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127 Posts authored by: jesseroman Employee

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.

A total of 60 U.S. firefighters died in the line of duty last year, the lowest total since NFPA began tracking the data in 1977. It is the sixth time in the last seven years that the total number of on-duty fatalities was under 70.
Sudden cardiac arrest accounted for nearly half of the total line-of-duty deaths, according to the report. A total of 17 firefighters died on the fireground, the second lowest total in the past 40 years.
The low fatality numbers contrast dramatically to the late 1970s and early 1980s when the number of firefighter deaths averaged close to 150 per year.
For a much more in-depth look at the trends, causes of death, and more statistical analysis read the report summary in the latest issue of NFPA Journal. 
According to a recent study, an estimated 2,400 emergency medical technicians were sent to the hospital in 2012 from injuries suffered from on-the-job violence. Let that sink in. While that seems like a lot—nearly seven injuries per day that were serious enough to warrant hospital visits—the actual number is likely much higher, reports our “First Responder” columnist John Montes.
In his most recent column in the July/August issue of NFPA Journal, “The 400 Blows,” Montes draws from his 18 years as an EMT to explain why assaults against responders on the job go largely unreported.
“During my career, I was assaulted several hundred times but only reported about 15 incidents—mostly because I suffered some form of injury—and only went to court six times when charges were pressed,” Montes writes. The reasons were numerous, from peer pressure to act tough, to empathy for victims, he says.
Learn much more about this problem and what can be done by reading Montes’s column in the latest issue of NFPA Journal.

It’s not often a massive industry emerges seemingly overnight, but that’s what’s happened with legal marijuana. In just a few short years, the drug has gone from total prohibition to a thriving legal industry in states across the nation. The staggering growth has led some analysts to predict that, in less than a decade, the American public will spend more money on marijuana products than on chocolate—more than $24 billion annually.


As the industry expands to more states and countries—the Canadian parliament voted to legalize cannabis nationally this past June—companies and investors are building millions of square feet of pot growing and processing facilities. Suddenly, fire officials from Newfoundland to California are being asked to oversee the build-out and operation of a new massive and unfamiliar industry—they face steep learning curves and many unknowns.


The feature article “The New Face of Pot,” in the new July/August issue of NFPA Journal, dives into some of the unique fire safety challenges of the marijuana industry and what lessons can be learned from Denver, the city that has all but pioneered the regulation of industrial marijuana facilities. For the article, I met with government officials, equipment manufacturers, growers, regulators, fire inspectors, engineers, industry groups, and more. They paint a picture of an industry in constant motion, always advancing, as regulators struggle to stay a step or two behind.


In addition to the feature, please read my interview with Molly Duplechian, Denver’s deputy director of policy and administration, who has led the city’s government in dealing with the regulatory and policymaking challenges of the emerging pot industry. Also, read “NFPA 420?” about one Denver firefighter’s push to create a new NFPA standard to address the unique challenges of the marijuana industry.


For much more, including maps, videos, my previous feature story, “Welcome to the Jungle,” and a whole lot of other resources, visit

THC-A crystaliine, above, which can be 99.9 percent pure THC, is one of the hottest products in Colorado's thriving marijuana market

Keller Rinaudo, a robotics innovator and founder of Ziplinespeaking at the 2018 NFPA Conference & Expo in Las Vegas, Monday. 


In a world changing at warp-speed, what opportunities exist for life safety professionals willing to think outside the box? Both keynote addresses delivered at the opening day of the 2018 NFPA Conference & Expo in Las Vegas asked this question and answered it in different and enlightening ways.


Self-described futurist, trends, and innovation expert Jim Carroll, whose talk was entitled, “The Future Belongs to Those who are Fast,” began by asking the audience to consider just how quickly the world is evolving.


“We are in a situation where 65 percent of young children today will work in careers that do not yet exist,” he told the audience inside a ballroom in Mandalay Bay conference center. His prediction for those involved in fire safety and response: “You will see more change in the next 10 years in this industry than you have seen in the last 50.”

Jim Carroll speaks at the 2018 NFPA Conference & Expo in Las Vegas, Monday. 


These changes provide both opportunity and challenges, he said. The rapid advance of technology such as data analytics and connected devices are already helping to make responders more efficient and reveal previously hidden opportunities. But other advancements are challenging our ability to keep up, and these uncertainties can invite risk.


“How do we deal with a world where we don’t know what risk comes next?” he said, adding that education to stay current on new systems is crucial. “The future is coming at you at a staggering speed and intensity, it’s up to you to align yourselves in a world where the future belongs those fast. You need to think big, start small, and you need to scale fast.”


The next speaker was Keller Rinaudo, a robotics and healthcare innovator who founded a company called Zipline in 2014. The company uses battery-powered autonomous aircraft to deliver critical medical supplies like blood to healthcare professionals and patients in some of the most remote parts of the world including Rwanda and Ghana.


“Blood is an incredibly crucial product, but it’s hard in terms of logistics—it doesn’t last long, and there are all different blood types, and you’re not sure what you’ll need before you need it.”


Zipline’s autonomous aircraft delivery technology allows the Rwandan government to keep blood banks centralized, then Zipline delivers it on demand to hospitals in remote areas of a country in minutes. The autonomous aircraft drops the blood via parachute at the front door, and doctors get a text message a minute before to alert them their package has arrived. The technology has cut blood waste to zero—which is unprecedented even in developed countries, he said—because remote hospitals don’t need to keep excessive amounts of perishable blood in storage. “We did that while also increasing access to blood products by 175 percent,” he said. “That shouldn’t even be possible.”


According to Rinaudo, his innovation shows the opportunity that our ever-changing world has for solving complex issues that did not before have a clear solution. Autonomous delivery technology, for instance, could help emergency responders deliver critical supplies to isolated people cut off by floods or other natural disasters quickly, without having to risk responder lives. Emergency medical technicians could also one day send life-saving medicine and supplies ahead of an ambulance to increase a victim’s chance at survival.


“This technology has the long-term potential to provide universal access to healthcare for every human on the planet,” he said. “That’s what’s possible from a technological perspective today.”

NFPA’s annual Super Bowl, the NFPA Conference & Expo, kicks off this Monday in Las Vegas and NFPA Journal has you covered whether you plan to attend or not.


The 2018 conference has a decidedly forward-looking bent, tackling myriad emerging issues important to fire safety professionals, from the emergence of energy storage systems and the legal marijuana industry to tall wooden buildings, combustible exterior cladding, big data, and even the (not too far off) emergence of flying vehicles. The May/June issue of NFPA Journal is chock full of detailed articles exploring some of these and many other of the conference’s most anticipated events and topics. 


The feature “Future Now” in the new issue details many of these emerging issues and the related education sessions, as well as the keynote talk from futurist Jim Carroll, entitled “The Future Belongs to Those who are Fast.” You will also find features on the fast-moving world of energy storage systems, a detailed article on the new provisional standard  NFPA 3000™ (PS), Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program, as well as updates on changes to several NFPA codes and standards.


Be sure to check back to this blog regularly next week for ongoing coverage and photos from the 2018 NFPA Conference & Expo at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, happening June 11-14. 

With every passing day, the world seems to come up with another novel use for energy storage systems (ESS).


On Wednesday, a United Kingdom-based company called Pivot Power unveiled plans to build a network of at least 45 grid-connected ESS scattered across the nation. The 50-megawatt batteries will serve both as electric-vehicle charging stations, and will also help stabilize the grid during times of high demand. The project is part of a nationwide aim to ban all diesel- and petroleum-fueled vehicles in the UK by 2040.


The project is just the latest example of how big battery systems are being integrated more and more into our global energy networks. (Further proof: the record for the world’s largest lithium-ion battery has been eclipsed four times in the last year).


A new story, “Rapid Advance” in the May/June NFPA Journal takes a detailed look at the expanding role ESS is playing in our world and how NFPA is trying to help firefighters, installers, inspectors, facility owners, manufacturers, and others ensure that the rollout of this vital new technology is done safely. The work includes the new NFPA 855, Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems, as well as a new free training being developed for firefighters on responding to ESS fires and other emergencies. The new training will debut at the upcoming NFPA Conference & Expo in Las Vegas, June 11-14, which will also have a cadre of other ESS-centric education sessions.


To learn much more about ESS, how and where it is being used, and some of the fire and life safety issues, read “Rapid Advance” in the new issue of NFPA Journal.


For even more background on ESS, check out NFPA Journal's cover story from January 2016, "Power to Spare."

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