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Kathie Robinson
Manager, Editorial Operations, NFPA Journal
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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
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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
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In 2008, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) began requiring nursing homes without sprinkler systems, or with inadequate systems, to retrofit them. The new rule, which reflected changes made in the 2006 edition of NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, called for upgrades to be completed by August 13, 2013. Facilities that failed to meet the deadline risked penalties, ranging from violation notices to withholding Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. In an article in the latest issue of NFPA Journal, Ashley Smith details how one such nursing home, Marquis Mt. Tabor in Portland, Oregon, rose to the challenge and completed... Continue reading
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Last August, people from 12 states who attended the 2014 National Electrical Code® adoption workshop were asked to list as many reasons as they could why the timely adoption of the NEC® is important and to rank their reasons in order of importance. According to Jeff Sargent, NFPA's regional electrical code specialist, this is particularly important in the areas of the United States where forces are working to delay code adoption and amend critical safety requirements. The participants came up with seven reasons, including improved safety and reduced liability. The exercise is already paying dividends, Jeff says. One workshop participant... Continue reading
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It’s every driver’s nightmare. You’re trapped in your car in a two-lane tunnel with no way out, and the tractor-trailer truck in front of you is on fire, filling the tunnel with smoke and toxic fumes. Unfortunately, it was no nightmare for people driving through in the Mont Blanc tunnel between France and Italy on March 24, 1999. It was frightening reality. That morning, a truck carrying 12 tons of flour and nine tons of margarine entered the French side of the tunnel, the two-lane, 7.2-mile tube connecting France and Italy beneath the Mont Blanc massif in the Alps. Midway... Continue reading
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In his recent NFPA Journal column, "Global View," Don Bliss, vice-president for Field Operations at NFPA, talks about the Association's continuing efforts to make a significant investment in its mission to “reduce the worldwide burden of fire.” In particular, he notes, NFPA standards are in use around the world and have been translated into at least 12 languages, and NFPA supports participation in the its standards-development process with an online platform that can be accessed anywhere. However, he says, more needs to be done to engage the global fire protection community in efforts to reduce deaths and property loss due... Continue reading
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At approximately 5 o'clock on a cold, rainy morning, a ladder company with an officer and three firefighters was dispatched to a motor vehicle crash on a nearby highway. When they arrived at the scene about five minutes later, they found a car resting on its side on the median, sticking out into both the east- and westbound high-speed lanes. Several minutes later, a pickup truck traveling eastbound lost control on the slick road and slammed into the disabled car, turning onto its passenger side and coming to rest in the high-speed lane next to the original crash site. The... Continue reading
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The National Professional Qualifications System, or Pro Board, was founded in 1972 to establish a system to accredit firefighter training agencies and develop a registry of individuals trained to use standards formulated by those agencies. Until that time, says Ken Willette, division manager of Public Fire Protection at NFPA, there was no national standard for training firefighters and firefighting practices were limited to a specific city or region. That made it difficult for departments to help one another and raised questions about the fire service’s professionalism. Standards were needed to promote common fire service training and skills, and the Pro... Continue reading