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Kathie Robinson
Manager, Editorial Operations, NFPA Journal
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NFPA defines a large-loss fire as one that results in at least $10 million in damage. In 2014, there were 25 large-loss fires, which did almost $654.3 million in direct property losses, writes Steve Badger, fire data assistant in NFPA’s Fire Analysis and Research Division, in the November/December issue of NFPA Journal. This represented a 19 percent increase from in the number of large-loss fires from the year before, but a decrease of $190.5 million, or 22.6 percent, in associated property losses. While these fires accounted for just 0.002 percent of the estimated number of fires in 2014, they accounted... Continue reading
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These days, says Kathleen Almand, vice-president of Research at NFPA, it seems that everyone is talking about smart firefighting, particularly the use of data to improve fire inspection and enforcement decision-making. In the November/December issue of NFPA Journal, Almand discusses several projects the Fire Protection Research Foundation is undertaking to further the discussion and inform NFPA’s initiatives and standards. On November 19, for example, the Foundation will bring together fire prevention personnel from 15 jurisdictions to discuss how they use data, such as inspection records, real estate data, population risk factors, and fire department calls, to make enforcement and inspection... Continue reading
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A code is a code, not a design manual, says Wayne Moore, vice-president at the fire protection engineering firm of Jensen Hughes. In this case, the code is NFPA 72®, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, which contains the minimum requirements necessary to install a reliable fire alarm system. However, it does not include all of the information a fire alarm systems design engineer must know and use. “A qualified fire alarm systems design engineer should know the code’s requirements and alternatives, know and understand basic acoustical principles, and apply common sense,” says Moore. “The code provides guidance, but no... Continue reading
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At NFPA, we realize that many teachers have difficulty finding the right fire-safety materials for different grade levels, says Amy LeBeau, senior project manager in NFPA’s Public Education Division. As a result, we launched a school outreach program that focuses on a blended-learning approach using interactive apps and lesson plans that feature targeted fire-safety messages. We encourage fire safety educators to incorporate digital learning tools into their fire prevention programs as part of this year’s activities for Fire Prevention Week, which runs from October 4 to 10. One of these tools is Sparky’s® Brain Busters, a new single- or multi-player... Continue reading
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While NFPA 70E®, Electrical Safety in the Workplace®, is the standard for safe work practices, numerous installation requirements in NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code® (NEC®), provide the means to implement those practices. A number of proposed changes to the 2017 NEC that target the installer and maintainer community are part of an ongoing effort to promote safe work practices through installation rules. One of them calls for the provision of warning label at service equipment to provide the nominal system voltage and the arc-flash boundary, while the other expands the working space requirements for equipment rated 1,000 volts and less... Continue reading
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Traditionally, fire museums in the United States and Canada have been operated by firefighters and fire buffs without museum backgrounds, but this is fast changing, says Lisa Braxton, associate project manager in NFPA’s Public Education Division. Nowadays, fire museums offer multi-sensory learning experiences, emerging as valuable educational tools that weave fire safety education into the museum experience. In an effort to maintain their relevance to contemporary audiences, many fire museums now try to immerse museum visitors in the firefighter experience by including interactive displays and organizing their collections of artifacts accordingly. They are developing membership programs and pursuing grants. At... Continue reading
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Several times every year, Lucien Deaton, manager of the Firewise Communities and Fire Adapted Communities Programs for NFPA, travels around the United States to meet those who use the programs to teach the public about the risk of wildfires. In the current fiscal environment, he says, these partners are being asked to do more with less funding and smaller staffs, even as people continue to move into the wildland/urban interface. With state budgets for prevention and preparedness shrinking and the demand for investment in land management growing, we must help our partners ensure that they can apply the right resources... Continue reading
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It is comforting to know that new, code-compliant buildings offer occupants, regardless of their mobility issues, safe egress systems, says Ron Coté, principal life safety engineer at NFPA. In buildings that are fully protected by an approved, supervised sprinkler system, provisions of NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, permit a floor to serve as an area of refuge, even if it does not have special fire-rated or smoke-resistant barriers. The area may become smoky and potentially frightening to someone who remains behind when most others have evacuated, but the area should not be endangering. NFPA 101 also requires the area of... Continue reading
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According to NFPA’s new vision statement, the Association is “the leading global advocate for the elimination of death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical, and related hazards.” While the mention of economic loss is new, there’s nothing groundbreaking about the concept for NFPA, says Kathleen Almand, vice-president of Research at NFPA. Almand notes that it became apparent that the cost of fire and fire protection occupies a more prominent place in conversations about fire safety during the research the Fire Protection Research Foundation did to prepare the Association’s new strategy. It also became clear that the cost... Continue reading
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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