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Late last month, CBS News in New York reported that 911 dispatchers in that beleaguered hub have received, on several occasions, more emergency calls than they took on September 11, 2001. Call volume in the most populated city in the US typically ranges between 4,000 and 4,200 calls a day but since late March telecommunicators have received more than 5,500 calls daily to public safety answering points (PSAPs) - and on two consecutive days exceeded 7,000.


Grant it, the Big Apple is big, but the sheer call volume increase over the city’s (and the country’s) darkest day is very telling. The numbers in New York, as well is in other cities, reinforce the reality that dispatchers are, undeniably, on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic - only working behind the scenes.


Coincidently, it was National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week last week, a time devoted to celebrating the incredible work that is being done by the unseen, unwavering individuals charged with directing emergency response resources to those in need. If ever there was a time and a reason to pay our respect to call dispatch centers and the even-keel professionals on the other end of the phone – it is now.


Telecommunicators tend to operate from secure, remote consoles. They deal with non-stop calls and fluctuating stress levels; and rarely learn the outcome of the problems they are solving or meet the people they are helping. They are the first point of contact for citizens who are often experiencing their worst day; and yet amid chaos, they must remain calm, gather the correct information, provide lifesaving instructions, and share succinct information with first responders and others.


Depending on length of tenure and the location of dispatch, some telecommunicators working in emergency communication centers have been able to draw on what they learned when other outbreaks of communicable diseases occurred. But for the most part, dispatchers dealing with COVID-related calls have been impacted in a way that will resonate for years to come.


Since the virus took hold, telecommunicators have been following organizational requirements and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and International Academies of Emergency Dispatch (IAED). They have made modifications to identify potential infected patients and to limit responder exposure. They possess a unique view of the pandemic; and hopefully, PSAP personnel will be involved, from the get go, when officials begin to prepare for future public health emergencies.


Telecommunicators turn to NFPA 1061, Standard for Public Safety Telecommunications Personnel Professional Qualifications for best practices on receiving, processing, and disseminating emergency call information. They also refer to the standard to learn how they can best identify when they or fellow employees exhibit signs and symptoms of emotional and behavioral distress. This is important these days as burnout and stress is certain to follow in the wake of coronavirus, if the issues haven’t already presented. But even during normal times, telecommunicators can experience the highs of helping a mother with childbirth delivery and the lows of dealing with a frantic call from a family member looking to help a loved one in need. You just never know what’s going to be on the other end of the line.

 

Day in and day out, 911 dispatchers show that they can answer the call; they are making a difference in patient and responder safety and deserve our appreciation.

 

NFPA has provided a wide range of resources in recent weeks to help address responder safety, emergency planning, building, fire and life safety issues. Our goal is to support you and your work with useful resources and communications during this difficult time. How are we doing? How else can we help? Take our short survey and tell us what you think.

I have written several blogs regarding employees at risk of an electrical injury. Many of those blogs point out that electrical injuries and fatalities are not limited to those solely in an electrical occupation. It has been a while since I looked through 29 CFR 1910. Standard 1910.332 applies to training employees who face a risk of electric shock that is not reduced to a safe level. A table associated with 1910.332(a) (summarized below) indicates occupational categories considered to be a greater risk of electrical injury than other occupations.

electrical safety

Notice that more non-electrical occupations are listed than electrical ones. An included note further states that employees in the listed occupations are required to be trained. You may want to remedy the situation if your occupation is on this list and no documented electrical safety program exists at your company.

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

 

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

 

Next time: An Employer’s Responsibility.

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

If there has been a constant concern throughout the coronavirus, it has been the issue of infection control. While the medical community works tirelessly to save lives and straighten the COVID-19 curve, first responders play an equally vital role on the front lines.


To help EMTs, firefighters, and law enforcement reduce risk as they administer care and transport patients, NFPA produced a tip sheet on infection control for first responders, which has been accessed and shared by many departments, to date. But, in our visual, bite-size world – a request came in for an infographic that emergency response organizations could post in stations, share on social media, leave in apparatus, and make part of ongoing communications during this pandemic. We applaud that kind of outreach, and remind everyone to keep doing what you must, on the front lines or otherwise, to keep safe as this virus plays out.

 

NFPA will continue to generate key resources and information that address responder safety, emergency planning, building, fire and life safety issues. Our goal is to support you and your work. How are we doing? How else can we help? Take our short survey and tell us what you think.

At this time, the world continues to be significantly impacted by COVID-19 and we no longer believe it is possible to host and conduct the NFPA Conference and Expo in June. NFPA is a safety organization and we would not hold an event where the well-being of staff, attendees, and business partners could be compromised in any way.

 

 

(See Jim Pauley’s full statement on the cancellation of the 2020 NFPA Conference & Expo in the video above.)

 

There are some activities that occur at the event, in particular the Association’s Annual Meeting and the election of directors to the Board, as well as the codes and standards technical meeting that NFPA will handle in a remote manner. More information on these activities will be forthcoming and will be posted on the website.

 

You can find additional information about the cancellation by visiting our conference website.

 

Our annual conference is a very important event for us, as it is important for all of you who participate. While we are disappointed we will not be meeting in person this year, we do look forward to celebrating the 125th anniversary of NFPA as an association with you at the 2021 NFPA Conference & Expo, which will be held the week of June 21, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

 

Stay safe during this unprecedented time. Thank you for the work you all do.

 

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

For the second month in a row, the latest installment of my Learn Something New YouTube video series deals with a safety topic related to the global coronavirus pandemic. In March, I released a video on NFPA's first responder infection control standard, NFPA 1581. This month, I've tackled the topic of hand sanitizer, and the fire safety considerations for handling and storing this flammable liquid. 

 

If in the past few weeks you've visited any store that typically sells hand sanitizer, you've likely had no luck finding it. Faced with COVID-19 fears, frantic shoppers have snatched up every last bottle of hand sanitizer along with the rest of the disinfectant wipes, sprays, and toilet paper. To meet the surge in hand sanitizer demand, some businesses already versed in the world of alcohol, like breweries and distilleries, are shifting their production capabilities to crank out hand sanitizer instead of booze.

 

The problem with that, safety experts have warned, is it could create a fire hazard, especially when large amounts of hand sanitizer are being stored in areas that weren't designed to hold such a highly flammable product. While most hard liquor clocks in at 40 percent ethanol by volume, hand sanitizer ranges from 60 to 95 percent. "They may have introduced things that compromise previously put in place protections," Guy Colonna, director of NFPA's Engineering Technical Services division, says in the video. 

 

When more than 5 gallons of hand sanitizer is being stored, the provisions found in NFPA 30, Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code, apply. These provisions require, for example, storage in a flammable liquids cabinet or in an area protected by an automatic sprinkler system, depending on how much liquid is being stored. 

 

Watch my full interview with Guy below. 

 

The past couple of months have seen a major shift in the way many of us are working. A global pandemic has shifted our idea of what “normal” means for our daily lives.

 

For some, it means layoffs until we get through this thing. For others it means life goes on just as it did before, only now we're at risk of contracting a disease that for some could be fatal. Healthcare workers, emergency personnel, grocery store clerks, they all fall into the “essential work” category and must face this threat every day. There is also another group deemed essential – the men and women who service and build the infrastructure we all need in these unprecedented times.

 

For example, what if the power supplying a major hospital treating COVID-19 patients were to go out and there were no linemen to bring the system back online? Without these essential workers, the infrastructure that those on the front lines of the COVID-19 fight depend on, would be in big trouble. In order to maintain critical systems and equipment, it often means these employees are being exposed to both COVID hazards and electrical hazards. As you can imagine, there have been many questions about this, such as:

 

  • Can we wear N95 masks under arc flash PPE?
  • Can we share PPE?
  • Can PPE be disinfected? If so, what is the proper method for disinfecting PPE so it won’t have an effect on arc rating or flame resistance?

 

In these turbulent times we still want to make sure we’re protecting employees and providing a workplace that is free from known and recognized hazards.Recently, I had the opportunity to connect with a good friend of mine who just happens to know a lot about arc flash PPE and the science behind it. Hugh Hoagland is the Senior consultant at ArcWear and E-Hazard and has been in the business of testing the limits of arc and flame resistance personal protective equipment for a long time. As it turns out, Hugh has done some testing on what happens to an N95 mask under an arc-flash face shield and the effects of certain disinfecting cleaners on the FR and AR ratings of these garments.

 

Check out our conversation in the video below:

 


 

These are truly unprecedented times we are living in, and while no one has every answer, we do need to stay vigilant and put forth our best good-faith efforts to protect those who are keeping the world running. Even during all of this uncertainty, it’s good to know there are tests being conducted and data being translated to help put our minds at ease as we suit up to help others in the name of safety.  

 

Stay safe, stay healthy, and keep doing what we all do best.

 

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

 

NFPA has also provided a wide range of resources that support fully operational fire and life safety systems, while balancing the realities of the current pandemic. Our goal is to support you and your work during this difficult time. How can we continue to help? Take our short survey and tell us what you think.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has released two new online learning courses, Life Safety and Fire Protection Systems Fundamentals and NFPA 25 ITM of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems. The new offerings are perfect for workers that have been furloughed, professionals toiling remotely, and engineering students and others looking to expand their understanding of building systems while at home quarantining.

 

“NFPA stakeholders skilling up for when they return to their jobs is a silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their investment in learning more about fire and life safety now will, no doubt, benefit themselves, their company, and their customers in the future,” Bartholomew Jae, director of NFPA Education & Development said. Building owners, facility managers, commercial insurance agents, electrical workers, contract fire protection system installers, construction personnel, aspiring engineers, regulators, employers who oversee building and life safety professionals, and those interested in pursuing careers in the built environment will find value in these new programs.

 

Life Safety and Fire Protection Systems Fundamentals is being offered for the first time. It is a two-hour high-level course that is unlike most NFPA training. The curriculum does not entail a deep dive on codes, but rather explains how various codes (NFPA and others) impact these systems. The course is meant to introduce students to key concepts and terminology; and provide a broad understanding of egress, building systems, occupancy and use, building rehabilitation, emergency planning, detection and alarms, and sprinkler systems. The self-paced program includes expert-developed content, videos, and interactive exercises; and follows a worker who is reviewing various facility systems and the impact that they have on fire and life safety.

 

NFPA 25: Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems has been updated to include the latest revisions to NFPA 25. The three-part, three-hour, self-paced training covers everything for maintaining water-based fire protection systems including sprinklers, fire pumps, water tanks and more. This course is designed to help building owners and managers, installers, contractors, enforcement officials, and anyone with a role in ITM maintenance save time and money; and perform their job duties to a higher standard. It features a combination of procedural videos, custom animation components, and interactive activities where the stakeholder can navigate through different ITM scenarios.

 

A certificate of completion and CEUs will be awarded after successful completion of each course.


NFPA offers a variety of online learning programs; and in recent weeks has also developed resources that support fully operational fire and life safety systems and adherence to codes and standards, while balancing the realities of the current world health crisis. Our goal is to support you and your work with useful resources and communications during this difficult time. How are we doing? How else can we help? Take our short survey and tell us what you think.

 

COVID-19 is having an immediate and drastic impact on the construction industry with job sites being abandoned and workers being furloughed. A byproduct of these unprecedented pandemic-related changes has been the demobilization of construction/alteration/demolition sites. Authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs), contractors, installer/maintainers, facility managers and owners find themselves assessing appropriate steps to safeguard job sites and comply with local requirements.

 

To help, NFPA has released a tip sheet called Construction Site Safety During Emergencies. The new at-a-glance-guidance is designed to help parties implement the appropriate steps to maintain safety while complying with local requirements that are in effect now and may apply during future emergencies.

 

The tip sheet draws on the best practices found in NFPA 241, Standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alteration and Demolition Operations. While NFPA 241 is not specifically intended for demobilization efforts, the standard provides time-tested benchmarks for the building and enforcement communities as they strive to keep construction sites safer during any phase of work.


The new resource centers around three critical questions:

 

  1. What existing conditions are currently onsite?
  2. What key requirements should be considered?
  3. How do these buildings properly resume operations when cleared to do so?

 

The guidance zeroes in on existing conditions found on job sites; the questions that should be asked and answered; the sections in NFPA 241 where information can be found; and other pertinent considerations. It emphasizes the importance of developing a Fire Safety Program that prioritizes good housekeeping, onsite security, fire protection systems, rapid communication and protection of existing structures; and underscores the need for a Fire Prevention Program Manager (FPPM) who will successfully carry out the Fire Safety Program with particular attention on fire protection devices, inspections, and impairments.

 

The new tool reminds members of the built environment to keep in mind that when government, building or fire officials announce that construction/alteration/demolition can resume – it is important to keep in mind others who may need to be considered such as federal, state, and local authorities, or certain insurance providers.


In addition to using the new tip sheet and taking a deeper dive via NFPA 241, consider using the downtime you may have these days to find out more about building under construction fires. My colleague Richard Campbell just published an updated version of the Fires in Structures Under Construction or Renovation report that looks at these types of fires, and includes, among other things:

 

  • Leading causes of fires and the direct property damage that resulted
  • Timing of fires, both in calendar months and time of day
  • Leading items that first ignited in structures
  • Types of heat sources that caused fires

 

In recent weeks, NFPA has provided a wide range of resources that support fully operational fire and life safety systems as required by the applicable codes and standards while balancing the realities of the current pandemic. Our goal is to support you and your work with useful resources and communications during this difficult time. How are we doing? How else can we help? Take our short survey and tell us what you think.

The overused understatement of the decade is, “This is an unprecedented time.” While the coronavirus outbreak has turned our lives into something none of us likely ever imagined, one fundamental life safety truth remains: THERE IS NO JUSTIFIABLE REASON FOR LOCKING EGRESS DOORS OR OTHERWISE COMPROMISING MEANS OF EGRESS IN OCCUPIED BUSINESSES.

 

We have seen some pretty extraordinary things with respect to application of the Life Safety Code over the last month or so, including the conversion of convention centers and dormitories into makeshift hospitals. These conversions have required health care providers and authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) to creatively apply the goals and objectives of the Code to these facilities while not meeting the precise, prescriptive requirements. In some cases, the rules have needed to bend in order to achieve the necessary goal of saving as many patients’ lives as possible. This is perfectly justifiable. 

 

While many businesses have been forced to close to minimize the spread of the virus, others have been deemed ‘essential’ by state governments and continue to provide needed services. In many areas, these include grocery stores, building supply/hardware stores, and restaurants for take-out/delivery. For these operating businesses, the importance of social distancing is recognized and the way we shop for groceries and other items probably looks a bit different than it did a month ago. In the area where I live, stores have adopted practices whereby the number of shoppers permitted in the store is limited to avoid crowding; aisles have been designated as one-way to reduce the occurrence of shoppers passing one another in close proximity; at the checkout lines, marks on the floor indicate where to stand to maintain a distance of 6 ft from other customers. These are all reasonable precautions to help keep staff and customers healthy and they have no adverse impact on fire and life safety.


On the other hand, NFPA has also been made aware of some businesses locking egress doors and blocking exit access paths to control access and the flow of customers through the store. This might be well intended to enhance social distancing, but it could be extremely dangerous in the event of a fire or similar emergency requiring the evacuation of occupants. The current health emergency might justify turning an exhibit hall into a field hospital without meeting all the prescriptive Code requirements for a health care occupancy, but it does not justify compromising means of egress from a grocery store, big box store, or fast food restaurant. A fundamental tenet of life safety from fire is means of egress must be available to building occupants whenever the building is occupied. If a fast food restaurant is open for drive-thru pickup only, the egress doors must be openable from the inside by the workers without requiring the use of a key, tool, or special knowledge via one latch/lock releasing motion (e.g., depressing a panic bar or lever release). If a door can’t be locked from the outside and remain operable from the inside, the door must remain unlocked; a sign on the door indicating drive-through service only is available will have to suffice. The same goes for entrances to grocery stores; if only one entrance is to be used to control access, other entrances serving as required means of egress must remain unlocked. Signage or staff can be utilized to direct shoppers to the queue at the designated entry point. Likewise, aisles are required egress paths and must not be blocked. Floor markings, signs, and staff can all be used to direct the flow of customers while leaving the aisles accessible in and emergency.


Too many people have died in fires over the years due to compromised means of egress. The situation we, including first responders, currently face is difficult enough. Let’s not make it any worse by creating situations having the potential to lead to a large loss-of-life fire. With a little creativity, employees and customers can be kept safe from both the coronavirus and fire.


Did you know NFPA 101 is available to review online for free? Head over to www.nfpa.org/101 and click on “FREE ACCESS.” NFPA has also provided a wide range of resources that support fully operational fire and life safety systems, while balancing the realities of the current pandemic. Our goal is to support you and your work during this difficult time. How are we doing? How else can we help? Take our short survey and tell us what you think.


Thanks for reading. Stay safe and healthy. Follow me on Twitter: @NFPAGregH

#tigerkingnetflix         #tigerkingmemes

 

COVID-19 has flipped our world upside down. Whether you’re on the front lines of this global health crisis or doing your part by staying put, we are all coping with losses and adjusting to new routines. For those of us who are lucky to be safe at home, we are looking for new hobbies and entertainment to fill the time once occupied by sports, concerts, parties, and even mundane errands. Well, in these uncertain times, one thing has become a constant in American households… and it’s dressed in leopard print. Tiger King, a new true crime docu-series on Netflix, has captured the attention of over 34 million viewers with its volatile cast of characters viciously feuding within the world of exotic big cat conservation and collecting.

 

With a love for animals and a fascination with true crime, this show naturally made it to the top of my list. Almost every scene has a perplexing twist, but one particular sentence caught my attention. In an interview with the documentarians Sheriff Rhodes of Oklahoma’s Gavin County admitted that the local G.W. Zoo is what kept him up at night. It’s easy to understand why. The zoo, which houses 227 tigers (plus other exotic species) on 16 acres of land, boasts that guests can get closer to animals there than any place in the world. On top of that, it’s located in tornado alley. If that’s not enough to make your Community Risk Reduction (CRR) senses cringe, the head zookeeper was quoted saying “If they walk in here and take my animals away, it is going to be a small Waco.” (Yikes!) When I heard Sheriff Rhodes’ interview I paused the show and texted my colleague saying, “All I can think about is this town’s Community Risk Assessment!” 


“What keeps you up at night?” is a question many fire chiefs and community leaders consider every day, and the answer is usually the safety of the public and the safety of first responders. The process of CRR is a tool these leaders have that can reduce the occurrence and/or impact of risks that threaten the safety of residents and responders in their community. According to NFPA 1300, the first step in the CRR process is conducting a Community Risk Assessment (CRA). A CRA is a comprehensive evaluation that identifies, prioritizes, and defines the risks that pertain to the overall community. It requires local data to help define characteristics of the community, such as its demographics, building stock, geographic landscape, and public safety response capabilities. Some of the first data sources that come to mind for a CRA are the community’s 9-1-1/incident data and Census information. These and other quantitative data are critical for assessing a community’s risks and should always be consulted when making decisions around risk reduction programs. However, some information may not be captured by public data sources, such as the number or location of wild animals being held in captivity. That’s where qualitative data comes into play. Sheriff Rhodes’ knowledge of the risks presented by the G.W. Zoo didn’t come from a spreadsheet – it came from experience. That qualitative data helps supplement quantitative data to tell the full story of his county. The institutional and personal knowledge that we each have about our community is important to a CRA.


This example may seem outlandish (the entire series is), but we all have metaphorical tigers in our community. In this way, the G. W. Zoo is also a reminder to consider the unique qualities of every community. Uniqueness makes a community great, but it can be a double-edged sword. For instance, your annual county fair may strengthen your local economy and entertain residents and visitors. But the same special event can also change the risk landscape. The fair may present overcrowding dangers, bring more motor vehicle crashes to town, and maybe even offer the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pet tiger cub! (Please don’t!) Consequently, a good CRA relies on local data, because it needs to be very specific to your community. CRR is not a one-size-fits-all process because each community has unique risks, partners, resources, and capacities. We all have our own tigers.


To wrap this up for all you cool cats and kittens, in the words of former zoo manager John Reinke, “I’m sure y’all got a story to tell.” Let Tiger King be a fun reminder to let data tell the story of your community, but don’t forget to let qualitative data narrate a chapter or two. Crunch numbers, analyze trends, but also consider the “tigers” that might be lurking in your community. And when you ask yourself, “What keeps me up at night?” I sure hope the answer isn’t Joe Exotic and the G. W. Zoo.

 

In recent weeks as the coronavirus grips the globe, NFPA has provided a wide range of resources that support fully operational fire and life safety systems as required by the applicable codes and standards while balancing the realities of the current pandemic. Our goal is to support you and your work with useful resources and communications during this difficult time. How are we doing? How else can we help? Take our short survey and tell us what you think.

During this difficult time, as the world witnesses the relentless spread of COVID-19, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has released several new resources to help stakeholders with life safety efforts. Two documents, in particular, an Emergency Preparedness Checklist based on NFPA 1600 and a new bulletin that highlights information within NFPA 1600, NFPA 1581, Standard on Fire Department Infection Control ProgramNFPA 1999, Standard on Protective Clothing and Ensembles for Emergency Medical Operations, and guidance from both the World Health Organization and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can be used by first responders during this pandemic. Both documents have been translated into Arabic, the main language in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), a region that consists of 22 countries and makes up 5% of the world’s population. The latter of the two documents was prepared in collaboration with the Saudi Patient Safety Center.

 

 

In the days since this guidance was released, feedback from fire officials and Civil Defense authorities has been overwhelming. The documents began to go viral via various fire service social media channels; and resulted in great comments and sharing. The overall sentiment? The timely creation of important guidance, translated to the language of choice in the MENA region, during an unprecedented time in history shows that NFPA, is invested in cultivating strong alliances throughout the GCC states (the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf). While it continues to hold true that there is enormous variation in the economic, demographic, and technological levels in MENA countries, each of the countries in the region share an unfortunate lack of knowledge about fire and life safety codes, compliance, and enforcement. NFPA is committed, and our Global team is driven, to fill this awareness gap, and provide authorities throughout the MENA territories with the information and knowledge that will help protect people and property from harm.

 

Utilizing these two translated documents will go a long way in keeping communities and first responders safe during COVID-19 and ordinary times. In recent weeks, NFPA has provided a wide range of resources in English that support fully operational fire and life safety systems as required by applicable codes and standards, while balancing the realities of the current pandemic. Our goal is to support you and your work with useful resources and communications during this difficult time. How are we doing? How else can we help? Take our short survey and tell us what you think.

 

With truck drivers working all hours of the day to deliver critical supplies during COVID-19, the Federal Highway Administration recently announced that food trucks are permitted at interstate rest areas to help curb the appetite of the unsung heroes transporting food, personal protective equipment, medical devices, and other essentials during the shutdown instituted by the president. This timely provision has been a welcome change for road warriors across the US, given that very few restaurants are open these days and the demand for deliverables is high.


NFPA has several resources dedicated to the fire and life safety requirements associated with food trucks and other temporary cooking operations. In addition to maintaining social distance, washing hands and wiping down surfaces, food truck operators should remember to keep propane cylinders upright and secure, perform leak testing on all gas connections of the propane system, and ensure that the correct portable fire extinguishers are readily available.

 

Please visit www.nfpa.org/foodtrucksafety for additional information. Be safe out there!

When health care facilities are operating under the conditions like the ones the U.S. health care system is facing right now, stressors are placed on everything, including physical space, staffing levels, available supplies, and the level of care being provided. Everyday code-based solutions simply will not work in many circumstances.

 

With that understanding, NFPA has released a new resource as we continue to provide guidance to health care providers working to establish and maintain adequate fire and life safety levels during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Compiled from input received by various sources including NFPA’s Healthcare Interpretations Task Force (HITF), the latest white paper, “Considerations for Temporary Compliance Options in Health Care Environments During COVID-19” reflects feedback from authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs), federal, state and local officials, health care industry professionals, and others who have identified multiple compliance challenges and issues that health care facilities are currently facing.  The paper discusses ongoing challenges not only in purpose-built hospitals, but also in the alternate care sites such as convention centers and hotels.

 

NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities Code and NFPA 101, Life Safety Code include a range of requirements that are primarily applied through the prescriptive criteria contained in each document. However, each document also permits the use of equivalencies to determine if the level of prescribed safety can be achieved with other means or measures, including the use of risk-based approaches, performance-based approaches, or other concepts. The new white paper provides an overview of these compliance options. It also uses portions of NFPA 550, Guide to the Fire Safety Concepts Tree, highlighting the fundamental “decision tree” that can be used to achieve the fire safety objectives of a building, structure, or process under virtually any configuration or scenario imaginable. 

 

The examples of compliance challenges and considerations for addressing these issues can help provide the level of fire protection and life safety intended by the prevailing codes and standards, as well as the broad guidance put forth by CMS. While they don’t satisfy all of the provisions that are normally required, the intent of the document is to make sure that these safety issues are not overlooked during the accelerated construction phase related to the current public health emergency.

 

Overall, our goal has been to help facility managers, engineers, designers, AHJs, and others assess the common scenarios and challenges they are seeing against what is normally required, recognizing that each situation has its own unique variables.

 

We will continue to provide resources and support for health care facilities as new information is put forward. As soon as the pandemic begins to subside and facilities return to a normal level of care, these interim or temporary measures should be withdrawn, and facilities should resume their normal operational processes and procedures.

 

Also, check the NFPA website for additional key resources and information that address emergency planning, building, fire and life safety issues as the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) subject matter experts will host a free COVID-19 Fire and Life Safety Webinar Series this Tuesday through Thursday, April 14-16. During the three one hour sessions NFPA technical staff will provide information and guidance; and offer timely feedback to fire protection, healthcare, construction safety, and life safety professionals. Those responsible for protecting people and property are invited to register for the educational trio or to sign up for the one(s) that are most relevant for workplace needs.

 

1.   Maintaining Fire Protection Systems Regardless of Occupancy
      Tuesday, April 14, 1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m. (EST)
      Shawn Mahoney, Fire Protection Engineer

 

2.   Maintaining Safe Health Care Facilities in Times of Crisis
      Wednesday April 15, 1:00-2:00 p.m. (EST)
      Robert Solomon, P. E.

 

3.   Construction Site Safety During Emergencies
      Thursday April 16,1:00-2:00 p.m. (EST)
      Kevin Carr, NFPA, Fire Protection Engineer

 

In recent weeks, NFPA has provided a wide range of resources that support fully operational fire and life safety systems as required by the applicable codes and standards while balancing the realities of the current pandemic. Our goal is to support you and your work with useful resources and communications during this difficult time. How are we doing? How else can we help? Take our short survey and tell us what you think.


At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, a call came from the Community Outreach Coordinator in my town seeking volunteers to assist with a newly implemented meal share program. To ensure no residents would be hungry while stay-at-home orders are in place, organizers from the mayor’s office, the senior center, the housing department, and volunteers from a variety of agencies came together to coordinate a meal pickup site as well as a contactless delivery program for home-bound and high-risk residents. Like many people who are feeling the need to be helpful, I jumped at the opportunity to participate.


I was fortunate to score a late afternoon time slot on an unusually warm, sunny March afternoon and found myself working alongside another local mom who works for FM Global. Amy told me about the #FMGlobalCares initiative and how her company, much like NFPA and many other companies, encourages employee volunteerism. Over the course of a few hours, we talked about our jobs, our kids, and the crisis at hand while we handed out over 400 free meals to our neighbors. At the end of the day, I felt great about helping and my mind was spinning about how we could do more.


In my role at NFPA, I am immersed in work intended to pave the way for local Community Risk Reduction (CRR) implementation. NFPA, 1300 Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development serves as the cornerstone for this process. While the document is chock full of helpful content, my recent volunteer experience got me focused on one important component: partnerships.


When you look around your community and take note of the successful initiatives playing out during this crisis, you will notice a common thread. The wins are driven by partnerships. We have realized that together, we accomplish more. We see simple acts of neighbors looking out for neighbors by consolidating grocery (and liquor!) store trips, restaurants providing food to essential workers, and local merchants providing free materials to help families make face coverings. There are also massive public-private projects to get COVID-19 testing up and running and corporate internet providers offering free wi-fi for local school children to help the learning process roll on. And of course, this New England gal still has a warm fuzzy feeling from watching the New England Patriots plane return home from a round-trip flight to China with a belly full of critical medical supplies donated to the New York City coronavirus hot spot.


In a previous blog, COVID-19 Provides Opportunity for Elevating Your Community Risk Reduction Efforts, I encouraged readers to peel away the layers of fear, confusion, and hardship to see the opportunity this crisis provides. I truly believe we can emerge from this crisis stronger and prepared to embrace the work of prevention. The partnerships we build now will certainly have value once life gets back to normal.


If your typical CRR activities have been grounded due to COVID-19, consider switching gears to build out your partnership cache. Think about stakeholders and potential partners who strengthen your CRR plan. Reach out to them and find out how they are doing. Ask if there is anything you can do to lighten their loads. For example, school leaders are important CRR partners who are currently faced with big challenges. You may be able to lend a hand by assisting with contact-free delivery of learning packets, lunches, or chromebooks – and maybe you can slide some life safety information in as well! Offer to share your Community Risk Assessment data to help leaders solve unique problems related to education. Perhaps a motivational message on social media to families engaged in home schooling would be appreciated. Maybe you could offer the principal a sweet ride on a fire truck through the neighborhood to help the kids feel connected to their school during this crazy time. Not only can you demonstrate your worth as a partner and put chips into your CRR bank but your actions will build community during a time when we need this most. Think creatively and start with an offer instead of an ask. When you start by giving, your partnership base will grow quickly, as will your heart.


The NFPA CRR team would love to hear from you. If you have additional ideas about how to keep your CRR initiatives moving forward during these uncertain times, reach out to CRR@nfpa.org.

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