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The findings of a nine-month investigation by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSDHS) Public Safety Commission into the MSDHS shooting, which left 14 students and three staff members dead in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018, were officially presented to Florida state officials last month. This Thursday is the one-year anniversary of the incident, which was the deadliest shooting in the United States in 2018 and one of the nation’s deadliest in modern history.


Outlined in a 439-page report, the findings of the MSDHS Public Safety Commission—a group formed by the MSDHS Public Safety Act about a month after the shooting and made up of law enforcement officials, education leaders, parents of victims, and more—include recommendations on how communities can best prepare for future mass shootings and other hostile events. While the recommendations partly draw on the guidance found in NFPA 3000™ (PS), Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program, some experts say they lack the “whole community” approach of the standard, which was released about two and a half months after the Parkland shooting.


The May/June 2018 NFPA Journal cover story, “Writing History,” chronicles the process that went into releasing NFPA 3000 and explains the concept of the “whole community” approach, as well as the three other main themes of the standard: unified command, integrated response, and planned recovery.


“The report highlights some critical recommendations that are featured in NFPA 3000,” said John Montes, the NFPA staff liaison to NFPA 3000. “Specifically, it highlights two of the four main themes of the standard, unified command and integrated response.” The problem, Montes continued, is that the report recommendations focus primarily on law enforcement. “Everything is viewed from that lens,” he said, missing the perspective of other responders, citizens, health care professionals, and victims. “There isn’t any mention of what tactics to teach students and teachers, such as bleeding control.”


Perhaps the biggest shortfall of the report, Montes said, is its lack of information related to the recovery aspect of mass shootings and other hostile events. “While the report itself is part of the recovery phase of the incident for the Parkland area, it says nothing about recovery,” Montes said. “Recovery is the longest-lasting phase, but the one that is most frequently ignored.” There are no recommendations related to reunification, notifying loved ones, or providing mental health services to the community, he said.


Still, other portions of the report reflect more fully on the guidance in NFPA 3000. For example, the information included in Chapter 16 of the report, which explains a new Florida law requiring school districts to develop and frequently practice plans for active shooter and hostage situations with public safety agencies, “captures much of the messages in 3000,” Montes said. The standard requires annual trainings at a minimum.


Read more in-depth analysis of the Parkland shooting report in the upcoming issue of NFPA Journal, available online in early March. And explore NFPA’s extensive resources on NFPA 3000, including online learning, fact sheets, and more, at

Personal accounts of bullying, hazing, and even sexual abuse in the fire service dominated the discussion at last year’s NFPA Responder Forum in Birmingham, Alabama, in October. While the stories were at times hard to listen to, it was a necessary discussion not only for educating responders on the need for wider acceptance in the fire service, but also for driving research into responder behavioral health.


Casey Grant, executive director of the Fire Protection Research Foundation, made the case for discussions like this to advance such research in his latest column for NFPA Journal, “Speak Up.”


“While it’s too early to know what specific projects might directly come out of the conversations at the Responder Forum, I can assure you that these give-and-take discussions contain invaluable insights for researchers—knowledge that would be difficult to gain any other way,” Grant writes. “It’s this type of process that allows the seeds for important projects to begin to take root, which is exactly what is starting to happen around the issues of responder behavioral health, PTSD, and suicide prevention. Not long ago, these issues were not studied extensively, and obtaining funding for projects was difficult.”


Read Grant’s full column here.

Associated Press

The opening image of "Cutting Edge," a feature article in the current issue of NFPA Journal, might look like something out of a sci-fi movie, but in actuality, the photo shows a woman undergoing an increasingly common form of cancer treatment: proton therapy. 
The construction of proton therapy centers is one of three emerging health care trends the article identifies as topics fire and life safety professionals should be aware of. The other two are microhospitals and acuity-adaptable patient rooms. While all three promise something beneficial to patients, they also have the potential to affect the application of codes and standards, the design and construction process, and emergency response. 
Microhospitals, for example, may look like urgent care facilities on the outside, but building code officials should know they need to be treated like a traditional hospital and have the same safety measures in place, such as robust backup electrical power systems. "They should still be treated like an inpatient facility where patients are expected to be incapable of self-preservation and where they would stay for more than 24 hours," said Jon Hart, the NFPA staff liaison to NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities Code
Read the full article here.

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Last week, President Trump made headlines after threatening to cut off federal emergency aid to California as the state recovers from its worst wildfire season in history. The president made the threat via Twitter, saying funding would be cut unless California gets its "act together." He was referring to what he believes to be poor forest management strategies carried out in the state, according to the Washington Post
Trump's words didn't sit well with many people, including the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), who released a statement on the news. "This is yet another unimaginable attack on the dedicated professionals who put everything on the line, including their own homes, to protect their neighborhoods," IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger said in the statement. "While our president is tweeting on the sidelines in DC, our fellow Americans 3,000 miles to the west are mourning loved ones, entire communities have been wiped off the map and thousands of people are still trying to figure out where they are going to call home."
In the new issue of NFPA Journal, four pieces shed light on the devastating wildfire season California experienced: "Old & In Harm's Way,"an article that explains how one fire in particular, the Camp Fire, became the state's deadliest and most destructive wildfire ever; "135 Minutes,"a Perspectives interview with a hospital official who helped facilitate the emergency evacuation of a health care facility during the Camp Fire; "California Burning,"a statistics-driven overview of the wildfire season in the Golden State; and "Why It Matters," the debut column from NFPA's Wildfire Division director on the importance of wildfire preparedness and prevention efforts. 
The most recent California wildfire season saw not only the largest-ever wildfire burn, the Mendocino Complex Fire, which torched an area over twice as large as New York City, but it also saw the deadliest ever, the Camp Fire, which killed 85 people. At least one estimate put the economic impact of all the fires that burned in the state in 2018 at $400 billion.

As 2018 comes to a close, the NFPA Journal editorial staff has each chosen his favorite article from the past year. From a story covering a primetime cry-fest to one covering a groundbreaking new NFPA standard, here are our choices, presented with explanations on why we chose them. 
Executive Editor Scott Sutherland's pick: "This is Safety,"March/April Dispatches lead story
This challenge is difficult to the point of being unfair, when you consider the breadth of the topics we covered and the urgency that drove a lot of our coverage. There were big, pressing stories like Angelo Verzoni’s feature on the new NFPA 3000 ("Writing History,"May/June), or Jesse Roman’s big-picture consideration of development in the wildland/urban interface ("Build. Burn. Repeat?,"January/February). A personal favorite was one of our last features of the year—Jesse’s piece on the remaking of NFPA 150, the standard on animal housing facilities ("Critter Life Safety Code," November/December), with its plucky cow that graced our cover. 
But I think my favorite, for entirely subjective reasons, wasn’t a feature at all—it was Angelo’s March/April Dispatches lead story on the season-ending episode of "This Is Us," the NBC tear-jerker series that featured a home fire and prompted a national conversation on fire and life safety—and sparked a kerfuffle on slow cookers for good measure. NFPA and NFPA Journal are uniquely positioned to consider fire and life safety as depicted in popular culture, and Angelo’s piece was a great example of how we can probe the zeitgeist and help readers understand why it matters and what it all means.
Associate Editor Jesse Roman's pick: "Build. Burn. Repeat?,"January/February cover story
In light of the terrible events that unfolded recently in California, in my opinion the most important article that ran in our pages this year is the feature "Build. Burn. Repeat?," the cover story in January/February.
The main takeaway from the piece is that wildfires are a natural element of the landscape; as with hurricanes, tornados, and other natural disasters, they are not preventable, so best to prepare, plan ahead, and take steps to dull the impact. In reporting the piece, expert after expert told me that we have the knowledge and technology today to prevent almost all houses from igniting during a wildfire—what we lack is the will to mandate that residents build a certain way and in certain locations.
Instead, the opposite is happening: building codes are being relaxed, and development is expanding further into the wilderness. Even in places like Santa Rosa, California, and El Paso County, Colorado, where huge wildfires have recently destroyed homes and taken lives, instead of taking steps to lessen the chance of another wildfire disaster, local governments choose to relax building codes. This is typically done out of a desire to help the victims get back on their feet by making it fast, easy, and more affordable to rebuild their homes in the same fire-prone areas; often, the rebuilt homes have even less fire protection than the ones that just burned. It’s an understandable reaction, but one that leads to predictable outcomes. Hence the headline, "Build. Burn. Repeat?"
Upon rereading the piece recently, it’s almost eerie how true this is. Almost exactly a year ago as I was writing "Build. Burn. Repeat?" residents of Santa Rosa were still coming to grips with the Tubbs Fire, which had torn through neighborhoods destroying nearly 15,000 homes, and killing 44 people. A year later, it's the residents of Paradise who are picking up the pieces. Sadly, there doesn’t appear to be any end in sight, and it seems that the lessons in "Build. Burn. Repeat?" will be relevant long into the future.
Staff Writer Angelo Verzoni's pick: "Writing History,"May/June cover story
It's not every day as a journalist that you get to sit down with the nation's most prominent public safety leaders, some of whom responded to the nation's deadliest, most horrific mass shootings: Newtown, Orlando, Las Vegas. The sources are what make this story shine, in my opinion, and there are plenty of them quoted in the piece. It was published in May to mark the release of NFPA 3000, NFPA's biggest, most-talked-about standards writing effort of the year, and does a nice job explaining how those efforts came together and ultimately played out. It wasn't an easy process; when NFPA brought cops and firefighters to the same table, for example, they didn't always see eye to eye—to put it mildly. 
One of the most powerful interviews I conducted for the story was with Dr. Richard Kamin, a trauma surgeon who responded to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012. "I walked out of that school and I was really afraid that I was broken," he told me. That quote will always stick with me. After writing the story, I was fortunate enough to be able to sit down with Kamin again to interview him for a separate video project for NFPA. 

Unfortunately, the reality is that "Writing History" and NFPA 3000 are just as important and relevant today as they were several months ago, as mass shootings have continued to plague the country. My hope is that communities and leaders who haven't already will learn from the standard and from leaders like Kamin who have gone through hell and back to better prepare themselves should an incident like that occur on their turf, and reading "Writing History" might be a good place to start. 
What did readers think? Based on web traffic, the most popular Journal articles in 2018, in order of first to fifth, were: "Smoke Signals"(March/April); "Smarter About Smoke"(May/June); "Firefighter fatalities in the United States in 2017"(July/August); "Small Scale, High Proof"(March/April); and "The Makeover"(May/June).
NFPA Journal will be back in the new year, with an issue focusing on health care, violence against responders, the Camp Fire, and more. 
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As California recovers from its worst wildfire season on record, the landmark report released in October by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) carries even more weight. NFPA Journal covered the release of the UN climate change report in the "International" sectionof Dispatches in its November/December issue.
The report paints a grim picture of a world plagued by more wildfires even if the most ambitious climate change goals are met. Researchers said the most at-risk areas include the United States, Canada, and the Mediterranean—areas where we've already been seeing intense wildfire activity in recent years. In the past several months alone, California has seen its largest ever wildfire, the Mendocino Complex fire, and its deadliest and most destructive, the Camp Fire. (The next issue of NFPA Journal will include comprehensive coverage of the Camp Fire.)
"We've spent decades now creating this problem," NFPA Wildfire Division Director Michele Steinberg told the magazine for its article on the UN report. "The impacts of climate change constitute a systemic global problem, and this report confirms what many fire and land management experts already knew."
Read the full UN report here.
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From Asia to Africa and even in the United States, informal settlements—often called slums or shantytowns—house the urban poor. With no building codes governing the construction of homes inside these areas, the use of open flames for heating and cooking, and high rates of drinking and smoking, fire is an ever-present threat.
The problem is poised to only get worse. Right now, an estimated 1 billion people live in informal settlements worldwide. By 2050, that number could swell to 2 or 3 billion. How can we keep these people safe from fire? More research and education on the fire problem in informal settlements is a good place to start, experts from the World Bank Group told me in October.
Read what they had to say in "A World Unregulated," which ran alongside "Sound the Alarm," a feature article on a project to install smoke alarms in a shantytown in South Africa, in the November/December issue of NFPA Journal.

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Last month, the Smart City Expo World Congresswas held in Barcelona, Spain. The annual event, which showcases the technological innovations of so-called smart cities worldwide, drew over 21,000 visitors from more than 700 cities in 146 countries. 
The growth of smart cities, which employ technologies to collect and analyze data on citizens and infrastructure, is something the fire service should not only be paying attention to but also actively involved in, according to a position paper endorsed by the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association at the 2018 Urban Fire Forum (UFF), held at NFPA headquarters early this fall. I wrote about the chiefs' decision in the recent NFPA Journal article, "Get Smart."
"The safety of the public is one of local government's highest responsibilities," the chiefs wrote in their paper. "Given the unique capabilities now available for harnessing and analyzing data, it is critical that the fire chief be directly and intimately involved in decisions related to the collection, analysis, and dissemination of data used for planning, decision-making, operations, and evaluation of the programs for which he or she is responsible."
Read all of the papers endorsed by the Metro Chiefs at this year's UFF online

Associated Press

Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the Farmington, West Virginia, mine explosion, which killed 78 people. It was the deadliest fire or explosion in the United States in 1968, according to NFPA. 


The incident is featured in "Looking Back" in the November/December issue of NFPA Journal.


"Man, it was like somebody hit me in the face with a bucket full of dirt," one survivor recalled in a video on the incident produced by NIOSH in 2009. "You couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe. So I just pulled my shirt up over my face and sat down. You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face it was so dusty." The survivor, Gary Martin, was one of only 21 miners working that day who made it out alive. 


Although the cause of the mine explosion was never officially determined, it spurred a wave of legislation improving mine and miner safety throughout the United States. Read the full NFPA Journal article here.

Justin Sullivan 



An estimated 1 billion people worldwide live in areas known as slums, shantytowns, or informal settlements, where the built environment doesn't benefit from land-use or safety regulations. Organizations like the United Nations and the World Bank Group predict the number of people living in shantytowns to hit 2 to 3 billion by 2050. In almost all of these areas, fire and fire death rates are staggeringly high.


But a project carried out in a shantytown in Cape Town, South Africa, last year offers hope. The project is the subject of a new NFPA Journal feature article and podcast available online now


In February 2017, about 2,000 off-the-shelf, battery-operated photoelectric smoke alarms were installed in a particularly at-risk neighborhood in a Cape Town shantytown known as Wallacedene. While some fire safety experts believed the alarms wouldn't work—their doubts were fueled by the thought that nuisance alarms would endlessly sound inside the neighborhood's small shacks, where cooking and heating equipment often generate smoke—the alarms proved immensely successful. 


"[They] reduced deaths to zero," said Rodney Eksteen, a former Western Cape fire official who coordinated the smoke alarm installation process. "In all the fire incidents that occurred in that community [in the time researchers monitored fires], there were no deaths. Zero."


Read the full article here.

Katie Cornhill wants you to know something: She's still a "badass."

That's what the former Royal Marine and current United Kingdom fire officer told attendees of the 2018 NFPA Responder Forum in Birmingham, Alabama, on Tuesday, garnering laughs from the crowd of more than 130 people. Cornhill is the subject of a “Perspectives” interview in the November/December issue of NFPA Journal.
Cornhill, a group manager at the Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, identifies as a non-cisgendered female—some people mistakenly identify her as a transgender female. She says she was assigned the incorrect male gender at birth and lived the first 39 years of her life, including six years as a commando in the very masculine Royal Marines, hiding her true identify from everyone except her ex-wife, brother, and a few close friends. Twelve years ago, Cornhill says, she decided it was time to finally start living her life as the person she had always been since the day she was conceived, and six years ago, she came out to her department. Since then, she's become a champion of inclusion in the fire service. 
"We need to be truly inclusive leaders and do all that we can every day to make our archaic institutional cultures move forward," Cornhill said at the forum. "The world would be a better place and it would be a safer and happier place if everyone could truly be themselves." Cornhill's talk was one of a number of presentations at this year's forum that tackled fire service personnel issues like bullying, hazing, racial bias, cultural acceptance, and gender equality in the fire service
Last month, Cornhill shared more about her personal journey with my colleague Jesse Roman. His interview with her will appear in the November/December issue of NFPA Journal. "I think every fire and rescue service is populated with individuals who are not out to their colleagues," Cornhill told Roman. "That is in terms of both sexual identity and gender identity. I think that what every fire and rescue service needs to do—we are not there, and nowhere near it—is to create an environment where we embrace diversity so people can truly feel like they can be themselves." 

Read the full story here.

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It's been just over a month since dozens of natural gas–fueled fires burned in homes in the Merrimack Valley region of Massachusetts, not far from NFPA's headquarters in Quincy. Coincidentally, the incident occurred about a month after NFPA began considering a new standard addressing the installation, testing, and maintenance of gas detectors in homes.
I wrote about it in a new article that will appear in the November/December issue of NFPA Journal

"In an event like the Merrimack Valley incident, gas detectors could save lives," I write in the piece. "[NFPA's Director of Engineering Guy] Colonna explained that for the combustion of natural gas in air to occur, the air needs to contain a minimum of 5 percent methane by volume and there needs to be an ignition source, such as a pilot flame in a gas stove or a light switch being flicked on. Detectors, which would sound when gas levels are much lower than that concentration, could alert occupants to get out."


Read the full article here.

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When I was in college, I wrote an article titled "What is 3D printing?" for a journalism course. About five years have passed since then, and such a broad headline is outdated today. The general public more or less knows what 3D printing is and doesn't need an article explaining it to them. 
The technology keeps cropping up in more and more areas—medicine, cooking, and now the auto industry. Volkswagen, the world's largest car manufacturer, announced this month that within the next two to three years, it hopes to be mass producing car parts with 3D printers.
Not surprisingly, the technology has also emerged on college campuses nationwide, where students use them to print objects for academics as well as for fun. For all their usefulness and potential to revolutionize industry, though, studies have shown 3D printers can emit hazardous gases and create combustible dusts, among other safety concerns, and, therefore, they must be used in well-regulated spaces. This has generated concerns from campus safety officials, who worry about their unofficial use in dorm rooms and other corners of campus. I wrote about the phenomenon in an article titled "3D Printers Go Mainstream" in the September/October issue of NFPA Journal
The piece accompanies a larger feature article on the threat of active shooters on college campuses, which also includes articles on the emergence of vaping on campuses and the lasting fire threat on campuses
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While the news coverage of the Brazil museum fire has largely focused on the fact that it was a museum that burned—raising questions over the value society places on preserving artifacts—the fact that it was a historic building is just as significant. 
Museums or not, historic buildings are at high risk for catastrophic fires unless modern fire and life safety systems have in some way been added to them, and the incident in Brazil was the latest in a series of recent, massive blazes in historic buildings. In June, fire gutted a 110-year-old building in Glasgow, Scotland, that was being used as a library by the Glasgow School of Art, and in August, a fire spread through a 233-year-old retail building in Belfast, Ireland. 
The problem of fires in historic buildings is a well-documented one, and solutions do exist. NFPA 914, Fire Protection of Historic Structures, outlines measures that can be taken to protect historic buildings from fires, including installing automatic fire sprinklers. But too often, these solutions aren't implemented. 
Read why in "Saving History," available  now and which will appear in the November/December 2018 issue of NFPA Journal

Responders search for victims among the rubble following a bridge collapse in Genoa, Italy, in August (Getty Images)

This article was first published in NFPA Journal on September 4. Read more articles from the "Dispatches" section of the September/October 2018 issue of NFPA Journal here.
In August, a bridge built in the 1960s collapsed in Genoa, Italy, killing 43 people. Photos from the incident show firefighters and other responders searching for survivors and victims among giant slabs of concrete and twisted metal.
As Miami-Dade (Florida) Fire Chief and NFPA member Dave Downey watched the news unfold, he identified parallels between it and what his department experienced in March, when a bridge collapsed and killed six people on the campus of Florida International University. A few days after the bridge collapse in Italy, Downey shared his thoughts about the Italy incident and the one he experienced in Florida months earlier via email with NFPA Journal.
Do you think Italian officials are experiencing similar challenges to the ones your department faced?
While the Italian bridge collapse and the details surrounding the search and rescue efforts are still unfolding, I am sure that some of the challenges we faced during our event in March will be present here as well. While the magnitude of the Italian incident exceeds ours incident exponentially, I am sure there are similar challenges.
What’s the biggest challenge?
First and foremost for us was accountability. We had to ask ourselves, how many people were on, under, and around the bridge when it collapsed? This is not like a typical building collapse where you might be able to more quickly determine who was in the building and who is missing. Like I am sure is happening in Italy, we had to rely on witness statements, direct observation, and gaining access to as much security video footage as possible. That process is very time-consuming.
What are some of the other challenges?
The second major concern, but the primary with respect to rescue operations, is the stability of the already collapsed sections of the bridge, as well as the still-standing portions that have the potential to collapse. In our case, we were dealing with a 174-foot continuous span of concrete that was intended to be stabilized through post-tensioning, which failed during the collapse, resulting in large, unsupported sections of concrete that could not be easily lifted or removed.
After my 30-plus years in the fire service and working in the urban search and rescue environment, I have come to the conclusion that regardless of what engineers and construction experts say, the only way to move large sections of concrete is to make them smaller sections of concrete. This takes an incredible amount of time, but fortunately in our case, it strictly affected recovery and we did not have to break up large sections of concrete to rescue survivors.
The final challenge in these types of events is when to make the decision to transition from rescue to recovery when you are still perhaps uncertain as to the total number missing people. It can be a really hard decision to make, but it’s essential.
What are your thoughts on the efforts of Italian responders?
From the footage I have seen, it appears the Italian rescuers have a good strategy for the rescue operation, utilizing all search techniques available including canines. Access to parts of the collapse appeared to be a challenge but the utilization of cranes and other vertical options appeared effective. It’s a tough way to work hanging from a rope, cable, or even in a basket, and I applaud their hard work.

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