Skip navigation
All Places > NFPA Today > Blog > Author: cathylongley
1 2 3 Previous Next

NFPA Today

159 Posts authored by: cathylongley Employee

Given the COVID-19 crisis, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is urging officials to ensure that fire protection and life safety systems be maintained in all commercial and multi-occupancy residential buildings; and that the personnel and vendors that service those systems be deemed essential.

 

“We cannot put additional strain to our overburdened emergency response capabilities, by not ensuring buildings are protected with the very equipment that saves lives and property,” said NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley. “First responders rely on commercial and multi-occupancy residential buildings in their communities to have a full array of fire and life safety systems such as working fire detection, alarms and sprinkler systems.”

 

To avoid compromising fire and life safety, and leaving buildings vulnerable to vandalism, refer to the new NFPA Guidance for Maintaining Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems Regardless of Occupancy Status fact sheet that includes the following points:

 

  • All commercial and multi-occupancy residential buildings should maintain fully operational fire and life safety systems as required by the applicable codes and standards. (NFPA 25, NFPA 72, NFPA 101)
  • Those responsible for these buildings should adhere to the expected schedules for inspection, testing, and maintenance (ITM) that are vital to their operation. 
  • Public and private employees who perform the inspection, maintenance and other responsibilities for these systems should be deemed essential workers.
  • Most ITM requirements can be executed by a single ITM service provider limiting the need for face to face interaction. 
  • Systems on construction sites that are being temporarily abandoned should remain in an operating condition as specified in the construction safety plan (NFPA 241).
  • Blocking open smoke or fire-protection rated doors can compromise the integrity of a building’s compartmentation plan. Maintaining these opening protectives is critical, especially in health-care occupancies. (NFPA 80)
  • ITM requirements for health care systems, including med-gas systems, that require ITM as outlined by the risk assessment performed for the building and in accordance with manufacturers recommendations should continue. (NFPA 99)
  • Without emergency power systems in proper working order, fire alarm system may not work as intended. (NFPA 110)

 

More information can be found at www.nfpa.org/coronavirus.

 

As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, we remain 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.

 

In an effort to reach more people across the globe with fire, life and electrical safety information, NFPA is expanding its digital delivery of content for Spanish-speaking audiences.

 

Beginning this year, NFPA will produce six digital issues of the entire NFPA Journal in which all editorial, columns and other materials are translated into Spanish. NFPA Journal, as the official publication of NFPA, contains coverage of news and topics of interest around the world and will now be more accessible for Spanish-speaking individuals.

 

This change replaces Journal Latinoamericano, a print and digital magazine that began more than two decades ago and contained a selection of articles from NFPA Journal, as well as articles written by Latin American professionals. Journal Latinoamericano included a limited print circulation four times a year and an accompanying digital version.

 

This move will provide more frequent content - six translated digital issues of NFPA Journal per year. The transition is part of a continuing effort to translate a growing array of NFPA materials including blogs, codes and standards, training and other information (all available as digital delivery).

 

Visit NFPA Journal en Español to learn more or to sign up for the digital edition.

It will come as no surprise to women in the fire service but the number of female firefighters in the U.S. remains relatively low, according to the most recent U.S. Fire Department Profile from NFPA. The newest data was released today on the heels of a Los Angeles Times piece about that city’s fire department falling short on their 2020 female hiring goal; and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announcing that, for the first time in history, women have surpassed the number of men working in America.

 

The new NFPA report provides an overview of 29,705 local and municipal fire departments in the country; and estimates that in 2018, only 93,700, or eight percent, of the 1,115,000 firefighters in the United States were female. More specifically, 15,200 or four percent of career firefighters and 78,500 volunteer firefighters or 11 percent were women.

When you look at how these numbers stack up against other roles on the front line, the fire service still lags behind. Comparatively, 13 percent of police officers or detectives, 21 percent of paramedics or EMTs, and 20 percent of the U.S. military are females (20 percent of the Air Force, 19 percent of the Navy, 15 percent of the Army and almost eight percent of the Marine Corps).

 

There have been positive signs of progress lately, however, with women taking on lead roles and making historic strides in their communities. For example:

 

 

After seeing the new report, Amy Hanifan, president of Women in Fire said, “Today’s fire service plays a critical role in protecting people and property from a myriad of challenges. That role is enhanced when we prioritize the hiring and promotion of diverse candidates, including female firefighters, to be reflective of our communities and the overall US labor pool. It is refreshing to see positive signs of change in the fire service, and promising that there is a desire to cultivate even more change in the future.”

 

Women in Fire is an organization of women and for women — but not for women alone. Members include male fire chiefs, union presidents, EEO officers and others seeking to make the fire service a professional place where women and men work together harmoniously.

 

For this report and other relevant NFPA research, visit nfpa.org

 

As the world’s leading information and knowledge resource on fire, electrical and related hazards, our public affairs department gets asked all kinds of questions. For example, this week’s media inquiries included requests for NFPA insight on the Australia wildfire; inept fire protection systems in LA; evacuation practices for disabled residents in Minneapolis hi-rises; fire department response times in Dallas; and golf cart fires in Florida.

 

I can’t say why this last one about golf carts stood out, but it did. It most likely resonated with me because I’m in the Boston area and, as is often the case in New England in February, it is cold and dreary. So, today, the thought of cruising on the back nine, zipping to the beach, or buzzing to a friend’s home in a golf cart piqued my interest. And in typical NFPA employee fashion, those thoughts quickly led me to wonder about potential fire hazards that may slow a golf cart owner’s roll.

 

Global Market Insights and other trend-watchers, say that golf carts are popular because they are convenient, economical, and environmental alternatives for moving people short distances. The golf industry leads the user pack, as you might imagine. In 2018 alone, there were over 500 golf courses under development across the globe – and of course they require low speed vehicles (LSVs). But, others are turning to golf carts, too, including the hospitality industry, universities, airports, tourist spots, housing developments, and residents in some states that are authorizing use on streets. Modern day carts are relatively quiet, produce low engine emissions, are easy to operate, can accommodate between 2-14 passengers, and boast all kinds of features.

 

Golf carts tend to use lead acid batteries, like those used in cars; and typically create a very small amount of hydrogen when being charged. Hydrogen is an odorless and colorless gas that is flammable. It is not usually concerning but it can be if a very large battery is being charged in a small sealed enclosure, or charged incorrectly as recently reported by The Palm Beach Post in Florida. Palm Beach County Fire Marshal David DeRita told the newspaper that fire departments are seeing an increase in carbon monoxide calls that tend to actually be hydrogen-related. The fire official pointed out that when hydrogen is present, just touching a garage switch or garage door light, which work off electricity, could ignite fire. “We are talking about a double whammy here. If it doesn’t suffocate you, it can kill you through a fire,” DeRita said.


As part of their basic maintenance, lead acid batteries require distilled water to be added on a periodic basis. Until 2018, carts did not feature safety mechanisms that shut off charging if water levels ran too low. It is equally concerning if water exceeds the fill line because the battery needs extra space or air to do its job. A few years back, Al Guzzetta, owner of Cart Masters, spoke with a Fort Myers news station about the dangers associated with overfilling the cell of the battery with water. He advised, "Do not fill them up like a regular car battery because the charger actually makes them percolate like a coffee maker."


Hazards can also arise when carts are charging. In September, WCSC-TV in South Carolina reported that improper golf cart charging resulted in nearly $60,000 in damage to a Seabrook Island home and van. In that incident, a modified 50-foot extension cord, not the manufacturer’s cord, was used to charge an electric golf cart. The cord lacked the third prong needed to ground electricity, prompting the golf cart in the driveway to catch fire, and ignite both the house next to it and a van nearby.

 

Today, Lithium ion battery-charged golf carts are beginning to take hold in the market. Although upfront costs may be 20% higher, the long- term benefits and ease of maintenance are being well-received. For example, li-on battery models can be fully charged in four hours (or to 80% within an hour), as opposed to eight hours for lead acid batteries. The weight of lithium ion batteries are about two-thirds lighter too, which bodes well for wear and tear on carts. There is little information available about fire or other hazardous incidents involving lithium ion-charged golf carts but as we have learned in recent years, li ion batteries can explode or overheat; and given that golf carts tend to be used in outdoor locations where temperatures may run high, there is a possibility that we may hear of challenges in the future.


Golf carts are meant to help users enjoy outdoor activities, convenient transport, and a host of other benefits. Follow these simple steps to ensure that your LSV and loved ones are kept safe from harm:

 

  • Follow the manufacturer’s charging recommendations
  • Use the charger provided by the manufacturer
  • Charge the vehicle in a ventilated area
  • Be sure to charge the cart when someone is home – and never overnight
  • And if your cart has an acid lead battery, ensure that your house and garage have carbon monoxide detectors

 

For additional tips and helpful videos, visit the National Golf Cart Association website.

No one knows risk and the consequences of poor or no action better than first responders. Afterall, the incidents and accidents that they respond to often occur because the general public was complacent in some way, and didn’t take action for their own safety. They may have ignored common sense or basic safety tips during cooking, grilling, heating, or when using candles, electrical devices, and other potential sources of combustion resulting in fire, and firefighters responding.


Firefighters also know about the hazards that arise when workers get careless. For example, when welding takes place without proper knowledge; fire protection systems are bypassed during design and construction; or when the standards that ensure that people and property are kept safe are not followed and enforced. If key safety benchmarks are ignored by workers, there’s a good chance that fire will occur and firefighters will need to respond.


The latest in the Everyone Goes Home Speak Up video series from the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) turns the mirror of risk inward, and asks firefighters to think and take action to better protect themselves. In the video, retired Chief Robert Fling from the Dix Hills, New York Fire Department asks firefighters to prioritize their health and safety for their own protection and the benefit of loved ones; and highlights the importance of diet, decontamination, and proper cleaning.


Carcinogens take root in firefighter gear, fire stations, on the apparatus floor, in PPE (personal protective equipment), in vehicles, living quarters, on the fireground, and during overhaul of the scene. Ignoring the reality of these threats, disregarding standard operating procedures (SOPs), and not learning important information laid out in research and resources increases risk and is the reason why Chief Fling (and others) want to see a cultural shift in the fire service.

 

Watch and share the latest video from NFFF. It is in all our best interests to keep firefighters safe.

Effective this week, NFPA has a new local representative who will oversee the overall regional planning, direction, coordination, and support of international development functions in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).


This role is a natural step for Anas Alzaid, who has been a longtime advocate for NFPA codes and standards. An electrical engineering consultant with more than 30 years of experience working with facilities management and safety professionals, Alzaid will assess local safety concerns; build strong relationships throughout the region; develop safety strategies with existing and new alliances; and represent NFPA in regulatory, legislative, and technical circles.


The Saudi Arabia native’s professional background includes stints in the oil and gas industry, the defense department, utility engineering, the healthcare sector, and telecommunications. An active member of the Saudi Accreditation body in both standards development and the code compliance process, Alzaid will focus on translating codes for local use; making NFPA training and resources available to local leaders and practitioners; and serving as an authoritative representative for the media, government, and other decision makers.


NFPA has had a notable presence in MENA territories for decades. Given unprecedented growth in the region, the Association established a MENA Advisory Committee in 2017 that works to cultivate an effective safety infrastructure throughout the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), an intergovernmental political and economic territory that includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. Working with the MENA Advisory Committee, Alzaid will ensure that the design and construction community utilizes fundamental standards like NFPA 1, the Fire Code, NFPA 13, the Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, NFPA 72, the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, and NFPA 101, the Life Safety Code.


“NFPA is committed to improving fire and life safety throughout the world. Expanding NFPA presence and purpose in MENA countries is an important part of this effort,” NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley said. “Anas Alzaid is well-suited to successfully engage with local stakeholders and underscore the importance of The NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem.”

 

Alzaid and NFPA Global leaders will partake in Intersec, the world’s premiere trade fair for safety, security and fire protection, Sunday through Tuesday in Dubai. If you are attending, please plan to stop by Hall 3, E 24 and say hello.


The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) recently announced the appointment of new members to their Board of Directors including the addition of Lorraine Carli, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) vice president of Outreach and Advocacy.


In her role overseeing media, public affairs, and advocacy activities; the NFPA Journal magazine; and the Association’s wildfire, public education and US/Canada regional operations divisions, Carli has spent the last 14 years cultivating relationships and spearheading collaborative efforts in fire prevention that better protect the public and first responders. NFFF and NFPA undertake critical, challenging work to educate audiences about the impact of fire and help to spur action that reduces loss – including the ultimate sacrifices made by first responders.


Established by Congress in 1992, NFFF partners with organizations, influencers, individual contributors, and private businesses to ensure that America’s fallen firefighters and their families are not forgotten. They proactively partner with the fire service community to reduce firefighter deaths and injuries – a focus that connects seamlessly with the work that NFPA’s data, analytics and research division and the Fire Protection Research Foundation, an affiliate of NFPA, are doing. In addition to tracking firefighters’ injuries and deaths on an annual basis (among many other things), NFPA generates highly relevant reports on modern day fire concerns and emerging issues. The Association also produces more than 100 codes and standards that pertain to emergency responders, as well as training, educational resources, and widely consumed content related to fire, electrical and life safety hazards.


“Having worked very closely with NFFF on a number of initiatives, I’m excited to work in this new capacity. The objectives of NFFF directly correlate to NFPA’s mission and my own personal quest to ensure the highest levels of safety for members of the fire service. It is a great opportunity to honor those that have lost their lives, and to work on strategies that will ensure all firefighters are better protected,” Carli said.


Prior to her arrival at NFPA, Carli oversaw far-reaching awareness efforts for healthcare, technology and government entities. In addition to her leadership role at NFPA and her service on the NFFF Board of Directors, Carli is the President of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, President of the Board of Directors for The Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, and is a member of the Executive Committee of the Electric Safety Foundation International (ESFI) Board of Directors.

Amanda Kimball has been named executive director of the Fire Protection Research Foundation (Research Foundation). The eight-year veteran of the independent, non-profit research affiliate of the National Fire Protection Association replaces Casey Grant who is retiring in December after 16 years with NFPA and 15 years of directing Research Foundation efforts that support the NFPA mission of eliminating loss from fire, electrical and related hazards.

 

Kimball spent the past three years as research director for the Research Foundation. Prior to that, for five years she managed projects ranging from  literature reviews to large experimental testing endeavors involving suppression, fire alarm, and building life safety.

 

She will now provide leadership on research initiatives that pertain to fire protection, emergency response, and virtually everything that challenges safety in the built environment. The role requires a great deal of collaboration with a half dozen staff members, NFPA colleagues, board of trustee members, project sponsors, project contractors, advisory panel members who provide peer oversight and guidance, and a broad range of stakeholders.

 

Kimball holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s degree in fire protection engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute; and is a registered professional fire protection engineer in the state of Massachusetts. Before the Research Foundation, she was an Arup consultant for seven years focused on fire protection engineering, building code life safety, the design of fire protection systems, and the egress modeling of buildings and subway stations.

 

“It is an honor to be the new executive director of the Research Foundation,” Kimball said. “So often we hear incoming leaders state that they have big shoes to fill. I know exactly why they say as much, given Casey Grant’s accomplishments, his far-reaching influence, and the indisputable impact that he has had on reducing risk in our world,” Kimball said. “I applaud Casey’s extensive contributions and thank him for the incredible mentorship that he has offered our team members along the way.”

 

Outgoing executive director Casey Grant earned a reputation for being a well-connected, tireless, game-changer with an eye on emerging issues and a penchant for keeping first responders and the public free from harm.

 

The Research Foundation was established in 1982 in response to a growing need for research that better informed the expanding body of NFPA codes and standards. Since then, the Research Foundation has facilitated major domestic and international research programs that address industry challenges in detection and signaling, hazardous materials, electrical safety, fire suppression, storage of commodities, firefighter protective clothing, equipment, public education, and public policy.

 

Amanda Kimball is certain to build upon the great work that the Research Foundation is doing; she is committed to cultivating synergies and working with a wide range of professionals to reduce risk in the world.

 

NFPA is developing a free public safety drone compliance program with immersive training and a searchable knowledgebase - thanks to a Fire Prevention and Safety Grant from FEMA.


Fire departments are increasingly using drones for structural fires, wildland fires, search and rescue efforts, hazardous material responses, natural disaster efforts, and other events that would benefit from increased situational awareness. Despite this trend, many US fire departments lack the proper information, knowledge, and experience needed to establish and maintain a legally sound public safety program that is compliant with FAA regulations, and the standards produced by ASTM International, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and NFPA. This may result in fire departments deploying unmanned aerial devices inaccurately; inappropriately gathering information during an incident; and interference with manned and unmanned flight operations. All these missteps needlessly expose fire departments to liability.

 

The NFPA research project will document fire service drone programs and case usage – and produce the guidance, learnings, and best practices that US fire departments need to establish successful drone programs. More specifically, the research project will:

 

  1. assess the current level of understanding, policies, and standards on public safety drone usage;
  2. generate educational content that helps departments to comply with current regulations and standards;
  3. track fire service drone programs via an accessible portal; and
  4. freely disseminate information and training so that departments can establish regionally and nationally compliant public safety drone programs.

 

Here’s what the project will entail.

 

  1. The Fire Protection Research Foundation, the research affiliate of NFPA, will conduct a literature review of the fire service drone landscape and collect compliance and usage data.
  2. NFPA and subject matter experts (SMEs) at the Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting at the State of Colorado, Department of Fire Services will review the latest public safety drone usage research, testing, regulations, policy, and training content.
  3. The Research Foundation will then convene a technical advisory panel consisting of fire authorities, standards developers, public safety officials, emergency managers, researchers, regulators, and government leaders to advise on the project’s scope, messaging, curriculum, and deliverables.
  4. The NFPA data and analytics team will synthesize the collected information to support curriculum development efforts and populate the portal.
  5. The Research Foundation will host a public safety drone workshop and findings will be distributed.
  6. SMEs and curriculum developers will build a self-paced, interactive online training program, educational videos, and augmented virtual reality tools as part of a full educational suite. The curriculum will cover proper administration, operation, safety, and maintenance of public safety drone deployment.
  7. All materials, research, and information collected as part of the project will be available for free to U.S. firefighters on the NFPA website.
  8. The NFPA data team will build an online repository for all the information captured, and host content on a dedicated, interactive, searchable site where departments can upload and search drone action incident reports.

 

NFPA released NFPA 2400 Standard for Small Unmanned Aerial Systems in 2018 to help the fire service address organizational deployment, professional qualifications, system selection, as well as care and maintenance for public safety drone programs. The new NFPA drone research project is currently underway and deliverables will be available in September 2021.

The Fire Protection Research Foundation, the research affiliate of NFPA is overseeing a two-year project on the Economic and Emotional Impact of an Active Shooter/Hostile Event – thanks to Fire Prevention and Safety Grant money from FEMA.

 

The technical committee for NFPA 3000, Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program (the world’s first standard to help communities holistically plan for, respond to, and recover from mass casualty events) will play an integral role in the research effort.

 

Emergency responders, who are directly involved with horrific active shooter/hostile event tragedies can suffer life-long impact. This toll is felt acutely by the individual sufferer, but it is also affects the 29,819 fire departments in the U.S; 18,000 law enforcement agencies (according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics); and 51,808 local government units (per 2012 Census of Governments data) - most of which bear the costs associated with expanded mental health resources, staff turnovers, early retirements, and staff reassignments. Additionally, victims and community members experience ongoing trauma, and yet, there is little information available on the cost of these impacts to inform resource allocation and public policy.

 

The AFG-funded project will define a sustainable, quantified approach to measure the impact of ASHER incidents by:

 

  1. establishing valid economic measures for the fire service and others;
  2. quantifying the short-and-long-term emotional impact on emergency responders;
  3. justifying resources needed for preparedness, training, equipment, and other critical needs;
  4. and supporting the unified approach outlined in NFPA 3000

 

In May 2018, Chief Otto Drozd of Orange County, Florida asked the Research Foundation to look at how a first responder’s psyche and physical well-being are affected, and departmental budgets are impacted by hostile events. Drozd is passionate about the topic given that his department responded to the Pulse Night Club shooting incident in Orlando. In September of that same year, the topic was discussed at the Urban Fire Forum and a position paper that touched on the impact to the fire service was released. As the year rounded out, the Research Foundation convened a sub-group of the full NFPA 3000 Technical Committee to determine what they considered to be an ASHER-related research priority. Representatives from the fire service (International Association of Fire Fighters, Metro Chiefs, NFPA, Orange County Fire/Response Department); emergency medical services (American Ambulance Association), and law enforcement (Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training, Department of Justice, Fraternal Order of Police, International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the National Police Foundation) supported the proposed economic and emotional impact research project, and the Assistance to Firefighter Grant (AFG) proposal was submitted, on their behalf.

 

The project will quantify the toll on public safety departments, including the long-term emotional impact on personnel; and highlight costs that can help justify the necessary resources to plan and train for all phases of active shooter and hostile event incidents, including the highly-complex recovery phase. The project will:

 

  1. identify the relevant impacts on public safety departments, as well as available data and methodologies to estimate their costs in dollars;
  2. develop a framework to benchmark costs, and identify gaps in data;
  3. use the framework to complete three case studies utilizing communities of different sizes and demographic compositions;
  4. establish recommendations for planning, training, and recovery for active shooter and hostile event response that could help reduce or avoid costs;
  5. and disseminate methodology/framework, case studies, and recommendations to appropriate audiences.

 

The ASHER economic and emotional impact research will begin this fall, and the final report and other deliverables are expected to be completed by September 2021.

NFPA has released a new white paper designed to help healthcare officials meet and re-examine the emergency preparedness requirements set forth by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

 

In November 2017, Emergency Preparedness Requirements for Medicare and Medicaid Participating Providers and Suppliers, went into effect requiring healthcare facilities to adequately plan for both natural and man-made disasters, and coordinate with federal, state, tribal, regional and local emergency preparedness systems in order to be reimbursed by Medicare or Medicaid. The CMS rule requires hospitals, critical access hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, long-term care facilities, intermediate care facilities, and rural health clinics to have an emergency preparedness (EP) program that entails four critical segments:

 

  • risk assessment and planning
  • policies and procedures
  • a communication plan
  • training and testing

 

Although the rule requires risk assessment and planning, guidance on conducting, implementing, and revisiting a comprehensive risk assessment plan is lacking. To help address “the how” NFPA developed Using NFPA 1300 as a Tool to Comply with CMS Requirements for an Emergency Preparedness Program, a free resource for the healthcare industry. Three of the major steps outlined in NFPA 1300 Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development directly correlate to the CMS EP rule (conducting a risk assessment, developing a CRR plan, and implementing and evaluating the plan).

CMS encourages healthcare providers and suppliers to review policies and emergency procedures on an annual basis. As part of this yearly review, healthcare authorities are encouraged to re-assess:

 

  • food and water needs
  • essential utilities, generators, and potential backup resources delivery challenges
  • evacuation plans and sheltering in place
  • tracking patients and staff; safety and security needs
  • communications, resources and assets
  • clinical support and staff roles
  • exterior connections and communications
  • new construction at or near a facility
  • roads and bridges that could be closed; alternate routes for first responders


“The only thing that is constant is change; and with September being Emergency Preparedness Month it is a great opportunity for healthcare facilities to review protocol and see how they can update and improve their EP plans,” Rich Bielen, NFPA Principal Engineer and the author of the white paper said.

 

Using NFPA 1300 as a Tool to Comply with CMS Requirements for an Emergency Preparedness Program can be downloaded for free; the document can also be accessed on the ASPR TRACIE CMS Resource page. For additional resources for healthcare facilities, visit nfpa.org/cms.

NFPA has released NFPA 855, Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems to help engineers, manufacturers, code enforcers, first responders, and policy makers address potential challenges and obstacles related to energy storage system (ESS) installations.

 

The popularity of energy storage systems has been growing steadily for years. Businesses, consumers and government officials are increasingly recognizing the cost savings and efficiencies that come with capturing energy via solar and wind technologies; reserving resources for peak usage periods; and replenishing power at night when rates are typically lower. In fact, Global deployment of ESS is expected to expand thirteen times in size by 2024, with the greatest growth occurring in the United States and China, according to industry expert Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewable.

 

Certain ESS technologies, however, pack a lot of energy in a small envelope therefore increasing fire and life safety hazards such as stranded energy, the release of toxic gases, and fire intensity. These potential threats are driving the need for first responders and those that design, build, maintain, and inspect facilities to become more educated and proactive about ESS safety.

 

The development process for NFPA 855 began in 2016; and over the course of three years a wide range of stakeholders submitted more than 600 public inputs and 800 public comments. In addition to looking at where the technology is located, how it is separated from other components, and the suppression systems in place, NFPA 855 considers the ventilation, detection, signage, listings, and emergency operations associated with ESS.

 

Members of the building and design communities have closely followed the development of NFPA 855 because clients are more likely to consider ESS technology these days for new projects, renovations, and expansion efforts. Manufacturers, likewise, want to appeal to energy-savvy customers and ensure that they are producing the safest, most compliant products. And of course, first responders need to keep pace with innovation and learn about potential hazards including HAZMAT issues, thermal runaway concerns, battery explosion and re-ignition. In April, eight fire fighters were injured in Arizona when a fire caused an explosion as first responders attempted to check on a utility company ESS unit.

 

To learn more about ESS and potential safety risks, visit www.NFPA.org/ESS for:

 

  • free online access to NFPA 855;
  • relevant ESS research reports;
  • the world’s first online ESS training for the fire service;
  • a fact sheet for policy makers;
  • and assorted NFPA Journal content.

 

Current editions of NFPA 70 and NFPA 1 both contain extensive requirements for ESS too.

Getty Images

 

According to a new NFPA report called Renovations Needs of the U.S. Fire Service, more than 21,000 firehouses across the country are beyond 40 years of age and the estimated total cost to replace them is $70-$100 billion.

 

The findings come out at a time when the condition of roads, transportation resources, energy grids and other critical infrastructure in our nation has become a bone of contention with policy makers and the public. The report’s findings are largely based on the data found in the Fourth Needs Assessment for the U.S. Fire Service, a survey that compares what fire departments actually have with what existing standards, government regulations, and other guidance documents state as being required in order to be safe and effective. Relevant case studies were also considered as part of the research project.

 

NFPA set out to determine just how old firehouses are today, and what it would cost to replace current, compliant structures that keep first responders safe from harm at their workplace. The report identifies the number of stations that are over 40-years old; are not equipped with exhaust emission control; are without backup power; do not have separate facilities for female firefighters; and need mold remediation.

Findings from the report include the following:

 

  • 21, 230 of U.S. fire stations (43 percent) are more than 40 years old, representing an 11 percent increase in aging infrastructure over the past 15 years.
  • The estimated cost to replace these stations is estimated at between $70 and $100 billion; costs depend on space needs, location, site condition, and department preferences.
  • Sixty-one percent of fire stations that are more than 40 years old are serving communities with less than 9,999 people.
  • A shortage of funding, tighter budgets, and a lack of grants are likely reasons for the large number of older stations.
  • 29,120 fire stations (59 percent) in the U.S. are not equipped with exhaust emission control systems, which are critical for mitigating firefighter exposure to diesel fumes. These fumes can increase the likelihood of cardiovascular disease, cardiopulmonary disease, respiratory disease, and lung cancer.
  • Assistance to Firefighter Grants have helped reduce the number of firehouses without exhaust emission control systems from 66 to 59 percent.
  • Approximately 17,030 fire stations (35 percent) do not have access to backup power, which is critical for business continuity during an emergency event. When the power is out, firehouses without generators may run into issues with phones ringing, computers running, trucks being fueled, and garage bay doors opening. The cost to install backup generators runs between $850 million and $1.7 billion.
  • When fire stations were built 40-plus years ago, departments were exclusively male. Today, the most recent Needs Assessment estimates that 10 percent of career firefighters are female. The number of males and females in a particular fire department typically varies based on whether the fire company is career, volunteer or combination, as well as the size of the community. Further research is needed today to determine the number of stations that do not provide separate facilities for female firefighters and the estimated cost to renovate these stations.
  • The number of firehouses affected by mold is unknown, despite common perceptions that stations are susceptible given water damage, prolonged humidity, or dampness. All fire stations should allocate resources for mold prevention including dehumidifiers, proper ventilation, mold inhibitors, and mold-killing cleaning products to reduce the likelihood of seasonal allergy and pneumonia-like symptoms.

 

To learn more about fire service infrastructure challenges, access the complete Renovations Needs of the U.S. Fire Service report here. For a broader understanding of fire service needs and trends, download The Fourth Needs Assessment for the U.S. Fire Service here.

 

According to numerous news sources, including CNN, more than 10,000 people in the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka were displaced when a massive fire swept through a shantytown inhabited largely by poor garment factory workers last Friday evening. The loss could have been far greater, if the majority of residents were not off celebrating the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday with loved ones.


A local police chief told CNN that approximately 2,000 structures made out of corrugated metal, plastic and wood were quickly consumed by the fire. Impoverished residents were able to flee the fire – only a handful of occupants were injured according to news reports - but most lost all their possessions. The media outlet reported that Bangladesh State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Enamur Rahman estimated that approximately "80% of the slum has been completely or partially destroyed."


Atiqul Islam, mayor of the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), told The Independent that “permanent establishments” were being erected nearby to house the victims of the blaze. In the meantime, residents sought temporary shelter at schools that were closed for the holiday week. Bangladesh officials have offered food and finances to those affected by the fire; and have indicated that the homeless will continue to receive assistance moving forward.


A report detailing fire investigation findings is expected within the next two weeks.


It’s important to note that Dhaka is not the only corner of the world struggling with devastating shantytown fires. In November 2018, NFPA Journal’s Angelo Verzoni wrote an article and sidebar story, chronicling serious fire problems within an informal dwelling community near Cape Town, South Africa. Verzoni reported on the Wallacedene Temporary Resettlement Area (TRA), a 16-acre neighborhood with approximately 4,500 residents and a long history of fire and flooding hazards. In response to persistent fires in the shantytown, the government spearheaded a project that placed battery-powered smoke alarms into homes. The result? Zero fire deaths in the settlement during that period.

 

Informal dwelling challenges extend far beyond Dhaka or Cape Town though. “Building regulation experts say as much as 80 percent of the built environment in developing countries was created without regulatory tools such as codes and standards. A very significant part of the built environment globally is informal, which means not benefiting from land-use regulation or building regulation as it relates to safety,” Fred Krimgold, a senior consultant with the World Bank Group’s Building Regulation for Resilience Program told Verzoni at the time. This means an astronomical number of people are at risk for dying in fires. A study published in 2017 by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, states that over 300,000 people around the world die each year in fires, with about 95 percent of deaths occurring in low- to middle-income countries, while millions more are seriously injured.


Dhaka’s fire woes are not restricted to shantytowns. Earlier this year, NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley wrote about 80 people being killed and scores more being injured when an intense and fast-moving blaze broke out in a mixed-use part of the old city combining residences, shops, and chemical storage warehouses. A similar incident happened in Dhaka in 2010. The densely populated region has also experienced tragic factory fires, notably in 2016 and 2013, which respectively took the lives of 23 and more than 1,000.

 

Affable, willing-to-take-on-anything TV host, writer, producer, and spokesman Mike Rowe tackles firefighter cancer in his popular reality web television series, Returning the Favor. In the 19 hours since the show aired on Facebook, 728,000 people have viewed the program, more than 5,700 have shared the link, and 1,600+ comments have been logged – meaning that a whole lot of people are hearing about the impact of occupational cancer in the fire service from one of America’s most trusted sources.


In season 3, episode 17 of the series titled “Firefighters’ Fiercest Fight”, Rowe shows the devastating impact that cancer has had in the fire service – and in particular - on T.J. Maury, a resilient and upbeat Louisiana firefighter with a penchant for super heroes who’s battling stage 3 colon cancer. Despite 17 rounds of chemotherapy, more than two dozen radiation treatments, five surgeries, and a long road ahead, Maury, an assistant chief with the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base just outside of New Orleans, has demonstrated incredible strength and positivity throughout his bout with cancer. He received his diagnosis last summer on the same day he was set to receive the Civilian Fire Officer of the Year Award from the U.S. Navy in Washington, D.C. The 35-year old was chosen for the honor from more than 4,000 firefighters and emergency services personnel who are assigned to the 71 Navy installations around the world.


Returning the Favor shines the spotlight on everyday heroes who are making a difference in their communities. Maury’s contributions on and off the job, his awe-inspiring attitude, and the support of his community take center stage in the episode. At the same time, Rowe takes the opportunity to educate viewers on the toll that cancer is taking in the fire service as a result of the toxins that they encounter on the fire ground.


Whether you are among the 2.3 million followers of Returning the Favor, a fan of Mike Rowe, a cancer supporter, or friend of the fire service – be sure to check out the “Firefighters’ Fiercest Fight” segment and work to better educate as many people as possible about the potentials risks that firefighters are exposed to each and every day.

Filter Blog

By date: By tag: