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While the methods and materials used to install safe electrical systems have improved considerably throughout the over 125-year history of the National Electrical Code (NEC), we know there’s still much work to be done to address the fact that every year, according to NFPA research, electrical-related malfunctions are responsible for an average of 61,000 fires, over $2 billion in direct property losses, and 432 deaths.NEC

 

To help address this issue, it’s important that states enact and enforce fire, electrical, building, and life safety codes and standards, and utilize the latest codes and standards that establish minimum levels of safety to protect people and property. As I write this, I’m pleased to report that the state of Massachusetts’ recent update of the Massachusetts Electrical Code to contain the requirements of the 2020 edition of the NEC (plus MA-specific amendments) is the first state to implement the latest version of the code. Read the press release.

 

Recent polling by the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Policy Institute shows that people feel the government should be held accountable for ensuring safety requirements are up-to-date for their constituents. They assume it is currently happening. But in many cases it is not. Massachusetts’ efforts, however, demonstrate a true understanding of the code’s vital public safety mission and its value to the electrical community and its residents.

 

In today’s fast-paced world, a changing infrastructure, new technology, evolving risks, and competing priorities all put pressure on maintaining strong fire and life safety protections. It’s critical that all levels of government take their responsibility for keeping their communities safe from fire, electrical, and other hazards, seriously. Massachusetts serves as an important example of this. It’s our belief, and hope, that other states will follow in Massachusetts’ footsteps. It is what citizens expect of them.

 

For additional information, check out the NEC enforcement and usage map on NFPA’s website, and find out where the NEC is currently in effect.

 

 

This blog was going to cover protecting employees from electrical hazards, but the subject has been changed to reflect the latest news about NFPA 70E.

The Second Draft of NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace has been posted on the NFPA 70E Doc Info Page under the Next Edition tab. Please review the document since it is what will to be voted on at the 2020 Conference and Expo in Orlando. You have until February 19, 2020 to submit a Notice of Intent to Make A Motion (NITMAM) if you feel the Second Draft requires further revision. You should review the Regulations and Policies and the standards development process if you intend to submit a NITMAM. 

It is important that you play a role in the development of the standard. Safety in the workplace can only be improved through the benefit of your knowledge. What you see online is what will become the 2021 Edition if no Certified Amending Motions (CAM) are presented on the floor in Orlando. You will be complying with the requirements for the next 3 years. It is your standard, be part of it.

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 the NEC Connect newsletter to stay informed of new content. The newsletter also includes NFPA 70E information such as my blogs.

Next time: When to protect an employee from electrical hazards.

Please Note: Any comments, suggested text changes, or technical issues related to NFPA Standards posted or raised in this communication are not submissions to the NFPA standards development process and therefore will not be considered by the technical committee(s) responsible for NFPA Standards development.  To learn how to participate in the NFPA standards development process and submit proposed text for consideration by the responsible technical committee(s), please go to www.nfpa.org/submitpi for instructions.

 

At-risk populations such as the elderly, school-age children, those who are hard of hearing or alcohol-impaired do not fully benefit from conventional smoke alarm alerts, particularly during sleeping hours. Research has been conducted to develop performance requirements to optimize the waking effectiveness for alarm and signaling systems to meet the needs of these at-risk groups.

 

One major finding from experimental tests is that the 520 Hz square wave T-3 sound was the most effective signal to awaken at-risk populations. However, the implementation of low frequency sounders into battery-operated smoke alarms has proven difficult due to the fact that they require up to four times the amount of power as traditional sounders.

 

On Wednesday, February 5, 12:30-2:00pm EST, the Fire Protection Research Foundation will be hosting a free webinar, "Review of Audible Alarm Signal Waking Effectiveness," which will provide a detailed review of the available information and data on this topic, which may be used to justify a reduction in the sound pressure level for 520 Hz sounding devices while maintaining superior waking performance to comparable installed high frequency sounding devices.

 

2020 Research Foundation webinar series sponsors: American Wood Council; Edwards Fire & Life Safety; Johnson Controls; Telgian Engineering and Consulting; and The Zurich Services Corporation.

 

Register for the webinar today!

Visit www.nfpa.org/webinars for more upcoming NFPA webinars and archives. 

NFPA 110 is going through its first substantial change in decades and the change will affect those who typically were not subject to NFPA 110's requirements. The different uses of fuel cells have increased as the cells became a viable power source option. One such use is as an emergency power source. The National Electrical Code(NEC) has permitted fuel cells as an emergency source since 2005.  NFPA 99, Health Care Facility Code added fuel cells as an acceptable emergency source in 2012. The scope of NFPA 110 is the performance of emergency and standby power systems providing an alternate source of emergency electrical power to loads in buildings and facilities in the event that the primary power source fails.

Currently, there are no NFPA 110 requirements addressing fuel cells for that application.

The performance of an emergency power system is critical for life safety. With the increased interest is utilizing fuel cells, general installation requirements for fuel cells are inadequate just as general requirements for a generator were inadequate. There needs to be specific requirements to address issues to help ensure proper fuel cell function during an emergency.  To that end, the NFPA 110 Technical Committee is seeking public and industry comments for the next edition of the standard. The intent is to provide performance requirements similar to those for generators.

Much work is being conducted to have the requirements fleshed out for the Second Draft meeting. The Technical Committee has drafted Committee Input No. 9 (CI-9) to solicit comments on the performance requirements specific to a fuel cell used as an emergency system. Please review CI-9 through the online portal.

Comments can be made until May 6, 2020 by clicking the link to Public Comment.

 

NFPA is now accepting nominations for the 2020 James M. Shannon Advocacy Medal, which recognizes outstanding advocacy efforts aimed at reducing losses associated with fire, electrical, or other hazards.

The advocacy medal honors an individual or group that shares the values of former NFPA President James Shannon. During his 12-year tenure as president, Shannon had an exceptional record of advocacy efforts tied to life safety issues. Under his leadership, NFPA considerably advanced its mission of fire safety, most notably by spearheading the Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes and advocating for fire sprinklers in all new homes.

Nominees should be involved in advocacy efforts that advance NFPA’s mission, take into account cost-effectiveness, and involve collaboration with NFPA and other organizations. Previous medal recipients include Jon Nisja who played a key role in changing model codes and strengthening Minnesota’s fire code. NFPA recognized Jim Dalton in 2018 for his efforts supporting a career-long commitment to fire safety which led to the passage of the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act. Legislator Ann Jones received the medal in 2017 following her efforts leading to a nationwide requirement for home fire sprinklers in Wales.

Nominations are open to members of the fire service or any other person or group whose advocacy efforts meet the award’s criteria. The medal recipient will be honored at NFPA’s Conference & Expo in Orlando, Florida, in June 2020. NFPA will cover the recipient’s travel and lodging.

The nominee application, which is available for download, is has been extended to February 5, 2020 and can be sent to publicaffairs@nfpa.org

 

Photo: John Nisja (center) accepts the 2019 James M. Shannon Advocacy Medal from NFPA's Lorraine Carli (left), Vice President of Outreach and Advocacy, and Jim Pauley (right) President and CEO.

Camp Fire

 

With Australia’s devastating wildfires grabbing headlines, it’s a propitious time to educate people—especially elected officials—that while wildfires are inevitable, wildfire disasters need not be.

 

This is the message highlighted by NFPA President Jim Pauley in a recent piece in the UPenn Regulatory Review, a publication of the University of Pennsylvania’s Program on Regulation. The piece acknowledges that the conditions that have produced the recent destructive wildfires, like poor forest health and climate change, will likely continue. However, while politicians fret about the “new normal,” the piece points out that they have had little appetite for enacting the types of changes that will help keep communities safe. Instead, the impetus to fight the fires remains the norm.

 

But fighting the fires isn’t enough. Or at least, relying on fire fighting isn’t a sustainable, or effective, solution to the problem of protecting communities in areas prone to wildfires. Years of research by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the U.S. Forest Service, and others, has revealed that it is the embers falling on wood shake roofs, wooden decks, debris-filled gutters, and encroached vegetation that make homes vulnerable to fire during a wildfire event—not the heat from the forest burning nearby. Standards from NFPA and programs like Firewise USA can help communities mitigate those risks, but only if they’re actually followed.

 

As noted by Mr. Pauley in the piece, there are many towns like Payson, Arizona, high on wildfire risk and home to local leaders that debate stricter code requirements, but who then retreat to making modest changes that do little to lower the overall danger level of the community. Without greater political will to require safer construction (including excluding development from some high risk areas) and to enforce risk reduction practices among existing homeowners, thousands of communities in the U.S. will remain in danger from wildfires.   

 

Few people would entertain the idea of fighting a hurricane or an earthquake. Yet, instead of preparing for wildfires, we fight them. This mentality obscures the reality that people have the most power to protect their homes well before the forest goes up in flames.

 

As we look into a future with more wildfire on our North American landscape, it would be instructive to remember the past. Throughout the nineteenth century, and into the twentieth, entire cities were destroyed in blazes that began in a single home. But, as we learned more about fire prevention, cities mandated stricter standards, and over time, the threat of urban conflagrations became exceedingly rare. We can apply this lesson to communities in wildfire prone areas, but not without leaders willing to force a change in the direction of fire safety.

 

Read the piece in The Regulatory Review.

 

For additional, related information, visit the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Policy Institute webpage where you can download a free fact sheet that provides guidance to policymakers on how to help keep (their) communities safer from wildfire.  

 

Photo: Burned out homes from California's Camp Fire

Getty Images

No one knows risk and the consequences of poor or no action better than first responders. Afterall, the incidents and accidents that they respond to often occur because the general public was complacent in some way, and didn’t take action for their own safety. They may have ignored common sense or basic safety tips during cooking, grilling, heating, or when using candles, electrical devices, and other potential sources of combustion resulting in fire, and firefighters responding.


Firefighters also know about the hazards that arise when workers get careless. For example, when welding takes place without proper knowledge; fire protection systems are bypassed during design and construction; or when the standards that ensure that people and property are kept safe are not followed and enforced. If key safety benchmarks are ignored by workers, there’s a good chance that fire will occur and firefighters will need to respond.


The latest in the Everyone Goes Home Speak Up video series from the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) turns the mirror of risk inward, and asks firefighters to think and take action to better protect themselves. In the video, retired Chief Robert Fling from the Dix Hills, New York Fire Department asks firefighters to prioritize their health and safety for their own protection and the benefit of loved ones; and highlights the importance of diet, decontamination, and proper cleaning.


Carcinogens take root in firefighter gear, fire stations, on the apparatus floor, in PPE (personal protective equipment), in vehicles, living quarters, on the fireground, and during overhaul of the scene. Ignoring the reality of these threats, disregarding standard operating procedures (SOPs), and not learning important information laid out in research and resources increases risk and is the reason why Chief Fling (and others) want to see a cultural shift in the fire service.

 

Watch and share the latest video from NFFF. It is in all our best interests to keep firefighters safe.

Effective this week, NFPA has a new local representative who will oversee the overall regional planning, direction, coordination, and support of international development functions in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).


This role is a natural step for Anas Alzaid, who has been a longtime advocate for NFPA codes and standards. An electrical engineering consultant with more than 30 years of experience working with facilities management and safety professionals, Alzaid will assess local safety concerns; build strong relationships throughout the region; develop safety strategies with existing and new alliances; and represent NFPA in regulatory, legislative, and technical circles.


The Saudi Arabia native’s professional background includes stints in the oil and gas industry, the defense department, utility engineering, the healthcare sector, and telecommunications. An active member of the Saudi Accreditation body in both standards development and the code compliance process, Alzaid will focus on translating codes for local use; making NFPA training and resources available to local leaders and practitioners; and serving as an authoritative representative for the media, government, and other decision makers.


NFPA has had a notable presence in MENA territories for decades. Given unprecedented growth in the region, the Association established a MENA Advisory Committee in 2017 that works to cultivate an effective safety infrastructure throughout the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), an intergovernmental political and economic territory that includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. Working with the MENA Advisory Committee, Alzaid will ensure that the design and construction community utilizes fundamental standards like NFPA 1, the Fire Code, NFPA 13, the Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, NFPA 72, the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, and NFPA 101, the Life Safety Code.


“NFPA is committed to improving fire and life safety throughout the world. Expanding NFPA presence and purpose in MENA countries is an important part of this effort,” NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley said. “Anas Alzaid is well-suited to successfully engage with local stakeholders and underscore the importance of The NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem.”

 

Alzaid and NFPA Global leaders will partake in Intersec, the world’s premiere trade fair for safety, security and fire protection, Sunday through Tuesday in Dubai. If you are attending, please plan to stop by Hall 3, E 24 and say hello.


Hardie Davis, Jr., mayor of Augusta, Georgia, speaks during the First Annual Central Savannah River Area Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response Training Symposium in downtown Augusta on January 16. 

As the sun rose in the city of Augusta, Georgia, this morning, over 250 people gathered inside the historic First Presbyterian Church downtown to attend the First Annual Central Savannah River Area (CSRA) Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Training Symposium.

 

The January 16 symposium marked the start of a yearlong project for Augusta––a city of 200,000 situated on the eastern edge of Georgia, about 60 miles west of Columbia, South Carolina—to implement NFPA 3000 (PS), Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program. About eight months ago, Augusta became the first city in the world to approach NFPA and ask for its involvement in helping to implement the standard, which was released in May 2018.

 

"This is one of the most significant training opportunities our community has ever been a part of," Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis, Jr. said during his opening remarks at the symposium. "In Augusta, our emergency response agencies are already collaborating and working together, but to bring NFPA and all of these community partners and stakeholders together here today is incredible. Real events are taking place all across this nation, [and this project] will make Augusta a strong community for years to come."

 

The symposium, which lasted about eight hours, drew a crowd from multiple fields and areas of expertise, from the emergency medical and fire services to medicine, higher education, law enforcement, and city government—a testament to the need for unified command and integrated response during active shooter and other hostile events, which are concepts taught in NFPA 3000.

 

 Dr. Richard Kamin, a trauma surgeon who responded to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012, speaks during the First Annual Central Savannah River Area Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response Training Symposium in downtown Augusta on January 16. 

After attendees learned the basics of NFPA 3000 and heard stories from individuals who responded to some of the nation's deadliest, most well-known mass shootings, like Sandy Hook and Las Vegas, the day's afternoon events consisted of breakout sessions in which attendees separated into groups and discussed topics ranging from what civilians can do in the event of an active shooter or hostile event to how health care facilities can prepare for the flood of patients during these incidents. 

 

The project will culminate with a large-scale simulation next winter, and the hope is for not only Augusta to grow stronger from the experience, but also for the community to serve as a model for others hoping to become better prepared. 

 

"You are a model for the rest of the country," John Montes, the NFPA staff liaison to NFPA 3000, said during the symposium, speaking to the many locals in the audience. "We can't wait to show other communities how strong Augusta is and how Augusta became even stronger."

 

NFPA Journal will be providing periodic coverage of the Augusta project, in videos and magazine articles, throughout the year. Our last issue included a short piece previewing the project, and our March/April issue is slated to include a more extensive article on the project. 

 

Calling all fire protection professionals! Are you an expert in inspection, testing and maintenance (ITM) of fire protection equipment? Do you manage ITM data activities and reports at a facility? Are you an inspection or contracting company that conducts inspections and testing of fire protection equipment? Are you an AHJ that manages the inspection data of the properties in your jurisdiction? Do you provide software or platforms to inspection companies or AHJ’s to capture ITM data? If so, we are looking for participants like you to help inform an ITM data model that accurately reflects the activities of the fire protection community!

 

As background, many NFPA codes and standards establish minimum frequencies for periodic inspection, testing, and maintenance (ITM) for fire protection systems, however, these frequencies are often historical requirements that are often not based on empirical ITM data or observed deficiencies. In recent years there has been growing interest in risk/occupancy-based and performance-based ITM frequencies; however, to be effective there is a need for a more data-based approach to ITM frequencies. While the use of digital ITM data collection software are evolving, there remains great variation in the format that ITM data is collected, stored, and analyzed. Due to the inconsistency in ITM data collection methodologies, it is difficult to implement data-informed decision-making regarding system reliability, ITM frequencies, and risk acceptability. 

 

The Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF) has previously lead projects and workshops on ITM Data Collection and Analytics that have concluded that additional work needs to be done in order to evaluate and correlate fire protection equipment reliability with code requirements. Some of the identified gaps are the lack of standardization of ITM data format, collection, and submission processes, among others. Despite the widespread appreciation of the importance of ITM data, there is currently no universally adopted data model, or standardized data format, that all stakeholders utilize to share and compare data. This lack of standardization not only limits the ability to determine sound performance-based inspection frequencies, but it also limits the abilities of all stakeholder groups to exchange and analyze data to inform decisions for their own local needs.

 

In response to this need, the Fire Protection Research Foundation has initiated a research project titled the "ITM Data Exchange Model" with the goal of developing and pilot testing a comprehensive, scalable, and extensible ITM data exchange model to facilitate ITM data sharing from diverse data sources. The success of this project depends heavily on understanding the wide variety of data formats and nomenclatures that are currently used to document ITM activities for fire protection systems.  For that reason, the Foundation is seeking samples of ITM data from all sources, including (but not limited to) vendors of any size, contracting/inspection firms, software vendors, custom platforms or forms, etc.  The ITM data samples will help inform the data model.  

 

We are now ready to start collecting samples of ITM Data! 

 

Please read below for more information on how you, or other representatives, can contribute. 


What we want:

  • A representative sample of ITM activity data (i.e. raw data, formatted reports) for inspection and testing activities for one or all the following systems: 
    • Sprinkler systems (wet, dry, pre-action, deluge, antifreeze), 
    • Fire pumps (diesel or electric), 
    • Fire alarm systems
  • The samples of ITM data should clearly identify all data elements collected and their respective format for each ITM activity for the specific system types identified above.
  • To the extent possible, please ensure that any data you intend to share has been stripped of any personally identifiable information (e.g. name of inspector, name of inspection company, name of building owner, etc.), prior to contributing the data. 

 

Note: While large quantities of data are helpful, we are more focused on collecting quality samples of data rather than large quantities at this time. The goal, at this stage, is to capture and understand the diversity of the data by obtaining different types of inspections reports (i.e. fire pump, fire alarm, etc.) from different sources to see the variation in terminology, format, data elements, etc. 

 

Why do we need samples of ITM data? 

  • To understand the variety of data and formats collected, we need to look at the actual data itself. 
  • Once the model is developed, we intend to use actual samples of ITM data to test and confirm the model's ability to analyze diverse data formats.

 

Desired Format:

  • Electronic data (xls, csv, json, or similar file types)
  • The model cannot accept:
    • Paper reports
    • Scanned PDF reports
    • PDF Reports created from digital forms
  • Note: While paper and scanned PDF reports will not be able to be directly imported into the model, they can be used to inform the model development, and thus are still encouraged.

If you would like to contribute data for this project:

  1. Contact Victoria Hutchison, Research Project Manager at the Fire Protection Research Foundation        at vhutchison@nfpa.org indicating you have ITM data you would like to share;
  2. A data contribution agreement and a link to confidentially upload your data will be sent to you. 

 

Note: Any data collected will not be shared; it will only be used to inform the development of the data model.

 

Any contribution would be immensely valuable for this research project, whether it be completed inspection/testing reports of fire protection equipment or blank inspection forms/templates.

 

Additional information on this project can be found here


The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) recently announced the appointment of new members to their Board of Directors including the addition of Lorraine Carli, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) vice president of Outreach and Advocacy.


In her role overseeing media, public affairs, and advocacy activities; the NFPA Journal magazine; and the Association’s wildfire, public education and US/Canada regional operations divisions, Carli has spent the last 14 years cultivating relationships and spearheading collaborative efforts in fire prevention that better protect the public and first responders. NFFF and NFPA undertake critical, challenging work to educate audiences about the impact of fire and help to spur action that reduces loss – including the ultimate sacrifices made by first responders.


Established by Congress in 1992, NFFF partners with organizations, influencers, individual contributors, and private businesses to ensure that America’s fallen firefighters and their families are not forgotten. They proactively partner with the fire service community to reduce firefighter deaths and injuries – a focus that connects seamlessly with the work that NFPA’s data, analytics and research division and the Fire Protection Research Foundation, an affiliate of NFPA, are doing. In addition to tracking firefighters’ injuries and deaths on an annual basis (among many other things), NFPA generates highly relevant reports on modern day fire concerns and emerging issues. The Association also produces more than 100 codes and standards that pertain to emergency responders, as well as training, educational resources, and widely consumed content related to fire, electrical and life safety hazards.


“Having worked very closely with NFFF on a number of initiatives, I’m excited to work in this new capacity. The objectives of NFFF directly correlate to NFPA’s mission and my own personal quest to ensure the highest levels of safety for members of the fire service. It is a great opportunity to honor those that have lost their lives, and to work on strategies that will ensure all firefighters are better protected,” Carli said.


Prior to her arrival at NFPA, Carli oversaw far-reaching awareness efforts for healthcare, technology and government entities. In addition to her leadership role at NFPA and her service on the NFFF Board of Directors, Carli is the President of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, President of the Board of Directors for The Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, and is a member of the Executive Committee of the Electric Safety Foundation International (ESFI) Board of Directors.

Sprinklers

Almost every day in the news, we read about (another) house fire. Families, first responders, communities severely affected. Homes damaged or completely destroyed. Last year, unfortunately, was no different.

In particular, the last few months of 2019 were difficult for the fire department in Worcester, Massachusetts, a city not far from NFPA headquarters. In November, a Worcester firefighter, Lt. Jason Menard, died battling a home fire. Menard’s death occurred just weeks before events to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse Co. fire, a devastating event that killed six of the city’s firefighters. In the wake of this tragedy, news outlets, including The Boston Globe and The Worcester Telegram, and others close to the event, have urgently called for more sprinklers in residences.

As home fire sprinkler adoption continues to be debated in many states, there remains much misinformation about the effectiveness and benefits of home fire sprinklers. But NFPA and like-minded organizations see, first hand, the benefits of sprinklers. In the January/February 2020 edition of NFPA Journal, NFPA President and CEO, Jim Pauley, takes a hard look at the realities of these devastating home fires, and explains why home fire sprinklers must be at the forefront of our fire and life safety discussions.

With a new year upon us now, it’s a good time to reflect on what’s been happening in the fire and life safety world, how far we’ve come, and just how much more we have to do to help keep people and property safe from hazards. The reality is, while there are still many incidents happening here and across the globe, our work can never truly be done. Ecosystem

 

When recognizing these challenges, though, it’s important to note that no one organization or group can solve all of the problems by itself. It requires a holistic approach, one that includes collaboration across all disciplines, and a shared view that safety is a true system – not a singular action, piece of equipment, or even one event.

 

To help guide us through this approach, NFPA has developed a concept called the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem. It’s a framework that identifies eight key components that must work together to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. Many of you are already talking about this concept and incorporating it into your daily work. In so doing, you’ve asked about resources to help share this concept with others. We’re pleased to say we’ve developed a new Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem PowerPoint Deck you can use when making presentations or engaging in conversation with staff, your peers, colleagues, and other industry professionals with whom you interact. Just pick and choose the slides and the information you need from the original deck template.

 

The deck includes:

  • A brief history of NFPA and the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem
  • The full Ecosystem graphic and individual cogs for easy download
  • Talking points

… and more

 

Find the deck on our Ecosystem webpage (Resources section), together with related information, and stay tuned for additional resources and tools that will become available throughout the year.

 

As 2020 swings into gear, don’t just think about the role you play in making the world a safer place; consider taking real action. The Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem can help be your guide.

 

The hazards that firefighters face on the job continue to expand. In recent years, responders have been asked to learn more about handling incidents involving energy storage systems (ESS), alternative fuel vehicles, natural disasters, and active shooters. They’ve been forced to learn, oftentimes the hard way, about occupational exposure and behavioral health issues. Some have taken proactive approaches to better understand these new threats, and embrace new training, research, resources and data.

 

As we enter a new year and a new decade – it's important that we take the time to learn about a new potential threat on the horizon. If history repeats itself, firefighters may very well see it as a non-issue at first – that is until an incident occurs like we saw with ESS last April. Despite NFPA offering (the world’s first) online ESS training for the fire service since 2015 – it, sadly, took eight first responders getting seriously injured when a grid battery exploded in Arizona for members of the fire service to want to learn more about ESS risks and response.

 

So, what’s the newest challenge on the radar? Flammable refrigerants.

 

More than 200 countries begin ushering in low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants this year – including the US. The new technology will be in residential and commercial refrigeration units and air conditioning systems – driving the need for firefighters to learn all they can about flammability and toxicity risks, asphyxiation concerns, jet stream fires, transportation issues, and other life safety considerations.

 

FEMA provided funding to NFPA so that an approximately one-hour, free online curriculum could be developed. The program provides an overview of the GWP transition and highlights specific dangers that firefighters may encounter when responding to incidents where new flammable refrigerants are present. At its core, the training emphasizes strict adherence to standard operating procedures (SOPs), PPE and SCBA protocol, and decontamination practices. Four modules feature videos, animations, simulations, and review missions so that students can:

 

  • Describe why the new generation of refrigerants has been developed
  • Identify where flammable refrigerants are likely to be found in residential, commercial, industrial, and transportation contexts
  • Describe the main hazards presented by the new generation of refrigerants (flammability, toxicity, pressure release)
  • Relate the refrigerant charge size to the level of risk
  • Evaluate the hazards present in a particular situation involving flammable refrigerants
  • Adapt response tactics to mitigate consequences from refrigerants in different types of emergencies

 

Those that successfully take the training – the convenient online course or the instructor-led curriculum that’s available – will receive a certificate of completion and be better prepared for incidents involving flammable refrigerants. Doesn’t that sound like a great way to start off 2020?

Fire doesn’t take vacation over the holidays, it doesn’t care where we live, how we celebrate, or the new decade ahead.  In fact, it didn’t take long before fire made headlines news in 2020.  And just like the fire problem continuing to impact communities around the globe, we as fire safety professionals, fire inspectors, standards developers, educators, engineers, laborers, and members of the public, must continue to be impactful by investing in safety and reducing the worldwide burden of fire that seems all too prevalent today. 

 

The NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem is a framework that identifies the components that must work together to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. When they work together, the Ecosystem protects everyone. If any component is missing or broken, the Ecosystem can collapse, often resulting in tragedy.

 

Some level of fire code adoption and use will serve as a foundation for building and life safety and fire prevention in communities and touches each component (‘cog’) that is part of the ecosystem.  Those responsible for enforcing codes and performing inspections are likely familiar with NFPA 1, Fire Code

 

Let’s take a look at some fire events that have occurred just in the last couple of weeks, worldwide, that prove we in the fire safety community not only have a lot of work ahead of ourselves in 2020 and beyond, but also the importance of the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem and having some type of fire prevention regulations (such as NFPA 1) in place throughout the world:

 

  • Australia is burning. It is in the midst of some of the most devastating and catastrophic wildfires in its history. They have killed at least 18 people, damaged over 1000 homes, stranded people in wildfire zones, killed hundreds of thousands of animals, and prompted mass evacuations of the largest scale. And they are not ending anytime soon. NFPA 1 touches briefly on the wildland fire problem in Chapter 17, requiring the planning, construction, maintenance, education, and management elements for the protection of life and property from wildfire to comply with NFPA 1144.  While no one component of the ecosystem may have failed, ensuring all 8 components are addressed will help communities better prepare, respond and recover from natural disasters such as wildfire.
  • On New Year’s Eve, a fire in Germany killed at least 30 animals, many endangered or protected species likely because of the illegal use of sky lanterns. Reports state that sky lanterns are prohibited in Germany.  They are also prohibited by NFPA. We must continue to educate the public on the dangers posed by fire, electrical and related hazards.
  • On December 27, firefighters from numerous communities helped fight a large fire at a historical residence in Concord, MA. The 3-million-dollar home was lost in the fire. Numerous issues with water supply as well as building construction contributed to the challenging firefighting efforts.  NFPA 1 addresses fire department access, water supply and hydrant design in Chapter 18.  Local government responsibility, investment in safety, code compliance, and emergency response are all components that impacted this event.
  • On December 21, 2019, six people and three animals were killed and over 13 injured in a fire at a three-story apartment complex in Las Vegas. The fire was reported to have started near a stove on a fire floor unit.  It was also reported that many of the units lacked heat, and residents were using the stoves as a heat source. There are reports of residents that a back exit door was bolted shut and lack of fire alarm.  City records also show that the building was subject to at least eight code enforcement complaints from 2016 to 2018.  NFPA 1 addresses safety requirements for residential occupancies, mandated by reference and extracted Code sections from NFPA 101, Life Safety Code. We must support effective code enforcement, investing in safety for all, and maintaining an effective regulatory body to support building and fire safety.
  • On the same day as the deadly Las Vegas fire, firefighters responded to a fire in Winnipeg, Canada, at a high-rise apartment complex under construction. Fires in buildings under construction continue to occur.  NFPA is investing in standards, such as NFPA 241, mandated by referenced in NFPA 1, that provide measures for preventing or minimizing fire damage to structures during construction, alteration, or demolition.

 

There are only some of the fire events that have impacted communities worldwide in the last couple of weeks.  We have a tough job ahead of us in 2020 and beyond.  As fire inspectors, you are on the front lines, working day in and day out ensuring buildings, events, communities, and other activities and processes comply with local regulations. We NEED you, we THANK you for what you do.

 

Let’s all commit to maintaining an effective regulatory environment, participate in the development and use of current codes, apply referenced standards, invest in safety, promote the development of skilled professionals, support code compliance, provide effective preparedness and response capabilities, and never let up on educating the public about the dangers posed by fire, electrical and related hazards.

 

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

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