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6 Posts authored by: ashleysmith Employee

The Problem with Free

Posted by ashleysmith Employee Apr 13, 2016

6a00d8351b9f3453ef01b8d1be0c87970c-320wi.jpgWhy copyright protection is so important for standards developers

Standards development organizations like NFPA are in the midst of a fight that impacts the very core of our mission, NFPA President Jim Pauley wrote in his latest column.

Some opponents say the standards system should be free, while others say they would dismantle the private sector standards system altogether in favor of a government system for codes and standards.


However, this is not realistic. The federal Office of Management and Budget [OMB] has maintained a strong preference for voluntary consensus standards, rather than government-created standards. Many other government entities have said they couldn’t replace what the private sector standards system produces.


Without NFPA codes, our world would be a very different – and more dangerous – place. Without the National Electrical Code®, electrical installations would be less safe, more expensive, and vastly different from one area of the country to the next. Without the enforcement of NFPA 1, Fire Code, fires would occur more often, resulting in more injuries and deaths.


Developing these codes and standards that improve safety around the world requires time, money, infrastructure and production, and this work is sustained by what we charge for our output. It couldn’t happen otherwise.


It's crucial that people who value and rely on the results of our private sector standards respect the copyright laws. Before you copy a copyrighted standard to give to someone for free, or before you hit send on an email that attaches an electronic version of a copyrighted standard, keep in mind that you're playing into the hands of those who casually say, "everything should be free."


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This issue’s “In Compliance” section takes a look at electrical safety, life safety in new and existing structures, home sprinkler myths, and fire alarm considerations for industrial spaces.


Here’s the news you need to know, in brief. Or, visit the NFPA Journal website to read the complete section.


Meter Matters

When firefighters enter a building, they could be exposed to energized electrical wiring, or they could risk the well-documented hazards associated with de-energizing the building’s electrical panel and wiring system. Lack of proper training and inadequate electrical personal protective equipment have contributed to fire service personnel being injured while pulling meters.

A proposed revision of the 2017 National Electrical Code® (NEC®) would protect firefighters and other first responders from shock and and possible arc-flash hazards while responding to certain residential incidents. The revision requires all one- and two-family homes to have a service disconnecting means on the exterior of the home.


Look Ahead

Each new edition of NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, addresses state-of-the-art subjects not codified in previous editions. Proposed changes for the 2018 edition include:

  • Hazardous materials – The Chapter 4 goals are being expanded to include the provision of reasonable life safety during emergencies involving hazardous materials.
  • Integrated fire protection systems – A new provision is being added to Chapter 9 of the Life Safety Code to permit the occupancy chapters to require fire protection systems that are integrated with other building systems to be tested accorded to NFPA 4®, Integrated Fire Protection and Life Safety System Testing®.
  • Risk analysis for mass notification – Another provision is being added to Chapter 9 to permit the occupancy chapters to require a risk analysis for mass notification systems in accordance with the requirements of NFPA 72®, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code®.
  • Construction, alteration and demolition operations – A provision is being added to Chapter 4 of the Life Safety Code to permit the occupancy chapters to require construction, alteration, and demolition operations to be in accordance with NFPA 241®, Safeguarding Construction, Alteration, and Demolition Operations®.


Straight Facts

Many homebuilders, developers, and general contractors have preconceived notions about automatic sprinklers in single-family homes. Often, they’re myths based on bad information.

To help dispel those myths, the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) and NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative teamed up at the recent International Builders Show to disseminate the right information through face-to-face conversations.

The main myths they wanted to debunk? That sprinklers are too expensive (the average cost is only about $1.35 per sprinklered square foot), that they’re ugly (concealed sprinkler covers can make the nearly undetectable), and that they’re complicated to install (in reality, they’re very similar to a domestic plumbing system).


Ambient Attention

An array of ambient conditions in industrial occupancies can affect the performance of a fire alarm system. The 2016 edition of NFPA 72®, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code®, states the limits imposed on these devices based on ambient conditions, and designers must carefully consider those when choosing components for fire alarm systems in industrial spaces.

Those spaces can include conditions that can affect detector operation or initiate false alarms: mechanical vibration, electrical interference, process smoke, moisture, particulates, fumes, noise, and radiation, among others.


Receive the print edition of NFPA Journal and browse online member-only archives as part of your NFPA membership. Learn more about the many benefits and join today.

membrane.jpgWhen marinas need to sand and paint boats, the dust and fumes pose problems. They can spread throughout the building, bothering people who work in the marina and dirtying other boats.


To address that, marinas often build what’s known as a membrane enclosure: a metal scaffolding structure surrounding the boat, which is then covered in plastic shrink wrap. Solves the problem, right? Well…


The bigger problem is, using these membrane enclosures inside sprinklered buildings presents some serious fire safety hazards, the March/April NFPA Journal reports. The concern is that they could delay sprinkler activation in the event of a fire. Water may not be able to penetrate the enclosure.


There are at least two code implications. Membrane enclosures are not compatible with NFPA 33, Spray Application Using Flammable or Combustible Materials, or NFPA 13, Installation of Sprinkler Systems.


The marine industry isn’t alone. Many other industries do similar spray applications inside enclosed structures, including aircraft facilities and hydro-electric facilities. Many of the industries, even including marine, have expressed concern about the fact that the practice is not technically allowed by standard.


The details are far more complex, but for the full picture, check out Nancy Pearce’s piece, “Wrapped Up,” in our latest journal issue. If your industry uses membrane enclosures, this is a crucial read.


Receive the print edition of NFPA Journal and browse online member-only archives as part of your NFPA membership. Learn more about the many benefits and join today.


Both wildfire and unemployment have long been pervasive problems in South Africa.


Chaparral and shrubs burn fiercely in the west, as do dry grasses and thickets in the north. Meanwhile, some one in four South Africans is unemployed.


So how do these relate?


In 2003, the South African government piloted a program called “Working on Fire” (WoF) that addresses both by recruiting disadvantaged South Africans, training them extensively, and then hiring them as wildland firefighters. The program creates much-needed jobs while keeping wildfires at bay.


WoF now has some 5,000 participants across 200 bases. The wages these firefighters collect help provide for more than 25,000 people across the country, by some estimates.


The program has been such a success that Kishugu, the private organization that runs and manages, WoF, rapidly expanded it throughout the world, maintaining operations in seven countries and four continents.

In the March/April issue of NFPA Journal, staff writer Jesse Roman speaks with Val Charlton, division director of Public Benefit Organization at Kishugu.


In this in-depth interview, Charlton talks about the main causes of fire in South Africa, how the WoF model developed, and how NFPA is involved. Read the full interview here.


Also, check out our podcast of the interview.


Receive the print edition of NFPA Journal and browse online member-only archives as part of your NFPA membership. Learn more about the many benefits and join today.



What kid – or adult kid – wouldn’t want a hoverboard?


During the 2015 holiday season, hoverboards were all the rage. The two-wheeled, motorized, self-balancing scooters were one of the hardest gifts to get. Think Atari in 1979, Cabbage Patch Kids in 1983, or Tickle Me Elmo in 1996.


The problem is, hoverboards have a tendency to catch fire, in many cases due to overheated lithium batteries. Learn from Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of Outreach and Advocacy, what the holiday hoverboard flap illustrated about public safety.


Also in our March/April issue, Kathleen Almand, vice president for Research at NFPA, talks about the results of a long-term health study proving that firefighters have a higher risk than the general population for some types of cancers. Find out more here.


Donald Bliss, our vice president of Field Operations, discusses why it’s critical to gather fire data from across the world. This topic is particularly current in the wake of deadly fires across the world, including the Russian mental health clinic fire that killed 23 and the tragic factory fires in Bangladesh that have killed hundreds. 


Over in Washington, D.C., our division director for Government Affairs, Gregory Cade, talks about global climate change in the wake of the annual Conference of the Parties (COP21), also know as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference – which produced the Paris Agreement for the limiting of global warming. Does the agreement signal a new role for codes and standards developers? Willette, division manager for Public Fire Protection, discusses whether all firefighters need to be trained and certified for interior fire attack, or whether some can be limited to logistical support outside a structure during a fire. Read more here.


Finally, there’s news on how climate change and structural fire risks collide in the wildland/urban interface, courtesy of Lucian Deaton, who manages the Firewise Communities and Fire Adapted Communities Programs in NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations Division.


Receive the print edition of NFPA Journal and browse online member-only archives as part of your NFPA membership. Learn more about the many benefits and join today.


The greater fire hazard of many stored goods makes it imperative for building owners to consider more effective methods of warehouse protection. Photograph: Getty Image


For warehouse managers, being told they need to install in-rack sprinklers can be stressful. The fire protection benefits are not in question. The problem is the cost.


Typically, a large number of sprinklers are required for warehouse storage racks, making the cost far higher than ceiling-level sprinklers. Adding to that, managers worry that in-rack sprinklers could cause water damage to products if they’re set off unintentionally.


However, as warehouses grow taller to make more efficient use of space, the fire risks are elevated because the natural path for fire to grow is vertical.


In 2011, commercial property insurance company FM Global launched an in-rack sprinkler research project to improve the protection of storage racks and lower the overall cost of fire protection. The company’s research division conducted small-, intermediate-, and full-scale fire tests using computer modeling to identify potential protection solutions.


This unique approach proved that by using larger sprinklers and higher water flow rates, the number of in-rack sprinklers could be significantly reduced, saving significant cash. It was estimated this could lower the cost of in-rack sprinkler installation by 40 percent, in addition to reducing the likelihood of damage to stored products.   


A feature story in the March/April issue of NFPA Journal, “Rack Rate,” takes an in-depth look at this research, which offers building owners and designers new possibilities for protecting buildings and products that may be impossible for ceiling-level sprinklers alone.


Receive the print edition of NFPA Journal and browse online member-only archives as part of your NFPA membership. Learn more about the many benefits and join today.

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