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2020

A skilled worker who overlooks safety is not a skilled worker.        

                                                                   

In Farmington, Maine, last September, employees at the offices of a local non-profit thought they smelled gas. Having discovered that the recently filled 500-gallon propane tank was empty, the building’s facility manager evacuated the building and called the fire department. Less than 15 minutes later, there was a massive explosion.

 

Investigations found two serious lapses at the center of the accidents. Days earlier, workers driving metal posts into the ground next to the building failed in their due diligence to make sure they would avoid underground fuel lines. Three days after that work on the building’s parking lot, a technician came to fill the office’s empty propane tank and failed to do a code-required “leak test” to verify the propane had been used, not lost through a hole in the tank or piping.

 

Had the workers called the state’s Dig Safe program, as required under the law, they could have avoided puncturing the propane tank’s fuel line. Had the technician performed the leak test, as required by code after a tank has sat empty, the leak could have been discovered before the explosion blasted through the office building, claiming the life of the fire captain on the scene and seriously injuring seven others.

 

A lack of skill may masquerade as simple oversights or carelessness on the job. However, the most fundamental skills for any job is fully appreciating the safety implications of ignoring policies and procedures intended to prevent catastrophes. 

Skilled workers know the code and follow the rules. Laws that require licensures, as the state of Maine requires for propane technicians, and laws that require excavators to call the state Dig Safe program before digging are critical. Just as critical is the need and a shared responsibility to impart through training, and re-training, and continued professional development, the deadly consequences of failing to appreciate that safety is the core skill needed for the job.

 

Learn more about this and similar stories in our 2019 Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem: Year in Review report, now available to download for free on NFPA's Ecosystem webpage. Interested in knowing more about the Ecosystem framework and how you can get involved? Check out our free resources including:

  • A link to the “Ecosystem Watch” page in NFPA Journal
  • An animated video, “About the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem”
  • A Fire & Life Safety PowerPoint deck for presentations
  • A Fire & Life Safety fact sheet

 

Find all of these resources and more by visiting the Ecosystem webpage at www.nfpa.org/ecosystem.

 

NFPA has a new international development director advancing government responsibility, fire and life safety infrastructure, code compliance, emergency response strategies, public education, and trade skills development in approximately 20 Latin American countries. Beginning July 1, Jaime Gutiérrez will assess local safety concerns, cultivate strong alliances, implement new strategies with existing and new stakeholders, introduce safety programs in Spanish, and represent NFPA in regulatory, legislative and technical circles.

 

The Mexico City resident will build on the solid foundation built by well-known NFPA representative Antonio Macias who retired after 20 years of representing NFPA in the region.

 

NFPA has had a strong presence in Latin America for more than 40 years and continues to extend its reach as a global fire and life safety leader. Given his more than two decades of working in national planning, real estate administration, and resource management for private businesses and the government, Gutiérrez is well-suited to further NFPA’s mission of eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards in Latin American countries.

 

Gutiérrez has organized global goodwill programs; supervised fire safety policies; managed hundreds of government properties in different countries; lead construction strategy, including security and protection programs, for nearly 30 hospitals and health clinics (as well as the administration of a hospital network of more than 1347 properties); interacted with a wide range of constituents for the Attorney General’s office; advised the CEO of Bancomext on the internationalization of Mexican companies; and oversaw construction cost management for the World Trade Center Mexico City Exhibition Center, as well as the remodeling of the Marriott Airport and Marriott Polanco hotels. His last position in government was as Prospera's National Coordinator, one of the most successful and globally recognized programs in the fight against poverty, where he managed and implemented civil protection measures for beneficiaries.


“Jaime Gutiérrez has the skill set, qualifications and demeanor to collaborate with a broad range of professionals and navigate the ever-changing political, social and business conditions of Latin America,” said Jim Pauley, NFPA president and CEO. “NFPA has worked hard to solidify safety in Latin America through proactive, collaborative safety-focused outreach, initiatives and training. Jaime will build on that history and drive home the point that safety is a system that we all play a role in - as outlined by the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem.”

 

The NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem is a framework that identifies the components that must work together to minimize risk. There are eight interdependent components; when they work together, the Ecosystem protects everyone. If any component is missing or broken, the Ecosystem can collapse, often resulting in tragedy. Almost always we can trace the cause of injurious life safety incidents and tragedies back to the breakdown of one or more components of the Ecosystem.

 

Gutiérrez holds a bachelor’s degree in management from Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico (ITAM), a bachelor’s degree in political science from Political and Social Sciences of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and a master’s degree in public management from Guanajuato University.

 

This blog is also available in Spanish.

NFPA announced its new Officers and the election of Dr. Denis Onieal to its Board of Directors.

 

Amy Acton, a burn survivor and former burn nurse and nurse manager, has been named Chair of the NFPA Board. For only the second time in the nearly 125-year history of NFPA, the Board will be led by a female. Acton serves as the Executive Director of Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, working to refine Phoenix Society’s mission and business outreach strategy to ensure that more people are aware of burn causes, injuries, rehabilitation, and recovery. She is joined by John Bonney, the first Board member from outside North America serving serving in an officer role on the NFPA Board of Directors.Bonney, owner of Alendi Consulting Ltd. and Alchemy Management Solutions, Ltd. which help organizations identify, quantify, and map risk and then employ strategies to reduce that risk, is the new Board secretary. He is a former national president of the Chief Fire Officer’s Association in the United Kingdom and was chief fire officer in Hampshire County, England for ten years. Rounding out the rest of the NFPA Board leadership team are Russell Leavitt as 1st vice chair, R. David Paulison as 2nd vice chair, Donny Cook as assistant secretary, Roger Montembeault for a second term as treasurer, Kwame Cooper as assistant treasurer, and Keith Williams as immediate past chair.

 

Onieal, the newest member of the NFPA Board, recently retired from his role as deputy fire administrator for the United States Fire Administration (USFA), where he oversaw more than 400 career and contract employees, as well as a 110-acre campus with 26 historic buildings. Onieal was responsible for the United States National Fire Academy (NFA) which trains 100,000+ mid- to senior-level firefighters and officers in all aspects of executive leadership. He was also a senior member of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) governing council.

 

During his tenure, Onieal championed fire-related research on causes of fire as well as on lithium batteries, protective clothing for firefighters, emergency vehicle conspicuity, firefighting strategy and tactics. He was also responsible for the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) – the largest incident-based, all-hazards database in the world that involves 24,000+ fire departments across the nation and captures 27 million incidents per year. A gifted collaborator, Onieal worked with senior federal officials within The Department Homeland Security (DHS), Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, Defense, Treasury Defense and Interior – as well as with executives at the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Centers for Disease Control.

 

Prior to USFA, Onieal served as the Superintendent of NFA for nearly 20 years overseeing on-campus resident programming, off-campus training and on-line education that attracted more women and people of color than ever before as both students and faculty. Onieal helped improve the rigor of academic programs; today both bachelor’s and master’s degree programs are regarded as national models for professional development in fire and emergency services. During vacancies between presidential appointments and periods of crisis, he also advised the FEMA Administrator and the Secretary of DHS on fire-related/disaster issues.

 

Prior to his federal roles, Onieal was a member of the Jersey City Fire Department in New Jersey for almost 25 years – ultimately rising to the level of chief of the department.

 

Onieal has been the recipient of the International Association of Fire Chiefs President's Award for Outstanding Leadership, the Congressional Fire Services Institute Mason Lankford Fire Service Leadership Award, the New Jersey Professional Firefighters Association Humanitarian Award, Firehouse Magazine Lifetime Achievement Award, and was recognized as a New York University Visiting Scholar.

 

He joins NFPA Board of Director members Brion Callori, Martha Connors, Teresa Deloach Reed, Reginal Freeman, William Fries, Hatem Kheir, Patrick Morrison, Lou Paulson, Michael Wallace, and Stacy Welch who are continuing terms.

The second episode of The NFPA Podcast is now out. The one-hour episode features interviews with NFPA's Brian O'Connor, Matt Paiss of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and hazardous materials expert Scott Stookey, who all discuss the science, hazards, and fire prevention and response pertaining to lithium ion batteries and fires involving those devices.

 

"We're living in an increasingly battery-operated world, from scooters scattered along city blocks to sports cars and buses to energy storage systems capable of powering entire buildings," I say to kick off the episode, before rattling off a telling statistic: the worldwide battery market is expected to grow by 12 percent over the next five years. With that growth has come safety concerns, though, and the episode highlights some of those concerns. It also sheds light on some of the ways batteries and energy storage systems are becoming safer—namely, through the use of resources such as NFPA 855, Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems.

 

Listen to episode 2 as well as the first episode, which came out on June 9, at nfpa.org/podcasts.

With the arrival of summer and the July 4th holiday weekend just around the corner, people across the country are eager to take advantage of the easing of stay-at-home orders. As many states begin allowing for more outside activities, it’s important to recognize potential electrical hazards that exist in swimming pools and hot tub, onboard boats, and in waters surrounding boats, marinas, and launch ramps.

 

While most people are unaware of electrical dangers posed in water environments such as electric shock drowning (ESD), each year people are injured or killed from these hazards. Electric shock drowning happens when marina or onboard electrical systems leak electric current into the water. The current then passes through the body and causes paralysis. When this happens, a person can no longer swim and ultimately drowns. 

 

In the current pandemic situation, with limited staff at marinas and people obeying social distancing protocols, the onus is on individuals to keep themselves, their loved ones, and the people who might have to rescue them out of harm’s way.

 

Check out NFPA's video below on water safety that informs the public of the dangers of electricity surrounding marinas, docks, and boatyards. 

 

 

 Here are some tips for pool and boat owners, as well as swimmers:

 

Tips for swimmers

  • Never swim near a marina, dock or boatyard.
  • While in a pool, hot tub or spa, look out for underwater lights that are not working properly, flicker, or work intermittently.
  • If you feel a tingling sensation while in a pool, immediately stop swimming in your current direction. Try and swim in a direction where you had not felt the tingling. Exit the water as quickly as possible; avoid using metal ladders or rails. Touching metal may increase the risk of shock.

 

            Tips for pool owners

  • Have a qualified electrician periodically inspect and — where necessary — replace or upgrade the electrical devices or equipment that keep your pool or hot tub electrically safe. Have the electrician show you how to turn off all power in case of an emergency.
  • Make sure any overhead lines maintain the proper distance over a pool and other structures, such as a diving board. If you have any doubts, contact a qualified electrician or your local utility company to make sure power lines are a safe distance away.

 

Tips for boat owners

  • When heading out for a day on the water, follow all existing navigation and safety rules. Practice good seamanship and avoid becoming a boater in distress. With the current pandemic, there may be fewer staff at the marina and fewer rescue personnel available to come to your aid. 
  • Contact your local marina or boatyard in advance to learn about any local requirements in response to the pandemic that must be followed - especially if you are a transient customer.
  • Avoid entering the water when launching or loading a boat. These areas can contain stray electrical currents in the water, possibly leading to electric shock drowning or injury from shock, including death.
  • Each year, and after any major storm that affects the boat, have the boat’s electrical system inspected by a qualified marine electrician to be sure it meets the required codes of your area, including the American Boat & Yacht Council. Make the necessary repairs if recommended.
  • Check with the marina owner who can also tell you if the marina’s electrical system has recently been inspected to meet the required codes of your area, including the National Electrical Code (NEC).
  • Have ground fault circuit protection (GFCI and GFPE) installed on circuits supplying the boat; use only portable GFCIs or shore power cords (including “Y” adapters) that bear the proper listing mark for marine applications when using electricity near water. Test GFCIs monthly.


For industry professionals, the 2020 edition of the NEC has been revised to improve marina and boatyard safety and help reduce the risk of ESD. Some specific revisions to Article 555 include the addition of floating building requirements, modified signage requirement, and the reduction of power distribution system maximum voltage.

 

NFPA has additional codes and standards that apply to boatyards, marinas and floating buildings as well as swimming pools, hot tubs, and fountains, and their related electrical safety issues. Find these resources and more by visiting NFPA’s electric shock drowning webpage.

 

NFPA has resources for swimmers, boat and pool owners, including tip sheets, checklists, and more that can be downloaded and shared. Please visit www.nfpa.org/watersafety.

It is that time of year once again, summer! That means for many of us we will find any excuse to make our way to the waterfront. Whether we own a boat, have a friend that owns a boat, or like me, we stand on the other side of the fence and dream of having a boat, there is no question that getting out on the water has a certain appeal to many of us.

 

But with all the countless hours of joy that being on the water can bring, there is an inherent danger that many of us might not be aware of. Or if we are aware, we might not fully understand or appreciate the amount of work that has gone into keeping us all safe from electrical hazards that may be lurking in the water around our boats. Especially when it comes to marina installations. Electric shock drowning, or ESD, has been an unfortunate headline that has reoccurred time and time again in recent summer history. While this is not only something that happens around marinas and docks, these types of installations tend to get the most attention when it comes to ESD because of the amount of electrical infrastructure that gets installed near the water. 

 

The reason the National Electrical Code (NEC) even exists is to protect people and property from the hazards that electricity presents when we use it to power our world. However, the system needs to work, too. This is a kind of push and pull relationship that exists when we start using electricity near bodies of water. Obviously, the safest situation a marina could have is to just not have electricity near the water. However, today’s boats and the way we use them continues to evolve, and a marina with no power might mean a marina with no boats either. So, Code Making Panel 7 of the NEC has the duty of listening to all sides of this conversation to figure out how best to serve the power needs of marina customers while also protecting these same customers and marina staff from what this demand for power could mean if they end up in the water. One member of CMP 7, Cliff Norton, took the time to sit down with NFPA and discuss the work that went into revising the NEC to best serve the marina industry while keeping people safe.Check out his short interview below:

 


 

As long as people continue to flock to the water for recreation and work, we will continue to need the efforts of people like Cliff and the rest of CMP 7 to keep working to find that critical balance of functionality and safety. After all, safety is the number one reason the NEC exists and it must continue to be the first thing we think about when installing electrical systems. No amount of convenience or creature comfort is worth bypassing safety towards ourselves or others. Remember, marinas existed long before we harnessed the power of the electron, they can exist without it.  

 

Learn more about the new requirements for marinas in the 2020 NEC by visiting NFPA's marina webpage. Additional information and resources about marina safety and electric shock drowning, including tip sheets, videos, and more can be found on the "electrical safety around water" webpage.

Each year in June, NFPA honors various professionals working in different ways to reduce loss in our world. These individuals are raising awareness of persistent challenges, addressing hazards in new, innovative ways and helping to raise the bar on safety in proactive, progressive ways.

 

Paul D. Martin, retired Deputy State Fire Administrator with the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Service’s Office of Fire Prevention and Control, is the winner of the 2019 James M. Shannon Advocacy Medal. The award was established in honor of Jim Shannon who served as NFPA president for 12 years; he proactively championed key changes that reduced fire hazards and was a passionate proponent of home fire sprinklers. Paul Martin started his fire service career more than 40 years ago, and has been an advocate for campus fire safety, both on and off campus. He served as a director of the non-profit Center for Campus Fire Safety for more than 12 years, (six years as president) and led efforts to launch a Campus Fire Safety Awareness Day at dozens of campuses throughout New York. Martin was also instrumental in New York becoming the first state to pass Fire Safe Cigarette requirements, essentially paving the way for other states to do so too. Additionally, Martin served as co-chair of Prevention, Advocacy, Resource and Data Exchange (PARADE), a program the United States Fire Administration designed to exchange fire-related prevention/ protection information and resources between federal, state, and local levels of government.

 

The Standards Medal is the most distinguished award given by the NFPA Standards Council. It recognized and honors outstanding contributions to fire safety. Peter J. Willse is the 2020 recipient of the Standards Medal. Willse began his professional career as a field engineer for Industrial Risk Insurers (IRI) and moved on to U.S. and international roles for several years before IRI became GE Global Asset Protection Services (GAPS) and ultimately XL Insurance, where he became the director of research. Willse oversees relationships between GAPS, NFPA, the Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF), the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE), and Underwriters Laboratories. He is responsible for the publication of GAP Guidelines manuals and teaches in areas of building construction, combustion controls, natural hazards, and special hazards. Willse has also authored articles on Exterior Insulation and Finishing Systems (EIFS) and fire walls and has revised chapters for multiple editions of NFPA's Fire Protection Handbook. A firefighter/ EMT in Connecticut, Willse serves as an advisor for fire cadets and acts as deputy fire marshal. A former NFPA Board of Directors and Standards Council member, Willse sits on several other NFPA committees today, as well as on the FPRF Board of Trustees and Worcester Polytechnic lnstitute (WPI) Fire Protection Engineering Advisory Board.

 

The Research Foundation Medal recognizes one Fire Protection Research Foundation (Foundation) project from the previous year that best exemplifies the Foundation’s fire safety mission, commitment to overcoming technical challenges and collaborative approach. An awards committee comprised of representatives from the Research Foundation Board, Research Advisory Committee, and NFPA technical staff reviewed 24 project summaries, along with staff assessments. They selected Digitized Fuel Load Survey Methodology Using Machine Vision which addresses the need to provide reliable fuel load data to quantify design fires for buildings as the winner. The availability of fuel load data has been hindered by the lack of an efficient building surveying method, but this project developed and applied a new digitized methodology for fuel load surveys using machine vision that can facilitate the collection, storage, and analysis of fuel load data for a variety of building occupancies. Negar Elhami-Khorasani, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering at the University at Buffalo (NY), Thomas Gernay, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Systems Engineering at Johns Hopkins University (MD), and Juan Gustavo Salado Castillo, Esther Saula, Timothy Josephs, and Gauhar Nurlybekova, students in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering at the University of Buffalo (NY) are the recipients of this award.

Maria Bostian, public education and information officer for Kannapolis (N.C.) Fire Department, has received the 2019 Fire and Life Safety Educator of the Year Award, as well as a $1000 honorarium for her and $1000 to support public education activities in her community. Annually, NFPA confers this award on a dedicated educator who works for a fire department of fire marshal’s office in the U.S. or Canada and uses NFPA materials in consistent and creative educational ways. She teams up each year with her community’s local pet supply store to stage a Pet Fire Safety Day; and elevates safety awareness by using NFPA’s Learn Not to Burn® preschool program and NFPA’s Remembering When™ program for older adults. In 2019, Bostian visited a preschool classroom with the Fire Prevention Week theme of “Not every hero wears a cape. Plan and practice your escape.” She emphasized the importance of knowing two ways out of every room in the event of a fire and reinforced this key messaging with customized handouts for the children. This decision proved to be lifesaving for one of the preschoolers; who after the lesson experienced a house fire and got her siblings and herself to safety. Bostian also promotes fire safety through two children’s picture books she authored – underscoring vital safety information found within NFPA’s Educational Messaging Advisory Council’s Desk Reference.

 

The 2020 Harry C. Bigglestone Award is given annually to a paper appearing in Fire Technology that best represents excellence in the communication of fire protection concepts. The award honors the memory of Harry C. Bigglestone, who served as a trustee of the Fire Protection Research Foundation and was a fellow and past president of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers; it comes with a $5,000 cash prize from NFPA. “Should We Leave Now? Behavioral Factors in Evacuation Under Wildfire Threat” by Jim McLennan, adjunct professor, school of psychology and public health, La Trobe University; Barbara Ryan, senior lecturer, school of arts and communication, University of Southern Queensland; Chris Bearman, associate professor of cognitive psychology; Queensland University (Adelaide campus); and Keith Toh, deputy dean of learning and teaching, RMIT University is this year’s winner.

 

 Congratulations to this year's impressive winners!

electrical safety

 

What are the primary NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace requirements for an employee? Section 105.3(B) lists one. An employee must comply with the safety-related work practices and procedures provided by the employer. Public Law 91-596, “Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970” SEC. 5.(b) requires that each employee comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to the Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct. Most employees do not know the law but expect that their employer ensures that they are following it. One way for them to comply with respect to electrical hazards is to follow NFPA 70E. However, the employee’s compliance with the law is typically dependent on the quality of the employer’s electrical safety program.

 

An employee has a great responsibility after being trained to use and follow the safety-related work practices and procedures for the tasks assigned. Once out in the workplace conducting daily assigned tasks, employees make decisions to apply that training and the steps detailed in the provided procedures. Following documented procedures is the easiest part of the employee’s responsibility. However, the employee’s safety is not solely addressed by following procedures. Safety training, safe work practices, and safety policies also include things often not part of the detailed work procedure for the assigned task.

 

The employee’s training should teach them to recognize that new technology, new types of equipment, or changes in procedures affect their safety. They must recognize that their skills may not be sharp if they have not performed the task regularly. They must recognize that safety-related work practices not normally used during regular job duties may necessitate additional training. Although the employer must document employee training, the employee should question their training if job duties change.

 

Employees must be instilled with an awareness of potential electrical hazards and the self-discipline to control their own safety when working around electrical hazards. Awareness is entirely dependent on the employee. An employee must always be alert where electrical hazards might exist. An employee must recognize that they are impaired due to illness, fatigue, or other reason. Even a supervisor may request that the employee perform a task not originally assigned and the employee must recognize that that changes during the work that might affect their safety. The employee must be alert that reaching blindly into areas affects their safety.

 

The employee’s training must also address illumination. The employee must realize that they should not enter a space unless the lighting enables them to perform the work safely. They must also use their training to recognize that a task should not be performed if insufficient lighting or an obstruction prevents them from seeing the location where the task is be performed.

 

The employee is responsible for applying the training that conductive articles of jewelry and clothing should not be worn within the restricted approach boundary or where they present an electrical contact hazard. Only the employee can handle conductive materials, tools, and equipment in a manner that prevents unintentional contact with energized electrical conductors or circuit parts. The employee must apply the training to secure doors and hinged panels to prevent their swinging into them. The employee’s training directs them to keep the working space clear to permit safe operation and maintenance of electrical equipment. Qualified and unqualified employees must use their training to anticipate equipment failure and that they should be protected from those hazards by suitable barricades and other alerting techniques.

 

The training provided to an employee must address these issues and more. Following detailed procedures is relatively easy. Following electrical safety principles and practices that were provided during training is a little more difficult for employees. The safe work practice that conductive jewelry not be worn should be discussed during training but it is typically not addressed in a detailed procedure. However, the employee is responsible for applying that safe work practice daily. Safety training must be provided by the employer. It is the employee’s consistent use of this training that will dictate if they will be returning home uninjured at the end of the day. Remember, it is the law.

 

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

 

Next time: Is the contractor printing labels or are they doing risk assessments.

 

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.

With the smell of hydrocarbons still in the air, reassurances that the citizens of Rouen, France could “live and work absolutely normally” just days after over 9,000 pounds of potentially hazardous chemicals burned in a massive fire, fell flat. Françoise Perchepied, a retired housekeeper, captured the community’s anger at the Lubrizol plant incident with “I might move somewhere else,” adding, “Everything is polluted. We just don’t want to be poisoned.” And, while authorities insisted there was nothing to fear, Normandy farmers were still instructed to dump milk and leave fields unharvested.

 

Months earlier, and an ocean away, residents of Deer Park, near Houston, Texas, were also skeptical of official claims that a four-day blaze at the Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) held no lingering effects. After school cancellations and shelter in place orders, one resident, Kristen Crump, told the Associated Press, “I do not fully trust what they say . . . I do believe what is in the air is very harmful and it can have long-term effects such as cancer and things like that down the line. I don’t think it’s worth risking that for me or my kids to stay here and breathe in this stuff.” Ecosystem

   

At the ITC storage facility, the lack of a remotely controlled shut-off valve, and gas detection equipment, greatly contributed to the severity of the event. Workers were left unaware of the release of flammable naptha near an 80,000-gallon storage tank and then powerless to shut-off the flow from that tank once it began to feed a raging fire. In Rouen, the cause of the fire remains under investigation, but investigators have cited insufficient water supply for firefighting, a lack of fire detection equipment for chemicals stored outdoors, and an inadequate gutter system to contain hazardous runoff.

 

Firefighters worked valiantly to battle blazes in both incidents. However, the components of the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem are intended to work in concert, not individually. If the owners of either of those plants had invested in more heavily in fire safety, resulting minor incidents might have prevented a slew of lawsuits and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for environmental damages. More importantly, residents or Deer Park and Rouen would not need to fear the air they breathe.  

 

EcosystemSpeaking of concerts though, Government Responsibility should be playing a bigger role. In Houston, dotted with thousands of above-ground storage tanks, Texas lawmakers know there are gaps in inspections and standards for these tanks, which is particularly concerning given the area’s vulnerability to major storms and flooding. In Rouen, French lawmakers have also identified ways to improve regulations intended to keep communities with major facilities in their midst safe from these disasters. Policymakers should not wait for the next plume of acrid smoke to act to protect communities.   

 

Learn more about these and similar stories in our 2019 Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem: Year in Review report, now available to download for free on NFPA's Ecosystem webpage. There's additional information about the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem and free resources available for download, too, including:

 

  • The new 2019 Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem: Year in Review report
  • A link to the “Ecosystem Watch” page in NFPA Journal
  • An animated video, “About the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem”
  • A Fire & Life Safety PowerPoint deck for presentations
  • A Fire & Life Safety fact sheet

 

You can find all of these resources and more by visiting the Ecosystem webpage at www.nfpa.org/ecosystem.

 

 

As states continue looking for ways to safely reopen the economy, many jurisdictions are allowing businesses, specifically restaurants, to open, provided that the seating area for customers is located outside, tables are located at least 6 feet apart, and the number of patrons at each table is limited. As I spent some time driving around Massachusetts recently, I could not help but notice the large number of tents erected in the parking lots and around properties of restaurants and businesses allowing them to provide outdoor seating.

 

Some may think that because these tents are temporary structures that precautions for fire protection and life safety isn’t needed, but in truth, it is more important than ever. This July 6th will mark the 76th anniversary of the Hartford Circus fire, which killed 168 people and injured over 500 when a fire broke out in a circus tent and spread rapidly due to the combustible canvas. The occupants within the tent were unable to evacuate in time due to the limited means of egress that was not properly maintained.

 

NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, section 11.11 and NFPA 1, Fire Code, chapter 25 contain requirements that address the use of tents and membrane structures. First, tents are only permitted to be used on a temporary basis and cannot be used as a permanent structure, which means they should not be erected for more than 180 days. The means of egress must comply with the requirements for the occupancy of the tent. Restaurants with an occupant load of 50 or more people are classified as assembly occupancies, while restaurants with less than 50 people are classified as mercantile occupancies. To determine the appropriate occupancy, the number of occupants in the space needs to be calculated to ensure that there is proper exit capacity and a proper number of exits. Additional egress features to consider include exit marking and emergency lighting within the tent. It is also important to make sure that exits from a tent cannot be blocked. For example, if the tent is erected in a parking lot, it is possible for a vehicle to park against an exit and block it. This could be mitigated with the use of barricades and signs as well as educating the staff. This education is important as the maintenance of the means of egress in these tents is important to ensure that nothing (including the tent wires and supports) obstructs the exits, aisles, and other means of egress.

 

The location of the tent must be approved by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) (i.e., the building department, fire department, etc.) to ensure that it does not block fire department access or the means of egress from other buildings, and is not located too close to other buildings or lot lines. Additionally, at least a 10 ft (3 m) distance around the tent must be maintained free of combustible material. There also should be a distance of at least 10 ft (3 m) between stake lines of multiple tents to provide means of egress from the tents.

 

One of the biggest concerns with a tent as demonstrated during the Hartford Circus fire is the flammability of the tent fabric, and because of this, both NFPA 1 and NFPA 101 require that the tent material meets the flame propagation performance requirements of NFPA 701, Standard Methods of Fire Tests for Flame Propagation of Textiles and Films. This is a test performed on the fabric of the tent by a testing organization, who will issue a certificate if the fabric has passed the test.

In order to limit the exposure to fire, several safety measures must be put in place. Smoking within the tent is not permitted and “NO SMOKING” signs need to be posted. Restaurants in some states are only permitted outdoor seating at this time and will be using these seating areas in all weather conditions, perhaps seeking to use heaters if it gets cool.  All heating equipment used within the tent must be listed for that use and all containers for LP gas need to be at least 5 ft (1.5m) from the tent. Fire extinguishers are required within the tent as directed by the AHJ.

 

In sum, there are multiple safety precautions that must be followed if you are going to erect a tent or membrane structure, and this was not an all-inclusive review of all requirements. For any restaurant, business or other group planning to use a tent, make sure to contact the AHJ, review all applicable requirements in NFPA 1 and NFPA 101, and have the plans reviewed by a qualified person.

 

For the most up to date information from the NFPA regarding fire and life safety in the midst of COVID-19, be sure to check out https://www.nfpa.org/coronavirus.

The NFPA Podcast, a new podcast series featuring in-depth interviews on fire, life and electrical safety, launched today with a segment on marijuana. The new podcast utilizes the same journalistic format of the former NFPA Journal Podcast, but delves further into trending topics by featuring perspective from diverse professionals from around the globe.

 

Points of view from different subject matter experts — code officials, facility managers, inspectors, builders, electricians, firefighters, public educators, policymakers and more — are woven together to demonstrate that safety is a system, as illustrated in the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem.

“Everything related to fire and life safety changes fast and frequently, and as such so must the depth of our knowledge,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy at NFPA. “The NFPA Podcast looks at persistent challenges, current issues and potential concerns in a refreshing, relevant way. It provides listeners with well-rounded information so that those charged with protecting people and property can do their jobs effectively and efficiently.”

The inaugural episode of The NFPA Podcast examines the legal cannabis industry through different lenses. The multi-billion-dollar legal marijuana industry, with its own unique industrial processes, has fire marshals, firefighters, regulators, inspectors and others across the United States scrambling to learn how these facilities operate, what the dangers are, and what regulations need to be in place to prevent fires and explosions, such as the one that occurred recently at a cannabis-related business in Los Angeles. Listen to the cannabis conversation here.

New episodes will air on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month and can be accessed on Spotify, Apple Music, and many other popular podcast platforms. In the coming weeks, The NFPA Podcast will look at fire safety considerations for batteries, remote video inspection, residential fire sprinklers, and wildfire preparedness efforts.

 

Listeners with ideas for future podcast episodes are encouraged to email Jesse Roman at jroman@nfpa.org.

For the first time in 124 years, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is hosting its Annual Meeting online.

 

The NFPA 2020 Association Annual Meeting and NFPA Conference & Exposition were scheduled to take place this week in Orlando, Florida, but as has often been the case during COVID times, the live events were cancelled. Instead, registration and voting for the NFPA Board of Directors elections is virtually underway from Monday, June 15 at 9:00 a.m. EDT through 5 p.m. EDT. on Wednesday, June 17 at www.nfpa.org/boardvote.


Outgoing NFPA Board Chair Keith Williams, recently retired as Chairman of UL, opens up the Annual Meeting with some perspective on NFPA during COVID times and the organization’s transition to meet modern day demands. Then, NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley provides an abbreviated overview of organizational business priorities and the ways that NFPA is working to ensure that a broad range of global stakeholders have the information they need, in the formats that make sense, to move safety forward.

 

The Annual Meeting is being held in accordance with section 5.14.1(a) 
of the NFPA Bylaws; consider this to be the notice by the Secretary of the Association of the nomination by the Governance and Nominating Committee of one candidate for election to the NFPA Board of Directors.


Denis Onieal has been nominated by the Committee for election by the membership to a three-year term as an Elected Member of the Board of Directors with his term to take effect in accordance with the Bylaws. Onieal recently retired from his role as Deputy Fire Administrator for the US Fire Administration, a position he held for nearly five years. Prior to that he served as the Superintendent of the National Fire Academy for close to 20 years. Before his government roles, Onieal was a member of the Jersey City Fire Department in New Jersey for almost 25 years. He finished his long tenure there as chief.


Questions concerning the 2020 Board nomination can be directed to Assistant Secretary Sally P. Everett at NFPA headquarters.

Vehicles have changed significantly over the years. Modern vehicles present new hazards due to the incorporation of larger quantities of combustible materials (e.g. fuels, plastics, and synthetic materials) into their designs. As the popularity of alternative fuel vehicles has grown, concerns regarding their unique hazards, burn characteristics, and typical burn duration have been raised. Modern parking garages have optimized space requirements for vehicle parking and storage, and often implement automated retrieval features and car stacking, which also present unique hazards.

 

This recent webinar summarized an on-going Fire Protection Research Foundation study looking at how the burn characteristics of modern vehicles have changed, the influence of dense parking structures and vehicle carriers on the fire spread hazard, a review of the applicability of the existing fire protection requirements to these new hazards, and recommendations for fire protection strategies to address these hazards going forward.

 

Presenters: Haavard Boehmer and Mike Klassen, Combustion Science & Engineering

 

Full webinar is available here.

On April 15 last year, nearly all eyes were on Notre-Dame, Paris’ 850-year-old gothic masterpiece that nearly burned to the ground. Slightly less noticed though, a month before, the St. Louis Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, home to rare documents like original documentation of the Louisiana Purchase and the first draft of the U.S. Bill of Rights, went up in flames, nearly taking that history with it. And in Philadelphia, a piece of the city’s own gothic revival past was lost to demolition after a roofer’s torch sparked a fire that consumed the 115-year-old Greater Bible Way Temple.

 

Just like the Parisian firefighters who raced to save religious relics and artwork from Notre-Dame, St. Louis firefighters moved quickly to pull original manuscripts and antiques from the Karpeles. However, without the aid of fire sprinklers, the 100-year-old church that served as the museum’s home could not be saved from millions of dollars of damage, leaving an uncertain future for a cultural institution much valued by the community.   Ecosystem

 

Despite the irreplaceability of the objects they contain, under investment in safety is not uncommon for museums around the world. In 2019, Rio de Janeiro learned the cause of the 2018 Brazil National Museum Fire that ravished the world’s largest collection of Latin and South American natural and cultural history artifacts. The cause, an air conditioner installation that did not meet manufacturer specifications for grounding and circuitry, could grow to a disaster due to paltry spending on fire protection.

 

But, while there are those institutions that have under-invested in fire protection, others embrace it. For instance, Los Angeles’ Getty Center, which houses hundreds of priceless works of art, has invested heavily in the layered fire protection which guards the facility so well that during the nearby Getty wildfire in 2019, the museum campus served as a rest area for fire crews.

 

Investment in safety, one of the eight components in the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, should be everyone’s priority. From the safety of the public, worker training, and emergency planning to the preservation of our cultural icons, we all must work together to allocate resources to reduce losses from fire and related hazards. If we don’t, uninformed decisions to try to save money can and will lead to disastrous and expensive consequences.

 

Learn more about this and similar stories in our 2019 Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem: Year in Review report, now available to download for free on NFPA's Ecosystem webpage. There's additional information about the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem and free resources available for download, too, including:

  • The new 2019 Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem: Year in Review report
  • A link to the “Ecosystem Watch” page in NFPA Journal
  • An animated video, “About the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem”
  • A Fire & Life Safety PowerPoint deck for presentations
  • A Fire & Life Safety fact sheet

You can find all of these resources and more by visiting the Ecosystem webpage at www.nfpa.org/ecosystem.

 

 

During the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) Virtual Annual Seminar and Business & Leadership Conference in April 2020, Matt Klaus, Director of NFPA’s Technical Services, presented, “NFPA in the Time of COVID-19.” NFPA has received a number of questions from members, committee members, members of NFSA, and others about issues and technical challenges the sprinkler industry has been facing during the coronavirus pandemic.

In his presentation, Matt takes a look at Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance (ITM) during COVID-19, the new Hanging and Bracing Standard, Mixed Plastic Commodities, the Owners Questionnaire, budgeting for ISTx, and more.

See his full presentation below:

Additional resources and tools can also be found at www.firesprinklerinitiative.org.

The 2020 NFPA Technical Meeting, being held digitally this year as a result of COVID-19, begins today. To submit position statements to debate Certified Amending Motions (CAMs), visit nfpa.org/2020techsession.

 

The online 2020 meeting allows NFPA members and the public to debate proposed CAMs for NFPA 1 Fire Code, NFPA 4 Standard for Integrated Fire Protection and Life Safety System Testing, NFPA 30 Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code, NFPA 99 Health Care Facilities Code, NFPA 101 Life Safety Code, NFPA 790 Standard for Competency of Third-Party Field Evaluation Bodies, NFPA 1006 Standard for Technical Rescue Personnel Professional Qualifications, NFPA 1500 Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety, Health, and Wellness Program and NFPA 1700 Guide for Structural Fire Fighting.

 

As at all Technical Meetings, technical committees, correlating committees and authorized makers of CAMs have provided position statements regarding respective CAMs. These are available for review on the 2020 Technical Meeting page. NFPA Members and the public are encouraged to participate in the debate on each CAM by submitting position statements and acknowledging the name and date stamp being supported or countered. There is no cost to participate in the Technical Meeting debate which runs June 8-19, but all participants will be prompted to use an existing NFPA profile or create a profile before submitting position statements. All submitted position statements will be publicly posted as the debate continues.

 

Following the debate period of the session, eligible NFPA members (i.e. those who have been an NFPA member since December 21, 2019) who have registered for the electronic 2020 NFPA Technical Meeting will have the opportunity to vote on all CAMs. To participate in the voting, eligible NFPA Members must register. Voters will receive instructions on downloading the designated Technical Meeting app, as well as information on how to electronically vote. Voting will occur between June 22 and June 26.

 

On or around June 29, NFPA will publicly post all results at nfpa.org/2020techsession. Any successful CAMs will be forwarded to the responsible committee(s) for ballot (if applicable) and in accordance with the Regulations Governing the Development of NFPA Standards.

With the start of hurricane season in June, building owners and managers of industrial and commercial facilities are facing the daunting process of disaster recovery. When electrical systems are damaged in a natural or man-made disaster, electricians need to make a critical decision about whether the electrical equipment that was damaged can be salvaged or not. NFPA has created a checklist for electricians to help highlight and simplify key aspects of this decision-making process.

 

The checklist builds off of recommendations in Chapter 32 of NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance* (2019 edition), and includes:70B checklist

 

  • A list of disaster scenarios, which can inflict damage of varying degrees to facilities
  • Steps for assessing equipment
  • A priority assessment table
  • Steps to help identify factors for replacement or repair

 

Still, even with the help of the checklist, the choice between repair and replace will not always be an easy one. Following these simple suggestions can be the difference, however, between an impossible task and an informed decision.

 

Before your community experiences a disaster, download this free “Natural Disaster Electrical Equipment Checklist” and review the contents. Having this information at your fingertips will be extremely valuable should your community call on you for your electrical experience and assistance in the aftermath of a storm or other weather-related event.  

 

Additional disaster-related resources for specialists tasked with protecting people and property from fire, electrical, and other emergencies, can be found on NFPA's disaster webpage, including bulletins, related code information, articles, and more.

 

*The complete current edition of NFPA 70B and related resources are available for free access or to purchase at www.nfpa.org/70B.

 

 

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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