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133 Posts authored by: jesseroman Employee
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."

Under a cold and hard-driving rain, about 30,000 determined runners gathered Monday morning in Hopkinton, Massachusetts at the start of the 122nd Boston Marathon. The race, held since 1897, is one of Boston’s most cherished events. It’s also the most logistically complicated day on the calendar for the area’s emergency agencies and first responders.
Despite Monday’s miserable conditions, including wind gusts of 25 mph and race-time temperatures in the 30s, race organizers and emergency agencies were prepared for as many as a million fans to line the mostly unsecured 26.2-mile course, which winds through eight Massachusetts towns before concluding in Boston’s Back Bay. Keeping an eye on things were thousands of uniformed and plain-clothed emergency personnel, including law enforcement, fire departments, emergency medical services, and a host of federal and state agencies. All worked for months on collaborative inter-agency tabletop exercises to hone their plans to be ready for whatever arose come Marathon Monday.
Many of the procedures in place were borne from the hard lessons learned in the aftermath of the Marathon’s worst day— Monday, April 15, 2013—when two domestic terrorists planted homemade bombs at the finish line, killing three people and wounding nearly 300 others. Despite the carnage, emergency professionals still marvel that more people weren’t killed in the blasts, and herald the response as extraordinary.
On this, the five-year anniversary of the bombing, I wanted to share with you a couple of NFPA Journal articles that highlight the amazing efforts of these responders as well as the work the city and state did in the event's aftermath to strengthen their Marathon preparedness.
Three years ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kurt Schwartz, who in 2013 was the director of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, the agency that oversaw the state’s response to the bombings. He was near the finish line when the bombs went off, and was candid during our talk about what he felt and saw in those first few moments, as well as what went right and what didn't.
“I certainly suffered from tunnel vision, it was very hard to take a step back and have a broad view when you were seeing what you saw,” he told me. “The first person I encountered when I came onto Boylston Street was a person who had lost both of their legs. It’s hard to focus, I think we all had tunnel vision.”
The interview with Schwartz ran in the March/April 2015 issue of NFPA Journal. You can read it here.
Additionally, last May, NFPA Journal ran an article by Stephanie Schorow detailing what Boston has done to adapt its emergency procedures and planning for the marathon and other events since the 2013 bombing. The lessons learned were illuminating, and provide powerful insight for other communities hosting big events.
In addition to the feature, which also quoted Schwartz extensively, Schorow compiled a list of 10 takeaways from the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, communicated to her by a number of emergency experts who were on the ground that day.
You can read her feature here, and the takeaways here.
Especially in this challenging weather, my hat is off to all of those determined runners, and of course also to all of the countless professionals out there keeping everything running smoothly.
After 35 years in the fire service and then another eight helping lead NFPA's first responder efforts, our chief Ken Willette retired last month. 
For several years, Ken has been the author of NFPA Journal's First Responder column, offering his observations and timely takes on some of the most important issues facing the fire service today. His column in the  March/April issue of Journal was his last for the magazine. In it, Ken reflected on his career as a fire chief, using insightful lessons from his own career to highlight two topics he deems to be the biggest threats facing his beloved fire service today: mental health, and firefighter cancer. 
I would urge you to read Ken's farewell column and his parting advice to firefighters in the latest issue. Speaking for all of NFPA and for myself as his editor at the magazine, we miss Ken already and wish him a healthy and happy retirement!
Read NFPA Journal’s detailed feature on the impending change to flammable refrigerants, what it means, and what’s being done.
What if most refrigerators, air conditioners, and commercial cooling cases were filled with propane, or some other flammable material? How would it impact safety and fire protection during installation, maintenance, or especially during a fire? 
Those questions, far from being hypotheticals, are what researchers have been hustling to answer. 
In 2016, nearly 200 nations agreed to phase out what had until then been the most widely used type of refrigerant—the substances that circulate through cooling systems to absorb heat and cooling the air—because of the compounds’ very high global warming impact. The perfect replacement, however, has not been easy to find. Some are too toxic, others inefficient. The most promising alternatives are a group of compounds that are at least slightly flammable, or in some cases highly flammable. One of the most popular proposed refrigerant alternatives is a substance called R-290 propane, which is favored by some large supermarket retailers for its environmentally friendly qualities and its cooling efficiencies. 
In November, the Fire Protection Research Foundation published a study assessing the risks of using R-290 in refrigeration used in commercial retail and kitchen settings. The study assessed how flammability risks change when different quantities, or charge sizes, of R-290 are used in appliances. It also looked at possible ways to limit those risks, and variables that might impact potential explosions. On Thursday, March 22 at 12:30 p.m., the Fire Protection Research Foundation will present a webinar on the findings of this study. The instructor, Scott G. Davis, was the report’s lead author. 
Currently, flammable hydrocarbon refrigerants like R-290 are limited to a charge size of 150 grams in commercial refrigerators, or about half a cup of liquid; roughly enough to run a small beverage cooler at a supermarket checkout line. Big retailers such as Target, among others, which helped fund the FPRF study, have expressed a desire to increase those charge limits to run larger coolers if it is deemed safe. 
The FPRF study, conducted by Gexcon US, used both full-scale testing and computer models to assess risks of R-290 refrigerants. After various simulations, researchers found that charge size, location of the condensing unit, and whether the condensing fan is running or not, are all factors in how often an ignition occurred during a refrigerant leak. Not surprisingly, as more R-290 leaked into the space surrounding the cooler, ignition became more likely, but as the size of the room increased, ignition risk was reduced. 
Based on those findings, researchers set to work assessing the likelihood of a fire event in several simulated scenarios, and found that big box stores’ big sizes could help limit fire ignition potential during a refrigerant leak. For example, based on simulations, a leaky refrigeration case with 150 grams of R-290 located in a 441-square-foot kitchen was more likely to ignite than a 1,000-gram charge of R-290 located inside a 9,040 square-foot store, the study found. The former scenario is allowed by current regulation, while the latter is not. In addition to being smaller in volume, kitchens have more ignition sources than stores, which also increased ignition risk, the study found. 
The researchers also made several recommendations based on risk factors they found during testing, including: limiting charge size based on the volume of the room where the unit is located; continuously running the condenser fan during a leak; designing refrigeration units with top-mounted condensers; and that equipment within a closed refrigerator cabinet be designed and rated for use in explosive atmospheres. 
Areas that warrant further investigation include efforts to establish risk acceptance criteria, as well as collecting more refrigerant leak frequency data, the study found.
Last year, NFPA Journal published a detailed report on the impending change to flammable refrigerants, what it means, and what’s being done. To learn much more on this topic, read the article.
Last month, a Japanese company named Sumitomo Forestry announced conceptual plans to build the world’s tallest wooden building in Tokyo. The 70-story, 350-meter mixed-use skyscraper would use about 185,000 cubic meters of timber and cost an estimated $5.6 billion to build, according to the company, which is targeting a 2041 completion date. 
While it’s too early to know if the project will actually ever be completed, the Tokyo “woodscraper” is just the latest and most eye-popping of a linty of tall wooden building projects that have been completed or contemplated in recent years. Those include a proposed 34-story building in Stockholm, and a 19 story wood building in Vancouver. Last year, the current world’s tallest wooden building, an 18-story, 174-foot-tall dormitory tower, opened at the University of British Columbia.
While architects and environmentalists tout wood’s strength, versatility, and sustainability, some worry how these structures withstand fire. The concerns are that the timber construction could increase the fire load, impact fire growth rate, and could possibly overwhelm suppression systems.  
To help answer some of those questions, the Fire Protection Research Foundation has undertaken a project called the “Fire Safety Challenges of Tall Wooden Buildings.” Phase 2 of that project, which consisted of six large-scale test burns, was released last week.
For Phase 2, researchers from the National Research Council of Canada and the National Institute of Standards and Technology teamed up to find out how exposed mass timber in a residential dwellings might impact fire behavior. The researchers built essentially six simulated studio apartments—each 30 feet long, 15 feet wide, and nine feet high—with four walls and a ceiling. Each was filled with typical modern furnishings.
The rooms, or compartments as their known, were 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. In most tall wooden structures, interior CLT panels are covered in gypsum board to add a level of fire protection, however design trends could eventually lead architects to leave the timbers partially exposed. Fire protection researchers wanted to know what those exposed boards could mean for fire growth, heat release, toxicity, and other factors.
“We have limited information on compartment fires in these types of buildings, so it was a knowledge gap that we were looking to fill,” said Amanda Kimball, the research director at the FPRF.
Each of the simulated studio apartments in the burn tests had varying levels of exposed wood—two rooms had one wall with exposed boards, one had a ceiling exposed, and one had both. Two of the rooms were fully encapsulated in gypsum board, and were burned to form a baseline measurement. In two of the four tests, researchers adjusted the amount of ventilation in the room to see how that would impact the fire.
Ultimately, researchers found 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. “The peak compartment temperatures were similar to the baseline. However, the heat release rates and heat fluxes to the exterior facade were higher than the baseline.”
Kimball noted that the tests did not include fire sprinkler systems, which would be required in any tall wooden residential building. The data collected from the tests, however, will inform “the fire service, codes and standards bodies, designers, and insurers about possible risks with these structures,” Kimball said.
There are no plans currently for a phase three study, but several knowledge gaps still remain. Two of those include how the connectors that hold the timber elements together perform in fire; there are also questions about how holes in the wooden panels—cut to allow for passage of cables, HVAC, and other systems—might affect fire behavior. As tall wooden buildings become more popular, studies to answer these and other questions are underway around the world, Kimball said.
NFPA Journal published a feature on the fire and life safety considerations of tall wooden buildings, and other novel types of building design and construction in a 2017 feature, “Different by Design.” In addition to tall wooden buildings, the article details a slew of other designs including pencil buildings, shipping container buildings, tiny homes, and a skyscraper in Miami with a built-in car elevator. 
In mid-February, about 50 people across a spectrum of industries met in Denver to discuss some of the potentially fraught aspects of the surging world of energy storage systems (ESS) for first responders, authorities having jurisdictions (AHJs) and others. How should fire departments handle an ESS on fire? What gaps in training exist? What questions should AHJ’s be asking in the permitting process?
NFPA posed these questions and others to the AHJs, responders, inspectors, facilities managers, and others gathered in Denver in an intensive day-long summit. The aim of the day was to get a better handle on what issues professionals are facing in the field as this technology quickly spreads. The information gathered will aid NFPA in developing updated training on ESS and photovoltaic panels for first responders, and could also inform the development of the new NFPA 855, Installation of Energy Storage Systems.
“These guys started talking and just didn’t want to leave—it was a very successful day,” said Andrew Klock, a senior project manager at NFPA who is working to develop the training. “I thought the conversations were very revealing.” 
More information is crucial as larger and more powerful battery systems continue to be installed in greater numbers across the world—in homes, office buildings, businesses, in industrial parks, and more. 
The summit, training, and new standard development, are only a few of the several things NFPA is doing to address safety for this still-emerging technology. A more in-depth article on this topic will appear in the May/June, 2018 issue of NFPA Journal
NFPA Journal has published several feature stories on ESS, including my 2016 story “Power Packed.” For the article, I travelled to Silicon Valley to meet with representatives from Tesla, one of the world’s leading producers of ESS, to discuss the company’s vision for transforming the electrical grid. I also met with leaders at the Fire Department of New York, who are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of big batteries installed all across the city.  
Later in 2016, I conducted a long form interview with battery researcher David Rosewater who tests battery systems large and small at the Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico. Rosewater, who is on the NFPA 855 technical committee, shared his thoughts about how technology is evolving, and how the new standard is needed to keep residents, installers, inspectors, and first responders safe. 
Look for another detailed update on ESS in the May/June issue of NFPA Journal.
From my years working as a political reporter, I can assure you that everything we humans touch eventually turns political as long as someone somewhere has something at stake. When the stakes rise to the level of life and death, the politics are ratcheted up even higher.  
That explains why something as seemingly ho-hum as smoke detector technology can turn into a lightening rod issue if you’re hanging with a certain kind of crowd. It’s the same with code and standard adoption. These are complex and thorny public policy issues that most people spend almost zero time thinking about. I didn’t before I started working here. But they are critical to ensure public safety.
To give more time and thought to these important issues, NFPA Journal debuted a new Safety Policy column in November, which will explore a range of perplexing and difficult policy questions that lawmakers across the country struggle with.
Not coincidentally, the column’s debut coincided with the launch of the NFPA Fire and Life Safety Policy Institute, a think-tank of sorts that studies a range of safety and policy issues and provides guidance to government decision makers and safety advocates. Also not coincidentally, Meghan Housewright, the Institute’s executive director, is writing the Policy column. Who better to do the job?
In her most recent column, “Safety Delayed,” Meghan writes about the sometimes frustrating realities of code adoption and why many local governments are severely lagging in updating these critical documents. Guess what? It’s political. 
I hope you read Meghan’s latest column in the January/February issue of NFPA Journal and every issue after. A list of her past columns is also on the Institute’s website
Caption: Construction boomed in Mountain Shadows section of Colorado Springs in 2013, a year after the destructive Waldo Canyon Fire.
In preparing to write the cover story, “Build. Burn. Repeat?,” for the latest issue of NFPA Journal, I tried to find answers to a basic question: Why, when faced with indisputable risks and potentially devastating outcomes, do some wildfire-prone communities enact policies to prepare for and reduce the risk, while others seem to ignore the risks entirely? Even in cases where wildfire had just recently destroyed large portions of whole towns, many leaders choose to do nothing to stop it from happening again. 
NFPA Journal NowI asked around NFPA’s Wildfire Division and was pointed to El Paso County, Colorado. In back-to-back years the most destructive wildfires in state history lay waste to portions of the county—first 2012’s Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs, which burned 347 homes; then 2013’s Black Forest Fire, which burned about 500 homes just 20 miles away. The response from local leaders in the aftermath of these events have been very different. Why? 
This case study came out of conversations with Colorado Springs Fire Marshal Brett Lacey and others in the area, and I think it sheds some light on the political, cultural, and economic forces that local officials are up against when they try to enact smart building practices to mitigate wildfire's impact. These challenges seem to be common across the nation for wildfire safety advocates in the crusade to protect more homes from burning. 
Read: Miles Apart, Worlds Away How the post-fire stories of Colorado Springs and El Paso County illustrate the political challenges of enacting community wildfire mitigation measures
JESSE ROMAN is associate editor for NFPA Journal.

Erin Baumgartner of MIT's Senseable City Lab speaking Sunday at the NFPA Conference & Expo General Session in Boston. 


As billions of Internet-connected devices from cell phones to sensors flood our world with data, the question “what are we supposed to do with it all?” keeps all sorts of really smart people across the globe very busy. Sunday, two of those people shared their answers to that all-important question at the 2017 NFPA Conference & Expo General Session in Boston, Massachusetts.


Keynote speakers Erin Baumgartner, assistant director of MIT’s Senseable City Lab, and Tom Koulopoulos, CEO and founder of the Delphi Group, came at the question in complementary ways. Baumgartner, who’s lab comes up with innovative ways to use data to make cities “smarter, safer, greener and more pleasurable to live in,” she said, shared some mind-boggling examples of the types of insights big data can unlock in the real world. Koulopoulos, who spoke next, talked of what needs to happen in order to integrate the use of these powerful data insights and technologies into our everyday lives.


Watch Erin Baumgartner's keynote presentation at the 2017 NFPA Conference & Expo


“There has been a global boom of growth in the stuff that talks to the Internet,” said Baumgartner, citing a Cisco figure that by 2020 there will be 30 billion connected devices worldwide. “That represents an enormous challenge, but also huge opportunities. … This is the data we like to swim around in to figure out how our cities can be better.”


Her lab at MIT embedded sensors to track thousands of pieces of trash to find out where it goes, and found huge inefficiencies; mapped millions of taxi rides in New York City and elsewhere, finding that 90 percent of rides are shareable with minimal disruption to passengers; and has even designed sewer robots to dig around under the streets of Cambridge, Mass. to take readings that may be able to track public health trends.


While Baumgartner’s presentation zeroed in on specific examples of big data’s tantalizing possibilities, Koulopoulos’s talk took a big picture view of how this global movement may be integrated into solutions for the real world.



Tom Koulopoulos, CEO and Founder of the Delphi Group, speaks at the 2017 NFPA Conference & Expo General Session in Boston on Sunday.


Successful innovations change human behavior over time and seamlessly integrate into people’s lives, Koulopoulos said, citing video games, social media, and smartphones as examples. Big data solutions for the fire service and fire protection professionals will have to have a similar evolution, he argued.


“All of these devices cannot be layered onto what is already a difficult job,” he said. “You need to ask the question: does this simplify the task? We cannot feed all of this information to firefighters or we’ll overwhelm them, not make things easier.”


The solution is to funnel more complex data up to some other system that simplifies it to the most important small, usable bites that can then be fed to the end user.


“All progress is complex before it’s simple,” he said. “The task is not technology, it is fundamentally changing behavior. I hope you’re up to it.”

Listen to the Podcast on the NFPA Podcast channel. 


It might seem crazy today, but firefighters dying from falling off fire trucks used to be a problem—from 1977 to 1987, an average of almost four firefighters per year died from falling off trucks. Today, that problem is virtually unheard of thanks in large part to the 1987 adoption of the landmark NFPA 1500, Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program, the first fire service occupational safety standard.


In this episode of NFPA Journal Podcast, hear from fire service veterans Alan Brunacini, J. Gordon Routley, Phil Stittleburg, and Ken Willette, talk about what is was like to “ride the tailboard,” the fun, the danger, and how a few sentences in a big standard changed 200 years of tradition in the fire service and likely saved dozens of lives.


Subscribe to NFPA Journal Podcast on iTunes.


Also, read an entertaining oral history, "We Drove Like We Were Crazy" on the creation of NFPA 1500 in the January/February issue of NFPA Journal. 

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