of the electrical contact fatalities occur at or below 220 volts. Most of us work on electrical systems that have the capacity to kill. A fatality has probably been recorded for the type of electrical system you work on. It would be surprising to meet someone who did not know that contact with electricity can be fatal. Yet, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, since 2003 there has been an annual average of 186 electrocutions in the workplace.

The first question is why do we put ourselves at risk of becoming a fatality? We have been trained to recognize and avoid electrical hazards but still we put ourselves at risk. We know that our death is a potential outcome of performing the task the way we intend to do the work. We know that the circuit should be deenergized regardless of voltage or incident energy. If energized work is justified, we know we should get the appropriate tools and use the correct personal protective equipment. However, at some point in our career we do not shut off the system or take the trip out to the truck to get the proper gear. The next question is why do we decide to risk our life?

Over my career, the most common answer is that we can’t be bothered: we can’t be bothered to shut the system down; we can’t be bothered to walk downstairs to the panelboard; we can’t be bothered to take the time necessary to correctly don the protective gear; we can’t be bothered to come back tomorrow to finish up the work; we can’t be bothered to take time to explain to our employer that being at risk is wrong; we can’t be bothered to forego accepting a job that puts us at risk, and/or we can’t be bothered to protect ourselves when a task will only take a few moments. 

So, we justify risking our lives to ourselves: the disconnect is too far away; I know what I am doing; they will not let me shut the production line down; the protective gear makes it difficult to work; I have never been injured doing it this way; I shut it off so it must be off; my shift is done in a few minutes; I won’t make a mistake; I’ve been shocked before; it’s only 277 volts, and/or if I don’t do it someone else will. Unfortunately for many of us, we justify putting a paycheck ahead of our life.

Sometime during our career, many of us have put ourselves at risk of becoming a fatality regardless of our safety training. We may have done so with no adverse consequence. In that case no one is the wiser. No harm, no foul? We may have taken a risk and ended up with a temporary injury or some time away from work. Were we rewarded for being a hero who took an undue risk or were we tagged as an employee who violated the rules? Worse yet, some have risked their life and lost. Was the consequence of becoming a fatality and its impact on their family considered when they justified ignoring their safety training?  No one alive can know the answer to that question.

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: What is causing electrical contact fatalities?

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 www.nfpa.org/submitpi for instructions.

Protection of vertical openings is a subject about which we receive a fair number of questions here at NFPA. In general, floors need to provide a smoke-resistant barrier between stories in a building to prevent smoke from migrating vertically and affecting occupants on stories other than the story of fire origin. A vertical opening is a “hole in the floor” that requires some form of protection. Different vertical openings have different names: convenience opening; communicating space; atrium; two-story opening with partial enclosure; and others. The varied protection strategies offered by the code are, I think, what creates some confusion. To determine the protection requirements, refer to Section 8.6 and the X.3.1 subsection of the applicable occupancy chapters. A quick overview of a few scenarios based on the 2018 edition of the code follows:

  • Full enclosure: Where vertical openings (holes in floors) exist, enclose the openings with fire barriers on each story exposed to the opening. The required fire resistance rating of the enclosing barriers depends on the number of stories exposed to the opening(s) and whether it is new or existing. See 8.6.5 for the required rating. Examples include elevator hoistways and utility shafts. This scenario satisfies the base requirement of 8.6.2. Note that exit stair enclosures, which are a form of vertical opening, must meet the more stringent requirements of 7.1.3.2; meeting the exit enclosure requirements inherently meets the vertical opening requirements.

Where full enclosure on all exposed stories is not practical or is undesirable, the code offers several alternatives. These are referred to as continuity exemptions in 8.6.3; here are examples of a few of them:

  • Partial enclosure: Where a vertical opening occurs in one floor only (i.e., only two stories are exposed to the opening), 8.6.8 permits the opening to be enclosed on one story or the other leaving one of the stories exposed to the opening. The required rating of the enclosing barriers is covered by 8.6.5 (1-hr for new, ½-hr for existing). No special occupancy chapter permission is required and there are no restrictions on what the opening can be used for. If the opening is used for a stair, the stair could be used as part of a required exit access, but it does not qualfiy as an exit since 7.1.3.2 and 7.2.2.5 require exit stairs to enclosed on every story (there is an exemption for some existing two-story exit stairs in 7.2.2.5.1.3).
  • Convenience opening: Where a vertical opening occurs in one floor only (i.e., two stories are exposed to the opening), the opening might be permitted to be unenclosed on both stories if it meets the requirements of 8.6.9.1. These unenclosed openings require permission in the X.3.1 subsection of the applicable occupancy chapters, where X is the chapter number (e.g., 38.3.1 for new business occupancies. Some of the key requirements of 8.6.9.1 include: the opening can’t communicate with openings to other stories; new openings must be separated from any corridors (these convenience openings are sometimes found in office building tenant spaces); if the opening is used for a stair, the stair does not get any credit as a means of egress.
  • Communicating space: These are sometimes referred to as “mini-atriums.” Unlike a convenience opening, a communicating space can expose up to three stories to each other. With the increased exposure comes additional requirements and limitations in 8.6.6. Communicating spaces are permitted unless prohibited by the X.3.1 subsection of the applicable occupancy chapters; for an example, see 18.3.1.5, which prohibits communicating spaces in new health care occupancies. Portions of stories that are exposed to the communicating space must be separated from the remainder of the building by fire or smoke barriers depending on whether the building is protected by automatic sprinklers. Areas outside the communicating space need access to an exit without passing through the communicating space, and the communicating space needs to be open and unobstructed so a fire on any story within the communicating space will be readily apparent. Contents within the communicating spaces are restricted to low hazard (essentially noncombustible) unless the space has automatic sprinklers. By meeting all the criteria in 8.6.6, the unenclosed floor are openings are protected.
  • Atrium: Whereas a communicating space is limited to exposing not more than three contiguous stories, an atrium can expose any number of stories because it is subject to the stringent requirements of 8.6.7, which include automatic sprinkler protection throughout the building. New atriums must be provided with an engineering analysis to show that smoke from a fire in the atrium will not prevent the use of the highest exit access path exposed to the atrium for the time needed to evacuate; this frequently necessitates an engineered smoke control system. Think of a Hyatt or Embassy Suites hotel in which, upon leaving your guest room, you’re immediately in the atrium space. This exit access path needs to be maintained relatively smoke free to allow occupants to reach the enclosed exit stairs. The design of atrium buildings is largely performance-based and frequently involves computer fire and egress modeling.

NFPA atrium

The atrium at NFPA in Quincy, MA

 

The code offers a handful of additional vertical opening protection strategies – see Section 8.6 for the details. Be aware that some of the Life Safety Code vertical opening protection requirements might differ from those in the International Building Code; in some cases, the Life Safety Code might be more restrictive (several attendees at classes I’ve instructed have indicated this is the case for two-story, unenclosed vertical openings). Where a jurisdiction has adopted both NFPA 101 and the IBC, designers will likely need to comply with the more restrictive provisions so as to meet the requirements of both.

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 www.nfpa.org/101 and click on “FREE ACCESS.”

Follow me on Twitter: @NFPAGregH

 

When I host Thanksgiving, it’s a whirlwind. I’ve got multiple dishes to prepare in a very short window of time; I want my house to look welcoming, festive, and clean; and at some point (usually about 45 minutes before my guests arrive) I frantically realize that I still need to take shower and make myself look at least somewhat presentable.

 

From there, I’ve got to juggle a series of cooking feats to get multiple dishes on the table, all while chatting with guests, digging out a tray for my aunt’s appetizers because she forgot to bring her own, and rummaging through the bathroom cabinet for my sobbing niece who just fell on the driveway and cut her knee. 

 

And through it all, I need to make sure to keep a close eye on what I’m cooking. So simple!

 

In theory, keeping focused in the kitchen while cooking really is a simple, straightforward message. But with all the distractions of the holiday, it’s easy to see why there are more than three times as many home cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving Day as on a typical day of the year. In fact, the number of home cooking fires on Thanksgiving spikes by a whopping 238 percent.

 

These and a wealth of home cooking fire statistics are included in NFPA’s latest U.S. Home Cooking Fires report, which shows that cooking is the leading cause of home fires year-round, accounting for almost half of all US home fires (49 percent) and reported home fire injuries (45 percent). Cooking is the second-leading cause of home fire deaths, accounting for 22 percent of all fire deaths. Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home cooking fires.

 

All these statistics and risk factors beg the question: How can everyone ensure a festive, fire-safe Thanksgiving with the people we care about most?

 

First and foremost, plan ahead so that staying in the kitchen while you’re cooking is actually doable. Assign family members and guests to tasks like answering the door, fetching band aids, etc., so that you can do the following:

 

  • Stay in the kitchen while cooking on the stovetop. Some types of cooking, especially those that involve frying or sautéing with oil, need continuous attention.
  • Make use of timers to keep track of cooking times, particularly for foods that require longer cook times.
  • Keep things that can catch fire like oven mitts, wooden utensils, food wrappers, and towels at least three feet away from the cooking area.
  • Avoid long sleeves and hanging fabrics that could come in contact with a heat source.
  • Always cook with a lid beside your pan. If you have a fire, slide the lid over the pan and turn off the burner. Do not remove the cover because the fire could start again. Let the pan cool for a long time. Never throw water or use a fire extinguisher on the fire.
  • For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed. Only open the door once you’re confident the fire is completely out, standing to the side as you do. If you have any doubts or concerns, contact the fire department for assistance.
  • When cooking a turkey, make sure to stay at home and check it regularly.
  • Keep children at least three feet away from the stove. Kids should also stay away from hot foods and liquids, as steam or splash from these items could cause severe burns.

 

With all that in mind, here’s the tip I keep reminding myself as Thanksgiving Day fast approaches: I can only do what I can – and I need do it safely – so that I can ensure a festive holiday for my guests while focusing on what I’m truly thankful for, first and foremost my two boys, who after dealing with me prepare for the day, are surely grateful we’re not hosting any other holidays this season.

NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code®, is accepting public input for the Annual 2022 revision cycle (2023 edition).

 

To submit public input through NFPA's online submission system, go directly to the NFPA 70 document information page or use the search feature on the List of NFPA codes & standards. Once on the NFPA 70 page, select "Submit a Public Input" to begin the process. You will be asked to sign-in or create a free online account with NFPA before using this system.  The system shows any changes made by the submitter in legislative text and provides the option to submit the public input right away or save it for later completion before the September 10, 2020 closing date.

We are here to assist!  If you have any questions when using the online submission system, a chat feature is available or contact us by email or phone at (800) 344-3555 (select 4).

 

Public input is a suggested revision to a proposed new or existing NFPA Standard submitted during the Input Stage in accordance with Section 4.3 of the Regulations Governing the Development of NFPA Standards.

Even with the completion of the 2020 NEC, NFPA continues to receive a lot of great questions regarding the key changes to this edition. That’s why I’m pleased to invite you to participate in our upcoming webinar on December 4, 2019 where I’ll examine the issues and address your questions.

 

Like with most webinars, there will be a “formal” part of the presentation but there's a whole lot more, too. For the majority of the webinar, you’ll be able to ask the questions that have been on your mind and I’ll take the time to answer. It’s a great opportunity to hear from your peers in the field as well get clarification on parts of the code you’re having difficulty with.

 

Some of the major changes to the NEC that we’ll discuss include:

 

  • Article 100 – Revision to the definition of service
  • 310.3(A) - Revised to include a voltage rating threshold up to 2000 volts to correlate with the relocation of medium voltage requirements to new Article 311
  • 210.8 - Revision to clarify how proximate measurement for GFCI protection is made
  • Table 220.12 – Revisions to the general lighting load table
  • 250.25 - New section covers requirements for grounding and bonding of supply-side disconnects
  • 314.27 (C) - Revision requires outlet boxes mounted in ceilings of habitable rooms in dwelling units to be provided with a box listed for ceiling fan support where a ceiling fan may be installed

But remember, the majority of questions and requests for information will come from all of you. So I invite you to join us to learn more about the changes that affect the way you use the code every day. Don’t miss out! Check out our webpage for the details and register today. I look forward to hearing from you!

 

The ongoing push toward sustainability of refrigeration systems requires the adoption of low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants to meet the shift in environmental regulations. In 2016, nearly 200 countries signed the Kigali Agreement, a legally binding accord focused on the reduction of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) - the hydrogen, carbon, fluorine based compound that is commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioners. The new class of replacement refrigerants pose various hazards including increased flammability risks.


As new refrigerants are phased in, there are new hazards that emergency responders need to be aware of in order to adjust response tactics. It is essential that emergency response and preparedness is emphasized during the transitional process and that firefighters and others are familiar with the change in material hazards and appropriate response procedures.


The Fire Protection Research Foundation (Research Foundation), the research arm of NFPA, collaborated with NFPA on a two-year research project on flammable refrigerants. Funded by an Assistance to Firefighter Grant from FEMA, the goal of the project was to enhance firefighter safety and reduce potential injury by providing training on the hazards that may exist in appliances with flammable refrigerants. More specifically, the objective was to document key information about the technology and potential hazards so that information could be shared via interactive training modules that include classroom sessions, online learning, and educational videos for the fire service.


As part of this research initiative, the Research Foundation facilitated a workshop in September 2018 with industry stakeholders and members of the fire service. The risks that firefighters will be exposed to during a call involving flammable refrigerants were discussed, and brainstorming about the content and materials needed to inform audiences took place. One clear takeaway was that although firefighting is an inherently dangerous profession, emergency responders need to be trained and educated on the shift in refrigerant materials in order to appropriately adjust tactics and keep safe. Participants also expressed concerns about the products of combustion, and recommended that possible symptoms for exposure during and after an incident be clarified; and that the adequacy of PPE and post-event de-contamination strategies be addressed. Workshop proceedings can be found here.

 

In May of this year, The Research Foundation published another report documenting the hazards associated with flammable refrigerant technologies. That document contains the results of a literature review, consisting of flammable refrigerants baseline information, existing product usage details, new implementation considerations, potential integration into future technologies, and current response and tactics guidance. Additionally, researchers looked at the current and potential use cases for refrigerants, the various applications in which they are employed, the types of environments in which they might be encountered, and a range of associated threats. These hazards must be balanced against their performance for specific applications, including toxic thermal decomposition, combustion products, increased flammability, explosion risks, and pressure release scenarios.

The report also identified a few existing knowledge gaps, specifically that fire service personnel are not well-versed on the evolving hazards associated with new flammable refrigerants. Although the potential production of hydrogen fluoride and other toxic thermal degradation byproducts exists for all halocarbon refrigerants, further investigation is needed to determine the difference in the toxic quantities produced by existing refrigerants versus the new refrigerants. To date, the variations in hazards have not been completely defined - most likely because the standards governing refrigerant charges are still under review. The gap analysis was intended to inform new NFPA training for the fire service which will debut later this year to assist first responders in recognition, evaluation, and mitigation of any flammable refrigerant related hazards. As part of this research, demonstrative tests were also conducted to support the development of these training materials.


The transition to this new class of refrigerants is already underway and being led by the countries that signed on to the Kigali Agreement. Thus, it is critical that firefighters and others are aware of the potential fire hazards that may occur in various applications such as retail food refrigeration units or air conditioning systems.

 

More information on the NFPA and the Research Foundation resources on this topic is available at www.nfpa.org/refrigerants.

The following two proposed Tentative Interim Amendments (TIAs) for NFPA 59A, Standard for the Production, Storage, and Handling of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG); and NFPA 130, Standard for Fixed Guideway Transit and Passenger Rail Systems, are being published for public review and comment:

  • NFPA 59A, proposed TIA No. 1471, referencing 5.3.2.12.1 and 19.8.4.2.2 of the 2019 edition, closing date: December 12, 2019
  • NFPA 130, proposed TIA No. 1475, referencing 11.1.2(1) of the 2020 edition, closing date: December 10, 2019


Anyone may submit a comment on these proposed TIAs by the closing date(s) listed above.  Along with your comment, please identify the number of the TIA and forward to the Secretary, Standards Council by the closing date.


National STEM/STEAM Day, celebrated November 8 this year, was established to help students recognize and advance in the fields of science, technology, engineering, art, and math. Females at NFPA working in STEM/STEAM roles celebrate this mission year-round by impressing industry stakeholders, judging science fairs, mentoring kids, developing activities for people of all ages, writing and presenting on topics of interest, and by generally highlighting all the cool things relevant to STEM/STEAM.


In support of National STEM/STEAM Day, we wanted to show that there is strength in numbers related to these disciplines at NFPA – hence the great photo above (which is missing a few awesome colleagues).


NFPA values STEM/STEAM studies and the female employees who are making an impact via their roles in engineering, research, data, technology, analytics and other more obscure positions that cover STEM/STEAM territory. By industry standards our 123-year old organization has a fairly large STEM/STEAM presence with about 100 STEM/STEAM positions at our Association filled by more than 30 women.


We possess bachelor and master level degrees in STEM/STEAM areas such as chemistry, mathematics, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, fire protection engineering, industrial engineering, environmental studies, information systems, architecture, electronics and instrumentation, library and information sciences, as well as non-traditional STEM/STEAM studies (marketing, professional writing, psychology, natural residential management, urban planning, social work, media art, law, and experience in the fire service).


NFPA female engineers are often the only women in the room at standards events or technical meetings, and sometimes the youngest attendees. This should come as no surprise, as women only make up 28% of the science and engineering workforce, according to National Science Board indicators. Additionally, reports show that 80.3% of network & computer systems administrators are male.


Those that work in STEM/STEAM-related roles at NFPA are passionate about encouraging male and female students to embrace STEM/STEAM courses. We take pride in discussing our jobs with potential up-and-comers so that they have real world career insights.  The enthusiasm for our chosen field tends to shine through. Our hope is that we pique students' interest and help to usher in a new generation of STEM/STEAM-loving professionals.


The diverse projects that come with our positions and the NFPA mission are a powerful combination. We love covering a lot of ground as representatives of a global fire and life safety authority; and list the following among some of the “coolest” assignments that we are working on these days:

 

  • Exterior wall/facade fire analysis
  • Understanding how homes ignite in wildfires
  • Animal housing and fire testing
  • Combustible dust
  • Spaceports
  • Electrical safety
  • Community risk reduction
  • Energy storage systems and data modeling
  • Fire, pedestrian, and traffic patterns for Wildland Urban Interface fires
  • Human behavior in fire
  • Using social science to change human behavior
  • Digitizing and delivering NFPA content for today’s stakeholders
  • Understanding the needs of fire and life safety practitioners, and the public, through data and analytics

 

Without hesitation, the female STEM/STEAM contingent at NFPA points to collaborating with passionate co-workers, as well as working with outside parties who share similar interests, as the real secret sauce. We take a lot of pride in helping others protect people and property from risk – and know that we cannot do that in a vacuum. Additionally, we relish the chance to mold young minds who may consider STEM/STEAM studies.


As the photo up above suggests – there’s a lot to smile about on National STEM/STEAM Day - particularly when you work for a forward-thinking, game-changing organization like NFPA!

 

70e

 

Electrical safety in the workplace is not as clear cut as many would like. It would be easier if boxes could be checked and safety would be achieved. However, a detailed step-by-step checklist is not possible. Although the basic concept of not being exposed to an electrical hazard is the crux of electrical safety, the organization, management, and employee have a substantial impact on achieving that goal. There are signs throughout the system that may point to problems needing to be addressed to bring things back in line.

 

The organization should review a program or process if personal ownership has taken a back seat to numerous, inefficient, or cumbersome processes. Another problem indicator at the organization level could be that no one is assigned ownership for high risk tasks. It is not uncommon for a risky behavior to become the norm (standard operating procedure) when a bad outcome does not occur for the situation. It is also not a good sign for the organization when a program or procedure is developed then put on the shelf as a job well done. Electrical safety is a continual process.

 

Those in a supervisory role affect the safety culture of a business. A supervisor who is not on-site may not be aware of conditions affecting safety or of the attitude of employees. This can also lead to the supervisor being unaware of how employees perceive the risks associated with assigned tasks and how those risks are managed. Completion of a task without an adverse outcome, when undue risk is taken, tends become the basis for continuing current practices. The supervisor may use this flawed performance indicator as justification for existing risk management strategies. Lastly, another sign of weakness at the supervisory level is when delegation is lacking. Personal ownership goes a long way in maintaining a safety culture.

 

An employee is at risk during the course of a normal workday and as such their performance is critical to an organization’s safety culture. This is also the level where human performance issues are prevalent. Employees start considering their work activities as routine after time on the job. They may self-impose production pressures when no quota is conveyed by the organization. An employee may make risky judgments without taking the time to fully understand the situation in order to meet an unwarranted production goal. Some employees may take pride in their ability to work through or with levels of risk that could have been mitigated or eliminated. Such actions without an adverse outcome become the basis for continuing that practice. Employees may not communicate the risks associated with their assigned task effectively up the company. They may assume that the next level of supervision knows or understands the risk involved. Worse than this, employees may assume that are insufficient resources to manage the risk. Lastly, another indicator of a safety culture weakness is that problem reporting is not transparent. This leads to employees who are not willing to report a high-risk condition.

 

There are many more indicators that an organization’s safety culture is not as solid as perceived. Oversight of the organization’s culture is necessary in order to positively affect safety. All organizational levels must be proactively involved with establishing and maintaining an electrical safety program. Otherwise, indicators such as I have pointed out could be a starting point for an incident investigator. 

 

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: Can you be honest with yourself?

 

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 www.nfpa.org/submitpi for instructions.

 

Does anyone else feel like 2019 is flying by, or is it just me?  Here we are the first day of November, fire inspectors have had a busy few months inspecting haunted houses, corn mazes, carnivals, and other seasonal events, the NFPA 1 Technical Committee has just about finished up their Second Draft work for the 2021 code development cycle, and we are ready to turn back the clocks (don’t forget that when you change your clocks, it's a good time to check your smoke alarm batteries to make sure they're working!)

 

This past week, the NFPA 1 Technical Committee met at NFPA headquarters and through teleconference to finish up their Second Draft work.  Most of the work this week focused on updating the extracted portions of the Code, with a few technical issues carrying over from the first, Second Draft meeting back in September.  One of those issues relates to two-way radio communication enhancement systems.  But before addressing some of the new issues facing the Committee on this topic, it’s important that inspectors and users of the Code are aware of how it got to where it is today in the 2018 edition.

 

The 2009 edition of NFPA 1 provided guidance on the design of two-way radio communication enhancement systems in Annex O. Annex O was deleted for the 2012 edition, because much of its criteria was incorporated into NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code at the time. For the 2012 edition of this Code, the mandatory reference to NFPA 72 was added to Section 11.10 for enforcement where the AHJ determines that a building requires such a system to facilitate fire department communications in the building. For the 2018 edition, the reference to NFPA 72 in Section 11.10.2 was replaced with a reference to NFPA 1221, Standard for the Installation, Maintenance and Use of Emergency Services Communications Systems. The 2016 edition of NFPA 1221 added requirements regarding two-way communications enhancement systems from NFPA 72 into Section 9.6.

 

So, as it stands in the Code today, for all new and existing buildings, minimum radio signal strength for fire department communications must be maintained at a level determined by the AHJ.  Where required by the AHJ, two-way radio communication enhancement systems must comply with NFPA 1221, and where a two-way radio communication enhancement system is required and such system components, or equipment has a negative impact on the normal operations of the facility that its installed, the AHJ has the authority to accept an automatically activated responder system.

 

NFPA 1221 covers the installation, performance, operation, and maintenance of public emergency services communications systems and facilities.  It applies to communications systems that include, but are not limited to, dispatching systems, telephone systems, public reporting systems, and one-way and two-way radio systems that provide the following functions: (1) Communication between the public and emergency response agencies, (2) Communication within the emergency response agency under emergency and nonemergency conditions, and (3) Communication among emergency response agencies.

 

Section 9.6 of NFPA 1221 specifically addresses two-way radio communications enhancement systems.  It addresses system components, system degradation, approvals and permits, radio coverage, signal strength, radio frequencies, system monitoring, and documentation of technical criteria. 

 

This current code revision cycle, the Fire Code Technical Committee has discussion expanding the provisions to address minimum safety and performance requirements, that currently do not exist in other codes and standards, for two-way radio communication enhancement systems.  The First Draft Report shows expanded text that addresses how accepted installation practices have made their way through the industry via emerging technologies that did not exist years ago.  New language addresses listing and labeling, minimum signal strength into the building, equipment installation, and acceptance test procedures.  Further updates at the Second Draft meeting as discussed, but not formally voted on by the Committee, include updating the terminology and additional references to NFPA 1221.  These changes as discussed at the Second Draft meeting will be voted on by the Committee in the coming weeks and published in the Second Draft Report early next year.

 

 What challenges have you faced as an inspector when addressing these building systems?  How have you addressed the provisions in NFPA 1 that rely heavily on AHJ decision and approval with regard to two-way communication systems?  Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

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Thanks for reading!

 

 

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