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While remote video inspection (RVI) is new to many, it can represent an effective alternative to an on-site inspection, enabling one or more parties to remotely perform an inspection of a building or building component. As code officials, enforcers, and inspectors work to ensure building safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, NFPA has created a fact sheet that provides guidance on how to conduct an RVI.

 

This new resource, which is based on “Conducting Remote Video Inspections,” a white paper developed by NFPA’s Building Code Development Committee (BCDC), addresses several considerations, including setting clear expectations, selecting technology, location verification and sign-offs/follow-up. We encourage jurisdictions to review this guidance to become more familiar with the benefits as well as the limitations of RVI.

 

Just like traditional on-site or in person inspections, an RVI is typically associated within a jurisdiction’s permitting process, the project, or contract schedule, and needs to be approved by AHJ. Remote inspection may be able to accomplish critical and emergency permit work that is still underway. It is not intended to be less complete than an on-site inspection and can be employed to achieve the same (or enhanced) results as an on-site inspection.

 

RVI is currently in use in select jurisdictions across the US, although no formal standard governs its use. These jurisdictions often utilize everyday smartphone technologies to facilitate the inspection.

 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, NFPA has been continuing to provide key resources and information that address emergency planning, building, fire and life safety issues. Make sure to check our website regularly for new content and updates. Stay safe.

NFPA 70, National Electrical Code<img src='https://community.nfpa.org/images/emojis/00ae.png' class='jive_emoji'/>The following proposed Tentative Interim Amendment (TIA) to NFPA 70, National Electrical Code, is being published for public review and comment:

Anyone may submit a comment on this proposed TIA by the May 11, 2020 comment closing date.  Along with your comment, please identify the number of the TIA and forward to the Secretary, Standards Council by the closing date.

https://nfpa.libsyn.com/the-covid-19-crisis-in-europe

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, covidfirstresponse.com, 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. 

70e

Many people miss the point of providing a workplace that is free of electrical hazards for an employee. The main point of the federal law as well as NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace is to not put an employee’s life at risk when it is not absolutely necessary to do so. Electrocution was a known electrical hazard prior to 1900. In 1970, it was federally mandated that employers protect employees from known workplace hazards. Still, over 600 employees were electrocuted in the workplace annually before the first edition of NFPA 70E was issued in 1979. Employers thought they knew how to protect them. In 2018, 160 employees were electrocuted in the workplace according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Forty years after the first NFPA 70E, these employers also thought they knew how to protect an employee from electrical hazards.

 

I have written many articles, blogs, and handbooks which attempt to drive the point home that unless justified, an employee should not be put at risk of becoming a fatality. However, it seems just as many believe it should not be a requirement to shut equipment off before working on or near the electrical hazards present in that equipment. Rather than providing this highest level of protection, the decision to perform unjustified energized work typically (whether consciously considered or not) weighs the cost of an employee injury against the cost of shutting off equipment. Protect the worker by a less effect means, just hope that everything will be fine. Read my blog regarding three employers who felt they had it covered. It may also be beneficial to read my blog about what employers think they know.

 

All of the fatalities involving electricity that I am aware of did not involve one task that was either infeasible or created a greater hazard if power had been removed. Fluorescent light ballasts were replaced. Motor starters repaired. Circuits were extended. Electrical enclosures were vacuumed out. Blown fuses were replaced. Conductors were stripped. Maintenance was performed on circuit-breakers. Residential HVAC units were repaired. Damaged receptacles were replaced. BLS data since 2011 shows 21% of electrical contact fatalities occur at or below 220 volts. Also, with each of these fatalities at least a portion of the electrical system was down for a period of time that was not decided by the employer.

 

These tasks had no justification to be conducted while energized. Not that it should be a criterion, but almost all did not have a significant financial impact to the employer until the fatality occurred. None of the tasks involved more than a localized shut-down. Many of the tasks involved equipment or circuits that were already without electrical power. Other than some emergency lights, no other electrical equipment was on an electrical power back-up system because sudden loss of power to the equipment was not a concern. Almost all the tasks could be conducted in a matter of minutes not hours. Why were these employees fatally injured while at work when their employer knew that they would be exposed to known hazards? A major problem with unjustified energized electrical work is that it typically means that only select requirements (if any) are implemented for protecting an employee from injury or death. The employer decided which electrical safety requirements to follow and which ones to ignore. Incorrectly chosen and ignored requirements can cause fatalities.

 

In the over 30 years of being involved with electrical safety, I have no knowledge of any employee being fatally injured by electricity when electrical hazards were not present. There are two ways to reach that state. The first is not to have electrical hazards present in the electrical system from the start. The second way is to establish an electrically safe work condition (ESWC). Properly protecting an employee from electrical hazards while establishing an ESWC greatly minimizes their risk and exposure to the hazards. Establishing an ESWC also qualifies as justification for performing that portion of energized electrical work. Using a lesser level of protection as reasoning for permitting unjustified energized electrical work is willfully exposing the employee to undue electrical hazards. In those same 30 years of electrical safety, I am aware of many fatalities, injuries and damaged equipment under that condition.

 

For more information on 70E, read my entire 70E blog series on Xchange. Additional information to help guide you through the understanding of safe work practices can be found in our latest "Safe Electrical Work Practices Online Training" series.

 

Want to keep track of what is happening with the National Electrical Code (NEC)? Subscribe to the NEC Connect newsletterto stay informed of new content. The newsletter also includes NFPA 70E information such as my blogs.

Next time: Employees at greater risk of an electrical injury.

 

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

In my recent NFPA Journal columns and in the many engaging conversations I have had with people around the world, I have talked about how NFPA continues to grow and evolve to meet the changing needs of our diverse global audiences. We are committed to knowing what matters most to you, listening carefully to what your needs are, and working diligently every day to deliver the most useful tools to you.

As part of this commitment, I am pleased to tell you that this month, NFPA launched a new monthly e-newsletter called NFPA Network that is replacing the previous newsletters you have received. NFPA
Network aims to deliver the content you want and need, while at the same time providing additional insight into the broader fire and life safety issues that directly impact the work we all do every day.

With each issue, we will highlight themes that resonate across the 
NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, helping to drive home the idea that the work we do is an integral part of a larger, interconnected system. It is my hope that these pieces will prompt broader discussions about how we tackle today’s challenges in fire, life safety, electrical, and related hazards, and how we engage with others on shared solutions.NFPA Network

In our inaugural issue, we look at the subject of fires in unsprinklered high-rise residential buildings. In the past few years, we have witnessed a string of tragic events across the United States—New York City, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Honolulu, and elsewhere—that have brought to light a clear breakdown in the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem. These incidents have also raised an essential question around whether it’s time for jurisdictions to follow the lead of codes including 
NFPA 1, Fire Code, and NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, which require that all existing high-rise residential buildings be protected with sprinkler systems.

This isn’t just a US problem—it’s a complex global issue, and it’s a perfect example of why we need to stay connected on the issues that matter to us the most. NFPA Network is just one way we are helping set the stage for more engaged and meaningful conversations and creating strong catalysts for change. 
We invite you to subscribe to NFPA Network and to tell us about the topics and stories you’d like to read about every month. We look forward to hearing your comments.  

 

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

With Friday’s passage of the CARE Act, over $150 billion will soon be available to help states and municipalities with immediate needs related to the coronavirus. Of these needs, one of the most acute is for personal protective equipment (PPE), like N95 masks, and related supplies. In a recent survey of over 231 cities by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, over 91.5% reported not having enough face masks for both first responders and medical workers; 88.2% reported a shortage in other types of PPE for these same personnel; and 92.1% reported a shortage of test kits.

 

As more resources become available, authorities are urged to provide access to all of these supplies to first responders, as well as medical workers. Currently, the U.S. Public Health Service has classified fire service and EMS personnel as Tier 2 or Tier 3 as they prioritize access to testing.

 

Today, NFPA came together with the nation’s leading response organizations to implore that Vice President Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar provide first responders with the same access to PPE and testing, as healthcare workers.

 

Why is this so critical right now? Experience from Bergamo, Italy reveals the role of these workers in disease transmission, and their particular vulnerability to sickness. In an Op-Ed sent to the New England Journal of Medicine, Italian doctors wrote, “We are learning that hospitals might be the main Covid-19 carriers, as they are rapidly populated by infected patients, facilitating transmission to uninfected patients. Patients are transported by our regional system, which also contributes to spreading the disease as its ambulances and personnel rapidly become vectors. Health workers are asymptomatic carriers or sick without surveillance; some might die, including young people, which increases the stress of those on the front line.”

 

For American first responders, that lesson now has a face. On Wednesday, the family of 34-year-old FDNY EMT Christell Cadet reported she is now on a ventilator after contracting the virus and becoming sick. This as the New York Post reports that the city’s emergency medical calls are the busiest since 9/11.

 

Between fires and calls for medical aid, it is the worst time for fire departments to be forced to quarantine personnel, or worse, endanger the health of responders on the job. If communities do not ensure that firefighters, EMS and law enforcement have access to the PPE they need to protect themselves they cannot expect that they will have access to first responders when safety is on the line – as illustrated within the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem.

 

Learn more about how the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Policy Institute and NFPA are responding to the coronavirus pandemic by visiting www.nfpa.org/coronavirus

 

(Meghan Housewright is Director of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Policy Institute, which supports policymakers around the globe in protecting people and property from fire and other hazards with best practice recommendations and approaches to develop and sustain a strong fire prevention and protection system.)


Free webinar on “Fuel Load Survey Methodology in Buildings”

When: Thursday, April 2, 2020, 12:30-2:00 pm ET.

Presenters: Dr. Negar Elhami-Khorasani, The State University of New York Buffalo, and Dr. Thomas Gernay, Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering

 

As the use of performance-based methodologies evolve, it is becoming critically important to identify, characterize, and quantify design fires for buildings. NFPA 557, Standard for Determination of Fire Loads for Use in Structural Fire Protection Design, was developed to provide fire load data for structural fire protection design. NFPA 557 calls for the use of either occupancy-based fuel load data or surveying fuel load density. Fuel load surveys using current methodologies are a substantial undertaking, which has resulted in the availability of only very limited fuel load data. Thus, occupancy specific fuel load data is currently very limited within NFPA 557. More efficient fuel load survey methodologies are needed to develop fuel load data for a variety of building occupancies. This presentation will present the results of the Research Foundation project to develop a prototype fuel load survey methodology with a focus on efficiency to facilitate the development of fuel load data for a variety of building occupancies. The methodology is intended to consider the necessary accuracy of the fuel load data to allow for efficient data collection. A final report from the study is available from the Research Foundation Website.

 

Register for the webinar today. Visit www.nfpa.org/webinars for more upcoming NFPA webinars and archives.

 

Research Foundation Webinar Series 2020 is supported by: American Wood Council; Edwards Fire & Life Safety; Johnson Controls; Telgian Engineering and Consulting; The Zurich Services Corporation.

As of March 1, 2020, Massachusetts was the only state working off of the newest edition of NFPA 70: National Electrical Code (NEC). However, there are 16 states that have started the process of shifting to the 2020 NEC and joining Massachusetts in enforcing the latest requirements for safe electrical installations. This means that over the next few months, those who will be responsible for installing electrical systems will need to learn and understand the changes between their previous edition and the 2020 NEC. Depending on the type of work that they do, this might be a lot or they might do work in an area that was minimally affected by the most recent revisions.nfpa 70

 

What areas of electrical installations were most affected by the 2020 revisions? Let’s take a look at a few of the corners of the electrical industry that were the most impacted and the changes installers really need to be aware of and understand. We can start in residential-type occupancies as many of the more significant changes took place in areas that either only apply to dwelling units or have an impact on dwelling units in another way. The following list is a few of the big changes directly related to dwelling units that installers will need to know:

 

  1. The expansion of GFCI—In dwelling units, GFCI protection for personnel has been expanded to include any receptacle rated up to 250 volts in the areas listed in 210.8(A). The list of areas requiring GFCI protection has also been revised to include all areas of a basement, not just the unfinished spaces or areas not intended for use as habitable rooms. Lastly, outdoor outlets up to 50 amperes will need GFCI protection as well on systems that are 150 volts to ground or less, which is most residential systems. This applies to both receptacle outlets and hardwired outlets, with the exceptions of snow melting equipment and outdoor lighting.
  2. The emergency disconnect—One- and two-family dwelling units are now required to have a disconnect mounted in a readily accessible, outdoor location so that emergency responders are able to safely disconnect power to the building. This can be the service disconnect but there are other options as well that can be found in 230.85.
  3. Surge protection—All services supplying dwelling units are now required to include a surge protective device. New section 230.67 outlines where the SPD must be installed and what type it has to be. This also coincides with Articles 280 and 285 being combined into the new Article 242 for overvoltage protection.

 

This list of course, does not cover all changes that affect residential installations, but is hitting on some of the big ones. But what about everywhere else? There were a lot of major changes that will affect the installation of electrical equipment in non-residential settings. Here are just a few of the major revisions and again, this isn’t all of them, nor is this in any particular order:

 

  1. Lighting load values—Table 220.12 has been revised to now only apply to non-dwelling type occupancies and the list of occupancies has also been revised to align better with the occupancy types in ASHRAE energy codes. The values based on VA/unit of area have also been revised to align better with lighting density values determined through case studies performed in the various occupancies.
  2. Six disconnect rule for services—Section 230.71 has been revised to require that each service have only a single disconnecting means unless the two to six disconnecting means are in their own separate space, such as a single disconnect enclosure or separate section of switchgear. This is to prevent the situation where the bus in service equipment cannot be de-energized without involving the utility, a condition that led many workers to not place service equipment in an electrically safe work condition even though there was no justification do perform energized work. Also, this is not specific to non-dwellings, but is a situation more commonly found outside of one- and two- family dwelling locations.
  3. Reconditioned equipment—The idea that equipment can be new, used, rebuilt, refurbished, or reconditioned came about in the 2017 edition of the NEC. However, many revisions were made to the 2020 edition with respect to the reconditioning of equipment. Section 110.21 was revised to clarify what must be included on the marking for reconditioned equipment and throughout the code, sections were added to specify what specific equipment is allowed to be reconditioned and which equipment is not permitted to be reconditioned.

 

These are just a few of the highlights from the many revisions that occurred during the 2020 NEC revision cycle. Understanding what changed, why it changed, and how this will affect electrical installations going forward will help all of us make the transition to the latest edition of the NEC.

 

The NEC has evolved quickly from edition to edition, prompting some areas to perhaps skip an edition as they move forward in electrical safety. When this happens, it is imperative to be able to communicate how the code went from Point A to Point B. This is all the more reason to encourage our local jurisdictions to stay up to date with the NEC revision process and to not lag too far behind. As our industry evolves, so does the document that guides our day-to-day. Staying up-to-date with the current edition of the NEC helps us install systems in alignment with latest set of requirements aimed at keeping us all safe from the hazards that our use of electricity presents.

 

If you found this blog helpful, subscribe to the NFPA Network Newsletter for monthly, personalized content related to our electrical world, as well as fire and building and life safety information.

 

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

 

My family and I are here at home finishing up week 2 of our new routine of working at home together and parenting at home together.  We are navigating the challenges of balancing work calls and online meetings with children’s activities and education.  It is a new adventure for all of us. 

 

Just like the new routine many families are now facing day to day, the rapid onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States and across the world has forced many fire safety professionals into a new routine, balancing a unique crisis many if not all of us have never faced.  Fire inspectors are facing a new way of enforcing code requirements and prioritizing what to enforce and what can be modified.  The purpose of the Fire Code is to prescribe minimum requirements necessary to establish a reasonable level of fire and life safety and property protection from the hazards created by fire, explosion, and dangerous conditions.  That being said, balancing a global pandemic is not a condition model codes were written to address.  As an industry of fire safety professionals, with our day to day lives focusing on saving lives and protecting buildings from fire, we are now faced with a situation where fire safety requirements may in fact be overwritten by those provisions necessary to save lives from the infection of a virus. 

 

So, how is the coronavirus pandemic impacting fire safety and enforcing the Fire Code?  As society responds, reacts, and adapts, many unique inspection challenges have arisen, with impacts on healthcare facilities and beyond:

 

Storage and use of alcohol-based hand-rub (ABHR) sanitizers and other storage issue: The use of ABHR products is regulated by fire and life safety codes.  A unique fire safety requirement, the Code recognizes the need for almost all occupancies to provide ABHR dispensers to prevent the spread of infectious diseases without compromising life safety.  To balance this need, requirements for the safe use of ABHR address location of the dispensers and places limits on how much of the solution can be in use and in storage so that the overall hazard of this potentially flammable solution remains low.  The hazard arises when the aggregate quantity of the solution exceeds the maximum quantities permitted by the Code.  There is much greater chance that during this time and especially once businesses start to reopen and welcome back employees and the public into their buildings that they could likely be using or storing excess quantities of alcohol-based hand sanitizers in areas without proper protection. 

 

Other storage issues may arise when facilities, likely hospitals, use areas in the building to store extra supplies (masks,

linens, PPE) that were not designed or protected for a storage use.  The Code requires areas of buildings with a level of hazard greater than what would normally be found in that occupancy to be protected either with fire rated separation or sprinklers, or sometimes even combination of both.  Where the building wasn’t designed for storage in certain areas, changing its use to storage could result in an unprotected space. 

 

 

Access to buildings to conduct routine inspection, testing and maintenance procedures. Due to the plethora of federal, state and local restrictions on business operations, many facilities have either closed down or limited their businesses to very few essential personnel.  Security has been put in place to limit building occupants.  Where routine inspection, testing and maintenance is required by the Code to be performed on building’s fire protection systems, along with deferring the critical services, inspectors and contractors are also facing challenges with accessing buildings to do their jobs if they are hired to do so. NFPA urges officials to ensure that fire protection and life safety systems be maintained in all commercial and residential buildings with multiple occupancies throughout this global pandemic in order to avoid exacerbating the current environment by compromising fire and life safety, and leaving buildings vulnerable to vandalism. Following are some recommendations to help do this:

 

Maintain safe egress facilities. As facilities seek to control who enters their buildings and how many people entire their building so that the crowds remain safe, the risk increases for blocked, locked, or obstructed egress from the building.  We were made aware of a situation in which a grocery store manager was locking exterior exit doors (other than the main entrance/exit) from their facility in order to reduce theft, as shoppers were attempting to overstock on grocery items and other supplies.  There are provisions in place in the Code to balance security and life safety issues in mercantile occupancies that were developed for this situation.  Facilities should not compromise the fundamental need to provide multiple egress routes that are under the occupants control when businesses are open. 

 

Enforce residential fire safety requirements.  Quarantining, social distancing, remote work, students at home from school and college… many people have found themselves spending more, if not all of their time in their residences.  The more time at home, the greater the risk of fires in the home.  The Code addresses many basic fire prevention issues that impact us in our homes such as the use of candles, space heaters, location of grills, electric safety (that new home office setup might have overcrowded electrical outlets or daisy chained power strips), and the installation and maintenance of required smoke alarms.  The person responsible for the property is responsible for complying with this Code. The AHJ should work with property owners, operators, and occupants in residential facilities such as apartment complexes and condos, to educate them on the requirements of this Code.  Understanding that fire department resources are extremely tight at this time, if management takes a proactive approach to fire safety, others in the organization will likely do the same, thus increasing the fire safety of the property.

 

NFPA is continuing to address these and other issues as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, so make sure to regularly check our website and online platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, for new information, resources and updates.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Don't miss another #FireCodeFridays blog! Get notifications straight to your email inbox by subscribing here! And you can always follow me on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA

 

IT’S A BIG WORLD. LET’S PROTECT IT TOGETHER.

 

As the public largely remains at home in response to COVID-19, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is urging everyone to use added caution around home fire safety.

 

Cooking, heating, and electrical equipment are among the leading causes of home fires each year. As people continue to stay at home and engage in these activities, it’s critical that they recognize where potential hazards exist and what can be done to prevent them.

 

Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and is responsible for nearly half (49 percent) of all reported home fires involving cooking equipment. Moreover, unattended cooking is the leading cause of home cooking fires, meaning that home cooking fires occur most often when people aren’t keeping a close eye on what they’re cooking.

 

As many households are now dealing with unusual routines and out-of-the-ordinary circumstances, such as kids home from school and parents working from home, there’s greater potential for distracted cooking.

 

NFPA statistic show that heating equipment is the second-leading cause of home fires, resulting in an average of 52,050 home fires each year. Electrical distribution or lighting equipment is involved in an annual average of 35,100 home fires.

 

For much of the country, heating systems are still in use and in many cases, for more hours than usual. In addition, with everyone at home, people may be using the same outlets to charge phones, laptops and other digital equipment, which also presents a fire hazard.

 

With these concerns in mind, NFPA reminds the public to use best practices for staying fire-safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond:

 

Cooking

  • Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, boiling, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • If you are simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — away from your stovetop.
  • Make sure all handles are turned inward, away from where someone can grab a hot handle or tip a pan over.
  • Be on alert. If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, refrain from using the stove or stovetop.
  • If you have young children in your home, create a “kid-free zone” of at least 3 feet (1 meter) around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried.

 

Heating

  • Keep anything that can burn at least three-feet (one meter) away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
  • Have a three-foot (one meter) “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.
  • Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
  • Install and maintain carbon monoxide (CO) alarms to avoid the risk of CO poisoning. If you smell gas in your gas heater, do not light the appliance. Leave the home immediately and call your local fire department or gas company.

 

Electrical

  • When charging smartphones and other digital devices, only use the charging cord that came with the device.
  • Do not charge a device under your pillow, on your bed or on a couch.
  • Only use one heat-producing appliance (such as a coffee maker, toaster, space heater, etc.) plugged into a receptacle outlet at a time.
  • Major appliances (refrigerators, dryers, washers, stoves, air conditioners, microwave ovens, etc.) should be plugged directly into a wall receptacle outlet. Extension cords and plug strips should not be used.
  • Check electrical cords to make sure they are not running across doorways or under carpets. Extension cords are intended for temporary use.
  • Use a light bulb with the right number of watts. There should be a sticker that indicates the right number of watts.

 

In addition, smoke alarms should be located on every level of the home, in each bedroom, and near all sleeping areas. Test them monthly to make sure they’re working. NFPA also strongly encourages households develop and practice a home escape plan to ensure that everyone knows what to do in a fire and can escape quickly and safely.

 

For a wealth of NFPA resources and information on home fire safety, visit www.nfpa.org/Public-Education.

 

On March 16, Boston became the first city in the nation to issue a stop (for two weeks) to its booming construction industry. Shortly after, similar measures were put into place in Pennsylvania, where on March 19, all construction operations were also ordered to stop.  In other cities such as New York and Chicago, construction activity has been modified but not stopped altogether, as certain construction practices are deemed ‘essential’ and are permitted.  Meanwhile, a “stay at home” order issued by California government does not apply to current construction projects there but some California cities have issued stricter provisions than those mandated by the state, such as San Francisco, where only construction on housing can continue as can construction on critical infrastructure.

 

Regardless of the varied levels of regulation in different states, the construction industry is feeling the impact of COVID-19, making guidance on safe practices for construction, alternation and demolition operations as relevant now as its ever been.  Whether it’s for new critical infrastructure such as healthcare facilities or permitted ongoing construction projects, proper safety measures cannot be shutdown or overlooked.  Major construction site fires have made headline news several times just in the last few months, causing millions in property damage and stopping projects in their tracks, and hundreds more have occurred beyond that.  As the industry continues to manage these fire events, invest in safety and bring awareness to these issues, simply looking past safe practices now will slow progress and put lives and projects at risk.

 

Model building and fire codes mandate structures undergoing construction, alteration, or demolition operations to comply with NFPA 241, Standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alteration, and Demolition Operations. NFPA 241 provides measures for preventing or minimizing fire damage during construction, alteration, and demolition operations. (The fire department and other fire protection authorities also should be consulted for guidance.) It covers temporary construction, equipment, and storage, processes and hazards, utilities, fire protection, and safeguarding various operations, such as  construction and alterations, roofing, demolition, and underground operations.

 

Among other critical protection measures for construction site fire safety, NFPA 241 requires an overall construction or demolition fire safety program be developed.  A fire prevention program manager(FPPM), appointed by the owner, is required and will be responsible for the protection of the property from fire.  This person will be fully aware of and responsible for the information and procedures set forth in the fire safety program and has full authority to enforce them.  During this time, the FPPM should be aware of local shutdown requirements, if applicable, and how to safety manage the construction site while securing and removing equipment, materials, and personnel, as required by local jurisdiction, if construction is halted.

 

While NFPA 241 was not developed with the primary intent of being applied to the rapid shutdown of construction sites, such as what is happening in cities like Boston, it can offer safe guidance for maintaining safe construction sites during this unprecedented time.  Further guidance on the safe and recommended use of NFPA 241 during construction site shutdowns is being disseminated throughout the industry.  One local fire protection consulting firm has provided this guidance to its clients and stakeholders and could be useful to anyone concerned with construction site fire safety at this time.  

 

Have NFPA Technical Questions on NFPA 241?

We can help you with that! NFPA's Technical Questions Service provides NFPA members and public sector officials/AHJs with one-on-one help with their technical standards questions. Responses are provided by NFPA staff on an informal basis. The Technical Questions Service supports questions related to clarification of intent of codes and standards requirements, the technical basis of requirements, application of requirements, and general interpretations.

 

Please visit https://www.nfpa.org/Codes-and-Standards/Resources/NFPA-Technical-questions for more information.  

 

Finally, see this blog post for other ways NFPA is providing information, knowledge and tools.

 

At NFPA, we fully recognize that the unprecedented nature of the coronavirus is requiring professionals across multiple industries to function in ways that run counter to the norm, and that there needs to flexibility for these groups and organizations as they work to accommodate the demands of the current crisis. However, best practices should be applied when and where possible. When it comes to occupancies under construction, the requirements within NFPA 241 can be followed in the vast majority of instances without compromising efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

(A recent example of a fire department using Twitter to engage community members and share safety information during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

 

Calling all community relations coordinators, life safety educators, community risk reduction specialists, …and all those working in the prevention space who have been grounded by COVID-19! Many outreach professionals are now tied to their desks instead of hitting the pavement and wondering how they can add value to their communities during these difficult times. While the work you are doing may look different today, there is no doubt about it: It is, and will continue to be, a critical component of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem and a valuable local asset.

 

Where do you start?

 

This part is easy. Start with your goals! Before you jump in and generate a list of activities, social media posts, and Youtube videos, think deeply about what you would like to accomplish. Then, plan with this end in mind. Goal-focused outreach will ensure you can achieve your desired impact.

 

Community Relations:

Outreach programs intended to help agencies and departments establish and maintain mutually beneficial relationships with their communities are referred to as Community Relations initiatives. They are designed to foster positive relationships between residents, business owners, and local public service agencies. The desired outcome is a sense of community connection in which residents, business owners, and the response community feel protected, supported, and engaged. 

 

If your goal is to build strong Community Relations, consider these virtual outreach activities:

  • Record members of your department reading books and short stories. We tend to focus on children but home bound older adults may also enjoy this.
  • Schedule a Facebook Watch Party for a virtual fire station tour.
  • Interview members of your department in a 5 question “Get to know you” series. Ask questions such as: What is your favorite safety tip? What do you want people to know most about your job? How can people in the community help you stay safe?
  • Challenge families to build and post their best “pasta box & toilet paper” firetruck

 

Fire & Life Safety Education (FLSE):

According to NFPA 1035, FLSE programs work to eliminate or mitigate situations that endanger lives, health, property, or the environment. Those driving fire and life safety education are looking to impact safety behaviors. Rich virtual FLSE activities include a source of foundational content, an opportunity to practice a skill, and a specific call-to-action such as “Practice your home escape plan with your entire family!”

 

Think creatively about how you can deliver Fire & Life Safety Education through virtual channels:

  • Share the NFPA Heating Safety tip sheet and ask families to post pics of safe home heating.
  • Provide a virtual demonstration of the Fire Triangle to explain why it is important to keep a lid close by when cooking on the stovetop. Look here for additional resources to support your cooking safety messages. 
  • Loop in your local teachers! Share resources with teachers (and new home school “teachers”!) who can benefit from virtual lesson support. Sparkyschoolhouse.org is loaded with engaging educational activities that fit the bill. Check out the suite of Sparky Apps, videos, lesson plans, and e-books.
  • Run a virtual Remembering When workshop on Facebook Live. Pick one or two fire and fall prevention behaviors each day and discuss them. Host a session at a set time and invite older adults and their family members to join in for helpful tips. You might even make use of the Remembering When trivia questions. Engage those silver surfers!

 

Community Risk Reduction (CRR): 

Community Risk Reduction is a process to identify and prioritize local risks, followed by the integrated and strategic investment of resources to reduce the occurrence and impact of those risks (NFPA 1300). CRR requires a good look at data to identify local needs and input from partners and stakeholders. It calls for a tailored plan to mitigate risks that have been identified as high-priority within a community. If your community is moving towards data-informed decision and risk-focused prevention, CRR is your path.

 

Community Risk Reduction requires thoughtful planning. As most events are cancelled, and people are working from home, take advantage of this time to focus your attention to the processes and partnerships that are core to CRR initiatives.

  • First, read NFPA 1300 Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development. This document, which can be viewed for free online, will guide your CRR work.
  • If a risk assessment has been conducted, review your community profiles and share the information with agencies involved in the COVID-19 response. The data tell important stories about the needs and capacities related to this crisis.
  • If a risk assessment has not be conducted, this is a great time to start. As we respond to the challenges of this pandemic, we are learning a lot about the demographics, economics, and infrastructure within our communities. This information provides the backbone of a CRA. Capture as much of this information as possible to feed future work related to your CRA and CRR plan.
  • As Mister Rogers taught us, “look for the helpers”. Maintain an active list of the local businesses and community service organizations who are positively impacting your community during this time of crisis. This list will help you build out the capacity component of your CRA as well as identify future CRR partners.
  • Formalize your CRR team. CRR is not a one-person show! Use this time to build a strong cross-agency team of partners and stakeholders.

 

Whether your goals are aligned with Community Relations, Fire & Life Safety Education, or Community Risk Reduction, your work is important. Mitigation is incredibly important, but not easy work – complacency is hard to overcome. There is true value in each of these outreach and engagement efforts, on their own, but collectively, the outcomes of this work will result in connected, safer communities.

 

For additional CRR resources, go to nfpa.org/CRR or reach out to the CRR team at CRR@nfpa.org. Look to nfpa.org/public-education for tips sheets, lesson plans, messaging to support your FLSE outreach.

 

(Meghan Housewright is Director of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Policy Institute, which supports policymakers around the globe in protecting people and property from fire and other hazards with best practice recommendations and approaches to develop and sustain a strong fire prevention and protection system.)

 

As doctors across the U.S. face the crush of COVID-19 cases, some are turning to social media and #GetMePPE to deal with the critical shortage of N95 respirator masks, gowns, facial shields, and other personal protective equipment (PPE). Repeated reuse of single use items, meant to protect patients and medical staff alike, is now routine, as is seeking community donations of unused or homemade gear.

 

Add to the doctors, nurses, and other hospital employees who desperately need these supplies: America’s first responders. Firefighters and paramedics are on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, transporting sick patients and responding to calls out in the community. Unsurprisingly, some are becoming infected, or forced into isolation after interacting with those who have tested positive. In Washington, DC, 141 firefighters and paramedics are in self-quarantine after three members of the department tested positive for the virus. Last week, the San Jose Fire Department reported that around 10 percent of the city’s department is self-quarantined, while 13 responders have tested positive. This is happening to departments all over the country.

 

As first responders burn through their PPE supplies to reduce their risk, departments face shortages that will only grow with the pandemic. Action is needed now to help all workers on the front lines stay safe. But in the face of sky-rocketing global demand, what does that action look like?

 

A growing chorus, including the medical establishment, the mayor of New York City, Congressional Democrats, and the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank have called for the federal government to step into the breach. Under the powers of the Defense Production Act (DPA), the government could require U.S. businesses to accept government contracts for needed goods and services and oversee the distribution of that matériel to states and localities based on need, among other measures. While President Trump has signed orders allowing the DPA to be used to address coronavirus, he has not followed through by invoking its authority for specific actions. Instead, the president has argued the country is not yet on a supply precipice and that the voluntary efforts of U.S. industry will be able to meet the demand.

 

U.S. manufacturers, like 3M, are indeed moving swiftly to supply as much of the demand as they can. But as states, localities, and hospitals alike hunt for PPE in a crisis that is not just nationwide, but worldwide, the eruption of inevitable bidding wars have pushed prices well past the point of most public safety agencies. And while some in Congress have proposed more stimulus funding to directly aid the medical effort, that money won’t address the scarcity. The certainty of large government contracts will help manufacturers who can.

 

When the virus made landfall in the U.S., the national strategic stockpile, with 12 million N95 masks on hand (and another 30 million surgical masks), had roughly 1% of the PPE supply the Department of Health and Human Services estimated the crisis could demand: 3.5 billion masks. In the face of such staggering demand, the World Health Organization has called for a 40% increase in the production of PPE and other supplies. As firms consider how they can bring new production on-line, experts note it will likely take three to five months to actually begin production. The sooner they start, the closer we come to ending the shortage.

 

Need today is dependent on existing capacity, most of which occurs overseas. Much of that is in China, which until recently, has prioritized its own epidemic needs. As they gradually pivot toward meeting worldwide demand, cooperation between countries is now essential to workers on the front lines of the virus.

 

In the U.S., every 24 seconds, a fire department responds to a fire. Well before this crisis, every 1.3. seconds, a fire department responded to a call for medical aid. Our nation’s first responders were 24-7 well before this national emergency. Now, just as doctors and nurses still must treat other patients despite an ER full of coronavirus, firefighters will still need to respond, no matter the emergency. The U.S. is fortunate that its responders are such a strong part of the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem. These are the people who make sure a house fire does not become a fatal fire or that a hazardous material spill does not become an environmental catastrophe. These are the same people who cut victims from car wrecks and bring them to the hospital. Their health is critical to the everyday safety of the community.

 

And while first responders may be at capacity now, the coming months could be worse. Land managers and fire officials are keenly aware of the challenge posed by virus-caused attrition to wildfire season. In Los Angeles, the crews that normally clear brush to lower fire risk have been delayed; in Washington state, they’ve been forced to cancel training for new firefighting personnel. All of this while the Western U.S. is under drought conditions from historically low snow and rain.

 

As a nation, we’re failing the first responder who today is responding to patients without proper PPE. If we let this continue into tomorrow, we are most certainly failing ourselves. Given the scale of the crisis, the U.S. needs every tool available pressed into service to meet this towering need.

 

For additional NFPA content and insights, visit www.nfpa.org/coronavirus.

 

As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, we remain committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards.

With the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and around the world, many hospitals and health care organizations are preparing for the need for additional space for treatment, testing, triage, or quarantine. For many facilities, this includes the use of tents. It is vital that during these times we remember to maintain fire and life safety in these structures to allow medical teams to focus on patients. The 2018 edition of NFPA 101, Section 11.11 (same section in 2012 edition, which is adopted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) outlines the fire and life safety requirements for tent structures used in outdoor environments.

As with any building, adequate egress facilities are imperative in tents, not only within the tent, but outside the tents as well. All tents should have at least 10 ft. between stake lines to allow for egress. This space should be kept clear of storage or other items that could impede egress from the tent. The location of tents relative to other structures should be approved by your AHJ. Tents should also not be in locations which would obstruct egress from a building, fire department vehicle access, or access to firefighting equipment such as hydrants, fire department connections, or fire protection system control valves.

Flame propagation and fire hazards are a major concern for tents. The use of an improper tent fabric could potentially lead to a very fast spreading fire. Therefore, it is important to use approved fabrics and limit potential fire hazards. Tent fabrics should comply with the requirements of NFPA 701, Standard Methods of Fire Tests for Flame Propagation of Textiles and Films.  In addition to compliance with the test standard, the AHJ may also wish to conduct field testing using a test specimen affixed to the tent at the time of manufacture.

Potential fire hazards in tents include combustible storage and debris, smoking, and heating equipment. Prior to the erection of tents, the area should be cleared of all combustible debris and vegetation. During the use of the tent, care should be taken to ensure there is at least a 10 ft. perimeter around all side of the tent that is free from all combustibles including storage, vegetation, and debris. Unless permitted by the AHJ (which will be highly unlikely), smoking is not permitted in tents and “NO SMOKING” signs should be posted.

A major potential fire hazard is the use of portable or temporary heating equipment. Only listed heating equipment should be used. Heaters utilizing liquefied petroleum gas should have all containers at least 60 in. from the tent, and comply with the provision of NFPA 58, Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code. Electrical heaters should be connected to an electrical source that is suitable for outdoor use and is adequately sized for the electrical load. All heaters should only be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s listed instructions.

In addition to all the precautions already addressed, tents should be provided with portable fire-extinguishing equipment. Fire extinguishers should be the proper type for the potential hazards in accordance with NFPA 10, Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers, and should be in locations required by the AHJ. Access to fire extinguishers should be maintained clear so that they are accessible if a fire emergency arises.

During these unprecedented times, we should strive to maintain a high level of life safety to protect all the doctors, nurses, and other health care workers that are working hard, as well as their patients. Most importantly, stay safe and healthy!  

Did you know NFPA 101 and other NFPA documents in this blog are available for review online for free? Follow the links in this blog and click on “Free access”.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, we remain committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards.

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