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Seventeen sailors and four civilians are being treated for injuries after a fire and explosion Sunday aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard, a US Navy warship that was docked in San Diego. While investigators are still working to determine the cause of the blaze, experts have already made note of the challenges firefighters faced in fighting the flames—a point that was emphasized in the September/October 2019 NFPA Journal cover story, "Close Quarters."

 

Fires on large marine vessels "are not like a house fire," retired Navy commander Erik A. Dukat told the New York Times. "Imagine a fire inside of a ship, just imagine the inside of your oven," Dukat told the paper. "Where the problem really comes, where a ship is lost for good, is normally actually because of the water," added John Liddle, a lieutenant commander who retired from the Navy last year. "You're putting so much water into it in one place or another that all of a sudden it's not buoyant in the same way that it was designed to be."

 

The incredible heat that can be generated from a fire raging within a ship's hull as well as the risk of pouring too much water on a ship fire were both discussed in the NFPA Journal piece. It's factors like these that make fires on large marine vessels one of the most universally feared calls for firefighters to receive. 

 

"The way ships are constructed present huge challenges, the way it traps heat and affects fire growth," Forest Herndon, a 37-year veteran of the marine firefighting industry, says in the Journal article. "Firefighters could be ascending steep, slippery ladders or trying to walk on decks that heat up to the point where their feet are burning. Shipboard fires burn a lot hotter than fires in land-based structures, and you don't have the ability to ventilate these fires, so your methods of addressing them have to change."

 

Historically, ship fires are also some of the most deadly incidents. Nearly one-fifth of the 21 deadliest fires or explosions in world history have occurred on boats. Watch the video below to learn more about the four deadliest ship fires or explosions in history. 

 

NFPA has announced the restructuring of its U.S. Regional Operations field staff, which will now function as a single team and be managed by Ray Bizal, regional operations director. Previously, regional representation was separate for public education and code-related support. Through these organizational changes, NFPA can better provide a single point of contact for stakeholders who rely on our resources and guidance as they work to keep their communities safe.

Meredith Hawes and Kelly Ransdell, who formerly worked as regional education specialists within NFPA’s public education division, will become regional directors for the Regional Operations team, joining Ray Bizal, Robbie Dawson, Robert Duval, Gary Honold, Gregory Cade, and Bob Sullivan. 

Following are the states for which each regional director is now responsible: 

  • Ray Bizal – CA, OR 
  • Greg Cade – DE, OH, MD, NJ, PA, VA, WV, (DC) 
  • Robby Dawson – AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, SC, TN 
  • Bob Duval – CT, MA, ME, NH, NY, RI, VT 
  • Meredith Hawes – IA, IL, IN, MI, MN, WI 
  • Gary Honold – AK, HI, ID, MT, ND, NE, SD, WA 
  • Kelly Ransdell – AR, LA, MO, NC, OK, TX 
  • Bob Sullivan – AZ, CO, KS, NM, NV, UT, WY

Formerly serving as a regional director for seven states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin), Russ Sanders will now focus his efforts on NFPA’s Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association (Metro) Section, which brings together fire service professionals around the globe and serves as an conduit for addressing emerging issues for large-jurisdiction departments. 

The overarching role of NFPA’s regional directors is to promote and support the use of all NFPA tools and resources, including NFPA codes and standards, training, certification, as well as public education campaigns like Fire Prevention Week, Fire Sprinkler Initiative state coalitions, and other key NFPA programs. 

A common topic throughout the country lately has been the reopening of buildings that have been left unoccupied during the Covid-19 pandemic. One of the most important things to do it to make sure that all of the fire protection and life safety systems have been properly inspected, tested, and maintained before reintroducing occupants. In order to assist with that we have created a checklist for the most common systems (https://www.nfpa.org/-/media/Files/Coronavirus/CoronavirusReopeningBuildingsChecklist.ashx).  Now that we have covered the most common, we need to start looking into some more important systems that may not be in every building. An example of one of these other systems that needs to be addressed before reopening a building is a smoke control system.

 

Smoke Control Systems

 

Smoke control systems are commonly found in high rise building stairwells and elevators, detention and correctional occupancies, large assembly seating areas, and atriums (https://community.nfpa.org/community/nfpa-today/blog/2018/01/03/101wednesdays-soaring-to-new-heights-atriums-and-the-life-safety-code). These systems are engineered to protect the occupants in the building as they evacuate, contain the fire in one location, and to aid the first responders as they try to find the fire and extinguish it by:

  • containing the smoke and products of combustion in one location in the building
  • keeping the smoke and products of combustion out of a given space
  • or removing the smoke and products of combustion out of a given space in order

 

When thinking of smoke control systems, you can think of them in two categories, smoke containment systems, and smoke management systems. Smoke containment systems include stairwell pressurization, zoned smoke control, elevator pressurization, vestibule pressurization, and smoke refuge area pressurization. Smoke management systems are typically found in large volume spaces such as large assembly seating areas and atriums, these types of smoke systems include natural smoke filling, mechanical smoke exhaust, gravity smoke venting, and opposed air flow.

 

System Design and Testing

 

When these systems are designed, an engineering analysis is performed per NFPA 92, Standard for Smoke Control Systems to ensure that specific design criteria are met. For example, if the system is being designed to keep the space tenable for occupants to evacuate, then some of the design criteria will include maximum temperature and minimum visibility in the spaces occupied during building evacuation, typically this is the space from floor level to a height of at least 6 feet (1830 mm). The design of these systems includes calculations and computer models that are run based on how the space will be used, because of this, it is the building owner’s responsibility to limit the use of the space, so it is consistent with the limitations provided in the operations and maintenance manual. Such limitations include but are not limited to maximum fuel size and minimum distance between fuels.  Additionally, the building owner is responsible for all system testing per NFPA 92 and must maintain records of all periodic testing and maintenance in accordance with the operations and maintenance manual that was provided with the system upon acceptance testing.

 

Testing for dedicated smoke control systems needs to be performed semi-annually and non-dedicated systems (I.e. those that utilize a buildings HVAC system) need to be tested annually. The system must be tested by persons who are thoroughly knowledgeable with the operation, testing, and maintenance of the system. When testing, each system needs to be tested against the specific design criteria that it was designed to under both normal power and standby power, all of the pass/ fail criteria should be provided in the design documents. The system needs to be operated for each of the sequences in the design criteria, this could include testing different smoke zones and testing different initiating devices such as smoke detectors, waterflow switches, and pull stations (if provided). For each of the inputs, all of the correct outputs (such as dampers opening/closing, doors opening/closing, and fans turning on/off) needs to be confirmed that they are operating per the system design.

 

The periodic testing needs to confirm that the pressure differences across smoke barriers, at air makeup supplies, and at smoke exhaust equipment coincide with the data points taken during initial acceptance testing. When testing is performed on these systems it is possible that a significant amount of outside air will be introduced into the building, as such, special arrangements need to be made to protect sensitive equipment or building contents from a change in temperature and/or humidity.

 

Bottom Line

 

As you can see, there is a significant number of things that needs to be tested on a smoke control system, and it is all system specific. If your building contains a smoke control system, or you think it may contain a smoke control system, you should contact a qualified person prior to reopening to ensure that all of the proper inspection testing and maintenance has been completed to ensure the safety of all of the occupants within your building.

 

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A Massachusetts firefighter was killed battling a four-alarm house fire after helping two of his colleagues reach safety and searching for additional people trapped inside. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

 

NFPA recently released its annual “U.S. Firefighter Fatalities in the United States” report, which showed fewer than 50 U.S. firefighter fatalities while on duty in 2019, reflecting the lowest number of deaths reported since NFPA began conducting this study in 1977. In addition, there were no multiple-fatality incidents, which also represents a first for the report. Other important achievements include the lowest number of deaths of volunteer firefighters, deaths in road vehicle crashes, and cardiac deaths.

 

This year’s findings reflect significant milestones for firefighters while on the job, with many of the numbers representing historic lows. While one year’s experience cannot be interpreted as evidence of a trend, and we know already that the death toll in 2020 will likely be higher as a result of COVID-19, there are promising indications that real, sustained progress has been achieved in the reduction of deaths in some categories, such as cardiac deaths, structure fire deaths and vehicle crashes.

 

Overall, 48 firefighters died while on-duty in the U.S. in 2019, a sharp drop from recent years, where deaths average 65 per year. Of the 48 fatalities, 25 were volunteer firefighters, 20 were career firefighters, and one each was an employee of a state land management agency, an employee of a federal land management agency and a civilian employee of the military.

The 25 deaths of volunteer firefighters in 2019 is the lowest reported in all the years of this study, and represents a sharp drop from the annual average for volunteer firefighters over the previous 10 years (36 deaths per year on average), and far lower than the average of 67 deaths per year in the earliest years of this study. The 20 deaths of career firefighters while on-duty in 2019 is the third time in the past four years that the total has been 20 or fewer. In the earliest years of this study, the annual average number of deaths of career firefighters while on duty was 57.

 

Overexertion, stress, and medical issues accounted for by far the largest share of firefighter deaths, as has been the case in past years. Of the 26 deaths in this category, 22 were classified as sudden cardiac deaths (usually heart attacks), two were due to strokes, one to heat stroke and one death was by suicide. The 22 sudden cardiac deaths with onset while the victim was on-duty mark the fourth consecutive year that the toll has been below 30, but they still account for the largest share of on-duty deaths. Cardiac-related events accounted for 44 percent of the on-duty deaths over the past 10 years.

In 2019, four firefighters died in vehicle crashes, four were struck by vehicles and one fell from a moving vehicle. In the past, crashes of road vehicles fairly consistently accounted for the second largest share of the on-duty deaths, but the number has dropped in recent years, with fewer than five deaths in three of the last 10 years. Deaths in road vehicle crashes, which accounted for three of the four crash deaths in 2019, have ranged over the years from a high of 25 to this year’s low of three.

 

It remains encouraging to see the overall number of on-duty firefighter fatalities continue to decline, but the full firefighter fatality picture is far broader than NFPA’s data, which focuses on on-duty deaths tied to specific events that occur while firefighters are at work. However, the hazards of firefighting also include long-term exposure to carcinogens and other contaminants, as well as physical and emotional stress and strain. Meanwhile, we have also seen some troubling trends, such as firefighter related murders. In 2019, a firefighter who was shot at an EMS call represents the ninth firefighter murdered on-duty in the past 10 years.

 

NFPA's annual firefighter fatalities report only reflects deaths that occur while victims are on-the-job, either as the result of traumatic injuries or onset of acute medical conditions. Studies have shown that years spent in the fire service can take a toll on a firefighter’s health, both physical and emotional, and can also result in exposures to toxins that eventually result in job-related cancer, cardiac, and suicide deaths that are not represented in this report. A comprehensive study that enumerates all duty-related deaths in a year is not yet possible to accomplish.

 

On July 14 at 1 pm EDT, I will be hosting a free webinar to review this year’s report findings. Attendance is limited, so those interested are encouraged to sign up before space is no longer available.

electrical safety

 

I receive many questions from companies in the process of implementing an electrical safety work program. Can their own employees conduct risk assessments? Who should they hire? How do they know if an organization is qualified to do the work? While I am unable to answer those questions, my recent blog about knowing what is involved with risk assessments can help provide some guidance. Equipment is required to be labeled with the highest voltage and incident energy or PPE category. This worst-case condition can be used for 100 percent of tasks associated with the equipment. However, another of my Electrical Safety Month blogs discusses how a risk assessment could address tasks performed within that equipment. There is a difference between providing a label to attach to equipment and performing a risk assessment. Which was the contractor hired to perform?

 

Since most contract organizations use the more detailed incident energy analysis method rather than the PPE category method, there are two quick checks you can use to determine which one the contractor delivered. One check comes from 130.5(B). If equipment condition and maintenance is not questioned, the contractor is simply providing a label. Be aware that information on that label might create an unsafe condition for the employee. Another quick check is in 130.5(G). If the contractor did not address tasks conducted closer than the typical working distance, they are likely only providing a label. If they ask about the tasks to be performed on the specific equipment then provide the incident energy at the hand position, for example, they might be providing more than a label. Neither of these checks verify that a proper risk assessment has been performed but you are being provided with additional information necessary to conduct an assessment and develop safe work practices.

 

These quick checks may help determine if the contractor performed the work that they were hired to perform. Determining the maximum voltage or incident energy is identification of electrical hazards. Risk assessments are much more involved and assessments for specific tasks are typically not conducted by a contract company. Providing labels or calculating incident energy at the hand position is not a confirmation that a contractor is qualified, or that a proper assessment was performed. There are many other things you must verify when hiring a contractor to conduct such work. Make sure that you do your homework before hiring someone to be responsible for your employee’s safety.

 

For more information on 70E, read my entire 70E blog series on Xchange.

 

Next time: The 2021 edition of NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace.

 

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

NFPA is pleased to announce the start of a new weekly NEC Facebook “LIVE” event (#NECLive).

 

Be sure to like our page and join us on Fridays at 3:30 pm (EST) where NFPA staff members and industry experts discuss the NEC and relevant electrical topics. If you don’t already follow our NEC Facebook page, you can find us here.  electrical

 

The Facebook LIVE events are a great opportunity for individuals who work in the electrical industry to gain valuable insight, offer input, and connect with peers on a local, state, and even global level on issues that matter most to them on the job. Recent topics have included electric shock drowning (ESD) and the NEC public input process. 

 

If you can’t join us during the live event, our videos are recorded and available for viewing on our page.

 

Next up: tune in Friday, July 10 at 3.30 pm (EST) as we discuss this week’s topic - The Electrical Safety Cycle: NFPA 70, NFPA 70E, and NFPA 70B. Got an idea for a topic for an upcoming Live event? Let us know! Leave a comment below or tell us on the NEC Facebook page.

 

For additional information about the NEC and related codes and standards, visit our electrical solutions webpage on the NFPA website.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has developed a new infographic highlighting five key considerations for Remote Video Inspection (RVI) programs. The new graphic underscores the need for defining procedure, communication, technology, verification and completion steps as code officials, enforcers, and building professionals re-open occupancies and deal with even bigger inspection backlogs than usual.

 

Even during normal times, AHJs (authorities having jurisdiction) tend to have heavy inspection workloads, but with so many buildings shut down in recent months due to COVID-19, that burden is expected to significantly increase. RVI offers an effective and efficient alternative for building inspections. Using technology to remotely perform an inspection of a building or building component is increasingly being seen as a viable, efficient, and effective alternative to onsite inspections.

 

Just like traditional in-person inspections, an RVI typically occurs as part of a jurisdiction’s permitting process, project, or contract schedule, and needs to be approved by the AHJ for that area. Video inspections help accomplish critical and emergency permit work; they are not intended to be less complete than an on-site inspection. RVI is currently in use in select jurisdictions across the United States, although no formal standard currently governs its use. NFPA 915, Standard on Remote Inspections is in the early development stages.

 

The RVI infographic is designed to be shared via text, social media and websites and drive stakeholders to more robust information and knowledge on the NFPA RVI landing page at www.nfpa.org/remoteinspections. A new NFPA podcast and NFPA Journal story will look at RVI in the coming weeks; those links will also be added to the dedicated RVI microsite.

UPDATE: With July 4 weekend just days away and Canada Day celebrations happening today (July 1), we want to remind everyone about the dangers of consumer fireworks. The blog post below highlights the damage incurred by fireworks each year, while our fireworks page offers several resources, including sharable social media content and access to our full fireworks report, which provides NFPA's latest statistics on fireworks fires and injuries.

 

Since public displays aren’t an option this year, use your creativity to safely celebrate the holiday! As the video below reminds all of us, we’ve all been working hard to stay safe - let’s keep washing our hand, not risk losing them.

 

 

Each year at this time, NFPA encourages the public to attend fireworks displays put on by trained professionals, rather than resort to homemade celebrations. With many upcoming community events cancelled due to COVID-19, NFPA has released a timely new video emphasizing the dangers of consumer fireworks and reminding the public about the unnecessary burden that fireworks accidents put on the very same front line workers who have been enormously taxed in recent months.

 

Plain and simple, consumer fireworks are dangerous. Even sparklers, which may seem child-safe, burn as hot as 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit and can cause third-degree burns. NFPA research shows that fireworks started an estimated 19,500 fires, five deaths, 46 civilian injuries, and $105 million in direct property damage in 2018. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reinforces this picture with data that shows hospital emergency rooms across the country treated an estimated 9,100 non-occupational fireworks related injuries in the month around July 4 alone. Half those injuries were to extremities, particularly the hand or finger, or leg with more than one-third (36 percent) of the injuries sustained by children ages 10-14. 

 

We all play a role in safety. Share this new video via social media and other channels to remind people about the well-documented dangers of consumer fireworks. Our first responders and healthcare professionals have been working tirelessly throughout this pandemic. They deserve our gratitude and support for their efforts, and our commitment to collectively minimizing avoidable emergency calls that require response and care. As the video states, we've all been doing good during unprecedented times to reduce further impact on our healthcare systems and response resources, let's not mess it up now.

In the past several months COVID-19 has impacted the globe with significant health, safety and economic challenges. Unfortunately, these challenges have, at times, disproportionately impacted those within the disability community.

 

According to the CDC, there are an estimated 61 million Americans who identify as being a person with a disability. This vibrant community is made up of individuals across all walks of life, covering every demographic and socioeconomic status. Yet, despite these numbers, and legal protections in place (more on that below), the impact COVID-19 has had on this vulnerable population is profound. News articles and blog posts tell individual stories that chronicle the loss of essential services, difficulty in accessing buildings, lack of planning and communication, and in some cases, marginalization.

 

Given this, how can building owners, facility managers, and others ensure that people with disabilities are respected, included in the planning process, and provided the required and appropriate safeguards? Please see below for five practical areas for consideration that may help navigate these challenges.

 

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Other Codes
It is important to remember that people with disabilities are afforded rights and protections under federal law. Since its landmark adoption in 1991, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has provided both the legal framework and design standards criteria to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities in everyday activities. Many states, as well as local jurisdictions, may also have requirements that mirror or exceed the ADA, so you will want to ensure compliance with those as warranted. Because the ADA is federal law it generally cannot be waived or reduced by local officials. Finally, unless directed by the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ), the provisions of adopted building, fire and life safety codes remain in force, even during COVID-19. Please consult your AHJ for specific requirements.

 

Emergency Action Plans (EAP)
These plans have many names but all provide a basic framework for building occupants to know what to do in the event of specific emergencies. These plans should include and address considerations for people with disabilities. Building owners and facility managers should ask the following questions: Is your EAP up to date? Is contact information for staff and vendors current? Have egress routes or other important building systems changed over the past few months? When was the last fire drill or emergency evacuation drill? Should your EAP need a refresh please see NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, section 4.8 for specific requirements. Another great resource is the Emergency Evacuation Planning Guide for People with Disabilities, published by the NFPA Disability Access Review and Advisory Committee (DARAC). This guide can be a useful tool to help bring essential needs and considerations to light.

 

Building Entries
Many buildings have adjusted their entries and lobbies to now require such features as staggered entry, mask deployments and temperature checks. How have these important and pragmatic changes taken people with disabilities into account? The following questions should be considered: Are entries free and clear of obstruction? Is the entry accessible for those using wheelchairs or other mobility devices? Can reasonable accommodations be made to assist people with disabilities? Have staff been trained to provide information and assistance where needed? Finally, are there opportunities to promote inclusiveness? One interesting article shows how the wearing of opaque masks has become a communication barrier for people who must read lips. When employees assisting these customers wore transparent face masks these barriers were instantly removed.

 

Maintaining Egress
A bedrock principle of life safety is maintaining free and unobstructed egress at all times, and COVID-19 is no exception. As my colleague Greg Harrington wrote in a blog post geared toward business occupancies, “there is no justifiable reason for locking egress doors or otherwise compromising means of egress…”. So I will ask the question: are your means of egress available for use by all occupants, including people with disabilities? Are egress doors, corridors, exits and stairwells free and clear of obstruction? Has signage been provided in accessible formats to relay important information related to the building’s COVID-19 changes and updates? Are accessible means of egress available and ready for use if needed? A simple building tour may help to reveal and remedy many of these issues.

 

Temporary Structures (Tents)
The use of temporary structures, and especially tents, have been prevalent in many occupancies during the pandemic. Whether found in a health care setting (for patient screening), a mercantile occupancy (outdoor markets or retail) or a mercantile/assembly arrangement (outdoor dining), these structures present life safety challenges. Additionally, even with the best of intentions, they could introduce unintended consequences for staff and visitors alike. As my colleague Shawn Mahoney wrote, these structures have precautions that must be taken to ensure that fire and life safety is observed. Some questions to consider when planning for people with disabilities in these structures are: Are exits accessible? Are there any elevations that might pose a challenge to people with disabilities? Is the public way free and clear of obstruction for those who may utilize a sidewalk? Have staff been trained on what to do in the event of an emergency? Answering these questions will ensure that people with disabilities can navigate these structures safely, and importantly for business owners, to return for potential repeat business. For example, if there are minimal and reduced width entries/exits, tables arranged to not provide an adequate turning radius, and only high tables present, how could a person that utilizes a wheelchair, or other mobility device, frequent this establishment?

 

In closing, I believe that one thing that the Novel Coronavirus has reinforced is the need for inclusion and care for those around us. We are all in this together. As you walk around the buildings where you work, live or visit please remember to keep these questions at the forefront. This will allow buildings to truly be accessible for all, even during these unprecedented times.

 

Stay healthy, stay inclusive, and stay safe!

 

For the most up to date information from the NFPA regarding fire and life safety in the midst of COVID-19, be sure to check out https://www.nfpa.org/coronavirus.

A skilled worker who overlooks safety is not a skilled worker.        

                                                                   

In Farmington, Maine, last September, employees at the offices of a local non-profit thought they smelled gas. Having discovered that the recently filled 500-gallon propane tank was empty, the building’s facility manager evacuated the building and called the fire department. Less than 15 minutes later, there was a massive explosion.

 

Investigations found two serious lapses at the center of the accidents. Days earlier, workers driving metal posts into the ground next to the building failed in their due diligence to make sure they would avoid underground fuel lines. Three days after that work on the building’s parking lot, a technician came to fill the office’s empty propane tank and failed to do a code-required “leak test” to verify the propane had been used, not lost through a hole in the tank or piping.

 

Had the workers called the state’s Dig Safe program, as required under the law, they could have avoided puncturing the propane tank’s fuel line. Had the technician performed the leak test, as required by code after a tank has sat empty, the leak could have been discovered before the explosion blasted through the office building, claiming the life of the fire captain on the scene and seriously injuring seven others.

 

A lack of skill may masquerade as simple oversights or carelessness on the job. However, the most fundamental skills for any job is fully appreciating the safety implications of ignoring policies and procedures intended to prevent catastrophes. 

Skilled workers know the code and follow the rules. Laws that require licensures, as the state of Maine requires for propane technicians, and laws that require excavators to call the state Dig Safe program before digging are critical. Just as critical is the need and a shared responsibility to impart through training, and re-training, and continued professional development, the deadly consequences of failing to appreciate that safety is the core skill needed for the job.

 

Learn more about this and similar stories in our 2019 Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem: Year in Review report, now available to download for free on NFPA's Ecosystem webpage. Interested in knowing more about the Ecosystem framework and how you can get involved? Check out our free resources including:

  • A link to the “Ecosystem Watch” page in NFPA Journal
  • An animated video, “About the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem”
  • A Fire & Life Safety PowerPoint deck for presentations
  • A Fire & Life Safety fact sheet

 

Find all of these resources and more by visiting the Ecosystem webpage at www.nfpa.org/ecosystem.

 

NFPA has a new international development director advancing government responsibility, fire and life safety infrastructure, code compliance, emergency response strategies, public education, and trade skills development in approximately 20 Latin American countries. Beginning July 1, Jaime Gutiérrez will assess local safety concerns, cultivate strong alliances, implement new strategies with existing and new stakeholders, introduce safety programs in Spanish, and represent NFPA in regulatory, legislative and technical circles.

 

The Mexico City resident will build on the solid foundation built by well-known NFPA representative Antonio Macias who retired after 20 years of representing NFPA in the region.

 

NFPA has had a strong presence in Latin America for more than 40 years and continues to extend its reach as a global fire and life safety leader. Given his more than two decades of working in national planning, real estate administration, and resource management for private businesses and the government, Gutiérrez is well-suited to further NFPA’s mission of eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards in Latin American countries.

 

Gutiérrez has organized global goodwill programs; supervised fire safety policies; managed hundreds of government properties in different countries; lead construction strategy, including security and protection programs, for nearly 30 hospitals and health clinics (as well as the administration of a hospital network of more than 1347 properties); interacted with a wide range of constituents for the Attorney General’s office; advised the CEO of Bancomext on the internationalization of Mexican companies; and oversaw construction cost management for the World Trade Center Mexico City Exhibition Center, as well as the remodeling of the Marriott Airport and Marriott Polanco hotels. His last position in government was as Prospera's National Coordinator, one of the most successful and globally recognized programs in the fight against poverty, where he managed and implemented civil protection measures for beneficiaries.


“Jaime Gutiérrez has the skill set, qualifications and demeanor to collaborate with a broad range of professionals and navigate the ever-changing political, social and business conditions of Latin America,” said Jim Pauley, NFPA president and CEO. “NFPA has worked hard to solidify safety in Latin America through proactive, collaborative safety-focused outreach, initiatives and training. Jaime will build on that history and drive home the point that safety is a system that we all play a role in - as outlined by the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem.”

 

The NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem is a framework that identifies the components that must work together to minimize risk. There are eight interdependent components; when they work together, the Ecosystem protects everyone. If any component is missing or broken, the Ecosystem can collapse, often resulting in tragedy. Almost always we can trace the cause of injurious life safety incidents and tragedies back to the breakdown of one or more components of the Ecosystem.

 

Gutiérrez holds a bachelor’s degree in management from Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico (ITAM), a bachelor’s degree in political science from Political and Social Sciences of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and a master’s degree in public management from Guanajuato University.

 

This blog is also available in Spanish.

NFPA announced its new Officers and the election of Dr. Denis Onieal to its Board of Directors.

 

Amy Acton, a burn survivor and former burn nurse and nurse manager, has been named Chair of the NFPA Board. For only the second time in the nearly 125-year history of NFPA, the Board will be led by a female. Acton serves as the Executive Director of Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, working to refine Phoenix Society’s mission and business outreach strategy to ensure that more people are aware of burn causes, injuries, rehabilitation, and recovery. She is joined by John Bonney, the first Board member from outside North America serving serving in an officer role on the NFPA Board of Directors.Bonney, owner of Alendi Consulting Ltd. and Alchemy Management Solutions, Ltd. which help organizations identify, quantify, and map risk and then employ strategies to reduce that risk, is the new Board secretary. He is a former national president of the Chief Fire Officer’s Association in the United Kingdom and was chief fire officer in Hampshire County, England for ten years. Rounding out the rest of the NFPA Board leadership team are Russell Leavitt as 1st vice chair, R. David Paulison as 2nd vice chair, Donny Cook as assistant secretary, Roger Montembeault for a second term as treasurer, Kwame Cooper as assistant treasurer, and Keith Williams as immediate past chair.

 

Onieal, the newest member of the NFPA Board, recently retired from his role as deputy fire administrator for the United States Fire Administration (USFA), where he oversaw more than 400 career and contract employees, as well as a 110-acre campus with 26 historic buildings. Onieal was responsible for the United States National Fire Academy (NFA) which trains 100,000+ mid- to senior-level firefighters and officers in all aspects of executive leadership. He was also a senior member of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) governing council.

 

During his tenure, Onieal championed fire-related research on causes of fire as well as on lithium batteries, protective clothing for firefighters, emergency vehicle conspicuity, firefighting strategy and tactics. He was also responsible for the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) – the largest incident-based, all-hazards database in the world that involves 24,000+ fire departments across the nation and captures 27 million incidents per year. A gifted collaborator, Onieal worked with senior federal officials within The Department Homeland Security (DHS), Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, Defense, Treasury Defense and Interior – as well as with executives at the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Centers for Disease Control.

 

Prior to USFA, Onieal served as the Superintendent of NFA for nearly 20 years overseeing on-campus resident programming, off-campus training and on-line education that attracted more women and people of color than ever before as both students and faculty. Onieal helped improve the rigor of academic programs; today both bachelor’s and master’s degree programs are regarded as national models for professional development in fire and emergency services. During vacancies between presidential appointments and periods of crisis, he also advised the FEMA Administrator and the Secretary of DHS on fire-related/disaster issues.

 

Prior to his federal roles, Onieal was a member of the Jersey City Fire Department in New Jersey for almost 25 years – ultimately rising to the level of chief of the department.

 

Onieal has been the recipient of the International Association of Fire Chiefs President's Award for Outstanding Leadership, the Congressional Fire Services Institute Mason Lankford Fire Service Leadership Award, the New Jersey Professional Firefighters Association Humanitarian Award, Firehouse Magazine Lifetime Achievement Award, and was recognized as a New York University Visiting Scholar.

 

He joins NFPA Board of Director members Brion Callori, Martha Connors, Teresa Deloach Reed, Reginal Freeman, William Fries, Hatem Kheir, Patrick Morrison, Lou Paulson, Michael Wallace, and Stacy Welch who are continuing terms.

The second episode of The NFPA Podcast is now out. The one-hour episode features interviews with NFPA's Brian O'Connor, Matt Paiss of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and hazardous materials expert Scott Stookey, who all discuss the science, hazards, and fire prevention and response pertaining to lithium ion batteries and fires involving those devices.

 

"We're living in an increasingly battery-operated world, from scooters scattered along city blocks to sports cars and buses to energy storage systems capable of powering entire buildings," I say to kick off the episode, before rattling off a telling statistic: the worldwide battery market is expected to grow by 12 percent over the next five years. With that growth has come safety concerns, though, and the episode highlights some of those concerns. It also sheds light on some of the ways batteries and energy storage systems are becoming safer—namely, through the use of resources such as NFPA 855, Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems.

 

Listen to episode 2 as well as the first episode, which came out on June 9, at nfpa.org/podcasts.

With the arrival of summer and the July 4th holiday weekend just around the corner, people across the country are eager to take advantage of the easing of stay-at-home orders. As many states begin allowing for more outside activities, it’s important to recognize potential electrical hazards that exist in swimming pools and hot tub, onboard boats, and in waters surrounding boats, marinas, and launch ramps.

 

While most people are unaware of electrical dangers posed in water environments such as electric shock drowning (ESD), each year people are injured or killed from these hazards. Electric shock drowning happens when marina or onboard electrical systems leak electric current into the water. The current then passes through the body and causes paralysis. When this happens, a person can no longer swim and ultimately drowns. 

 

In the current pandemic situation, with limited staff at marinas and people obeying social distancing protocols, the onus is on individuals to keep themselves, their loved ones, and the people who might have to rescue them out of harm’s way.

 

Check out NFPA's video below on water safety that informs the public of the dangers of electricity surrounding marinas, docks, and boatyards. 

 

 

 Here are some tips for pool and boat owners, as well as swimmers:

 

Tips for swimmers

  • Never swim near a marina, dock or boatyard.
  • While in a pool, hot tub or spa, look out for underwater lights that are not working properly, flicker, or work intermittently.
  • If you feel a tingling sensation while in a pool, immediately stop swimming in your current direction. Try and swim in a direction where you had not felt the tingling. Exit the water as quickly as possible; avoid using metal ladders or rails. Touching metal may increase the risk of shock.

 

            Tips for pool owners

  • Have a qualified electrician periodically inspect and — where necessary — replace or upgrade the electrical devices or equipment that keep your pool or hot tub electrically safe. Have the electrician show you how to turn off all power in case of an emergency.
  • Make sure any overhead lines maintain the proper distance over a pool and other structures, such as a diving board. If you have any doubts, contact a qualified electrician or your local utility company to make sure power lines are a safe distance away.

 

Tips for boat owners

  • When heading out for a day on the water, follow all existing navigation and safety rules. Practice good seamanship and avoid becoming a boater in distress. With the current pandemic, there may be fewer staff at the marina and fewer rescue personnel available to come to your aid. 
  • Contact your local marina or boatyard in advance to learn about any local requirements in response to the pandemic that must be followed - especially if you are a transient customer.
  • Avoid entering the water when launching or loading a boat. These areas can contain stray electrical currents in the water, possibly leading to electric shock drowning or injury from shock, including death.
  • Each year, and after any major storm that affects the boat, have the boat’s electrical system inspected by a qualified marine electrician to be sure it meets the required codes of your area, including the American Boat & Yacht Council. Make the necessary repairs if recommended.
  • Check with the marina owner who can also tell you if the marina’s electrical system has recently been inspected to meet the required codes of your area, including the National Electrical Code (NEC).
  • Have ground fault circuit protection (GFCI and GFPE) installed on circuits supplying the boat; use only portable GFCIs or shore power cords (including “Y” adapters) that bear the proper listing mark for marine applications when using electricity near water. Test GFCIs monthly.


For industry professionals, the 2020 edition of the NEC has been revised to improve marina and boatyard safety and help reduce the risk of ESD. Some specific revisions to Article 555 include the addition of floating building requirements, modified signage requirement, and the reduction of power distribution system maximum voltage.

 

NFPA has additional codes and standards that apply to boatyards, marinas and floating buildings as well as swimming pools, hot tubs, and fountains, and their related electrical safety issues. Find these resources and more by visiting NFPA’s electric shock drowning webpage.

 

NFPA has resources for swimmers, boat and pool owners, including tip sheets, checklists, and more that can be downloaded and shared. Please visit www.nfpa.org/watersafety.

It is that time of year once again, summer! That means for many of us we will find any excuse to make our way to the waterfront. Whether we own a boat, have a friend that owns a boat, or like me, we stand on the other side of the fence and dream of having a boat, there is no question that getting out on the water has a certain appeal to many of us.

 

But with all the countless hours of joy that being on the water can bring, there is an inherent danger that many of us might not be aware of. Or if we are aware, we might not fully understand or appreciate the amount of work that has gone into keeping us all safe from electrical hazards that may be lurking in the water around our boats. Especially when it comes to marina installations. Electric shock drowning, or ESD, has been an unfortunate headline that has reoccurred time and time again in recent summer history. While this is not only something that happens around marinas and docks, these types of installations tend to get the most attention when it comes to ESD because of the amount of electrical infrastructure that gets installed near the water. 

 

The reason the National Electrical Code (NEC) even exists is to protect people and property from the hazards that electricity presents when we use it to power our world. However, the system needs to work, too. This is a kind of push and pull relationship that exists when we start using electricity near bodies of water. Obviously, the safest situation a marina could have is to just not have electricity near the water. However, today’s boats and the way we use them continues to evolve, and a marina with no power might mean a marina with no boats either. So, Code Making Panel 7 of the NEC has the duty of listening to all sides of this conversation to figure out how best to serve the power needs of marina customers while also protecting these same customers and marina staff from what this demand for power could mean if they end up in the water. One member of CMP 7, Cliff Norton, took the time to sit down with NFPA and discuss the work that went into revising the NEC to best serve the marina industry while keeping people safe.Check out his short interview below:

 


 

As long as people continue to flock to the water for recreation and work, we will continue to need the efforts of people like Cliff and the rest of CMP 7 to keep working to find that critical balance of functionality and safety. After all, safety is the number one reason the NEC exists and it must continue to be the first thing we think about when installing electrical systems. No amount of convenience or creature comfort is worth bypassing safety towards ourselves or others. Remember, marinas existed long before we harnessed the power of the electron, they can exist without it.  

 

Learn more about the new requirements for marinas in the 2020 NEC by visiting NFPA's marina webpage. Additional information and resources about marina safety and electric shock drowning, including tip sheets, videos, and more can be found on the "electrical safety around water" webpage.

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