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NFPA Today

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Scams of all kinds are occurring with greater frequency via email, phone and other platforms.

 

NFPA has been made aware of a company sending what looks like formal correspondence using both an “nfpa.org” email address and an “nfpa.org” web reference in the body of the letter, indicating that a “fire inspection” is required or has been performed. These messages threaten the recipient with civil violations and penalties for failing to respond.  It appears the communication is aimed at scaring recipients into scheduling and paying for fire inspections.
 
Please be advised that this communication is in no way related to NFPA. NFPA does not conduct fire inspections, issue inspection reports, levy fines, or perform activity related to code enforcement.  If you receive an email of this nature, we urge you to use caution in handling it, and to check with your local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) or fire code enforcement agency to confirm inspection requirements in your community.

 

At NFPA, our technical experts receive many questions asking hazardous materials-related questions from fire inspectors, AHJs, and other stakeholders who are trying to better understand how to apply provisions related to storage, use and protection of hazardous materials.  Most commonly we get asked about how to determine the maximum allowable quantity (MAQ) of a hazardous material and how to properly protect a space containing them. Understanding how to properly protect areas with the storage, use or handling of hazardous materials benefits both life safety and property protection.

 

Inspectors, for one, are responsible for enforcing the safe storage and use of hazardous materials, which include aerosols, compressed gases, corrosives, explosives, flammable and combustible liquids and solids, toxic materials, oxidizers, and others.  But, whether an inspector, a designer, or a facility manager, the amount of content in NFPA 1, Fire Code

that you need to understand in order to safely apply it can be overwhelming.  There are several key terms that must be understood first before beginning to apply protection measures for hazardous materials:

1. Maximum Allowable Quantity (MAQ). The quantity of hazardous material permitted in a control area. While the term is referred to as "maximum", it really means that the material allowed is the maximum quantity per control area before requiring additional protection.  So, it’s not really a "maximum", rather a threshold before additional protection requirements kick in. 
2. Control Area. A building or portion of a building or outdoor area within which hazardous materials are allowed to be stored, dispensed, used, or handled in quantities not exceeding the maximum allowable quantities (MAQ). 
3. Protection Level. While not an officially defined term in the Code, this is where the quantity of hazardous materials in storage or use exceeds the MAQ for indoor control area the occupancy is required comply with additional protection requirements (referred to as Protection Level 1, 2, 3 or 4.)

 

Here are the first steps for a fire inspector, facility personnel or designer planning for the presence of these materials in their building.    
1.    Classify the hazardous material.  
2.    Determine the quantity of hazardous material to be used or stored.  
3.    If the quantity exceeds the occupancy specific MAQ for a single control area, one can either apply the provisions for the various protection levels or apply provisions for multiple control areas. (Note: If the protection requirements cannot be met, the amount of hazardous materials must be reduced to below the MAQ.)
4.    If the quantity does not exceed the MAQ for a single control area, no special construction features are required.  
 
To apply steps 3 and 4, one needs to know what is the permitted MAQ for the particular occupancy under consideration.  Table 60.4.2.1.1.3 in NFPA 1 presents what can be termed the “general” MAQs. These are maximum quantities of hazardous materials that are considered to be appropriate for industrial, mercantile, or storage occupancies without the need for additional special protective measures. The information in this table is used to determine the MAQ for any given hazardous material listed, unless the MAQ for the specific occupancy (presented in a series of additional occupancy specific tables), is different. In that case, the MAQ in the occupancy-specific table applies.  

 

The values in the occupancy-specific MAQ tables noted above are, in many cases, less than the corresponding base MAQs or are designated as “NP” (not permitted).  This is deliberate and is based on a determination that the hazards posed by levels even at the base MAQs for certain materials in these occupancies is too great and requires additional protective measures if present.  For example, the protection measures for hazardous materials in a healthcare occupancy are likely more restrictive than other occupancies based on the characteristics of occupants in those facilities.  

 

The following steps should be followed when using this table to determine the MAQ:
1.    The category of the hazardous material should be determined, based on the classification of the material and the definitions within the Code. Without this basic information, the limits and protection features cannot be identified. All physical and health hazards associated with the hazardous material must be identified and classified so that each risk can be determined and the protection features or limits can be specified.
2.    The use of the hazardous material in a building must be understood so that appropriate limits can be established. These uses are generally categorized as storage, use-closed, and use-open. The storage category is designed for a hazardous material that is intended to enter a building in a container, cylinder, or tank and is not removed from the original container, cylinder, or tank in the storage room or control area. If the hazardous material is shipped to the site, stored, then shipped off-site, only the storage column of the table is used.
3.    If the material is used in a process, the process system must be reviewed to determine whether it is classified as use-closed or use-open. Where the process is determined to be closed-use Table 60.4.2.1.1.3 requires that, under normal conditions, the hazardous material not be open to the atmosphere and be kept within a container, a pipe, or equipment that does not allow vapors to escape into the air.  These systems include closed piping systems, for example, where a large container of material is transferred through closed piping to smaller containers and sealed for shipping. If a process involves pouring or dispensing into an open vessel, open mixing, transferring, or processing of a hazardous material that is exposed to the atmosphere, the process is classified as open use.  Closed use and storage have very similar risks and are treated the same with respect to MAQ. Open use is considered the most hazardous and, therefore, is most restricted with respect to an MAQ.
4.    Apply the appropriate footnotes from the table.  Information in the footnotes may modify the values in the Table so this step cannot be overlooked. For example, the first footnote in the table contains an important limit and a major component in the proper use of the table.  The combination of quantity under use and storage cannot exceed the total amount allowed for storage alone.  This limit restricts the amount of hazardous materials on-site from increasing by simply stating that it is “in use”.  Another modification applies to quantities of hazardous materials that are permitted to be increased by 100% where the building is completed protected with an automatic sprinkler system.  The values taken directly from the table may be altered significantly once the footnotes are applied correctly.  

 

As a reminder, where the quantity of hazardous materials in storage or use exceeds the MAQ for indoor control areas, the occupancy must comply with the requirements for either Protection Level 1, Protection Level 2, Protection Level 3, or Protection Level 4.  (for additional details on Protection Levels see NFPA 1 Section 60.4.3)  

 

The unsafe and improper storage and use of hazardous materials can have disastrous impacts on life safety and property protection.  Whether designing buildings where hazardous materials will be present, managing facilities storing and using hazardous materials or inspecting properties for their compliance with hazardous materials requirements,  understanding the fundamental principles and approach to protecting these spaces will improve the safety of occupants and property in any occupancy where hazardous materials are present.  

 

If you found this article helpful, subscribe to the NFPA Network Newsletter for monthly, personalized content related to the world of fire, electrical, and building & life safety  

According to research from NFPA, an estimated 4,200 home structure fires and an average of 40 deaths result annually when natural gas is ignited.

 

The devastating outcome of a combustible gas leak within a residence was on full display recently when three rowhouses in Baltimore exploded, killing two and injuring seven. While gas detector placement information is available within manufacturer recommendations, NFPA does not currently have a standard containing more specific prescriptive-based detector placement requirements supported by technical review.

 

NFPA 715, Standard for the Installation of Fuel Gases Detection and Warning Equipment, however, is currently in the early developmental stages prior to beginning full public review. NFPA 715 will help to minimize tragic incidents like we saw in Baltimore on August 10th and in the Merrimack Valley region of Massachusetts last year when a series of more than 80 explosions and fires occurred in approximately 40 homes, killing one and forcing 30,000 to evacuate their residences. NFPA 715 will cover the selection, design, application, installation, location, performance, inspection, testing, and maintenance of fuel gas detection and warning equipment in buildings and structures.

 

The Fire Protection Research Foundation, the research affiliate of NFPA, recently completed a report studying combustible gas leaks and dispersion in residential buildings, as well as an analysis of combustible gas detector placement to provide the necessary technical basis to justify the requirements in NFPA 715.

 

Computer modeling was used to quantitatively evaluate the impact that placement has on gas detector performance in residential occupancies. Natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas releases were simulated in different residential structures, and gas concentrations were tracked at numerous potential detector locations within these buildings to determine which locations are most effective for reliable and early detection. Overall, more than 250 simulations were performed with a wide range of plausible leak types and environments to produce the most robust technical basis upon which gas detector location recommendations can be made.

A hazard-based approach was also applied to understand the performance of gas detector installation locations, specifically looking at (1) the role that detector location plays in detecting leaks before certain hazardous conditions arise and (2) the ability for the detector to provide sufficient response time prior to any hazardous conditions arising.

 

The study highlights the importance of requiring a gas detector in the same room as permanently installed fuel-gas appliances. For these detectors, generally better performance was observed when: the detector was placed closer to the leak source, there was an unobstructed path between the detector and the leak source, and when the detector alarm threshold was lower (i.e., 10% Lower Flammability Limit (LFL) compared to 25% LFL). Poorer performance was observed when a detector was located: near HVAC supply registers; near passive openings such as doors and windows; and near openings to adjacent areas (e.g., door openings and stairwells).

 

The final report describing the entire study can be found on the research reports page here. To learn more about dozens of Fire Protection Research Foundation projects currently underway, click here.

Over the years, great strides have been made in the realms of fire and life safety, thanks to the contributions of countless individuals. Today, NFPA and the wider community doing that important work mourns the loss of Jaime Moncada Pérez. After health complications from a cerebral ischemia, “Don Jaime” died on August 31st, 2020, in Bogotá, Colombia at nearly 89 years old.Jaime Moncada Perez

 

Don Jaime was considered by many a pioneer and champion of fire protection engineering in Latin America, devoting himself to the cause through a career including international recognition and a relationship with NFPA that spanned over 40 years. He began his journey in Colombia, where he graduated from the University of Antioquia in Medellín with a degree in Chemical Engineering, before completing his master’s in Industrial Hygiene at Harvard University in 1957 and master’s in Economics from the University of the Andes in Bogotá, in 1970.

 

 A true visionary, he first called on NFPA to make their work inclusive of Spanish-speaking countries in 1976, going on to co-edit NFPA’s Fire Protection Handbook in Spanish and found the Ibero-American Fire Protection Organization (OPCI) in 1981. He initiated the first translation of NFPA standards into Spanish, organized the first fire protection seminars and congresses throughout Latin America, and became the first instructor of NFPA seminars in Spanish. Don Jaime was the first Latin American member of the Board of Directors and served on the board from 2001-2007.

 

Don Jaime’s influence can be seen in the decrease in major disasters like the Avianca Tower and Santa María Tower. We offer the deepest condolences and sincerest thanks to his family, for the legacy that he has left to Latin America and the world through the thousands of professionals he taught, and the advancement of fire protection knowledge through his inspiring work.

Evacuations

Watching news reports over the past few weeks it’s hard to miss scenes of the destructive wildfires raging across Northern California that to date have taken the lives of seven people and destroyed more than 2,500 structures. During the last few days all eyes have also been focused on the Gulf Coast where communities there experienced unprecedented hurricane activity, which caused massive flooding and power outages. Yet even with Fall fast approaching, the peak of hurricane and wildfire seasons is upon us. Weather experts now predict upwards of 25 named storms before hurricane season concludes in November—twice as many as a typical year—and wildfires, which used to have more defined “seasons,” have been known to threaten high-risk states through the winter.

With many of these events there is a need for government agencies and aid organizations to shelter potentially thousands of storm and fire evacuees. But as many have discovered, there are numerous challenges to responding to a major natural disaster during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to emergency management experts, the threat of a massive evacuation together with a dangerous pandemic have caused organizations to make significant changes to its disaster response and recovery plans.

 

In the latest episode of the NFPA Podcast, “Disaster Planning During a Pandemic,” host Jesse Roman, assistant editor of NFPA Journal, speaks with Luke Beckford, the division disaster state relations director of the American Red Cross Pacific Division who discusses different strategies his organization used to assist evacuees of the Apple Fire in Southern California in early August. NFPA Podcast co-host Robbie Dawson, NFPA’s Southeastern regional director, also talks to Anna McRay, a local emergency management director in North Carolina who tells us how her department planned for the arrival of Hurricane Isaias during the pandemic, and what they did differently around sheltering and emergency operations.

 

Similar agencies are also adapting their emergency disaster planning in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, as highlighted in a new article, Calamity Before the Storm, in the September/October issue of NFPA Journal. In both the podcast and the article, emergency management professionals share lessons they have learned in the hopes that it might help other organizations meet similar challenges in the weeks and months ahead. Topics addressed in the interviews include:

 

  • Ways to approach the process of amending emergency response plans to the current pandemic
  • Using historical precedents and lessons learned from recent disasters that can help with current events
  • Using NFPA 1616, Standard on Mass Evacuation, Sheltering, and Re-entry Programs, which addresses this type of scenario, and the mechanisms that are in place for those who use the document to adapt their normal plans to fit the current situation
  • Ways to provide emergency shelter and food, and comfort to evacuees without spreading the COVID-19 virus
  • The importance of developing/strengthening community partnerships
  • Keeping emergency workers healthy during the crisis
  • The need for continued workforce training
  • Mechanisms for safely delivering medical services to shelters

 

While emergency managers say their mission hasn’t changed, the way in which they fulfill the mission has, and both McRay, Beckford, and others have learned a great deal from their experiences handling a crisis during the pandemic. So much so, they say that several new strategies will likely change how they do their jobs in the future, even after the pandemic is over. 

 

Listen to the full podcast and read the entire article by visiting the NFPA Podcast webpage at nfpa.org/podcasts and NFPA Journal. Related information can be found on the Journal webpage.

 

 

NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley has named Nicole Comeau executive secretary of the International Fire Marshals Association (IFMA). IFMA members are fire officials, who have been lawfully appointed and authorized by the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). Fire marshals are charged with fire prevention efforts including the enforcement of fire laws and regulations, property inspections, public fire safety education, or investigation of fire origins or causes.

 

Since her arrival at NFPA in 2015, Comeau has cultivated a strong working relationship with the enforcement community, showing a deep understanding of the particular issues facing fire marshals and AHJs, as well as their unique, important role in the Fire and Life Safety Ecosystem. The IFMA leadership appointment follows Comeau’s promotion to stakeholder development director for NFPA earlier this year.

 

“Fire marshals and code officials play a critical and influential role in the entire Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem; they face many unique challenges so it’s critical to keep their needs at the forefront of what we’re doing at NFPA,” Comeau said. Nicole Comeau“I am looking forward to working with this important and influential network, developing it globally, and ensuring that we stay focused on the ultimate goal of keeping communities safer. We have a unique opportunity to develop and implement creative solutions to ongoing public safety problems, to anticipate and plan for the challenges of tomorrow, and to engage the public at large to ultimately reduce loss around the world. This is a very exciting opportunity for all of us.”

 

Originally known as the Fire Marshals Association of North America at its founding in 1906, the IFMA gained its new name in 1927. The mission of IFMA is to aid in the preservation of life and property by advocating, promoting, and providing leadership in the prevention or mitigation of fire, explosions, and other related hazardous conditions.

GFCI

 

If your kitchen is anything like ours, you’ll agree it’s become more of a gathering place for family than our own living rooms. While it may be hard to equate actual statistics to time spent in a kitchen, there is little doubt that more and more hours are being spent here, especially now as the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic and people continue to avoid restaurants for the immediate future and opt instead to do more cooking and entertaining at home. But just as we would never cut an onion with a blindfold on, we must also keep our eyes wide open to potential electrical dangers in the kitchen.

 

In the nearly 125 years of its existence, the National Electrical Code (NEC) has worked to help safeguard both people and property from hazards arising due to the use of electricity.  Every three years, the NEC is revised based on input that is often derived from knowledge, experiences, and technology advancements that can help improve upon safety.  A great example of the NEC making a change that had a significant impact on safety is when ground-fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI) receptacle requirements were first introduced in 1973 which were then required for outdoor receptacles. Since that time, when it comes to GFCIs, other key areas of the home and other locations and requirements have also been included like bathrooms (1975), garages (1978), and kitchens (1987) to help improve upon safety. Why the continuous evaluation and improvement of safety? The ever-changing world makes safety a continuous adventure, not a destination. When it comes to safety, we cannot rest on our laurels of what we have done; we must constantly evaluate and improve to help protect people and property. The 2020 NEC revision cycle has done just that when it comes to residential kitchen safety.

As I mentioned, GFCI protection has been a key part of the NEC helping to ensure safety that has been improved upon over several NEC cycles dating back to the 1970s. The latest revision was no exception to advances in GFCI protection:

 

  • NEC section 210.8(A) has been expanded in the 2020 edition to not only include 125-volt receptacles but to now include receptacles up to 250-volt. That means that receptacles that operate at 250-volt, such as those for an electric range would now need GFCI protection but only if it is installed within six feet of the edge of the sink. Kitchen design and layout, specifically appliance placement as related to sink locations, can certainly have an impact as to whether GFCI protection is required in these applications.
  • Another revision to GFCI protection in the 2020 NEC is to section 422.5(A) dealing with appliances that require GFCI protection. This section was revised to include dishwashers. Yes, dishwashers! It’s hard to believe that an appliance that works so closely with electricity and water has not required GFCI protection prior, but the good news is, now it does.
  • Kitchen island receptacle requirements also saw a major overhaul during the 2020 NEC revision cycle. In prior versions of the NEC, section 210.52(C)(2) required that at least one receptacle be installed within a kitchen island that had a countertop with a long dimension of 24 inches or greater and a short dimension of 12 inches or greater. Within the same section of the 2020 NEC, it has been revised to require at least one receptacle within the first nine square feet or fraction thereof, of an island countertop and an additional receptacle for every 18 square feet more or fraction thereof. An additional requirement states that at least one receptacle shall be located within two feet of the outer end of a peninsula countertop. The example picture below shows how a 9 ½ foot by 3-foot island countertop will now require three total receptacles to meet the new requirements.

GFCI

This may seem like a large dimension for an island, but it is fairly common today to see an island this size, or larger, that is the main focus of the kitchen and utilized for many tasks. Having an adequate number of receptacles for not only cooking needs, but for plugging in phone chargers, laptops, etc., will provide more ability to power devices and appliances without the need to utilize extension cords or power splitters.

 

While your local municipality may not yet be using the 2020 NEC, these revisions will have an impact on the way residential kitchens are wired when it does become adopted. Understanding these changes now will give you an opportunity to minimize the impact going forward, allowing you to know what will be required and being able to plan ahead.  

 

For more information and related resources, please visit NFPA’s “changes to the 2020 NEC” webpage.

storms

 

It may seem counterintuitive, but the fall season is actually a time when hurricanes, thunderstorms, wildfires, and other natural disasters make their impressive mark across many areas of the U.S., often disrupting the rhythm of our daily lives. If you’ve seen the news lately, you’ve witnessed the wildfires in California, which experts now say are more severe than any previous time in history, and in an unprecedented moment, two hurricanes made landfall within days of each other on the Gulf Coast.

 

Hurricane season began June 1 and ends in late November but according to the National Weather Service, most of these storms peak in late September and October. You don’t have to look too far back to remember Superstorm Sandy that hit the east coast in October 2012 to understand the power of these storms. And it’s not just hurricanes or wildfires that make the news: the Plains and Great Lake regions often start their battle with freezing conditions and snowfall during the fall months. 

 

This September, as we honor National Preparedness Month, it’s incumbent upon all of us who are tasked with protecting people and property from fire, electrical, and related hazards to work together before emergencies affect our areas. The theme for this year’s campaign, “Disasters Don’t Wait. Make Your Plan Today,” reminds us that being better prepared before, during, and after an emergency is key to getting operations back to normal as quickly as possible.

 

NFPA has a wealth of information to help guide building owners and facility managers, first responders, health care facility managers, electrical professionals, and the public, as they prepare ahead of weather events in their area. These resources are free and can be easily shared:

 

For Facility Managers and Business Owners:

 

For First Responders:

  • First responders face many hazards when working with vehicles that have been submerged in water, particularly with hybrid or electrical vehicles. NFPA’s Submerged Hybrid/Electrical Vehicle Bulletin breaks down the safety issues to help keep first responders safe.

 

For Electrical Professionals:

  • Electrical professionals are often tasked with equipment maintenance for electrical, electronic and communication systems and equipment found in multi-family residential complexes, industrial plants, and commercial buildings to prevent equipment failures and worker injuries. NFPA’s Natural Disaster Electrical Equipment Checklist builds off of recommendations in Chapter 32 of the 2019 edition of NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance and provides a useful framework for recovering electrical equipment and systems after a disaster.

 

Wildfire Resources: 

  • fact sheet and related information provides residents and businesses with easy wildfire risk reduction steps they can do around their homes and buildings to make them safer from wildfire and blowing embers.
  • With the peak of hurricane and wildfire seasons upon us, government agencies and aid organizations will need to shelter potentially thousands of storm and fire evacuees. The latest NFPA Podcast, Disaster Planning During a Pandemic, introduces two emergency management experts who share lessons learned from responding to past incidents during the pandemic, including several new strategies that will likely stay long after the pandemic is over.

 

For Healthcare Providers:

 

With so much “weather” happening across the country, the time to start preparing communities is now. Make Preparedness Month the jump start you need to put your plans in place.

 

For these and other related information sources, visit www.nfpa.org/disasterGet additional information about National Preparedness Month by visiting ready.gov/September

Every year, the month of September marks the launch of the school year with new classes, new friends, and often new living spaces. This year, however, as communities face unprecedented challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, life on college campuses is playing out very differently. While some colleges and universities have opted for full remote learning, others are welcoming students back to campus, and still others are offering a combination of the two. This has educators, administrators, public health officials, and first responders continually working on ways to safely operate schools this year.

 

The emphasis, of course, has understandably been placed on the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff, but it’s campus fire safetyalso important to remember that we must continue to maintain adequate levels of fire and life safety on college campuses throughout the year. During Campus Fire Safety Month in September, NFPA and the Center for Campus Fire Safety will be sharing resources including fact sheets, tip sheets, videos, and other materials for students, parents, and fire safety educators that focus on reducing fire risk in college housing. These resources are free to download and can be shared.

 

Resources for fire safety educators:

 

  • NFPA’s new fact sheet, Building and Life Safety Issues for Safely Reopening Schools, provides fire and life safety considerations for schools as they prepare to re-open, including building modifications like door operability, classroom usage, seating arrangements, and partitions, as well egress management and storage of hand sanitizer and cleaning products.
  • Fire doors and other opening protectives such as shutters and windows must be operable at all times. While propping doors and windows open so no one has to touch them may seem like a safer option to stop the spread of germs, interfering with the operation of fire doors can have grave consequences during a fire. Learn more in this recent blog.
  • Hand sanitizer and other cleaning products classified as flammable and combustible liquids present fire safety concerns, especially when they are stored or used in bulk quantities. Storage of large quantities of flammable and combustible liquids might compromise safety if the fire protection systems are not designed to protect the storage of such quantities of flammable liquids. Get additional information on fire safety considerations for hand sanitizer in a recent NFPA video. Information can also be found in the Building and Life Safety Issues for Safely Reopening Schools fact sheet mentioned above.

 

According to NFPA and the Center for Campus Fire Safety, September and October have the highest incidences for fires in dormitories. This year “move in” date processes are different due to the pandemic with many rules now in place that limit the number of people who can accompany students into their new living quarters. Students and their guests, however, are still encouraged, when moving in and in the days following, to take steps to ensure living arrangements are fire safe.

 

Resources for students and parents that can help during the move-in process:

 

 

Other tips include:

 

  • Test smoke alarms monthly in an apartment or house. Make sure smoke alarms are installed in all sleeping areas, outside of all sleeping areas, and on every level of the apartment or house. In dorms, make sure each sleeping room has a smoke alarm or the dormitory suite has a smoke alarm in each living area as well as the sleeping rooms. NEVER remove or disable smoke alarms.
  • Keep combustible items away from heat sources and never overload electrical outlets, extension cords, or power strips. Many fires are caused by portable lights and heat sources, like space heaters and halogen lamps.
  • Keep common areas and hallways free of possessions and debris.
  • Stay in the kitchen when cooking. Never leave cooking equipment unattended, even briefly.

 

For those on campus, resources including videos, checklists, infographics, tip sheets, and more have been designed to be shared through social media, school newspapers, college websites, and posted in dormitory common areas.

 

Find these and additional resources at nfpa.org/campus and on the Center for Campus Fire Safety website.

Corrosion is a costly problem for sprinkler systems. It can cause leakage which can lead to impaired sprinkler systems, water damage, and eventually replacement of the entire system. This blog looks at  what corrosion is, where we can find it, how it affects a sprinkler system, and how to spot and prevent it.

 

What is corrosion?

Generally, when we refer to corrosion we are talking about when a metal reacts with its environment which leads to deterioration of the metal. In sprinkler systems this is often when oxygen reacts with iron to form iron oxides, which we commonly refer to as "rust." This is further accelerated when it occurs in the presence of water, which helps the reaction. While this is the most common, there are other types of corrosion that can affect a sprinkler system such as microbiologically influenced corrosion (MIC) and galvanic corrosion. 

 

For any metallic component of a sprinkler system there is both external and internal corrosion. While both of these issues can lead to system failure, internal corrosion is more difficult to detect and causes more issues. Internal corrosion usually begins to form at the air/water interface while external corrosion is more dependent on the environment.

 

Where does corrosion occur?

There are many locations where piping and sprinklers are more susceptible to external corrosion. Most of these locations have different elements in the atmosphere that can speed up corrosion. A few common examples include:

  • Areas with fertilizer or manure (animal pens)
  • Pools or areas containing pool chemicals
  • Areas near the ocean that are exposed to outside salt air
  • Salt storage
  • Pipe is in contact with soil
  • Areas with excessive moisture (steam room)

 

Listed corrosion resistant sprinklers and corrosion resistant piping, fittings and hangars are required to be installed in places where corrosive conditions are known. Meanwhile all pipes and fittings installed on the exterior of the building are required to be corrosion resistant.

 

Internal corrosion on the other hand occurs most commonly where metal, water and air are in contact with one another. This occurs in both wet and dry pipe systems. For wet pipe systems, corrosion occurs most often near the pockets of air that could be trapped in high points. For dry and preaction systems the corrosion occurs most often at the low points because that is where any residual water builds up.

 

How does corrosion affect a sprinkler system?

Corrosion has a detrimental effect on sprinkler systems, causing the components to fail. For piping this can take the form of pinhole leaks or having rust buildup limit the flow of water (see image below). For sprinklers, corrosion can clog the water discharge orifice, affect the deflector and discharge pattern, or completely seal the plug, preventing water from reaching the fire. Other components such as piping hangers and fittings can also be susceptible to corrosion, which can lead to further complications. 

 

sprinkler

 

What can I do to minimize corrosion?

Completely eliminating the possibility of corrosion is nearly impossible, however there are some steps that can be taken to help reduce the amount of corrosion in a system:

  • Better pipe material: When trying to delay corrosion a great place to start is looking at the material used. Certain types of piping are more resistant to corrosion, such as plastic CPVC, copper or galvanized steel. There are also benefits to using thicker piping since rust will not eat through the wall of the pipe as quickly. Using higher quality material may cost more up front but it will extend the life of the system and increase reliability. 
  • Corrosion resistant sprinkler: When sprinklers are installed in areas susceptible to external corrosion, they need to be corrosion resistant. This means that they need to be either made out of corrosion resistant material, covered with a special coating such as wax, or plated with a corrosion resistant metal (see image below).
  • Water supply: NFPA 13, Sandard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, requires the water supply to be evaluated to determine if it contains any unusual corrosive properties or is likely to contain MIC. If it does, then you need to either install piping that is corrosion/MIC resistant, treat the water with water additives, implement a monitoring plan, or fill your system with nitrogen for dry or preaction systems.
  • Wet Pipe: Air Venting: NFPA 13 requires a vent to be located at a high point in the system to allow air to be removed by either a manual or automatic valve. This can be a reasonable approach on wet pipe sprinkler systems to reduce corrosion activity. The purpose of the air venting valve is to exhaust as much trapped air as possible from a single location every time the system is filled, thus having less oxygen for the metal to react with. 
  • Dry Pipe: Drain Water Out of System: Just like how in wet pipe systems you want to remove the air out of the piping, for dry pipe or preaction systems you want to remove the water. Dry pipe and preaction systems are required to be pitched to a low point drain so that water can be removed from the system. Since most corrosion occurs at the air/water interface this will help prevent corrosion.
  • Dry Pipe: Nitrogen: For dry pipe or preaction systems nitrogen can be used to fill the sprinkler piping network instead of air. When a system is filled with nitrogen it  contains very little oxygen, which is a vital ingredient in the corrosion process. Nitrogen can be provided through cylinders or a nitrogen generator.

 

sprinkler

 

How can I spot corrosion?

Some corrosion can be easily identified while others can be hidden. During your annual floor level inspection of piping, fittings and sprinklers be sure to keep an eye out for exterior corrosion which can be identified by its orange-brown color and rough texture.

 

Internal corrosion is more difficult to identify during your annual inspection so an assessment of the internal condition of piping is required to be conducted every five years. Outside of that assessment, the effects of both internal and external corrosion can be seen by looking for water stains or leaking pipe where corrosion could have created pinhole leaks in your system by eating through the wall of your piping (see image below).

 

sprinkler

 

 

 

What do I do if I see corrosion?

When there is significant corrosion buildup that is detrimental to sprinkler system performance, that section of piping, or sprinkler needs to be replaced. If corrosion is bad enough sometimes an entire system needs to be replaced.

 

Addressing these issues will help ensure the reliability of your sprinkler system, increase the life expectancy of your system and in the long run save you time, energy, and money. Share your experience working on a system that was installed in a corrosive atmosphere in the comments below. What was the biggest challenge or lesson learned?

 

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We are often asked this question: if you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be? Personally, I think a present-day dinner conversation with Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and other pioneers of electricity would prove to be extremely interesting.  Inventors are charged with having extremely creative minds, thinking outside of the norm, and determining the what “could be.”   With all the collective creativity in their minds, could they even remotely imagine the ability we have today when it comes to electricity? We are, without question, an electrified world. 

 

According to the Enerdata Global Energy Statistical Yearbook 2020, power consumption between 2010 and 2019 has Cycle of Safetyincreased by 78%, with an average consumption increase of 3% per year. While the increase in 2019 was down from the norm at only 0.7%, there is little doubt that the 2020 data will be back to at least the 3% yearly average, likely more, due to the additional power being used due to the coronavirus pandemic. So, what does this all mean from an electricity standpoint? It means that, now more than ever, it is imperative that we continue to ensure safe electrical systems.   

 

While sipping my coffee and browsing an electrical forum on social media this morning, I came across a post from an electrician who had just put new tabs in his 2020 edition of the NEC and captioned it, “Tabbing my new book to keep the citizens of my town safe was so exciting, exhilarating, and satisfying.  NOTHING has come close. I dare you to ask me anything!”

 

The ownership and excitement in that post brought a huge smile to my face. “Keeping the citizens of my town safe”…it’s just that simple! Whether you are an engineer designing the electrical system, an electrician installing and/or maintaining the electrical system, or an inspector verifying a safely installed electrical system, we are all charged with the same duty – ensuring the safety of both people and property. 

 

While thinking of this responsibility from a singular perspective may seem daunting, the truth is, it takes a group effort. I've already mentioned the engineer, electrician, and inspectors’ roles in the safety of the electrical system. If one person in the process doesn't do their job properly, people and property could be put at risk.  Each person doing his/her job properly is paramount to ensuring safety. The good news is no one is in it alone.       

                   

NFPA is steadfast in providing codes and standards such as NFPA 70, National Electrical Code (NEC) and NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance that assist in providing safe electrical systems for people and property.  But it doesn’t stop there. NFPA also takes it a step further by providing NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, which defines safe work practices to help ensure the safety of the individuals who are performing the installation and maintenance of the system. 

 

Much like the individuals in the process are reliant on one another for ensuring the utmost safety, these three NFPA documents are dependent on one another as well to ensure an electrical “Cycle of Safety.”  While each piece of the cycle covers a specific area, they must be used in unison in order to provide the safest electrical system possible, being installed in the safest manner. As I mentioned, NFPA 70B deals with electrical equipment maintenance, NFPA 70 (NEC) stipulates the installation rules that are necessary for a proper installation, and NFPA 70E provides the safe work practices necessary to ensure that the installation and maintenance is done safely by the individuals performing the work.  When the three are used simultaneously, and correctly, they provide for a complete electrical safety cycle.  When one or more pieces are missing, it leaves the door open for catastrophic accidents – even death. 

 

One of my favorite authors, Jon Gordon, preaches that intentional positivity creates a more positive life.  We can choose whether we let our responsibility in the” Cycle of Safety” be an intimidating task or, like the electrician that made the social media post, let it ignite the excitement within us for the opportunity we’ve been given to have a positive impact in the safety of others. For me, I’ll choose the latter. Remember, ensuring electrical safety takes a fully focused, collective effort from all of us.  As our NFPA tagline goes, “It’s a Big World. Let’s Protect It Together.”

Hurricanes

 

Hurricanes Marco and Laura are fast approaching the Gulf Coast this week and experts are calling their arrival “unprecedented” as the two storms are expected to make landfall within days of each other. As the Gulf states prepare for the storms' impact, weather experts continue to remind coastal communities that additional storms may still be on the horizon, with late September and October being the peak months for hurricane activity.

 

To help, NFPA has a wealth of electrical systems information for electrical professionals, first responders, and building professionals who must prepare for, respond, and recover from these natural disasters. The following are free and available for download:

 

  • Electrical professionals are often tasked with equipment maintenance for electrical, electronic, and communication systems and equipment found in multi-family residential complexes, industrial plants, and commercial buildings to prevent equipment failures and worker injuries. Chapter 32 of NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance, provides a useful framework for recovering electrical equipment and systems after a disaster.

 

  • First responders face many hazards when working with vehicles that have been submerged in water, particularly with hybrid or electrical vehicles. Our Submerged Hybrid/Electric Vehicle Bulletin breaks down the safety issues to help keep first responders safe.

 

 

Also, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) has a free resource, “Evaluating Water-Damaged Electrical Equipment” for electrical contractors who will be called in to help with damage assessments once the waters have receded. Visit their website for additional information.

 

With hurricane season lasting through November, businesses in coastal regions are encouraged to take action now to ensure they are prepared for impending storms. As experience tells us, being better prepared for and collaborating during and after an emergency is key to getting operations back to normal as quickly as possible.

For these and other related sources of information including blog posts and articles, visit our website.

Firefighters are considered an “at-risk” population for metabolic diseases, yet 75% of fire departments nationwide have not adopted a health and wellness program according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (Storer et al. 2014).

 

Due to the nature of their work, firefighters encounter continual disruptions to their eating and sleeping patterns (circadian rhythm) which can compromise their metabolic fitness. Cardio-metabolic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, fatty liver disease, and cancer can result from disrupted circadian rhythms, directly impacting the fitness, safety, and well-being of fire fighters.

 

Traditionally, reducing circadian rhythm disruption was achieved through sleep modification and minimizing ambient light exposure. However, this methodology is not applicable to emergency responders. Based on laboratory and clinical studies it appears that keeping nutritional quality, quantity, and physical activity consistent while consuming calorific intake within a consistent 8-12 hour time period every day can sustain a healthy circadian rhythm and reduce the risk of cardio-metabolic disease among fire fighters.

 

This recent webinar summarized an on-going DHS-FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) study led by theSalk Institute, in collaboration with the Fire Protection Research Foundation, University of California-San Diego and San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, looking at the impact of time-restricted feeding on firefighters so that overall health and wellness could be promoted and the impact of shift work on firefighters could be minimized. This webinar, held on August 11, 2020, was presented by Dr. Satchin Panda and Dr. Emily Manoogian of Salk Institute.

 

The full webinar is available here.

It has been more than two weeks since we first saw footage of the horrific explosions in the Port of Beirut, and in the days since many of us have been wondering how the conditions that led to that catastrophic event could have been avoided.  

 

News reports point to hot work as the cause of the first fireWelding was being performed on a hole in the warehouse to address security concerns. Something went awry and the warehouse roof caught fire. Next came some smaller explosions (by Beirut incident standards) which were attributed to fireworks storage. And then came the massive blast that is seared into all our minds, when the fire reached 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that happened to be stored in the warehouse (for what we now know was more than six years) 

 

Here at NFPA, our thoughts have been with the people of Lebanon as they mourn their losses and move safely into the future. With the latter in mind, wwould like to share information and resources that will help Lebanon and the global community end tragic incidents like this.  

 

Hot work fires in industrial settings are common but easily avoided when precautions and hazard management procedures are followed. Before any hot work is started, anyone involved in the work should use the “Recognize, Evaluate, and Control” process to reduce hazards.  

 

 

In the first step, Recognize, the hot work team (made up of the permit authorizing individual, the hot work operator, and the fire watch) should first recognize that hot work is being done and that it contributes to the fire triangle (oxygen, ignition source and fuel). Hot work served as the ignition source in Lebanon on that fateful Tuesday morning 

 

Hot work can include welding, soldering, brazing, cutting - it is activity involving flame, spark production, or heat Some of the initial questions that should be asked when considering hot work is, “Is there an alternative way to get this job done without hot work? Could I use screwed, flanged, or clamped pipe, or mechanical pipe cutting, instead?” These first steps also call for recognizing what fuel sources are in the area surrounding the proposed hot work location. In other words, look around the work area for construction materials, liquid or gaseous fuel, paint, cleaning solvents, or debris that could be ignited by sparks from the hot work. 

 

Next, Evaluate the situation. Can the hazards that are present be moved away from the hot work site? Can the hot work be done in a different location, free from these fuel sources? Has the atmosphere been tested for flammable or combustible vapors? 

 

Then, Control, minimize, or eliminate the hazard. Clear combustibles to ensure that there is, at minimum, a 35-foot radius space around the hot work, move the hot work to an area free from these materials, or separate the hot work from combustibles using welding pads, blankets, or curtains. Keep in mind that there are some areas where hot work should never be done (non-permissible areas), and this includes areas where explosives are stored. 

 

These safety guidelines are addressed in NFPA 51B, Standard for Fire Prevention During Welding, Cutting, and Other Hot Work  and are brought to life in NFPA Hot Work Safety Certificate Online Training, which teaches how and when to apply these principles. 

 

Hot work incidents, albeit not as prolific as the one in Beirut earlier this month, happen all the time around the globe. There have been several examples in the United States that come to mind.  One in 2017, when hot work was being conducted at a pulp and paper mill near a tank that held flammable vaporsAexplosion occurred, and three contractors were killed and seven more were injured. Prior to that one, an incident in 2016 stands out. A flash fire broke out at a crude oil terminal injuring seven contractors. The incident was attributed to hot work being done on crude-oil pipeline connection.  Then there was an event in 2014 that involved biological material in a tank that was unknowingly off-gassing flammable methane and hydrogen sulfideThese incidents took place in different states during different years; the scenarios were different but, in each case, hot work acted as the devastating ignition source. And instead of things getting better, it seems like every week we are hearing about another building under construction that has burned down or been severely damaged due to hot work. 

 

The NFPA Structure Fires Caused by Hot Work report states that 57 percent of fires involving hot work between 2013-2017 occurred on non-home properties, with welding torches involved in 39 percent of non-home hot work fires and cutting torches involved in 27 percent of non-home fires. The figures below from the research report show the item first ignited and the factors contributing to that ignition; the data drives home how important the three-step approach described above can be in preventing these fires. 

 

Structure fires involving hot work, by item first ignited, 2013-2017, Non-Home 

 

  Structure fires involving hot work, by factor contributing to ignition, 2013-2017, Non-Home 

 

For more content and context related to hot work, visit nfpa.org/hotwork. On that microsite, you will find relevant infographics, fact sheets, and a link to our online trainings (in English and Spanish) to help you and those you work with understand the dangers associated with hot work and the procedures  that promote safety on work sites.  

 

 

The summer of 2017 saw a number of deadly high-rise fires, including the Grenfell Tower fire and the Marco Polo fire. While deadly incidents like these are usually the result of a combination of failures, these buildings had one major thing in common: they were both unsprinklered. These events led to a review of the high-rise sprinkler requirements for the 2021 edition of NFPA 101, Life Safety Code. While a blanket retroactive sprinkler requirement for high-rise buildings still isn’t proposed, a number of technical committees did modify the requirements for their respective occupancies. These proposed changes include:

  • The installation of sprinklers is required in all existing high-rise ambulatory health care occupancies within 12 years of the adoption of the Code.
  • Existing apartments, without a previously approved engineered life safety system, must be sprinklered by January 1, 2033.
  • The installation of sprinklers or the installation of an engineered life safety system is required in all existing high-rise industrial occupancies within 12 years of the adoption of the Code.

 

The technical committees responsible for the changes noted above carefully considered the impact retroactive requirements have on existing buildings. Sometimes, as is the case with retroactive sprinkler requirements, the benefits far outweigh the costs.

 

A common misconception is that NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, dictates which buildings must have sprinklers.  However, the requirement for a building to be sprinklered will be dictated by a code such as a building code, life safety code, or fire code and the standard (NFPA 13) will tell you how to install the sprinklers. When determining if a building is required to be sprinklered it is important to review the requirements from all applicable codes in your jurisdiction. Just because one of the codes doesn’t require sprinklers, doesn’t mean the same is true of the others. In the case of differing requirements, the most restrictive of the codes would apply. As each of these codes serves a different purpose and has a different scope, it can lead to the difference in requirements.

 

We’ll look a little more closely at how the sprinkler requirements for high-rise buildings differ between the current editions (2018) of NFPA 1, Fire Code and NFPA 101. High-rise buildings are defined by NFPA 1 and  NFPA 101 buildings where the floor of an occupiable story is greater than 75 ft above the lowest level of fire department vehicle access. When looking at your local requirements, it is important to verify how your jurisdiction defines a high-rise building as many jurisdictions may modify the definition.

 

2018 Fire Code, NFPA 1

The Fire Code is intended to address firefighter life safety and building protection in addition to occupant life safety.  The high-rise building sprinkler requirements are straightforward. All new high-rise buildings must be protected with sprinklers throughout and all existing high-rise buildings must be sprinklered within 12 years of the adoption of the Code.

 

2018 Life Safety Code, NFPA 101

The Life Safety Code is primarily concerned with occupant life safety. Like the Fire Code, the Life Safety Code requires that all new high-rise buildings be protected with sprinklers throughout. The differences between the codes arise in existing high-rise buildings. Instead of a blanket requirement retrofit requirement, the Life Safety Code relies on the individual occupancies to determine the extent of, if any, sprinkler protection that is required. If an existing occupancy chapter requires sprinkler protection, the requirement will be found in either the “Extinguishment Requirements” subsection (XX.3.5) or the “Special Provisions” section (XX.4). Many existing occupancy chapters specifically require high-rise buildings to be sprinklered:

  • Assembly
  • Educational
  • Day-care
  • Health care
  • Detention and correctional
  • Hotel and dormitories
  • Residential board and care - large facilities

 

Although mercantile does not specifically call out existing high-rise buildings, there is a good chance they would be required to be sprinklered based on the general sprinkler requirements.

 

Ambulatory health care, apartments, and business occupancies require either a sprinkler system or an engineered life safety system. An engineered life safety system (ELSS) must provide a similar level of safety as an automatic sprinkler system. It can include protection features such as a partial sprinkler system, smoke detection, compartmentation, or other types of fire and life safety systems. It must be developed by a professional engineer and approved by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).

 

Others, such as industrial and storage occupancies do not require sprinklers or an engineered life safety system due to the relatively low occupant load that is typical of these occupancies. (maybe add a sentence reminding readers about 101 mandating sprinklers only when they are installed for the protection of people not property)

 

The high-rise sprinkler requirements in the Fire Code and the Life Safety Code are an example of two Codes with differing requirements. To summarize, both require all new high-rise buildings to be sprinklered throughout. The Fire Code requires all existing buildings to be sprinklered within 12 years of its adoption date while the Life Safety Code is occupancy specific. As mentioned above the differences can be attributed to the different scopes and purposes.

 

A number of cities have passed legislation independent of the codes requiring the retrofit of some or all high-rise buildings with sprinklers. Has your city?  Are you interested in learning more about retrofit? If so, let us know in the comments section!

 

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