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Kathie Robinson
Manager, Editorial Operations, NFPA Journal
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Understanding how often a fire pump should be tested in accordance with NFPA 25, Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, can be tricky, says Matt Klaus, principal fire protection engineer at NFPA. Though the annual flow test ensures that a pump performs as intended when it was designed, a single test each year does not provide a high level of reliability. You must also conduct no-flow tests throughout the year. However, the frequency for no-flow tests has changed in each of the last three editions of the standard, so depending on which edition your jurisdiction adopts, the... Continue reading
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It is not unusual for jurisdictions to amend the safety codes that they adopt, sometimes for overstated financial reasons and sometimes as a result of anecdotal accounts of operational problems. But what happens when the amendments reduce the level of safety the code is designed to supply? The simple answer: Someone can die. In his latest NFPA Journal column, "Cautionary Tale," Jeff Sargent tells us what happened to one young boy when a local amendment to the National Electrical Code® exempted receptacles installed in garages and on the outside of homes from the requirement that they be provided with ground-fault... Continue reading
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Last May, Robert Sallee, a retired paper industry production manager from Spokane, Washington, died at the age of 82. He was the last survivor of the smoke jumping crew decimated by the 1949 Mann Gulch fire, one of the worst loss-of-life fires in fire service history. Sallee was just 17 when he became a smoke jumper for the U.S. Forest Service and one of 15 jumpers who parachuted in to fight the wildland fire in Mann Gulch, a steep canyon in the Helena National Forest in western Montana. For more information on the Mann Gulch fire, which killed 12 smoke... Continue reading
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According to the latest NFPA “Non-Fire Carbon Monoxide Incidents” report, U.S. fire departments responded to more than 80,000 non-fire carbon monoxide (CO) incidents in 2010, for an average of almost seven calls per hour. During that same year, says a Consumer Product Safety Commission report, an estimated 161 people died as a result of unintentional CO poisoning associated with consumer products. These numbers hit home with NFPA's Lisa Braxton, whose parents experienced a gas leak last winter in their home, which was also found to contain a high CO level. "If they had remained in the house for 15 more... Continue reading
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Doors in exterior walls allow people to enter and leave a building, but they also introduce security challenges, says Ron Cote, NFPA's principal engineer for life safety. Building operators try to provide systems and procedures to limit admission to those who legitimately belong in the building without unreasonably inconveniencing them. To do this, they may introduce systems that control entry, such as turnstiles. However, these systems must not adversely affect the safe egress of building occupants, as required by NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, which regulates egress in significant ways but does not require ingress. According to Cote, the 2015... Continue reading
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In 2013, U.S fire departments responded to 1,240,000 reported fires, or 9.8 percent fewer than they did in 2012. This is the fewest reported fires since 1977, when NFPA began using its current survey methodology. Of these fires, an estimated 487,500 were structure fires, 387,000 of which were residential fires, an increase of 1.6 percent from the year before. There were also 100,500 nonresidential structure fires in 2013, or 1 percent more than the previous year. In addition, there were 564,500 outside fires, an estimated 164,000 highway vehicle fires, and 24,000 fires in other vehicles. All these fires resulted in... Continue reading
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Everyone knows how to test a manual fire alarm: you just pull down the handle. Right? Right. But some people whose job it is to test fire alarm systems do not, in fact, always do this, instead using a key without actually pulling down the handle. This does not constitute a test that complies with the National Electrical Code, says Wayne Moore in his column "All About the Pull" in the latest issue of NFPA Journal. The argument that it is too difficult or expensive to test some types of fire alarm boxes, such as those with break-glass fronts, in... Continue reading
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Every morning, Sanne Esque, a pilot for the Florida Forest Service, flies her single-engine Cessna 182 over south-central Florida looking for wildfires. From her plane, she can see where a fire is going and help an incident commander identify the resources that will be needed and the areas that are at risk. Her vantage point allows her to see a fire from beginning to end, says Lucien Deaton, manager of the Firewise Communities and Fire Adapted Communities Programs in NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations Division. It also gives her an appreciation of all the ground work that goes into fighting a... Continue reading
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Last August, a Texas man swimming a in Houston-area hotel pool noticed a child in distress in the deep end. He swam to the child and helped him safely out ot the water but could not get out of the pool on his own. When rescuers pulled him out, he went into cardiac arrest and died six days later, a victim of electrocution. The City of Houston and the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation determined that shoddy electrical work performed by licensed electricians resulted in the pool being electrically unsafe. That was not an isolated incident, says Jeff Sargent... Continue reading
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Paul Villotti a vice-president of FP&C Consultants, a fire protection engineering consulting firm, has been involved with hundreds of large assembly projects in his 28 years with the firm. One of them is the $1.3 billion Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, the new home of the San Francisco 49ers. The stadium is scheduled to open in August. Planning a new stadium is a lot of work, as Villoti will tell you. “We looked at the design and did the basic building code review, and identified areas and design features that weren’t in compliance with the code, and began a... Continue reading
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In 2013, 97 firefighters died while on duty in the United States, a sharp increase over recent years due primarily to the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona, which claimed the lives of 19 wildland firefighters, and the explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas that killed nine firefighters, an EMT, and five local residents. Of the 97 men and women who died last year, 56 succumbed while operating on the fire ground. According to the 2013 NFPA report on firefifighter fatalities, this is the highest number of fire ground deaths since 1999, aside from the deaths at the World Trade... Continue reading
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Once upon a time, rescuing an animal from a desperate situation was a matter of judgment and luck. But that’s all changing, says Ryan McGinnis in his article “Rescue Me” in the latest issue of NFPA Journal. As of 2014, NFPA 1670, Operations and Training for Technical Search and Rescue Incidents, includes a new chapter detailing animal technical rescue designed to give first responders a better understanding of how to handle the risks posed by rescuing an animal in danger. Chapter 17 and Annex K of the 2014 edition of NFPA 1670 covers a wide range of material, from animal... Continue reading
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Everyone in the fire protection community knows that interior finishes can present serious fire safety issues, having contributed in the past to significant loss of life in a number of assembly occupancy fires, from the 1942 Cocoanut Grove fire to last year’s Boate Kiss nightclub fire in Brazil. And some of today’s newer interior finishes, such as polypropylene and high-density polyethylene, present even more serious fire challenges if untreated. NFPA 101 , Life Safety Code®, has regulated interior finishes since the 1920s, when it was known as the Building Exits Code. According to NFPA 101, large-scale tests must be used... Continue reading
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Was it the first major terrorist attack on the United States by a foreign party? Some historians thinks so. In 1916, before the United States entered World War I, saboteurs loyal to Germany blew up more than two million pounds (907,185 kilograms) of ammunition stored at the Black Tom railroad yard in New Jersey to prevent it from being shiped overseas to Allied countries in Europe. Seven people died in the explosions, which lasted several hours and were felt as far as 90 miles (145 kilometers) away. For more on the story, read "Looking Back" in the May/June issue of... Continue reading
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A s we try to identify alternative energy sources, says Nick Barilo, a project manager at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, hydrogen-powered fuel cells have the potential to replace the internal combustion engine and provide power in a range of stationary and portable applications. Because its use as a fuel is still relatively new, however, the proper methods of handling, storage, and transportation of hydrogen are often not well understood by those who are affected by its use. One problem is that hydrogen is flammable in atmospheric conditions. When mixed with air, it can form a flammable mixture that is... Continue reading
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I t's new. It's exciting. It's NFPA 4! NFPA 4, Integrated Fire Protection and Life Safety System Testing, originally started life as the integrated system testing portion of NFPA 3, Recommended Practice on Commissioning and Integrated Testing of Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems. However, the Technical Committee on Commissioning and Integrated Testing decided to remove it from NFPA 3 and create an entirely new document that can be used for both new and existing buildings. NFPA 4 is intended to make sure that buildings with integrated and interconnected systems, such as fire alarms, sprinkler systems, emergency communications systems, elevator... Continue reading
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What's new in the world of fire suppression and detection? Quite a lot, according to Kathleen Almand, NFPA's vice-president of Research and executive director of the Fire Protection Research Foundation. And some of it was discussed at the March 2014 Suppression, Detection, and Signaling Research and Applications Conference, better known as SupDet. Among the changes in the detection arena, NIST, UL, and the Foundation are looking at ways to enhance the performance of smoke alarms in the presence of nuisance sources. And the detection industry has developed technology that allows a more selective response to smoke and flames. “On the... Continue reading
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"We’re called on to help everyone else—we aren’t the ones who should need the help." Or so the thinking of many first responders goes. But some emergency response personnel do need help, and many aren't getting it. According to Janet Wilmoth, author of the recent NFPA Journal article "Trouble in Mind," suicides among U.S. first responders have focused increased attention on behavioral health problems, such as alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), affecting primarily firefighters and emergency medical service (EMS) personnel. While data on the problem is scarce, she says, there are suggestions that such problems among... Continue reading
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Think your fire department is too big to use NFPA standards? Think again, says Ken Willette, division manager of NFPA's Public Fire Protection Division, in his column "Never Too Big" in the May/June issue of NFPA Journal. According to Willette, NFPA standards are now so ingrained in the daily operations of the nation’s fire service that many firefighters aren’t even aware of the role they play in their departments. For example, NFPA-compliant PPE and SCBA are now the norm. "So when people say NFPA standards don’t work for them," Willette says, "I reply, 'Check out the label on your PPE.'” Continue reading
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We all remember the headlines: "Bangladesh Factory Collapse Death Toll Reaches 1,024." "Scores Die as Factory for Clothing Stores Collapses." "It Crumbles Like a Pack of Cards." Last year's collapse of a clothing factory at the Rana Plaza on the outskirts of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, sparked international outrage. How many more people would have to die before the country took meaningful steps toward workplace safety? In fact, those steps had already begun, says Randolph W. Tucker, associate principal for fire protection/life safety for ccrd, a Houston-based engineering firm with more than 30 years' experience in healthcare, science and... Continue reading
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If you're going to build something in Vegas, it's got to be amazing, and it is. The brand new High Roller, an observation wheel—read Ferris wheel—built by Caesars Entertainment to anchor The Linq, a new $550 million open-air pedestrian mall on the Strip, is not just any giant wheel. At 550 feet (168 meters), it’s the world’s tallest, with 28 enclosed cabins, each holding 40 guests, that turns at a pace of just under 1 foot (0.3 meters) per second, or about 30 minutes for a complete revolution. A ride on the wheel is quite an experience. But is it... Continue reading
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In North Carolina, a 36-year-old man and his two daughters, ages 4 and 6, died in a fire that investigators believe started when a charcoal grill on the wooden deck of their home ignited decking material during the night. In Ohio, a 78-year-old woman died of burns she received when her pajama sleeve caught fire as she cooked breakfast for her husband. And in Connecticut, a 43-year-old man died of smoke inhalation in a fire he intentionally set by igniting books and magazines in his apartment. But the news wasn't all bad. In Arizona, firefighters extinguished a small fire burning... Continue reading
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According to Matt Klaus, designing suppression systems is often as simple as turning to NFPA 13, Installation of Sprinkler Systems. But NFPA 13 may be only one of several NFPA codes and standards you need to review when dealing with industrial facilities, where the required suppression system may encompass special features and design requirements. In addition to NFPA 13, you may have to consult NFPA 15, Water Spray Fixed Systems for Fire Protection, for example, or NFPA 16, Installation of Foam-Water Sprinkler and Foam-Water Spray Systems, or NFPA 2001, Clean Agent Fire Extinguishing Systems. Relying solely on NFPA 13 can... Continue reading
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Where do safety codes, particularly the NEC®, fit into the movement toward cleaner, greener, more reliable energy? A revision to a 2014 NEC requirement on lighting load calculations is a great example of how energy and safety codes can be made compatible when the right balance of interests is struck, says Jeffrey Sargent in his new column “Common Interests” in the latest issue of NFPA Journal. Since the 1970s, proposals have been made to amend the NEC load requirements so that they align more closely with energy code requirements. However, members of the code-making panel were reluctant to accept these... Continue reading
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Most building occupants are trained to evacuate as soon as fire alarm system activates. In some industrial occupancies, however, that might not be feasible, says Ron Coté in his new column “First Things First” in the March/April issue of NFPA Journal. Fortunately, NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, provides requirements for protecting such personnel and helping ensure that, when they are ready to leave the building, a safe route will be available. Such requirements demonstrate a feature of NFPA 101 that makes it so effective: its occupancy-based format. Each occupancy chapter of NFPA 101 recognizes the characteristics of the occupants and... Continue reading