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Last month, the Smart City Expo World Congresswas held in Barcelona, Spain. The annual event, which showcases the technological innovations of so-called smart cities worldwide, drew over 21,000 visitors from more than 700 cities in 146 countries. 
The growth of smart cities, which employ technologies to collect and analyze data on citizens and infrastructure, is something the fire service should not only be paying attention to but also actively involved in, according to a position paper endorsed by the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association at the 2018 Urban Fire Forum (UFF), held at NFPA headquarters early this fall. I wrote about the chiefs' decision in the recent NFPA Journal article, "Get Smart."
"The safety of the public is one of local government's highest responsibilities," the chiefs wrote in their paper. "Given the unique capabilities now available for harnessing and analyzing data, it is critical that the fire chief be directly and intimately involved in decisions related to the collection, analysis, and dissemination of data used for planning, decision-making, operations, and evaluation of the programs for which he or she is responsible."
Read all of the papers endorsed by the Metro Chiefs at this year's UFF online
The NFPA Standards Council is in receipt of a New Project Initiation Request for the development of an ANSI Accredited Standard to establish requirements for fuel gases detection. Specifically, it is anticipated and requested that a standard be established for the selection, installation, operation, and maintenance of fuel gases warning equipment. If standards development is approved by the Standards Council, the standard may additionally address related topics as the Standard Council directs.
To assist the Standards Council in evaluating the proposal for new standards, NFPA is currently  soliciting comments to gauge whether support exists for fuel gases detection standards development. NFPA specifically seeks input on the following:
  • Are you, or your organization, in favor of the development of a new standard establishing standards for fuel gases detection, including criteria for the selection, installation, operation, and maintenance of fuel gases warning equipment?
  • Although the submitted request focused on residential applications, the use of fuel gases is not limited to those occupancies. Should the standard/project, if pursued, extend to other occupancies or be limited to residential properties?
  • Please state your reason(s) for supporting or opposing the proposed fuel gases detection standards development.
Please submit comments in support or opposition to standards development on fuel gases detection by February 1, 2019.
Additionally, NFPA would like to know if you or your organization is interested in applying for membership on the Technical Committee if standards development is approved by the Standards Council. If you are interested in  participating in standards development as a technical committee member,  please submit an application in addition to your comments. Applications may be submitted online at: Submit online application*.

 

Eight years ago, in our January/February 2011 issue of NFPA Journal, we ran a feature story titled "Unthinkable," about the 2008 wildfire evacuation of Feather River Hospital in Paradise, California, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

 

That’s the same Paradise, California, that was obliterated earlier this month by the Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the state’s history. As of November 28, the death toll stood at 88, with more than 150 people still unaccounted for. More than 14,000 homes were destroyed, along with nearly 5,000 other buildings. Feather River Hospital was evacuated and sustained significant damage.

 

The Camp Fire was the nightmare scenario that Paradise and surrounding communities had managed to dodge for decades, including the fires in the summer of 2008 that prompted widespread evacuations and resulted in some property damage—though fire, for the most part, did not reach into the most densely settled residential areas. The streets may have been mostly deserted, but homes, schools, and businesses remained standing as surrounding fires turned the sky orange with smoke.

 

Melissa Barnard, an emergency room nurse and director of the Emergency Department at Feather River Hospital, wrote a gripping first-person account for NFPA Journal of her experiences during those days, including the evacuation of the hospital—the first time in its 58-year history that it had had to do so. “About a dozen hospital staffers—maintenance, lab workers, kitchen staff, and several of us manning the command center—remained in the building, along with scores of firefighters who were using the hospital as a base,” Barnard wrote of the hours following the evacuation. “We notified other hospitals and the county and state health departments that we were closed. My throat was sore from lack of sleep and the ever-present smoke. The guys from maintenance covered the hospital’s large sign with white plastic, and a smaller sign taped atop it read simply, ‘CLOSED.’ It was hard to comprehend that what we’d always considered unthinkable had just happened … The hallways were filled with smoke, and most of the lights were turned off. I went to the emergency department to sleep on a gurney, without much success.”

 

I haven’t been able to reach Barnard directly to find out whether she and her family are ok, and if their home is still standing, but another hospital staffer I spoke to this week assured me that she and her family are safe. What I know about the evacuation of the hospital is that it happened very fast as the Camp Fire bore down on them with remarkable speed. I also know that some of the earliest news reports of the fire included harrowing stories of hospital patients and staff narrowly avoiding death as they attempted to outrun or seek shelter from the flames and embers. Like the Tubbs Fire that overran Sonoma a year ago, the speed and ferocity of the Camp Fire presented residents of Butte County with a phenomenon few were prepared to face, despite all of the planning, preparation, and dress rehearsals like the fires that occurred a decade ago.

 

As we continue to work on updating the situation from Paradise and elsewhere in California, please give our story from 2011 a look—Barnard’s account offers a strangely prescient look at a hospital and a town on the brink, poised between life before the Camp Fire and life after.

On November 28, 1942, a fire broke out in Boston's popular Cocoanut Grove Nightclub. 492 lives were lost due to the events that night. 200 people died within feet of the jammed revolving doors.

 

From Volunteer Firemenv. 10, no. 1 (January 1943): 
"The radios and newspapers reported the facts apparently responsible for the loss of life: (1) inadequate and locked exits, (2) quick burning decorations...The tragedy started when fire broke out in the basement in a cocktail lounge. The blaze is said to have been first noticed in an imitation palm tree after a bus boy struck a match for a light while replacing an electric bulb near the ceiling. However, other testimony leads to the question whether defective wiring may have had something to do with the start of the fire, or whether there may have been some other unexplained factor."
For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Research Library & Archives.
The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic.
Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public.
It has been over a year since I summarized the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) fatal electric injury statistics. You can read my blog about it here. To refresh your memory there currently is an annual average of 192 fatal electrical injuries (U.S.A.). This accounts for about 12% of the fatalities in the occupations generally covered by NFPA electrical standards. An American employee is killed by electricity every day and half of work. Luckily, many more of you make it home than do not. However, that does not mean that you returned home unscathed. You made it home but where you uninjured? Here are some non-fatal injury statistics between 2012 and 2016. You can read the summarized NFPA report online.
About 9,760 (2012-2016) of you in the U.S. were injured through direct and indirect exposure to electricity. “Direct exposure to electricity” is contact with a power source, such as touching a live electrical wire. “Indirect exposure to electricity” refers to injuries resulting from contact with material that is unintentionally conducting electricity. This is an average of 1,952 injuries per year which due to a downward trend is lower than the decade average of 2,155 per year (2007-2016). Although you escaped being a fatality, nearly eight of you are injured every work day. This does not mean you returned to work the next day. Nearly one half of your injuries resulted in 6 or more days away from work. Putting it another way, your reported electrical injuries resulted in considerable lost work time (41% of injuries required more than two weeks away from work).
Electrical injuries are experienced by all occupations including those not necessarily associated with exposure to electrical hazards While employees in installation, maintenance, repair, and construction occupations account for the largest number of injuries, a substantial number of injuries involve other occupations, including service, production, transportation and material moving, and sales and related occupations. Electrical parts and materials accounted for 59% of the injuries. Furniture or fixtures (5%), and hand tools (5%) are on the other end of the specified injury source list. 26% (2,540) of exposure injuries involved a voltage of 220 volts or less and 14% (1,400 injuries) involved a voltage of greater than 220 volts. Voltage was unspecified in the remainder of the injuries. An interesting statistic is that 16% of the injured were female whereas that group suffered 1% of the fatal electrical injuries. 
A much higher share of injuries from direct exposure to electricity resulted from contact with parts and materials (67%) than for indirect exposure (41%). This is the primary statistic that NFPA 70E strives to reduce. In the workplace, direct contact to exposed, energized parts is specifically addressed in NFPA 70E. First, it must be justified for you to cross the restricted approach boundary while the circuit is energized rather than in an electrically safe work condition. Second, if you do cross the boundary you must be properly insulated from the energized part by PPE. This requirement, if followed, would have prevented many of your direct contact injuries. Properly maintained equipment under normal operating conditions, as required for general electrical safety, may have had addressed many of your indirect exposure injuries.
Shock and electrocution have been a known electrical hazard since the beginning. Insulation as protection from electrical shock has existed since the start. It is troubling that 120 years later these injuries are still occurring. Yes, some of these injuries were completely unexpected. However, an injury should not be seen as unexpected when you are knowingly exposed to electrical hazards. It is very probable that many of you were injured because you were not provided proper training or an inexpensive, properly insulted tool when performing properly justified energized tasks.
These injuries are only those that are reported. Shocks and near-death experiences are very often not reported. Unreported injuries would be a magnitude or two higher than these reported injuries. Electrical injuries can be reduced through the use of proper safety procedures, training, personal protective equipment, and other methods. It’s important for you to receive appropriate training for the tasks assigned to you. You may have returned home today but were you injured or have a near-death experience?
For more information on 70E, read my entire 70E blog series on Xchange
Next time: Are you a host employer or a contract employer.
Please Note: Any comments, suggested text changes, or technical issues related to NFPA Standards posted or raised in this communication are not submissions to the NFPA standards development process and therefore will not be considered by the technical committee(s) responsible for NFPA Standards development. To learn how to participate in the NFPA standards development process and submit proposed text for consideration by the responsible technical committee(s), please go to www.nfpa.org/submitpi for instructions.

 

Which type of electrical training is better—classroom or online?

 

That’s the question that kicks of the lead article of “In Compliance” in the November/December issue of NFPA Journal.

 

The item, written by Derek Vigstol, a technical lead for NFPA’s Electrical Tech Services, takes a broad look at the training landscape in the electrical industry and zeros in on the benefits of self-paced online training programs.

 

“Today’s technology is changing the game,” Vigstol writes. “Augmented reality, virtual reality, remote classrooms, YouTube, and Google have changed the way people consume information and learn. These advancements are enhancing the time-tested instructor-led method of teaching technical topics. Students [can] attempt tasks in a virtual world or allow information to be delivered at the point where they need it, while they need it. Students can practice complex tasks without being exposed to real hazards or risking damage to expensive equipment.”

 

Regardless of what manner of training is used, Vigstol adds, employers still bear the responsibility of verifying the knowledge of their employees. “Workers must possess the knowledge they need to safely perform the task at hand,” Vigstol writes, adding that “how they acquire this knowledge is less important than having it and being able to apply it.”

 

The November/December “In Compliance” section also includes articles on NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code; NFPA 13, Installation of Sprinkler Systems; and NFPA 101, Life Safety Code.

 

 

 

 

November 23rd, 1938 was a Thanksgiving Day to remember in Southern California. A series of wildfires in the hills and mountains surrounding Los Angeles caused an estimated $3,250,000 worth of damage. The various fires were battled by city, county state and federal forest agencies. 

Above: A wildfire sweeping down Las Tunas Canyon and threatening valuable estates near Santa Monica. The fire shown here is typical of those which swept through Southern California that Thanksgiving.
For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Research Library & Archives.
The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic.
Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public.
NFPA 70, National Electrical Code, has been the cornerstone of the electrical industry for over 120 years. While the NEC Correlating Committee recognizes that the code has to be reactive to trends in the industry, it also recognizes that, working together with electrical professionals, it can be proactive as well. The goal of the code is safe and sound growth of emerging areas. 
During the 2018 NFPA Conference & Expo in Las Vegas last June, five NEC committee members came together to tackle this important issue during their panel presentation, The Critical Role of the NEC® Back to the Future.
They focused on the advantages of applying the current edition, pointing to some of the new areas under consideration for the 2020 edition and beyond, and discussed the significant challenges created for owners, designers, installers, and enforcement where the latest edition is not adopted in a timely manner.
I had the pleasure to continue the discussion with the panel members after the presentation. The video above presents some of the highlights from that conversation. 
Did you know that NFPA Conference & Expo attendees and NFPA members get full access to ALL the 2018 NFPA Conference & Expo education session audio & video files? Browse the full list of education sessions here. If you're not currently an NFPA member, join today!

Americans are working hard this week at home and at restaurants to prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday. According to the National Restaurant Association, almost one in 10 (9 percent) of adults plan to eat their Thanksgiving meal at a restaurant. And, in addition, 4 percent of those planning a holiday meal at home intend to purchase it from a restaurant. On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and notoriously one of the biggest shopping days of the year, research by the National Restaurant Association indicates that 72 percent of the 43 percent of adults that head out shopping that day intend to visit either a full- or quick-service restaurant while they are out. That’s a lot of commercial cooking equipment being put to use just this week alone!

 

NFPA 1, Chapter 50, addresses the design, installation, operation, inspection, and maintenance of all public and private commercial cooking equipment and, new to 2018, mobile and temporary cooking operations. Compliance with Chapter 50 and NFPA 96, Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations, is required for this equipment and operations. 

 

This week, I caught up with the Staff Liaison for NFPA 96 and Fire Protection Engineer at NFPA, Jacqueline Wilmot, to learn more about the latest requirements from the 2017 edition of NFPA 96, referenced by NFPA 1. Here are Jacqueline’s responses:

 

Can you tell us about the scope and purpose of NFPA 96?

Jacqueline: The requirements in NFPA 96 provide the minimum fire safety requirements, both preventative and operation, related to the design, installation, operation, inspection, and maintenance of all public and private cooking operations. Often people forget that NFPA 96 applies to residential cooking equipment if it is being used for commercial cooking operations. Although NFPA 96 doesn’t define “commercial cooking operations” some examples of residential equipment being used for commercial cooking include nursing homes or college dormitories that have cooking procedures that produce grease-laden vapors. 

 

The overall goal of NFPA 96 is to reduce the potential fire hazard of cooking operations, irrespective of the type of cooking equipment used and whether it is used in public or private facilities. Once users of NFPA 96 can identify the purpose of the document, it becomes more clear that the type of cooking appliance does not dictate if an exhaust system or extinguishment system is required, as both of these decisions depend on whether or not the cooking process itself will produce grease-laden vapors.

 

Were there any major changes in NFPA 96, 2017 edition?

Jacqueline: The 2017 edition adds Normative Annex B on mobile and temporary cooking operations. The normative annex is written in mandatory language but is not intended to be enforced unless specifically adopted by a jurisdiction or is applied on a voluntary basis. This annex includes requirements not limited to clearance, hoods, ducts, terminations, fire extinguishing systems, carbon monoxide detectors, location, training, generators, LP-gas, as well as procedures for the use, inspection, testing, and maintenance of equipment.

 

Another big change to the 2017 edition was to require the frequency of how often training is to be provided for new employees and existing employees on the use of portable fire extinguishers and the manual actuation of the fire extinguishing system. The 2017 edition of NFPA 96 requires the management of the commercial cooking operation to provide instruction to new employees on hiring and to all employees annually. Industry experience revealed that many commercial cooking operations employees have not been instructed or have forgotten their training, resulting in inappropriate response to a fire. Providing instructions at regular intervals after initial instruction will reduce the likelihood of inappropriate response.

 

Are there any major changes planned for the 2021 edition?

Jacqueline: A majority of the discussion during the 2 day First Draft Technical Committee Meeting was on Chapter 10, Fire-Extinguishing Equipment and Normative Annex B, Mobile or Temporary Cooking Operations.  When it comes to Chapter 10, the Technical Committee would prefer to use language consistent with NFPA 17A, Standard for Wet Chemical Extinguishing Systems. Additional provisions to clarify the shutoff device requirements of manual resetting prior to fuel or power being restored were discussed and also the location of manual actuation devices were reviewed. The conversation about Normative Annex B was around the idea to move the language from the annex to the body of the standard.

 

What are some of the major issues that restaurant owners should be managing and AHJs enforcing to help make sure facilities stay safe through the holiday season?

Jacqueline: NFPA 96 puts a lot of weight on owners to carry through the provisions of the standard. The owner is responsible for cooking equipment, hoods, ducts, fans, fire-extinguishing equipment and special effluent or energy control equipment installed in their facility be maintained to ensure the entire system works properly and provides the appropriate level of protection. In addition, the owner is responsible for the inspection, testing, maintenance, and cleanliness of the ventilation control and fire protection of the commercial cooking operation, provided that this responsibility has not been transferred in written form to a management company, tenant, or other party.

 

How does an owner manage all of this? Here are some simple tips for owners and enforcers to share with facilities in their jurisdiction:

 

Clearance. Section 4.2 of NFPA 96 states where enclosures are not required, hoods, grease removal devices, exhaust fans, and ducts are required to have a minimum clearance of 18 inches to combustible material, 3 inches to limited-combustible material, and 0 inches to noncombustible material. These clearances apply in the ongoing operational life of the system, so move those boxes on top of a hood or directly against the side of it!

 

Train your employees on how to use the extinguishing equipment. All employees should know the location of these manual pull stations as well as how and when to operate them.

 

Inspect, Test and Maintain Your Equipment. Fire inspectors are responsible for verifying inspections, testing and maintenance procedures and frequencies have been met.  Although conducting inspections for grease buildup and fire extinguishing systems at specified intervals are typically contracted out (and always completed by person(s) acceptable to the AHJ), there are several items that can be inspected on a daily basis by restaurant employees through a training program in which you develop and have your manager enforce. Have employees routinely look out for normal wear and tear of equipment (i.e. broken seals, missing screws, exposed wires). All employees should start their routine with inspecting the equipment to ensure it was properly cleaned from the previous night (or shift), confirm that if the equipment requires a fire extinguishing system, the nozzles are clear and not clogged with grease. Many restaurants utilize heaters to keep the food hot after it’s been cooked; make sure employees know to check that are no flammable materials on top of or near the heaters. Before starting the fryer, employees should check to make sure the oil level isn’t too low because if the heating coil is exposed above or close to the oil surface, residue and oil can catch fire. These are all very simple, yet effective steps in the fire protection program of your facility that do not require hiring and outside contractor to perform the work.

 

Clean. Since 1 in every 5 of the fires had a failure to clean as a factor contributing to its ignition, cleaning seems like an easy and obvious solution to mitigate fire risks. Since 1 in every 5 of the fires cited in Evart’s report had a failure to clean as a factor contributing to its ignition, cleaning seems like an easy and obvious solution to mitigate fire risks.

 

Special thanks to Jacqueline for all of this great information that will help owners and enforcers make sure everyone working with commercial cooking equipment to prepare food for others and those enjoying a meal out can stay safe this holiday season!

 

Have you conducted fire inspections on facilities with commercial cooking equipment?  What issues have arose with enforcing NFPA 1 in these spaces?

 

Thank you for reading, stay safe, and Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Please visit www.nfpa.org/1 to view the free access version of NFPA 1 2018 edition and nfpa.org/doc## to view other standards referenced in this post.  Follow along on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA. Looking for an older #FireCodefridays blog? You can view past posts here.

 

Efficient design and installation of fire alarm, carbon monoxide, and emergency communications systems require a clear understanding of provisions and the "why" behind compliance. Now you can navigate the changing world of fire alarm and signaling systems with help from the experts.

Now in its ninth edition, the new National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code Handbook helps you answer questions, verify interpretations, and apply the 2019 edition of NFPA 72® correctly from the start. This edition includes:

  • explanation of technical changes from the 2016 to the 2019 editions of NFPA 72, including major changes on carbon monoxide detection incorporated from NFPA 720
  • authoritative commentary written by experts that gives you an insider perspective
  • system design tips that help architects and engineers avoid common errors in application that can result in costly delays or charge backs
  • code excerpts from other standards highlighted in the commentary that provide better discussion context without the need to locate other documents

 

Apply NFPA 72 correctly from the start; order your copy of the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code Handbook today.

The following proposed Tentative Interim Amendment (TIA) for the 2019 edition of NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code®, is being published for public review and comment:

 

 

Anyone may submit a comment on this proposed TIA by the January 2, 2019 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.

This week, shoppers will line up hours before the stores open, often in the middle of the night, to be the first in line for sales and bargains.  Crowds rush the store as the doors open.  "Black Friday", the gateway to the holiday shopping season, happens this week.  However, the fun and festivities of the holiday season don't come without risks, especially on this day. 

 

Back in 2008, a Wal-mart worker was killed on Black Friday after being trampled as the stampede of customers plowed through the store front doors.  Four additional people were injured from the rush of the crowd.  Since then, numerous injuries and even fatalities have been recorded as associated with activity from Black Friday.

 

 

NFPA 1, Fire Code, plays an important role in ensuring that facilities have in place the necessary measures to keep employees and shoppers safe, especially on the days with the heaviest crowds.  The hazards associated with Black Friday are plentiful.  First, egress can be obstructed by high demand merchandise and seasonal displays.  The number of occupants in the building could quickly exceed the available egress capacity.  Egress paths can become clogged with abandoned merchandise and shopping carts that shoppers leave behind.  Check-out areas may be blocked off or clogged such that they cannot be used for egress.  Exits, other than the main entrance/exit may be blocked or obstructed by merchandise, boxes and supplies.  Crowds gathered at the entrance door can block egress for those inside the building. 

 

The following provisions from the Code help businesses and enforcers address some of the hazards and risks associated with Black Friday and holiday shopping:

  • Means of egress shall be continuously maintained free of all obstructions or impediments to full instant use in the case of fire or other emergency.  This includes exit access, exits and exit discharge which may be outside of the building.
  • No furnishings, decorations, or other objects shall obstruct exits or their access thereto, egress therefrom, or visibility thereof.
  • Every door opening and every principal entrance that is required to serve as an exit shall be designed and  constructed so that the path of egress travel is obvious and direct.
  • Door leaves shall be arranged to be opened readily from the egress side whenever the building is occupied.
  • The total capacity of the means of egress shall be sufficient for the occupant load thereof.
  • Storage of combustible materials shall be orderly. (this includes ensuring that fire protection systems are not obstructed)
  • Means of egress shall be marked (including exits and paths to get to the exits.)

 

Large retail stores and malls are generally classified as mercantile occupancies, however, on days like Black Friday, have characteristics much like that of an assembly occupancy: large crowds entering and egressing, threats of crowd crush, crowds unfamiliar with their surroundings the building's fire protection and egress systems, etc.  Assembly occupancies require the presence of crowd managers to assist with orderly evacuation and to ensure that all occupants can leave the venue successfully in emergency and non-emergency events.  They are trained to understand safety and security hazards that can endanger the public assembly, understand crowd management techniques, understand methods of evacuation and movement, and more.  At least one trained crowd manager must be provided in all assembly occupancies.  Where the occupant load exceeds 250, additional trained crowd managers or supervisors shall be provided at a ratio of 1 crowd manger or supervisor for every 250 occupants.

 

While crowd managers are not formally required for mercantile occupancies, it may be prudent for businesses to employ a model such as this to help with crowd control on days like Black Friday.  This can only help to make sure that both their employees and occupants are kept safe upon entering and leaving the building.   Additionally, OSHA has published a resource, "Crowd Management Safety Guidelines for Retailers" and states that it "encourages employers to adopt effective safety and health management systems to identify and eliminate work-related hazards, including those caused by large crowds at retail sales events."  Crowd management planning is at the top of the recommendations provided by OSHA. 

 

If you partake in Black Friday shopping, have fun but stay safe!

 

Happy Thanksgiving!


Failure to adequately maintain fire suppression systems in health care facilities is consistently ranked as a most frequently cited deficiency by accreditation organizations. In fact, the Joint Commission indicates that this was cited as “not compliant” in over 80% of surveys of hospitals and critical access hospitals during the first half of 2018.
 
In my recent NFPA Live I provided an overview of the code requirements and compared those with the expectations of surveyors when they are in a facility. I received this follow-up question from a member. I hope you find some value in it.
 

 

NFPA Live is an interactive video series in which members of NFPA staff address some of the most frequent topics they receive through the Member's Only Technical Question service. If you are currently an NFPA Member you can view the entire video by following this link. If you're not currently a member, join today!


Associated Press

Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the Farmington, West Virginia, mine explosion, which killed 78 people. It was the deadliest fire or explosion in the United States in 1968, according to NFPA. 

 

The incident is featured in "Looking Back" in the November/December issue of NFPA Journal.

 

"Man, it was like somebody hit me in the face with a bucket full of dirt," one survivor recalled in a video on the incident produced by NIOSH in 2009. "You couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe. So I just pulled my shirt up over my face and sat down. You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face it was so dusty." The survivor, Gary Martin, was one of only 21 miners working that day who made it out alive. 

 

Although the cause of the mine explosion was never officially determined, it spurred a wave of legislation improving mine and miner safety throughout the United States. Read the full NFPA Journal article here.

Chatting with representatives from the college and university community last week reminded me of another topic I often get questions about and that is regarding the application of NFPA 1 to laboratories on college campuses.


First, laboratories must be assigned a proper occupancy classification. In NFPA 1 there is no separate occupancy classification for a lab, rather they fall under one of the occupancy classifications as defined in Chapter 6 (and Chapter 3). From NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, we are given some guidance on how to classify a laboratory as follows:

 

Educational facilities that do not meet the definition of an educational occupancy…shall comply with the following requirements:
(1) Instructional building — business occupancy
(2) Classrooms under 50 persons — business occupancy
(3) Classrooms, 50 persons and over — assembly occupancy
(4) Laboratories, instructional — business occupancy
(5) Laboratories, noninstructional — industrial occupancy

 

Colleges and universities may have multiple types of laboratories on campus, those used for instructional purposes, where classes are held for example, and those would be classified as a business occupancy. This classification is based upon the presence of more people, a more classroom-like arrangement of lab stations used for instruction and learning, and usually less quantities, if any, of hazardous materials or chemicals. Noninstructional labs are classified as industrial occupancies for their characteristics of having a relatively low occupant load, the likely presence of more laboratory equipment and/or sophisticated, industrial-type equipment and may also contain hazardous materials and chemicals. Instructional labs may go by a variety of names on college such as makerspaces, innovation space or research labs. Regardless of what they are referred to, the use of the laboratory should be carefully considered so that it can be assigned the correct occupancy and protected accordingly.


In addition to the occupancy-specific requirements, NFPA 1 also has a separate chapter for laboratories using chemicals. Chapter 26 requires the handling or storage of chemicals in laboratory buildings, laboratory units, and laboratory work areas whether located above or below grade to comply with the provisions in that chapter. The construction and protection of new laboratories shall also comply with NFPA 45, Standard on Fire Protection for Laboratories Using Chemicals. The purpose of this standard is to provide basic requirements for the protection of life and property through prevention and control of fires and explosions involving the use of chemicals in laboratory-scale operations. Its requirements are designed to control hazards and protect personnel from the toxic, corrosive, or other harmful effects of chemicals to which personnel might be exposed as a result of fire or explosion and to achieve a comprehensive laboratory fire prevention and protection program to prevent injury or death to occupants and emergency response personnel. Due to the special nature of laboratories using chemicals, NFPA 45 modifies and supplements existing codes and standards so as to apply more specifically to buildings or portions of buildings devoted to laboratory-scale operations.

 

New in the 2015 edition of NFPA 45, referenced by NFPA 1 2018, the scope was expanded to also apply to all educational laboratory units and instructional laboratory units where chemicals with health hazards, flammability hazards or instability hazards are being used (see NFPA 704 and NFPA 45 Section 1.1.2 for the specific application). Instructional laboratories are those under the direct supervision of an instructor that are used for the purposes of instruction for students beyond the twelfth grade, thus college instructional laboratories would require compliance with Chapter 26 (educational laboratories address those for use by below the twelfth grade and not applicable to a college/university setting.) Before Chapter 26 is applied it should be carefully reviewed for its application which is addressed in the 26.1 section of the Code.

 

Chapter 12 of NFPA 45 addresses those requirements specific to instructional laboratory operations. By reference to NFPA 45 through NFPA 1 Chapter 26, requirements for instructor responsibilities, chemical storage and handling, performance of experiments or demonstrations, fire rated construction and fire protection systems are applicable to instructional laboratories.

 

In addition to the reference to NFPA 45 for laboratories using chemicals, NFPA 1 requires fire prevention, maintenance and emergency plans to be established. Laboratory buildings, laboratory units, and laboratory work areas need to have clearly developed plans for fire prevention, maintenance, and emergency procedures. The guidance of the development of these plans and procedures can also be found in NFPA 45. Permits are required for construction, alteration or operation of laboratories per Section 26.3 and 1.12.

 

Do you work with colleges and universities with laboratories on campus? What issues have arose with enforcing the fire code in these spaces?

 

Thank you for reading, stay safe!

 

Please visit www.nfpa.org/1 to view the free access version of NFPA 1 2018 edition and nfpa.org/doc## to view other standards referenced in this post. Follow along on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA. Looking for an older #FireCodefridays blog? You can view past posts here.

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