Fire doesn’t take vacation over the holidays, it doesn’t care where we live, how we celebrate, or the new decade ahead. In fact, it didn’t take long before fire made headlines news in 2020. And just like the fire problem continuing to impact communities around the globe, we as fire safety professionals, fire inspectors, standards developers, educators, engineers, laborers, and members of the public, must continue to be impactful by investing in safety and reducing the worldwide burden of fire that seems all too prevalent today.
The NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem is 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. When they work together, the Ecosystem protects everyone. If any component is missing or broken, the Ecosystem can collapse, often resulting in tragedy.
Some level of fire code adoption and use will serve as a foundation for building and life safety and fire prevention in communities and touches each component (‘cog’) that is part of the ecosystem. Those responsible for enforcing codes and performing inspections are likely familiar with NFPA 1, Fire Code.
Let’s take a look at some fire events that have occurred just in the last couple of weeks, worldwide, that prove we in the fire safety community not only have a lot of work ahead of ourselves in 2020 and beyond, but also the importance of the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem and having some type of fire prevention regulations (such as NFPA 1) in place throughout the world:
- Australia is burning. It is in the midst of some of the most devastating and catastrophic wildfires in its history. They have killed at least 18 people, damaged over 1000 homes, stranded people in wildfire zones, killed hundreds of thousands of animals, and prompted mass evacuations of the largest scale. And they are not ending anytime soon. NFPA 1 touches briefly on the wildland fire problem in Chapter 17, requiring the planning, construction, maintenance, education, and management elements for the protection of life and property from wildfire to comply with NFPA 1144. While no one component of the ecosystem may have failed, ensuring all 8 components are addressed will help communities better prepare, respond and recover from natural disasters such as wildfire.
- On New Year’s Eve, a fire in Germany killed at least 30 animals, many endangered or protected species likely because of the illegal use of sky lanterns. Reports state that sky lanterns are prohibited in Germany. They are also prohibited by NFPA. We must continue to educate the public on the dangers posed by fire, electrical and related hazards.
- On December 27, firefighters from numerous communities helped fight a large fire at a historical residence in Concord, MA. The 3-million-dollar home was lost in the fire. Numerous issues with water supply as well as building construction contributed to the challenging firefighting efforts. NFPA 1 addresses fire department access, water supply and hydrant design in Chapter 18. Local government responsibility, investment in safety, code compliance, and emergency response are all components that impacted this event.
- On December 21, 2019, six people and three animals were killed and over 13 injured in a fire at a three-story apartment complex in Las Vegas. The fire was reported to have started near a stove on a fire floor unit. It was also reported that many of the units lacked heat, and residents were using the stoves as a heat source. There are reports of residents that a back exit door was bolted shut and lack of fire alarm. City records also show that the building was subject to at least eight code enforcement complaints from 2016 to 2018. NFPA 1 addresses safety requirements for residential occupancies, mandated by reference and extracted Code sections from NFPA 101, Life Safety Code. We must support effective code enforcement, investing in safety for all, and maintaining an effective regulatory body to support building and fire safety.
- On the same day as the deadly Las Vegas fire, firefighters responded to a fire in Winnipeg, Canada, at a high-rise apartment complex under construction. Fires in buildings under construction continue to occur. NFPA is investing in standards, such as NFPA 241, mandated by referenced in NFPA 1, that provide measures for preventing or minimizing fire damage to structures during construction, alteration, or demolition.
There are only some of the fire events that have impacted communities worldwide in the last couple of weeks. We have a tough job ahead of us in 2020 and beyond. As fire inspectors, you are on the front lines, working day in and day out ensuring buildings, events, communities, and other activities and processes comply with local regulations. We NEED you, we THANK you for what you do.
Let’s all commit to maintaining an effective regulatory environment, participate in the development and use of current codes, apply referenced standards, invest in safety, promote the development of skilled professionals, support code compliance, provide effective preparedness and response capabilities, and never let up on educating the public about the dangers posed by fire, electrical and related hazards.
IT’S A BIG WORLD. LET’S PROTECT IT TOGETHER.
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Thanks for reading!