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2020

 

Structural and wildland firefighting turnout suits are primarily developed for the male firefighter, despite the growing number of women firefighters in the fire protection community. Studies have shown that women firefighters wear the same turnout suits as their male counterparts and are at a higher risk of injury and fatality due to ill-fitting personal protective equipment (PPE). Research has also found that female firefighters are wearing turnout suits that are not sized for the female human form and therefore possess an unsatisfactory fit. Sizing data from other organizations have demonstrated the need for uniforms to be designed specifically for women and that simply sizing down the garment is not an appropriate solution.

To further address this issue, a research project led by Florida State University and North Carolina State University in collaboration with the Fire Protection Research Foundation, NFPA’s research affiliate, was initiated to research and investigate the root causes of design, comfort, and mobility issues of firefighter personal protective clothing for the female human form. For more information, a project summary is available here. This research, funded by DHS/FEMA Assistance to Firefighter Grant (AFG) program, will provide the practical and marketing bases for the initial steps of developing a female turnout suit that meets NFPA standards. To meet the project objectives, it is imperative for the voice of the female first responders in the United States to be heard.

Thus, we would like to inform you of an opportunity to participate in a nationwide survey, led by Dr. Meredith McQuerry at Florida State University, to provide feedback on the current design and functionality of female firefighter personal protective clothing. For further information, and the link to the survey, please see the invitation below.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Dear Participant,

You are being invited to take part in a research study to collect feedback from female firefighters regarding the design, fit, and mobility of their personal protective clothing. You are being invited to take part in this research study because you are an active-duty female firefighter in the United States. If you volunteer to take part in this study, you will be one of hundreds to do so nationally.

This study is being conducted by Dr. Meredith McQuerry (Principal Investigator, PI) of the Retail Entrepreneurship department in the Jim Moran College of Entrepreneurship at Florida State University. The purpose of this study is to obtain data on the end user’s experience and impact from wearing their current turnout suit and/or wildland personal protective clothing, related to improper fit.Responses will be anonymously coded and synthesized to determine the overarching impacts and issues related to the current design and functionality of female firefighter personal protective clothing.

If you agree to be in this study, we ask that you complete an online survey gathering information on demographics and your personal protective clothing’s fit, mobility, and design. It is estimated that the survey will take approximately 10-15 minutes to complete.

If you are not currently an active-duty female firefighter in the United States, we ask that you do not complete this survey.

I thank you in advance for completing the survey.

https://fsu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_9AXBnIbvRPPxsZD

Meredith McQuerry, PhD
Assistant Professor
Retail Entrepreneurship
Florida State University
236 Shaw Building
Tallahasse, FL 32306
(850) 644-6838
mmcquerry@fsu.edu

Two reports from the Surprise, Arizona Energy Storage System (ESS) explosion that occurred in April, 2019 were published this week.  One report, titled, “Four Firefighters Injured In Lithium-Ion Battery Energy Storage System Explosion – Arizona” is written by the UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute and is part of a Study of Firefighter Line of Duty Injuries and Near ESSMisses. The other report, “McMicken Battery Energy Storage System Technical Analysis and Recommendations” by DNVGL, on behalf of Arizona Public Service, is an investigation report into the incident. The DNVGL report looks at how we can prevent this incident from happening again and the UL report analyzes first responder considerations with regards to the incident. Both documents are examples of how we can learn from past incidents to improve our codes and standards, increase the safety of our first responders, and build a safer environment.

 

The Incident

On April 19th, 2019 an explosion occurred at the McMicken Battery ESS in Surprise, Arizona injuring four firefighters. The battery ESS was placed into service in 2017, which is prior to the publication of NFPA 855. The system was comprised of 10,584 Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt (NMC) battery cells organized in modules and racks within an ESS specific walk-in enclosure. The system included a total flooding clean agent fire suppression system, a very early smoke detection apparatus, and an HVAC system. The entire system could supply 2MW over one hour (2MWh) and was used to supplement solar panels at the time of the incident.

 

While there was some information about the incident already known, these reports provide a great level of detail, insight and recommended paths forward.

 

Technical Analysis Report

The DNVGL report documents a thorough investigation that was conducted on the incident. It gives a lot of relevant background on the technology, the layout, and associated hazards. After building a foundation of knowledge about how batteries fail, the report analyses the factors that contributed to the failure and how we can prevent this from happening in the future. Some of the major conclusions reached in the report are as follows:  

 

  • The cause of the incident was most likely an internal failure in a single battery cell which was caused by a defect in the cell.
  • The clean agent fire suppression system that was installed was not designed to prevent or stop thermal runaway.
  • The absence of barriers allowed thermal runaway to propagate from cell to cell.
  • Flammable off-gases concentrated to create a flammable atmosphere and did not have a means to ventilate.
  • The emergency response plan did not address extinguishing, ventilation, or entry procedures.

 

Some of these items are addressed by NFPA 855, Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems while others are included in the section of the report, “ Shortcomings that should be addressed in NFPA 855.” NFPA codes and standards are living documents that are constantly looking for ways to improve and keep up with new technology. Recommended improvements are always welcome in the form of Public Inputs or Public Comments

 

First Responder Report

This UL report gives an overview of the fire department and the incident. When addressing the responding fire departments, the document talks about their training, experience, equipment, and personnel. Regarding the Arizona incident, the report covers the building construction, the energy storage system, and responder PPE, and it walks through the timeline as well as provides a detailed incident narrative. This report does a great job addressing some of the contributing factors that led to the incident and firefighter injuries. Some of those factors include:

 

  • HAZMAT training curricula does not cover basic ESS hazards.
  • There was no way to monitor the conditions of the ESS container from a safe location.
  • The emergency response plan didn’t address mitigating ESS hazards and the plan was not provided to the responding personnel before the incident.
  • Deflagration venting and explosion prevention systems were not provided in the ESS unit.

 

The issue of training first responders on the basics of ESS hazards can be addressed through an updated NFPA online training course, Energy Storage and Solar Systems Safety Online Training for Fire Service Personnel.

 

It is encouraging to see that such a collaborative approach was taken in response to this incident to determine what happened and what could be done to prevent this type of equipment failure in the future. In the field of ESS, one of the major needs of the industry is better information like this or other publicly available test data to help guide our codes and standards. A number of related reports, articles, relevant standards, and other content can all be found on NFPA’s ESS webpage www.nfpa.org/ESS.

 

Let us know what your thoughts are on these reports or if you’ve had any recent experience with ESS installations by commenting below.


A question that we receive from time to time involves the location of fire alarm control units (FACU). This question typically comes in as someone asking if NFPA 72, Fire Alarm and Signaling Code specifies the location of where these need to be located.

 

The short answer is that no, NFPA 72 does not specify where a fire alarm control unit needs to be installed. The code simply states that the system must be installed in accordance with the plans, specifications, and standards approved by the authority having jurisdiction.

 

And there you have it. If I was writing this on a Friday afternoon, I could call this a complete blog and move on. But since I’m writing this earlier in the week (to post on Friday morning) and have a had a fair amount of coffee, let’s check out some of the other considerations here. 

 

One of the places where a specific location could be required is through a building code or life safety code. The best example of this would be in high-rise buildings, where the codes will require the fire alarm control unit to be located in the emergency control center. For almost all other buildings however, NFPA 1, Fire Code, NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, and NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code will say that the unit must be installed at a convenient location acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction. “Convenient” is always a fun word to agree upon.

 

As we can see between NFPA 72 as well as the building, fire, and life safety codes much of the final determination is left to the AHJ. Many jurisdictions adopt their own specific language and incorporate it into their building codes upon adoption or include supplementary information through resources or other means often available on their websites. Many jurisdictions will specify that the FACU must be located near the main entrance or it will require approval if located elsewhere. In many cases, where the FACU is not located near the main entrance, AHJs will require annunciator panels near the main entrance and/or other entry points based on expected fire department response points so that when responding to an alarm they can quickly assess what the fire alarm system is indicating including the zone or specific location the alarm is originating from.

 

Another thing to consider for the location of the FACU is that if it is not located in a continuously occupied area then early warning fire detection needs to be provided at the FACU. This needs to be done by means of an automatic smoke detector or an automatic heat detector where ambient conditions prohibit the installation of an automatic smoke detector. A new requirement for the 2019 edition of NFPA 72 also specifies the maximum and minimum mounting heights for control equipment as 6 ft (1.8m) and 15 in. (375 mm), respectively.

 

So, as you can see there is no definitive answer as to where a fire alarm control unit needs to be installed. For the most part, NFPA 72 and the other applicable codes leave that determination to the AHJ. Designers should be aware of any specific criteria within certain jurisdictions and, as always, getting buy-in from the AHJ as early as possible can prevent headaches at the plan review stage.

 

Have you seen any jurisdictions with rather unique criteria for control unit locations? What is the most interesting location for a FACU you have ever seen?

 

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This is a semi-annual update on Fire Protection Research Foundation activities. Although we may not be running into you at meetings and conferences these days, or seeing you at NFPA Headquarters - our team remains focused on generating the research needed to reduce loss in our world. Here is a quick summary of our recently completed, on-going and upcoming activities to provide you with the information and knowledge you need to do your job successfully.  For the complete list of current projects, visit here.

 

2020 Q1 & Q2 Completed Projects 

 

Featured Publications 

 

 

Projects initiated in 2020 Q1 & Q2  

  • Assessment, Improvement, and Application of Multi-Hazard System-Level Performance Evaluations of First Responder Ensembles 

 

Q1 & Q2 Webinar Update 

  • Review of Audible Alarm Waking Effectiveness Webinar was held on February 5th, 2020.  Recording available here. 
  • Digitized Fuel Load Survey in Buildings using Machine Vision Webinar was held on April 2nd, 2020. Recording availablehere. 
  • Modern Vehicle Hazards in Parking Garages and Vehicle Carriers webinar was held on June 2, 2020, Recording available here. 

Upcoming Webinar 

  • Time-restricted eating for improving overall health and sleep among firefighters, onAugust 11, 2020, 12:30pm - 2pm ET. Register here.  

 

FPRF News 

  • Awards: Research team from Johns Hopkins University and University of Buffalo were awarded the 2019 Foundation Medalfor theDigitized Fuel Load Survey in Buildings using Machine Vision project. 
  • Event Cancelled:Suppression, Detection and Signaling Research Applications Conference (SUPDET 2020) and the 17th International Conference on Automatic Fire Detection (AUBE’20), originally scheduled for September 15-17, 2020 in Mulheim an der Ruhr, Germany, has been postponed until September 2021. 
  • Staff News: FPRF Executive Director, Amanda Kimball was re-appointed to a 2nd term on the SFPE Board of Directors. Amanda was also elevated to Fellow of SFPE. Out of 4,600 SFPE members, there are only 313 fellows.  
  • Upcoming Events this Fall: 

 

 

The following proposed Tentative Interim Amendments (TIAs) to NFPA 61, Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Dust Explosions in Agricultural and Food Processing Facilities; and NFPA 70, National Electrical Code; are being punfpa 61nfpa 70blished for public review and comment:

 

  • NFPA 61, proposed TIA No. 1485, referencing A.9.3.16.5 and Table A.9.3.16.5, 2020 edition
  • NFPA 70, proposed TIA No. 1524, referencing 680.2 Storable Swimming, Wading, or Immersion Pools; or Storable/Portable Spas and Hot Tubs, 2020 edition

 

Anyone may submit a comment on these proposed TIAs by the September 9, 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.

Townhouse complex fire in Reno, NV - Photo courtesy of Reno Gazette Journal

 

Two massive fires in the last ten days occurred at residential complexes under construction, reinforcing the critical importance of following the fire and life safety requirements and guidelines addressed in NFPA 241, Standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alteration, and Demolition Operation.

 

Most recently, a fire at a six-story townhouse complex occurred in Reno, NV, early Thursday morning, resulting in the destruction of the majority of buildings under construction, according to local news reports. The Reno Fire Department confirmed that 14 of the 21 buildings were either destroyed or damaged.

 

On July 16, a fire at one of two apartment buildings under construction in Everett, WA, reportedly spread throughout the structure, igniting nearby homes, decks and cars. While the cause of the fire has not yet been determined, fire investigators reportedly stated that the findings so far do not suggest criminal activity.

 

Both fires reflect the latest in a series of significant fires in buildings under construction in recent years. While NFPA 241 works to mitigate the factors that often contribute to such incidents, several processes and procedures must be strictly implemented and followed for them to be effective.

 

NFPA offers a series of resources around buildings under construction to help contractors, building owners and managers, code official and enforcers, and AHJs better understand the requirements and guidelines within NFPA 241, and to more effectively ensure that all parties involved in the construction process have the tools and support to adequately adhere to them. Most recently, we created a new fact sheet that provides statistical data around the frequency, causes, and financial impact of associated fires.

 

Similarly, as COVID-19 has delayed many building projects already underway and, in some instances, forced construction sites to be left unattended for extended periods of time, comparable concerns around elevated fire risks have been raised. For the most up-to-date information from NFPA regarding fire and life safety in the midst of COVID-19, check out https://www.nfpa.org/coronavirus

The use of renewable energy is on the rise and one popular source is photovoltaics (PV). Section 11.12 in the 2018 Edition of NFPA 1, Fire Code covers everything related to PV installations from marking to rapid shutdown to accessways. There are a number of things to consider when installing a PV system on the roof of a building, but perhaps the most popular topic for questions has to do with the required pathways. Providing proper pathways is extremely important because firefighters need access to the roof for firefighting operations. Often, there is confusion about the size and location of the required pathways. The pathway requirements are different for PV arrays installed on one- and two-family dwellings and townhouses than they are for all other buildings. Here, we will focus on the pathway requirements for all those other buildings.

 

There are essentially three types of pathways that are required. The first type ensures firefighters will be able to get on the roof and are often called perimeter pathways. The second type of pathway ensures that firefighters can move around the roof once they have gained access. These are referred to as “other pathways” in the Code. The final type of pathways provide access to areas for ventilation. The size of the perimeter pathways is going to depend on the building size. For any building with a length or width greater than 250 ft (76.2 m), a minimum 6 ft (1829 mm) pathway is required on all sides. If both the length and width are 250 ft (76.2 m) or less, then the pathway is only required to be a minimum of 4 ft (1219 mm). The images below show what these pathways look like in plain view.

The “other pathways” required by the Code allow firefighters to move around the roof as needed. These types of pathways are required under three different conditions. The first is to provide straight line access to ventilation hatches and/or roof standpipes. Wherever ventilation hatches and standpipes are located a pathway of at least 48 in (1219 mm) must be provided.  A 48 in (1219 mm) pathway around all roof access hatches must also be provided. In addition to the pathway around the roof access hatch, at least one 48 in pathway must be provided from the roof access hatch to the roof edge or parapet. The last type in this group is to ensure that there is a pathway every 150 ft (46 m). The 150 ft distance cannot be exceeded in either the length or the width of the building. This essentially limits the PV array to a maximum size of 150 ft by 150 ft (46 m by 46 m).

 

The final category of pathways required are for smoke ventilation. The third type of pathway listed in the “other pathway” paragraph, which limits the array size to 150 ft by 150 ft (46 m by 46 m), will be used to provide ventilation options. The width of this pathway will depend on what, if any, type of ventilation options If there aren’t any ventilation options provided (such as skylights or smoke and heat vents) then the pathway must provide a minimum 96 in. (2438 mm) between array sections. If there are existing roof skylights or dropout smoke and heat vents are provided on at least one side    of the pathway, then the pathway must only be a minimum of 48 in (1219 mm) wide. A 48 in. pathway is also permitted where there are 48 in. by 96 in. (1219 mm by 2438 mm) venting cutout options every 20 ft (6096 mm). The last type of required pathway for venting is where nongravity-operated smoke and heat vents are provided. For those, a 48 in. (1219 mm) pathway must be provided around the vent.

 

 

 

It is not uncommon to see PV systems connected to energy storage systems (ESS). This allows the energy generated from the PV system to be stored and used later on when it is needed. For more information on ESS take a look here and at NFPA 855. There are many components to ensuring a PV system is installed correctly. Here we’ve focused on the pathway requirements for buildings other than one- and two-family dwellings and townhouses. Other requirements such as marking requirements and requirements for rapid shutdown can all be found in NFPA 1, The Fire Code, Section 11.12.

 

If you found this article helpful, subscribe to the NFPA Network Newsletter for monthly, personalized content related to the world of fire, electrical, and building & life safety.

 

UPDATE: Last month, I posted a blog (see below) that addressed fire and life safety considerations for restaurants and other businesses using tents to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As a follow-up to that blog, a new fact sheet, Building and Life Safety for Tents, has been created. Reinforcing associated requirements and guidelines, this new resource works to help code officials, AHJs, business owners, and facility managers ensure that tents are used properly and safely in their jurisdictions.

 

Please feel free to download this resource and share it as needed. Our goal is to make sure communities are operating as safely as possible under today’s circumstances. Reach out to us in the comments section below if you have any questions.

 

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.

On Tuesday, August 4th, NFPA will celebrate a new milestone in its long, storied history.

 

Over the last century-plus, a wide range of stakeholders have turned to NFPA codes and standards to do their jobs efficiently and effectively. The reality is that people learn and work differently these days. They want to connect the dots on safety, and glean real-world, real-time solutions – not necessarily read a technical book cover-to-cover. 

 

On August 4th at 1:00 p.m. (EST), NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley will explain how the Association is transitioning to meet the needs of today’s engineers, designers, code enforcers, responders, trade workers, building authorities, and policy makers. The virtual product reveal will touch on the changes going into effect this fall at NFPA; offer a sneak preview of an exciting new digital platform; and feature a round table of experts discussing what the future of fire and life safety holds.

 

If you play a role in protecting people and property from harm and are ready to have access to extensive NFPA codes, context and content – make plans to tune in on August 4th. Register here today.

Damage from a kitchen fire in a Virginia apartment was limited thanks to the help of an automatic sprinkler system. According to a report in the Loudoun News, the fire was extinguished before the fire department arrived. The Fire Marshal’s office reported that the fire was the result of unattended food cooking on the stove.

 

Fire Chief Keith Johnson, who was on the scene and quoted in the article, says the incident illustrates both the dangers of unattended cooking and the importance of lifesaving sprinkler systems.fire sprinkler

 

“It’s important to educate the public about how fire sprinklers help to contain and prevent fires from becoming more significant emergencies,” Chief Johnson said. “Fire sprinklers save lives, including those of first responders, and greatly reduce the physical, emotional and financial damages that fires bring to a community.”

 

NFPA continues its focus on cooking fire safety in response to home cooking fires representing the leading cause of U.S. home fires. According to NFPA research, nearly half (49 percent) of all home fires involve cooking equipment; unattended cooking is the leading cause of these fires.

 

This year’s theme for Fire Prevention Week is “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen.” The campaign, which runs October 4 – 10, works to better educate the public about where potential cooking hazards exist and basic but critical ways to prevent them.

 

Learn about Fire Prevention Week and share safety messages, materials, videos, and more now available on the website.  Additional information about the importance of home fire sprinklers can be found by visiting www.homefiresprinkler.org.  

 

NFPA 70B

 

For those of us who utilize NFPA 70National Electrical Code (NEC) and NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, on a regular basis, we know the importance that the NEC plays when it comes to the installation of safe electrical systems and the safe work practices that 70E provides, allowing us to perform those installations and maintenance, safely.

 

But there’s a third document that’s key to this equation: NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance, which covers equipment maintenance. 70B offers guidelines for maintaining equipment after the initial installation is done and regular usage begins to impose wear and tear on the equipment. While each document covers a specific area, by using them together, it helps provide the safest electrical system possible while maintaining a safe working environment for those performing the necessary tasks. For example, NFPA 70B deals with electrical equipment maintenance, the NEC stipulates the installation rules necessary for a proper installation, and NFPA 70E addresses safe work practices needed to help ensure that the installation and maintenance are done safely. When the three are used in concert, and correctly, they provide for a complete electrical safety cycle. When one or more pieces are missing, it may leave the door open to catastrophic accidents—even death.

 

To help workers navigate this “cycle of safety,” NFPA has developed a new NFPA 70B fact sheet that explains its purpose and highlights its relationship to related codes and standards. It also points out key chapters and the value of an effective electrical preventative maintenance program (EPM).

 

 

Learn more about NFPA 70B by downloading the free fact sheet. For additional information, visit NFPA’s document information webpage.

 

If you missed last week’s NEC Facebook Live event, you can still catch the video with host Derek Vigstol and two special guests, Jim Dollard and Tom Domitrovich who discussed, “The Electrical Safety Cycle: NFPA 70, NFPA 70E & NFPA 70B.” Visit the NEC Facebook page to see the discussion.

 

 

There are many different requirements for obstruction in NFPA 13 Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems  based on the type of sprinkler being used as well as the distance, type, and size of the obstruction. This blog will address suspended or floor mounted vertical obstructions requirements from the 2019 edition of NFPA 13 since this is a topic NFPA has recently received several technical questions on.

 

What are suspended or floor mounted vertical obstructions?


An obstruction is something that affects the discharge pattern of one or more sprinklers. An example of what a discharge or distribution pattern looks like is provided below:

 

(This is from the 2019 edition of NFPA 13, Figure A.9.5.5.1)

 

NFPA 13 section 10.2.7.2.2 gives a few examples of things that could be considered suspended or floor mounted vertical obstructions which include privacy curtains, freestanding partitions, and room dividers.

 

The basic rule for these obstructions is simple. There are tables in NFPA 13 which contains horizontal distances and the required minimum vertical distance that the obstruction must be from the sprinkler deflector. There are also figures to help you understand how the table should be used. Below are the table and figures for standard spray upright/pendent and sidewall sprinklers but the same table and figures are located in the extended coverage and residential sprinkler chapters.

 

                     

(This is from the 2019 edition of NFPA 13 Table 10.2.7.2.2 and Figure 10.2.7.2.2)

 

 

(This is figure 10.3.6.2.2 from the 2019 edition of NFPA 13)

 

You will notice that the relationship between the horizontal and vertical distances forms an umbrella shape similar to Figure A.9.5.5.1 above. The intent of this is to make sure the obstruction doesn’t block the development of the sprinkler pattern which occurs within the first 18 vertical inches (450 mm) of the sprinkler.

 

What about non-light hazard occupancies?


You’ll notice that the requirements for suspended or floor mounted vertical obstructions only apply to light hazard occupancies. These requirements shouldn’t be applied for anything except light hazard occupancies because the testing that was done to justify the addition of this code section only evaluated sprinkler performance in a light hazard environment.

 

Well, what do you do when you are in something other than a light hazard occupancy? The answer is that you should follow the general obstruction rules of NFPA 13. For obstructions below 18 inches for standard pendent and upright spray sprinklers this means that as long as the obstruction is less than 4ft (1.2 m) wide that it is not considered an obstruction. For obstructions less than 18 inches (450 mm) below the sprinkler deflector there are additional diagrams and tables you need to follow because of the potential to disrupt the sprinkler pattern development. A common rule that is followed for obstructions within 18 inches of the sprinkler deflector is the “three times rule”. This requires sprinklers to be positioned away from obstructions a minimum or three times the maximum dimension of the obstruction.

 

Are there any exceptions?

 

Have you ever noticed that in healthcare facilities the privacy curtains are mostly solid except for the top 22 inches (550 mm)? According to NFPA 13, those privacy curtains are not considered obstructions if they follow three rules: 

 

  1. Curtains need to be supported by fabric mesh on a ceiling track
  2. The openings in the mesh part of the curtain needs to be at least 70% of the area
  3. The mesh portion of the curtain needs to extend at least 22 inches (550 mm) from the ceiling

 

Those rules allow heat from the fire and sprinkler water discharge to pass through the mesh portion of the curtain without having a major impact on the sprinkler discharge pattern development or sprinkler activation time. Once again this exception to the rule can only be applied to light hazard occupancies.

 

With all of this being said, it is also important to understand how the building will look when it is finished by reviewing all of the architectural, structural, and MEP drawings. Changes in any one of those drawings can create an obstruction to your once properly designed sprinkler system.


Let us know what your experience is with suspended or floor mounted vertical obstructions in the comments below.

 

If you found this article helpful, subscribe to the NFPA Network Newsletter for monthly, personalized content related to the world of fire, electrical, and building & life safety.

With COVID-19 still gripping the world, it may be a while before you find yourself in a large crowd. But when that day comes, perhaps you'll be under the watchful eye of new crowd monitoring technology. 

 

The latest episode of Learn Something New by NFPA Journal details the future of crowd monitoring. Specifically, it examines a current Fire Protection Research Foundation project to create a low-cost, web-based crowd monitoring tool expected to be available this fall. 

 

The problem with current crowd monitoring technology is that it's typically complicated and expensive, Foundation research project manager Victoria Hutchison explains in the video. "So we're building this on a web interface, so it can be accessed from your iPhone, a tablet, laptop, whatever you have available to you," she says. "It tracks [crowds] over time. So every interval, at whatever interval you'd like it to be captured at, it tracks that in a trending graph. So you can see the profile of the crowd over time, and it also produces density maps. So you can see kind of a heat map, you know, of where the highest densities are within the areas that could be problematic."

 

Hutchison also wrote a feature story on the new tool, which appears in the July/August issue of NFPA Journal. Read that article here, and watch the video below. 

 

NEC

 

For those of us that employ NFPA 70, National Electrical Code (NEC) on a regular basis we understand the importance the NEC plays when it comes to the installation of safe electrical systems. In the early pages of the standard its purpose is clearly stated as the practical safeguarding of persons and property from hazards arising from the use of electricity. The purpose of the NEC could never be accomplished without the proper application of Article 250 – Grounding and Bonding. 

 

While all of Article 250 is crucial to a safe installation, many installation errors evolve from incorrectly using the tables that size grounding electrode conductors, bonding jumpers, and equipment grounding conductors.  Whether you are an engineer designing the job, and electrician doing the installation, or an inspector verifying a correct installation, applying these tables in Article 250 is paramount to ensuring the safety of both persons and property.

 

To help workers understand the crucial role these tables hold in a safe electrical system, NFPA created a new fact sheet that walks you through the proper application of the following tables within Article 250:

 

  • Table 250.66 - Grounding Electrode Conductor for Alternating-Current Systems
  • Table 250.102(C)(1) - Grounding Conductor, Main Bonding Jumper, and Supply-Side Bonding Jumper for Alternating-Current Systems
  • Table 250.122 – Minimum Size Equipment Grounding Conductors for Grounding Raceway and Equipment

 

For more information on grounding and bonding within Article 250, join us on the NEC Facebook page this Friday, July 17th at 3:30PM EST as the NEC goes live (#NECLive) to discuss: The Top 10 Grounding and Bonding Questions. Additional information about grounding and bonding is available on our website.

 

For more information related to the NEC, please visit NFPA’s electrical solutions webpage.

 

Firefighters encounter continual disruptions to their eating and sleeping patterns (circadian rhythm) due to the nature of their work. This can compromise their metabolic fitness and lead them to be considered “at-risk” for metabolic diseases. This webinar will present the findings from a research study that assessed the extent of day-to-day disruption to firefighters and tested reasonable interventions involving sleep and nutrition time optimization as ways of alleviating risks for chronic diseases, without compromising job performance. The general goal of this project was to analyze the impact of time-restricted feeding on firefighters so that overall health and wellness could be promoted and the impact of shift work on firefighters could be minimized.

 

This research was led by the Salk Institute for Biological Studies with collaborative advisory service support from the Fire Protection Research Foundation, and funding support from a FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant.

 

Register for the webinar today. Visit www.nfpa.org/webinars for more upcoming NFPA webinars and archives.

 

When:                Tuesday, August 11, 12:30-2 p.m. Eastern Time 

 

Presenters:       Dr. Satchidananda Panda, Salk Institute

 

Research Foundation Webinar Series 2020 is supported by: American Wood Council; Edwards Fire & Life Safety; Johnson Controls; Telgian Engineering and Consulting; The Zurich Services Corporation

Skilled professionals need continuing education, whether they are on the front lines or at home during this current coronavirus pandemic, especially as many states are shifting to the new edition of the NEC. This need for quality training and the renewal of licenses and professional credentials are vital to our jobs now and long after this crisis has lifted.

 

With social distancing measures in place, NFPA and many other organizations are developing alternatives to help meet our growing training needs. And we’re starting to see results. 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 NECenvironment.

 

That’s why I am really happy to announce that NFPA has just launched two new Live Virtual Training courses that focus on the recent editions of NFPA 70, National Electrical Code (NEC) and NFPA 70EStandard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace.

 

The live expert-led courses allow you to apply what you learn in an interactive virtual environment to electrical system design and reconstruction within an aging building. The training includes polling and chat features plus activities, exercises, videos, downloadable summaries, and job aids to help you locate, interpret, and apply code requirements.

 

The NFPA 70 and NFPA 70E virtual courses are suited for a host of professionals who work within the electrical industry including system designers, engineers, contractors, safety engineers, installation and maintenance professionals, manufacturers, electrical inspectors, and those charged with facility maintenance.

 

We invite you to learn more about the courses, including how to get continuing education credits, by visiting NFPA’s website. Additional resources and information about the NEC and related codes and standards can be found on NFPA’s electrical solutions webpage.

 

Want to connect live with industry peers? Join us each week on our NEC Facebook page for a Live event that takes you deeper into electrical topics with experts in the field.

 

Remember, 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 safeguard the world against damage and injuries due to electricity.

 

NFPA can’t do this alone. Contact us to find out how we can help you meet your training and other professional needs while respecting social distancing guidelines. It's a big world so let's help protect it together.

 

 

 

 

While the 2020 edition of NFPA 70, National Electrical Code, was published last fall, July tends NECto be when states shift to the latest edition. This delay between when the code is published and when it is actually implemented gives jurisdictions time to sort through what’s new and what’s changed, and to consider how the new edition of the code might affect them. Whether jurisdictions use the NEC as is, or whether they apply local amendments to the code, a thorough understanding of the revisions will help all users better comply with the ever-changing electrical landscape.

Two important areas subject to changes in the latest NEC were electric vehicles (EVs), and marinas and boatyards. Both of these topics have generated a great deal of activity in recent years, and the most recent changes reflect the efforts of both the code and the broader electrical community to remain as current as possible in how they address these rapidly evolving areas.

 

Learn about these changes and their importance in Derek Vigstol’s column in the July/August issue of NFPA Journal.

Seventeen sailors and four civilians are being treated for injuries after a fire and explosion Sunday aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard, a US Navy warship that was docked in San Diego. While investigators are still working to determine the cause of the blaze, experts have already made note of the challenges firefighters faced in fighting the flames—a point that was emphasized in the September/October 2019 NFPA Journal cover story, "Close Quarters."

 

Fires on large marine vessels "are not like a house fire," retired Navy commander Erik A. Dukat told the New York Times. "Imagine a fire inside of a ship, just imagine the inside of your oven," Dukat told the paper. "Where the problem really comes, where a ship is lost for good, is normally actually because of the water," added John Liddle, a lieutenant commander who retired from the Navy last year. "You're putting so much water into it in one place or another that all of a sudden it's not buoyant in the same way that it was designed to be."

 

The incredible heat that can be generated from a fire raging within a ship's hull as well as the risk of pouring too much water on a ship fire were both discussed in the NFPA Journal piece. It's factors like these that make fires on large marine vessels one of the most universally feared calls for firefighters to receive. 

 

"The way ships are constructed present huge challenges, the way it traps heat and affects fire growth," Forest Herndon, a 37-year veteran of the marine firefighting industry, says in the Journal article. "Firefighters could be ascending steep, slippery ladders or trying to walk on decks that heat up to the point where their feet are burning. Shipboard fires burn a lot hotter than fires in land-based structures, and you don't have the ability to ventilate these fires, so your methods of addressing them have to change."

 

The challenges of shipboard firefighting and the prevention of fires on ships, in shipyards, and in marine terminals are the subject of several NFPA documents and NFPA training and certification programs:

 

NFPA 306, Standard for the Control of Gas Hazards on Vessels, provides requirements for determining that an area is safe for entry or work activities such as hot work. NFPA 306 applies to vessels that use as fuel or carry flammable or combustible liquids, flammable compressed gases, flammable cryogenic liquids, chemicals in bulk, or other products capable of creating a hazardous condition.

 

NFPA 312, Standard for Fire Protection of Vessels During Construction, Conversion, Repair, and Lay-Up, applies to vessels during construction, conversion, repairs, or while laid-up, and provides requirements necessary to prevent fires or limit a fire's spread.

 

NFPA 307, Standard for Construction and Fire Protection of Marine Terminals, Piers, and Wharves, provides general principles for the construction and fire protection of marine terminals, piers, and wharves. The 2021 edition includes a new annex to inform municipal and industrial firefighters about marine firefighting requirements that vessel owners or operators must meet in their respective vessel response plans.

 

NFPA 1005, Standard for Professional Qualifications for Marine Firefighting for Land-Based Firefighters, identifies the minimum job performance requirements for marine firefighting for land-based firefighters, while NFPA 1405, Guide for Land-Based Fire Departments That Respond to Marine Vessel Fires, identifies the elements of a comprehensive marine firefighting response program, such as vessel familiarization, training considerations, pre-fire planning, and special hazards that enable land-based fire fighters to extinguish vessel fires safely and efficiently.

 

NFPA is also responsible for the administration of the Certificated Marine Chemist Program and the Maritime Confined Space Safe Practices Course.

 

Historically, ship fires are also some of the most deadly incidents. Nearly one-fifth of the 21 deadliest fires or explosions in world history have occurred on boats. Watch the video below to learn more about the four deadliest ship fires or explosions in history. 

 

NFPA has announced the restructuring of its U.S. Regional Operations field staff, which will now function as a single team and be managed by Ray Bizal, regional operations director. Previously, regional representation was separate for public education and code-related support. Through these organizational changes, NFPA can better provide a single point of contact for stakeholders who rely on our resources and guidance as they work to keep their communities safe.

Meredith Hawes and Kelly Ransdell, who formerly worked as regional education specialists within NFPA’s public education division, will become regional directors for the Regional Operations team, joining Ray Bizal, Robbie Dawson, Robert Duval, Gary Honold, Gregory Cade, and Bob Sullivan. 

Following are the states for which each regional director is now responsible: 

  • Ray Bizal – CA, OR 
  • Greg Cade – DE, OH, MD, NJ, PA, VA, WV, (DC) 
  • Robby Dawson – AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, SC, TN 
  • Bob Duval – CT, MA, ME, NH, NY, RI, VT 
  • Meredith Hawes – IA, IL, IN, MI, MN, WI 
  • Gary Honold – AK, HI, ID, MT, ND, NE, SD, WA 
  • Kelly Ransdell – AR, LA, MO, NC, OK, TX 
  • Bob Sullivan – AZ, CO, KS, NM, NV, UT, WY

Formerly serving as a regional director for seven states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin), Russ Sanders will now focus his efforts on NFPA’s Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association (Metro) Section, which brings together fire service professionals around the globe and serves as an conduit for addressing emerging issues for large-jurisdiction departments. 

The overarching role of NFPA’s regional directors is to promote and support the use of all NFPA tools and resources, including NFPA codes and standards, training, certification, as well as public education campaigns like Fire Prevention Week, Fire Sprinkler Initiative state coalitions, and other key NFPA programs. 

A common topic throughout the country lately has been the reopening of buildings that have been left unoccupied during the Covid-19 pandemic. One of the most important things to do it to make sure that all of the fire protection and life safety systems have been properly inspected, tested, and maintained before reintroducing occupants. In order to assist with that we have created a checklist for the most common systems (https://www.nfpa.org/-/media/Files/Coronavirus/CoronavirusReopeningBuildingsChecklist.ashx).  Now that we have covered the most common, we need to start looking into some more important systems that may not be in every building. An example of one of these other systems that needs to be addressed before reopening a building is a smoke control system.

 

Smoke Control Systems

 

Smoke control systems are commonly found in high rise building stairwells and elevators, detention and correctional occupancies, large assembly seating areas, and atriums (https://community.nfpa.org/community/nfpa-today/blog/2018/01/03/101wednesdays-soaring-to-new-heights-atriums-and-the-life-safety-code). These systems are engineered to protect the occupants in the building as they evacuate, contain the fire in one location, and to aid the first responders as they try to find the fire and extinguish it by:

  • containing the smoke and products of combustion in one location in the building
  • keeping the smoke and products of combustion out of a given space
  • or removing the smoke and products of combustion out of a given space in order

 

When thinking of smoke control systems, you can think of them in two categories, smoke containment systems, and smoke management systems. Smoke containment systems include stairwell pressurization, zoned smoke control, elevator pressurization, vestibule pressurization, and smoke refuge area pressurization. Smoke management systems are typically found in large volume spaces such as large assembly seating areas and atriums, these types of smoke systems include natural smoke filling, mechanical smoke exhaust, gravity smoke venting, and opposed air flow.

 

System Design and Testing

 

When these systems are designed, an engineering analysis is performed per NFPA 92, Standard for Smoke Control Systems to ensure that specific design criteria are met. For example, if the system is being designed to keep the space tenable for occupants to evacuate, then some of the design criteria will include maximum temperature and minimum visibility in the spaces occupied during building evacuation, typically this is the space from floor level to a height of at least 6 feet (1830 mm). The design of these systems includes calculations and computer models that are run based on how the space will be used, because of this, it is the building owner’s responsibility to limit the use of the space, so it is consistent with the limitations provided in the operations and maintenance manual. Such limitations include but are not limited to maximum fuel size and minimum distance between fuels.  Additionally, the building owner is responsible for all system testing per NFPA 92 and must maintain records of all periodic testing and maintenance in accordance with the operations and maintenance manual that was provided with the system upon acceptance testing.

 

Testing for dedicated smoke control systems needs to be performed semi-annually and non-dedicated systems (I.e. those that utilize a buildings HVAC system) need to be tested annually. The system must be tested by persons who are thoroughly knowledgeable with the operation, testing, and maintenance of the system. When testing, each system needs to be tested against the specific design criteria that it was designed to under both normal power and standby power, all of the pass/ fail criteria should be provided in the design documents. The system needs to be operated for each of the sequences in the design criteria, this could include testing different smoke zones and testing different initiating devices such as smoke detectors, waterflow switches, and pull stations (if provided). For each of the inputs, all of the correct outputs (such as dampers opening/closing, doors opening/closing, and fans turning on/off) needs to be confirmed that they are operating per the system design.

 

The periodic testing needs to confirm that the pressure differences across smoke barriers, at air makeup supplies, and at smoke exhaust equipment coincide with the data points taken during initial acceptance testing. When testing is performed on these systems it is possible that a significant amount of outside air will be introduced into the building, as such, special arrangements need to be made to protect sensitive equipment or building contents from a change in temperature and/or humidity.

 

Bottom Line

 

As you can see, there is a significant number of things that needs to be tested on a smoke control system, and it is all system specific. If your building contains a smoke control system, or you think it may contain a smoke control system, you should contact a qualified person prior to reopening to ensure that all of the proper inspection testing and maintenance has been completed to ensure the safety of all of the occupants within your building.

 

If you found this article helpful, subscribe to the NFPA Network Newsletter for monthly, personalized content related to the world of fire, electrical, and building & life safety

A Massachusetts firefighter was killed battling a four-alarm house fire after helping two of his colleagues reach safety and searching for additional people trapped inside. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

 

NFPA recently released its annual “U.S. Firefighter Fatalities in the United States” report, which showed fewer than 50 U.S. firefighter fatalities while on duty in 2019, reflecting the lowest number of deaths reported since NFPA began conducting this study in 1977. In addition, there were no multiple-fatality incidents, which also represents a first for the report. Other important achievements include the lowest number of deaths of volunteer firefighters, deaths in road vehicle crashes, and cardiac deaths.

 

This year’s findings reflect significant milestones for firefighters while on the job, with many of the numbers representing historic lows. While one year’s experience cannot be interpreted as evidence of a trend, and we know already that the death toll in 2020 will likely be higher as a result of COVID-19, there are promising indications that real, sustained progress has been achieved in the reduction of deaths in some categories, such as cardiac deaths, structure fire deaths and vehicle crashes.

 

Overall, 48 firefighters died while on-duty in the U.S. in 2019, a sharp drop from recent years, where deaths average 65 per year. Of the 48 fatalities, 25 were volunteer firefighters, 20 were career firefighters, and one each was an employee of a state land management agency, an employee of a federal land management agency and a civilian employee of the military.

The 25 deaths of volunteer firefighters in 2019 is the lowest reported in all the years of this study, and represents a sharp drop from the annual average for volunteer firefighters over the previous 10 years (36 deaths per year on average), and far lower than the average of 67 deaths per year in the earliest years of this study. The 20 deaths of career firefighters while on-duty in 2019 is the third time in the past four years that the total has been 20 or fewer. In the earliest years of this study, the annual average number of deaths of career firefighters while on duty was 57.

 

Overexertion, stress, and medical issues accounted for by far the largest share of firefighter deaths, as has been the case in past years. Of the 26 deaths in this category, 22 were classified as sudden cardiac deaths (usually heart attacks), two were due to strokes, one to heat stroke and one death was by suicide. The 22 sudden cardiac deaths with onset while the victim was on-duty mark the fourth consecutive year that the toll has been below 30, but they still account for the largest share of on-duty deaths. Cardiac-related events accounted for 44 percent of the on-duty deaths over the past 10 years.

In 2019, four firefighters died in vehicle crashes, four were struck by vehicles and one fell from a moving vehicle. In the past, crashes of road vehicles fairly consistently accounted for the second largest share of the on-duty deaths, but the number has dropped in recent years, with fewer than five deaths in three of the last 10 years. Deaths in road vehicle crashes, which accounted for three of the four crash deaths in 2019, have ranged over the years from a high of 25 to this year’s low of three.

 

It remains encouraging to see the overall number of on-duty firefighter fatalities continue to decline, but the full firefighter fatality picture is far broader than NFPA’s data, which focuses on on-duty deaths tied to specific events that occur while firefighters are at work. However, the hazards of firefighting also include long-term exposure to carcinogens and other contaminants, as well as physical and emotional stress and strain. Meanwhile, we have also seen some troubling trends, such as firefighter related murders. In 2019, a firefighter who was shot at an EMS call represents the ninth firefighter murdered on-duty in the past 10 years.

 

NFPA's annual firefighter fatalities report only reflects deaths that occur while victims are on-the-job, either as the result of traumatic injuries or onset of acute medical conditions. Studies have shown that years spent in the fire service can take a toll on a firefighter’s health, both physical and emotional, and can also result in exposures to toxins that eventually result in job-related cancer, cardiac, and suicide deaths that are not represented in this report. A comprehensive study that enumerates all duty-related deaths in a year is not yet possible to accomplish.

 

On July 14 at 1 pm EDT, I will be hosting a free webinar to review this year’s report findings. Attendance is limited, so those interested are encouraged to sign up before space is no longer available.

electrical safety

 

I receive many questions from companies in the process of implementing an electrical safety work program. Can their own employees conduct risk assessments? Who should they hire? How do they know if an organization is qualified to do the work? While I am unable to answer those questions, my recent blog about knowing what is involved with risk assessments can help provide some guidance. Equipment is required to be labeled with the highest voltage and incident energy or PPE category. This worst-case condition can be used for 100 percent of tasks associated with the equipment. However, another of my Electrical Safety Month blogs discusses how a risk assessment could address tasks performed within that equipment. There is a difference between providing a label to attach to equipment and performing a risk assessment. Which was the contractor hired to perform?

 

Since most contract organizations use the more detailed incident energy analysis method rather than the PPE category method, there are two quick checks you can use to determine which one the contractor delivered. One check comes from 130.5(B). If equipment condition and maintenance is not questioned, the contractor is simply providing a label. Be aware that information on that label might create an unsafe condition for the employee. Another quick check is in 130.5(G). If the contractor did not address tasks conducted closer than the typical working distance, they are likely only providing a label. If they ask about the tasks to be performed on the specific equipment then provide the incident energy at the hand position, for example, they might be providing more than a label. Neither of these checks verify that a proper risk assessment has been performed but you are being provided with additional information necessary to conduct an assessment and develop safe work practices.

 

These quick checks may help determine if the contractor performed the work that they were hired to perform. Determining the maximum voltage or incident energy is identification of electrical hazards. Risk assessments are much more involved and assessments for specific tasks are typically not conducted by a contract company. Providing labels or calculating incident energy at the hand position is not a confirmation that a contractor is qualified, or that a proper assessment was performed. There are many other things you must verify when hiring a contractor to conduct such work. Make sure that you do your homework before hiring someone to be responsible for your employee’s safety.

 

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

 

Next time: The 2021 edition of NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace.

 

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

NFPA is pleased to announce the start of a new weekly NEC Facebook “LIVE” event (#NECLive).

 

Be sure to like our page and join us on Fridays at 3:30 pm (EST) where NFPA staff members and industry experts discuss the NEC and relevant electrical topics. If you don’t already follow our NEC Facebook page, you can find us here.  electrical

 

The Facebook LIVE events are a great opportunity for individuals who work in the electrical industry to gain valuable insight, offer input, and connect with peers on a local, state, and even global level on issues that matter most to them on the job. Recent topics have included electric shock drowning (ESD) and the NEC public input process. 

 

If you can’t join us during the live event, our videos are recorded and available for viewing on our page.

 

Next up: tune in Friday, July 10 at 3.30 pm (EST) as we discuss this week’s topic - The Electrical Safety Cycle: NFPA 70, NFPA 70E, and NFPA 70B. Got an idea for a topic for an upcoming Live event? Let us know! Leave a comment below or tell us on the NEC Facebook page.

 

For additional information about the NEC and related codes and standards, visit our electrical solutions webpage on the NFPA website.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has developed a new infographic highlighting five key considerations for Remote Video Inspection (RVI) programs. The new graphic underscores the need for defining procedure, communication, technology, verification and completion steps as code officials, enforcers, and building professionals re-open occupancies and deal with even bigger inspection backlogs than usual.

 

Even during normal times, AHJs (authorities having jurisdiction) tend to have heavy inspection workloads, but with so many buildings shut down in recent months due to COVID-19, that burden is expected to significantly increase. RVI offers an effective and efficient alternative for building inspections. Using technology to remotely perform an inspection of a building or building component is increasingly being seen as a viable, efficient, and effective alternative to onsite inspections.

 

Just like traditional in-person inspections, an RVI typically occurs as part of a jurisdiction’s permitting process, project, or contract schedule, and needs to be approved by the AHJ for that area. Video inspections help accomplish critical and emergency permit work; they are not intended to be less complete than an on-site inspection. RVI is currently in use in select jurisdictions across the United States, although no formal standard currently governs its use. NFPA 915, Standard on Remote Inspections is in the early development stages.

 

The RVI infographic is designed to be shared via text, social media and websites and drive stakeholders to more robust information and knowledge on the NFPA RVI landing page at www.nfpa.org/remoteinspections. A new NFPA podcast and NFPA Journal story will look at RVI in the coming weeks; those links will also be added to the dedicated RVI microsite.

UPDATE: With July 4 weekend just days away and Canada Day celebrations happening today (July 1), we want to remind everyone about the dangers of consumer fireworks. The blog post below highlights the damage incurred by fireworks each year, while our fireworks page offers several resources, including sharable social media content and access to our full fireworks report, which provides NFPA's latest statistics on fireworks fires and injuries.

 

Since public displays aren’t an option this year, use your creativity to safely celebrate the holiday! As the video below reminds all of us, we’ve all been working hard to stay safe - let’s keep washing our hand, not risk losing them.

 

 

Each year at this time, NFPA encourages the public to attend fireworks displays put on by trained professionals, rather than resort to homemade celebrations. With many upcoming community events cancelled due to COVID-19, NFPA has released a timely new video emphasizing the dangers of consumer fireworks and reminding the public about the unnecessary burden that fireworks accidents put on the very same front line workers who have been enormously taxed in recent months.

 

Plain and simple, consumer fireworks are dangerous. Even sparklers, which may seem child-safe, burn as hot as 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit and can cause third-degree burns. NFPA research shows that fireworks started an estimated 19,500 fires, five deaths, 46 civilian injuries, and $105 million in direct property damage in 2018. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reinforces this picture with data that shows hospital emergency rooms across the country treated an estimated 9,100 non-occupational fireworks related injuries in the month around July 4 alone. Half those injuries were to extremities, particularly the hand or finger, or leg with more than one-third (36 percent) of the injuries sustained by children ages 10-14. 

 

We all play a role in safety. Share this new video via social media and other channels to remind people about the well-documented dangers of consumer fireworks. Our first responders and healthcare professionals have been working tirelessly throughout this pandemic. They deserve our gratitude and support for their efforts, and our commitment to collectively minimizing avoidable emergency calls that require response and care. As the video states, we've all been doing good during unprecedented times to reduce further impact on our healthcare systems and response resources, let's not mess it up now.

In the past several months COVID-19 has impacted the globe with significant health, safety and economic challenges. Unfortunately, these challenges have, at times, disproportionately impacted those within the disability community.

 

According to the CDC, there are an estimated 61 million Americans who identify as being a person with a disability. This vibrant community is made up of individuals across all walks of life, covering every demographic and socioeconomic status. Yet, despite these numbers, and legal protections in place (more on that below), the impact COVID-19 has had on this vulnerable population is profound. News articles and blog posts tell individual stories that chronicle the loss of essential services, difficulty in accessing buildings, lack of planning and communication, and in some cases, marginalization.

 

Given this, how can building owners, facility managers, and others ensure that people with disabilities are respected, included in the planning process, and provided the required and appropriate safeguards? Please see below for five practical areas for consideration that may help navigate these challenges.

 

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Other Codes
It is important to remember that people with disabilities are afforded rights and protections under federal law. Since its landmark adoption in 1991, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has provided both the legal framework and design standards criteria to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities in everyday activities. Many states, as well as local jurisdictions, may also have requirements that mirror or exceed the ADA, so you will want to ensure compliance with those as warranted. Because the ADA is federal law it generally cannot be waived or reduced by local officials. Finally, unless directed by the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ), the provisions of adopted building, fire and life safety codes remain in force, even during COVID-19. Please consult your AHJ for specific requirements.

 

Emergency Action Plans (EAP)
These plans have many names but all provide a basic framework for building occupants to know what to do in the event of specific emergencies. These plans should include and address considerations for people with disabilities. Building owners and facility managers should ask the following questions: Is your EAP up to date? Is contact information for staff and vendors current? Have egress routes or other important building systems changed over the past few months? When was the last fire drill or emergency evacuation drill? Should your EAP need a refresh please see NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, section 4.8 for specific requirements. Another great resource is the Emergency Evacuation Planning Guide for People with Disabilities, published by the NFPA Disability Access Review and Advisory Committee (DARAC). This guide can be a useful tool to help bring essential needs and considerations to light.

 

Building Entries
Many buildings have adjusted their entries and lobbies to now require such features as staggered entry, mask deployments and temperature checks. How have these important and pragmatic changes taken people with disabilities into account? The following questions should be considered: Are entries free and clear of obstruction? Is the entry accessible for those using wheelchairs or other mobility devices? Can reasonable accommodations be made to assist people with disabilities? Have staff been trained to provide information and assistance where needed? Finally, are there opportunities to promote inclusiveness? One interesting article shows how the wearing of opaque masks has become a communication barrier for people who must read lips. When employees assisting these customers wore transparent face masks these barriers were instantly removed.

 

Maintaining Egress
A bedrock principle of life safety is maintaining free and unobstructed egress at all times, and COVID-19 is no exception. As my colleague Greg Harrington wrote in a blog post geared toward business occupancies, “there is no justifiable reason for locking egress doors or otherwise compromising means of egress…”. So I will ask the question: are your means of egress available for use by all occupants, including people with disabilities? Are egress doors, corridors, exits and stairwells free and clear of obstruction? Has signage been provided in accessible formats to relay important information related to the building’s COVID-19 changes and updates? Are accessible means of egress available and ready for use if needed? A simple building tour may help to reveal and remedy many of these issues.

 

Temporary Structures (Tents)
The use of temporary structures, and especially tents, have been prevalent in many occupancies during the pandemic. Whether found in a health care setting (for patient screening), a mercantile occupancy (outdoor markets or retail) or a mercantile/assembly arrangement (outdoor dining), these structures present life safety challenges. Additionally, even with the best of intentions, they could introduce unintended consequences for staff and visitors alike. As my colleague Shawn Mahoney wrote, these structures have precautions that must be taken to ensure that fire and life safety is observed. Some questions to consider when planning for people with disabilities in these structures are: Are exits accessible? Are there any elevations that might pose a challenge to people with disabilities? Is the public way free and clear of obstruction for those who may utilize a sidewalk? Have staff been trained on what to do in the event of an emergency? Answering these questions will ensure that people with disabilities can navigate these structures safely, and importantly for business owners, to return for potential repeat business. For example, if there are minimal and reduced width entries/exits, tables arranged to not provide an adequate turning radius, and only high tables present, how could a person that utilizes a wheelchair, or other mobility device, frequent this establishment?

 

In closing, I believe that one thing that the Novel Coronavirus has reinforced is the need for inclusion and care for those around us. We are all in this together. As you walk around the buildings where you work, live or visit please remember to keep these questions at the forefront. This will allow buildings to truly be accessible for all, even during these unprecedented times.

 

Stay healthy, stay inclusive, and stay safe!

 

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.

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