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2020

Every year, the month of September marks the launch of the school year with new classes, new friends, and often new living spaces. This year, however, as communities face unprecedented challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, life on college campuses is playing out very differently. While some colleges and universities have opted for full remote learning, others are welcoming students back to campus, and still others are offering a combination of the two. This has educators, administrators, public health officials, and first responders continually working on ways to safely operate schools this year.

 

The emphasis, of course, has understandably been placed on the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff, but it’s campus fire safetyalso important to remember that we must continue to maintain adequate levels of fire and life safety on college campuses throughout the year. During Campus Fire Safety Month in September, NFPA and the Center for Campus Fire Safety will be sharing resources including fact sheets, tip sheets, videos, and other materials for students, parents, and fire safety educators that focus on reducing fire risk in college housing. These resources are free to download and can be shared.

 

Resources for fire safety educators:

 

  • NFPA’s new fact sheet, Building and Life Safety Issues for Safely Reopening Schools, provides fire and life safety considerations for schools as they prepare to re-open, including building modifications like door operability, classroom usage, seating arrangements, and partitions, as well egress management and storage of hand sanitizer and cleaning products.
  • Fire doors and other opening protectives such as shutters and windows must be operable at all times. While propping doors and windows open so no one has to touch them may seem like a safer option to stop the spread of germs, interfering with the operation of fire doors can have grave consequences during a fire. Learn more in this recent blog.
  • Hand sanitizer and other cleaning products classified as flammable and combustible liquids present fire safety concerns, especially when they are stored or used in bulk quantities. Storage of large quantities of flammable and combustible liquids might compromise safety if the fire protection systems are not designed to protect the storage of such quantities of flammable liquids. Get additional information on fire safety considerations for hand sanitizer in a recent NFPA video. Information can also be found in the Building and Life Safety Issues for Safely Reopening Schools fact sheet mentioned above.

 

According to NFPA and the Center for Campus Fire Safety, September and October have the highest incidences for fires in dormitories. This year “move in” date processes are different due to the pandemic with many rules now in place that limit the number of people who can accompany students into their new living quarters. Students and their guests, however, are still encouraged, when moving in and in the days following, to take steps to ensure living arrangements are fire safe.

 

Resources for students and parents that can help during the move-in process:

 

 

Other tips include:

 

  • Test smoke alarms monthly in an apartment or house. Make sure smoke alarms are installed in all sleeping areas, outside of all sleeping areas, and on every level of the apartment or house. In dorms, make sure each sleeping room has a smoke alarm or the dormitory suite has a smoke alarm in each living area as well as the sleeping rooms. NEVER remove or disable smoke alarms.
  • Keep combustible items away from heat sources and never overload electrical outlets, extension cords, or power strips. Many fires are caused by portable lights and heat sources, like space heaters and halogen lamps.
  • Keep common areas and hallways free of possessions and debris.
  • Stay in the kitchen when cooking. Never leave cooking equipment unattended, even briefly.

 

For those on campus, resources including videos, checklists, infographics, tip sheets, and more have been designed to be shared through social media, school newspapers, college websites, and posted in dormitory common areas.

 

Find these and additional resources at nfpa.org/campus and on the Center for Campus Fire Safety website.

Corrosion is a costly problem for sprinkler systems. It can cause leakage which can lead to impaired sprinkler systems, water damage, and eventually replacement of the entire system. This blog looks at  what corrosion is, where we can find it, how it affects a sprinkler system, and how to spot and prevent it.

 

What is corrosion?

Generally, when we refer to corrosion we are talking about when a metal reacts with its environment which leads to deterioration of the metal. In sprinkler systems this is often when oxygen reacts with iron to form iron oxides, which we commonly refer to as "rust." This is further accelerated when it occurs in the presence of water, which helps the reaction. While this is the most common, there are other types of corrosion that can affect a sprinkler system such as microbiologically influenced corrosion (MIC) and galvanic corrosion. 

 

For any metallic component of a sprinkler system there is both external and internal corrosion. While both of these issues can lead to system failure, internal corrosion is more difficult to detect and causes more issues. Internal corrosion usually begins to form at the air/water interface while external corrosion is more dependent on the environment.

 

Where does corrosion occur?

There are many locations where piping and sprinklers are more susceptible to external corrosion. Most of these locations have different elements in the atmosphere that can speed up corrosion. A few common examples include:

  • Areas with fertilizer or manure (animal pens)
  • Pools or areas containing pool chemicals
  • Areas near the ocean that are exposed to outside salt air
  • Salt storage
  • Pipe is in contact with soil
  • Areas with excessive moisture (steam room)

 

Listed corrosion resistant sprinklers and corrosion resistant piping, fittings and hangars are required to be installed in places where corrosive conditions are known. Meanwhile all pipes and fittings installed on the exterior of the building are required to be corrosion resistant.

 

Internal corrosion on the other hand occurs most commonly where metal, water and air are in contact with one another. This occurs in both wet and dry pipe systems. For wet pipe systems, corrosion occurs most often near the pockets of air that could be trapped in high points. For dry and preaction systems the corrosion occurs most often at the low points because that is where any residual water builds up.

 

How does corrosion affect a sprinkler system?

Corrosion has a detrimental effect on sprinkler systems, causing the components to fail. For piping this can take the form of pinhole leaks or having rust buildup limit the flow of water (see image below). For sprinklers, corrosion can clog the water discharge orifice, affect the deflector and discharge pattern, or completely seal the plug, preventing water from reaching the fire. Other components such as piping hangers and fittings can also be susceptible to corrosion, which can lead to further complications. 

 

sprinkler

 

What can I do to minimize corrosion?

Completely eliminating the possibility of corrosion is nearly impossible, however there are some steps that can be taken to help reduce the amount of corrosion in a system:

  • Better pipe material: When trying to delay corrosion a great place to start is looking at the material used. Certain types of piping are more resistant to corrosion, such as plastic CPVC, copper or galvanized steel. There are also benefits to using thicker piping since rust will not eat through the wall of the pipe as quickly. Using higher quality material may cost more up front but it will extend the life of the system and increase reliability. 
  • Corrosion resistant sprinkler: When sprinklers are installed in areas susceptible to external corrosion, they need to be corrosion resistant. This means that they need to be either made out of corrosion resistant material, covered with a special coating such as wax, or plated with a corrosion resistant metal (see image below).
  • Water supply: NFPA 13, Sandard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, requires the water supply to be evaluated to determine if it contains any unusual corrosive properties or is likely to contain MIC. If it does, then you need to either install piping that is corrosion/MIC resistant, treat the water with water additives, implement a monitoring plan, or fill your system with nitrogen for dry or preaction systems.
  • Wet Pipe: Air Venting: NFPA 13 requires a vent to be located at a high point in the system to allow air to be removed by either a manual or automatic valve. This can be a reasonable approach on wet pipe sprinkler systems to reduce corrosion activity. The purpose of the air venting valve is to exhaust as much trapped air as possible from a single location every time the system is filled, thus having less oxygen for the metal to react with. 
  • Dry Pipe: Drain Water Out of System: Just like how in wet pipe systems you want to remove the air out of the piping, for dry pipe or preaction systems you want to remove the water. Dry pipe and preaction systems are required to be pitched to a low point drain so that water can be removed from the system. Since most corrosion occurs at the air/water interface this will help prevent corrosion.
  • Dry Pipe: Nitrogen: For dry pipe or preaction systems nitrogen can be used to fill the sprinkler piping network instead of air. When a system is filled with nitrogen it  contains very little oxygen, which is a vital ingredient in the corrosion process. Nitrogen can be provided through cylinders or a nitrogen generator.

 

sprinkler

 

How can I spot corrosion?

Some corrosion can be easily identified while others can be hidden. During your annual floor level inspection of piping, fittings and sprinklers be sure to keep an eye out for exterior corrosion which can be identified by its orange-brown color and rough texture.

 

Internal corrosion is more difficult to identify during your annual inspection so an assessment of the internal condition of piping is required to be conducted every five years. Outside of that assessment, the effects of both internal and external corrosion can be seen by looking for water stains or leaking pipe where corrosion could have created pinhole leaks in your system by eating through the wall of your piping (see image below).

 

sprinkler

 

 

 

What do I do if I see corrosion?

When there is significant corrosion buildup that is detrimental to sprinkler system performance, that section of piping, or sprinkler needs to be replaced. If corrosion is bad enough sometimes an entire system needs to be replaced.

 

Addressing these issues will help ensure the reliability of your sprinkler system, increase the life expectancy of your system and in the long run save you time, energy, and money. Share your experience working on a system that was installed in a corrosive atmosphere in the comments below. What was the biggest challenge or lesson learned?

 

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We are often asked this question: if you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be? Personally, I think a present-day dinner conversation with Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and other pioneers of electricity would prove to be extremely interesting.  Inventors are charged with having extremely creative minds, thinking outside of the norm, and determining the what “could be.”   With all the collective creativity in their minds, could they even remotely imagine the ability we have today when it comes to electricity? We are, without question, an electrified world. 

 

According to the Enerdata Global Energy Statistical Yearbook 2020, power consumption between 2010 and 2019 has Cycle of Safetyincreased by 78%, with an average consumption increase of 3% per year. While the increase in 2019 was down from the norm at only 0.7%, there is little doubt that the 2020 data will be back to at least the 3% yearly average, likely more, due to the additional power being used due to the coronavirus pandemic. So, what does this all mean from an electricity standpoint? It means that, now more than ever, it is imperative that we continue to ensure safe electrical systems.   

 

While sipping my coffee and browsing an electrical forum on social media this morning, I came across a post from an electrician who had just put new tabs in his 2020 edition of the NEC and captioned it, “Tabbing my new book to keep the citizens of my town safe was so exciting, exhilarating, and satisfying.  NOTHING has come close. I dare you to ask me anything!”

 

The ownership and excitement in that post brought a huge smile to my face. “Keeping the citizens of my town safe”…it’s just that simple! Whether you are an engineer designing the electrical system, an electrician installing and/or maintaining the electrical system, or an inspector verifying a safely installed electrical system, we are all charged with the same duty – ensuring the safety of both people and property. 

 

While thinking of this responsibility from a singular perspective may seem daunting, the truth is, it takes a group effort. I've already mentioned the engineer, electrician, and inspectors’ roles in the safety of the electrical system. If one person in the process doesn't do their job properly, people and property could be put at risk.  Each person doing his/her job properly is paramount to ensuring safety. The good news is no one is in it alone.       

                   

NFPA is steadfast in providing codes and standards such as NFPA 70, National Electrical Code (NEC) and NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance that assist in providing safe electrical systems for people and property.  But it doesn’t stop there. NFPA also takes it a step further by providing NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, which defines safe work practices to help ensure the safety of the individuals who are performing the installation and maintenance of the system. 

 

Much like the individuals in the process are reliant on one another for ensuring the utmost safety, these three NFPA documents are dependent on one another as well to ensure an electrical “Cycle of Safety.”  While each piece of the cycle covers a specific area, they must be used in unison in order to provide the safest electrical system possible, being installed in the safest manner. As I mentioned, NFPA 70B deals with electrical equipment maintenance, NFPA 70 (NEC) stipulates the installation rules that are necessary for a proper installation, and NFPA 70E provides the safe work practices necessary to ensure that the installation and maintenance is done safely by the individuals performing the work.  When the three are used simultaneously, and correctly, they provide for a complete electrical safety cycle.  When one or more pieces are missing, it leaves the door open for catastrophic accidents – even death. 

 

One of my favorite authors, Jon Gordon, preaches that intentional positivity creates a more positive life.  We can choose whether we let our responsibility in the” Cycle of Safety” be an intimidating task or, like the electrician that made the social media post, let it ignite the excitement within us for the opportunity we’ve been given to have a positive impact in the safety of others. For me, I’ll choose the latter. Remember, ensuring electrical safety takes a fully focused, collective effort from all of us.  As our NFPA tagline goes, “It’s a Big World. Let’s Protect It Together.”

Hurricanes

 

Hurricanes Marco and Laura are fast approaching the Gulf Coast this week and experts are calling their arrival “unprecedented” as the two storms are expected to make landfall within days of each other. As the Gulf states prepare for the storms' impact, weather experts continue to remind coastal communities that additional storms may still be on the horizon, with late September and October being the peak months for hurricane activity.

 

To help, NFPA has a wealth of electrical systems information for electrical professionals, first responders, and building professionals who must prepare for, respond, and recover from these natural disasters. The following are free and available for download:

 

  • Electrical professionals are often tasked with equipment maintenance for electrical, electronic, and communication systems and equipment found in multi-family residential complexes, industrial plants, and commercial buildings to prevent equipment failures and worker injuries. Chapter 32 of NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance, provides a useful framework for recovering electrical equipment and systems after a disaster.

 

  • First responders face many hazards when working with vehicles that have been submerged in water, particularly with hybrid or electrical vehicles. Our Submerged Hybrid/Electric Vehicle Bulletin breaks down the safety issues to help keep first responders safe.

 

 

Also, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) has a free resource, “Evaluating Water-Damaged Electrical Equipment” for electrical contractors who will be called in to help with damage assessments once the waters have receded. Visit their website for additional information.

 

With hurricane season lasting through November, businesses in coastal regions are encouraged to take action now to ensure they are prepared for impending storms. As experience tells us, being better prepared for and collaborating during and after an emergency is key to getting operations back to normal as quickly as possible.

For these and other related sources of information including blog posts and articles, visit our website.

Firefighters are considered an “at-risk” population for metabolic diseases, yet 75% of fire departments nationwide have not adopted a health and wellness program according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (Storer et al. 2014).

 

Due to the nature of their work, firefighters encounter continual disruptions to their eating and sleeping patterns (circadian rhythm) which can compromise their metabolic fitness. Cardio-metabolic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, fatty liver disease, and cancer can result from disrupted circadian rhythms, directly impacting the fitness, safety, and well-being of fire fighters.

 

Traditionally, reducing circadian rhythm disruption was achieved through sleep modification and minimizing ambient light exposure. However, this methodology is not applicable to emergency responders. Based on laboratory and clinical studies it appears that keeping nutritional quality, quantity, and physical activity consistent while consuming calorific intake within a consistent 8-12 hour time period every day can sustain a healthy circadian rhythm and reduce the risk of cardio-metabolic disease among fire fighters.

 

This recent webinar summarized an on-going DHS-FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) study led by theSalk Institute, in collaboration with the Fire Protection Research Foundation, University of California-San Diego and San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, looking at 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 webinar, held on August 11, 2020, was presented by Dr. Satchin Panda and Dr. Emily Manoogian of Salk Institute.

 

The full webinar is available here.

It has been more than two weeks since we first saw footage of the horrific explosions in the Port of Beirut, and in the days since many of us have been wondering how the conditions that led to that catastrophic event could have been avoided.  

 

News reports point to hot work as the cause of the first fireWelding was being performed on a hole in the warehouse to address security concerns. Something went awry and the warehouse roof caught fire. Next came some smaller explosions (by Beirut incident standards) which were attributed to fireworks storage. And then came the massive blast that is seared into all our minds, when the fire reached 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that happened to be stored in the warehouse (for what we now know was more than six years) 

 

Here at NFPA, our thoughts have been with the people of Lebanon as they mourn their losses and move safely into the future. With the latter in mind, wwould like to share information and resources that will help Lebanon and the global community end tragic incidents like this.  

 

Hot work fires in industrial settings are common but easily avoided when precautions and hazard management procedures are followed. Before any hot work is started, anyone involved in the work should use the “Recognize, Evaluate, and Control” process to reduce hazards.  

 

 

In the first step, Recognize, the hot work team (made up of the permit authorizing individual, the hot work operator, and the fire watch) should first recognize that hot work is being done and that it contributes to the fire triangle (oxygen, ignition source and fuel). Hot work served as the ignition source in Lebanon on that fateful Tuesday morning 

 

Hot work can include welding, soldering, brazing, cutting - it is activity involving flame, spark production, or heat Some of the initial questions that should be asked when considering hot work is, “Is there an alternative way to get this job done without hot work? Could I use screwed, flanged, or clamped pipe, or mechanical pipe cutting, instead?” These first steps also call for recognizing what fuel sources are in the area surrounding the proposed hot work location. In other words, look around the work area for construction materials, liquid or gaseous fuel, paint, cleaning solvents, or debris that could be ignited by sparks from the hot work. 

 

Next, Evaluate the situation. Can the hazards that are present be moved away from the hot work site? Can the hot work be done in a different location, free from these fuel sources? Has the atmosphere been tested for flammable or combustible vapors? 

 

Then, Control, minimize, or eliminate the hazard. Clear combustibles to ensure that there is, at minimum, a 35-foot radius space around the hot work, move the hot work to an area free from these materials, or separate the hot work from combustibles using welding pads, blankets, or curtains. Keep in mind that there are some areas where hot work should never be done (non-permissible areas), and this includes areas where explosives are stored. 

 

These safety guidelines are addressed in NFPA 51B, Standard for Fire Prevention During Welding, Cutting, and Other Hot Work  and are brought to life in NFPA Hot Work Safety Certificate Online Training, which teaches how and when to apply these principles. 

 

Hot work incidents, albeit not as prolific as the one in Beirut earlier this month, happen all the time around the globe. There have been several examples in the United States that come to mind.  One in 2017, when hot work was being conducted at a pulp and paper mill near a tank that held flammable vaporsAexplosion occurred, and three contractors were killed and seven more were injured. Prior to that one, an incident in 2016 stands out. A flash fire broke out at a crude oil terminal injuring seven contractors. The incident was attributed to hot work being done on crude-oil pipeline connection.  Then there was an event in 2014 that involved biological material in a tank that was unknowingly off-gassing flammable methane and hydrogen sulfideThese incidents took place in different states during different years; the scenarios were different but, in each case, hot work acted as the devastating ignition source. And instead of things getting better, it seems like every week we are hearing about another building under construction that has burned down or been severely damaged due to hot work. 

 

The NFPA Structure Fires Caused by Hot Work report states that 57 percent of fires involving hot work between 2013-2017 occurred on non-home properties, with welding torches involved in 39 percent of non-home hot work fires and cutting torches involved in 27 percent of non-home fires. The figures below from the research report show the item first ignited and the factors contributing to that ignition; the data drives home how important the three-step approach described above can be in preventing these fires. 

 

Structure fires involving hot work, by item first ignited, 2013-2017, Non-Home 

 

  Structure fires involving hot work, by factor contributing to ignition, 2013-2017, Non-Home 

 

For more content and context related to hot work, visit nfpa.org/hotwork. On that microsite, you will find relevant infographics, fact sheets, and a link to our online trainings (in English and Spanish) to help you and those you work with understand the dangers associated with hot work and the procedures  that promote safety on work sites.  

 

 

The summer of 2017 saw a number of deadly high-rise fires, including the Grenfell Tower fire and the Marco Polo fire. While deadly incidents like these are usually the result of a combination of failures, these buildings had one major thing in common: they were both unsprinklered. These events led to a review of the high-rise sprinkler requirements for the 2021 edition of NFPA 101, Life Safety Code. While a blanket retroactive sprinkler requirement for high-rise buildings still isn’t proposed, a number of technical committees did modify the requirements for their respective occupancies. These proposed changes include:

  • The installation of sprinklers is required in all existing high-rise ambulatory health care occupancies within 12 years of the adoption of the Code.
  • Existing apartments, without a previously approved engineered life safety system, must be sprinklered by January 1, 2033.
  • The installation of sprinklers or the installation of an engineered life safety system is required in all existing high-rise industrial occupancies within 12 years of the adoption of the Code.

 

The technical committees responsible for the changes noted above carefully considered the impact retroactive requirements have on existing buildings. Sometimes, as is the case with retroactive sprinkler requirements, the benefits far outweigh the costs.

 

A common misconception is that NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, dictates which buildings must have sprinklers.  However, the requirement for a building to be sprinklered will be dictated by a code such as a building code, life safety code, or fire code and the standard (NFPA 13) will tell you how to install the sprinklers. When determining if a building is required to be sprinklered it is important to review the requirements from all applicable codes in your jurisdiction. Just because one of the codes doesn’t require sprinklers, doesn’t mean the same is true of the others. In the case of differing requirements, the most restrictive of the codes would apply. As each of these codes serves a different purpose and has a different scope, it can lead to the difference in requirements.

 

We’ll look a little more closely at how the sprinkler requirements for high-rise buildings differ between the current editions (2018) of NFPA 1, Fire Code and NFPA 101. High-rise buildings are defined by NFPA 1 and  NFPA 101 buildings where the floor of an occupiable story is greater than 75 ft above the lowest level of fire department vehicle access. When looking at your local requirements, it is important to verify how your jurisdiction defines a high-rise building as many jurisdictions may modify the definition.

 

2018 Fire Code, NFPA 1

The Fire Code is intended to address firefighter life safety and building protection in addition to occupant life safety.  The high-rise building sprinkler requirements are straightforward. All new high-rise buildings must be protected with sprinklers throughout and all existing high-rise buildings must be sprinklered within 12 years of the adoption of the Code.

 

2018 Life Safety Code, NFPA 101

The Life Safety Code is primarily concerned with occupant life safety. Like the Fire Code, the Life Safety Code requires that all new high-rise buildings be protected with sprinklers throughout. The differences between the codes arise in existing high-rise buildings. Instead of a blanket requirement retrofit requirement, the Life Safety Code relies on the individual occupancies to determine the extent of, if any, sprinkler protection that is required. If an existing occupancy chapter requires sprinkler protection, the requirement will be found in either the “Extinguishment Requirements” subsection (XX.3.5) or the “Special Provisions” section (XX.4). Many existing occupancy chapters specifically require high-rise buildings to be sprinklered:

  • Assembly
  • Educational
  • Day-care
  • Health care
  • Detention and correctional
  • Hotel and dormitories
  • Residential board and care - large facilities

 

Although mercantile does not specifically call out existing high-rise buildings, there is a good chance they would be required to be sprinklered based on the general sprinkler requirements.

 

Ambulatory health care, apartments, and business occupancies require either a sprinkler system or an engineered life safety system. An engineered life safety system (ELSS) must provide a similar level of safety as an automatic sprinkler system. It can include protection features such as a partial sprinkler system, smoke detection, compartmentation, or other types of fire and life safety systems. It must be developed by a professional engineer and approved by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).

 

Others, such as industrial and storage occupancies do not require sprinklers or an engineered life safety system due to the relatively low occupant load that is typical of these occupancies. (maybe add a sentence reminding readers about 101 mandating sprinklers only when they are installed for the protection of people not property)

 

The high-rise sprinkler requirements in the Fire Code and the Life Safety Code are an example of two Codes with differing requirements. To summarize, both require all new high-rise buildings to be sprinklered throughout. The Fire Code requires all existing buildings to be sprinklered within 12 years of its adoption date while the Life Safety Code is occupancy specific. As mentioned above the differences can be attributed to the different scopes and purposes.

 

A number of cities have passed legislation independent of the codes requiring the retrofit of some or all high-rise buildings with sprinklers. Has your city?  Are you interested in learning more about retrofit? If so, let us know in the comments section!

 

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 the horrific explosion in Beirut, Lebanon on August 4, it is an apt time to revisit the U.S. Chemical Safety Board’s (CSB) report on the 2013 ammonium nitrate (AN) detonation that devastated West, Texas, killing 15 people, and injuring 260 others. That report, published in 2016, identified the regulatory gaps and system weaknesses that had allowed a major hazard to go unnoticed for years in the community. Although some progress has been made on AN safety in the U.S. since the accident, as Katherine Lemos, chair of the CSB, noted in a recent statement, many of the weaknesses that were present in 2013 remain in 2020.CSB Report

 

In its report, the CSB pointed to a number of factors that enabled the 2013 incident, both in its occurrence and its severity. From the unsafe storage conditions of the AN to the low hazard awareness of the responding firefighters, 12 of whom lost their lives. Chief among the regulatory gaps and weaknesses identified by the CSB were those left by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health  Administration (OSHA).

 

Those regulations, EPA’s Risk Management Program (RMP) and OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) program, did not cover AN in 2013 and they still don’t. The RMP and PSM rules were developed by the agencies to prevent major chemical accidents but they do not include the use of AN within their scope. Facilities using AN, like the West Fertilizer Company (WFC), are therefore not required to perform hazard analyses, employee safety training, emergency planning, and other actions to minimize the risk and consequences of an AN accident. In this context, it bears noting that WFC was familiar with EPA’s RMP regulation as it pertained to anhydrous ammonia, which the company stored on site, and endeavored to comply. The inclusion of AN in the standard would have brought scrutiny to the facility’s sizable AN stockpile and the fire safety hazards that surrounded it.

 

Without PSM, OSHA still has a rule that applies to AN—the Explosives and Blasting Agents regulation. However, since WFC was selling AN as a fertilizer, and not for use as an explosive, they were not aware it applied. In 2016, CSB urged OSHA to not only change the name of the regulation to indicate it applies to any use of AN over a threshold quantity, but also to change the regulation to reference NFPA 400 (2016). This most recent edition of NFPA 400, now 2019, prohibits AN storage in wooden bins, the practice at WFC, and requires stricter fire protection measures. As it is now, [the CSB believes] the OSHA regulation is insufficient to provide for the safe use of the material.

 

At the state level, Texas still lacks a statewide fire code and the state law still makes it difficult for authorities in more rural areas to adopt one. Given that ammonium nitrate is stored and used in rural counties, officials should have more tools at their disposal to ensure those facilities are not a danger to the community.

 

Another tool suggested by the CSB is insurance. Texas requires businesses in a number of different sectors to hold commercial liability insurance policies, from amusement ride operators to electricians and tow truck drivers. However, there’s no such requirements for proprietors selling large quantities of fertilizer. In WFC’s case, their original insurance provider dropped their coverage after making safety recommendations that went unfollowed. While WFC did acquire insurance from another provider, the actual damages from the accident exceeded the coverage by several orders of magnitude. If businesses storing and selling AN were required to hold insurance policies that met certain criteria, communities would have another set of eyes, and another layer of protection, for those facilities.

 

The CSB report made a number of other recommendations as well, from ensuring hazardous materials training for firefighters and encouraging pre-incident planning to implementing industry programs to inform every actor in the supply chain of the hazards associated with AN. But so far, of the 19 recommendations, only seven are closed.

 

beirutIn Beirut, it has been reported that public safety officials tried to no avail to spur the removal of a huge stockpile of AN from the port. In the U.S., we may take for granted that officials would act, and with urgency, if an [ultrahazardous] situation was discovered in our community. However, as the open recommendations show, we are still allowing a hazard to slip through the cracks.

 

For additional information on the subject, watch a recent video with Guy Colonna, an engineering director at NFPA, who discusses ammonium nitrate safety after the Beirut explosion. Guy will also host a webinar for stakeholders in Latin America on Monday, August 24 at 8:00 pm (19:00 Mexico City local time) with Jaime Gutiérrez, new NFPA international development director for Latin America, about the role of ammonium nitrate in the Beirut explosion, and appropriate safety management of the chemical compound.

 

Photo: Beirut, before the explosion.

 

 

NFPA has developed three new Learning Path programs to help different stakeholders prepare for certification credentials at their own pace and at the level they deem necessary. Professionals looking to get ready for Certified Fire Protection Specialist (CFPS), Certified Fire Inspector (CFI-I), and Certified Fire Plan Examiner (CFPE) exams can customize their studying approach to include individual online training modules or a full program with more comprehensive educational content. The Learning Path option is also great for fire departments or companies looking to further workers’ capabilities via online training rather than classroom training that may take them away from work.

 

Available 24/7, each Learning Path program has its own set of strategies for helping students to grasp the subject matter. All three offerings include a practice exam component, a final Capstone activity to test knowledge and core responsibilities, and a navigation tool that helps stakeholders plot out their long-range learning approach so that they are covering related content in advance of the certification exam date. 

 

These online learnings are great for fire protection professionals, risk managers, loss control specialists, fire officers, fire marshals, fire inspectors, safety managers, fire protection consultants, designers, engineers, code enforcers, facility managers, building owners, and others responsible for the application of fire safety, protection, prevention, and suppression technologies.

 

Certified Fire Protection Specialist (CFPS) Learning Path

 

The Certified Fire Protection Specialist (CFPS) credential documents competency and offers professional recognition for individuals involved in curtailing physical and financial fire loss. The 41 certification modules in the Premium bundle have been created with material from the NFPA Fire Protection Handbook (FPH) and feature expert videos, interactive 3D fire scene investigation tools, official research reports and news reports of fire incidents, knowledge checks, and quizzes at the end of every module. The interactive, online course is based on the new 2020 CFPS examination content outline.

 

Certified Fire Inspector I (CFI-I) Learning Path

 

Those planning to take the Certified Fire Inspector I examination will learn about the job performance requirements for the Fire Inspector I level as defined in the 2014 edition of NFPA 1031, Standard for Professional Qualification for Fire Inspector and Plan Examiner. New learners will benefit from a full online CFI-I learning program with 31 hours of related content and the possibility of earning 3.1 continuing education units (CEUs). This track includes 10 modules specifically designed to prepare the CFI-I candidate for the exam and an additional 21 modules that provide in-depth training on codes and standards. Those interested in a leaner approach, can opt for the Primer offer, which includes the 10 exam prep modules or take individual ala carte courses.

 

Certified Fire Plan Examiner (CFPE) Learning Path

 

Like the CFI-I program, the Certified Fire Plan Examiner certification exam is based on NFPA 1031 and also includes NFPA codes related directly to the plan examiner’s field-of-practice – NFPA 1 Fire Code, NFPA 13 Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, NFPA 72 National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code and NFPA 101 Life Safety Code. Designed to mirror the certification exam blueprint, this Learning Path entails 27 hours of content (2.7 CEUs) including expert video commentary, interactive 3D tools, case studies, regulation-changing fire-incident videos, and a unique interactive sandbox area.

 

Learn more about other NFPA online and virtual training options.

 

Before he rides off into the sunset and begins to enjoy a well-deserved retirement, NFPA Director of Engineering and resident industrial/chemical expert Guy Colonna will conduct a webinar for stakeholders in Latin America on Monday, August 24 at 8pm EDT – 19:00 Mexico City local time. Colonna will join Jaime Gutiérrez, new NFPA international development director for Latin America, on his show Dialogues in México from Home for a discussion about the role of ammonium nitrate in the catastrophic Beirut explosion – and appropriate safety management of the chemical compound.

 

Colonna recently explained during an NFPA video blog and an NFPA podcast that ammonium nitrate is generally used to make fertilizers and explosives. It does not, however, burn on its own which indicates that there were likely multiple safety fails that lead to the devastating blow in Beirut.  Based on news reports, the August 4th disaster appears to have resulted because some of the critical components of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem were blatantly disregarded or overlooked.

 

Colonna will offer guidance on safely handling ammonium nitrate and address myths about the chemical during a short webinar which will be conducted in English with Gutiérrez translating and facilitating a Q & A session.

 

Register for this webinar today and make plans to tune in on Monday.

 

As schools plan to re-open their doors in the days and weeks ahead, school and local officials are working diligently to implement measures that help minimize exposure to and spread of COVID-19. While much emphasis has understandably been placed on these issues and concerns, it’s critical that adequate levels of fire and life safety continue to be maintained in the process.

 

NFPA’s new fact sheet, Building and Life Safety Issues for Safely Reopening Schools, provides fire and life safety considerations for schools as they prepare to re-open, including building modifications like door operability, classroom usage, seating arrangements, and partitions, as well egress management and storage of hand sanitizer and cleaning products. It’s important to note that many of these issues require review and input from the local AHJ, as all changes and modifications must be implemented in accordance with local codes and standards. This applies to fire drills, which are  briefly covered in this new resource; the blog I posted last week addresses school fire drill requirements in more detail, as outlined in NFPA 101, Life Safety Code.

 

Simply put, the risk of fires and other emergencies has not disappeared in the midst of the pandemic. It’s imperative that measures remain in place to adequately protect students, faculty and staff from these potential threats, even at a time when they’re not necessarily at the forefront of many people’s minds.

 

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

FPC issue coverProtecting people and property in the rapidly evolving world of fire and life safety requires leadership, collaboration, vision, and drive. Few embody these virtues more than NFPA’s Matt Klaus, who has been recognized by Fire Protection Contractor (FPC) magazine as their 2020 “Person of the Year”.

 

FPC magazine has been a go-to resource for fire protection contractors, designers, and engineers since 1978. Every year, they shine a spotlight on one industry innovator—and this year it was Matt Klaus.

 

The honor acknowledges the work ethic and expertise that NFPA has come to expect and appreciate from Klaus over the last 20 years. What is striking about Matt is his sincerity. Colleagues and stakeholders find his ability to establish strong relationships and openly communicate to be both refreshing and relevant. James Golinveaux, CEO of The Viking Group, said of Klaus, “His integrity is what keeps him real and his knowledge and passion is what makes him successful.”

 

Passion has been a cornerstone of Klaus’ career. After completing his Master of Science in Fire Protection Engineering from WPI in 2002, he took a role as a fire protection engineer with Schirmer Engineering. At Schirmer, he honed his skills in everything from sprinkler design to code consulting. His diligence led to him working both domestically and in the Middle East. It was around this time that he was elected to the Salamander Honorary Society, the oldest national honor society for fire protection engineering dating back to 1922.

 

In 2010, NFPA brought Klaus on as a staff liaison, allowing him the opportunity to reach a broader, larger audience and have more of an impact on fire protection. He used his reach to hold 15-20 in-person seminars a year. Today, he shares his expertise as the NFPA Director of Technical Services.

 

Matt places a high value on motivating and educating the next generation, believing that communication and understanding the ‘why’ of things is critical to the growth and advancement of the individual, and overall life safety.

 

For these reasons, and many more, NFPA is proud to congratulate Matt Klaus on this special recognition.

So, your building has a smoke detector in it and you are wondering what is required as far as inspection, testing, and maintenance (ITM) to ensure that it is kept in working order to keep the occupants safe and protect your property.  Lets spend a few minutes going over some of the major requirements. 

Smoke Alarm vs. Smoke Detector

Before we start talking about maintaining a smoke detector, I first want to talk about the difference between a smoke alarm and a smoke detector. In the 2019 edition of NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, a smoke alarm is referred to as a single station or multiple station alarm that is responsive to smoke while a smoke detector, or any detector for that matter is a device that is connected to a circuit that has a sensor that responds to a physical stimulus such as heat or smoke.

So, what does that mean? Basically, is means that a smoke alarm is a self-contained unit that contains the sensor that is constantly monitoring for smoke and the audible alarm that activates to warn the occupants if smoke is detected.  A smoke detector on the other hand must be part of an fire alarm system because it can only send a signal back to the fire alarm control unit via a circuit if it detects smoke. Then, based on the programing, the fire alarm control unit may activate the audible notification for the occupants to evacuate and send a signal to a constantly attended location.

 Smoke alarms are required to be installed by NFPA 101, The Life Safety Code in such occupancies as daycares and residential, including one- and two-family dwelling units. You are more likely to see a full fire alarm system including smoke detectors in commercial occupancies such as business, assembly, and mercantile.

If you are looking for the ITM requirements for a smoke alarm, Chapter 14 of NFPA 72 requires them to be maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions (typically cleaned with compressed air or a vacuum) and to be tested at least monthly. NFPA 72 also permits the ITM of the smoke alarms to be completed by the occupant of the dwelling unit.

Who Can Perform Smoke Detector ITM?

According to NFPA 72, The Fire Alarm Code, the property owner is ultimately responsible for ensuring that ITM is completed on the fire alarm system, including the smoke detectors. The property owner is permitted to delegate this responsibility to the building occupant or a management firm or individual if the authority having jurisdiction is notified.

The person performing the inspection testing and maintenance must be qualified per the authority having jurisdiction. This could include factory training for the brand being serviced, obtaining a nationally recognized certification, a person who is registered, licensed, or certified, or a person working for a company that is listed by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.

What Needs to Be Done?

Chapter 14 of NFPA 72 addresses Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance (ITM). Smoke detectors need to be

  • Inspected Semiannually
  • Functionally Tested Annually
  • Sensitivity Tested 1 year after install then checked every other year and increased to every 5 years if the device remains within its sensitivity range
  • Maintained in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions

An inspection only means that you are visually confirming that the smoke detector looks like it will be able to operate. This includes checking for physical damage to the detector and making sure that the detector is not dirty or obstructed in a way to limit smoke being able to enter the sensing chamber. Some common obstructions include leaving the bright orange shipping cap on the detector or taping the detectors sensing chamber, both will render the detector inoperable.

Smoke Detector with Shipping Cap Still Installed

Smoke detectors need to be functionally tested annually to ensure there is an alarm response when smoke is introduced into the chamber. This means that artificial smoke needs to be used to make sure the smoke detectors are working properly, the use of a magnet to test a smoke detector is not an acceptable functional test because it only tests the circuitry and does not ensure that smoke entering the chamber will trigger a response. If you have the testing completed by a contractor you should work with them to ensure that their annual functional test includes the introduction of smoke and not a magnet.

Sensitivity testing needs to be completed to ensure that the smoke detector will send an alarm signal when a specific amount of smoke is introduced into the chamber. This is tested by using test equipment to introduce a known amount of smoke and checking to see when the detector goes into alarm. This needs to be done one year after installation and then every other year, if the detector remains within its listed and marked sensitivity, the testing can be completed every 5 years. Modern fire alarm equipment has the ability to monitor the sensitivity of all of the detectors constantly and in turn are not required to have sensitivity testing completed. If you have any question regarding whether your detectors require sensitivity testing, it is best to have a qualified person look at your system.

Maintenance on the smoke detectors needs to be completed per the manufacturer’s instructions, this includes vacuuming or using compressed air to clean the chamber as needed based on the ambient conditions. Finally, it is very important that all records of inspection, testing, and maintenance be completed and maintained for at least one year.

Let me know in the comments below if you would be interested in some more fire alarm ITM, if so, what do you want to hear more about?

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NFPA is proud to announce that Amanda Kimball, executive director of the Fire Protection Research Foundation (the research affiliate of NFPA), has been selected as a fellow at the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE). SFPE fellowship reflects a demonstrated service to the society, as well as an established record of accomplishment and stature in fire protection engineering or fire safety engineering. The selection requires nomination by at least five SFPE fellows or professional members, review by the SFPE Qualification Subcommittee, and action by the SFPE Board of Directors.

 

According to the society, Kimball was selected as a result of her professional and academic accomplishments over the past 20 years, including her current roles and responsibilities at the Research Foundation, along with her previous fire engineering and fire protection positions at Arup, an engineering design and consulting firm with offices around the globe.

 

Please help us congratulate Amanda on this impressive achievement!

hurricanes, nfpa 70B

With the height of hurricane season upon us and with nearly 50 active large wildfires currently burning across the U.S., as a facility manager, how prepared is your building for a natural disaster? Whether it’s extreme weather or a manmade hazard, many of us may not realize that such events can wreak havoc on a building’s electrical system.

So while we may not be able to hold back Mother Nature, we can learn how to prepare our facilities and put protocols in place that allow us to respond appropriately to a natural disaster in our area. It’s all about the prep work leading up to the event, which, in turn helps ensure the least amount of down time and a speedy recovery.

NFPA’s Derek Vigstol explains in a recent article for Facility Executive how facility managers can prepare for, respond, and recover from a disaster by following guidelines set out in Chapter 32 of NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance. It all starts, he says, with creating a site-specific disaster plan.

Read the article, which also includes a link to NFPA’s new 70B checklist, a great resource that takes you step-by-step as you prepare to battle the elements.

The way people work and learn has changed considerably in recent years, and particularly, in the months since COVID-19 took hold in the United States. NFPA has been following this trend for years and mobilizing to meet distance learning demands in a variety of ways so that a broad range of stakeholders can stay current on workplace information and knowledge.


One such way of learning is the NFPA 70 National Electrical Code (NEC) Online Training Series which includes seven different modules ideally suited for members of the electrical, enforcement and maintenance communities. The training emphasizes safe and compliant electrical installation and design while helping students to locate, interpret, and apply requirements in the ever-evolving NEC. The online training challenges learners to apply the NEC, reference tables and complete calculations; it features instructional presentations, interactive exercises, and an integrated set of scenario-based activities.


Electrical system designers, electrical engineers, electrical contractors, safety engineers, installation and maintenance professionals, manufacturers, electrical inspectors, facility maintenance personnel, and project managers will learn how NEC compliance helps provide electrical safety in commercial, and industrial applications. Previous versions of the training centered around the 2014 and 2017 editions of the NEC. The new version has been updated for consistency with the 2020 edition of the code and includes high-demand topics such as grounding, bonding, motors and HVAC equipment. Students will assess what they learn during an interactive renovation project of a high school built to the 1981 version of the code; a Capstone component at the end of each module also allows students to confirm their grasp of course content.


Over a span of 10 self-paced hours, students will learn to:

 

  • Describe NEC general requirements for the execution of work
  • Identify the requirements for determining minimum conductor size and calculating load
  • Determine the requirements for routing conductors and securing raceways
  • Define and describe the elements of grounded and ungrounded systems
  • Identify equipment grounding and bonding requirements
  • Identify types and functions of overcurrent protective devices
  • Determine ratings and requirements for motors and HVAC systems
  • Upon successfully passing an online assessment, participants will earn a Certificate of Completion.

 

The NEC has been around since 1897 and it continues to evolve with the times. It is enforced in various editions in all 50 states and referred to in jurisdictions all around the world. A skilled workforce, utilizing the knowledgeable in the NEC, is paramount to ensuring the protection of people and property from electrical hazards.

 

Yesterday morning, an explosion, most likely involving natural gas, ripped through three rowhouses in northwest Baltimore, leaving two dead and seven more transported to hospitals. The blast occurred on the 4-year anniversary of another Maryland natural gas explosion, which killed seven and injured nearly ten times as many in the city of Silver Springs in 2016. While the cause of this recent explosion remains under investigation, the damages sustained in the Baltimore incident are reminiscent of similar fuel gas explosions we’ve seen in recent years in the Merrimack Valley region of Massachusetts in 2018 and Farmington, Maine last September.


Fuel gases include natural gas, manufactured gas, liquefied petroleum (LP) gas (typically propane & butane), or mixtures of these gases that are distributed commercially and used in gas appliances for cooking and heating. There are several different codes, standards, and regulations here in the U.S that govern the safe use of fuel gas systems. The codes, standards, and regulations apply to both the fuel gas being used and those responsible for each part of the system.


For natural gas systems, the utility company (in this case Baltimore Gas and Electric) is responsible for the transmission lines and piping up to the service meter at the customer’s house. The Department of Transportation (DOT) and The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) regulate gas utilities and jurisdictional requirements are listed under Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Responsibility for gas from the outlet of the service meter to the appropriate gas appliance lies with the customer and is addressed within NFPA 54 National Fuel Gas Code.

 

NFPA research found that an estimated 4,200 home structure fires per year were started with the ignition of natural gas and caused an average of 40 deaths.


Looking back at recent incidents, we know that the Merrimack Valley fire and explosions was caused by an over-pressurization in the utility gas transmission lines which caused damage to customer-owned equipment. One person was killed, dozens of explosions and fires damaged more than 40 homes, and 30,000 residents and business owners were forced to evacuate. In the case of the LEAP Building explosion in Maine, gas piping outside the home was punctured by a drilling operation that caused gas to migrate into the basement of the building. That incident killed one firefighter, injured others and destroyed a non-profit building.


Combustion requires three things - fuel, oxygen, and an ignition source. In the case of natural gas explosions, the leaking gas is the fuel. Ambient air serves as the oxygen, which in the right proportion with the fuel, forms an ignitable mixture. The last part of the triangle is an ignition source to spark the vapor/air mixture. When gas enters an occupancy (either from the outside or from an appliance leak within the home), simple gestures like turning on the stove or switching on a light switch can serve as the ignition source.


Both natural gas and LP-Gas are colorless and odorless, which makes detecting a leak difficult. When fuel gases are used for consumer application, they are treated with an odorant that emits a distinct smell and helps to alert parties nearby that a leak has occurred. Despite odorization efforts, odor fades and not everyone can detect odor readily. Based on incidents like yesterday, various parties have asked for the development and installation of gas detection devices for residential applications.


NFPA 715, Standard for the Installation of Fuel Gases Detection and Warning Equipment is in the early developmental stages prior to beginning full public review. NFPA 715 addresses recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) investigation following the Silver Springs explosion; it will cover the selection, design, application, installation, location, performance, inspection, testing, and maintenance of fuel gas detection and warning equipment in buildings and structures. The Standards Council decided to begin the full NFPA 715 revision process and invites stakeholders to submit public inputs at this point.


Additionally, the Fire Protection Research Foundation, the research affiliate of NFPA, will soon complete a report on combustible gas detector (CGD) placement that looks to use modeling work to justify requirements in NFPA 715 for the best location of CGD in order to ensure early and accurate detection of leaks.


The incident in Baltimore and the other events I have noted above underscore the need for sharing and understanding simple gas leak safety measures. Here are some that come to mind:

 

  • Prior to any construction work, be sure to contact Dig Safe or similar local authorities to prevent accidental damage to buried underground piping as digging is a frequent cause of damage to the main line before the meter.
  • If you smell gas – typically a rotten egg smell due to the mercaptan odorant - leave the area or building immediately.
  • Avoid possible ignition sources such as matches and lighters, light switches, flashlights, telephones, cell phones and other communication devices if you do smell that rotten egg smell. Do not start a car or ring doorbells either.
  • Get to a safe area and call 911 to report a gas leak. Then follow the instructions of any on-site emergency responders or utility employees, as they respond to the leak.

 

For more information on NFPA 54 or the proposed NFPA 715, visit nfpa.org.

It is common knowledge that electric shock itself has the potential to cause death. When it comes to electric shock drowning (ESD), electrical shock in the way we might normally think of it, such as stopping your heart from beating, is not necessarily what causes death. In many cases, current levels within the water that would typically be considered rather low, still have the ability to cause paralysis, which limits a person's ability to swim and in turn, causes them to drown. 

 

 

Such was the case recently when a mother and father lost not only one child, but two, in a recent boating incident in Lake Pleasant in Arizona. The article states that a thorough investigation took place at the scene with a group of experts and, with all facts gathered, it was determined that the two brothers lost their lives due to ESD. 

 

You can almost picture the scenario: man jumps into the marina water to cool off and begins to feel the effects of unforeseen current in the water; another man sees the first man is struggling to swim and jumps in to save him and is now susceptible to the unseen current; woman sees both men struggling to swim and jumps in to save them and is now impacted by that same unseen current… The cycle goes on and on until a person witnessing the cycle decides to end it, not by entering the water, but by using another means such as throwing a lifeline to those they see struggling, and shutting off any accessible sources of power such as at a power pedestal. The duration of the cycle will more than likely be a direct result of how many lives are lost or, at minimum, negatively impacted. So how do we shorten the cycle? Or better yet, how do we prevent the cycle from starting altogether?

 

Here are some tips that can help individuals avoid harm to themselves, or put others at risk, as a result of ESD:

 

  • Avoid swimming in marinas, boatyards, or areas where boats are docked in or travel through
  • Look for, and obey, posted signage
  • Have electrical work within boats and marinas performed only by licensed, qualified electricians
  • Use shore power cords intended for the purpose and built to UL standards
  • Have the electrical system on your boat tested annually by a qualified party to ensure it is working properly
  • NEVER modify the electrical system on your boat or shore power to make something that work that isn’t. The code required safety mechanisms that are in place are intended to tell you if something is wrong both with your boat and also with shore power. Find a licensed, qualified professional to help you determine the cause of the problem.

 

NFPA is dedicated to helping eliminate death and injury due to ESD. Watch NFPA’s latest “Learn Something New" video about the dangers of ESD above, put together by NFPA Journal Staff Writer, Angelo Verzoni. 

 

Find additional free information and resources to share by visiting NFPA's electrical safety around water webpage. 

Standards Council

The NFPA Standards Council will be meeting on August 10-13, 2020 by video conference (daily sessions from 10 a.m. –

2:00 p.m. EST until conclusion of meeting).  At this meeting, some of the topics the Council will address include:

 

  • An appeal on NFPA 1 requesting deletion of paragraph 65.3
  • The issuance of proposed TIAs on NFPA 1, NFPA 13, NFPA 30, NFPA 30A, NFPA 58, NFPA 67, NFPA 70, NFPA 101A, NFPA 1006, NFPA 1192, NFPA 1581, NFPA 1851, NFPA 1999, NFPA 2112
  • New projects/documents on fuel gas warning equipment; remote inspections; emergency action planning
  • The issuance of Annual 2020 codes and standards: NFPA 1, NFPA 4, NFPA 30, NFPA 30A, NFPA 99, NFPA 101, NFPA 790, NFPA 1006, NFPA 1500, NFPA 1700
  • Requests from Committees to change revision cycle schedules for NFPA 11, 14, 58, and 59A
  • A task group update and correspondence on potential scope overlap of NFPA 855
  • Action on pending applications for committee membership

 

Read the full Council agenda and hearings schedule for further information.

 

The NFPA Standards Council is a 13-person committee appointed by the NFPA Board of Directors that oversees the Association's codes and standards development activities, administers the rules and regulations, and acts as an appeals body. The Council administers about 250 NFPA Technical Committees and their work on over 300 documents addressing topics of importance to the built environment.

 

 

It's back to school time. But, what back to school will look like in 2020 will be unlike anything in the past.  Currently, communities are facing unprecedented challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic causing educators, administrators, public health officials and first responders to grapple over the safest decision for how the school year will operate.  Some schools may opt for a fully remote learning experience while other may welcome students back to school buildings in person, or possibly a combination of the two.  However, regardless of the details of the school day, when students are in the buildings, maintaining a healthy and safe environment cannot be overlooked.  This includes continuing to conduct fire drills, among other safety measures.  

 

Educational occupancies, defined in NFPA 1, Fire Code, and NFPA 101, Life Safety Code as "an occupancy used for educational purposes through the twelfth grade by six or more persons for 4 or more hours per day or more than 12 hours per week" include preschools, elementary schools, high schools, and the like.  Colleges and Universities fall under a different occupancy classification and are also facing their own unique challenges due to COVID-19.  Here we will focus on the emergency egress drill requirements for those facilities classified as educational occupancies.  

 

Why are drills important?

Emergency egress and relocation drills are required as mandated specifically by the occupancy or as deemed necessary by the local AHJ (see Chapter 20 of NFPA 1 or Chapter 14 or 15 of NFPA 101).  The purpose of these drills is to educate the participants in the fire safety features of the building, the egress facilities available, and the procedures to be followed. Speed in emptying buildings or relocating occupants, while desirable, is not the only objective, nor is it regulated by the Codes. Students that are returning to school in-person this school year will likely see reconfigured classroom spaces, one way travel throughout the building, and a change in how some traditionally non-classroom space is being used, all due to the overwhelming number of health and safety restrictions in place due to COVID-19.  These changes to the building configuration make drilling students especially critical so that in the event of an emergency, students and staff alike are familiar with any changes to the building or their expected course of action for the emergency.  Regardless of what changes have been made to the building configuration, free and unobstructed egress must be maintained at all times.

 

When are drills required?

Generally, egress drills are required by the Code to be conducted at least once every month the educational facility is in session, and sometimes twice within the first 30 days, unless located in a climate with severe weather (cold, heat, etc).  All occupants of the building are required to participate in the drill and all emergency drill alarms are to be sounded on the fire alarm system so as to not confuse students and staff as to the required action.

 

Emergency egress training programs may be substituted on a one-for-one basis for as many as four of the required monthly emergency egress drills. The mixture of training programs and emergency egress drills might elicit student egress behavior that is superior to that instilled by drills alone. However, at least four egress drills need to be conducted prior to the first training program to ensure that the students have walked the egress route and demonstrated other behavior addressed by the emergency plan. The concept behind the requirement that emergency drills be conducted at the start of the school year is that training without the hands-on instruction accomplished by drilling does not guarantee that students will be familiar with the egress routes and able to interact with others during an emergency evacuation or relocation.

 

Do the codes address drills for non-fire events?

In addition to drilling students and staff on response to a fire emergency, non-fire events such as a targeted-violence event or a natural disaster also require drills.  The need to train and drill on multiple scenarios can put a strain on resources, time and patience.  Because of this, a new requirement for the 2021 editions of NFPA 1 and NFPA 101 will permit, if approved by the authority having jurisdiction, up to two of the required emergency egress drills to consist of alternative emergency drills for one or both of the following: 1. Targeted violence events 2. Natural hazard events.  Additionally, NFPA 1 also addresses frequency, conduct, environment, and documentation for drills.

 

Fire inspectors play an important role in regulating and managing drills in facilities throughout their jurisdiction, especially in schools.  Drills should always be designed and conducted in cooperation with the local authorities as the procedure and details of drills will vary jurisdiction by jurisdiction.  Factors such as occupant demographics and location may all impact the details of the drill.  Any concerns of those additional restrictions implemented due to COVID-19 safety mandates should be worked through with the local authorities.  Above all, fire drills must continue to be conducted, even as modifications around social distancing are established.

 

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The First Draft Reports for 11 of the NFPA Emergency Response and Responder Safety (ERRS) Standards in a custom Annual 2021 revision schedule are available. Review the First Draft Reports for use as background in the submission of public comments.

 

To submit a public comment using the online submission system, use the List of NFPA codes & standards to search for the Standard or select the link below in the list. Once on the document page, select the link "Submit a Public Comment" to begin the process. You will be asked to sign-in or create a free online account with NFPA before using this system. If you have any questions when using the system, a chat feature is available or contact us by email or phone at 1-800-344-3555.

 

The deadline to submit a public comment through the online system on these Standards is October 9, 2020:

 

  • NFPA 470, Hazardous Materials Standards for Responders
  • NFPA 475, Recommended Practice for Organizing, Managing, and Sustaining a Hazardous Materials/Weapons of Mass Destruction Response Program
  • NFPA 1000, Standard for Fire Service Professional Qualifications Accreditation and Certification Systems
  • NFPA 1033, Standard for Professional Qualifications for Fire Investigator
  • NFPA 1140, Standards for Wildland Firefighting
  • NFPA 1142, Standard on Water Supplies for Suburban and Rural Fire Fighting
  • NFPA 1145, Guide for the Use of Class A Foams in Fire Fighting
  • NFPA 1225, Standards for Emergency Services Communications
  • NFPA 1891, Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Hazardous Materials Clothing and Equipment
  • NFPA 1990, Standards for Protective Ensembles for Hazardous Material and Emergency Medical Operations
  • NFPA 2500, Standards for Operations and Training for Technical Search and Rescue Incidents and Life Safety Rope and Equipment for Emergency Services

 

The First Draft Report serves as documentation of the Input Stage and is published for public review and comment. The First Draft Report contains a compilation of the First Draft of the NFPA Standard, First Revisions, Public Input, Committee Input, Committee Statements, and Ballot Results and Statements. Where applicable, the First Draft Report also contains First Correlating Revisions, Correlating Notes, and Correlating Input.

 

Request for Proposals are now open for the Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF) research project to study Performance Criteria for Aircraft Hangar Fire Protection Systems. NFPA 409, Standard on Aircraft Hangars, requires various fire protection options using firefighting foam systems. The existing requirements for foam fire protection systems currently in NFPA 409 (e.g., low expansion, high expansion) are largely based on large-scale fire tests (~900 sq. ft. pool fire tests) conducted in the 1970's, however it is a challenge to replicate these large scale pool fire tests today.

 

Currently, there is no avenue for evaluating alternative fire protection methods for possible inclusion in NFPA 409. While systems such as water mist, compressed air foam, clean agents and other solutions have been proposed, the path to understand their effectiveness in protecting an aircraft hangar is unclear. Therefore, it is necessary to develop an alternative evaluation method that can be used to assess the performance of other technologies on the assumed aircraft hangar fire scenario (a large jet fuel pool fire).

 

The specific goal of this project is to determine the baseline performance criteria of existing fire protection systems in aircraft hangar facilities. The objectives include:

  • Reviewing and clarifying the technical basis of the performance criteria of fire protection systems currently permitted in NFPA 409;
  • Conducting a risk assessment of aircraft hangar facilities and evaluating the applicability of alternate fire protection technologies;
  • Developing a research plan to further investigate the effectiveness of fire protection solutions in aircraft hangars.

 

You can find the full RFP on the Foundation website. The deadline for proposals is August 31, 2020 at 5 pm Eastern Time.

 

In a popular scene from the 1993 Halloween comedy flick Hocus Pocus, one of the characters holds a lighter up to a sprinkler head, causing several of them to go off at once. Fire sprinkler experts will be quick to tell you that's not the way it works; sprinklers go off individually in response to fire in a specific area, not as a group. It's a common misconception that's been used by Hollywood for years. Countless movies and TV shows including Frasier and The Office have aired scenes like the one in Hocus Pocus

 

But sprinkler myths exist away from the big and small screens, too—even in professional industry circles. Some homebuilders have, for instance, been guilty of inflating the cost estimates associated with installing residential fire sprinkler systems.

 

The latest episode of The NFPA Podcast, Debunking Home Fire Sprinkler Myths, aims to set the record straight. It paints the true picture of how home sprinkler systems can not only be affordable to home owners, but also how they are increasingly offering incentives for builders, such as allowing them to build higher-density neighborhoods. 

 

The episode is anchored by NFPA staffer Robby Dawson's interview with a retired fire chief who decided to retrofit his home with sprinklers. Based on widely broadcast sprinkler myths, it's a project some people might think would be wildly and prohibitively expensive for the average Joe. Retired chief Keith Brower's experience says otherwise. 

 

"Our cost per square foot ended up being $3.52 [for 1,800 square feet], so a little bit more than double the cost of what our national average is for during construction, but clearly it's not in the $15,000 to $30,000 range we've seen builders quote for systems whether they're new or retrofits," Brower says in the episode. He goes on to discuss some of the safety benefits of sprinklers in general, not only for the public but also for first responders. 

 

The issue of first responder safety hits close to home for Brower. In 2008, when he was fire chief in Loudon County, Virginia, one of Brower's firefighters was severely injured in a house fire. He spoke about the incident for a 2010 Faces of Fire campaign video for NFPA, which you can watch here.

 

Listen to the new episode and past NFPA podcasts at nfpa.org/podcasts. New episodes are released the second and fourth Tuesday of every month.

 

Yesterday's explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, has left at least 100 people dead and thousands more injured. Multiple news sources are now saying the blast, which could be heard from 150 miles away, was due to large quantities of ammonium nitrate being stored in a warehouse in the city's port.

 

The update has left many wondering what ammonium nitrate is and how it could have caused such a powerful explosion. NFPA addresses the hazards the material poses in NFPA 400, Hazardous Materials Code.

 


An oxidizer, not an explosive

 

Ammonium nitrate is commonly used as in fertilizer. Although news sources like the New York Times and CNN have described it as a "highly explosive chemical," ammonium nitrate isn't technically classified as an explosive, or even flammable, material. Instead, it's what's known as an oxidizer—an oxygen-rich compound that can accelerate fires or explosions, but one that needs another element to destabilize it in the first place for such a reaction to begin.

 

In the case of Beirut, the reported 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate being stored in the warehouse could have become destabilized from heat or flames from the fire that was burning before the massive blast, Guy Colonna, an engineering director at NFPA, explains in a recent video about the incident. "Ammonium nitrate does not burn, it's not flammable, it's not combustible," Colonna says. "It doesn't become explosive ... until it becomes destabilized. Exposure to flames, fires, and things like that can start that process of heating it and destabilizing it. It becomes self-reactive through thermal sources like a fire, and it will give off gases that are flammable and they will ignite. They will involve all of the oxygen that is in that chemical formula of the ammonium nitrate."

 

While some individuals on social media cast doubt over whether ammonium nitrate can produce such a powerful blast, history has shown it can.

 

In the video, Colonna points to two past deadly incidents in Texas alone. In 2013, ammonium nitrate was involved in an explosion that killed 15 people at a fertilizer storage and distribution facility in the town of West, just north of Waco. And in 1947, a fire aboard a ship carrying ammonium nitrate in the Port of Texas City triggered an explosion that killed over 500 people. The ship was carrying 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate—less than what's being reported in Beirut.

 


Mitigating the hazard

 

Requirements for safely storing ammonium nitrate can be found in NFPA 400—specifically, in Chapter 11. They include, for example, outlining measures to ensure quantities are stored away from substances that can cause ammonium nitrate to destabilize and in facilities separated a safe distance from other structures and people.

 

"Chapter 11 imposes additional safeguards when you exceed 1,000 pounds," Colonna says. "From what I've read in the reports, they're talking something like 2,750 tons [in Beirut]. Clearly there should have been increased safeguards in the storage of that confiscated ammonium nitrate. You would have certain kinds of construction requirements, and you wouldn't have incompatible materials like oils and greases ... there would be separation distances, separation distances from the warehouse to an adjacent structure but also to populated areas."

 

The West, Texas, explosion in 2013 led to a number of updates to NFPA 400, which were highlighted in a May 2015 feature article in NFPA Journal. As the incident's five-year anniversary approached, however, some experts questioned whether enough had been done from a government regulation standpoint to prevent future similar incidents in the United States.

 

Another helpful tool for preventing fires or explosions involving not only ammonium nitrate, but also any hazardous material, is the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, which emphasizes the many moving parts and individuals involved in creating safe environments.

 

"All of this comes down to the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem," Colonna says. "It starts with the government having requirements and then making sure those requirements are understood by everybody in the operational setting, whether it's the port managers or the warehouse managers, the people who are bringing the chemicals in and out of the area, or the public and first responders."

 

Watch the full interview with Colonna above, and learn more about NFPA 400 at nfpa.org/400.

 

NFPA LiNK, a new digital content on demand platform, was introduced during a virtual product reveal today.


NFPA LiNK is designed to deliver intuitive, seamless, code-based information to those responsible for building, electrical and life safety via mobile devices, tablets, laptops, or preferred devices. NFPA LiNK is set to transform NFPA from a 124-year-old book publisher to a globally connected information and knowledge provider.


For more than a century, people have turned to National Fire Protection Association codes and standards to do their jobs efficiently and effectively; but in recent years, NFPA has seen a shift in the ways that people learn and work. Today’s workforce does not find a physical book or a static digital version of a book the best means to help solve problems on a real-time basis. Instead, professionals, practitioners, and policy makers want to connect the dots on safety, and glean real-world, real-time understanding.

 

“NFPA stakeholders want code information and insights faster than ever before,” Jim Pauley, NFPA president and CEO said. “I am convinced that NFPA LiNK will help revolutionize safety through better access to more robust information.”


The first iteration of NFPA LiNK will feature the National Electrical Code and electrical content, followed by building and life safety and fire protection codes; the goal is to have all 300-plus NFPA codes and standards in NFPA LiNK by the end of 2021. Additional resources will then be added, and new features will be unveiled on a regular basis.


At full development, NFPA LiNK subscribers can look forward to:

 

  • accessing the full set of NFPA codes and standards and when new editions are released, subscriptions will be automatically updated
  • using situation-based navigation to easily find the information needed
  • aggregating information across NFPA codes and standards to better understand and access insights that apply to a given situation
  • adding personal notations to NFPA codes and standards and having those notes automatically carried over when codes are updated
  • bookmarking, color-coding sections, saving key information, and sharing sections and subsections with other subscribers and non-subscribers

 

Find out more about NFPA LiNK at www.nfpa.org/LiNK.

The Second Draft Reports for NFPA Standards in the Fall 2020 revision cycle are available with a deadline to submit a Notice of Intent to Make a Motion (NITMAM) of August 27, 2020.

 

These proposed NFPA Standards with Second Draft Reports in the Fall 2020 revision cycle are as follows:

 

  • NFPA 11, Standard for Low-, Medium-, and High-Expansion Foam
  • NFPA 32, Standard for Drycleaning Facilities
  • NFPA 33, Standard for Spray Application Using Flammable or Combustible Materials
  • NFPA 34. Standard for Dipping, Coating, and Printing Processes Using Flammable or Combustible Liquids
  • NFPA 35, Standard for the Manufacture of Organic Coatings
  • NFPA 36, Standard for Solvent Extraction Plants
  • NFPA 37. Standard for the Installation and Use of Stationary Combustion Engines and Gas Turbines
  • NFPA 53, Recommended Practice on Materials, Equipment, and Systems Used in Oxygen-Enriched Atmospheres
  • NFPA 79. Electrical Standard for Industrial Machinery
  • NFPA 87, Standard for Fluid Heaters
  • NFPA 92, Standard for Smoke Control Systems
  • NFPA 102, Standard for Grandstands, Folding and Telescopic Seating, Tents, and Membrane Structures
  • NFPA 170, Standard for Fire Safety and Emergency Symbols
  • NFPA 204, Standard for Smoke and Heat Venting
  • NFPA 214, Standard on Water-Cooling Towers
  • NFPA 225, Model Manufactured Home Installation Standard
  • NFPA 318, Standard for the Protection of Semiconductor Fabrication Facilities
  • NFPA 418, Standard for Heliports
  • NFPA 450, Guide for Emergency Medical Services and Systems
  • NFPA 501, Standard on Manufactured Housing
  • NFPA 501A, Standard for Fire Safety Criteria for Manufactured Home Installations, Sites, and Communities
  • NFPA 520, Standard on Subterranean Spaces
  • NFPA 555, Guide on Methods for Evaluating Potential for Room Flashover
  • NFPA 901, Standard Classifications for Incident Reporting and Fire Protection Data
  • NFPA 909, Code for the Protection of Cultural Resource Properties - Museums, Libraries, and Places of Worship
  • NFPA 1802, Standard on Two-Way, Portable RF Voice Communications Devices for Use by Emergency Services Personnel in the Hazard Zone
  • NFPA 1937, Standard for the Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Rescue Tools

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