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As you may know, NFPA launched NFPA LiNK last month. It’s an exciting new digital platform that provides code information and supplementary content for professionals and practitioners like you who need to better understand problems and make decisions in real time while on the job.


To help with navigating the platform, we created a new weekly video series that explains some of the features and functionalities users need like dashboards, sharing, bookmarks, and more. Here in this latest blog in the videos series we address the NFPA DiRECT feature.


Have you ever looked at a codebook and just felt overwhelmed? Are there times when you’re not sure where to start, how to find what you’re looking for, or even know what applies in a given situation?


If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you’ll appreciate the NFPA DiRECT feature that can help you navigate the codebook in a more real-world manner. While you may not always know where to look in the book, you do know the specifics of your particular task. Simply knowing what you’re doing, where you are doing it, and what you’re working on is enough to get you started with NFPA DiRECT. With a little bit of context, you can start applying filters based on some high-level categories such as occupancy, space, system, or equipment. As the filters are applied, results will continue to narrow down until you find the content that matches your needs. For example, say you are new inspector and have been tasked with performing an inspection in an office building. More specifically you have to look at a roof- mounted HVAC system that you have never inspected before and you’re not sure where to look for all of the requirements. With NFPA DiRECT you can start with what you know: the occupancy is a business and the equipment is HVAC. Then, applying these filters will produce results that contain the relevant code information. Learn more about this key DiRECT navigation feature in the video below:


The results shown after applying filters consists of relevant situations and solutions. Let’s take the HVAC example, again. That situation page features an image of a rooftop unit with numbered hotspots pointing to different parts. From there you can select among various solutions related to different aspects of the situation to get more information. That’s where you will find additional explanatory commentary or imagery along with any relevant code requirements with direct access to the code section. You can see what I’m talking about regarding the DiRECT content feature in the video below:



NFPA is continually building out these situations and solutions within NFPA LiNK, and every week new ones are being created. With a subscription you will continue to see new content and updates to existing content to better support your needs.


There’s so much about NFPA LiNK you don’t want to miss. This video blog series is a great way to visualize the tool and how much it can help you in your work. If you missed our earlier video demonstrations, check out the first two in the series that showcases the Dashboard and publications features.  The second blog in the series points to the Bookmarks and MyLiNK features. Take some time to review them all; we think you’ll find the quick tutorials very helpful.


Find more information about the platform, a timeline of additional codes and standards that will be coming to NFPA LiNK, and a product introduction video at Purchase or try NFPA LiNK today by visiting the website. 


We rely on a fire alarm system to constantly monitor for hazardous conditions (such as fire, smoke, carbon monoxide, and even combustible and toxic vapors) within a building, and notify the occupants so they can exit the building safely, notify first responders, and even activate systems to mitigate the hazard such as fire suppression or ventilation. The fire alarm system needs to be able to operate continuously during the life of a building, this includes times in which primary power to the building is lost.

Secondary Power Supply

Fire alarm systems are provided with a secondary source of power in order to remain operational after loss of primary power. The most common forms of secondary power supplies are batteries or an emergency generator. Secondary power supplies are designed to provide enough capacity to power the entire system for 24 hours on standby and then operate the system for at least 5 minutes under emergency conditions (15 minutes for mass notification systems). If a generator is used for secondary power, batteries are still required, but only need to provide capacity for 4 hours, this gives time to get the generator operational if there is an issue.

In order to ensure that the secondary power supply is always available, the fire alarm system itself is able to monitor for the presence of voltage and monitor the battery charging system, and will then annunciate a trouble signal if there is an issue with the power supply or charging system.

Battery Inspection Testing and Maintenance

Although the system can monitor some aspects of the secondary power supply, there is some inspection, testing, and maintenance (ITM) that needs to be completed to ensure that the secondary power supply is reliable. For ITM specific to the generator, refer to the blog that I wrote on Maintaining your Emergency Power Supply.

Batteries need to be inspected semiannually to confirm that the connections are tight and there is no corrosion on the connections. When inspecting, the batteries need to be checked for damage such as cracks in the case, bulges, or leaking. The batteries need to be marked with the month and year of manufacture (not the date of installation), this information is important for tracking the batteries age. If the battery’s age exceeds the manufacturer’s replacement date, the battery needs to be replaced.

The batteries and charger need to be tested semiannually; these tests include:

  • Measuring the temperature to ensure that the battery is not 18F (10 C) above ambient temperature
  • Measure the voltage to ensure that the battery and charger are still operational
  • Measure the voltage at each cell of the battery to confirm each cell is greater than 13.26 volts
  • Measure the internal ohmic value of each battery and compare to previous tests to ensure that the battery does not have 30% or more conductance or 40% or more resistance or impedance than previous tests or is outside the manufacturer’s acceptable ranges.

Every three years the batteries need to either be replaced or a load test needs to be conducted. Load tests are conducted by putting a known load on the battery for a given time (found from the battery manufacturer). The battery is discharged until it reaches its end voltage. Based on the known load and the time taken to discharge you can then calculate the capacity of the battery and apply any adjustments for temperature. The battery must be replaced if the capacity is less than 80% of its rated capacity.

Secondary Power Operation

All the requirements for ITM above focused on the batteries themselves, but there are some tests that need to be completed in order to make sure that the entire system will operate under secondary power. First, if the system is supplied by an emergency generator, power will need to be transferred to the generator monthly to ensure that the transfer switch and generator will be able to supply the fire alarm. Additionally, all primary power to the system needs to be disconnected annually so the required standby and alarm current to the system can be measured and compared to the available battery capacity. Remember, these batteries need to be able to provide the 24 hour standby and 5 (or 15) minutes of alarm or 4 hours of standby if there is also an emergency generator. Finally, the system needs to be operated under secondary power in alarm for at least 5, or 15 minutes depending on the system type.

Do you have any instances in which you needed to replace the fire alarm batteries because they failed testing? Was there a time in which you relied on the secondary power during an outage? Let me know in the comments below.

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



NFPA has released a new fact sheet in English and Spanish to help clear up misconceptions about ammonium nitrate dangers. The resource for code officials, business owners, and facility managers was developed following the catastrophic explosion in Beirut, Lebanon that reportedly killed 190 people, injured 6,500 more, left an estimated 300,000 residents homeless, and resulted in $10–15 billion(US) in property damage.


Ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound produced in both solid and liquid form that is commonly used in fertilizers. Pure ammonium nitrate is stable, and when stored properly, it poses few safety hazards. Destabilization, however, can occur when flames or fire heats the ammonium nitrate causing it to become self-reactive and give off gases that are flammable and can ignite.


The new guidance looks at conditions that might destabilize ammonium nitrate and offers safety steps that can protect buildings before an enforcement issue or incident occurs. The document covers the following:


  • How and Why Ammonium Nitrate Turns Dangerous
  • Dangerous Conditions
  • Highly Dangerous Conditions
  • How to Increase Facility Protection
  • Safety Requirements
  • New Construction
  • Existing Facilities
  • Detection and Notification Systems
  • Emergency Response Issues


NFPA has generated related content about ammonium nitrate including a video blog, an NFPA Journal article, a podcast, a Learn Something New video, and a blog about hot work. An Arabic version of the new fact sheet will be posted later this fall. All these resources point to the guidance that is available in NFPA 400, Hazardous Materials Code.


Ruminating About Research

Posted by jimpauley Employee Oct 22, 2020

This infographic is also available in Spanish at


I recently sat in on an information-sharing session called Coffee Time at NFPA. Coffee Times are conducted (internally, but virtually these days) by staff looking to apprise colleagues about projects underway, efforts completed, or issues bubbling up for NFPA audiences.


This particular day, a trio of young researchers (engineers by trade) from the Fire Protection Research Foundation, NFPA’s research affiliate, spoke about the role of the Research Foundation and some of the projects currently underway. True to both the NFPA and Research Foundation missions, the laundry list of projects touched on every corner of life safety. Newer employees were impressed to hear that more than 50-plus efforts are being managed right now by a small team of five, but for those of us who have worked with or watched the Research Foundation take on challenge after challenge, we were not surprised by the work they quietly do in the interest of safety.


Since 1982, the Research Foundation has been bringing people from diverse backgrounds to the table in much the same spirit as the NFPA standards development consensus process. They delve into issues, incidents, and insights that not only inform the standards development process, but more importantly - inform stakeholders like you.


Our Association is largely known around the world for our standards development work, but there is also a similarly important contribution we make through the work we collaboratively do to produce meaningful research that is used across the globe. The Research Foundation investigates emerging fire safety hazards, and works closely with our equally impressive Data and Analytics and Applied Research departments which are focused on generating information, metrics, tools, and analytics related to the fire problem, building and life safety, fire protection, electrical, responder safety, wildland fires and hazardous materials.  The research arms of NFPA add tremendous value in a world that is never short on threats or hazards.


When I speak with groups, I always point to the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem as the framework to facilitate important safety conversations today – to connect the dots on safety. Chances are you have heard me speak about the eight-component system that must work together to minimize risk and help prevent loss. One of those components is an investment in safety, which I often describe along two lines. We invest in safety by prioritizing the decisions being made. Choosing to protect people and property, and refusing to pander to politics, budgets or aesthetics is essential. The second way that we invest in safety is with research that addresses the new problems we are facing. While progress can be exhilarating and is certainly needed in our world, we must make sure innovation works alongside safety. We need research, testing, and benchmarks to fully understand issues and opportunities.


Prior to being the first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong flew X-15 rocket planes. He was once asked to honor his test pilot colleagues that were among those who flew nearly 200 radical missions in the 50s and 60s. “In much of society, research means to investigate something you do not know about or do not understand,” Armstrong said. “Research is exploration and discovery. It’s investigating (something that) no one knows or understands. Research is creating new knowledge.”


The dozens of projects being juggled right now by the Research Foundation will create new knowledge for the built environment, detection and signaling, suppression, emerging technologies, wildfire, first responders, and so many other topics. It will provide you with information you may not even know you need yet. This is the “exploration and discovery” that Armstrong spoke of; that has become synonymous with NFPA. The Research Foundation exists to discover – just last week they received two new grants for research, bringing the total number of grants or subawards to 40 since 2005.


Now, I realize I may be biased about the fantastic research being done by the Research Foundation and our Data and Analytics and Applied Research teams but if you need further proof about the value of research, consider the words of wisdom from a man famously known for taking “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind". Or better yet, visit or so you can be well on your way to the understanding that Armstrong spoke about.


This blog originally appeared in the NFPA Network Newsletter. If you find this content insightful, subscribe to the newsletter for monthly personalized content related to the world of fire, electrical, building, and life safety.

Many restaurants, schools, offices, and other businesses have been using outdoor spaces to run and stay open amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, with portable outdoor heaters increasingly being used to reduce the chill as temperatures drop. To help ensure that outdoor propane and electric heaters are used safely and in accordance with NFPA 1, Fire Code (2018 edition), NFPA has developed “Outdoor Heater Safety,” a new fact sheet that provides guidance and recommendations around safe use of these appliances.


Included in the fact sheet are guidelines and recommendations for proper use of propane patio heaters, including safe storage of propane cylinders, as well as electric patio heaters. General safety tips, such as keeping anything at least three feet away from heating equipment and turning off all portable heaters when the area is not carefully monitored or occupied, are highlighted as well.


By following these recommendations, communities can enhance safety while continuing to enjoy outdoor dining and other activities involving outdoor heaters later into the colder months.


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


NFPA and the Fire Protection Research Foundation have signed an updated MOU to collaborate with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) on activities related to emergency responder PPE, as well as the development of standards concerning first responder safety, deployment, operations, and the protection of emergency personnel.


NIOSH is currently involved in the NFPA standards development process for emergency responder PPE so that first responders are protected from physical, chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, thermal, inhalation and dermal hazards. The new 10-year MOU continues NIOSH participation with NFPA Technical Committees that work on responder organization operations, deployment, training, and safety.


“This updated MOU provides benchmarks for our organizations to further cooperate and coordinate on activities, advocacy, and adoption of key documents and programs that are designed to keep responders safe and competent in their roles,” said Jim Pauley, NFPA president and CEO.


“The NFPA is a critical partner in NIOSH’s efforts to protect emergency responders from hazards encountered in the line of duty,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, MD. “Renewing the MOU affords us the opportunity for sustained collaboration over the next decade to improve responders’ safety and health.”

Highlights of the MOU include participating organizations:


  • working together on technical information and standards concerning performance, testing, validation, use, care and maintenance of responder PPE, as well as safety issues concerning deployment and operations
  • sharing relevant information concerning testing data, research studies, program findings, and standards development to enhance each organization’s efforts and overall responder effectiveness
  • providing insights related to firefighter exposure and acute and chronic injuries, illnesses, and diseases such as cancers, respiratory disease, heart disease and musculoskeletal injuries
  • exchanging recommendations and lessons learned from firefighter fatality investigations to advance the development, adoption, and revision of standards
  • developing death and injury prevention guidance and ways to promote best practices to responder organizations, and, when appropriate, incorporating the information into NIOSH regulations and compliance
  • working to ensure that NIOSH regulations and NFPA consensus standards are adopted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the InterAgency Board for Equipment Standardization and Interoperability (IAB)
  • incorporating NFPA technical expertise and guidance for long term technology deployment related to emergency responders and their organizations
  • supporting the NIOSH-National Firefighter Registry efforts to expand sources of data for individual firefighter exposure
  • participating in peer reviews for projects and resources related to the above topics


On average there are 67 on duty firefighter deaths per year. This MOU was established so that emergency response organizations and personnel have thorough research, testing, standards, operational strategies, and programming to ensure that personnel can safely and competently perform the all-hazards role that they play in society.

Crowd management has been a long-standing life safety challenge for both fire-related and non-fire emergencies in assembly occupancies. The lack of data-informed situational awareness to identify rapid changes in crowd density, movement, and other behaviors presents challenges to crowd managers. Although tramplings, crowd crushes, and other disasters lead to civilian deaths every year, modern technologies can enhance existing crowd management strategies.

This webinar will present a proof-of-concept tool for data-informed crowd management and decision support, highlighting the collection, analysis, visualization, and reporting of crowd movement to inform near real-time crowd management strategies. This research project is led by the Fire Protection Research Foundation and NFPA. Funding for this project is through a U.S. Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology Fire Grant.

Register for the webinar today

                             When:              Thursday, November 12, 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time

                             Presenters:     Victoria Hutchison, Fire Protection Research Foundation

                                                      Joseph Gochal, NFPA

                                                      Frederick MacDonald, NFPA


Visit for more upcoming NFPA webinars and archives. 


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

This blog was updated on 10/27


The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) will host a Considerations for Warehouse Fire Safety webinar on Wednesday, November 4, 2020 at 1:00 p.m. (EDT) for contractors, installers, engineers, facility managers and code officials.


In recent months, we have seen large scale warehouse fires including one at a Redlands, California distribution center being used as an Amazon facility. NFPA research shows that, on average, there are 1,410 warehouse fires annually which result in two deaths, 20 injuries and $159.4 million in direct property damage.


A trio of industry experts will cover some of the key considerations for warehouse fire safety during a roundtable panel discussion moderated by Matt Klaus, NFPA Director of Technical Services, and a highly regarded subject matter expert in his own right. They include:


  • James Golinveaux – President & CEO of Viking Group will provide insights on testing, storage and warehousing history
  • Tracey Bellamy – Chief Engineering Officer at Telgian will offer engineering and design perspective, as well as ITM information for large enterprises
  • Dave Lowrey - Fire Marshal for the City of Boulder will weigh in from an AHJ point of view


At a minimum, the following topics will be addressed during the webinar with plenty of time allotted for questions and answers:

  • How warehouses are typically specified and built
  • Importance of commodity classification
  • ESFR sprinklers – design and limitations
  • Management of change
  • Importance of ITM

Join us on the 4th for a worthwhile exchange - there will be plenty of time for questions and answers. Register for the Considerations for Warehouse Fire Safety webinar today or tell a colleague. NFPA also offers great resources that pertain to warehouses including incident statistics, reports, and suppression related research. Earlier this year, new information on Early Suppression Fast Response (ESFR) sprinklers was posted on the NFPA website because ESFRs are often installed in warehouses to avoid installation of in-rack sprinklers.

In late September, NFPA and the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors announced the rollout of the first two videos of a new campaign series entitled, Faces of Fire/Electrical, which features personal stories of people impacted by electrical incidents and demonstrates the need for continued education and awareness about electrical hazards in the workplace and at home.


electrical safetyThe latest video in the series introduces Amy Acton, Chief Executive Officer of the Phoenix Society, who, at the age of 18, suffered an electrical burn injury while working a summer job at a marina. When the mast of the sailboat she and her colleagues were moving struck an overhead powerline, Amy, who was at the rear of the boat, fell against the metal rudder as the electrical current passed through it. She suffered extensive burn injuries to her neck and hands.


Research tells us that electrical hazards come in a variety of forms, from overhead powerlines to defective wiring or damaged equipment, and workers may be exposed to these hazards in a wide array of work environments. According to Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), powerlines remain a leading cause of electrical fatalities. Between 2011 – 2018, 38 percent of all electrically related workplace fatalities were caused by overhead powerlines. It’s important to remember that safety training is not only vital for electrical professionals, but necessary and essential for the many others who may be exposed to electrical hazards in their daily work activities.


While many electrical injuries prove fatal, those that are not can be particularly debilitating, oftentimes involving complicated recoveries and lasting emotional and physical impact. The Faces of Fire/Electrical campaign is working to help build a safer world by teaching others and supporting the burn survivor community in advancing lifelong healing, optimal recovery, and burn and injury prevention. electrical safety


Since her injury, Amy has dedicated her career to advocating for the expansion of burn recovery services and resources of burn survivors and their loved ones. Starting her career as a burn nurse and later a nurse manager at the burn center where she was treated, Amy later joined the Phoenix Society and along with dedicated staff and volunteers has developed and expanded several national programs that have greatly increased accessibility to long-term recovery resources for those in the burn community. We are grateful to Amy for her willingness to share her story with us.


To see Amy’s video and to read more about her work, visit our website at


Over the course of the campaign we will highlight a new video interview every few weeks. You can view all of the videos, including the first two videos of our series featuring Dave Schury and Sam Matagi, on our dedicated webpage. There you will also find free resources to download and share, including fact sheets, tip sheets, infographics and more, in addition to information about electrical safety in both the home and in the workplace.


Burn survivors and their loved ones, first responders, burn support professionals, and community members are invited to join the Phoenix Society for its 2020 World Burn Congress on October 23. Learn more by visiting the Phoenix Society webpage.  

Recently, NFPA launched NFPA LiNK, a new digital platform that provides code information and supplementary content for professionals and practitioners who need to better understand problems and make decisions in real time while on the job. In September, the platform introduced the four most recent editions of NFPA 70, National Electrical Code (NEC).


To help with navigating the platform, NFPA has created a new weekly video series that explains some of the features and functionalities users need like dashboards, sharing, bookmarks, and more. In this week's video series we address Bookmarks and MyLiNK.


I’ll start by saying that while the NEC is over 900 pages long, not every piece of it is going to apply to the electrical installation at hand. This is where bookmarking and collections can be really helpful. Users can take sections of code and save only what is relevant to their needs. For instance, say you install, design, or inspect PV systems, with NFPA LiNK, you can bookmark the relevant NEC sections in Articles 690, 705, etc. and organize them into custom collections, creating your own spot to reference anything solar. Or if you often highlight or tab your code book with certain colors to designate topics such as grounding or label requirements, with NFPA LiNK you can assign colors to your bookmarks and then sort them by its color. As other codes and standards are added to the application, users will be able to bookmark and save across publications to provide a more holistic view of the relevant requirements.


Bookmarking also allows users to add their own personal notes, and with a team or enterprise subscription, users can share notes by creating "team collections." For example, if you and your team are working on a common project, you can create a team collection and give it a relevant title such as, "125 State Street," and when you add your bookmarks, they will be shared with your team both in MyLiNK and with the respective codes in "book view." It's a great way to collaborate with your coworkers as you strive to better understand code requirements. The video below gives a good overview of this Bookmark function:



All of the user’s bookmarks will be stored in the “MyLiNK” section of the application. This is where users can organize their bookmarks into collections, and quickly pull up what is relevant to their needs at the time of use. Instead of having to scroll through the code text to find specific notes, users can now search, sort, and organize within MyLiNK. Learn more about the MyLiNK feature in the video below:



There’s so much about NFPA LiNK you don’t want to miss. Learn more about how NFPA LiNK can help you in your work. Purchase or try NFPA LiNK today by visiting the website. 

electrical safety

The concept of an authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) has been in safety standards for a very long time. It is important that the persons using a standard understand what is required in order to determine compliance with the standard. NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace  and all other NFPA standards define an AHJ as an organization, office, or individual responsible for enforcing the requirements of a code or standard, or for approving equipment, materials, an installation, or a procedure. An AHJ need not be a government employee. I have written about the AHJ for NFPA 70E in previous blogs, presentations and in the NFPA 70E handbook. Based on the questions I receive; it seems as if many do not understand how to enforce the requirements of a standard. Any standard that contains requirements must be applied by someone and someone must verify that the requirements have been correctly applied. The person verifying that the requirements have been correctly applied is the AHJ.

Standards can be required by a governmental body often through legislation. The National Electrical Code (NEC) is an example of such a standard. Many states, counties, cities and towns require that all electrical installations comply with the NEC. Typically, the government requires a permit before installation and an inspection by a government electrical inspector to verify compliance with the NEC. This government inspector is the AHJ for these initial electrical installations.

In a commercial or industrial facility, subsequent installation of electrical equipment or modification of the distribution system is often not done under a government permit nor is this inspected by the government AHJ. In residences, it is not uncommon for the permitted and inspected initial electricalsystem to be modified or additional equipment added without the government inspection. The NEC assigns the responsibility for making interpretations of the rules, for deciding on the approval of equipment and materials, and for granting the special permission contemplated in several rules to an AHJ regardless of when an electrical installation takes place.

Does your management invite a government AHJ to inspect and approve the installation of a new subpanel, the move of a production line, the retrofit for a breakroom, the extension of a circuit, or the addition of a backup generator in your facility? Frequently, that is not the case. If a government electrical inspector is not invited, is it still necessary to verify compliance with the NEC requirements? It would be unexpected to find someone who believes the NEC requirements could be ignored. If the requirements can’t be ignored, someone must determine compliance with the NEC. Right or wrong, a non-government person at your company becomes the AHJ for electrical installations and is responsible for determining the NEC compliance and safety of the installation. It is usually a disadvantage for an installer to inspect their own work.

Even with a government AHJ responsible for the initial installation and an assigned facility AHJ for subsequent facility installations, there is an obligation for an employer to verify that maintenance, repair, or modification of the initial equipment does not create an unsafe electrical condition. It is not surprising that an employee may use what is available rather than what is required for a safe installation. A smaller wire gauge for a short circuit extension, a conduit coupling intended for another type of conduit, a missing cover bolt not replaced, or a lug not properly torqued are things that have occurred during repair. Who does management appoint as the AHJ to inspect such things?

Electrical inspections are not to assign blame but to confirm that electrical equipment is installed and maintained in a manner that safeguards persons and property from hazards arising from the use of electricity. Without verifying compliance, employees are at risk during the performance of their assigned work tasks and associated interaction with electrical equipment. Without an AHJ performing this important step regarding electrical safety, there is a risk of exposure to electrical hazard whether flipping a light switch, operating production line equipment, riding an elevator, or plugging in a coffee pot. It is also not possible to comply with the requirements of NFPA 70E without verification that the installation and maintenance conforms to safety standards and manufacturer’s specifications. Who has your management documented and assigned the responsibility for being the AHJ for the safety of the electrical installations?

Next time: There are authorities having jurisdiction for a standard that is not adopted into law.

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

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


An outdated and stained floor covering requires update and replacement, a new office tenant requests a reconfigured office space, a new commercial stove and oven is needed for a cafeteria, or a hotel guest room is converted into extra storage space.  Buildings are always undergoing work to maintain their systems and features in good working conditions, and to reconfigure and upgrade their space.   


So, when work is being done to a building, how does the Life Safety Code apply?  

Prior to 2006, editions of NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, required all modernizations, renovations, additions, and changes of occupancy, to the extent practicable, to comply with the requirements for new construction. Often, however, building rehabilitation is not undertaken because of the perception that unwanted or unwarranted upgrades will be forced on the building owner. Chapter 43, added in 2006, was written to encourage the adaptive reuse of compliant, existing structures. The former philosophy of “that which you do must meet new” is relaxed. Now, with the detailed provisions contained in Chapter 43, only those requirements necessary to achieve the intended level of life safety are mandated in lieu of requiring strict compliance with the requirements applicable to new buildings.  


Chapter 43 presents provisions based on a set of concepts including the following:

  1. During a rehabilitation project, a building must meet the base level of life safety required by the Code chapter applicable to the existing occupancy.
  2. The rehabilitation work must maintain or increase the level of Code compliance.
  3. Rehabilitation work in existing construction elements or building features is held to a lower standard than rehabilitation work in new elements or features.
  4. Upgrades are typically required only in the rehabilitation work areas, not throughout the entire occupancy or building.


What if my building requires corrective actions as a result of a Code deficiency?  

Let’s say you are planning to renovate an entire tenant space to in your existing office building. However, it is determined that your existing office building exceeds the maximum allowable travel distance.  The provisions of Chapter 43 are to be used once the existing building is brought into compliance with the appropriate occupancy chapter requirements applicable to that existing occupancy.  Work done to correct a deficiency is not subject to the provisions of Chapter 43.  Once your existing office building is compliant the additional planned work to the tenant space will use Chapter 43 to determine the provisions that apply to that work. Your existing office building undergoing the renovation is held, as a starting point, to the same requirements that apply to any other existing business occupancy building.  


Some of the occupancy chapters have requirements that supplement those of Chapter 43 and impose the requirements for new construction on existing buildings that are being rehabilitated, including those situations in which the use is changed to increase the occupant load. For example, mercantile occupancies are further subclassified as a Class A, Class B, or Class C mercantile occupancy, based on the floor area used for sales purposes.


After determining that Chapter 43 applies to the work in my building, what determines compliance with new or existing requirements?  

Establishing a level of Code compliance uses a stepped approach to mandate requirements. Minor levels of rehabilitation must meet minimal requirements; major rehabilitation projects must meet more significant requirements.


Chapter 43 defines seven categories of rehabilitation work: repair, renovation, modification, reconstruction, change of use, change of occupancy and addition. Understanding and properly defining these seven categories are a key concept of this chapter for achieving the objective of proportionality of work. That is, the more work that is proposed for the rehabilitation project, the more work that might be required by the Code in terms of upgrading existing conditions.  Incorrectly defining the category/categories of work on a rehabilitation project can result in over- or under-applying critical fire and life safety requirements from the Code to your building.


Identifying the category of work being performed will then determine the extent to which the Code is applied to that work.  Any building undergoing rehabilitation will comply with the requirements of the applicable existing occupancy chapter plus any additional requirements for the applicable new occupancy as called out specifically in Chapter 43.   


For example, a simple repair, such as replacing a few ceiling tiles in an office that were damaged due to a water leak, would be required to use like materials and result in an installation no less conforming than it was prior to the repair (existing).  Reconstruction work, such as gutting an entire floor in an existing hotel building to create hotel guest suites from individual guest rooms individual guest rooms, requires a more extensive and detailed application of Code requirements for the work being performed. Among other requirements, newly constructed elements, components, and systems are required to comply with the requirements of other Code sections applicable to new construction.


What are some other considerations when applying Chapter 43 to a rehabilitation project? 

  • Chapter 43, with the exception of the provisions for reconstruction, does not mandate improvements or set minimum acceptable standards for spaces that are not undergoing rehabilitation.  Incidental work in other areas of the building may be required depending on the extent of the work (for example, extending a fire alarm system may require upgrades to the fire alarm panel that are outside the original rehabilitation work area but are necessary as part of the project.)
  • A single work project may have more than one rehabilitation work category (for example, a reconstruction may also result in a change of occupancy) 
  • The provisions of Chapter 43 should not prevent the use of equivalent designs, systems or approaches if deemed acceptable by the AHJ. 
  • Work mandated by any accessibility, property, housing, or fire code; mandated by the existing building requirements of this Code; or mandated by any licensing rule or ordinance, are not required to conform to Chapter 43.
  • Construction, alteration and demolition operations that may accompany rehabilitation projects must comply with the provisions for NFPA 241.  Both new and existing occupancy chapters now contain pointers back to NFPA 241 for this work. 


Interested in learning more about the specifics of rehabilitation work categories and compliance options for applying the building rehabilitation requirements in NFPA 101 to real world examples?  This December we will be offering a 2-hour virtual, live training on this topic!  Be on the lookout in the NFPA catalog at soon for more details and registration information. 


And finally, 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.


Thanks for reading, stay safe!

Photo: Harris County Emergency Services District No. 48


In my five years of writing blogs and other content at NFPA, there have been some themes and issues that have persistently bubbled up. One of them is building under construction fires like the incident that occurred earlier this week in Katy, Texas.


News outlets report that a multi-alarm fire destroyed two four-story apartment buildings with a total of 400 apartments right off a major artery. The project, which is a total loss, was about six months into development when the early morning blaze broke out, producing heavy thick smoke that was reportedly visible for up to 20 miles.

In this latest incident, a firefighter was injured, propane tanks exploded, garages nearby were engulfed, and a neighboring field was burned. In other words, havoc ensued because as we have seen and stated time and again – buildings under construction are very hard to battle because most of the passive fire protection features, such as gypsum board, are not fully in place, allowing the fire to travel undisturbed throughout the building.  In this case, sprinklers were not in service, the water system was maxed out early on, and hot spots persisted throughout the day.

When it comes to building under construction fires, the fire service is often already playing catch up upon their arrival. Local news station KHOU reported that Martin Acosta, a construction worker who helped build the apartments said, “It's a miracle no one was hurt because there are usually at least six people on the site by 6 a.m.”

Earlier this year, NFPA Applied Research issued a report on Fires in Structures Under Construction or Renovation. In part, the research shows that from 2013-2017 fire departments responded to an estimated average of 3,840 fires in structures under construction and 2,580 fires in structures under major renovation per year. Other noteworthy findings include:

  • Three of every four fires in structures under construction involved residential properties.
  • Cooking equipment is the leading cause of fires on construction sites, while electrical distribution and lighting equipment was the leading cause of fires in structures under major renovation.
  • The fires in structures under construction caused an average of four civilian deaths, 49 civilian injuries, and $304 million in direct property damage annually, while those in structures under major renovation caused averages of eight civilian deaths, 52 civilian injuries, and $104 million in direct property damage annually.

Given the unfortunate and unnecessary trend of building under construction fires, NFPA has developed a wide array of resources so that the building community, code enforcers, the fire service, and policy makers can be better informed about statistics, incidents, hazards and best practices. For example:

  • The next edition of NFPA 241 Standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alteration, and Demolition Operations will be out next summer. The Second Draft meeting is at the end of October and the report from that meeting will be posted in late January.
  • NFPA has created three fact sheets on this topic  - Preventing Construction Site Fires, Construction Safety During Emergencies, and a fact sheet related to the statistics noted above. These pieces can be found at 
  • The NFPA Fire & Life Safety Policy institute has also provided guidance via blogs and a policy brief designed to help communities prevent these incidents.
  • NFPA Journal has covered this topic broadly and specifically written about repeat offenders.
  • NFPA also offers online training, and those that take the training can now earn a digital badge upon successful completion that can be shared across social media. 
  • Next month, a new Construction Site Fire Safety Fundamentals online training will launch and in 2021 a Fire Prevention Program Manager Online series will be introduced.

Designating a fire prevention program manager with the right skills and expertise to do the job effectively is a key component to keeping buildings under construction free from fire. That dedicated individual not only needs to know what NFPA 241 says, but also should be familiar with 19 additional codes and standards referenced within the document.


It's time to stop the dangerous, destructive trend of buildings under construction fires.




The Fire Protection Research Foundation, the research affiliate of NFPA, has received two FEMA Assistance to Firefighter Grants (AFGs) to study the effectiveness of fire investigator personal protective equipment (PPE) and to develop a strategic roadmap for the fire service while transitioning from fluorinated foam usage to fluorine free foam technology.


The first study will look at the effectiveness of fire investigator PPE, post-fire skin-cleansing wipes, and the on-scene decontamination methods being used by investigators to reduce exposure to toxic fireground contaminants. A standard for fire investigator PPE or specifications to help select the appropriate protective ensembles are lacking today. Working with North Carolina State University (NCSU), The Research Foundation will provide a thorough evaluation of performance across a wide range of currently fielded PPE; produce methods for evaluating particulate protection and post-fire wipe efficacy; and develop recommendations for the relevant standards committees. The project is just getting underway and will run for three years.


The second project will look to enhance firefighter health and safety by developing best practice recommendations for firefighting foam operations and handling while transitioning to fluorine free foam technology. Fire departments are seeking replacements for Aqueous Film Forming Foams (AFFFs) and other agents containing fluorsurfactants but lack acceptable drop-in replacements for AFFFs that are effective. This is a complex problem that requires insights on fire extinguishing performance, health risks, environmental contamination, and other concerns. The one-year project calls for a comprehensive review of published works, ongoing research studies and industry practices; a stakeholder workshop to evaluate the collected baseline information and identify knowledge gaps; and a report that summarizes the overall research findings.


When available, proceedings and reports will be posted on Information on previous research efforts, as well as 50-plus other projects currently underway, can also be found on the Research Foundation landing page.


News outlets report that the former Our Lady of the Angels school building, located on the site of a historic Chicago fire that killed 95 people, has been outfitted with a new automatic sprinkler system.


The December 1, 1958 fire at Our Lady of the Angels was one of the deadliest school fires in history – killing 92 school children and 3 nuns who were unable to exit their classrooms via the second floor hallway and stairwell given the fire’s intense smoke, heat, and toxic gases.


The devastating incident began in a basement garbage bin located near a stairwell in the school’s older wing and smoldered without notice for at least 20 minutes. Smoke and fire then spread up the stairwell to the first floor where it was thwarted by a closed heavy wooden door. Thick gray smoke and fumes, however, persisted up the stairwell to the second floor where it was able to spread to the hallways and classrooms because that level lacked a fire door.


Conditions intensified after making contact with combustibles such as wood construction materials, heavily waxed floors, and children’s coats hanging on hooks in the hallway. The intense heat was unable to break through the roof because it had been re-tarred several times. Extra oxygen from a door that was propped open and the shattering of a glass transom window on the first floor fueled the fire. All these factors, combined with slow emergency response due to notification and communication failures, created an epic disaster that killed nearly a third of the 334 occupants on the second floor. The victims were asphyxiated, burned and forced to jump out of classroom windows.


The year after the tragedy, NFPA issued a report on the blaze and called out community and Catholic leaders in Chicago for "housing their children in fire traps". The school had recently passed a safety inspection but was exempt from retrofitting safety devices because the structure was built before 1949. Former NFPA President Percy Bugbee reportedly said at the time, "There are no new lessons to be learned from this fire; only old lessons that tragically went unheeded."


In 1960, the Our Lady of the Angels School was rebuilt. In 1999, the Archdiocese of Chicago closed the school and the building was used as a charter school until 2016, and most recently by the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels as a food pantry, daycare, and afterschool resource for families on Chicago’s West Side.  


Thanks to the generosity of local fire sprinkler fitters, the U.S. Alliance Fire Protection, plumbers and pipe fitter union members, the occupants of the newly renovated Our Lady of the Angels Outreach Center can take comfort in their building being protected by current life safety codes and the lifesaving benefits that come with modern day fire protection and suppression systems.


During this era of Covid spending time at airports seems like a distant memory. Looking out those large  windows onto the apron, which is where aircraft are parked, you can see several fire protection measures at work. The surface of the apron is sloped away from the building in case of a fuel spill, the building itself is constructed of a certain level of fire resistance and the aircraft loading walkway has a pressurization system for safe egress, but what about that window you are looking through? NFPA 415, Standard on Airport Terminal Buildings, Fueling Ramp Drainage, and Loading Walkways, contains requirements for the protection of occupants and property for airport terminals, including their large landscape windows. 


Glass vs Glazing?


If you are looking in the standard one of the first things you might notice is that it doesn’t use the term ‘window’ or ‘glass’. Rather, the terms ‘opening’, and ‘glazing material’ are used. Glazing is used because most windows are not made from solely glass, they are usually made from a mixture of layers or laminated glass, fiberglass, acrylics, or other plastics and the term glazing material covers all of these. The term opening is used for much the same reason, it is more generic and can apply in more situations if the opening is technically not a window. For example, if the term window was used this wouldn’t cover the use of a door, which would present many of the same hazards being addressed in NFPA 415.


When do airport terminal openings need to be protected?


If there is an opening in a wall that is within 7 ft of the floor and potential fuel spill points are less than 100 ft horizontally then the window needs to be protected with an automatic water spray system in accordance with NFPA 15, Standard for Water Spray Fixed Systems for Fire Protection. There has been testing that has shown the radiant heat from a fuel spill fire can be expected to break glass windows 75 ft away and can potentially ignite combustible materials within the building. If the window is between the finished floor and 7 ft there is a greater potential for occupants to be injured and so that is the threshold for the application of this requirement.


How do I provide protection?


While NFPA 415 says to follow NFPA 15, additional guidance that is proposed for the 2022 edition of the standard explains the intent by adding that the user should follow the vessel exposure protection provisions of NFPA 15. This makes sense since we are providing the window with exposure protection from the fuel spill fire. Something to keep in mind when designing a system like this is that you can take water rundown into consideration, which allows you to increase the vertical spacing of your nozzles up to 12 ft. Another common question we get about design is whether protection is needed to be provided for the entire window or just the bottom 7 ft. A proposed change to the 2022 edition clarifies that it is the intent for the system to protect the entire opening.


For more information on the design of glazing assemblies, please see Annex C of NFPA 415 which goes further into detail about glazing materials and the dangers aviation facilities can pose. Check out this ‘In Compliance’ article which gives an overview of all fire protection features in an airport. Let us know if you have any experience with the fire protection of airport terminals or send us a picture of the next water spray system you find.


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

With businesses pivoting to meet different building configurations due to COVID, it is a good time to revisit fire extinguisher location and type requirements to ensure that you are compliant with what code officials are enforcing.


Having the right type of fire extinguisher in the right place can help quell a fire before the fire department arrives, if appropriate. Two key considerations for fire extinguishers are accessibility and visibility.  Extinguishers should be readily accessible along a normal travel path and should be visible; and if that is not possible, signage should indicate where to locate an extinguisher. Additionally, portable extinguishers must meet one of five classes based on the use of the extinguisher and the location requirements defined by NFPA 10 Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers.


NFPA 1 Fire Code, mandates the presence of fire extinguishers for most occupancies, while other codes, such as NFPA 101 Life Safety Code, may have different requirements depending on their scope.  All applicable codes should be reviewed to determine if a fire extinguisher is required in your facility, and where multiple codes are used, the most restrictive should be applied.


To refresh your memory of fire extinguisher requirements or to learn if you are compliant given any recently revised occupancy needs, download the NFPA Fire Extinguisher Fact Sheet today.

Recently, NFPA launched NFPA LiNK, a new digital platform that provides code information and supplementary content for professionals and practitioners who need to better understand problems and make decisions in real time while on the job. In September, the platform introduced the four most recent editions of NFPA 70, National Electrical Code (NEC).


To help with navigating the platform, NFPA has created a new weekly video series that explains some of the features and functionalities users need to know about like dashboards, sharing, bookmarks, and more. We're kicking off the series by talking about the Dashboard and publications features.


When users first engage with NFPA LiNK they will find themselves on their Dashboard, which is really the hub of the application. The Dashboard, which features all of the publications available within the application, will continuously be added to, and eventually it will contain all NFPA codes and standards. Having a subscription means that while the NEC might be the main code a user references, they won’t be limited in accessing other NFPA codes and standards. They’ll continue to see new content added and updated regularly.


The Dashboard also features a section called, “Getting Started with NFPA LiNK.” For those who are new to the platform this is a great resource spot that provides helpful information on how to use the application. As users start to work within the application, the Dashboard will highlight their most recent bookmarks for quick access to the content they use most. The video below highlights key features of the Dashboard:



Once a user selects a publication to view they can begin to navigate and interact with the content. The platform is designed to follow the structure of the codebook so this view should feel familiar to those who consistently work within the code. Users can quickly navigate to chapters and sections by clicking the linked table of contents, and while they are working within the code text, they’ll see that referenced sections and tables are also linked for quick retrieval. Everything is designed for easy reading; even the tables expand to full screen mode in order to make them easier to view. The video below highlights how users can work within a given publication:



There’s so much about NFPA LiNK you don’t want to miss. Learn more about how NFPA LiNK can help you in your work. Purchase or try NFPA LiNK today by visiting the website. 

Find more information about the platform, a timeline of additional codes and standards that will be coming to NFPA LiNK, and a product introduction video at


Fire Prevention Week is October 4-10, 2020. Visit for the resources you need to help keep your community safe. Let’s all Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen!TM

As the premier organization dedicated to eliminating fire and related risks to life and property, NFPA consistently approaches safety with an ambitious, dynamic lens. After nearly 125 years of helping to reduce loss in our world, so much has changed, but in an inaugural International Fire Safety Journal(IFSJ) article, NFPA president & CEO Jim Pauley provided insights on ways that NFPA is providing value in a new era.IFSJ Strengthening Code Safety article cover


Throughout the world, local, state, and federal authorities apply NFPA codes and standards to reduce risk, but with high-profile international disasters, COVID-19, and new technologies constantly emerging, simply resting on a long legacy isn’t enough. The key is an approach that is collaborative, proactive, nimble, and responsive. “Like any business organization, you must adapt and adjust – our codes and standards are updated with time, typically revised every three years or so. Having correct codes and standards is critical to meeting the fire safety demands of today,” Pauley states.


NFPA has been busy responding to and anticipating the needs of fire and life safety professionals across the globe since 1896, when a group of insurance executives in the Boston area were looking for a solution for the numerous ways that sprinklers were being installed in the new, industrialized world. More than a century later, NFPA is still working with a broad spectrum of stakeholders to provide safety benchmarks for persistent hazards, emerging issues and new technologies.


Check out the IFSJ article to learn how NFPA is working to address new hazards, make innovative technologies safe for the public and responders, adding value in the digital age; and raising the bar on fire, electrical, and building and life safety.

Fire Prevention Week, October 4-10, is officially here! This year’s theme, “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen” is important on multiple fronts: Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and fire injuries, and the second-leading cause of fire fatalities. Plus, as people cook more while they continue to stay at home during the pandemic, the likelihood of cooking fires increases. All this makes this year's campaign messages more relevant and timely than ever.


We know fire departments across North America have been working diligently to prepare for Fire Prevention Week despite this year’s unique challenges. NFPA is here to help further your efforts. We’ve created a series of online quizzes and other resources that we’ll be posting on social media all week long. We encourage you to share them on your social platforms so that, together, we can reach as many people as possible with basic but critical cooking safety messages. 


To start things off, check out “Are You Serving Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen?” It’s a five-question quiz that you can share with your community. It’s a fun, easy and informative way to highlight the places people make common mistakes in the kitchen, along with tips to prevent them. Then make sure to keep checking our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages for daily postings and updates.


And of course, our Fire Prevention Week website continues offers a range of resources you can use to better educate people of all ages about staying safe in the kitchen.


Best of luck with your Fire Prevention Week efforts and remember to “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen!” with as many people as possible!


The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) headquarters in Massachusetts looks a little different this week as it is lit in red as part of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) Light the Night for Fallen Firefighters.  The building will remain red from dusk to dawn through this Sunday, the beginning of Fire Prevention Week, to honor those firefighters who have died in the line of duty. NFFF is inviting individuals, communities, organizations, and landmarks to make this symbolic gesture to demonstrate that we remember our nation’s heroes and appreciate their sacrifice.


Each year NFFF, which was created in 1992 to lead the national efforts for fallen firefighters, sponsors the NFFF Memorial Weekend in Emmitsburg for those firefighters who died in the line of duty the previous year. It is a fitting and moving tribute that honors those lost and supports their families as they move on with their lives. That would have been this weekend.


Unfortunately, like so many other things, the physical event has been postponed; but there are a number of activities taking place in addition to Light the Night. A live virtual production entitled America’s Tribute to Fallen Firefighters will premiere on Sunday at 10 am. It can be viewed on the NFFF home page and social media channels. Fire departments and others are also encouraged to participate in Bells Across America, ringing bells shortly before 10 am on Sunday. The bell holds special significance in the fire service, sounded when a firefighter dies in the line of duty.


This year 82 firefighters who died in the line of duty in 2019 and 21 firefighters who died in previous years will be recognized. Their families will participate in a full weekend of activities in 2021.


You can find out more at


NFPA is proud to participate in this observance. We are equally proud, as an organization, for the role we play in reducing loss. Our staff, volunteers, and all those with whom we work, are devoted to making the world a safer place for everyone, including our first responders.

Restaurant facility professionals are charged with protecting their spaces from a potential fire by complying with the minimum fire safety requirements adopted by the local jurisdiction. A 2017 NFPA Research reported titled “Structure Fires in Eating and Drinking Establishments”  shows that U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 7, 410 structure fires per year in restaurants and bars over a four year period. These incidents caused an average annual loss of three civilian deaths, 110 civilian injuries, and $165 million in direct property damage. Given this, is it any wonder why fire protection is at the top of the menu for many restaurant facility professionals?


NFPA 96, Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations provides preventative and operative minimum fire safety requirements for the design, installation, operation, inspection, and maintenance of all public and private cooking operations. Guidelines for exhaust systems, clearance requirements, construction materials for hoods, types of fire extinguishing equipment, routine cleaning, employee training, solid fuel cooking, and inspection, testing, and maintenance of equipment can all be found in the current 2021 edition of the standard. Understanding and following the provisions in NFPA 96 can help facility managers reduce fire hazards and the probability of their restaurant turning into another statistic.  ,


So, let’s use the October 4-10, 2020 Fire Prevention theme, Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen!TM as the springboard for ensuring that commercial cooking facilities are optimizing safety.


1.   Consider cooking equipment and exhaust systems


Although many would think the answer to when does cooking equipment require an exhaust system to be straight-forward, the NFPA Advisory Service Program receives a surprising number of questions on this. The answer depends on the type of food being cooked, how that food is being cooked, the cooking medium, cooking appliance, and how often this is taking place. For example, grilling burgers and cooking French fries will produce grease-laden vapors and require a Type I exhaust hood to capture the vapors and remove them from the kitchen. If muffins are being baked in an oven, a Type II hood, which is designed for heat and steam removal and other non-grease applications, would be required (however Type II hoods are not applicable to NPFA 96).


The only exception to this rule is if the cooking equipment has been listed in accordance with ANSI/UL 197, Standard for Commercial Electric Cooking Appliances, or an equivalent standard for reduced emissions. This requirement specifically applies to equipment served by recirculation systems, also known as ventless type cooking equipment which is addressed in Chapter 13 of NFPA 96.


2.   Recognizing the significance of clearance requirements


Clearance between cooking equipment and combustible materials is particularly important to prevent fires from spreading. Fires that burn in ducts can reach very high temperatures that can create a large amount of radiant heat on the outside, even where the duct is not compromised. The radiant heat has the potential to ignite combustible materials and start fires in the combustible concealed spaces of a building, thus the reason for clearance.


Section 4.2 of NFPA 96 recommends a minimum clearance of 18 inches. The definitions for combustible material, limited-combustible material and non-combustible material are provided in Chapter 3, along with examples of each material in the annex.  Although these are considered construction requirements, clearances should be observed during operation. For example, placing combustible boxes on top of a hood or directly against the side of it can present the same hazards noted above.


In many existing facilities, combustible materials might already be present making clearance requirements difficult, if not impossible to achieve. Section 4.2.3 of NFPA 96 provides requirements for clearance reduction systems.


3.   Understanding the ins and outs of hoods


Chapter 5 of NFPA 96 touches on all hood requirements, specifically hood construction materials, how to construct the hood, and hood size.


Hoods are required to be construed of and be supported by steel not less than No. 18 MSG in thickness, stainless steel not less than No. 20 MSG in thickness, or other approved material of equivalent strength and fire and corrosion resistance. In addition, all seams, joins, and penetration of the non-listed hood enclosure that direct and capture grease-laden vapor and exhaust gases are required to have liquid tight continuous external weld to the hood’s lower outmost perimeter. This is to prevent grease and, in the event of a fire, flame from extending into the overhead of the building.


A common misconception is that NFPA 96 requires a specific value for the size of a hood. Section 5.2 requires hoods to be sized and configured to provide for the capture and removal of grease-laden vapors. While overhang dimensions are typically provided for listed hoods, based on the requirement in Section 5.2, no overhang is actually specified or even necessarily required.


To determine the size of a hood, measure the front and side overhang requirements from the hood to the cooking appliance, dimensions “F” and “S”, respectively. For example, the hood listing could call for 12 inches for dimension “F” when the hood is over a char broiler, 9 inches when over a griddle, and only 6 inches when over a convection oven. One important difference between the non-listed and the listed hood is that the listed hood “F” dimension is measured from the front of the cooking surface, not the front of the cooking appliance.


While the hood can be sized perfectly at the initial installation, installing new cooking equipment underneath the hood, or moving the equipment for cleaning and not returning it to the properly location defeats the proper hood sizing.


4.   Know your exhaust duct systems


The requirements for exhaust duct systems, provided in Chapter 7, make up the largest focus of NFPA 96. This chapter provides requirements for clearance, openings, other grease ducts, exterior installation, interior installations and termination of exhaust ducts which includes both rooftop terminations and wall terminations.


To understand the purpose of all these provisions, think about the air flow through the system. Once the smoke and grease-laden vapors have been captured by the hood and most of the grease removed from the air by the grease removals devices, the air is carried through the exhaust duct to be expelled at the system termination. The main principals of the duct system design are to provide enough access so that it can be cleaned and inspected; ensure that it is constructed with materials and connections that will not compromise its integrity should a fire occur in the duct; and make sure that the termination is at a location that will not exhaust any contaminated air in a location where that air could be recirculated back into the building or any adjacent building.


5.   Identify your fire extinguishing systems – and know how to use them


Cooking equipment that produces grease laden vapors that could be a source of ignition of grease in the hood, grease removal device, or duct are required to be protected by fire-extinguishing equipment that include automatic primary protection and portable fire extinguishers for backup.


Automatic extinguishing systems are required to comply with the ANSI/UL 300, Standard for Fire Testing of Fire Extinguishing Systems for Protection of Commercial Cooking Equipment, or other equivalent standards and need to be installed with the requirements of the listing. What is important to note is that in the early 1990s, the ANSI/UL 300 test standard was modified to reflect modern cooking conditions with better energy efficient appliances and an updated cooking medium in the test by replacing animal lard with vegetable oil, which burns hotter. With the “new” test standard, dry chemical systems are no longer capable of passing the ANSI/UL 300 test standard. Check the fire extinguishing systems installed in your facility and make sure the system complies with the ANSI/UL 300 test standard, or an equivalent test standard.


It is also important to note that all sources of fuel and electrical power that produce heat to equipment requiring protection by a fire extinguishing system need to be automatically shut off to prevent re-ignition.


Manual pull stations associated with automatic fire extinguishing systems are required to be accessible and located a minimum of 3ft and maximum of 6ft from the protected hood and the path of egress. Remember, systems are required to be accessible (i.e. do not have materials blocking these manual pull stations or any means of egress), and all employees should know the location of these manual pull stations as well as how and when to operate them.


Figure 1: Blocked manual pull station.                                     Figure 2: Accessible manual pull station


Portable fire extinguishers are required to be selected and installed in accordance with NFPA 10, Standard on Portable Fire Extinguishers and be listed for their use. Class K fire extinguishers should be used if vegetable oils and animal oils/fats are present in the kitchen.  However, all buildings have Class A fire hazards and where ordinary combustibles are present (i.e. in dining areas of restaurants)., employees should be trained on the various types of portable extinguishers and how to use them in the event of a fire.


Most fire extinguishers use the P.A.S.S. technique:


Pull the pin

Aim low, pointing the extinguisher nozzle at the base of the fire

Squeeze the handle to release the extinguishing agent

Sweep from side to side at the base of the fire until it appears to be out


6.   Inspect, test and maintain your commercial cooking operation


Although inspections for grease buildup and fire extinguishing systems at specified intervals tend to be contracted out, restaurant employees can be trained to inspect this equipment each day and management can be responsible for enforcing this expectation. Encourage employees to routinely look out for normal wear and tear of equipment (i.e. broken seals, missing screws, exposed wires). All employees should start their routine with inspecting the equipment to ensure it was properly cleaned from the previous night (or shift), confirm that if the equipment requires a fire extinguishing system, the nozzles are clear and not clogged with grease. Many restaurants utilize heaters to keep the food hot after it’s been cooked; make sure employees know to check that there are no flammable materials on top of or near the heaters. Before starting the fryer, employees should check to make sure the oil level isn’t too low because if the heating coil is exposed above or close to the oil surface, residue and oil can catch fire. These are all very simple, yet effective steps in the fire protection program of your facility that do not require hiring an outside contractor to perform the work.


There are items that need to be inspected that only trained, qualified, and certified people can conduct. For example, the inspection and service of the cooking equipment must be completed annually; the fire extinguishing system needs to be inspected at least every 6 months; and the entire exhaust system is required to be inspected for grease buildup in accordance with Table 11.4 of NFPA 96, which bases the quantity of inspections on the amount of cooking and type of cooking taking place at a facility.


Figure 3: Schedule of Inspection for Grease Buildup (NFPA 96, 2021 edition)


7.   Emphasize the importance of cleaning


Since 1 in every 5 of the fires cited in the NFPA Research report had a failure to clean as a factor contributing to its ignition, cleaning seems like an easy and obvious solution to mitigate fire risks. However, when many hear (or in this case read) the word “cleaning” they assume hiring a company to clean the grease within the ductwork, and although this is a critical process that cannot be missed, there are many ways restaurant facility professionals can ensure that staff know how to reduce the risk of fire within their facility. Developing and/or enforcing a training program for all employees is a great way to achieve this goal. New employees should be trained, and current employees should be recertified on specific facility procedures every 6 to 12 months.


If during the scheduled inspection, the exhaust system is found to be contaminated with deposits from grease-laden vapors, the contaminated portions of the system are required to be cleaned by properly trained, qualified and certified people. Once the cleaning is complete, a written report detailing the amount of grease buildup, as well as any maintenance or repairs needed, and any areas that were inaccessible or not cleaned have been marked, the report must be provided to the owner of the system.


Figure 4: Unacceptable amount of grease accumulation on Baffle Plate          Figure 5: Acceptable Baffle Plate 


8.   Take responsibility as owners


NFPA 96 requires that the standard be applied as a united whole. It is important to recognize that all the chapters in NFPA 96 may be working on individual components of ventilation control and fire protection, but each of them is needed for the overall goal of reducing the potential fire hazard of cooking operations.


Ultimately, it is the owner’s responsibility that cooking equipment, hoods, ducts, fans, fire-extinguishing equipment and special effluent or energy control equipment installed in their facility is maintained to ensure the entire system works properly and provides the appropriate level of protection. In addition, the owner is responsible for the inspection, testing, maintenance, and cleanliness of the ventilation control and fire protection of the commercial cooking operation, provided that this responsibility has not been transferred in written form to a management company, tenant, or other party.


NFPA research shows that cooking fires are the greatest cause of fires in eating and drinking establishments, with three out of five fires (61%) originating in equipment and causing 38% of direct property damage. Given these statistics and this year’s Fire Prevention Week theme of Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen!TM, it is a great time for facility managers to see what’s cooking on their premises.


NFPA has been the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week since 1922. Fire Prevention Week is the longest running public health and safety observance on record.


I know I'm not the only one who walks into a building and immediately starts looking around to see what kind of life safety features a building has. When I’m looking around, I’m usually comparing what I see to what I know is required per NFPA 101, Life Safety Code. Sometimes, I have to remind myself that although what I see doesn’t align with what is required by Code, the building may still be compliant. Determining compliance isn’t always just following the applicable occupancy chapter requirements. Rather, two compliance options are recognized by the Code; prescriptive-based and performance-based. Both options offer equivalent levels of protection and one method is not preferred to the other. While we will focus on performance-based code compliance as it applies to the Life Safety Code, other codes, such as NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code and NFPA 1, Fire Code, also allow for performance-based designs.


The prescriptive-based option is what most people associate with compliance, looking through the Code and determining what requirements apply to your specific situation. However, sometimes this option is too limiting, and the performance-based option will be applied. This is especially true for complex buildings or buildings with unique functions and features. The Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas, Nevada (pictured above) comes to mind. The tower rises over 900 ft (274 m) above grade with ten floors and outdoor amusement rides in the upper portion of the tower “pod”. At the base of the tower is a casino building. The occupant load of some of the floors in the pod would have required three remote exit stairs to go from the top all the way to the base of the building. The physical area of the structure isn’t big enough to provide remotely located stairs and the height of the building makes the use of stairs as a means of evacuation somewhat impractical. Through the performance-based design compliance option, the Stratosphere Tower uses typical exit stairs for the occupied floors (floors 3-10) discharging to areas of refuge on the lowest two floors of the pod as part of its primary evacuation method. The areas of refuge serve no other purpose and consist entirely of noncombustible construction. The floors serving as areas of refuge are open to the surrounding exterior environment so that natural ventilation occurs, and a mechanical ventilation system is not required to keep the areas free of smoke. While a single stair is provided from the area of refuge to grade, the primary evacuation route from the area of refuge involves the elevators. The elevator evacuation system is capable of moving the maximum 2600-person occupant load of the pod to the base building in under 1 hour. As you can see, this fire protection strategy departs from the typical approach. Another example is the crown of the Statue of Liberty where visitors can now go up and look out onto New York City. For these unique situations, the prescriptive-based compliance option would have eliminated the design flexibility, that was imperative for the design of these buildings. Therefore, the performance-based option was applied. In addition to the two compliance options recognized by the Code, there is also an equivalency clause found in Chapter 1 that allows alternative systems, methods, or devices to be used when they are approved as equivalent by the authority having jurisdiction.


Goals and Objectives

In order to allow for two equivalent compliance options, a common understanding of the minimum level of life safety needed to be established. This allows for performance-based designs to be evaluated against similar criteria that a prescriptive-based approach is assumed to meet. This is done through the goals and objectives, found in Chapter 4. The primary goal of the Life Safety Code is to keep occupants reasonably safe from fire and in addition to fire, to keep occupants safe from comparable emergencies (such as explosions), hazardous materials, and crowd movement.

The objectives compliment the goals and strive to provide more quantitative expectations than that of the goals. For example, to help clarify the expectation around the primary goal of life safety from fire, the first objective of the Code states that “a structure shall be designed, constructed, and maintained to protect occupants who are not intimate with the initial fire development for the time needed to evacuate, relocate, or defend in place.” Without these objectives, the goals could be interpreted differently. Perhaps someone thinks occupants should be reasonably protected from fire for 10 minutes while someone else thinks 2 hours. The objectives play an important role in providing appropriate context for the goals.


Option #1 Prescriptive-Based Code Compliance

The prescriptive-based option is the method people are most familiar with. In this approach, the design is in accordance with the core chapters and the appropriate occupancy chapter(s).  The requirements outlined in these chapters and the resultant level of life safety is deemed to meet the goals and objectives of the Life Safety Code. For most buildings, this is the approach taken because the requirements are practicable to apply. However, there are situations where the structure is so unique, or the functionality of the space is so unusual that the prescriptive-based approach is too limiting. In this case, designers can use the performance-based option.


Option #2 Performance-Based Code Compliance

As mentioned above, the intent behind the performance-based option is to provide design flexibility. Designs utilizing this option must comply with Chapters 1 through 5. Chapter 5 states that if a design, for each design fire scenario, assumption, and design specification, meets the performance criterion, then it shall be considered to meet the objectives. The performance criterion states that any occupant who is not intimate with ignition shall not be exposed to instantaneous or cumulative untenable conditions. The annex material provides four different methods that could be used to show a design meets this performance criteria. One of the methods described is to perform calculations for each design fire scenario proving that each room or area will be fully evacuated before the smoke and toxic gas layer in that room descends to a level lower than 6 ft.


The performance-based design needs to successfully handle different fire scenarios. NFPA 101 provides 8 specific scenarios, covering a wide range of situations, that must be assessed. One design fire scenario that must be considered is a fire that starts in a normally unoccupied room and addresses the concern of a fire in such an area migrating into the space that potentially holds the greatest number of occupants in the building. In addition to the eight specified design fire scenarios, there is a requirement that the design fire scenario be as challenging as any that could occur in the building, but shall be realistic, with respect to any of the following: initial fire location; early rate growth in fire severity; or smoke generation. This usually requires at least one, if not more design fire scenarios to be added to the eight already required for evaluation. The intent of including these nonspecific scenarios, as opposed to only the specified scenarios found in Chapter 5, is to capture those scenarios in which initial fire location, early rate of growth in fire severity, or smoke generation poses a greater problem than those conditions captured by the required scenarios.


Performance-based design requires that the designer and authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) agree that the goals and objectives of the Life Safety Code have been met and that the desired level of safety is provided. The AHJ may require an independent third-party review of the performance-based design. As you can see, the selection of design fire scenarios as well as the evaluation of the scenarios is not a simple process. Therefore, performance-based design is usually reserved for unique situations where design flexibility is important.


Equivalency Clause

The equivalency clause found in Chapter 1 permits alternative systems, methods, or devices as approved as equivalent by the authority having jurisdiction to be recognized as complying with the Life Safety Code. It is not intended to serve as a waiver of compliance, but instead requires that a level of safety is provided that is equivalent to that required by the prescriptive-based provisions. When employing the equivalency clause, it is important to clearly identify the prescriptive-based code provision being addressed, to provide an interpretation of the intent of the provision, to provide an alternative approach (proposed design), and to provide appropriate support for the suggested alternative (evaluation of proposed designs). One example where equivalency may be granted is using a newer edition of a standard. If your jurisdiction follows the 2018 edition of NFPA 101, then the 2016 Edition of NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, would be the referenced standard for the installation of sprinklers. As a designer, you may want to use the 2019 edition, and could ask the AHJ to approve an alternative design as equivalent that uses the 2019 edition of NFPA 13.


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The risks of shock, electrocution, arc flash, and arc blast are a significant health and safety concern in the workplace. Many electrical incidents could have been (and can be) prevented through compliance with the latest safety codes and standards.electrical safety


NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, is a critical document to help provide a working area for employees that is safe from unacceptable risk associated with the use of electricity in the workplace. With the release of the latest edition for 2021, NFPA 70E clearly establishes safety processes that use policies, procedures, and program controls to reduce these risks to an acceptable level. The objective is practical, accomplishable electrical safety that helps ensure employees go home safe at the end of the day.


A new fact sheet explains the purpose of NFPA 70E and highlights the following:


  • Key changes in the 2021 edition
  • The relationship between NFPA 70E and other codes and standards
  • The connection between OSHA’s standards and NFPA 70E
  • The role employees and employers play when it comes to electrical safety in the workplace
  • The application of NFPA 70E across the globe


Download the free NFPA 70E fact sheet and learn more about this important standard.


Hear personal stories of people impacted by electrical incidents through NFPA’s Faces of FireTM/Electrical education campaign that was created in collaboration with the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors and raises awareness about electrical hazards in the workplace.


More information about NFPA 70E can found on NFPA’s document information page and by visiting the electrical solutions webpage.

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