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2019
As 2019 comes to a close, the NFPA Journal editorial staff has each chosen his favorite articles from the past year. From a moving piece on violence against EMS workers that warranted an angry blue fist trying to punch its way out of the magazine cover to a story about a booming new gaming industry, here are our picks—as well as the ones that were most popular based on website page views.  
Executive Editor Scott Sutherland's top picks: "After Effect," November/December; "Big Assist," July/August; "135 Minutes," January/February  
This the second year that Journal staff has forced itself to pick its favorite stories of the year. As I observed the first time around, it's a very difficult task, and having done it once doesn't make it any easier. I still think the task is somehow fundamentally unfair.

But I've squared my shoulders, taken a deep breath, and picked three of my favorites for 2019—in part because each of them came from sources outside the immediate Journal staff and contributors. My mantra is that it takes a village to construct a magazine like NFPA Journal every eight weeks, and the stories described here illustrate the breadth and depth of the topics that outside contributors can provide.

In no particular order:

"After Effect," by Matthew Foley, November/December. This was our cover story marking the 20th anniversary of the Worcester Cold Storage fire, a blaze that killed six firefighters and generated long-lasting repercussions through the fire service and the fire research community. It also had a lasting impact of sorts on Matt, who was 6 years old when he observed the fire from his family's car, en route to a birthday dinner for his mother. The fire would shape both his education and his career, and Matt—now a research associate at NFPA—brought a first-person aspect to the story that was both meaningful and engaging. The story is among the year's most-read on nfpa.org/journal.

"Big Assist," by Robert Duval, July/August. Another cover story, this one took an up-close look at the importance of incident command and regional mutual aid in dealing with a large-scale disaster. The disaster in question was a series of natural gas fires and explosions that rocked three communities in Massachusetts in 2018, and the scale of the response, coupled with the chaos of the event, produced a highly complex and challenging theater of operations. Bob's account for Journal, which included insight from the three chiefs directly involved, managed to be both instructional and engaging—a mutual-aid how-to that kept readers on the edges of their seats.

"135 Minutes," by Ryan Ashlock, January/February. Ashlock went to work on November 8, 2018, like any other day. Except that his place of work was Feather River Hospital, in Paradise, California, and the just-ignited Camp Fire was exploding out of a ravine on the edge of town as he was pulling into the hospital's parking lot. Ashlock, the hospital's chief financial officer, was "administrator on call" that morning, and as a result assumed a key role in keeping patients and staff safe. "135 Minutes" is his gripping, minute-by-minute Perspectives account of evacuating the hospital's campus with virtually no notice. Ashlock's story is among the most compelling Camp Fire accounts I've read, and I'm grateful that he was willing to share it with us.
Associate Editor Jesse Roman's top picks: "Front & Center," May/June; "The Toll of Violence," January/February
Looking back at the stories I wrote and reported on in 2019, it feels impossible to pick a favorite between two profoundly different pieces: "Front & Center," a profile of Fire Chief Charles Hood of the San Antonio Fire Department, and "The Toll of Violence," an expose on the shocking levels of violence committed against EMTs and paramedics. The former is an uplifting tale about selfless leadership and an unwavering commitment to excellence, and the latter a heartbreaking example of everything wrong with this world.

Following around Hood, as I did for two days last March, the thing that quickly became clear is that he is a leader of uncommon energy and devotion to his troops. Like a magic trick, he seems to know the names of every one of the thousands of firefighters under his watch—and often their spouses' and children's names, too—and treats his obligations to them as the most important thing you can imagine.

After riding with Hood for two straight days, I was admittedly exhausted—not by the hours he keeps, but by the constant swirl of activity. He is always on, always smiling, and engaging each person in his orbit with his utmost attention. It was like watching a figure skater perform an Olympic level routine; I saw it happening, but couldn't imagine how someone could do it. And so, on the last day I asked him an objectively stupid question, but one I can't help: Does he ever get tired?

I remember him grinning and he confirmed that yes, he's human, but then said something I didn't expect. This isn't an optional part of his job—it is the job.

"It takes energy to be a leader, you can't sit around and be invisible. I have to talk with and engage every single person I see," he said, looking me square in the eye. "I may not like all of my firefighters or all of my civilians, in most cases I do, but as a leader of this organization I have to love them. Love is consistent. Love is fair. Love understands the dignity of a human being. If I walked around here all pissed off, not talking to people, treating them like shit, I still may have this job, but you would not be sitting here talking to me, or wanting to talk about our programs or efficiencies. You wouldn't be here, because unless you are investing in the people, nothing gets done. You invest in the people and the people invest in the fire department. I value the people I work with and I think it shows, and I think they know that I care about them, that I'm not just in it for me. I'd have it no other way. I only know one way to be."

As inspiring as being around Hood was, the inverse was true as I did my reporting for "The Toll of Violence." Listening to EMTs tell me about the violent indignities they suffer at the hands of those they are selflessly trying to help, made me feel hopeless. "I have been kicked, punched, bitten, spit on, verbally abused. You name it, I’ve had it all," one EMT said in a survey.

The thing that struck me was how open and willing these EMTs were to discuss their abuse. It was like they had been just waiting for someone to ask. This is a huge and underreported problem. These public servants mostly suffer in silence. I hope that the story was able in some small way to shed a light on this problem so that more can be done to protect them
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Staff Writer Angelo Verzoni's top picks: "Safe Escape," July/August; "Ready for 'Action!'?" May/June
 Some of my favorite stories to report on come together when the world of fire and life safety collides with the world of pop culture and social trends. I've written articles about Uber, Airbnb, NBC's hit TV show "This Is Us," and other topics you might not think fit into the mold of what NFPA is all about—but there are always connections to be made. Both of my picks for 2019, "Safe Escape" and "Ready for 'Action!'?" are further examples of this. 

The first, "Safe Escape," chronicled the rise of a booming new gaming industry, escape rooms, and the concerns over escape room occupant safety, which were thrust into the international spotlight when in January 2019 five teenage girls died in a fire in an escape room in Poland. I had never done an escape room before reporting on this piece, so on a gray, drizzly afternoon in May, my girlfriend, her sister and brother-in-law, and I all packed inside an Uber to head to downtown Boston to see what all the buzz was about. We tried our luck inside the steampunk-decorated Clock Tower room at Escape the Room Boston. I, of course, was there to take notes—see if the exits were clearly marked, if there were sprinklers, if the doors were actually locked or if being locked in was simply an illusion. But I also had a genuinely fun time. In fact, my girlfriend and I are planning to do our third escape room in the next couple of weeks, when we head down to her family's house in North Carolina for Christmas.

While I left the Boston escape room thinking, "That definitely seemed safe," I was later surprised to hear from my more technically minded colleagues at NFPA that the setup I encountered—a button that you need to press before the door of the escape room will unlock—is actually not compliant with NFPA 101, Life Safety Code. Turns out, the vast majority of escape rooms operating across the country are likely not in compliance with the code, and I was able to report on that somewhat troubling information in my piece. 

My second-favorite piece from 2019 was the Dispatches lead item in the May/June issue, "Ready for 'Action!'?" Born out of a tragic incident in which a firefighter died responding to a blaze on a movie set in New York City in March 2018, the story dove deep into the world of fire safety on movie and TV sets—something I knew nothing about before writing it. An employee of NFPA for over two years at the time, I wasn't even aware that we have a standard on set safety, NFPA 140, Standard on Motion Picture and Television Production Studio Soundstages, Approved Production Facilities, and Production Locations!

I walked away from my reporting with an entirely new understanding and appreciation for film and television set safety. "These aren't just movie or TV sets," a veteran of the set safety industry told me. "This is an industrial process and that requires all the necessary safety steps to be taken."
What did readers think? Based on nfpa.org/journal page views, the top 10 most popular Journal articles in 2019 were as follows: 
9. "Front & Center," May/June 
8. "Mind the Gap," January/February 
7. "Safe Escape," July/August 
5. "Big Assist," July/August 
4. "Ramp Risk," March/April 
3. "Juice Box," May/June 
2. "After Effect," November/December 
1. "Power Aid," May/June 
NFPA Journal will be back in 2020 with a brand-new issue featuring stories on electric vehicle fire safety, fires in international hospitals, the community health care model and NFPA 451, and more. In the meantime, check out our picks from last year.

As 2019 and the 2010s draw to a close, it’s a good opportunity to reflect on our accomplishments as a fire protection and life safety community in reducing loss of life from fire and similar emergencies. It’s also an opportunity to reflect on where room for improvement still exists. While people continue to die in fires, we continue to have work to do.

For me, 2019 was punctuated by two occurrences: mass shootings (or more broadly, mass violence) and the fire at Cathedral Notre Dame in Paris. To date, there have been 409 mass shootings with 486 people killed in 2019 in the U.S. (based on the unofficial definition of ‘mass shooting’ being four or more people shot in a single incident). Nine of these incidents occurred at schools or universities. The Code doesn’t regulate buildings to protect occupants from these acts of violence, but mitigating the risk certainly has life safety from fire implications. (I’ve always contended that security and life safety from fire are diametrically opposing forces.)

NFPA has been responsive to the gun violence crisis in this country by facilitating, in 2017 following the Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting, the development of NFPA 3000 (PS), Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program. This provisional standard was developed on an emergency basis under ANSI regulations to respond to the need of communities for a framework for the development of programs to prepare for, respond to, and recover from active shooter and other hostile events. NFPA continued to work this past year to assist its stakeholders by providing training and a roadmap for the implementation of NFPA 3000, and it continues to facilitate the development of NFPA 3000 as a full-fledged, ANSI accredited standard, the issuance of which is scheduled to occur in 2020.

In the Life Safety Code arena, the technical committee responsible for requirements in educational occupancies (K-12 schools) recognized in 2019 the need for practical, cost effective, and most importantly, safe classroom door locking solutions that could be implemented on existing doors without meeting the strict, single-motion lock/latch releasing requirement present in the 2018 edition of NFPA 101. Lacking a code-compliant, cost effective solution, the alternative for many school districts was to purchase and equip classrooms with dangerous barricade devices, and other makeshift arrangements, such as five-gallon plastic buckets containing rope, a hammer, a wooden wedge, and duct tape. To preemptively mitigate the hazards of these unsafe alternatives, NFPA issued a tentative interim amendment to the classroom door locking provisions in the 2018 edition of NFPA 101, and carried the same concepts forward in the draft 2021 edition slated for publication in 2020.

The Cathedral Notre Dame fire last April drove home an important lesson in my mind; I wrote about it in my #101Wednesdays blog shortly following the fire. Although this particular fire resulted in no loss of life, it demonstrated where a fire protection (or life safety) plan relies on human intervention, the plan must accommodate, and compensate, for the very real potential for human error. The need for quality and consistent training can’t be overstated. The Code can only do so much; unless communities and society embrace the concepts it embodies, the words in the book aren’t worth the cost of the paper they’re printed on. Following the Oakland Ghost Ship fire in 2016, I wrote about the need for a new way of thinking – a paradigm shift, of sorts – to prevent such recurring tragedies. I believe one such new way of thinking has been realized by the development of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosytem, a framework that identifies the components that must work together to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem to have an impact, it’s up to us to continue to talk about it and educate. This is no easy task and will be an ongoing challenge in 2020 and many years to come.

The past year and decade have seen important advancements in NFPA 101, including: new requirements for carbon monoxide detection; significant changes to health care occupancy requirements to accommodate homelike settings (e.g., community kitchens), particularly in nursing facilities, to enhance patients’ cognitive abilities and dignity (so-called “health care culture change”) – these provisions were incorporated into the 2012 edition, which was subsequently adopted by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; and recognition of hazardous materials emergencies and targeted violence events in the 2018 edition.

The area of fire protection and life safety in which I fear significant progress has not been made is home fire deaths. Fire data compiled by NFPA indicates somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,500 to 3,000 people die in home fires in the U.S. each year. These numbers haven’t changed much in the last 20 years, let alone the last decade. NFPA 101 requires all new one- and two-family dwellings to be protected by automatic sprinklers; however, as long as trade organizations continue to successfully advocate against sprinkler legislation, that requirement, and a companion requirement in the International Residential Code, will have no impact. Granted, the vast majority of the population lives in existing housing stock and the installation of sprinklers in all new homes would not have a measurable impact on fire death statistics for decades, most likely. However, the impact would come one day; it’s never going to come at the rate we’re going. The question I ask myself heading into the 2020s, then, is, “Are we doing what’s needed to reduce the burden of fire on society, or are we doing what’s needed to maintain the status quo?” The numbers seem to point towards the latter. I don’t know what it will take to drive the home fire death numbers down appreciably. Maybe it’s sprinklers. Maybe it’s stricter smoke alarm requirements. Maybe it’s something else. I do know that I’m not content with maintaining the status quo; it’s not good enough and it’s not why I got into this business. I would challenge you to think about whether it’s good enough for you as well, and if not, what are we going to do about it.

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy holiday season. We’ve done a lot of good work together this past year and decade; I’m looking forward to the good work we’ll do together in 2020 and beyond.

Thanks for reading, and as always, 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

The following two proposed Tentative Interim Amendments (TIAs) for NFPA 58, Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code; and NFPA 70, National Electrical Code, are being published for public review and comment:

NFPA 58, 2020 edition

  • NFPA 58, proposed TIA No. 1481, referencing 2.3.3, 5.2.8.3(C)(13), 11.3.4(B)(13), and N.1.2.3, 2020 edition
  • NFPA 70, proposed TIA No. 1479, referencing 800.100(B)(2) Informational Note and Informational Note Figure caption, 2020 edition

NFPA 70, 2020 editionAnyone may submit a comment on these proposed TIAs by the January 29, 2020 closing date. Along with your comment, please identify the number of the TIA and forward to the Secretary, Standards Council by the closing date.

Glittering decorations, holiday meals and treats, enjoying the warmth of home on a wintry day – these are hallmarks of the holiday season. However, these traditions and festivities also present an increased risk of fire, making December a leading month for U.S. home fires. Christmas Day and Christmas Eve are two of the top three days for home cooking fires and the top two days for home candle fires.

 

Following are NFPA statistics that underscore the increased risk of fire during the holidays:

 

Decorations:

Home fires that began when decorations caught fire caused an average of three civilian deaths, 34 civilian fire injuries and $12 million in direct property damage per year from 2013 to 2017. In 44 percent of these fires, the decoration was too close to a heat source. Fifty-seven percent of December home decoration fires were started by candles, compared to 32 percent in January through November. In addition, December is the peak month for candle fires. Sixty percent of home candle fires started because a flammable item was too close to the candle. In 13 percent of the fires, the candle was left unattended or abandoned.

 

Christmas trees:

Christmas tree fires are not as common as fires started by other decorations, but when they do occur, they are much more likely to be serious. An annual average of 160 home fires began with Christmas trees. On average, one of every 52 reported home Christmas tree fires resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 135 total reported home fires. Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in more than two of every five (44 percent) home Christmas tree fires, with decorative lights the leading type of equipment involved.

 

Cooking:

Cooking is the leading cause of U.S. home fires year-round; unattended cooking is the leading cause of these fires, accounting for 31 percent of home cooking fires. Christmas Day is the second-leading day for home cooking fires, with 69 percent more fires than the average daily number. Christmas Eve is not far behind, with 58 percent more fires than the daily average.

 

Heating: Heating equipment is the second-leading cause of U.S. home fires, with nearly half of all home heating fires occurring in December, January and February. The leading factor contributing to home heating fires (27 percent) was failure to clean, principally from solid-fueled heating equipment, primarily chimneys. Most home heating fire deaths (86 percent) involved stationary or portable space heaters. In the majority of these deaths, something that could catch fire was too close to the heater.

 

All that noted, there's no need to be bah humbug about the holidays! Once you know where potential hazards exist, there are many simple steps you can take to ensure a festive, fire-safe season, and we’ve got plenty of them! Check out our tips and resources at www.nfpa.org/holiday.

 

Fire protection systems are increasingly networked to Building Control Systems (BCS), Internet of Things (IoT), and other platforms that are, by design or oversight, exposed to the public-facing Internet. This emerging environment could lead to unique and novel cyber vulnerabilities, and attacks on fire protection systems have the potential to have significant consequences. However, a thorough understanding of cybersecurity issues related to fire protection systems is lacking. The expansiveness of these vulnerabilities, the severity of the consequences, and the awareness of the fire protection community of these vulnerabilities is not well understood.

 

The Fire Protection Research Foundation recently distributed a new “Request for Proposals” for a project contractor to address this issue. The goal of this current project is to assess the cybersecurity threats of fire protection systems connected to BCS, IoT, and other potential Internet-facing platforms.

 

Please see the attached PDF for the scope of work or go to the Fire Protection Research Foundation’s website at www.nfpa.org/foundation for more information. Please submit your proposals by January 10, 2020 at 5:00pm EST.

At NFPA, we receive a lot of questions about health care occupancies. In particular, one area that I receive frequent questions about is the application of means of egress requirements in health care suites.

To understand the means of egress requirements within suites, it can be helpful to review the overall occupant protection strategy utilized in hospitals and other health care occupancies. Due to the potential difficulties of evacuation of occupants in health care occupancies a defend-in-place strategy is often utilized. The defend-in-place strategy must account for a plan to relocate patients, should the need arise. The features and floor space arrangements, including the configuration of suites, must also be factored in. NFPA 101 recognizes two types of patient-care suites in health care occupancies: sleeping suites and non-sleeping suites. The Code also has permissions for non-patient care suites, but those suites do not have suite-specific means of egress requirements and are not addressed in this blog.

Suites are a unique feature to health care occupancies and have some original means of egress requirements. To fully achieve the convenience and benefits afforded by suites it is important to understand the differing means of egress requirements.

In general, the means of egress requirements for sleeping suites and non-sleeping suites are similar. Both types of suites are required to have at least one exit access door from the suite either to a corridor or a horizontal exit. Since the protection strategy in health care often relies on the horizontal movement, the use of stairways or other vertical openings is generally used as a last resort for the relocation of occupants.

A second exit access door is required to be provided for sleeping suites greater than 1000 sq. ft. or non-sleeping suites greater than 2500 sq. ft. The second means of egress is permitted to include exit stairway doors, exterior doors, or an exit access door to an adjacent suite.

Suites are required to meet two separate travel distances: (1) travel distance to the nearest exit access door from the suite and (2) travel distance to the nearest exit.

Travel distance from any point within a suite cannot exceed 100 ft. to the nearest exit access door from the suite. Only exit access doors leading to a corridor or adjacent suite, or horizontal exit doors are given credit for this travel distance measurement. As previously discussed, since health care relies upon the horizontal movement of occupants this measurement only applies to exit access doors to areas where occupants can be relocated. Where exit access from a suite goes through an adjacent suite, the 100 ft. travel distance should be applied to each suite individually.

The second travel distance is exit travel distance. Travel distance from any point within a suite cannot exceed 200 ft. to the nearest exit in sprinkler-protected buildings (or 150 ft in non-sprinkler-protected buildings). This measurement is permitted to be to any exit door including an exit stairway door, a horizontal exit door, or an exterior door. This requirement aligns with the overall exit travel distance for the remainder of the health care occupancy.

The use of  suites is just one tool within NFPA 101 that can be applied to hospital design to deliver effective health care and  treatment. However, when using suites, it is important to understand the unique means of egress requirements.

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

A view from inside a waiting room at University Hospital in Ostrava, Czech Republic, where Tuesday morning a gunman killed six people in the country's deadliest mass shooting since 2015. Image Capture: Aug 2017, Copyright 2017 Google    

 

 

A shooting in a hospital waiting room in the city of Ostrava, Czech Republic, left six people dead this morning, the New York Times reported.

 

The shooter, a 42-year-old man, killed himself as officers closed in. It was the deadliest shooting in the country since 2015, when a gunman killed eight at a restaurant.

 

The incident highlights the risk of active shooter or other hostile events occurring in hospitals—something emergency management officials have been concerned over for some time.

 

"We're wide open. We don't run you through a metal detector on the way in," Michael Marturano, safety officer for a health care system in Duluth, Minnesota, said of hospitals during a November 2017 interview with NFPA Journal. "Surgery's locked down, the birthing center is locked down, but the other 80 percent of the building is pretty open. You've got sales people coming in, family members coming in, you've got meetings with a lot of community folks, and they need to get in."

 

My interview with Marturano served as the Perspectives article for the January/February issue of NFPA Journal. Our conversation covered the importance of preparing health care facilities for situations involving active shooters, some of the challenges involved with the training, and measures health care workers can take to stay safe in active shooter events.

 

In the nearly three years since our interview, advancements in preparing for active shooter and other hostile events have been made—most notably, NFPA 3000 (PS), Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program, was released in May 2018.

 

But the risk of such an event occurring in a hospital has pretty much stayed in the same. In June 2017, a disgruntled doctor opened fire with an AR-15 at a hospital in New York City, killing one doctor and wounding six others. In November 2018, three people were killed in a mass shooting at Mercy Hospital in Chicago. Next month, the city of Augusta, Georgia, will embark on a yearlong journey to implement NFPA 3000 throughout its community, and the risk of a shooting occurring in one of the area's three hospitals will be a major consideration for project leaders. You'll be able to read more about this project when the January/February issue of NFPA Journal is published in the coming weeks.

 

While active shooter events in hospitals aren't that common in the US—only seven occurred from 2000 to 2015, according to data from Texas State University's Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center—they can be a huge headache for hospital emergency planners, said John Montes, the NFPA staff liaison to NFPA 3000.

 

"They have to worry about having an incident on their site, but they are also part of any incident that occurs in the area because they receive the victims," he said. "They are part of that recovery process and response process. It can be very complicated for them to plan."

Lately there has been discussion about the topic of recertification in the fire service in some industry publications, and there seems to be some confusion or misperceptions about our recent activity. Here is the history and the current status.

 

In the summer of 2016, the Fire Protection Research Foundation (Research Foundation), the independent research affiliate of NFPA, received a request to conduct a study on fire services professional qualifications and recertification requirements. The proposal asked for a review of the existing processes that are in place for emergency personnel to demonstrate their level of competency against a certain credentialing benchmark. It also requested recommendations for implementing and enforcing a proficiency system on a local, state, and national level.

 

The Research Foundation undertook this project in 2018. This overall effort entailed two deliverables: (1) The research report which has been available online since September 2019, and (2) the workshop proceedings which have now been finalized and are available on the Research Foundation’s website.


The research project


The contractor for this project was FireTox, LLC. They were selected through the Research Foundation’s open RFP process in accordance with our policies, and were chosen to conduct the research with a goal of identifying, comprehending, and reviewing the current fire service training and certification climate. As part of the project, approaches used by parallel professions (EMS, law enforcement, nurses, and teachers) were assessed and a continuing education model was developed. Fire service members were then surveyed to determine how implementation of that model would impact them and their organization.


Findings foster workshop discussions

 

The new research report was used to facilitate conversation between interested stakeholders and fire service representatives at an October workshop at NFPA headquarters.

 

The following was considered during the workshop:

 

  • The evolution, status and anticipated direction of the ProQual system and JPR development
  • Current practices for maintaining fire and emergency personnel skill proficiency in North America
  • Clarification of the relevancy and applicability of the processes adopted in parallel professions
  • Identification, prioritization, and assessment of processes that could be implemented for fire and emergency services personnel
  • The creation of a recommended action plan to provide guidance to the ProQual infrastructure to meet the needs for today and the future

 

The goal was not to reach consensus on any of the issues that were discussed. Instead, the objective was to gather threshold information that can be used as guidance.

 

This project and workshop did not, and could not, change any information in any NFPA standard. Changes can only be made to NFPA documents through the Standards Development process.

NFPA 1000 Standard for Fire Service Professional Qualifications Accreditation and Certification Systems has just begun the next revision cycle. Several Public Inputs (recommended changes) were submitted for the next edition of NFPA 1000 by the stated closing date of November 15, 2019.


All recommended changes from the public will now be reviewed by the Technical Committee at their First Draft Meeting to be held January 27-28 in Orlando, Florida. Only at that point, during the First Draft meeting, will any proposed changes to NFPA 1000 be developed by the Technical Committee. Proposed changes to NFPA 1000 that pass ballot by the Technical Committee will then be open for public review and comment. The Technical Committee will ultimately meet in November 2020 to review and act on all submitted Public Comments during the Second Draft Meeting. It is anticipated that the next edition of NFPA 1000 will be the 2022 edition, which will be released in late 2021.


To stay up to date on all activities related to NFPA 1000, visit nfpa.org/1000. Click on the “Receive Email Alerts”. To review the Public Inputs that were submitted for NFPA 1000, click on the “Next Edition” tab, then click “View Public Inputs”. This will provide you with access to all the recommended document changes that were submitted by the public. Additional information, including where the document is in the process, and pertinent dates can also be accessed by clicking on that Next Edition tab. You will also find the link to the First Draft Meeting details on that page.


NFPA technical meetings are always open to the public. Any individual can attend. In fact, active participation in our process is the best way for you to ensure that your voice is heard. It also provides you with the greatest opportunity to effect change that will enhance the firefighting profession, as it moves forward. If you would like your voice to be heard on this topic, or any NFPA standard, please participate in the standards development process. As always, we are here to help if you have any questions or we can be of any assistance – simply email us at stds_admin@nfpa.org.


The Research Foundation also undertook a project on the topic of maintaining proficiencies for the fire service that entailed two deliverables – a research report and workshop proceedings which are available on the Research Foundation’s website.

70e

With the number of electrical contact fatalities in the workplace being relatively flat since 2012 (average 146 fatalities with a range of 134 to 156), I decided to look into what the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) database provides for the electrical parts contributing to these fatalities. Perhaps if more of us have knowledge of who and what are involved in electrocutions we can further reduce the number of fatalities. 

The 1980-1992 data from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) National Traumatic Occupational Fatalities Report (May 1998) shows a high of 582 electrical contact fatalities in 1981. An average of 411 fatalities occurred over those dozen years with the construction industry accounting for a majority of the fatalities. The most frequent victims were linesmen, laborers, electricians and painters. Thirty-three percent of the electrocutions occurred at less than 600 volts. Of these low-voltage electrocutions, 54% occurred at household voltage levels (120-240 volts). Fatalities at all voltages were caused by: direct worker contact with an energized powerline (28%); direct worker contact with energized equipment (21%); boomed vehicle contact with an energized powerline (18%); improperly installed or damaged equipment (17%); conductive equipment contact with an energized powerline (16%). Over 60% of the electrical contact fatalities occurred by contact with overhead power lines.

The BLS database shows an annual average of 269 electrical contact fatalities between 1992-2010 with a high of 348 in 1994. Although listed differently, the construction industry still suffered the most fatalities over this period. The three leading causes of electrical contact fatalities were: contact with overhead power lines (43%), contact with wiring, transformers, or other electrical components (16%) and contact with electric current of machine, tool, appliance, or light fixture (10%). 

The BLS lists an annual average of 152 fatalities between 2011-2017 with a high of 174 fatalities in 2011. Once more the construction industry suffered the most fatalities. Recording of the fatalities and the equipment involved changed in 2011. Now power lines, transformers, and convertors are included in one category which accounted for 59% of the fatalities, followed by building electrical wiring (15%) and power cords, electrical cords, extension cords (10%) and switchboards, switches, fuses (8%). 

An encouraging note from this data is that there has been an annual decrease of 76% in electrical contact fatalities since 1982. Which not surprisingly began to decrease after the issuance and increased use of the first edition (1979) of NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the WorkplaceA discouraging statistic is that nearly 60% of the annual fatalities over 40 years have consistently been through contact with overhead wires. I looked through available NIOSH case studies to find out who the victims were. Electricians, linesmen, painters, grounds keepers, roofers, and tree trimmers are common victims. A majority of their fatalities involved the use of a ladder. Other victims include well drillers, dump and cement truck drivers, and boom truck operators. Most of these involved parking near or beneath overhead power lines then raising a portion of the truck. It is disturbing that awareness of the work area could be a simple way to cut electrocutions in the workplace nearly in half.

NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace as its title suggests, is for all employees who might be exposed to electrical hazards while performing their assigned tasks. However, many employers and employees tend to believe that it is written only for those in the electrical industry. This may be one reason for so many overhead power line fatalities occurring even though NFPA 70E has requirements specifically covering this scenario. Fatalities are occurring in trades that may be mistaken in the belief that an electrical safety program does not apply to them. It is foreseeable that employees from these other trades will be exposed to electrical hazards. A field, yard, roadway or rooftop is their work environment. Federal law mandates that an employer furnish to each of his employees’ employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees. If you are not in an “electrical trade” what does your employer do to ensure your electrical safety at your workplace?

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

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Next time: Where are the employees who are exposed to electrical hazards?

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.

Winter doesn’t officially start for another couple weeks, but looking out the window here in New England and many other parts of the country tells a different story. Snow is covering the ground, and each additional storm will pile it higher. With the cold, wintry weather brings an increased risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from blocked heating system combustion exhaust vents. The current (2018) edition of the Life Safety Code requires the installation of carbon monoxide detectors or alarms in certain occupancies with combustion equipment, including:

  • New assembly occupancies
  • New educational occupancies
  • New day-care homes
  • New and existing health care occupancies with fireplaces
  • New one- and two-family dwellings
  • New lodging or rooming houses
  • New hotels and dormitories
  • New apartment buildings
  • New residential board and care occupancies

Most of us, however, live in existing homes – defined as those constructed prior to the adoption of the current edition of the code – with older heating equipment and vent systems. It’s in these existing homes where the greatest risk lies. In 2005, seven-year-old Nicole Garofalo of Plymouth, Massachusetts died when a snow drift blocked the exhaust vent on her home’s heating system. Several months later, the state enacted Nicole’s Law in her memory, which requires all homes in Massachusetts with combustion equipment or enclosed parking to have carbon monoxide detection equipment. The law is enforced at the time a house is sold; fire department approval is required prior to the transfer. This exceeds the minimum requirements of the Life Safety Code, which does not require CO detection in existing homes. Kudos to Massachusetts for taking the lead on requiring relatively inexpensive, life saving protection where it’s needed most.

And what is the cost to provide this valuable protection in an existing home? I’ll offer myself as a case study. When I bought my house a few years ago, it met Nicole’s Law by having two plug-in CO alarms – one on each level. I just looked on my favorite online shopping site; a plug-in CO alarm goes for under $20. For under $100, you can protect a pretty good-sized home. Now, my house has a gas furnace, a gas stove, a gas fireplace, a wood-burning fireplace, and an attached garage; I wanted something more than a couple plug-in alarms. My house already had hardwired, interconnected smoke alarms that were due to be replaced. (Smoke alarms should be replaced every ten years or as directed by the manufacturer.) Instead of buying replacement smoke alarms, I bought combination smoke and CO alarms. Again, on my favorite online shopping site, a box of six hardwire combination carbon monoxide and smoke alarms with battery backup and voice warning goes for $168. I’m pretty handy so I did the installation myself. $168 was a small price to pay for the lives of me and my family.

If you’re reading this #101Wednesdays blog, I’m likely preaching to the choir. You already know about the dangers of CO poisoning and the need to keep combustion vents clear. Most people, however, don’t think like us. So as this holiday season approaches, think about your neighbors. Check to make sure their vents are clear. Maybe if they’re older, ask if you can help to clear them. Ask if they have CO alarms in their homes. If not, for $20 you could give a gift that’s much more thoughtful than a fruitcake.

See NFPA’s website for more details on CO, including safety tips and NFPA’s nonfire CO incident report.

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.”

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NFPA 1, 2018 edition

NFPA has issued the following errata on November 26, 2019 for the 2018 editions of NFPA 1Fire Code, and NFPA 101, Life Safety Code:

 

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.NFPA 101, 2018 edition

NFPA 1500, 2018 editionThe following two proposed Tentative Interim Amendments (TIAs) on the 2018 and proposed 2021 editions to NFPA 1500, Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety, Health, and Wellness Program, are being published for public review and comment:

 

 

Anyone may submit a comment on these proposed TIAs by the January 6, 2020 closing date.  Along with your comment, please identify the number of the TIA and forward to the Secretary, Standards Council by the closing date

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