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2020

 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) provided an update to the extensive list of waivers that have already been issued as result of the COVID-19 public health emergency that was declared on January 31.  The April 29 release outlining COVID-19 Emergency Declaration Blanket Waivers for Health Care Providers  amends and adds additional requirements from CMS that are being set aside under the broad powers given to the agency as part of the 1135 waiver process. In general, these waivers are retroactive back to March 1. The April 29 update from CMS lists 15 new items since April 21.  The specific issue relating to inspection, testing, and maintenance (ITM) for fire protection and life safety systems can be found on page 23.  That waiver allows adjustments to be made with regard to the frequency of scheduled and recurring ITM activities.

 

This recent set of waivers modifies some ITM requirements for certain types of fire protection and life safety equipment found in health care environments. During the last six weeks, hospitals and long-term care occupancies have been in a race to maintain high levels of patient and resident care while dealing with overflow capacity, limiting transmission of the virus to the dedicated health care workers who render treatment and care as well as the public, while at the same time trying to keep all of their systems and equipment running in a safe and efficient manner.  Various NFPA codes and standards such as NFPA 25, Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems provide detailed requirements concerning the protocols necessary to verify reliability and operational status of automatic sprinkler systems and fire pumps among other key safety systems. The standard also specifies necessary frequencies related to the ITM actions associated with specific systems and system components. 

 

NFPA provided earlier information surrounding the management of fire protection systems and features, along with challenges dealing with ongoing construction and operation of health care facilities, including alternate care sites in two white papers that were published several weeks ago.   Those resources, Temporary Compliance Options for Code Modifications, Alternate Care Sites, and Facilities Related to Health Care and Considerations for Temporary Compliance Options in Health Care Environments During COVID-19 provided background on the CMS waiver process, laid out considerations for providing safe environments that would not be 100% code compliant, and listed a set of compliance challenges and potential solutions that could be applied.  These issues and others were discussed in a webinar sponsored by NFPA on April 15 that covered the use of resources that were stretched thin on all fronts as health care facilities were continuously challenged to deal with the large influx of COVID-19 patients.  This latest set of waivers allows health care providers to continue to focus on patient and resident care while directing ITM resources on the most critical elements of these important systems.

 

This year’s Fire Service Safety Stand Down Quiz Sweepstakes emphasizes the safety theme “Building a Super Highway to Safety – Protecting our Responders on Roadways,” and is now available for taking and sharing.

 

Each year, NFPA, the IAFC Safety, Health & Survival Section, and NVFC organize the Safety Stand Down campaign as well as an interactive online quiz to bring attention to a particular responder safety concern. This year’s initiative highlights safety measures to protect firefighters, EMS providers, and other emergency personnel while responding to roadway incidents.

 

Responders are asked to refresh their roadside safety techniques and learn new skills based on current research, nationally recognized best practices, and the growing number of distracted drivers behind the wheel today. Campaign resources can be found at www.safetystanddown.org. During the week of June 14-20, agencies across the country are encouraged to suspend all non-emergency activities and focus on training and education related to this year’s awareness theme. An entire week is provided to ensure that all shifts and personnel can participate. 

 

Emergency services personnel are also asked to take and promote the campaign quiz which features 12 questions. Those who complete the quiz at www.nfpa.org/fireservicequiz by Wednesday, June 17 will be automatically entered in a sweepstakes; then 200 randomly selected participants will win a limited-edition challenge coin commemorating this year’s Safety Stand Down theme.

 

Safety Stand Down is supported by national and international fire and emergency service organizations, including ResponderSafety.com who assisted in the quiz development.


More than 400 firefighters and 120 emergency vehicles were deployed to the scene of a fire in a warehouse under construction near Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday. The blaze killed at least 38 workers who were inside the structure at the time. (Getty Images) 

 

At least 38 people are dead after a fire tore through a four-story warehouse under construction in South Korea earlier today. The blaze occurred in Icheon, about 50 miles southeast of the capital city of Seoul, and was the third "devastating workplace fire" in the East Asian country in recent years, according to the New York Times.

 

Chilling images from the incident showed dozens of ambulances lined up in front of the charred structure, waiting to treat victims. According to the Times, only about half of the workers who were inside the warehouse when the blaze broke out escaped. "We presume that an ignition of oil mist caused an explosion and that the sudden combustion gave the workers no chance to escape," said Seo Seung-hyun, head of the Icheon Fire Department, according to the Associated Press.

 

Construction site fires are a global problem. A simple online search this morning revealed 10 such fires in regions spanning from Asia to the United States to the Middle East in just the past two weeks. In the US alone, NFPA data shows that fire departments respond to more than 17 fires in buildings under construction or undergoing renovations every day. These fires cause an annual average of 12 civilian deaths, 101 civilian injuries, and over $400 million in direct property damage. While some of these incidents have been blamed on specific construction materials—namely, lightweight wood—the truth is any construction site, regardless of the materials being used, is at high risk for burning. Common construction site activities like hot work, combined with the fact that security and fire protection measures are often lacking at these locations, prime buildings under construction or undergoing renovations for fires. 

 

"Construction sites are often unsecured, are home to many kinds of ignition sources, and are largely unprotected in terms of fire protection systems," said Nicole Comeau, an NFPA segment director. "These vulnerabilities make it critical that safety programs are implemented and followed at all times to protect workers, civilians, first responders, the site itself, and surrounding sites."

 

NFPA 241 and other resources  

 

An important tool for mitigating the fire hazards of construction sites is NFPA 241, Safeguarding Construction, Alteration, and Demolition Operations. The standard outlines measures to reduce the risk of fire in buildings under construction, as well as those being renovated or demolished. It requires building owners, who are tasked with implementing it, to designate a fire prevention program manager to make sure the correct fire safety measures are being followed during the entirety of a construction project. NFPA 1, Fire CodeNFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code; the International Building Code; and the International Fire Code all require compliance with NFPA 241.

 

The use of NFPA 241 is a key step in preventing construction fires, according to Meghan Housewright, director of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Policy Institute. "Make sure your community enforces the most recent [edition] to keep up to date as construction practices change," Housewright wrote in a blog posted last year, after a series of three costly construction fires occurred in the US. The current version of NFPA 241 is the 2019 edition, which replaced the 2013 edition to include, among other updates, added provisions supporting the need to secure temporary heating and cooking equipment at construction sites. Cooking equipment is the leading cause of construction site fires in the US, according to the NFPA data.

 

Housewright also said ensuring written fire prevention plans are included in the local construction permit process and having local policymakers engage in conversations with local fire officials and site managers to urge they go above and beyond the minimum safety requirements are essential to creating fire-safe construction sites.

 

In addition to NFPA 241, NFPA has also created a training program for construction workers who perform hot work. Hot work is any work process that involves welding, soldering, brazing, cutting, grinding, drilling, burning, or melting of substances capable of creating a spark or flame. It's the fifth-leading cause of construction fires in the US.

 

While it's important for policymakers, fire officials, and construction managers and workers to utilize resources like the ones offered by NFPA year-round, the current international COVID-19 crisis is raising new and unique questions about construction site fire safety. If sites have been temporarily abandoned because of the pandemic, for example, have they also been secured to prevent trespassers and would-be arsonists? Intentionally set fires are the fourth-leading cause of US construction fires. In mid-April, NFPA released a tip sheet to guide construction site safety during these unprecedented times. 


It's unclear what impact, if any, the coronavirus pandemic had on Wednesday's deadly construction fire in South Korea.

 

For some of the more than 400 firefighters who responded to the blaze, it likely recalled a similarly horrific incident that struck Icheon in January 2008, when a fire sparked in a cold-storage warehouse under construction killed 40 workers. In response to that incident, South Korea's largest newspaper, the Chosun Ilbo, lambasted safety regulations in the country. "No matter how much our economy grows, a country where people's lives are wasted this way cannot be called an advanced nation," the paper said, according to Reuters

 

—ANGELO VERZONI is staff writer for NFPA Journal. An extended version of this article will appear as an online exclusive in the upcoming May/June issue of the magazine.

Last week, my teenage son came to me and said, “Yo, Mom. Can we get some baby ducks?” No joke. He really said “Yo, Mom.” (Cue the eye roll.) And he really asked for ducks. (Cue the eyebrow lift.) I quickly brushed off this request until later that evening during what has been coined as Social Distancing Cocktail Hour. This is exactly what you are picturing: a fireside gathering of 4 former PTO moms from the neighborhood sitting at least 6 feet away from each other while holding tumblers filled with frosty adult beverages. Towards the end of the evening, I mentioned Jonnie’s request and, for some reason, the idea of having ducks in the hood was highly appealing to everyone in attendance.


Fast forward a few days. I have ducklings. Two of them. They are super cute and are named Bandit and Rona. Both of my teenagers were over the moon with their arrival and have been helpful with duck care and cleaning.


Here’s the rub: This may have been a bit impulsive. I really don’t know anything about raising ducklings.

 

SO MANY QUESTIONS! Ducks love to swim! Are they too young to swim? If we let them swim, how warm should the water be? Is it OK to give them bananas? What is grit?? Do I need that? What about niacin?? I hear ducklings need more niacin but do they get enough niacin in their duckling food?? What is the right temperature for the brooder? Will they know to move if they get too hot? How long do they need to live inside? Can you potty train a duck? Who decided it was a good idea to get ducklings in the middle of a paper towel shortage?


It doesn’t escape me that the mind-spinning questions, the uncertainty, the weight of responsibility for the safety of these creatures, and even the nights of interrupted sleep serve as a fuzzy yellow metaphor for my feelings during the COVID-19 crisis.


During these unprecedented times, I know more than one prevention professional who feels like a duck out of water in the absence of opportunities for face to face engagement with residents, students, and business owners. Personally, I have learned that when I start to feel overwhelmed, my best course of actions is to take a deep breath and calm the duck down. Once my spirit is soothed, I’m ready to come up with a plan – and usually, that plan includes one key concept: Connections.


First responders across the world are dealing with unique challenges and faced with tough decisions fueled by equal parts data, gut, and grit. Whether a chief officer, line firefighter, or CRR specialist, connecting with others working in similar circumstances provides a critical boost in both professional success and emotional wellness. Luckily, a focus on virtual meetings has provided opportunities to connect with others in the same boat.


One great example of a grassroots effort with virtual networking comes from the Fire Life Safety Educators & Coordinators Facebook group. This group originated from some boots-on-the ground CRR thought leaders and has grown to almost 500 members. When members started posting about the challenges of working during the COVID-19 response, CRR Captain Michael Sedlacek of the Madison Fire Rescue in Alabama grabbed the bull by the horns and set up some Zoom sessions for group meetings. He shared, “I really needed some motivation to keep pushing. I knew that if I was struggling, so was everyone else. This group is helping me stay energized and find new ways to renew my personal commitment to my community to educate and meet their needs.”

 

While many participants in the Zoom sessions logged on hoping to snag new creative and innovative outreach strategies during this crisis (and certainly found what they were looking for!) the meetings served a dual purpose. Sylvia Rodriguez Peace, Fire Life Safety Education Coordinator from Greenville Fire-Rescue in Texas was not alone in her account, “Taking part in the Zoom meeting gave me a sense of normalcy by visiting with my peers who I draw energy from under normal circumstances. It was like sitting at Ott’s and networking. It was a very positive boost to my mental health!”

 

So how exactly do you get your ducks in a row so you can benefit from professional connections? You can do it in three simple steps:

 

  • Find your peeps: Take advantage of formal and informal social media networking groups. Actively engage in the online chats. Plan some time to meet up virtually and pose a few key questions to discuss. Pay attention to strategies others are using in case something fits the bill as a solution for one of your struggles.
  • Take a quack at it: Borrow an idea, tweak it to fit your needs, and see how it goes. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. This might even be the perfect time to tackle that Community Risk Assessment you’ve always wanted to complete.
  • Sing like a bird: Share your successes! Use social media to let your community know about the work you are doing to add to the safety scene. Follow your peers’ accounts and help each other out with some retweets and shares. Be sure to return to your networking groups and let them steal your new ideas.

 

Remember – Birds of a feather flock together. Find the people who are struggling with the same challenges as you, lean on each other for energy and solutions, then make the magic happen. I know my own stress levels would be much higher if not for my fellow duck moms AND the colleagues in my safety circle! As Lt. Katie Harrington from Worcester Fire Department reminds us, “Our motivation and determination for outcomes are all the same. We share the same focus on reducing risks in our own communities. Together we are strong!” This networking and support can keep you from going absolutely quackers during this chaotic time.


The NFPA CRR team would love to hear from you. If you have additional ideas about how to keep your CRR initiatives moving forward during these uncertain times, reach out to CRR@nfpa.org. Find our past blogs about working your CRR game during COVID-19 at nfpa.org/CRR. NFPA has also been generating a great deal of relevant resources as we deal with the coronavirus, in support of you and your work. How are we doing? How else can we help? Take our short survey and tell us what you think.

When COVID-19 first made landfall in the United States in late February, it immediately took a heavy toll on the Life Care Center nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, where elderly residents began falling ill and dying from the disease by the dozens. According to the New York Times, one fifth of all coronavirus deaths in the US have been nursing home residents. The elderly are a particularly vulnerable group to this disease. But they're not the only one. Numerous reports have shown that black as well as Latin and Native American communities have been hit particularly hard, too.

 

With trends like these known, communities that have access to data on their demographics, population density, and other attributes will inevitably be better off during situations like the coronavirus pandemic than those that don't—it's an important aspect of community risk reduction, or CRR. A new episode of the NFPA Journal Podcast explores this idea. 

 

"We've been in touch with a number of communities to hear how they're using risk assessments and data to combat this pandemic," Chelsea Rubadou, a CRR strategist at NFPA, says in the podcast. "A number of communities do have risk assessments in place and they've found that they are valuable during this outbreak." 

 

The episode—Community Risk Reduction and COVID-19—is the fifth podcast the NFPA Journal team has released during the coronavirus pandemic. The previous four have explored topics ranging from responder safety during the pandemic to health care patient surge, and can be listened to for free here

 

In June, the NFPA Journal Podcast will be transformed into the NFPA Podcast, a broader, longer, and more frequent series. More information on that project will be available in the May/June issue of NFPA Journal.

Late last month, CBS News in New York reported that 911 dispatchers in that beleaguered hub have received, on several occasions, more emergency calls than they took on September 11, 2001. Call volume in the most populated city in the US typically ranges between 4,000 and 4,200 calls a day but since late March telecommunicators have received more than 5,500 calls daily to public safety answering points (PSAPs) - and on two consecutive days exceeded 7,000.


Grant it, the Big Apple is big, but the sheer call volume increase over the city’s (and the country’s) darkest day is very telling. The numbers in New York, as well is in other cities, reinforce the reality that dispatchers are, undeniably, on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic - only working behind the scenes.


Coincidently, it was National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week last week, a time devoted to celebrating the incredible work that is being done by the unseen, unwavering individuals charged with directing emergency response resources to those in need. If ever there was a time and a reason to pay our respect to call dispatch centers and the even-keel professionals on the other end of the phone – it is now.


Telecommunicators tend to operate from secure, remote consoles. They deal with non-stop calls and fluctuating stress levels; and rarely learn the outcome of the problems they are solving or meet the people they are helping. They are the first point of contact for citizens who are often experiencing their worst day; and yet amid chaos, they must remain calm, gather the correct information, provide lifesaving instructions, and share succinct information with first responders and others.


Depending on length of tenure and the location of dispatch, some telecommunicators working in emergency communication centers have been able to draw on what they learned when other outbreaks of communicable diseases occurred. But for the most part, dispatchers dealing with COVID-related calls have been impacted in a way that will resonate for years to come.


Since the virus took hold, telecommunicators have been following organizational requirements and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and International Academies of Emergency Dispatch (IAED). They have made modifications to identify potential infected patients and to limit responder exposure. They possess a unique view of the pandemic; and hopefully, PSAP personnel will be involved, from the get go, when officials begin to prepare for future public health emergencies.


Telecommunicators turn to NFPA 1061, Standard for Public Safety Telecommunications Personnel Professional Qualifications for best practices on receiving, processing, and disseminating emergency call information. They also refer to the standard to learn how they can best identify when they or fellow employees exhibit signs and symptoms of emotional and behavioral distress. This is important these days as burnout and stress is certain to follow in the wake of coronavirus, if the issues haven’t already presented. But even during normal times, telecommunicators can experience the highs of helping a mother with childbirth delivery and the lows of dealing with a frantic call from a family member looking to help a loved one in need. You just never know what’s going to be on the other end of the line.

 

Day in and day out, 911 dispatchers show that they can answer the call; they are making a difference in patient and responder safety and deserve our appreciation.

 

NFPA has provided a wide range of resources in recent weeks to help address responder safety, emergency planning, building, fire and life safety issues. Our goal is to support you and your work with useful resources and communications during this difficult time. How are we doing? How else can we help? Take our short survey and tell us what you think.

I have written several blogs regarding employees at risk of an electrical injury. Many of those blogs point out that electrical injuries and fatalities are not limited to those solely in an electrical occupation. It has been a while since I looked through 29 CFR 1910. Standard 1910.332 applies to training employees who face a risk of electric shock that is not reduced to a safe level. A table associated with 1910.332(a) (summarized below) indicates occupational categories considered to be a greater risk of electrical injury than other occupations.

electrical safety

Notice that more non-electrical occupations are listed than electrical ones. An included note further states that employees in the listed occupations are required to be trained. You may want to remedy the situation if your occupation is on this list and no documented electrical safety program exists at your company.

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 NFPA Network to stay informed of new content. The newsletter also includes NFPA 70E information such as my blogs.

 

Next time: An Employer’s Responsibility.

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our website.

If there has been a constant concern throughout the coronavirus, it has been the issue of infection control. While the medical community works tirelessly to save lives and straighten the COVID-19 curve, first responders play an equally vital role on the front lines.


To help EMTs, firefighters, and law enforcement reduce risk as they administer care and transport patients, NFPA produced a tip sheet on infection control for first responders, which has been accessed and shared by many departments, to date. But, in our visual, bite-size world – a request came in for an infographic that emergency response organizations could post in stations, share on social media, leave in apparatus, and make part of ongoing communications during this pandemic. We applaud that kind of outreach, and remind everyone to keep doing what you must, on the front lines or otherwise, to keep safe as this virus plays out.

 

NFPA will continue to generate key resources and information that address responder safety, emergency planning, building, fire and life safety issues. Our goal is to support you and your work. How are we doing? How else can we help? Take our short survey and tell us what you think.

At this time, the world continues to be significantly impacted by COVID-19 and we no longer believe it is possible to host and conduct the NFPA Conference and Expo in June. NFPA is a safety organization and we would not hold an event where the well-being of staff, attendees, and business partners could be compromised in any way.

 

 

(See Jim Pauley’s full statement on the cancellation of the 2020 NFPA Conference & Expo in the video above.)

 

There are some activities that occur at the event, in particular the Association’s Annual Meeting and the election of directors to the Board, as well as the codes and standards technical meeting that NFPA will handle in a remote manner. More information on these activities will be forthcoming and will be posted on the website.

 

You can find additional information about the cancellation by visiting our conference website.

 

Our annual conference is a very important event for us, as it is important for all of you who participate. While we are disappointed we will not be meeting in person this year, we do look forward to celebrating the 125th anniversary of NFPA as an association with you at the 2021 NFPA Conference & Expo, which will be held the week of June 21, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

 

Stay safe during this unprecedented time. Thank you for the work you all do.

 

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our website.

For the second month in a row, the latest installment of my Learn Something New YouTube video series deals with a safety topic related to the global coronavirus pandemic. In March, I released a video on NFPA's first responder infection control standard, NFPA 1581. This month, I've tackled the topic of hand sanitizer, and the fire safety considerations for handling and storing this flammable liquid. 

 

If in the past few weeks you've visited any store that typically sells hand sanitizer, you've likely had no luck finding it. Faced with COVID-19 fears, frantic shoppers have snatched up every last bottle of hand sanitizer along with the rest of the disinfectant wipes, sprays, and toilet paper. To meet the surge in hand sanitizer demand, some businesses already versed in the world of alcohol, like breweries and distilleries, are shifting their production capabilities to crank out hand sanitizer instead of booze.

 

The problem with that, safety experts have warned, is it could create a fire hazard, especially when large amounts of hand sanitizer are being stored in areas that weren't designed to hold such a highly flammable product. While most hard liquor clocks in at 40 percent ethanol by volume, hand sanitizer ranges from 60 to 95 percent. "They may have introduced things that compromise previously put in place protections," Guy Colonna, director of NFPA's Engineering Technical Services division, says in the video. 

 

When more than 5 gallons of hand sanitizer is being stored, the provisions found in NFPA 30, Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code, apply. These provisions require, for example, storage in a flammable liquids cabinet or in an area protected by an automatic sprinkler system, depending on how much liquid is being stored. 

 

Watch my full interview with Guy below. 

 

The past couple of months have seen a major shift in the way many of us are working. A global pandemic has shifted our idea of what “normal” means for our daily lives.

 

For some, it means layoffs until we get through this thing. For others it means life goes on just as it did before, only now we're at risk of contracting a disease that for some could be fatal. Healthcare workers, emergency personnel, grocery store clerks, they all fall into the “essential work” category and must face this threat every day. There is also another group deemed essential – the men and women who service and build the infrastructure we all need in these unprecedented times.

 

For example, what if the power supplying a major hospital treating COVID-19 patients were to go out and there were no linemen to bring the system back online? Without these essential workers, the infrastructure that those on the front lines of the COVID-19 fight depend on, would be in big trouble. In order to maintain critical systems and equipment, it often means these employees are being exposed to both COVID hazards and electrical hazards. As you can imagine, there have been many questions about this, such as:

 

  • Can we wear N95 masks under arc flash PPE?
  • Can we share PPE?
  • Can PPE be disinfected? If so, what is the proper method for disinfecting PPE so it won’t have an effect on arc rating or flame resistance?

 

In these turbulent times we still want to make sure we’re protecting employees and providing a workplace that is free from known and recognized hazards.Recently, I had the opportunity to connect with a good friend of mine who just happens to know a lot about arc flash PPE and the science behind it. Hugh Hoagland is the Senior consultant at ArcWear and E-Hazard and has been in the business of testing the limits of arc and flame resistance personal protective equipment for a long time. As it turns out, Hugh has done some testing on what happens to an N95 mask under an arc-flash face shield and the effects of certain disinfecting cleaners on the FR and AR ratings of these garments.

 

Check out our conversation in the video below:

 


 

These are truly unprecedented times we are living in, and while no one has every answer, we do need to stay vigilant and put forth our best good-faith efforts to protect those who are keeping the world running. Even during all of this uncertainty, it’s good to know there are tests being conducted and data being translated to help put our minds at ease as we suit up to help others in the name of safety.  

 

Stay safe, stay healthy, and keep doing what we all do best.

 

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

 

NFPA has also provided a wide range of resources that support fully operational fire and life safety systems, while balancing the realities of the current pandemic. Our goal is to support you and your work during this difficult time. How can we continue to help? Take our short survey and tell us what you think.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has released two new online learning courses, Life Safety and Fire Protection Systems Fundamentals and NFPA 25 ITM of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems. The new offerings are perfect for workers that have been furloughed, professionals toiling remotely, and engineering students and others looking to expand their understanding of building systems while at home quarantining.

 

“NFPA stakeholders skilling up for when they return to their jobs is a silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their investment in learning more about fire and life safety now will, no doubt, benefit themselves, their company, and their customers in the future,” Bartholomew Jae, director of NFPA Education & Development said. Building owners, facility managers, commercial insurance agents, electrical workers, contract fire protection system installers, construction personnel, aspiring engineers, regulators, employers who oversee building and life safety professionals, and those interested in pursuing careers in the built environment will find value in these new programs.

 

Life Safety and Fire Protection Systems Fundamentals is being offered for the first time. It is a two-hour high-level course that is unlike most NFPA training. The curriculum does not entail a deep dive on codes, but rather explains how various codes (NFPA and others) impact these systems. The course is meant to introduce students to key concepts and terminology; and provide a broad understanding of egress, building systems, occupancy and use, building rehabilitation, emergency planning, detection and alarms, and sprinkler systems. The self-paced program includes expert-developed content, videos, and interactive exercises; and follows a worker who is reviewing various facility systems and the impact that they have on fire and life safety.

 

NFPA 25: Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems has been updated to include the latest revisions to NFPA 25. The three-part, three-hour, self-paced training covers everything for maintaining water-based fire protection systems including sprinklers, fire pumps, water tanks and more. This course is designed to help building owners and managers, installers, contractors, enforcement officials, and anyone with a role in ITM maintenance save time and money; and perform their job duties to a higher standard. It features a combination of procedural videos, custom animation components, and interactive activities where the stakeholder can navigate through different ITM scenarios.

 

A certificate of completion and CEUs will be awarded after successful completion of each course.


NFPA offers a variety of online learning programs; and in recent weeks has also developed resources that support fully operational fire and life safety systems and adherence to codes and standards, while balancing the realities of the current world health crisis. Our goal is to support you and your work with useful resources and communications during this difficult time. How are we doing? How else can we help? Take our short survey and tell us what you think.

 

COVID-19 is having an immediate and drastic impact on the construction industry with job sites being abandoned and workers being furloughed. A byproduct of these unprecedented pandemic-related changes has been the demobilization of construction/alteration/demolition sites. Authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs), contractors, installer/maintainers, facility managers and owners find themselves assessing appropriate steps to safeguard job sites and comply with local requirements.

 

To help, NFPA has released a tip sheet called Construction Site Safety During Emergencies. The new at-a-glance-guidance is designed to help parties implement the appropriate steps to maintain safety while complying with local requirements that are in effect now and may apply during future emergencies.

 

The tip sheet draws on the best practices found in NFPA 241, Standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alteration and Demolition Operations. While NFPA 241 is not specifically intended for demobilization efforts, the standard provides time-tested benchmarks for the building and enforcement communities as they strive to keep construction sites safer during any phase of work.


The new resource centers around three critical questions:

 

  1. What existing conditions are currently onsite?
  2. What key requirements should be considered?
  3. How do these buildings properly resume operations when cleared to do so?

 

The guidance zeroes in on existing conditions found on job sites; the questions that should be asked and answered; the sections in NFPA 241 where information can be found; and other pertinent considerations. It emphasizes the importance of developing a Fire Safety Program that prioritizes good housekeeping, onsite security, fire protection systems, rapid communication and protection of existing structures; and underscores the need for a Fire Prevention Program Manager (FPPM) who will successfully carry out the Fire Safety Program with particular attention on fire protection devices, inspections, and impairments.

 

The new tool reminds members of the built environment to keep in mind that when government, building or fire officials announce that construction/alteration/demolition can resume – it is important to keep in mind others who may need to be considered such as federal, state, and local authorities, or certain insurance providers.


In addition to using the new tip sheet and taking a deeper dive via NFPA 241, consider using the downtime you may have these days to find out more about building under construction fires. My colleague Richard Campbell just published an updated version of the Fires in Structures Under Construction or Renovation report that looks at these types of fires, and includes, among other things:

 

  • Leading causes of fires and the direct property damage that resulted
  • Timing of fires, both in calendar months and time of day
  • Leading items that first ignited in structures
  • Types of heat sources that caused fires

 

In recent weeks, NFPA has provided a wide range of resources that support fully operational fire and life safety systems as required by the applicable codes and standards while balancing the realities of the current pandemic. Our goal is to support you and your work with useful resources and communications during this difficult time. How are we doing? How else can we help? Take our short survey and tell us what you think.

The overused understatement of the decade is, “This is an unprecedented time.” While the coronavirus outbreak has turned our lives into something none of us likely ever imagined, one fundamental life safety truth remains: THERE IS NO JUSTIFIABLE REASON FOR LOCKING EGRESS DOORS OR OTHERWISE COMPROMISING MEANS OF EGRESS IN OCCUPIED BUSINESSES.

 

We have seen some pretty extraordinary things with respect to application of the Life Safety Code over the last month or so, including the conversion of convention centers and dormitories into makeshift hospitals. These conversions have required health care providers and authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) to creatively apply the goals and objectives of the Code to these facilities while not meeting the precise, prescriptive requirements. In some cases, the rules have needed to bend in order to achieve the necessary goal of saving as many patients’ lives as possible. This is perfectly justifiable. 

 

While many businesses have been forced to close to minimize the spread of the virus, others have been deemed ‘essential’ by state governments and continue to provide needed services. In many areas, these include grocery stores, building supply/hardware stores, and restaurants for take-out/delivery. For these operating businesses, the importance of social distancing is recognized and the way we shop for groceries and other items probably looks a bit different than it did a month ago. In the area where I live, stores have adopted practices whereby the number of shoppers permitted in the store is limited to avoid crowding; aisles have been designated as one-way to reduce the occurrence of shoppers passing one another in close proximity; at the checkout lines, marks on the floor indicate where to stand to maintain a distance of 6 ft from other customers. These are all reasonable precautions to help keep staff and customers healthy and they have no adverse impact on fire and life safety.


On the other hand, NFPA has also been made aware of some businesses locking egress doors and blocking exit access paths to control access and the flow of customers through the store. This might be well intended to enhance social distancing, but it could be extremely dangerous in the event of a fire or similar emergency requiring the evacuation of occupants. The current health emergency might justify turning an exhibit hall into a field hospital without meeting all the prescriptive Code requirements for a health care occupancy, but it does not justify compromising means of egress from a grocery store, big box store, or fast food restaurant. A fundamental tenet of life safety from fire is means of egress must be available to building occupants whenever the building is occupied. If a fast food restaurant is open for drive-thru pickup only, the egress doors must be openable from the inside by the workers without requiring the use of a key, tool, or special knowledge via one latch/lock releasing motion (e.g., depressing a panic bar or lever release). If a door can’t be locked from the outside and remain operable from the inside, the door must remain unlocked; a sign on the door indicating drive-through service only is available will have to suffice. The same goes for entrances to grocery stores; if only one entrance is to be used to control access, other entrances serving as required means of egress must remain unlocked. Signage or staff can be utilized to direct shoppers to the queue at the designated entry point. Likewise, aisles are required egress paths and must not be blocked. Floor markings, signs, and staff can all be used to direct the flow of customers while leaving the aisles accessible in and emergency.


Too many people have died in fires over the years due to compromised means of egress. The situation we, including first responders, currently face is difficult enough. Let’s not make it any worse by creating situations having the potential to lead to a large loss-of-life fire. With a little creativity, employees and customers can be kept safe from both the coronavirus and fire.


Did you know NFPA 101 is available to review online for free? Head over to www.nfpa.org/101 and click on “FREE ACCESS.” NFPA has also provided a wide range of resources that support fully operational fire and life safety systems, while balancing the realities of the current pandemic. Our goal is to support you and your work during this difficult time. How are we doing? How else can we help? Take our short survey and tell us what you think.


Thanks for reading. Stay safe and healthy. Follow me on Twitter: @NFPAGregH

#tigerkingnetflix         #tigerkingmemes

 

COVID-19 has flipped our world upside down. Whether you’re on the front lines of this global health crisis or doing your part by staying put, we are all coping with losses and adjusting to new routines. For those of us who are lucky to be safe at home, we are looking for new hobbies and entertainment to fill the time once occupied by sports, concerts, parties, and even mundane errands. Well, in these uncertain times, one thing has become a constant in American households… and it’s dressed in leopard print. Tiger King, a new true crime docu-series on Netflix, has captured the attention of over 34 million viewers with its volatile cast of characters viciously feuding within the world of exotic big cat conservation and collecting.

 

With a love for animals and a fascination with true crime, this show naturally made it to the top of my list. Almost every scene has a perplexing twist, but one particular sentence caught my attention. In an interview with the documentarians Sheriff Rhodes of Oklahoma’s Gavin County admitted that the local G.W. Zoo is what kept him up at night. It’s easy to understand why. The zoo, which houses 227 tigers (plus other exotic species) on 16 acres of land, boasts that guests can get closer to animals there than any place in the world. On top of that, it’s located in tornado alley. If that’s not enough to make your Community Risk Reduction (CRR) senses cringe, the head zookeeper was quoted saying “If they walk in here and take my animals away, it is going to be a small Waco.” (Yikes!) When I heard Sheriff Rhodes’ interview I paused the show and texted my colleague saying, “All I can think about is this town’s Community Risk Assessment!” 


“What keeps you up at night?” is a question many fire chiefs and community leaders consider every day, and the answer is usually the safety of the public and the safety of first responders. The process of CRR is a tool these leaders have that can reduce the occurrence and/or impact of risks that threaten the safety of residents and responders in their community. According to NFPA 1300, the first step in the CRR process is conducting a Community Risk Assessment (CRA). A CRA is a comprehensive evaluation that identifies, prioritizes, and defines the risks that pertain to the overall community. It requires local data to help define characteristics of the community, such as its demographics, building stock, geographic landscape, and public safety response capabilities. Some of the first data sources that come to mind for a CRA are the community’s 9-1-1/incident data and Census information. These and other quantitative data are critical for assessing a community’s risks and should always be consulted when making decisions around risk reduction programs. However, some information may not be captured by public data sources, such as the number or location of wild animals being held in captivity. That’s where qualitative data comes into play. Sheriff Rhodes’ knowledge of the risks presented by the G.W. Zoo didn’t come from a spreadsheet – it came from experience. That qualitative data helps supplement quantitative data to tell the full story of his county. The institutional and personal knowledge that we each have about our community is important to a CRA.


This example may seem outlandish (the entire series is), but we all have metaphorical tigers in our community. In this way, the G. W. Zoo is also a reminder to consider the unique qualities of every community. Uniqueness makes a community great, but it can be a double-edged sword. For instance, your annual county fair may strengthen your local economy and entertain residents and visitors. But the same special event can also change the risk landscape. The fair may present overcrowding dangers, bring more motor vehicle crashes to town, and maybe even offer the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pet tiger cub! (Please don’t!) Consequently, a good CRA relies on local data, because it needs to be very specific to your community. CRR is not a one-size-fits-all process because each community has unique risks, partners, resources, and capacities. We all have our own tigers.


To wrap this up for all you cool cats and kittens, in the words of former zoo manager John Reinke, “I’m sure y’all got a story to tell.” Let Tiger King be a fun reminder to let data tell the story of your community, but don’t forget to let qualitative data narrate a chapter or two. Crunch numbers, analyze trends, but also consider the “tigers” that might be lurking in your community. And when you ask yourself, “What keeps me up at night?” I sure hope the answer isn’t Joe Exotic and the G. W. Zoo.

 

In recent weeks as the coronavirus grips the globe, NFPA has provided a wide range of resources that support fully operational fire and life safety systems as required by the applicable codes and standards while balancing the realities of the current pandemic. Our goal is to support you and your work with useful resources and communications during this difficult time. How are we doing? How else can we help? Take our short survey and tell us what you think.

During this difficult time, as the world witnesses the relentless spread of COVID-19, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has released several new resources to help stakeholders with life safety efforts. Two documents, in particular, an Emergency Preparedness Checklist based on NFPA 1600 and a new bulletin that highlights information within NFPA 1600, NFPA 1581, Standard on Fire Department Infection Control ProgramNFPA 1999, Standard on Protective Clothing and Ensembles for Emergency Medical Operations, and guidance from both the World Health Organization and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can be used by first responders during this pandemic. Both documents have been translated into Arabic, the main language in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), a region that consists of 22 countries and makes up 5% of the world’s population. The latter of the two documents was prepared in collaboration with the Saudi Patient Safety Center.

 

 

In the days since this guidance was released, feedback from fire officials and Civil Defense authorities has been overwhelming. The documents began to go viral via various fire service social media channels; and resulted in great comments and sharing. The overall sentiment? The timely creation of important guidance, translated to the language of choice in the MENA region, during an unprecedented time in history shows that NFPA, is invested in cultivating strong alliances throughout the GCC states (the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf). While it continues to hold true that there is enormous variation in the economic, demographic, and technological levels in MENA countries, each of the countries in the region share an unfortunate lack of knowledge about fire and life safety codes, compliance, and enforcement. NFPA is committed, and our Global team is driven, to fill this awareness gap, and provide authorities throughout the MENA territories with the information and knowledge that will help protect people and property from harm.

 

Utilizing these two translated documents will go a long way in keeping communities and first responders safe during COVID-19 and ordinary times. In recent weeks, NFPA has provided a wide range of resources in English that support fully operational fire and life safety systems as required by applicable codes and standards, while balancing the realities of the current pandemic. Our goal is to support you and your work with useful resources and communications during this difficult time. How are we doing? How else can we help? Take our short survey and tell us what you think.

 

With truck drivers working all hours of the day to deliver critical supplies during COVID-19, the Federal Highway Administration recently announced that food trucks are permitted at interstate rest areas to help curb the appetite of the unsung heroes transporting food, personal protective equipment, medical devices, and other essentials during the shutdown instituted by the president. This timely provision has been a welcome change for road warriors across the US, given that very few restaurants are open these days and the demand for deliverables is high.


NFPA has several resources dedicated to the fire and life safety requirements associated with food trucks and other temporary cooking operations. In addition to maintaining social distance, washing hands and wiping down surfaces, food truck operators should remember to keep propane cylinders upright and secure, perform leak testing on all gas connections of the propane system, and ensure that the correct portable fire extinguishers are readily available.

 

Please visit www.nfpa.org/foodtrucksafety for additional information. Be safe out there!

When health care facilities are operating under the conditions like the ones the U.S. health care system is facing right now, stressors are placed on everything, including physical space, staffing levels, available supplies, and the level of care being provided. Everyday code-based solutions simply will not work in many circumstances.

 

With that understanding, NFPA has released a new resource as we continue to provide guidance to health care providers working to establish and maintain adequate fire and life safety levels during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Compiled from input received by various sources including NFPA’s Healthcare Interpretations Task Force (HITF), the latest white paper, “Considerations for Temporary Compliance Options in Health Care Environments During COVID-19” reflects feedback from authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs), federal, state and local officials, health care industry professionals, and others who have identified multiple compliance challenges and issues that health care facilities are currently facing.  The paper discusses ongoing challenges not only in purpose-built hospitals, but also in the alternate care sites such as convention centers and hotels.

 

NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities Code and NFPA 101, Life Safety Code include a range of requirements that are primarily applied through the prescriptive criteria contained in each document. However, each document also permits the use of equivalencies to determine if the level of prescribed safety can be achieved with other means or measures, including the use of risk-based approaches, performance-based approaches, or other concepts. The new white paper provides an overview of these compliance options. It also uses portions of NFPA 550, Guide to the Fire Safety Concepts Tree, highlighting the fundamental “decision tree” that can be used to achieve the fire safety objectives of a building, structure, or process under virtually any configuration or scenario imaginable. 

 

The examples of compliance challenges and considerations for addressing these issues can help provide the level of fire protection and life safety intended by the prevailing codes and standards, as well as the broad guidance put forth by CMS. While they don’t satisfy all of the provisions that are normally required, the intent of the document is to make sure that these safety issues are not overlooked during the accelerated construction phase related to the current public health emergency.

 

Overall, our goal has been to help facility managers, engineers, designers, AHJs, and others assess the common scenarios and challenges they are seeing against what is normally required, recognizing that each situation has its own unique variables.

 

We will continue to provide resources and support for health care facilities as new information is put forward. As soon as the pandemic begins to subside and facilities return to a normal level of care, these interim or temporary measures should be withdrawn, and facilities should resume their normal operational processes and procedures.

 

Also, check the NFPA website for additional key resources and information that address emergency planning, building, fire and life safety issues as the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) subject matter experts will host a free COVID-19 Fire and Life Safety Webinar Series this Tuesday through Thursday, April 14-16. During the three one hour sessions NFPA technical staff will provide information and guidance; and offer timely feedback to fire protection, healthcare, construction safety, and life safety professionals. Those responsible for protecting people and property are invited to register for the educational trio or to sign up for the one(s) that are most relevant for workplace needs.

 

1.   Maintaining Fire Protection Systems Regardless of Occupancy
      Tuesday, April 14, 1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m. (EST)
      Shawn Mahoney, Fire Protection Engineer

 

2.   Maintaining Safe Health Care Facilities in Times of Crisis
      Wednesday April 15, 1:00-2:00 p.m. (EST)
      Robert Solomon, P. E.

 

3.   Construction Site Safety During Emergencies
      Thursday April 16,1:00-2:00 p.m. (EST)
      Kevin Carr, NFPA, Fire Protection Engineer

 

In recent weeks, NFPA has provided a wide range of resources that support fully operational fire and life safety systems as required by the applicable codes and standards while balancing the realities of the current pandemic. Our goal is to support you and your work with useful resources and communications during this difficult time. How are we doing? How else can we help? Take our short survey and tell us what you think.


At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, a call came from the Community Outreach Coordinator in my town seeking volunteers to assist with a newly implemented meal share program. To ensure no residents would be hungry while stay-at-home orders are in place, organizers from the mayor’s office, the senior center, the housing department, and volunteers from a variety of agencies came together to coordinate a meal pickup site as well as a contactless delivery program for home-bound and high-risk residents. Like many people who are feeling the need to be helpful, I jumped at the opportunity to participate.


I was fortunate to score a late afternoon time slot on an unusually warm, sunny March afternoon and found myself working alongside another local mom who works for FM Global. Amy told me about the #FMGlobalCares initiative and how her company, much like NFPA and many other companies, encourages employee volunteerism. Over the course of a few hours, we talked about our jobs, our kids, and the crisis at hand while we handed out over 400 free meals to our neighbors. At the end of the day, I felt great about helping and my mind was spinning about how we could do more.


In my role at NFPA, I am immersed in work intended to pave the way for local Community Risk Reduction (CRR) implementation. NFPA, 1300 Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development serves as the cornerstone for this process. While the document is chock full of helpful content, my recent volunteer experience got me focused on one important component: partnerships.


When you look around your community and take note of the successful initiatives playing out during this crisis, you will notice a common thread. The wins are driven by partnerships. We have realized that together, we accomplish more. We see simple acts of neighbors looking out for neighbors by consolidating grocery (and liquor!) store trips, restaurants providing food to essential workers, and local merchants providing free materials to help families make face coverings. There are also massive public-private projects to get COVID-19 testing up and running and corporate internet providers offering free wi-fi for local school children to help the learning process roll on. And of course, this New England gal still has a warm fuzzy feeling from watching the New England Patriots plane return home from a round-trip flight to China with a belly full of critical medical supplies donated to the New York City coronavirus hot spot.


In a previous blog, COVID-19 Provides Opportunity for Elevating Your Community Risk Reduction Efforts, I encouraged readers to peel away the layers of fear, confusion, and hardship to see the opportunity this crisis provides. I truly believe we can emerge from this crisis stronger and prepared to embrace the work of prevention. The partnerships we build now will certainly have value once life gets back to normal.


If your typical CRR activities have been grounded due to COVID-19, consider switching gears to build out your partnership cache. Think about stakeholders and potential partners who strengthen your CRR plan. Reach out to them and find out how they are doing. Ask if there is anything you can do to lighten their loads. For example, school leaders are important CRR partners who are currently faced with big challenges. You may be able to lend a hand by assisting with contact-free delivery of learning packets, lunches, or chromebooks – and maybe you can slide some life safety information in as well! Offer to share your Community Risk Assessment data to help leaders solve unique problems related to education. Perhaps a motivational message on social media to families engaged in home schooling would be appreciated. Maybe you could offer the principal a sweet ride on a fire truck through the neighborhood to help the kids feel connected to their school during this crazy time. Not only can you demonstrate your worth as a partner and put chips into your CRR bank but your actions will build community during a time when we need this most. Think creatively and start with an offer instead of an ask. When you start by giving, your partnership base will grow quickly, as will your heart.


The NFPA CRR team would love to hear from you. If you have additional ideas about how to keep your CRR initiatives moving forward during these uncertain times, reach out to CRR@nfpa.org.

With COVID-19 “stay at home” advisories in effect across the globe, an unlikely technology has come to the aid of public safety agencies responsible for enforcement measures: drones.


Government officials everywhere have asked citizens to practice social distancing and stay at home to flatten the curve of COVID-19 spread. The results have been dramatic with just about every industry from ride share services to grocery stores implementing changes. Enforcement of the widespread restrictions currently in place is certainly unprecedented, and that’s where drones come in to play.


China got a head start on the coronavirus and has been creatively using drones for aerial spray and disinfection, to transport samples, and to deliver food and other goods to consumers. Fox News recently reported that public safety agencies in California are using drones to deter people from congregating in groups at parks and other recreational areas. Meanwhile, Zipline, a company whose medical delivery drones have been instrumental in life safety efforts in Ghana and Rwanda, is now working with U.S. policy makers to rapidly deploy their technology domestically in the fight against COVID-19.


NFPA has been monitoring the utilization of drones by public safety agencies around the globe for years, and recently published the first edition of NFPA 2400, Standard for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) Used for Public Safety Operations. NFPA 2400 help authorities looking to deploy drone programs by providing relevant industry insight and best practices The standard covers the implementation, deployment, and use of sUAS in the public safety community so that agencies can enhance their inspection, search and rescue, fire ground, and operational capabilities.
In 2019, NFPA also received an Assistance to Firefighters Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to develop and disseminate essential drone program compliance information to the U.S. fire service via online learning modules, educational videos, and interactive simulations. The training deliverables for this project are currently in development and will be available in the spring of 2021.


As we are seeing today, technologies such as drones and unmanned systems will increasingly be called upon to augment public safety capabilities around the world. Lessons learned during COVID-19 may very well help with the fight against wildfires, influence future search and rescue efforts, and provide invaluable information when other emergencies present.


Stay safe and healthy.

 

NFPA has relevant resources designed to keep you informed about important fire, building, and life safety guidance during this pandemic period. NFPA codes and standards are also available for free online access.

Up until last month, conversation around Remote Video Inspections (RVI) was limited and sporadic. Discussions were mainly about work on our developing standard or with AHJs looking to drive efficiency in their often resource-strapped departments.

 

The current pandemic, its associated push to remote work, and the requirement of social distancing have combined to thrust RVIs into the forefront of AHJ minds everywhere.

 

It’s rare for a day to go by without at least one story about a jurisdiction implementing RVIs showing up in my news alerts, and recently one of those stories was about a great partner of NFPA, Tim Mikloiche. Tim is the Building Official/Supervisor of Inspections in West Hartford, CT and the article is about his creation and implementation of an RVI program in these challenging times—and he did it in four days!

 

He was able to accomplish this using his professional network and several NFPA resources, including the NFPA white paper, Conducting Video Inspections, and the proposed NFPA 915, Standard on Remote Inspections. Tim, like many others I have heard from, had been skeptical about the idea of RVIs, believing that they “would reduce the quality of an inspection in an effort to move projects forward.” Current conditions are leaving AHJs no choice but to provide new solutions, like the RVI program in West Hartford. A few weeks into this new way of working, Tim is less concerned than he once was, because quality has not decreased. He said, “We have set good guidelines and are working on checklists that will help ensure the quality.” Some of these solutions may become permanent—in West Hartford they are collecting and using data to help inform decisions moving forward and to help them adjust how they are implementing the RVI service.

 

Here are the 12 key points that I have heard in talking with and listening to AHJs about the opportunity to utilize RVIs in their area:

 

  1. Make sure to stay on top of and follow all CDC guidance related to COVID-19.
  2. Focus on making people feel comfortable and safe. These are unprecedented times for everyone, and you never know what external factors people are dealing with. For your staff, this might mean allowing them to voice their concerns for consideration before any changes are put into effect. For your customers, it might mean thinking about them as people first and customers second.
  3. Every jurisdiction is different. Different sizes, different budgets, different technology. But there is a lot to be learned from one another right now. Small jurisdictions can learn from large jurisdictions on the opposite coast and vice versa.
  4. Be comfortable knowing that the choices you make now may be temporary as you bridge this unexpected gap in your processes. If you spend too much time on every detail, you might not get anything out the door. When you want to mobilize quickly, you need to simplify.
  5. Executing a process now doesn’t mean you’re committing to it long term. You’re creating a program to meet current conditions—it may or may not fit how you work typically or how you want to work in the future.
  6. Don’t start skipping steps in your processes; doing so will likely be detrimental in the long run. Make sure to document everything you’re doing and what the outcomes are. This will help you to adjust now and inform policies and processes well into the future.
  7. Many places allow inspections using multiple technologies/platforms. I have heard of people using FaceTime, Facebook Live, Google Duo, Microsoft Teams, Skype, WhatsApp, and Zoom.
  8. Make sure your employees and your customers are well trained in and understand the process you’ll be using.
  9. Remote Video Inspections do not mean easier inspections—the expectation is that the pass/fail rate of in-person inspections and RVIs should be the same.
  10. Take your time when doing the remote inspection. It’s ok to ask someone to slow down, to show a different angle, to measure again, to pan out, or anything else you need them to do to ensure you’re comfortable with what you’re seeing.
  11. RVIs tend to take longer than in-person inspections but are expected to deliver efficiency, primarily in a reduction in the time and associated costs of traveling to and from job sites. (This is a good one to track some data on, if you can.)
  12. Questions will come up, many of them relating to managing required physical artifacts when working remotely (e.g., raised seals on paperwork, stickers that need to be affixed, etc.), and that’s fine. You’ll need a temporary solution in these cases, such as verifying things by phone or video. Just make sure that everyone knows the process.

 

Things are changing, and we all need to adapt and be flexible. But that doesn’t mean trading on fire and life safety. To help, NFPA recently produced a fact sheet that provides guidance on how to conduct an RVI.

 

When it comes to RVIs, what are you doing? What questions do you have? How can NFPA help?

 

NFPA has relevant resources designed to keep you informed about important fire, building, and life safety guidance during this pandemic period. NFPA codes and standards are also available for free online access. The International Code Council (ICC) is offering information on health and safety considerations for code officials during COVID-19 too.

Homemade gowns (made from house wrap), face shields, surgical masks, cloth masks, gloves and hand sanitizer made from a local distillery

 

In addition to serving as the Northeast Regional Director for NFPA interacting with emergency responders, code enforcers, building personnel and government representatives; I also serve as the fire chief of a small volunteer fire company in the northeast corner of Connecticut.


In recent weeks, our department has been dealing with the same two relentless enemies - changes in response protocol and PPE shortages - that responders in more densely populated areas are contending with. The only difference between the urban and rural experience is the magnitude of the problem.


Keeping our volunteers safe and healthy so that we can continue to respond to calls for service in our community is our number one priority.


In the past, we would routinely take “universal precautions” of wearing gloves, and at times, masks while providing patient care. With the advent of COVID19, we now wear gloves, masks, face shields, and even gowns if we are providing any up-close EMS response. This virus spreads so easily that even when precautions are taken responders are still getting infected. For a small company like ours, even if one or two responders are exposed, it will take most of the company out of service for a significant period - making an already difficult situation even more difficult.

 

So, now, when an alarm is rung, all members report to the station - not to the scene as is typically the case. We are limiting the number of responders we send to the scene to assist the ambulance service too. If an officer passes the scene while reporting to the station, they may stop and size-up the situation. Officers now have primary personal protective equipment kits, including gloves, two masks (one for the patient and one for the fire officer), and face shields in case they must render patient care before the apparatus, or an ambulance arrives.


The second major concern centers around the shortage of protective equipment available at this critical time. Normally, we stock a small cache of PPE and reorder when supplies get to a certain level. Fortunately, we had a small surplus left over from the Ebola outbreak a few years back. As has been well reported, when the magnitude of COVID-19 became clear several weeks ago, first responders began to order supplies from their vendors only to be told that most items were unavailable until, in some cases, August!


We looked to state and federal agencies for assistance in obtaining supplies but were told that their caches were depleted, as well. So, my days are now spent on the phone or in my Jeep searching for PPE. We’ve been blessed to have thoughtful citizens making homemade cloth masks for our department. Businesses have stepped up too. A plastic film manufacturing facility in Massachusetts provided face shields and a pipe insulation company in Connecticut switched over a manufacturing line to make gowns from their insulation material. More recently, a local distillery donated gallons of sanitizer solution to local responders. When the Connecticut Department of Public Health makes supplies available for response agencies, I head to the distribution point at a local ambulance company for reinforcements.

 

In recent weeks, I’ve certainly become familiar with the terms supply chain and burn rate. One has slowed to a crawl and I hope that the other never gets any momentum. The tricky part for any size department is that there is no way of telling what the call volume will be tomorrow, next week or three weeks from now. In our area, the outbreak is scheduled to peak within the next 2-3 weeks. We will continue to creatively collect PPE; and hope it will be enough if coronavirus rears its ugly head in these parts.


It’s important to note that the changes responders are facing are not lost on the communities that they serve. Recently, local citizens voiced their concerns on social media, asking what will happen if local first responders are heavily impacted by the virus? Normally, we do not have to reassure the public that our volunteer fire company will be there when someone calls 911; but in these unprecedented times, we are taking steps to put the public at ease via Twitter and Facebook. We send out daily messages of encouragement and try to inject a little humor to lighten the mood during these dark times.


We want our neighbors to know that even when things seem hopeless they can count on us to be there when they need us.

 

As departments across the country work to address these and other fire and life safety issues in their communities, NFPA is continuing to provide information and resources that can help support their efforts on multiple fronts during this challenging time.

 

As the public has largely remained at home in response to COVID-19, NFPA has anticipated that higher-than-normal use of home cooking, heating, and electrical equipment would likely result in an increase of associated home fires.

 

An online story posted yesterday on WTOP News, a Washington D.C.-based radio station, reinforced these concerns, reporting that Maryland fire departments have been receiving more calls related to cooking fires in recent weeks.

“Now that we have people home, we knew this was going to happen. We have seen an uptick in fires,” said Maryland State Fire Marshal Brian Geraci.

 

Geraci expressed concerns around usage of heating equipment as well, noting that one man recently died using an oven as a heater; he also pointed to higher use of electrical equipment.

 

“A lot of people are online, watching TV — they’ve got new devices that they’re doing their homework on and they’re starting to use the multi-plug outlets and those types of things, and we’re starting to see those fires as well,” Geraci said.

 

While NFPA can’t track the number of calls fire departments have been receiving over the past few weeks, it’s likely that other states also are experiencing a higher volume of fire-related calls.

 

As departments across the country work to address these and other fire and life safety issues in their communities, NFPA is continuing to provide information and resources that can help support their efforts on multiple fronts during this challenging time.

 

A recent blog provides NFPA tips and recommendations for preventing cooking, heating and electrical equipment fires.

 

Also, check our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages regularly for new fire safety messages and information you can quickly and easily share through your social media platforms.

 

A new NFPA Journal Podcast examining crisis standards of care is out now. Listen and subscribe today wherever you get your podcasts.

 

The United States now has more Covid-19 cases than anywhere in the world and in many places demand for EMS services is far exceeding the current resources of our health care and EMS system. One solution that agencies have to deal with the onslaught of patients is adopting what are called crisis standards of care—adjustments to normal standards and protocols of operation in order to handle a crisis situation like the one we are seeing around the world today.

 

In the first segment of the podcast, we play you key snippets from a webinar hosted by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s office of EMS. The webinar brought together three EMS operations and legal experts who spoke about how and why agencies are tweaking their operations during this COVID emergency, and what precautions are put in place. They also get into questions like: How can agencies implement new crisis standards without negatively impacting patient care or responder safety; and, what are the legal ramifications for departments, responders, and volunteers?

 

In the second segment, NFPA specialist John Montes talks about some examples of crisis measures being taken throughout the world right now as emergency agencies combat the COVID pandemic.

 

Please subscribe to NFPA Journal Podcast and leave a comment and/or review. Look for a next episode of NFPA Journal Podcast on Tuesday, April 21, which will take a look at how communities, organizations, and businesses are handling the COVIFD-19 crisis. Also, keep an eye out for the new NFPA Podcast, debuting this June. 

NFPA 101 - calculating occupant load

A fundamental concept of model building codes, fire codes, and life safety codes is that a means of egress is designed to accommodate all occupants of a building. Knowing how to determine the total occupant load of a building is an integral part in determining if the building meets that basic concept. It can be difficult to estimate how many people are going to use a space within a building so most model codes that address egress design will provide requirements for how to estimate this number.

 

If you are working with NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, Table 7.3.1.2 provides occupant load factors for different uses found in a building. Occupant load factors are chosen based on how the space is used and not the occupancy classification of the space. For example, it isn’t uncommon for a business occupancy to have spaces that would fall under “business use”, as there will almost always be spaces used for non-business purposes also within the building. A conference room within the business occupancy wouldn’t be considered an assembly occupancy unless it was determined to have an occupant load of 50 or more people. For the purposes of determining the occupant load, that conference room has an assembly use. Once the occupant load factor has been determined based on the use of the space, it is then used to calculate the occupant load of that space. Calculating occupant load can be thought of in three steps:

  • Select an occupant load factor
  • Determine the size of the room
  • Apply the occupant load factor to the space

 

There is a common misconception that the calculated occupant load is the maximum number of occupants the space can contain. Instead, the calculated occupant load is actually the minimum number of expected occupants. If the designer, building owner, or other involved party knows the expected number of occupants may be higher than the calculated number of occupants, then that number should be used as the occupant load. If, for example, the building owner knows there will be 5 people working in a storage room that has a calculated occupancy of 3 people, the design needs to be based off of the expected occupant load (5 people). Now, if the building owner says there will only be 1 person in the storage room that has a calculated occupancy of 3 people, the design needs to be based off of the calculated occupant load (3 people).  

 

For a detailed step-by-step explanation of calculating occupant load and to learn about changes to some of the occupant load factors for the current edition (2018), download your free fact sheet!

 

 

With an anticipated surge of COVID-19 patients in communities nationwide, health care locations are being modified to provide more beds, existing buildings are being repurposed, and temporary structures are being put into service to meet impending demands. In response, NFPA has created two immediate resources to help health care engineers, designers, and authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) provide the safest levels of fire and life safety possible as these unprecedented circumstances continue to evolve and emerge.

 

It is impossible to modify or construct spaces in strict compliance with fire and life safety codes while getting ready to treat critically ill patients with the best possible care. However, there are measures that can be taken to help keep people safe from fire in light of the current situation.

 

Under normal conditions, structures built for providing care to patients are designed and operated in accordance with NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, and NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities Code, and the dozens of other standards referenced within them. At this time, though, fire and life safety professionals can to look to the intent of these documents and use portions, such as the equivalency clauses, the goals and objectives of NFPA 101, and the risk-based approach of NFPA 99, to guide decisions.

 

The two new resources I referenced above are the NFPA fact sheet, “Maintaining Safe Health Care Facilities in Extraordinary Times”, which is a short guide that outlines multiple considerations and alternatives to providing life safety for affected rooms, areas, and structures. The other document is “Temporary Compliance Options for Code Modifications, Alternate Care Sites, and Facilities Related to Health Care,” a white paper that provides greater context to associated considerations and measures around construction, prevention, detection and notification, egress, and automatic sprinkler systems.

 

NFPA continues to collect information around the issues AHJs, health care providers, and accrediting organizations are facing and how modifications to these and other occupancies still need to address fire and life safety. While each situation has its own unique variables, we will keep working to provide guidance that facility engineers, designers, AHJs, contractors and others can use to balance common practices against the current needs during this public health emergency.

 

NFPA provides key resources and information that address emergency planning, building, fire and life safety issues as the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 epidemic. Check the site for regular updates.

 

electrical online learning

As of December 2019, our world has forever changed. A global pandemic has much of world in lockdown hoping to stem the spread of COVID-19 by practicing “social distancing.” Some of us have seen a reduction in our workload at the moment, while still others, who, in essential service roles, are putting themselves on the front lines every day working in hospitals, grocery stores, and other key service areas that depend on the work we do to help keep their facilities functioning. Wherever we may find ourselves during this time, there is something that weighs heavy on all of our minds: how do we keep ourselves and others safe while still improving upon our skills to help us do our very best work.  

That’s where training comes into play.

 

Skilled professionals, whether they are on the front lines or at home, need continuing education, especially as many states are shifting to the new edition of the NEC. The need for quality training, the renewal of licenses and professional credentials - all of these things are vital to our jobs now and after this health crisis has lifted. But during these unprecedented times, social distancing is forcing us to find alternative options to meet our training needs. Training centers are shut down, trainers are cancelling classes, and many of us are confined to our living rooms. So, just like many public schools across the nation have done, it’s time for us to explore online options.

 

Today’s online and distance learning landscape has taken on a new look and feel including the capability to incorporate hands-on learning techniques applied within a virtual environment. The implications of this type of learning for electrical safety training are very exciting. Now is a perfect time to refresh our skills with many of the online training options available like NFPA’s Safe Electrical Work Practices online training series. This series utilizes a series of tasks in a virtual environment to provide simulated hands-on training for tasks like establishing an electrically safe work condition and performing voltage measurements. And on an important note: learners are not exposed to a hazard during the process.

 

And, while self-paced, online learning is one option that can help keep skills honed and up-to-date while we get through this era of social distancing, we recognize that there are many learners who also need interaction with an instructor to help better understand a concept. As an instructor myself, I have always valued that one-on-one interaction in my classes with those who are active, engaged, and asking questions. So, what can we do to help in this situation? Distance learning is perfect for the current times we all are experiencing, and it might just turn out to be a better way of delivering the needed safety training to more people, more efficiently, and more safely. In fact, NFPA is currently exploring ways to deliver what has traditionally been an in-person seminar, through an interactive web-based presentation where attendees will be able to interact in real time with the instructor throughout the course. Having the ability to learn from afar while maintaining the quality of training that comes from being in the classroom with the subject matter expert, is, well, just fantastic, and I look forward to sharing more about this unique opportunity with you in the future.

 

If history has taught us anything, it is that people can and will get through anything that comes their way. We will get through this, and we will be better off when we do. Those of us in the training world understand the need to adapt our delivery to meet the needs of our audiences, and the world’s current state of affairs has surely brought that front and center. Trying new methods and exploring different ways to provide the needed training and information has become a new way of life in electrical safety.

 

Electrical hazards don’t shelter-in-place, so while we are all doing our part to stop the spread of COVID-19, we must still do whatever is needed to protect the world from what comes along with using electricity in our daily lives. But NFPA can’t do this alone. Contact us to find out how we can help you meet your training needs while respecting social distancing guidelines. It’s a big world, let’s protect it together.

 

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

 

As the coronavirus dominates news reports, conversations, video chats, and social media threads - most people are reaching their saturation point.

 

The pandemic took hold in the US, just as much of the country was emerging from winter hibernation – a time typically spent watching TV or staying current on Netflix. With government restrictions, businesses closed, self-isolating the norm, employees toiling remotely, and workers being furloughed – what can people do with all the extra time on their hands?


Fast Company suggested 5 ways to learn new career skills for free during the COVID-19 crisis in a recent article. Their recommendations included attend virtual events, co-work virtually, take a free digital course, watch a webinar, or earn a new certification. NFPA can help with your knowledge building.

 

In addition to having lots of paid online learning and popular certification programs that may be suitable for professional development, NFPA is providing free access to its energy storage systems (ESS), alternative fuel vehicles and flammable refrigerants distance learning. Responders, code enforcers, facility managers, and those that work in the built environment are encouraged to skill up during this unprecedented down time. This internet training trio is slated to become paid programming effective July 1 so now is the perfect time to take advantage of free access – and build more brainpower.

 

  • Learn About Energy Storage Systems – This 3-hour education module was updated in April 2019 to include more solar content, new technological considerations, and relevant research so that firefighters are keeping pace with the potential fire and life safety hazards that may exist with new energy innovations. The interesting thing is – those that work in facility management, code enforcement, manufacturing, or call themselves designer, contractors or installers have found this online course to be of great value in their roles too.
  • Learn about Flammable Refrigerants - More than 200 countries begin ushering in low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants this year – including the US. This one-hour training shows how the new technology will be used in residential and commercial refrigeration units and air conditioning systems. Find out about flammability and toxicity risks, asphyxiation concerns, jet stream fires, transportation issues, and other life safety considerations. Designed for the fire service, those that work in the HVAC or are AHJs will also find it worthwhile.
  • Learn about Alternative Fuel Vehicle Safety – Incidents involving alternative fuel vehicles including electric, hybrid, hydrogen fuel cell, bio-diesel and gaseous fuels such as CNG (Compressed Natural Gas), LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas), LPG (Liquid Propane Gas), and their recharging/refueling stations present unique safety challenges. Start and stop this online module at your desired pace; the course features 3D interactive vehicle models, videos, animations, simulations, review questions, and scenarios to understand the latest automotive technology and corresponding fire tactics.

 

Prior to the coronavirus, NFPA had agree to host an NFPA 3000 Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program webinar with the International Association of Public Safety Association to highlight how communities can prepare, respond and recover from hostile events. Many of the takeaways covered during this one-hour session serve as benchmarks for other crises, like the coronavirus.

 

Just can’t bring yourself to tune out on COVID-19? NFPA has relevant resources designed to keep you informed about important fire, building, and life safety guidance during this pandemic period. Visit www.nfpa.org/coronavirus to learn more.

While we owe an immeasurable debt of gratitude to our healthcare workers, first responders, and grocery store employees in this war against COVID-19, we should also offer a tip of the hat to the data scientists working in the background. If you’re a nerd (and proud of it) like me, then you know it has been impossible not to be fascinated by all the data, statistics, and visualizations being used to combat this virus. Through all of this, one thing is clear… data is king (and queen!)

 

I want to share one message to everyone working in the prevention space: Pay attention!

 

Every day, new data emerge to guide decisions about how to protect our communities. The community-level information is critical in planning effective COVID-19 mitigation. Data help you tell a story about your demographics, economy, critical infrastructure and other profiles so you can make informed decisions to increase community safety during the pandemic. That alone is gold – and it gets better. Once virus-related threats have passed, this local knowledge provides a solid start in building and updating your all-important Community Risk Assessment.

 

Community Risk Assessment (CRA) is the critical first step in the Community Risk Reduction (CRR) process. It requires a deep dive into local data to be able to paint an accurate picture of the people, the hazards, and the capabilities in each unique community. The need to collect and analyze data often positions CRA as the most challenging component of CRR but the pay-off for the expended effort multiplies in value. Data allow CRR teams to create plans that address the true risks in each community to ensure resource deployment with have the intended impact. NFPA 1300 Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development is the go-to resource for anyone eager to learn more. Check it out (for free!) for details about community profiles and the CRA process.

 

Communities who entered the fight against COVID-19 with a CRA in hand have a wealth of data at their fingertips to inform mitigation efforts. They know where their high-risk residents live. They are conscious of neighborhoods in which residents lack English-proficiency. They can identify buildings available to serve as temporary medical sites. They have a sense of neighborhoods in which residents rely on public transportation, have a grocery store within walking distance, have access to urgent medical care, and may be better prepared to cope in an economic downturn. Summer Mahr, Public Educator for Largo Fire Rescue has found her local CRA to be extremely helpful. “We use this data to increase awareness to our citizens and educate both the vulnerable and younger population on the importance of being safer at home. Our younger population will realize just how many vulnerable neighbors are living in their community, and we encourage the community to check on their at-risk neighbors (from 6ft. away of course) to see if they need any groceries, supplies, or other needs.”

I

If your community has not completed the CRA process yet, do not throw in the towel. While the data may not be presented in the neat bow-topped package of a CRA, you can still benefit from the wealth of information surfacing every day during this crisis. Take a look at the 9 community profiles outlined in NFPA 1300 and arm your team with a chart or spreadsheet where information can be dumped as it pops up. Keep in mind that it is important to keep track of information related to both hazards and capacity.

 

While this is far from an all-inclusive list, consider these data points to get your creative juices flowing about how to leverage available information to guide your efforts now and in the future:

 

  • Demographic Data: Response to COVID-19 has resulted in a wealth of information-sharing about the people who live in our communities. In La Crosse, Wisconsin, Community Risk Educator Pat Corran speaks to the value of demographic data. “Our population density data has been very helpful in our response to the COVID crisis. It helps give us some real insight as to where this thing could really ramp up and we work even harder to reiterate social distancing measures in these areas.” Some additional demographic indicators to consider include aging populations, residents who may struggle financially during the outbreak, people who may not have access to information due to language isolation, and families experiencing social vulnerability.
  • Building Stock: Which buildings in your community have shifted into a higher risk category because they house essential services, important manufacturing, serve as a vital link in the supply chain, or provide critical economic value to the community? Pay attention to the buildings that have been re-purposed as meal distribution centers, medical facilities, and isolation housing. Derrick Sawyer, Director of Fire in Trenton, New Jersey relies on his CRA to address a broad range of issues. “We have concerns about our homeless population living on the streets and in shelters. While we have shelters identified in our emergency operations plan, social distancing requires additional spaces. Our CRA can help to identify buildings that can be re-purpose as alternative shelters.”
  • Business Continuity: We can’t ignore the interwoven relationship between community health and economy. During this crisis, take note of business closures that are impacting the overall economic health of the community, businesses have been able to pivot to implement creative solutions to stay afloat, and businesses who have supported community members with donations, space, or service during this time of need.
  • Weather Hazards: Mother nature doesn’t take a break for pandemics. What are the weather-related hazards to keep top-of-mind? Consider aligning this data with your building stock data and demographics to ensure you have a plan for shelters should they be needed in case of a weather emergency.
  • Transportation: Consider the modes of travel on which your residents rely. Are people able to get to grocery stores and medical appointments in neighborhoods in which residents typically rely on public transportation? Are COVID-19 testing sites and meal pickup locations set up to accommodate residents who do drive? Also, we know motor vehicle crashes top the list of incidents to which EMS and Fire Department personnel respond during times of health and prosperity. With stay-at-home orders, are motor vehicle crashes still an issue in your community? Do data reveal trouble spots more related to road troubles than traffic volume that should be considered in future CRR plans?

 

And, of course, do not forget about capacity! Every rich CRA includes information about the abilities of public safety response agencies and community service organizations to respond to and reduce risks. This pandemic has posed an incredible challenge to communities across the world. We are all new to this and we are coming up with innovative solutions every day. Keep track of new strategies, hare-brained schemes, and lofty ideas. A failed attempt may be one tweak away from becoming a major success but this may be lost if you don’t track your efforts.

 

The NFPA CRR team would love to hear from you. If you have additional ideas for your CRA data toolbox or CRR during these uncertain times, reach out to CRR@nfpa.org.

As COVID-19 continues to steadily spread around the world, infection control has become a critically important topic. EMTs, paramedics, firefighters, and law enforcement officers are on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) released a tip sheet that highlights information within NFPA 1581, Standard on Fire Department Infection Control Program and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Written for fire departments, NFPA 1581 can be easily translated to fit other responder needs during this unprecedented time when personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies are scarce. 

 

Key Takeaways from NFPA 1581 and the CDC Guidance

 

Designate an Infection Control Officer. According to NFPA 1581, departments should have a part- or full-time employee serving as the infection control officer (ICO) to manage all aspects of infection control, from guidance on personal protective equipment (PPE) to post-incident management and cleaning. The ICO must be knowledgeable and cognizant of infectious disease pathogens, from bioterrorism weapons like anthrax to emerging infectious diseases like SARS or COVID-19. It is critical that the ICO also maintains a strong relationship with local medical and public health officials. Per the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, hospitals and healthcare facilities must notify department ICOs any time their members are exposed to a known COVID-19 positive patient. When notified of an infectious exposure, the ICO is responsible for notification, verification, treatment, and medical follow-up, as well as case documentation.

 

Keep Yourself and Your Gear Clean. The most important action responders can take to limit their exposure is to carefully clean themselves and their reusable PPE. Employees should wash their hands or use hand sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol as an alternative only when hand washing is not available. For those who are looking for guidance as to when it is most important for responders to wash their hands, NFPA 1581 identifies the following times:

 

  • After each emergency medical incident
  • Immediately or as soon as possible after removal of gloves or other PPE
  • After cleaning and disinfecting emergency medical equipment
  • After cleaning PPE
  • After any cleaning function
  • After using the bathroom
  • Before and after handling food or cooking and food utensils

 

Use Personal Protective Equipment. PPE should be used appropriately based on agency policy, local protocol, and manufacturer recommendations. With the exception of a mask, any potentially contaminated PPE should be removed when operating a vehicle. NFPA 1581 requires departments to keep infection-preventing PPE, such as gloves, eyewear, and masks, onboard all department vehicles that support EMS operations. New PPE should be donned to assist (again) with patient care, if necessary. The level of PPE needed to prevent infection varies depending on the nature of the pathogen. For the COVID-19 virus, responders should be using droplet protection.[i] This protection includes the following:

 

  • Gloves
  • Respirators (N-95/P-100 or greater)
  • Eye protection
  • Splash protection (gowns, face shield, etc.)

 

Limit Your Exposure. Limiting exposure can reduce your need for PPE and assist with long-term staffing availability. As departments are looking for ways to conserve their available PPE, some measures that can be taken to reduce exposure include, but are not limited to, the following:

 

  • Add an instruction to your emergency medical dispatch protocols where after screening a 911 caller, call takers request that when safe and able, the patient await responders outside in the open air. This reduces responder exposure to contaminated surfaces and puts them in an environment where droplets are diffused more quickly. [ii]
  • Limit the number of members who interact with patients. Based on the patient’s presentation and medical needs have a minimum number of responders, who are necessary to provide care, don PPE and have direct contact with the patient.[iii]
  • Once a member dons PPE, they should stay in the PPE for the remainder of patient care activities. This may necessitate having an additional member drive the ambulance during transport when the patient requires two or more members to render care, but will reduce the donning and doffing of PPE mid-call, which is frequently highlighted as a high risk of exposure to responders. The member driving needs to only wear respiratory protection as long as the cab of the ambulance is sealed with a vapor lock barrier from the patient care compartment.[iv]

 

Expand Your Options in Times of Shortage. Because of PPE shortages, there is guidance from the CDC advising departments to either modify the protection levels of PPE being used for patient care and cleaning or reuse the PPE, after following disinfection procedures, if your levels run low. Here are some recommendations for departments to consider until adequate levels of PPE can be acquired (note that any of these procedures must only be used when there is no way to increase your PPE supply and when approved by your ICO, risk management team, and medical director):

  • Instead of going down a level in respiratory protection, consider going up a level, such as with a powered air purifying respirator (PAPR) with the appropriate filter or cartridge. PAPRs are frequently reusable and provide splash and eye protection at the same time. [v]It may be easier and more cost effective, in the long term, to invest and train your members about solutions such as these - while still providing baseline minimum droplet protection to your members.
  • Work with your ICO, agency risk management, subject matter experts, and your medical director to develop protocols that allow for triaging the use of remaining higher-level PPE. [vi]For example, based on the CDC guidance for reserving the use of N-95 respirators, only use them on calls where there is a high-risk exposure level and on lower risk calls, use an approved lower level of protection or perhaps an expired piece of PPE that has been tested to meet CDC guidelines that may be more readily available.  Examples of high-risk exposures include but are not limited to:
    • Aerosolizing procedures like nebulizer treatments, or endotracheal intubation
    • When a patient is actively coughing or generating sputum into the patient care environment
    • When a patient has a positive test and respiratory symptoms, like a productive cough
  • Increase your buying power by partnering up. In the current environment, leverage your contracts, mutual aid agreements, and memorandums of understanding to work with community partners and public health officials to try and acquire PPE together rather than competing against each other.  If that is unsuccessful, use the National Incident Management System and your emergency management partners to run resource and logistical requests up the incident management chain.[vii] Note that in many states, this requires a gubernatorial emergency declaration; if your state hasn’t made one, please encourage your leaders to consider making one

 

Learn More

Keep up with the latest COVID-19 news and information using the following resources below. As the world continues to grapple with this crisis, NFPA will continue to generate key resources and information that address responder safety, emergency planning, building, fire and life safety issues.

 

 

Points i-vi based on March 10, 2020 Covid-19 Interim Guidance for EMS Providers, Center for Disease Control and Prevention 

 

Point vii - based on NFPA 1600; Standard on Continuity, Emergency, and Crisis Management 

 

While remote video inspection (RVI) is new to many, it can represent an effective alternative to an on-site inspection, enabling one or more parties to remotely perform an inspection of a building or building component. As code officials, enforcers, and inspectors work to ensure building safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, NFPA has created a fact sheet that provides guidance on how to conduct an RVI.

 

This new resource, which is based on “Conducting Remote Video Inspections,” a white paper developed by NFPA’s Building Code Development Committee (BCDC), addresses several considerations, including setting clear expectations, selecting technology, location verification and sign-offs/follow-up. We encourage jurisdictions to review this guidance to become more familiar with the benefits as well as the limitations of RVI.

 

Just like traditional on-site or in person inspections, an RVI is typically associated within a jurisdiction’s permitting process, the project, or contract schedule, and needs to be approved by AHJ. Remote inspection may be able to accomplish critical and emergency permit work that is still underway. It is not intended to be less complete than an on-site inspection and can be employed to achieve the same (or enhanced) results as an on-site inspection.

 

RVI is currently in use in select jurisdictions across the US, although no formal standard governs its use. These jurisdictions often utilize everyday smartphone technologies to facilitate the inspection.

 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, NFPA has been continuing to provide key resources and information that address emergency planning, building, fire and life safety issues. Make sure to check our website regularly for new content and updates. Stay safe.

NFPA 70, National Electrical Code<img src='https://community.nfpa.org/images/emojis/00ae.png' class='jive_emoji'/>The following proposed Tentative Interim Amendment (TIA) to NFPA 70, National Electrical Code, is being published for public review and comment:

Anyone may submit a comment on this proposed TIA by the May 11, 2020 comment closing date.  Along with your comment, please identify the number of the TIA and forward to the Secretary, Standards Council by the closing date.

https://nfpa.libsyn.com/the-covid-19-crisis-in-europe

On the NFPA Journal Podcast this week, Pieter Maes, a firefighter EMT at the Brussels fire department in Belgium, talks about the extraordinary steps that emergency responders in this European capital are taking to prepare for the onslaught of the Coronavirus pandemic. The crisis has forced the department to get creative in many ways, Maes says, like hiring doctors to work in dispatch, extensive new decontamination measures, and other new procedures that were once-unthinkable just months ago before the COVID-19 crisis began.

 

Like other departments across the world, Brussels is also dealing with many difficult questions: For instance, how to determine if a COVID-19 patient is sick enough to send EMS units? And, with severe shortages in critical protective equipment, what levels of risk should responders be asked to take while working on the front lines of fighting this disease?

 

To help departments answer some of those difficult questions, Maes has created a database website, covidfirstresponse.com, where responders from all over the world have submitted various strategies for how they are dealing with the crisis. This crowd-sourced material includes instructions for how to 3D-print face shields, sewing patterns for homemade masks, and scientifically-backed strategies for effectively decontaminating equipment.

 

I spoke to Maes on Friday, March 27. Since then, the number of people in Belgium who have tested positive for COVID-19 has shot up even higher. As of today, Wednesday, April 1, Belgium has approximately 14,000 confirmed COVID cases and more than 800 deaths, according to the US Embassy in Brussels. The actual number of infected people is likely much higher, because, as in the United States, testing for COVID-19 has been limited in Belgium due to a lack of test kits. One thing to note: EMS terminology is different everywhere, so you may hear some terms that are different than what you’d used to.

 

This is the third COVID-19 podcast we have released since mid-March. NFPA Journal Podcast will have two additional episodes coming in April, both exploring aspects of the Coronavirus pandemic and its impact on responders in communities. The next episode, which will publish Tuesday, April 7, will look at crisis standards of care in the United States. You will hear from emergency response and EMS experts from around the country and at NFPA discuss important changes being considered and implemented now to brace for the huge expanse in call volume related to COVID-19. The Tuesday, April 21, NFPA Journal Podcast episode will explore how communities and businesses have used emergency planning and risk reduction to try to blunt the impacts of the outbreak. 

 

Listen to these and others, and subscribe to NFPA Journal Podcast on Apple, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. 

70e

Many people miss the point of providing a workplace that is free of electrical hazards for an employee. The main point of the federal law as well as NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace is to not put an employee’s life at risk when it is not absolutely necessary to do so. Electrocution was a known electrical hazard prior to 1900. In 1970, it was federally mandated that employers protect employees from known workplace hazards. Still, over 600 employees were electrocuted in the workplace annually before the first edition of NFPA 70E was issued in 1979. Employers thought they knew how to protect them. In 2018, 160 employees were electrocuted in the workplace according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Forty years after the first NFPA 70E, these employers also thought they knew how to protect an employee from electrical hazards.

 

I have written many articles, blogs, and handbooks which attempt to drive the point home that unless justified, an employee should not be put at risk of becoming a fatality. However, it seems just as many believe it should not be a requirement to shut equipment off before working on or near the electrical hazards present in that equipment. Rather than providing this highest level of protection, the decision to perform unjustified energized work typically (whether consciously considered or not) weighs the cost of an employee injury against the cost of shutting off equipment. Protect the worker by a less effect means, just hope that everything will be fine. Read my blog regarding three employers who felt they had it covered. It may also be beneficial to read my blog about what employers think they know.

 

All of the fatalities involving electricity that I am aware of did not involve one task that was either infeasible or created a greater hazard if power had been removed. Fluorescent light ballasts were replaced. Motor starters repaired. Circuits were extended. Electrical enclosures were vacuumed out. Blown fuses were replaced. Conductors were stripped. Maintenance was performed on circuit-breakers. Residential HVAC units were repaired. Damaged receptacles were replaced. BLS data since 2011 shows 21% of electrical contact fatalities occur at or below 220 volts. Also, with each of these fatalities at least a portion of the electrical system was down for a period of time that was not decided by the employer.

 

These tasks had no justification to be conducted while energized. Not that it should be a criterion, but almost all did not have a significant financial impact to the employer until the fatality occurred. None of the tasks involved more than a localized shut-down. Many of the tasks involved equipment or circuits that were already without electrical power. Other than some emergency lights, no other electrical equipment was on an electrical power back-up system because sudden loss of power to the equipment was not a concern. Almost all the tasks could be conducted in a matter of minutes not hours. Why were these employees fatally injured while at work when their employer knew that they would be exposed to known hazards? A major problem with unjustified energized electrical work is that it typically means that only select requirements (if any) are implemented for protecting an employee from injury or death. The employer decided which electrical safety requirements to follow and which ones to ignore. Incorrectly chosen and ignored requirements can cause fatalities.

 

In the over 30 years of being involved with electrical safety, I have no knowledge of any employee being fatally injured by electricity when electrical hazards were not present. There are two ways to reach that state. The first is not to have electrical hazards present in the electrical system from the start. The second way is to establish an electrically safe work condition (ESWC). Properly protecting an employee from electrical hazards while establishing an ESWC greatly minimizes their risk and exposure to the hazards. Establishing an ESWC also qualifies as justification for performing that portion of energized electrical work. Using a lesser level of protection as reasoning for permitting unjustified energized electrical work is willfully exposing the employee to undue electrical hazards. In those same 30 years of electrical safety, I am aware of many fatalities, injuries and damaged equipment under that condition.

 

For more information on 70E, read my entire 70E blog series on Xchange. Additional information to help guide you through the understanding of safe work practices can be found in our latest "Safe Electrical Work Practices Online Training" series.

 

Want to keep track of what is happening with the National Electrical Code (NEC)? Subscribe to the NEC Connect newsletterto stay informed of new content. The newsletter also includes NFPA 70E information such as my blogs.

Next time: Employees at greater risk of an electrical injury.

 

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

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