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A new NFPA Journal Podcast examining crisis standards of care is out now. Listen and subscribe today wherever you get your podcasts.


The United States now has more Covid-19 cases than anywhere in the world and in many places demand for EMS services is far exceeding the current resources of our health care and EMS system. One solution that agencies have to deal with the onslaught of patients is adopting what are called crisis standards of care—adjustments to normal standards and protocols of operation in order to handle a crisis situation like the one we are seeing around the world today.


In the first segment of the podcast, we play you key snippets from a webinar hosted by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s office of EMS. The webinar brought together three EMS operations and legal experts who spoke about how and why agencies are tweaking their operations during this COVID emergency, and what precautions are put in place. They also get into questions like: How can agencies implement new crisis standards without negatively impacting patient care or responder safety; and, what are the legal ramifications for departments, responders, and volunteers?


In the second segment, NFPA specialist John Montes talks about some examples of crisis measures being taken throughout the world right now as emergency agencies combat the COVID pandemic.


Please subscribe to NFPA Journal Podcast and leave a comment and/or review. Look for a next episode of NFPA Journal Podcast on Tuesday, April 21, which will take a look at how communities, organizations, and businesses are handling the COVIFD-19 crisis. Also, keep an eye out for the new NFPA Podcast, debuting this June.

On the NFPA Journal Podcast this week, Pieter Maes, a firefighter EMT at the Brussels fire department in Belgium, talks about the extraordinary steps that emergency responders in this European capital are taking to prepare for the onslaught of the Coronavirus pandemic. The crisis has forced the department to get creative in many ways, Maes says, like hiring doctors to work in dispatch, extensive new decontamination measures, and other new procedures that were once-unthinkable just months ago before the COVID-19 crisis began.


Like other departments across the world, Brussels is also dealing with many difficult questions: For instance, how to determine if a COVID-19 patient is sick enough to send EMS units? And, with severe shortages in critical protective equipment, what levels of risk should responders be asked to take while working on the front lines of fighting this disease?


To help departments answer some of those difficult questions, Maes has created a database website,, where responders from all over the world have submitted various strategies for how they are dealing with the crisis. This crowd-sourced material includes instructions for how to 3D-print face shields, sewing patterns for homemade masks, and scientifically-backed strategies for effectively decontaminating equipment.


I spoke to Maes on Friday, March 27. Since then, the number of people in Belgium who have tested positive for COVID-19 has shot up even higher. As of today, Wednesday, April 1, Belgium has approximately 14,000 confirmed COVID cases and more than 800 deaths, according to the US Embassy in Brussels. The actual number of infected people is likely much higher, because, as in the United States, testing for COVID-19 has been limited in Belgium due to a lack of test kits. One thing to note: EMS terminology is different everywhere, so you may hear some terms that are different than what you’d used to.


This is the third COVID-19 podcast we have released since mid-March. NFPA Journal Podcast will have two additional episodes coming in April, both exploring aspects of the Coronavirus pandemic and its impact on responders in communities. The next episode, which will publish Tuesday, April 7, will look at crisis standards of care in the United States. You will hear from emergency response and EMS experts from around the country and at NFPA discuss important changes being considered and implemented now to brace for the huge expanse in call volume related to COVID-19. The Tuesday, April 21, NFPA Journal Podcast episode will explore how communities and businesses have used emergency planning and risk reduction to try to blunt the impacts of the outbreak. 


Listen to these and others, and subscribe to NFPA Journal Podcast on Apple, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. 

At least three Boston EMS personnel have been assaulted on the job since July 10.       Credit: Getty Images


As reported in a recent NFPA Journal cover story, "The Toll of Violence," today’s paramedics and EMTs face increasingly high levels of on-the-job violence, perhaps more than at any time in history, according to researchers. Evidence to support the claim piles higher all the time.


On July 10, a Boston EMT was stabbed at least seven times in an ambulance while she was assisting a patient en route to the hospital. The patient suddenly became “unruly and attacked” the female EMT, then pepper sprayed the driver when he pulled the vehicle over and came to assist, Boston EMS alleges. The EMT, whose name has not been released, is currently recovering from surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and is expected to make a full recovery.


However, as detailed in "The Toll of Violence," when attacks against responders occur, the resulting psychological wounds can often outweigh the physical ones and take longer to heal. Those interviewed for the article said that emergency medical professionals are increasingly jaded and fed up with the brutal violence they suffer at the hands of those they try to help. The situation has contributed to increased suicide rates in the profession, as well as an increase in the number of workers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), research has revealed.


“I think the situation is dire—and I can say that because I’ve talked to paramedics all over the country,” Jennifer Taylor, the director of the Center for Firefighter Injury Research & Safety Trends (FIRST) at Drexel University, told NFPA Journal. “When I ask paramedics to tell me about their physical injuries they sustain when they’re assaulted, they don’t want to talk about that—they want to talk about the psychological impact.”


Taylor and her staff at Drexel are undertaking a multi-year study into the issue, which includes efforts to better understand how often violent incidents against first responders occur, and to test methods that can better protect responders from violence and the physical and emotional injuries that result.


No one doubts that the road ahead is a long one. Just a day after the EMT stabbing, a Boston EMS supervisor was allegedly shoved and struck several times in the head and upper body by a bystander while responding to a medical emergency at a South Boston pizza shop. The alleged attacker, a 37-year old woman who seemed aggravated that EMS was blocking her entry to the pizza shop, has been charged with assault and battery. The EMS supervisor was not injured in the incident.


In a press conference last Friday, Boston EMS Chief Jim Hooley said that there were 19 assaults against EMTs reported in 2018, a number that has already been eclipsed this year.


“So far this year, we’ve had about 31 (EMTs) assaulted,” Hooley said. “That concerns me, because sometimes I wonder if weren’t reporting it in the past, but I don’t think so. I just think the overall numbers are up.

“We’re worried about the long term effect on our personnel,” he added.

To learn more about the issue of violence against EMTs and about efforts to combat the problem, read "The Toll of Violence" in the January/February 2019 NFPA Journal.



On May 12, Atlanta firefighter Sgt. Darrow Harden lost one leg and had his other mangled when he was struck by a vehicle stepping out of his fire truck to assist at a roadside crash. The accident, which happened along Interstate 85 in Atlanta, occurred when the driver of the Pontiac G5 lost control of the vehicle and it barreled into Harden and the fire truck, the fire department said in a statement.


Accidents like this are not uncommon. Just two months prior, an off-duty Colorado firefighter was sent to the hospital with serious injuries after he was hit by a car responding to a roadside incident on Interstate 70.


While responder roadside injuries and fatalities have long been an issue, these incidents seem to be more common than ever as drivers become increasingly distracted by their electronic devices, John Montes writes in his Responder Column in the May/June NFPA Journal. At least 10 firefighters were struck and killed by vehicles in 2017, a big uptick from historical averages, according to NFPA data.


In Montes’s column, he lays out his own experiences with roadside close calls, and why there should be a renewed effort to train members on how to safely navigate responses on busy roads. With drivers distracted more than ever, roadside safety needs to become a higher priority for all responders, Montes writes.


Read more in the responder column in the May/June issue of NFPA Journal.

Vicki Christiansen, who became full time chief of the United States Forest Service last October, has one of the most challenging tasks in all of federal government. Her agency, more than any other, is responsible for addressing the US wildfire problem, which over the past few decades has been defined by trends headed in all of the wrong directions.


I spoke to Christiansen over the phone last December, just a month after the Camp Fire devastated northern California, killing more than 80 people and causing an estimated $10 billion in damage. Our conversation, which has been published in the March/April issue of NFPA Journal, led us through a wide range of thorny issues, including the Forest Service’s budget quandary and proposed fix, as well as the agency's detailed strategy to address the growing and complicated problem of wildfire in America. 


To read Christiansen's thoughts about the changing scope of wildfire in America and what to do about it, and to learn more about the the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy, check out the Perspectives feature in the new NFPA Journal

The aftermath of the King's Dock car park fire in Liverpool in January 2018.


When I began researching for the upcoming cover story of the March/April issue of NFPA Journal on parking garage fires, I had no idea how much the average vehicle had changed since I was a kid. In order to make cars lighter, cheaper, and more fuel-efficient, about half of the average car is now made from plastic—even the fuel tank. Plastic, as many people know, burns fast and hot, unlike the metals that used to make up the vast majority of a car’s body. As a result, when a car, truck, or van catches fire in a parking garage today, the odds of it growing into a hugely-destructive event seem to be much higher than in the past. The best example is the King’s Dock garage fire that happened last year in Liverpool, where about 1,400 vehicles burned over the course of two full days, leaving the eight-story building a smoking hulk of charred concrete (see image above).


But it isn’t just the cars that are changing. In a companion sidebar to the upcoming cover story in the next Journal, I wrote about how garages are evolving in ways that make big fires even more of a potential risk. The main story will be coming shortly on the NFPA Journal homepage in the next week (and in member’s mailboxes soon), but we decided to post the sidebar “Racked & Stacked” below. Please check it out below, and definitely please read the cover story on vehicle fires and concerns about parking facilities when the new Journal is published the first week of March.



The Autostadt garage at the Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg, Germany. 


 The following is from the article "Racked & Stacked," appearing in the upcoming March/April NFPA Journal. This is a companion to the cover story "Ramp Risk," also in the upcoming NFPA Journal.


Parking structures are rapidly evolving in ways that allow them to squeeze many more vehicles into much less space in order to maximize costs and efficiency. 

A garage set to open this year in Houston, for instance, boasts 244 parking spaces squeezed into a building with a footprint of just 700 square feet—according to simple math, that’s one parking spot per 2.8 square feet. By contrast, before being destroyed by fire last year, Liverpool’s eight-story King’s Dock car park—a traditional concrete parking facility built in 2007—could accommodate 1,600 vehicles within its 53,000-square-foot footprint, or one parking spot per 33 square feet. 

The Houston garage, designed by a company called U-tron, achieves its remarkable feat of efficiency by utilizing robots to stack vehicles on mechanical racks 10 stories high. U-tron’s robot attendants can park vehicles 4 inches apart, with 6 inches of overhead clearance, according to a recent article on Currently, the company has eight automated garages in operation, most in high-end residential buildings in New York and New Jersey, with 25 more under development in the United States alone. 

U-tron is hardly the only company building these new-era garages—across the US and around the world, stackable garage configurations are spreading quickly as mechanization and automation become more advanced and more affordable, and as city developers look for parking solutions in areas where land is as valued as gold. 

While the spatial benefits of these new garages are clear, many researchers and code developers are worried about what such tightly packed vehicle arrangements may mean for fire protection. Currently, there is little guidance in NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, or NFPA 88A, Standard for Parking Structures, addressing these new parking configurations. That’s because little research has been conducted to figure out how fires might burn and spread in such densely packed garages and what kind of sprinkler design and density are sufficient to put fires out. 

The NFPA 13 technical committee has received questions about these types of facilities and is aware of the standard’s silence on the issue, said Wes Baker, a committee member and researcher at FM Global. He and others on the NFPA 13 committee have asked the Fire Protection Research Foundation to undertake a project to answer some of the lingering questions to enable them to reliably offer system designers guidance. It’s still too soon to say if the Foundation’s planned project on parking garage vehicle fires this year will include research on these new types of garage configurations.

“We’ve seen car storage racks that are as high as the building, which is a totally different animal than what NFPA guidelines on traditional parking garages were set up for,” Baker said. “Heat likes to travel vertically, but instead of flaming up and hitting concrete, the cars sitting above it could be exposed to flames. Instead of a two-dimensional fire, you have a three-dimensional fire. This to me is a storage type of arrangement, and you’d have to protect it like a warehouse facility that is storing cars.”

Baker believes that only installing overhead sprinklers on the ceiling would be ineffective in these stack arrangements, because cars above would block water from getting to cars below. He imagines an in-rack sprinkler arrangement, where sprinklers are located on each level of the vehicle stack, would likely be necessary. “But the problem with that is these cars are constantly moving in and out and so you have to be careful with all moving parts that you don’t end up knocking off a sprinkler,” he said. “You’ve got to make sure it’s practical as well as functional.” 

On top of those logistical questions, there are dozens of other variables that would make any comprehensive guidance for sprinklers in these new garages tough, said Steven Wolin, an NFPA 13 technical committee member and vice president at Reliable Automatic Sprinkler Co. “There are so many vehicle storage configurations that could exist for any particular garage, which is one of the biggest challenges,” he said. Variables such as the distance between vehicles, how many are stacked on top of one another, and how ventilated or enclosed the space is can make big differences in how a fire burns and spreads, and what sprinkler protection is needed. 

Regardless, construction on these facilities continues across the world. “For now, it is still one of those challenging scenarios where the buildings are being built and somebody has to figure out how to put a protection system in,” Wolin said. “You just have to err on the side of being extra conservative in the design, knowing there isn’t a whole lot of guidance out there right now.” —J.R.

Jennifer Taylor, left, working with San Diego firefighter Ben Vernon, who was stabbed by a patient in 2015.


As detailed in the January/February issue of NFPA Journal, violence against first responders has become a serious issue in many countries across the Western world. Unfortunately, with no adequate system in place to track these incidents, and with many responders feeling pressure not to report patient violence against them, we have very little understanding about the scope or cause of the problem.


Jennifer Taylor, a researcher and founding director of the Center for Firefighter Injury Research & Safety Trends (FIRST) at Drexel University, is trying to change that. With a $1.5 million Assistance to Firefighters grant—the first given for a project addressing the EMS side of the fire service—Taylor and her researchers are working with fire departments in four pilot cities to better understand  how often violence happens on the job, and to test procedures the Drexel team has developed to cutback the number of attacks.    


“If the organizations make these changes, we should see the needles move on lower burnout, higher engagement with work, better morale, and less anxiety and depression—those are our expectations for what we’re doing,” Taylor said in an interview.


To learn much more on the project, and how Taylor and her team aim to achieve their ambitious aims, read “Responder Advocate,” which accompanies the recent cover story, “The Toll of Violence,” in the January/February issue of NFPA Journal.


On a similar note, NFPA Journal “First Responder” columnist John Montes wrote this month about the efforts underway to get first responders the mental health support they need. As on-the-job-violence increases, responders of all stripes have growing rates of depression, substance abuse, suicide, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Newer methods, such as peer-to-peer support groups and working with therapists with responder backgrounds, are increasingly popular and effective ways of helping firefighters, police, and EMS workers deal with the stresses of their work.


Learn much more about this issue and some specific examples of successful programs in Montes’s latest “First Responder” column in the January/February NFPA Journal.


As an editor and writer for NFPA Journal, I frequently research topics that are objectively depressing. Fatal fires, catastrophic incidents, natural and man-made disasters, you name it. In the vast majority of cases, though, the tragedy du jour happened despite best intentions. There was no ill-will; nobody wanted something bad to happen. Sadly, that isn’t the case with the January/February NFPA Journal cover story, “The Toll of Violence.”


When you talk to EMS personnel and read incident reports, it’s truly shocking to hear the horror stories of the violence most have suffered at the hands of their patients—the people they are trying to help. Across the world, when EMTs and paramedics rush out to provide help, they are increasingly met with fists, insults, spit, teeth, kicks, and threats, far from the gratitude I think most people would expect. For many, a career that started as an earnest desire to do good has turned into a kind of hell. Too many responders, I learned, are wrought with anxiety, depression, and fear; some have become so jaded that they no longer care about the patients they serve.  


“First responders have higher rates of suicide and substance abuse than the rest of the population, and people are asking why,” John Montes, an NFPA employee and longtime Boston paramedic told me for the story. “It’s the concept of death by a thousand papercuts, and those assaults are big papercuts. People are starting to see this as a big issue, and it’s finally starting to be brought out into the light.”


The good news is that the increasing exposure of this problem has resulted for the first time in real efforts to learn more about why violence against responders happens so frequently, as well as efforts to come up with strategies to reduce it. In reporting this story, I spoke with leaders in EMS, police, and fire, as well as academics, researchers, and responders themselves. They paint a frightening picture of what it’s like to run calls in today’s world, the strain it causes, and where we are headed if we don’t do something to lighten the load (hint: it’s not good).


This issue is important on so many levels, not just for the humans on the other end of those punches, but for the entire emergency system our society relies on. I would encourage you to read “The Toll of Violence” to learn much more about what’s happening and why. For a more in-depth look at the research being done at Drexel University to try to better understand the issue, and to enact strategies to help responders, read my accompanying piece, “Responder Advocate.” Both are in the new January/February issue of NFPA Journal.

 Read in NFPA Journal about the making of the "Critter Code"


By its own rules, every code and standard that NFPA develops must have a diverse committee comprised of a wide range of stakeholders, representing various groups with often divergent viewpoints. Even by these standards, the group that crafted of NFPA 150, Fire and Life Safety in Animal Facilities Code, was a hodgepodge rife with conflict.


In how many other circumstances would you see leaders of animal rights groups trying to find common ground with livestock industry executives? How often would fire marshals at zoos work alongside medical researchers, or stable managers, or swine farmers?


“This was probably one of the most interesting and complex exercises I’ve ever had as a staff liaison working on a document,” Tracy Vecchiarelli, an NFPA fire protection engineer and staff liaison for the code, told me.


NFPA 150 is the first comprehensive code out there dealing with all of the various types of facilities that house animals, from farms, to labs, to zoos, fairs, shelters, kennels, aquariums, and more. How it came to be is a fascinating story involving a bitter fight over fire sprinklers, a contentious letter-writing campaign, field trips, swine farms, and even a few tears.


To learn a lot more about the code, why it was necessary, and facts about how and why animals perish from fire, check out my cover story in the November/December issue of NFPA Journal “Critter Life Safety Code.” To get the inside scoop on the development of the code (which is a great tale all by itself) please read the sidebar to the main piece, called “Tension and Uncertainty.”


All of that, and a whole lot more is currently in the November/December issue of NFPA Journal.

Each year, NFPA compiles a list of the costliest fires in the United States, a list increasingly dominated by destructive wildfires; 2017 was no different.


According to the NFPA report, “Large-Loss Fires and Explosions,” published in the November/December issue of NFPA Journal, 2017’s most destructive fires were both what experts call “fire siege” wildfire incidents. These are multiple, simultaneous wildfires that burn over a long period of time and cover large land areas. The most destructive of these series of wildfires occurred last October in and around Santa Rosa, California. The fires, led by the Tubbs Fire, caused $10 billion in damage, killed 44 people, and destroyed an estimated 8,900 structures.


This event was the highest damage total in the past 10 years and the second-highest in NFPA records of U.S. fires. The only fire with greater losses, including adjustments to 2017 dollars, was the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York. To learn much more about the Tubbs Fire, its impact, and rebuilding efforts, read "Build. Burn. Repeat." the cover story of the January/February NFPA Journal.


Another fire siege in Southern California last December killed four people and caused $1.8 billion in damage, and was the second costliest fire in the U.S. last year, according to the NFPA report. All told, last year saw 13 fires classified as large-loss fires—that is, fires resulting in at least $10 million in damage, adjusted for inflation to 2008 dollars—resulting in a combined property loss of $12.4 billion, according to the NFPA report.


In the past 10 years, there have been 26 fires that have caused a loss of $100 million or more; exactly half of these destructive events have been wildfires. These figures do not account for the hugely destructive fires currently ravaging California, which appear to have now eclipsed even last year’s October fire siege in California. As of this writing, the three largest wildfires currently burning in California have resulted in 50 confirmed deaths and nearly 10,000 structures burned.


To see more statistics and learn more about 2017’s most devastating U.S. fires, read the full report in the November/December issue of NFPA Journal.

If you explore any issue deeply enough you’re bound to find some unexpected nuance and complexity, especially when it comes to questions about fire and life safety. But rarely have I reported a story for NFPA Journal that unsurfaced so many different and unexpected questions as the November/December cover story “Critter Life Safety Code.”


The article details the development of NFPA 150, Fire and Life Safety in Animal Housing Facilities Code, which is the first code of its kind to tackle animal housing safety in depth. What seems simple on the surface quickly turns into a thick web of thorny moral, ethical, and technical issues.


For instance, in some industries animals are commodities and their destiny is a dinner plate. Do they demand the same protections as other animals? If not, where do you draw the line? Should a chicken on a farm be treated differently than a gorilla in a zoo, or a rat in a lab?


On top of those tricky moral questions are the vast technical challenges that animal facilities present. Different species can exhibit very different, as well as unpredictable, behavior. Survivable conditions in a fire can also vary dramatically between species; smaller animals, for example, generally succumb to smoke faster than larger ones. The number and variety of facilities is immense. A zoo is much different than a chicken house, which is much different than a dog kennel, or an animal research lab at a university. How do you provide guidance for each of these seemingly limitless possibilities? On top of that, how do you balance human safety with animal safety in these facilities during an emergency?


All of these questions, coupled with the NFPA 150 committee’s wide range of stakeholders—animal rights advocates debating alongside livestock industry groups—and it’s no wonder that NFPA engineer Tracy Vecchiarelli called the creation of NFPA 150 “probably one of the most interesting and complex exercises I’ve ever had as a staff liaison working on a document.”


To learn much more about the guidance offered in NFPA 150 as well as how the committee squared its differences, please read the cover story in the November/December issue of NFPA Journal, “Critter Life Safety Code.”

With Fire Prevention Week 2018 kicking off next week, it’s a good time to familiarize yourself with the theme and the critical safety messages behind it. This year’s theme, “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere™” stresses simple actions residents can take to be better prepared to react in the event of an emergency.


In her latest “Outreach” Column for the September/October NFPA Journal, NFPA Vice President of Advocacy and Outreach Lorraine Carli wrote about this year’s Fire Prevention Week theme and why being quick on your feet is more important than ever in today’s fast-moving fires.


Today, residents have as little as two to three minutes to escape a home fire, compared to about 10 minutes just a couple of decades ago,” she writes. “As a result, fires are even more dangerous. Statistics illustrate that if you experience a reported home fire today, you are more likely to die in it then you were in 1980.”


To learn more about the theme, the new NFPA mascot Simon, and the details behind “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware.” read the latest “Outreach” column in the new NFPA Journal.


Fire Prevention Week, an annual event that has been going strong for more than 90 years, runs October 7 through 13.

Emergency responders train during an active shooter drill at Missouri State University. Credit: David Hall


The threat of an active shooter attack weighs heavily on college and university emergency managers these days—more so than even fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, and crowd control at sporting events, many say. “Even though there is so much planning in place, it’s that unknown human element that is so hard to control,” Alan Sactor, fire marshal at the University of Maryland and assistant director for the university’s Office of Emergency Management, told NFPA Journal. “In my job, the concerns are whether we got people prepared, and how well we handle an event.”


“The New Normal” the cover story of the September/October issue of NFPA Journal looks into how preparedness for shooting incidents has become a central focus over the years on university campuses—a trend that has accelerated as of late. Colleges and universities have invested heavily in technology, training, planning, and outreach campaigns. At some schools, incoming freshman are even now being taught at orientation what to do if a person opens fire in a residence hall. A new standard, NFPA 3000™ (PS), Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program, is starting to gain traction at some schools where it is being used to bolster existing emergency plans.


The watershed moment most point to was April 16, 2007, when a student at Virginia Tech University killed 32 people with two semi-automatic pistols, at the time the deadliest mass shooting committed by a lone gunman in U.S. history. Since then, the violence has continued. According to a recent study by Collegiate Times, there have been 172 shootings on college campuses since Virginia Tech (defined as one or more people being shot at a two- or four-year college or university), resulting in 122 deaths and 198 injuries.


To learn much more about how this threat has evolved, why protecting campuses is such a daunting task, and the new innovations and tactics being used, read “The New Normal” in the latest issue of NFPA Journal.

Not many years ago, buildings 10 stories or higher made primarily of wood would have been unthinkable. Today, hundreds of these tall wooden structures are being built in the United Kingdom alone, and many more are planned around the globe, including some truly massive structures with heights in excess of 50 stories. 

While architects and environmentalists tout wood’s strength, versatility, and sustainability, some fire safety officials worry how these structures withstand fire. 

“We are building combustible structures to greater heights, and anytime we go to greater heights it introduces more challenges for the fire service,” said Sean DeCrane, a 26-year veteran of the Cleveland Fire Department, and now the manager of industry relations for building life safety, security, and technologies at UL. DeCrane spoke at the 2018 NFPA Conference & Expo in Las Vegas last June during an education session titled, “Regulating Timber in Tall Buildings,” a panel discussion involving engineers, wood industry representatives, researchers, and others. 

Watch NFPA's interview with Sean DeCrane
While several of his co-presenters were very bullish on the virtues and future of tall wood buildings and mostly downplayed any fire and safety concern, DeCrane’s view was cautiously optimistic. 
“We know there is growing interest (in these structures), and this requires growing research,” he said in an interview with NFPA after the presentation. “We are building that knowledge base, and I think we are headed in the right direction.”
DeCrane, an NFPA member, has played a role in the research now being done to better understand how these tall wooden structures burn. This year, the Fire Protection Research Foundation released a report, “Fire Safety Challenges of Tall Wooden Buildings,” consisting of six, full-scale burns to assess how exposed timber might impact fire growth in a compartment or room made of 175-mm thick five-ply cross-laminated timber panels (CLT) panels. CLT, perhaps the most popular material used in mass timber construction, generally consists of three to seven layers of timber boards crisscrossed and bonded together with glue for maximum strength. DeCrane, who sat on the technical panel of advisors for the project, said that the study revealed how “critically important it is to ensure consistency of product and installation,” noting that the fire conditions changed dramatically during one test when the workers missed sealing a top wall joint.
After burning six simulated apartment rooms made of CLT panels—each 30 feet long, 15 feet wide, and nine feet tall, and filled with modern furnishings—researchers concluded that the exposed timber did influence the way the fire behaved. “In all tests with exposed CLT surface(s), flashover occurred approximately three to five minutes earlier than the two baseline tests (i.e., ≈ 15 min),” the report concludes
More work like this is critical “to ensure the performance of these buildings under fire conditions, and that the systems designed into these structure will perform well when under duress,” DeCrane said. “From the fire service perspective, we still have some questions and some consistency issues we’d like to see addressed, but we going down that road and I am confident we are doing our due diligence,” he said. 
Did you know that NFPA Conference & Expo attendees and NFPA members get full access to all the 2018 NFPA Conference & Expo education session audio & video files? Browse the full list of education sessions here. If you're not currently an NFPA member, join today!

It’s the height of summer, which means it’s the height of festival season in North America, Europe, and elsewhere. Over the last decade, there has been a massive surge both in the number of multi-day music festivals across the globe, as well as the number of people attending. In August alone, there are 36 big festivals planned in the U.S., according to, ranging from enormous festivals in big cities such as Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco and Lalapalooza in Chicago, to festivals quite literally in the middle of nowhere, such as the famed Burning Man event in Black Rock Desert, Nevada, held August 26 through September 3.


These events present enormous logistical challenges for local responders and emergency managers, with unique needs depending on size, location, the type of festival, and even the genre of music. The Newport Jazz Festival, happening this weekend in the small ritzy Rhode Island city, for instance, is going to pose many different challenges than say, Electric Zoo, an electronic music festival in New York City, according to industry experts.

NFPA Journal’s cover story “Life of the Party” from July 2016 looked into the life safety challenges of these festivals. I spoke with the founder of the festival industry’s largest event medical provider; the longtime emergency services operations chief at Burning Man; a Canadian group that runs an innovative drug testing service for concert-goers to ensure what they think they’re taking hasn’t been misrepresented; as well as numerous other industry experts about preparation, innovation, and all of the clever ways life safety professionals have devised to keep these enormous events safe for patrons.


For me, one of the most interesting discoveries I made while reporting the story was the “harm reduction” efforts at the Shambhala Music Festival, which takes place this August 10-13 in British Columbia. In addition to offering free water, mental-health counseling, and a special group of campsites set aside for “sober camping,” festival organizers have allowed a local nonprofit to set up a tent to test concert-goers’ drugs free of charge and judgment. It’s such a popular service; the line can at times be up to two hours long.


 “The fact is these services are accessed by people who have already made the decision to use drugs before they meet with us. We are there to meet them where they are—we don’t encourage people, and we don’t judge them,” said Chloe Sage, the director of AIDS Network Kootenay Outreach and Support Society, which runs the tent. “Each contact we have is an opportunity to discuss with someone contemplating drug use before they take it about how they can stay safer. If we just had a table with a bunch of pamphlets on it, we would never have the kind of contacts we have, but we are offering a service people want.”


In 2015, 3,224 pills and powders were tested onsite. One drug-related death has occurred over the festival’s 19 years.


To learn much more about this approach, read the article I wrote, “Dude, What’s In This Pill?” And, to learn more about the innovative technologies emergency managers are using at festivals, check out the article “Fest Tech.” Both appeared alongside, “Life of the Party” in the July 2016 NFPA Journal.

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