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Kathie Robinson
Manager, Editorial Operations, NFPA Journal
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Lucian Deaton, manager of NFPA’s Firewise Communities and Fire Adapted Communities Programs, recently heard Dr. Stephen Pyne, the United States’ foremost forestry historian, speak at a conference at Arizona State University, where he challenged the attendees to think of the wildland/urban interface (WUI) “not as wilderness, but as bits of urban development that happen to have unique (and often fire-prone) landscaping—a perspective that makes it easy to grasp the threat faced by structures in the WUI.” Whether you believe in climate change or think that the planet is simply experiencing a shift in global weather cycles, it is clear that... Continue reading
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Does NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, apply to existing buildings that are not undergoing rehabilitation? Are features that don’t comply with NFPA 101 grandfathered so that they don’t have to comply with the requirements for existing buildings? And how long do requirements for new buildings that were applied at the time the buildings were constructed continue to apply to what is now an existing building? NFPA 101 is unique among codes in that it applies to both new and existing buildings, and these three common questions help put that applicability into perspective, says Ron Coté, NFPA’s principal life safety engineer.... Continue reading
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Some of our most transcendent moments occur in assembly occupancies, such as churches and theaters, but such occupancies have also hosted some of our most horrific fires, say Ramond Battalora, project manager with Aon Fire Protection Engineering Corporation, and Jack Sawyer, an associate with Eskew Dumez Ripple Architects in New Orleans. “That’s in part why egress—the ability to get out of a building safely and quickly—is such an elemental concept in both the renovation and new construction of assembly occupancies,” they say. “It’s also why the egress schematic—or what NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, refers to as the 'life safety... Continue reading
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NFPA and The Fire Protection Research Foundation recently embarked on a “smart-firefighting” project in an effort to help the fire service use data to enhance firefighter safety and operations, says Kathleen Almand, vice-president of NFPA’s Research Division. “The NFPA’s Fire Analysis and Research Division has invited input from the fire service on how we can make the data we collect more useful to our fire service constituents,” she writes. “We’ve made several big changes as a result, including the development of an electronic survey tool, and changes to how we present our results. The annual fire experience survey is a... Continue reading
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There's a lot going on at NFPA these days, and you'll find out all about it in NFPA Journal's "In a Flash," a roundup of news NFPA members will find useful. “Pondering the Puzzle” will tell you everything you need to know about the process of choosing the education sessions to be presented at the NFPA Conference & Expo later this month. The annual treasurer’s report will give you a glimpse of NFPA’s current financial position. “Radio Free Journal” introduces NFPA Journal’s new monthly podcasts focusing on hot topics in fire and life safety, hosted by NFPA Journal staff writer... Continue reading
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The 2016 edition of NFPA 72®, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, is up for adoption at this year’s NFPA Technical Meeting in Chicago later this month. Three of the proposed changes to the code will have a major impact on the design and installation of fire alarm and mass notification systems, says Wayne Moore, vice-president at the consulting firm of Jensen Hughes. These changes include the use of non-listed fire alarm speakers, the use of existing computer networks to connect fire alarm systems, and the requirement of 520 Hz audible appliances in sleeping areas. Each has the potential to... Continue reading
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Nine new articles have been proposed for the 2017 edition of NFPA 70, National Electrical Code®, three of which focus on the generation, distribution, and storage of electrical power, says Jeff Sargent, regional electrical code specialist. Proposed Article 691 covers photovoltaic supply stations that can generate 5,000 kilowatts or more. These systems differ from those covered in existing Article 690, in that the power they generate only supplies electric utility transmission or distribution systems at medium or transmission-level voltages. Proposed Article 706 covers permanently installed systems that can stand alone or interact with other electric power production sources. This article... Continue reading
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We've all heard the line, "Oh, the humanity!" And we've all seen the iconic photos of the German dirigible Hindenburg falling from the sky in flames at the Naval Air Station in Lakehurst, New Jersey, where it was to land. The crash killed 22 officers and crew, along with 13 passengers and 1 worker on the ground. It marked the end of the airship era—and started years of rumors about the cause of the fire. Was it sabotage? Was it an accident? Read "Iconic Disaster" in the May/June issue of NFPA Journal to find out more. Receive the print edition... Continue reading
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Let’s stop pretending that new homes are immune from electrical fires and that they will never become old homes, says Don Bliss, vice-president of Field Operations for NFPA. Studies by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and other organizations have found that the frequency of electrical fires is higher in homes that are more than 40 years old than they are in newer homes for a number of reasons, including inadequate electrical systems, misuse of extension cords, and poorly done electrical repairs. “The homes of today will not be immune to these conditions as they become the older homes of... Continue reading
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Why do we do we make the choices we do, even if we know they are not particularly healthy or safe? For the answer to that question, fire and life safety educators are turning to behavior change theory in the hope that, by shedding light on what motivates us to... Continue reading
Posted May 26, 2015 at Fire Break – Wildfire Safety Blog
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Why do we do we make the choices we do, even if we know they are not particularly healthy or safe? For the answer to that question, fire and life safety educators are turning to behavior change theory in the hope that, by shedding light on what motivates us to do what we do, they can boost their programs’ effectiveness. Knowing why people make the life and fire safety choices they do “can be the difference between an educational initiative that falls flat and one that succeeds in creating a genuine behavioral shift,” say Karen Berard-Reed, a senior project manager... Continue reading
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"As my own experience illustrates, you never know what you’re exposed to," says Ken Willette, division manager for Public Fire Protection at NFPA. What he was exposed to was Agent Orange. Agent Orange is a dioxin-based defoliant used during the Vietnam War that has since been proven to be a carcinogen. Almost 40 years ago, hundreds of airport rescue firefighters, Willette among them, might have been exposed to the chemical because the aircraft used as part of their training and response duties had been sprayed with Agent Orange, traces of which remained in the planes. And they often trained without... Continue reading
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In 2013, an ammonium nitrate storage facility in West, Texas, caught fire and exploded, destroying most of the facility. The blast left a crater nearly 100 feet (30 meters) across and 10 feet (3 meters) deep and killed 15 people. Damage was estimated at $250 million. Shortly after the disaster, the NFPA Technical Committee on Hazardous Chemicals, which is responsible for NFPA 400, Hazardous Materials Code, formed a task group to examine requirements for existing facilities that handle or store ammonium nitrate. As NFPA 400 was then written, says Nancy Pearce, senior fire protection engineer at NFPA, its requirements focused... Continue reading
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Does NFPA 72®, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, allow you to use two different types of audible alarms in the same building? That was the question a fire alarm system designer who was upgrading a building's alarm system asked recently on the NFPA LinkedIn Forum. Could he use horns or horn/strobes in half the building, while leaving bells or bell/strobes in the other half? The answer was yes, if need be. However, Wayne Moore, vice-president of Jensen Hughes, feels that the real answer should be "yes, but..." To find out why Wayne is hesitant to mix audible alarms, read... Continue reading
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NFPA Journal recently talked to Eric Cote, a communications and policy consultancy based in Rhode Island, about Powered for Patients, an public–private organization he and colleague Cara Klein started in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy. The organization's aim is to protect hospital patients by ensuring proper backup power and expedited power restoration for critical healthcare facilities. When asked about the most urgent issues the organization faces, Cote said that one of their greatest opportunities is to help utilities and hospitals build closer working relationships to avoid outages when possible and enable faster restoration of power. “We’ve spoken to generator service companies... Continue reading
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In January, NFPA launched the Certified Electrical Safety Worker program for professionals who work on electrical equipment and circuits, including construction electricians, maintenance electricians, and other electrical workers. It followed the launch in mid-2013 of the NFPA Certified Electrical Safety Compliance Professional, which targets those responsible for overseeing a workplace electrical safety program. Both of these certifications can help companies create and maintain an electrically safe workplace, says Jeff Sargent, in his column “Certified Safe” in the latest issue of NFPA Journal. Certified electrical safety compliance professionals and certified electrical safety workers understand what it takes to make a workplace... Continue reading
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Shortly before midnight on April 4, 1949, a nun on staff at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Effingham, Illinois, smelled smoke and told the switchboard operator that there was a fire in the basement. The operator immediately phoned Frank Ries, the hospital engineer, then called the fire department. But by then it was already too late for 74 of the 128 people working or being cared for at St. Anthony’s. The hospital, built in 1873, had open corridors, three unenclosed wooden staircases, and three laundry chutes, only one of which had protected openings. There was no fire alarm or sprinkler system.... Continue reading
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NFPA is much more than a standards-development organization—we also facilitate the safe deployment of emerging technologies to the fire service, says Ken Willette, division manager for Public Fire Protection at NFPA. A case in point is the way hybrid and electric passenger vehicles (EVs) were introduced to the fire service. Five years ago, General Motors asked NFPA to partner with them in developing and delivering awareness-level training for the fire service. With a Department of Energy grant and additional funding from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, NFPA developed a training curriculum and delivery platform to share this information with as... Continue reading
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Last September, House Resolution 5522 (HR-5522), also known as the “ATF Elimination Act,” was introduced in the 113th Congress to abolish the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and redistribute its functions to other agencies. Congress did not enact the bill, but it will be reintroduced in the 114th Congress. The elimination of ATF would undoubtedly have a significant effect, not only on the nation’s fire service, but on NFPA, as well, says Greg Cade, in his column "Partner in Peril" in the latest issue of NFPA Journal. NFPA and ATF have had a long and productive relationship. The... Continue reading
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This summer, NFPA will issue NFPA 652, Fundamentals of Combustible Dust, a new standard that provides the general requirements for managing combustible dust fire and explosion hazards. NFPA 652 also directs users to NFPA’s appropriate industry- or commodity-specific standards, such as NFPA 484, Combustible Metals, and establishes the relationship between those standards and itself in an effort to ensure that fundamental requirements are addressed consistently across industries, processes, and dust types. Such consistency is essential because dust-related fires and explosions affect a range of industries around the globe, says Guy Colonna, manager of NFPA's Industrial and Chemical Engineering Division. In... Continue reading
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The best that can be said about the 1974 explosion at the Nypro plant in Flixborough, England, is that the casualty count could have been much higher had it not occurred on a Saturday. The plant manufactured caprolactam, a chemical used to fabricate nylon, using cyclohexane, a colorless, flammable liquid that occurs naturally in crude oil, volcanic gases, and cigarette smoke. On May 29, plant employees discovered a cyclohexane leak, and the plant was shut down for repairs. Production started and stopped twice more before the plant finally went online again at 7 a.m. on June 1. Everything seemed to... Continue reading
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According to Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice-president of Outreach and Advocacy, one of the best way to reach people with important fire-safety messages is to get to the kids. “Over the years, children have been a key audience for NFPA and fire-safety educators,” she says. “They are great receivers of the fire-safety message, and they’re also great deliverers of that message.” Now, kids can play an even bigger role in fire safety by participating in The Paradigm Challenge, a new competition developed by Project Paradigm, the American Red Cross, the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, and a coalition of fire safety... Continue reading
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Last October, a number of newspapers reported on the loss of a tanker plane that crashed while dropping retardant on the Dog Rock Fire in Yosemite National Park, killing its pilot. This type of media coverage illustrates the significant risks faced by responders, says Lucian Deaton, manager of the Firewise Communities and Fire Adapted Communities programs for NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations Division. “Wildfire will always be with us, which is why it’s critically important to do what we can to minimize the risks for those who fight those fires, whether they’re flying above the flames or cutting fire breaks on... Continue reading
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For safety's sake, hospitals rely on multiple layers of regulations, including codes and standards such those created by NFPA, says Chad Beebe, deputy executive director of advocacy for the American Society for Healthcare Engineering. Unfortunately, those codes sometimes conflict in ways that can affect a hospital’s operations. "Codes that are adopted or made compulsory in a jurisdiction, for example, can contain provisions that differ and sometimes conflict," he says. "Additional friction is created when the adopted codes are not the most recent editions of those documents, or if the provisions in those codes are not based on the most recent... Continue reading
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Each time an Ebola patient in the United States had to be taken to a hospital, first responders around the country were actively engaged in the process. Though the worst of the incidents seem to be over, they highlighted the way police, fire, and emergency medical services prepare to encounter such infectious, high-risk patients. In his column "Ebola & Beyond," Ken Willette talks about NFPA 1581, Fire Department Infection Control Program, which has been shaped by other infectious threats, such as hepatitis C, the N151 flu virus, the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacterium, and bioterrorism agents. The standard provides minimum criteria... Continue reading