NFPA NFPA Codes & Standards Process Updates Blogs
Latest NFPA Codes & Standards Process Updates posts from NFPA blogs
FINAL REMINDER: Application deadline to serve on the NFPA 420, Standard on Fire Protection of Cannabis Growing and Processing Facilities Technical Committee is June 15
The NFPA Standards Council recently approved the development of NFPA 420, Standard on Fire Protection of Cannabis Growing and Processing Facilities. Originally proposed in response to serious fires that have occurred at cannabis facilities in recent years, the new standard will provide clear guidance on fire protection standards for facilities that produce, process and extract cannabis. If you would like to submit an application to serve on the NFPA 420 Technical Committee, remember that the deadline is June 15, 2021. To learn more about the primary fire and life safety hazards at cannabis growing and extraction/processing facilities, as well as best practices to safely run these facilities, NFPA is hosting a two-hour Fire and Life Safety Hazards in Cannabis Cultivation and Processing Facilities presentation on June 22, 10:30-12:30 EST. Presented by Kristin Bigda and Val Ziavras of NFPA, the session is one of several online presentations that day addressing timely issues facing building and life safety professionals and practitioners. Learn more about all this and the wide array of sessions planned in support of the NFPA 125th Anniversary Conference Series at www.nfpa.org/conferenceseries. Use the BLS125 code to attend the full-day conference and get free, full-day access for a friend. Visit the NFPA cannabis fire and life safety page to access and/or download a wide range of information and resources on fire protection at cannabis facilities.
Posted: June 9, 2021, 12:00 am
Registration for NFPA Business Meeting and Technical Meeting opens today; changes to 10 standards being considered
Registration for 2021 NFPA Business Meeting voting and NFPA Technical Meeting debate and voting is now open. For the second year in a row, these meetings will be held in an electronic format due to the coronavirus pandemic. These are two separate events. The Business Meeting will include the annual state of the association remarks from NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley and NFPA Board of Directors Chair Amy Acton, as well as the presentation and voting for the Board of Directors slate of candidates. The Technical Session is where discussion and voting occur on standards up for debate. Business Meeting Voting for the Board of Directors slate of candidates begins on June 21, 2021 and will run through June 23, 2021 at 5:00 pm (EST). Voting will be open to NFPA members who have been members for the required 180-day period. Register to vote. Technical Session The NFPA Board of Directors, at the recommendation of the Standards Council, has approved Temporary NFPA Technical Meeting Convention Rules for 2021. The meeting allows NFPA members and the public to express positions on all Certified Amending Motions (CAMs) as approved by and included in the Report of the Motions Committee and Agenda that are posted effective today. Electronic debate opens on June 14, 2021 and will close on June 25, 2021 at 8:00pm (EST). The electronic debate is open to all NFPA members and non-members. There is no need to register to participate in the debate. As at all Technical Meetings, each relevant technical committee, correlating committee, and authorized maker of a CAM may provide a position statement, which can be reviewed on the tech session site prior to the start of debate. Voting for CAMs opens on June 28, 2021 and closes on July 2, 2021 at 8:00 pm EST. Only those that have met the 180-day NFPA membership eligibility requirement and who have registered are eligible to vote for the CAMs. Once registered to vote, NFPA members will receive instructions on downloading the designated Technical Meeting app, as well as information on how to electronically vote. To participate in this year’s event or for answers to questions, visit nfpa.org/2021techsession During the Technical Meeting, NFPA members and the public are encouraged to participate in the debate on each CAM by submitting position statements and acknowledging the name and date stamp being supported or countered. All submitted position statements will be posted in a daily report as the debate continues. All participants will be prompted to use an existing NFPA profile or create a profile before submitting position statements. The standards that have CAMs and that will be subject to debate during this year’s Technical Meeting are: NFPA 10 Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers NFPA 13 Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems NFPA 72® National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code® NFPA 80 Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives NFPA 291 Recommended Practice for Fire Flow Testing and Marking of Hydrants NFPA 318 Standard for the Protection of Semiconductor Fabrication Facilities NFPA 501 Standard on Manufactured Housing NFPA 1123 Code for Fireworks Display NFPA 1225 Standards for Emergency Services Communications NFPA 2001 Standard on Clean Agent Fire Extinguishing Systems On or around July 6, NFPA will publicly post all results at nfpa.org/2021techsession. Any successful CAMs will be forwarded to the responsible committee(s) for ballot (if applicable) and in accordance with the Regulations Governing the Development of NFPA Standards.
Posted: May 25, 2021, 12:00 am
NFPA Standards Council approves development of NFPA 420, Standard on Fire Protection of Cannabis Growing and Processing Facilities
The NFPA Standards Council has approved the development of NFPA 420, Standard on Fire Protection of Cannabis Growing and Processing Facilities. The new standard, which was originally proposed in response to serious fires that have occurred at cannabis facilities in recent years, will provide clear guidance on fire protection standards for facilities that produce, process and extract cannabis. Rapid legalization of medical and/or recreational use of cannabis throughout the U.S. and the exponential growth of facilities around the globe have also underscored that provisions are needed to minimize fire and associated risks these types of facilities. As recently as few weeks ago, a three-alarm fire destroyed a cannabis facility in Shelton, Washington. NFPA 420 will build upon the work started several years ago in NFPA 1, Fire Code, which addresses the fire protection aspects of the growing and processing facilities. The new stand-alone document will expand upon those requirements, referencing appropriate resources as needed, with the overall goal of addressing the protection of facilities from fire and related hazards where cannabis is being grown, processed, extracted and/or tested. NFPA 420 is envisioned by the council to include requirements for inspecting, systems testing, and maintenance of cannabis growing, processing, and extraction facilities. It also is anticipated to establish the general skills, knowledge and experience required among facility operators and facility managers responsible for ensuring adequate levels of safety at these facilities. The start-up roster for the Technical Committee on Fire Protection of Cannabis Growing and Processing Facilities (CGP-AAA) will be appointed at the NFPA Standards Council meeting in August 2021. Applications to serve on the committee are being accepted through June 15, 2021. For those interested in learning more about the primary fire and life safety hazards at cannabis growing and extraction/processing facilities, as well as best practices to safely run these facilities, NFPA is hosting a two-hour Fire and Life Safety Hazards in Cannabis Cultivation and Processing Facilities presentation on June 22, 10:30-12:30 EST. Presented by Kristin Bigda and Val Ziavras of NFPA, the session is one of several online presentations planned that day, which address timely issues facing building and life safety professionals and practitioners. Learn more about all this and the wide array of sessions planned in support of the NFPA 125th Anniversary Conference Series at www.nfpa.org/conferenceseries. Visit the NFPA cannabis fire and life safety page to access and/or download a wide range of information and resources on fire protection at cannabis facilities.
Posted: May 4, 2021, 12:00 am
Celebrating NFPA’s 125th Anniversary and its Rich History with the NEC; Year-Long Anniversary Education Conference Series Kicks Off with One-Day Electrical Program on May 18
NFPA is 125 years young! Founded in 1896 by like-minded visionaries looking to better protect society from the devastating effects of fire, our vital mission has transcended the 10-plus decades that have passed since we first came to be. Organizations do not reach the age of 125 unless there is a compelling reason to exist. As it was in the beginning, it is still true today. Fire, electrical and other hazards adversely affect our society in many ways. As society evolves so, too, do the hazards we face. While implementation of NFPA codes and standards has ameliorated many hazards, new ones arise and the challenge of making people safer is why NFPA is just as important today as we were 125 years ago. Coincidentally, another group of safety professionals met in March 1896 to take on a parallel challenge. Their task: how to make the burgeoning use of electricity and its associated hazards safe for installations in homes and businesses. Their efforts resulted in the first electrical code that could truly be viewed as a national standard. The first edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC) was published by the National Board of Fire Underwriters in 1897 and standardized electrical safety requirements so that installers, designers, manufacturers, product testing organizations, and inspectors had a single set of installation requirements that could be implemented anywhere. The codification of these standardized rules laid the foundation for the most well-known and widely used construction code in the world. The parallel paths of NFPA and the National Electrical Code intersected in 1911 when NFPA assumed the sponsorship of the National Electrical Code. The Code’s mission perfectly meshed with the NFPA mission and since 1911, 36 subsequent editions of the NEC have been published by NFPA. Like the community that uses it, the NEC is dynamic. The electrical world doesn’t stop and take a breath when each new NEC is published. Advancements in technology and products necessitate the NEC community to always be looking forward, not backwards. Implementation of new technology and methods require an up-to-date installation standard and that is why the process rewinds every three years and starts again. Beginning in November, the over 500 members of the National Electrical Code Committee met to review and act on proposed changes for the 2023 edition. Eighteen technical committees, known in the NEC process as “Code-Making Panels” convened to do the all-important work. These CMP meetings were preceded by countless hours of task group work in preparation for the actual meetings. And, unlike any NEC meeting in the past, the 2023 First Draft meetings had to be held virtually due to the pandemic. Despite this changeup in meeting format, the process continued like a well-oiled machine, processing 4,006 public inputs. We invite you to continue to follow the 2023 NEC development process by going to www.nfpa.org/70 and clicking on the “Next Edition” tab. While electrical equipment and wiring practices have changed immeasurably since the first meeting in 1896, the mission of making electrical installations safe remains unchanged. Like the original members of the NEC committee, today’s members approach their task with energy and dedication because they know their work has an outcome that benefits millions. Every receptacle, luminaire, panelboard, and solar photovoltaic panel installed is safety driven by the NEC. While the work is hard, and the hours are long, the men and women of the NEC committee do their work with the satisfaction of knowing they are making a difference. To commemorate its milestone anniversary, and to honor the work of safety professionals around the globe and the impact it has had on the public’s safety, NFPA is rolling out a number of initiatives and events from May 2021 – March 2022, including hosting a 125th Anniversary Conference Series featuring 10 one-day virtual educational programs. On May 18, we are excited to kick it off with the first program of the series: Empowering Electrical Design, Installation, and Safety. The full-day program event is focused on advances in technology, the impact of new technologies on electrical codes and standards, and how technology is influencing today’s industry, with sessions led by leading subject matter experts who are passionate about electrical safety. From in-depth educations sessions to roundtable discussions and networking events, this unique virtual educational program has everything electrical practitioners need to remain competitive in the field and improve safety outcomes on the job. You don’t want to miss this exciting program! Visit our conference series webpage to get all the details and sign up to attend. More information about the full roster of programs happening throughout the year is also available. Not sure you’ll be able to attend? Every program is available on demand to meet your needs and fit your busy schedule. Please visit nfpa.org/conferenceseries to learn about our anniversary celebration and our conference series’ programs. I look forward to seeing you all there!
Posted: April 7, 2021, 12:00 am
NFPA Launches Free Structural Firefighting Online Training Based on the Fire Dynamics within NFPA 1700
NFPA released free NFPA® 1700 Guide for Structural Fire Fighting online training for firefighters to learn safer and more effective ways to handle fire incidents involving modern day materials and contents. The all-new online instructional course, centered around NFPA 1700 Guide for Structural Fire Fighting, is based on extensive scientific research and testing on contemporary structures from the UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute. Today’s home fires burn faster, reach flashover quicker, collapse sooner, and result in reduced escape times largely due to synthetic contents including furniture, plastics, rugs, and composite materials versus the wood-constructed legacy furnishings of days gone by. Residences also tend to be constructed on smaller lots, include a second story, feature more open floor plans, and house all kinds of new technologies. These components and evolving fuel loads led to the November release of NFPA 1700, the first NFPA document connecting fire dynamics research to response strategies and best practices; and have prompted changes to the tactics that the nation’s 1.1 million firefighters have used for decades. The all-new instructional course is designed to help the fire service evolve the way it responds to incidents and provides evidence-based recommendations and methodologies. The course provides: Guidance focused on interacting within a structure on-fire to achieve the most successful outcome based on documented fire investigations, research, and testing Interactive modeling of residential structural firefighting with simulated training scenarios and coaching throughout exercises Concepts based on NFPA 1700 principles and tactical advice for effective search, rescue, and fire suppression operations, as well as civilian and responder safety NFPA 1700 online training puts firefighters in an immersive digital environment that replicates in-person, hands-on learning. Ideal for both new and seasoned structural firefighting personnel, the online program offers an introduction to NFPA 1700, followed by a series of interactive learning modules. Each session offers a 360-degree, full-3D virtual experience featuring realistic scenarios and requires firefighters to make observations and decisions on how to respond and fight the fire. The course covers how to enter buildings, where to apply hose streams, and when to stand down due to potential life-threatening situations; and culminates with a Capstone exam to help firefighters synthesize learning and put knowledge to the test. The training takes into consideration fundamental occupancy, building construction, while addressing the health and safety of firefighters by reinforcing the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) and methodologies for contamination control. NFPA 1700 and its corresponding free training for the fire service are prime examples of the investment in safety and skilled workforce components that are essential in the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem. Take and share the training today.
Posted: March 30, 2021, 12:00 am
Considering CO is a colorless and odorless gas, CO poisoning has assumed the moniker of the silent killer. When you book your first post-COVID-19 vacation rental, do you know if the hotel you book or home you rent requires CO alarms? The Fire Protection Research Foundation conducted a literature review to summarize existing requirements for installation of CO detection devices and consolidated the available and pertinent non-fire CO incident data. The report, titled: “Carbon Monoxide Detection and Alarm Requirements: Literature Review” is intended to assist the NFPA 101® Life Safety Code® and NFPA 5000® Building Construction and Safety Code® technical committees as they develop proposed changes for the 2024 editions. This report will also be helpful for the 2024 editions of the International Code Council (ICC) codes, and provides a comprehensive list of the CO regulations by occupancy for each state. Think a code or standard needs to be modified? If so, please participate in NFPA’s open and consensus-based code development process by submitting a public input by June 1, 2021 for NFPA 101 and NFPA 5000. Check out their respective websites for additional information: www.nfpa.org/101 and www.nfpa.org/5000 The Fire Protection Research Foundation works as NFPA’s research affiliate to help with the challenging problems that the fire protection community faces daily. Each year the Foundation reviews project ideas that are submitted by YOU, the public! Research requests do not need to be tied to a specific code or standard, in fact here are a few examples below of such requests and affiliated reports: Literature Review on Spaceport Fire Safety Wildfire Risk Reduction: Engaging Local Officials Hazard Assessment of Lithium Ion Batteries used in Energy Storage Systems (ESS) There is also no project too small (literature reviews, code comparisons, loss summaries), or too large (full scale fire testing), or anything in between! Not sure what research needs to be done but something must be done? Maybe a workshop (research planning meeting) can help! So please, if you have any research needs to thread the needle or solve a problem, submit a project idea form here!
Posted: March 17, 2021, 12:00 am
Recent Incidents at Latin American Hospitals Demonstrate the Need for Risk Reduction and Response Planning
For about a year now, much of the world has been focused on fighting the Coronavirus. The pandemic has certainly challenged healthcare providers and hospitals; our gratitude for all their efforts since COVID-19 began spreading throughout the globe cannot be overstated. The coronavirus has affected the healthcare industry in a way that modern society has not seen before, but it’s important to note that the idea of risk is not new to medical people or those charged with management of healthcare properties. Patients, staff and visitors rely on those who run medical facilities to ensure that all safety measures are being taken to keep those receiving care, working in or visiting a hospital free from harm. Fires can and do occur in the medical environment and given high occupancy rates, foot traffic in healthcare settings and the vulnerability of patients, hospital fires can have a significant impact on a community. Just think about how complex it must be to safely evacuate patients, staff and others when an unfortunate incident occurs. In Chile’s capitol city of Santiago, healthcare officials were forced to move from thinking what to do in case of fire to actually springing into action when a fire broke out at San Borja Hospital, forcing the evacuation of 30 patients with COVID-19 this past weekend. Infected patients were transported to other health centers in the city, an undertaking that was extremely difficult given that at least eight patients were intubated and listed in critical condition. The emergency incident coincided with a spike of coronavirus cases in Chile, so as you can imagine the healthcare system was already working at maximum capacity when the fire alarm sounded early in the morning. The epicenter of the fire was located in a third floor pediatric area of one of the hospital’s warehouses. Approximately 40 fire trucks and more than 150 firefighters responded; flames and dense columns of smoke were visible from many points in the Chilean capital. Firefighters joined forces with police officers, members of the army, and doctors to evacuate patients to a parking lot and other safe havens outside of the hospital. Appropriate sanitary measures were taken due to the coronavirus. Fortunately, thanks to this effective deployment strategy, there was no loss of life but the Ministry of Health in Chile confirmed that the fire damaged 4 floors of the hospital, as well as boilers, electrical installations and other service systems. Right after the New Year, there was another horrible hospital emergency in Morelia Michoacan, Mexico that took the lives of at least 36 people who were hospitalized in the COVID area. A leak began in a supply pipe and was reported immediately on a Friday. Apparently, the pipe froze from low temperatures but was not addressed by the institute’s authorities until on Sunday when a white cloud appeared in the lower area of the tanks. According to news reports, staff members began to hit the pipe that was frozen, ultimately causing a fissure that prompted the lethal leak. Around the same time, fire broke out on the fourth floor of the Adolfo López Mateos hospital in the City of Toluca, Mexico. Medical staff and patients were immediately evacuated, including those being treated for COVID-19. After the incident, the Secretary of Health of the State of Mexico reported that the incident, caused by a short circuit, was minor. The fire was controlled quickly without injuries and hospital personnel were allowed to return to their normal duties in a reasonable amount of time. That was not the case at the Federal Hospital of Bonsucesso in Rio de Janeiro last fall. A fire there prompted more than 200 patients to be evacuated and urgently transferred elsewhere. Doctors and nurses relocated patients in mobile beds with the help of firefighters, but unfortunately during the rescue operation, two women who were hospitalized for coronavirus died. A mechanical workshop that was located nearby became a temporary nursing location for a few hours; and in the days that followed, the doctors’ union denounced the hospital, pointing to a lack of protocol for evacuating patients and health professionals. In the summer of 2019, staff from the “Hospital de Alta Especialidad” in Zumpango, México, within the metropolitan area of Mexico City, were evacuated when fire broke out. One of the panels of the hospital caught fire after a short circuit occurred between a luminaire and a ceiling in a patio area. Civil Protection personnel cordoned off the affected area and worked with medical personnel to evacuate hospitalized patients who were in the building next to the fire. The municipal fire department responded and State of Mexico Red Cross ambulances assisted in evacuating and protecting patients, relatives and hospital personnel. Within 25 minutes, the incident was under control. Thanks to the preparedness steps taken in advance and the security protocols that were successfully applied during the incident, the elderly and patients were allowed to re-enter the hospitalization building to continue their care, while the affected area was isolated. Preplanning and safety measures helped hospital authorities and responders protect patients and preserve the majority of the facility. These are just a few examples of hospital fires of note in Latin America. There have been many throughout time, all around the world, that have resulted in tragedy. I hope the few I have mentioned in this blog underscore the reality that Latin America is not exempt from such incidents. Hospital fires cause loss of life, property, equipment, essential supplies and hospital records – and leave economic and business/care continuity challenges in its wake. Each of these events share a common thread – ignorance or dismissal of danger signs, panic reactions or stampede tendencies. The incidents also showed inappropriate use of flammable and toxic materials, the absence or ineffectiveness of basic security measures, deficiencies in regulatory framework, and a concerning lack of training in evacuation planning, among other proactive safety measures. All of these safety components and a few others need to be addressed if we are going to reduce risk. Safety is a system, and one that should be taken very seriously especially in hospitals where many occupants will be unable to evacuate on their own or without assistive equipment. Healthcare officials, regulatory leaders and responders should use the recent spate of incidents in Latin America and the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem to evaluate whether they are connecting the dots on hospital safety. In 2016, the US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) did just that. In May of that year, CMS required health care facilities to meet requirements of the 2012 editions of NFPA 101® Life Safety Code and NFPA 99 Health Care Facilities Code. Since 1970, hospitals, nursing homes, ambulatory surgical centers and related facilities in the U.S. have needed to demonstrate that their fire and life safety programs satisfied different editions of NFPA 101 in order to meet the requirements of the Conditions of Participation (COP), as defined by CMS. Health care providers that participate in federal reimbursement programs are required to meet the COP expectations. Then in September of 2016, CMS announced that its emergency preparedness rule would require a coordinated set of requirements to be established by various providers. The emergency preparedness spectrum extends to the public who rely on the various organizations that provide different levels of medical and social wellness care as well as to the staff and physical plant assets that are part of the delivery system. Per the rule, hospitals, transplant centers, critical access hospitals and long-term care facilities must carefully evaluate their emergency and standby power systems. Specifically, they must be inspected, tested, and maintained in accordance with the 2010 edition of NFPA 110 Standard for Emergency and Standby Power Systems, as well as the 2012 editions of both NFPA 99 and NFPA 101. NFPA can help healthcare authorities proactively navigate the changes that are needed to ensure that Latin America’s hospitals and other health facilities have a solid safety infrastructure. Visit nfpa.org/cms for training, certification and other related resources. This blog is also available in Spanish.
Posted: February 3, 2021, 12:00 am
We live in a digital and interconnected world. There are endless devices and systems that connect to the internet – from an Instant Pot in your home to sprinkler and fire alarm systems, elevators, automatic lock doors, HVAC systems and countless others. Internet connected systems are vulnerable to a wide range of physical and cyber threats. Cyber actors are constantly looking for vulnerabilities and opportunities to steal valuable information, or disrupt, destroy or threaten the delivery of essential services, for example. As critical infrastructure becomes more integrated with information technology, the probability of more high consequence events is rising. A quick search shows thousands of fire and life safety systems that are vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Although fire protection systems had minimal vulnerabilities in the past, they are increasingly networked to Building Control Systems (BCS), Internet of Things (IoT), and other platforms that are, by design or oversight, exposed to the public-facing internet. This emerging environment could lead to unique and novel cyber vulnerabilities, and attacks on fire protection systems have the potential to have significant consequences. Join us for a free virtual workshop on January 26, 2021 from 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. (Eastern Time) and February 2, 2021 from 9 a.m. ET to 12 pm (Eastern Time) as we review research findings and engage with industry stakeholder to discuss the expansiveness of cyber vulnerabilities for fire protection systems, the severity of the consequences, mitigation techniques, the role of codes and standards, knowledge gaps, and next steps. This workshop is hosted by the Fire Protection Research Foundation, in collaboration with MC Dean, as part of an on-going research project “Cybersecurity for Fire Protection Systems”, supported by the Foundation’s Facilities Research Consortium and NFPA. Get more information, and register for the Free Virtual “Cybersecurity for Fire Protection Systems” Workshop here.
Posted: January 21, 2021, 12:00 am
With medical and/or recreational use of cannabis now legalized in 34 states and Washington D.C, the number of cannabis facilities across the country has grown exponentially. In the past few years, serious fires have occurred in these growing and processing facilities, highlighting the need for clear guidance on associated fire and life safety considerations, specifically for the cannabis industry. NFPA is currently considering the development of a new cannabis fire protection standard. As proposed, this effort would continue and expand upon the work started several years ago with NFPA 1, Fire Code, which addresses the fire protection aspects of the growing and processing facilities The new stand-alone document would consolidate and expand requirements, and reference appropriate resources into a standalone document. More specifically, the standard would address the protection of facilities from fire and related hazards where cannabis is being grown, processed, extracted and/or tested. In addition, activities related to the proposed project would include the development of requirements for inspecting, testing and maintenance of cannabis growing, processing, and extraction procedures. It would also determine the general skills, knowledge and experience required among facility operators and facility managers responsible for ensuring adequate levels of safety at these types of facilities. NFPA is seeking comments from all interested organizations and individuals to gauge whether support exists for development of such a standard. In particular, we are soliciting feedback on the following questions: Are you, or your organization, in favor of the development of an NFPA Standard pertaining to the fire protection of cannabis growing and processing facilities? Please state your reason(s) for supporting or opposing such standards development. Are you or your organization interested in applying for membership on the Technical Committee if the Standards Council initiates development activities on the proposed project? If yes, please submit an application, in addition to your comments in support of the project, online at: Submit online application* *Note: Applications are being accepted for purposes of documenting applicant interest in committee participation. However, acceptance of applications by NFPA does not guarantee or imply the NFPA Standards Council will ultimately approve standards development activity on this subject matter. Please submit all comments in support or opposition to standards development related to fire protection of cannabis growing and processing facilities by March 31, 2021 at: email@example.com.
Posted: January 15, 2021, 12:00 am
Here in Mexico City, where I am based for my role as NFPA development director for Latin America, there is significant buzz about the fire at the Buen Tono substation of the Mexico City Metro.A female police officer died when she fell during the incident, and the subway system that typically, during non-COVID times, serves 4.6 million commuters daily was severely disabled. Saturday’s incident has frustrated commuters and is raising important questions about necessary maintenance and upgrades. Given that I am charged with advancing government responsibility, fire and life safety infrastructure, code compliance, and emergency response strategies (among other safety considerations) in Mexico City, I, too, have a lot of questions including the obvious one, “how did this fire happen?” According to news reports, the fire broke out in Mexico City’s downtown substation and persisted for nearly 12 hours. It damaged six service lines including three of the system’s oldest and busiest lines which reportedly may not be repaired for three months. In addition to the police officer that perished, more than 30 people, including Metro workers, on-site police and a firefighter went to the hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation and other concerns. Mexico News Daily reports that a former director of the Metro said the substation had not been modernized in the last 20 years. “These installations should have been replaced 20 years ago [or] at least changed gradually [but] that wasn’t the case,” Jorge Gaviño said in a television interview. “They’re old, obsolete systems that definitely have to be given adequate maintenance to avoid … risks to passengers.” The news outlet quotes Gaviño as saying the Mexico City Congress will ask the Metro system’s management to supply the maintenance records of the substation so that they can be analyzed to determine why the fire broke out and how a similar event can be avoided in the future. NFPA research shows that between 2014-2018, fire departments in the United States responded to an estimated 1,100 fires per year in or at rapid transit stations. Since 1983, NFPA has produced NFPA 130 Standard for Fixed Guideway Transit and Passenger Rail Systems to help jurisdictions address some of the very design, maintenance and safety requirements that I suspect may be identified here in Mexico City. A Fixed Guideway Transit Systems Technical Committee was first formed in 1975 and began work on the development of NFPA 130 with one of the primary concerns centered on the potential for entrapment and injury of masses of people who routinely use mass transportation facilities. During development of the document, several significant fires occurred in fixed guideway systems. The committee noted that the minimal loss of life during these incidents was due primarily to chance events more than any preconceived plan or the operation of protective systems. So, they focused on developing material on fire protection requirements to be included in NFPA 130. In 1988, the standard was expanded to include automated guideway transit (AGT) systems – fully automated driverless transit systems which are automatically guided along a guideway. In subsequent years, new chapters on emergency ventilation systems, egress calculations in accordance with NFPA 101® Life Safety Code®, and protection requirements that address emergency lighting and standpipes were factored in. In other words, as new incidents, issues and best practices arose, the standard changed and so, too, should have the design and maintenance of the Metro station in Mexico City to ensure passenger safety and business continuity. Over the years, NFPA has served as a safety resource for organizations like the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in the United States. In 2015, NFPA staff offered safety insights to NTSB when an electrical malfunction filled the busy Metro subway station in downtown Washington, DC. That incident produced thick, black smoke and left many riders stranded after their train stopped in a tunnel. When all was said and done, a woman was dead and nearly 70 others were sent to the hospital. According to The Washington Post, authorities believed a train, which had just left the L’Enfant Plaza station, came to a halt about 800 feet into the tunnel because there was “an electrical arcing event” that occurred about 1,100 feet in front of the train. The event filled the tunnel with smoke because the arcing involved cables that power the third rail; arcing is often connected with short circuits and may generate smoke. There did not appear to have been a fire during that incident but nonetheless, questions about ventilation and maintenance were brought up in the aftermath of that incident, just as they will and should be brought up now by authorities in Mexico City. I also learned this week that the issue of train safety will be the subject of an NFPA Journal in Compliance column that is scheduled to run next month, and my colleagues at the Fire Protection Research Foundation explained that although they do not have research on this topic, others do, including: NIST – Fire Safety in Passenger Rail Transportation Brandforsk/RISE: Model Scale Railcar Fire Tests Victoria University - Fire Development in Passenger Trains (Thesis) International Association for Fire Safety Science (AFSS) As the former Metro director of the Metro Jorge Gaviño said to the media, “We have to find out if … this regrettable accident was foreseeable or not.” I stand ready to help Mexico City authorities if they need NFPA insights to get public transportation safely back on track. This blog is also available in Spanish.
Posted: January 13, 2021, 12:00 am
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has published the NFPA 30 Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code since 1913. Every three years its requirements are revised based on input from industry and government sectors. This blog highlights the major changes for the 2021 edition. The new code includes a significant change in its nomenclature along with revised sections addressing warehouse and tank storage, as well as piping. A flowchart was added in the annex to assist users interested in navigating chapters that pertain to container storage [including intermediate bulk container (IBC) storage], tank storage, piping, processing, and dispensing. What’s in a name? The 2021 edition of NFPA 30 introduces and emphasizes the term “ignitible liquid” compared to “flammable and combustible liquid.” The terms “flammable and combustible liquid,” have been changed to “ignitible (flammable and combustible) liquid”. This revision does not affect existing code requirements, only the nomenclature used to describe the liquids. The nomenclature was changed for two reasons. The first is that transportation and workplace codes use different flash points for the terms, “flammable” and “combustible.” Different definitions can create user confusion, potentially impair a user’s understanding of a liquid’s fire hazard and impact decisions made to protect against ignitible liquid fires. To clarify the potential for a liquid to produce ignitible vapors, the 2021 edition emphasizes the use of Liquid Class (Class IA, IB, IC, II, IIIA, and IIIB), which are tied to closed cup flash points, or in the case of Class IA and IB liquids, are tied to both the closed cup flash point and the boiling point. The term “flammable liquid” is now defined as a Class I liquid and a “combustible liquid” is defined as a Class II or III liquid. The second reason relates to the potential misconception that the term, “combustible liquid,” implies a lesser fire hazard than compared to fires involving flammable liquids. Full scale fire testing demonstrated that combustible liquids can generate fires that can approach the intensity of those generated with flammable liquids. What’s new in storage? Storage requirements for various ignitible liquids have also been revised. One notable change is that the exemption for beverages, medicines, foodstuffs, cosmetics, and other consumer products containing water-miscible ignitible liquids was lowered from greater than 50 percent by volume to greater than 20 percent by volume. Fire testing on consumer products with greater than 20 percent water-miscible ignitible liquids demonstrated that these commodities are not adequately protected using fire protection measures in NFPA 13 Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems. Therefore, these products are required to be protected under NFPA 30 requirements. Chapters 12 and 16 were revised based on fire testing with Class IB, IC, II, IIIA and Class IIIB liquids. NFPA 30 Table 12.8.1 which addresses the Liquid-Container Combinations Permitted in a Protected General-Purpose Warehouse was extensively revised. Fire testing demonstrated that the criteria in Chapter 16 of NFPA 30 can effectively control fires involving eight new liquid/storage combinations listed in Table 12.8.1. Six new Chapter 16 fire protection design tables specify requirements for new combinations of liquid classes (or liquids), containers, and storage configurations. Some of these tables reference new Fire Protection Schemes “D”, “E”, and “F” that introduce new storage and sprinkler layouts. What’s going on with tanks and piping now? NFPA 30 now indicates that either water or product can be used for ballast to protect against flooding to provide more flexibility in protecting tanks when a flood is expected. The 2021 edition also specifies the conditions under which anchorage of API 650 tanks is required to prevent sliding or overturning. Two design standards were also added to the list of atmospheric tank standards recognized by NFPA 30 to assists code officials and users. UL142A applies to special purpose aboveground oil and day tanks, while UL 2258 applies to nonmetallic tanks for fuel oils and other combustible liquids. A new section in the code provides requirements for metallic/nonmetallic composite piping that references two standards. UL 971A covers hybrid composite systems (pipe and fittings) for underground use and UL/ULC 1369, a new standard, addresses above ground pipes constructed with metallic, nonmetallic or composite materials. This summary reflects some of the revisions in the 2021 edition of NFPA 30. As with all NFPA codes and standards, a consensus process was employed so that NFPA 30 is addressing the needs of professionals who deal with ignitible liquids. NFPA 30 is now available in NFPA LiNK™ - the Association’s new information delivery platform with NFPA codes and standards, supplementary content, and visual aids for building, electrical, and life safety professionals and practitioners. NFPA LiNK subscribers will have convenient, digital access to new editions of 300-plus NFPA codes and standards (as they are released/uploaded), previous versions of codes, as well as updates on new helpful features and functions. More information about NFPA LiNK, a timeline of additional codes and standards that will be added, and an introduction video can be found at nfpa.org/LiNK.
Posted: January 11, 2021, 12:00 am
NFPA has created a downloadable Warehouse Fire Safety Fact Sheet that provides statistics, safety benchmarks, and best practices for keeping storage structures, contents and occupants safe from harm. The piece was developed following last month’s popular NFPA Considerations for Warehouse Fire Safety webinar for contractors, installers, engineers, facility managers, and code officials. E-commerce, and the subsequent need for fulfillment facilities, has surged in recent years. This trend combined with large-scale, large-loss fire incidents at a Beirut, Lebanon shipping port, an Amazon distribution center in Redlands, California, and a recycling facility in South Carolina have spurred greater interest in warehouse fire safety today. NFPA research shows that warehouse fires happen at a frequent rate with an average of 1,410 warehouse fires, two deaths, 20 injuries, and an estimated $159.4 million in direct property damage annually. The new at-a-glance warehouse safety fact sheet draws on the guidance found in NFPA 13 Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems and covers: Warehouse Fire Data Responsibility for Safety Commodity Classification Sprinkler Design Management of Change Inspection, Testing and Maintenance Fire Prevention Measures Importance of ITM Download the Warehouse Fire Safety Fact Sheet and check out the wide arrange of NFPA resources related to warehouse fire safety including the recent webinar,incident data, reports, suppression related research, and new information on Early Suppression Fast Response (ESFR) sprinklers which are often installed in warehouses to avoid installation of in-rack sprinklers.
Posted: December 10, 2020, 12:00 am
This fall, NFPA introduced the launch of a video blog series highlighting the key functions and features of NFPA LiNK™, the newest digital platform for building, electrical, and life safety professionals and practitioners. We discussed the dashboard and publications features, bookmarks and MyLiNK functionalities, as well as the search and share functions. In this, our last video in the series, we’re putting the spotlight on the “team access” feature that can assist you and your staff on the job. We all know in the workplace you are often working with a team of people. Maybe you’re in the engineering department designing systems and equipment or mapping out plans for a new hospital. Perhaps you’re in the field installing equipment in a new school. Regardless of your role, it is likely you are collaborating and working with others to complete your tasks. This is where NFPA LiNK can help play a part. With a teams or enterprise subscription, users have the ability to create collections and share notes. So as the supervisor you can now flag key areas to prepare your team for their next project. You can group together common questions and provide clarifications with your personal notes so your team has access to the information they need to be the very best at their job. Another great feature for managers includes the ability to put together collections on important topics to assist with training new hires or updating teams on the latest changes. Team members can also create their own team notes and collections to share peer to peer, as well. As your team grows or changes you can easily add and remove users by simply updating their email address in the administrator’s team management section. Invite a team member and they will receive an emailed invitation to join your team. A few clicks later they will able to take advantage of all the features available to them through NFPA LiNK. Learn more about team and enterprise subscriptions in the video below: There’s so much about NFPA LiNK you don’t want to miss. Whether you’re a manager or team member, there are so many functions and features within NFPA LiNK that will keep you connected and informed with everyone you work with. Learn more about how NFPA LiNK can elevate your work and help you accomplish your goals. Purchase or try NFPA LiNK today by visiting the website. Find more information about the platform, a timeline of additional codes and standards that will be coming to NFPA LiNK, and a product introduction video at nfpa.org/LiNK.
Posted: November 19, 2020, 12:00 am
NFPA is now offering digital badges to help stakeholders promote their professional achievements. Learners will earn a digital badge upon successful completion of select NFPA online learning and be able to share their badge(s) on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest or add a link to email signatures, resumes, and HTML cards. In short, digital badges demonstrate competency in a visual, shareable way. They verify that someone has successfully developed a certain skill or met an educational requirement that adds value for their current role or career aspirations. In recent years, the popularity of digital badging has grown significantly among students, professionals and practitioners. Employers looking to identify viable candidates and retain existing talent by offering opportunities for staff to upskill and potentially fill new openings are also embracing badging. To help those that take NFPA training project a competitive edge, three badge levels have been created, including: A Bronze Badge (Awareness) that demonstrates successful completion of a learning program and fundamental knowledge of facts and ideas A Silver Badge (Knowledge) that shows successful completion of a learning program and application of acquired knowledge, facts, techniques and rules A Gold Badge (Analysis) that emphasizes successful completion of a learning program and the ability to analyze content, present opinions or make judgements about the information based on a set of criteria Four NFPA online training courses currently offer badging with two more to be added soon: Swinging Fire Door Inspection 2021 NFPA 3000: Active Shooter / Hostile Event Response 2019 NFPA 241: Safeguarding Construction, Alteration, and Demolition Operations Construction Site Fire Safety Fundamentals Fire and Life Safety Operator (coming late 2020) Fire Prevention Program Manager (coming February 2021) NFPA is using Badgr to make digital badges available. After successfully completing one of the online courses identified above, a badge will appear immediately in the learner’s NFPA Training Portal and will be available via Badgr.com within 24-48 hours of earning the credential. Registration for a free Badgr account is required to access all digital badge functionality, including validation and sharing capabilities. Not familiar with digital badging? In the early 2000s, big names like Microsoft Xbox 360, social media site FourScore and even the Boy Scouts began using online badging to engage audiences, according to Chief Learning Officer. In the years since, higher-education institutions and forward-thinking organizations have offered and welcomed the informative icons because they help to tell the story of work experiences and learning achievements in a way that is more dynamic, detailed, and portable. NFPA training and education continues to be regarded as the gold standard for fire, electrical, building and life safety learning; and recently introduced a wide array of new online learning, live virtual training, and Certification Learning Paths to meet the demands of today’s busy, tech-savvy workforce.
Posted: November 17, 2020, 12:00 am
The leaves are falling, there is a nip in the air, and for us folks up north, we’ve even had snow on the ground already. All of these things can mean only one thing, summer has packed her bags and left the building! However, as sad as I might be that my days of soaking up the sun and hanging out at the beach have come to an end, we are now blessed with my personal favorite holiday of the year, Thanksgiving! As we begin preparing our menus and our meals for the big event, I thought this would be the perfect time to talk about kitchens. Did you know that food events such as Thanksgiving significantly transformed the electrical systems in today’s kitchens? Yes! And to understand this relationship more fully, we first need to understand the purpose of NFPA 70, National Electrical Code (NEC), which is stated very clearly in section 90.1(A): the practical safeguarding of persons and property from the hazards arising from the use of electricity. In other words, the NEC aims to install an electrical system in a building that is going to minimize that system’s potential to harm the building or the people in the building. Commercial/Industrial Properties and Dwellings Still wondering what that has to do with turkey, stuffing, and cranberries? Well, the NEC approaches receptacle outlet placement two different ways. First, in commercial or industrial type properties, it is generally known what will get plugged in and its placement. So, the NEC doesn’t see the need in those occupancies to specify where receptacle outlets must be placed. Sometimes however, it’s not clear what equipment will need connections or where that will/should be. Dwellings (such as homes) tend to fall into this second category. It means that if there isn’t a spot to plug in a given piece of equipment, an extension cord is most often used to bring the power to where it needs to be. This has led the code making panels (CMP) over the years to tackle dwelling unit systems with more of a proactive approach. Simply put, receptacle outlets are now placed throughout the space such that the typical equipment used in that area is never out of reach of an outlet. This helps minimize the use of extension cords and reduces the risk of fire hazards due to these cords being used constantly as though they are a part of the permanent wiring system of the home. Today’s Modern Kitchen and Receptacle Placement That brings us back to the kitchen. Having sat in on discussions taking place at CMP meetings about where to place receptacle outlets in kitchens, I have the pleasure to report that these panels have absolutely considered just about every conceivable kitchen configuration possible. And in this consideration, they have also considered just about every possible use scenario as well. This is where we tie Thanksgiving to receptacle outlet placement in the NEC. When it comes to family gatherings, or at least my family’s gatherings, if there is open counter space, it’s probably going to get taken up by a slow cooker or other small kitchen appliance like warming trays and coffee percolators. Based on discussions at the code meetings, it seems everyone around the tables have had the same experience. So, CMP-2 has done their best to consider as many kitchen layouts as possible, and as many kitchen use scenarios as possible to ensure that no matter who buys the house and how they use the kitchen, they’ll be covered. This translates to a few different requirements in the NEC that we should be aware of. Wall Space Behind Kitchen Countertops First, let’s take a look at receptacle outlets along the wall space behind the kitchen countertops. Any countertop space that is 12 inches in width or more is most likely the place where Aunt Edna’s famous green bean casserole will go and therefore it needs at least one receptacle outlet. From there, the requirement is that no space along the countertop wall line should be more than two feet from a receptacle outlet. Anyone want to take a guess at the standard length of a kitchen small appliance cord? You guessed it, two feet! So, this is what has become known as the “2 & 4-foot” rule. Place the first receptacle outlet within the first two feet of countertop and then every four feet after that, making sure that there is one within the last two feet of countertop. That way, an appliance should never be sitting out of reach of a receptacle outlet. While this rule is great for countertops with walls behind them, what about peninsulas and islands? Well, the last few cycles have had discussions around these types of installations, as well, because what was once a kitchen feature that was rather rare, now has become a rather popular design tool in today’s age of open concepts and feng shui. Island Countertops and Peninsula Space In order to ensure that your island countertop or peninsula have enough receptacle outlets, they took the approach of basing the number of required outlets on how large the island or peninsula countertop space is. The requirement is to install one receptacle outlet for the first nine square feet and then one for each additional 18 square feet or fraction thereof. This means that the bigger the island or peninsula, the more receptacle outlets you are going to need. However, with the exception of one within the last two feet of a peninsula, the placement of these receptacles is up to the owner or designer. For an example, let’s say we build a kitchen where the only countertop space happens to be an island. The dimensions measure 24 feet long by 30 inches wide. We know we need one receptacle for the first nine square feet, but how many do we need after that? In total, this island is 60 square feet. This means after the first nine square feet, we still have 51 square feet to account for. Dividing 51 square feet by 18 square feet gives us 2.83, which means we need a total of three additional receptacles for a total of four receptacle outlets for this island. Previous editions of the NEC only required a single receptacle outlet to serve this island, which just wouldn’t be enough to fulfill the demand for today’s large family holiday events like Thanksgiving or Christmas. So, the next time you find yourself at a holiday event, look around to see if there are enough outlets in your kitchen to serve demand, while still in alignment with the purpose of the NEC. If there are, you can give thanks to the members of Code Making Panel 2 who spent considerable time discussing how families will use their countertops and applying the needed, related code requirements to help keep everyone safe from electrical hazards. For more information about this topic, check out one of our recent blog posts that highlights three key changes in the 2020 NEC that helps make kitchens safer. Tips and resources about cooking fire safety can be found on NFPA’s Thanksgiving and holiday safety webpage.
Posted: November 10, 2020, 12:00 am
As National Cybersecurity Awareness Month winds down, it's a great time to look at the ways that NFPA codes and standards are addressing digital transformation and the byproduct of these solutions – the data that is being captured and generated. Conveniently enough, NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley recently delivered a virtual keynote address for the Siemens Fire & Life Safety Summit that touched on both innovation and cybersecurity. Here's what the head of NFPA had to say. Standards have a role and that role is rapidly changing because of the digital transformation that is occurring around us. Understanding and integrating digital solutions and smart technologies into building management systems is important - and increasingly being addressed in NFPA codes and standards. For example, the 2022 edition of NFPA 13: Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems will likely contain language about the use of electronically activated sprinklers for the first time. These days, some sprinklers are designed to address fires in higher hazard storage protection, including exposed expanded plastics. Local heat detectors are “wired” to the sprinkler actuator and constantly sample the air temperature to identify a fire event early on. When a fire event occurs, the system will electronically activate sprinklers in a specific pattern around the fire based on the algorithms programmed into the releasing panel. The new technology ensures that only sprinklers that will be effective in suppressing the fire will activate to limit both fire and water damage. NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code also comes into play here as well since there are electronic components and heat detectors in sprinklers. These systems are connected to a releasing panel that looks a lot like a releasing panel for a pre-action system. It looks like a fire alarm control panel or sub-panel, but it fits into NFPA 13 in the same way that specialty releasing panels do. On the water-based side, automated testing is heavy in NFPA 25: Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems but installation system standards such as NFPA 13, NFPA 14, NFPA 15, and NFPA 16 are catching up and adding allowances for the installation of automated testing systems and components. Both NFPA 25 and NFPA 20: Standard for the Installation of Stationary Pumps for Fire Protection now recognize smart technology by featuring language in their most recent editions about remote automated testing of systems or components. Remote testing eliminates the need for a person to be physically present in a facility and is attractive for building owners who are trying to reduce their operating budget or limit the number of outside service-providers accessing their buildings. Then there's automated flow switch arrangement and other automated testing equipment which include motorized valves capable of opening and closing, cameras for observation, and auxiliary pumps for circulating water to ensure that automated testing equipment or components do not compromise the integrity of the system. This equipment may cost more upfront, but in just a few short years, operations savings are realized and the investment in capital improvements is validated. Remote testing is also addressed in NFPA 72. During this development cycle, the technical committee for NFPA 72 added provisions for remote access to fire alarm and signaling systems. Remote access is permitted for testing and maintenance activities, including resetting, silencing, or operation of emergency control functions. NFPA 72 will also permit remote access for the purposes of performing remote diagnostics and updating software. Task groups working on the 2023 National Electrical Code (NEC) are also looking hard at digital solutions. Packet Energy Transfer – the system that converts the typical 60 cycle power circuit into a digital signal and reconverts at utilization - is being deployed, but it does not fit well into existing NEC rules, so the standard needs to evolve. Why is this important? Because this technology is being used to power up the 5G equipment that is going to revolutionize how we communicate with digital devices. NEC task groups are also looking at Emergency Lighting Using Power over Ethernet and Limited Energy Circuits. LED lighting technology has become such a mainstay in the commercial lighting segment, that the use of low-voltage circuits for power and control is becoming increasingly popular. In commercial buildings, luminaires that provide normal lighting can be used as part of the emergency lighting system, rather than use conduit, tubing and metal-clad cables. Low-voltage (CAT 5 and CAT 6) cables are now used to control and power emergency lighting so the NEC task group has provided recommendations to employ this new technology. The NEC technical committee is vetting new requirements surrounding localized power microgrid too. Smart buildings want to have localized microgrids that allow for safe interconnection of multiple distributed energy resources with or without a connection to an electric utility system. Digital technology provides the pathway for the interoperability of these systems. The analytics from these systems will also go a long way in making businesses more efficient and to reduce risk. These analytics become important information for our technical committees so that they can better understand what other changes need to be made to the standard. More and more fire protection systems are networked to Building Control Systems, it's the Internet of Things. These and many other platforms are, by design or sometimes by oversight, being exposed to the Internet. This connectivity can lead to cyber vulnerabilities and attacks on fire protection systems. To date, a thorough understanding of fire protection cybersecurity issues has been lacking. So, our research arm, the Fire Protection Research Foundation is working to better understand vulnerabilities, the severity of consequences, and the awareness issues that exist within the fire protection community. When the Foundation research is released in the beginning of the year, it will inform the standards development process. In the meantime, at least 16 NFPA standards have cybersecurity references including NFPA 72 which features guidance and requirements to address cybersecurity for equipment, software, firmware, tools, and installation methods, as well as the physical security and access to equipment, data pathways, testing, and maintenance. In fact, NFPA 72 includes an entirely new annex called Guidelines for Cybersecurity. These Internet of Things (IoT) electrical technologies and smart equipment allow for the collection of real-time data, which can then be used to preempt failures, schedule maintenance, and provide safety for workers – the latter benefit is of interest to NFPA 70B – electrical equipment maintenance and 70E – electrical safety in the workplace committees. These are just some of the ways that NFPA standards are morphing in digital times and looking to safeguard data. NFPA staff and volunteers from 42 countries who fill more than 9000 technical committee seats will continue considering the innovations and potential challenges that often come with progress because it is critical that safety and progress move in lockstep.
Posted: October 29, 2020, 12:00 am
An outdated and stained floor covering requires update and replacement, a new office tenant requests a reconfigured office space, a new commercial stove and oven is needed for a cafeteria, or a hotel guest room is converted into extra storage space. Buildings are always undergoing work to maintain their systems and features in good working conditions, and to reconfigure and upgrade their space. So, when work is being done to a building, how does the Life Safety Code apply? Prior to 2006, editions of NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, required all modernizations, renovations, additions, and changes of occupancy, to the extent practicable, to comply with the requirements for new construction. Often, however, building rehabilitation is not undertaken because of the perception that unwanted or unwarranted upgrades will be forced on the building owner. Chapter 43, added in 2006, was written to encourage the adaptive reuse of compliant, existing structures. The former philosophy of “that which you do must meet new” is relaxed. Now, with the detailed provisions contained in Chapter 43, only those requirements necessary to achieve the intended level of life safety are mandated in lieu of requiring strict compliance with the requirements applicable to new buildings. Chapter 43 presents provisions based on a set of concepts including the following: During a rehabilitation project, a building must meet the base level of life safety required by the Code chapter applicable to the existing occupancy. The rehabilitation work must maintain or increase the level of Code compliance. Rehabilitation work in existing construction elements or building features is held to a lower standard than rehabilitation work in new elements or features. Upgrades are typically required only in the rehabilitation work areas, not throughout the entire occupancy or building. What if my building requires corrective actions as a result of a Code deficiency? Let's say you are planning to renovate an entire tenant space to in your existing office building. However, it is determined that your existing office building exceeds the maximum allowable travel distance. The provisions of Chapter 43 are to be used once the existing building is brought into compliance with the appropriate occupancy chapter requirements applicable to that existing occupancy. Work done to correct a deficiency is not subject to the provisions of Chapter 43. Once your existing office building is compliant the additional planned work to the tenant space will use Chapter 43 to determine the provisions that apply to that work. Your existing office building undergoing the renovation is held, as a starting point, to the same requirements that apply to any other existing business occupancy building. Some of the occupancy chapters have requirements that supplement those of Chapter 43 and impose the requirements for new construction on existing buildings that are being rehabilitated, including those situations in which the use is changed to increase the occupant load. For example, mercantile occupancies are further subclassified as a Class A, Class B, or Class C mercantile occupancy, based on the floor area used for sales purposes. After determining that Chapter 43 applies to the work in my building, what determines compliance with new or existing requirements? Establishing a level of Code compliance uses a stepped approach to mandate requirements. Minor levels of rehabilitation must meet minimal requirements; major rehabilitation projects must meet more significant requirements. Chapter 43 defines seven categories of rehabilitation work: repair, renovation, modification, reconstruction, change of use, change of occupancy and addition. Understanding and properly defining these seven categories are a key concept of this chapter for achieving the objective of proportionality of work. That is, the more work that is proposed for the rehabilitation project, the more work that might be required by the Code in terms of upgrading existing conditions. Incorrectly defining the category/categories of work on a rehabilitation project can result in over- or under-applying critical fire and life safety requirements from the Code to your building. Identifying the category of work being performed will then determine the extent to which the Code is applied to that work. Any building undergoing rehabilitation will comply with the requirements of the applicable existing occupancy chapter plus any additional requirements for the applicable new occupancy as called out specifically in Chapter 43. For example, a simple repair, such as replacing a few ceiling tiles in an office that were damaged due to a water leak, would be required to use like materials and result in an installation no less conforming than it was prior to the repair (existing). Reconstruction work, such as gutting an entire floor in an existing hotel building to create hotel guest suites from individual guest rooms individual guest rooms, requires a more extensive and detailed application of Code requirements for the work being performed. Among other requirements, newly constructed elements, components, and systems are required to comply with the requirements of other Code sections applicable to new construction. What are some other considerations when applying Chapter 43 to a rehabilitation project? Chapter 43, with the exception of the provisions for reconstruction, does not mandate improvements or set minimum acceptable standards for spaces that are not undergoing rehabilitation. Incidental work in other areas of the building may be required depending on the extent of the work (for example, extending a fire alarm system may require upgrades to the fire alarm panel that are outside the original rehabilitation work area but are necessary as part of the project.) A single work project may have more than one rehabilitation work category (for example, a reconstruction may also result in a change of occupancy) The provisions of Chapter 43 should not prevent the use of equivalent designs, systems or approaches if deemed acceptable by the AHJ. Work mandated by any accessibility, property, housing, or fire code; mandated by the existing building requirements of this Code; or mandated by any licensing rule or ordinance, are not required to conform to Chapter 43. Construction, alteration and demolition operations that may accompany rehabilitation projects must comply with the provisions for NFPA 241. Both new and existing occupancy chapters now contain pointers back to NFPA 241 for this work. Interested in learning more about the specifics of rehabilitation work categories and compliance options for applying the building rehabilitation requirements in NFPA 101 to real world examples? This December we will be offering a 2-hour virtual, live training on this topic! Be on the lookout in the NFPA catalog at www.nfpa.org/catalog soon for more details and registration information. And finally, if you found this article helpful, subscribe to the NFPA Network Newsletter for monthly, personalized content related to the world of fire, electrical, and building & life safety. Thanks for reading, stay safe!
Posted: October 16, 2020, 12:00 am
Yesterday morning, an explosion, most likely involving natural gas, ripped through three rowhouses in northwest Baltimore, leaving two dead and seven more transported to hospitals. The blast occurred on the 4-year anniversary of another Maryland natural gas explosion, which killed seven and injured nearly ten times as many in the city of Silver Springs in 2016. While the cause of this recent explosion remains under investigation, the damages sustained in the Baltimore incident are reminiscent of similar fuel gas explosions we've seen in recent years in the Merrimack Valley region of Massachusetts in 2018 and Farmington, Maine last September. Fuel gases include natural gas, manufactured gas, liquefied petroleum (LP) gas (typically propane & butane), or mixtures of these gases that are distributed commercially and used in gas appliances for cooking and heating. There are several different codes, standards, and regulations here in the U.S that govern the safe use of fuel gas systems. The codes, standards, and regulations apply to both the fuel gas being used and those responsible for each part of the system. For natural gas systems, the utility company (in this case Baltimore Gas and Electric) is responsible for the transmission lines and piping up to the service meter at the customer's house. The Department of Transportation (DOT) and The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) regulate gas utilities and jurisdictional requirements are listed under Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Responsibility for gas from the outlet of the service meter to the appropriate gas appliance lies with the customer and is addressed within NFPA 54 National Fuel Gas Code. NFPA research found that an estimated 4,200 home structure fires per year were started with the ignition of natural gas and caused an average of 40 deaths. Looking back at recent incidents, we know that the Merrimack Valley fire and explosions was caused by an over-pressurization in the utility gas transmission lines which caused damage to customer-owned equipment. One person was killed, dozens of explosions and fires damaged more than 40 homes, and 30,000 residents and business owners were forced to evacuate. In the case of the LEAP Building explosion in Maine, gas piping outside the home was punctured by a drilling operation that caused gas to migrate into the basement of the building. That incident killed one firefighter, injured others and destroyed a non-profit building. Combustion requires three things - fuel, oxygen, and an ignition source. In the case of natural gas explosions, the leaking gas is the fuel. Ambient air serves as the oxygen, which in the right proportion with the fuel, forms an ignitable mixture. The last part of the triangle is an ignition source to spark the vapor/air mixture. When gas enters an occupancy (either from the outside or from an appliance leak within the home), simple gestures like turning on the stove or switching on a light switch can serve as the ignition source. Both natural gas and LP-Gas are colorless and odorless, which makes detecting a leak difficult. When fuel gases are used for consumer application, they are treated with an odorant that emits a distinct smell and helps to alert parties nearby that a leak has occurred. Despite odorization efforts, odor fades and not everyone can detect odor readily. Based on incidents like yesterday, various parties have asked for the development and installation of gas detection devices for residential applications. NFPA 715, Standard for the Installation of Fuel Gases Detection and Warning Equipment is in the early developmental stages prior to beginning full public review. NFPA 715 addresses recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) investigation following the Silver Springs explosion; it will cover the selection, design, application, installation, location, performance, inspection, testing, and maintenance of fuel gas detection and warning equipment in buildings and structures. The Standards Council decided to begin the full NFPA 715 revision process and invites stakeholders to submit public inputs at this point. Additionally, the Fire Protection Research Foundation, the research affiliate of NFPA, will soon complete a report on combustible gas detector (CGD) placement that looks to use modeling work to justify requirements in NFPA 715 for the best location of CGD in order to ensure early and accurate detection of leaks. The incident in Baltimore and the other events I have noted above underscore the need for sharing and understanding simple gas leak safety measures. Here are some that come to mind: Prior to any construction work, be sure to contact Dig Safe or similar local authorities to prevent accidental damage to buried underground piping as digging is a frequent cause of damage to the main line before the meter. If you smell gas – typically a rotten egg smell due to the mercaptan odorant - leave the area or building immediately. Avoid possible ignition sources such as matches and lighters, light switches, flashlights, telephones, cell phones and other communication devices if you do smell that rotten egg smell. Do not start a car or ring doorbells either. Get to a safe area and call 911 to report a gas leak. Then follow the instructions of any on-site emergency responders or utility employees, as they respond to the leak. For more information on NFPA 54 or the proposed NFPA 715, visit nfpa.org.
Posted: August 11, 2020, 12:00 am
One of the most notable features about NFPA standards is that their development process is open and consensus-based. That means anybody can participate in the development of these important documents and the standards reflect the professional insight of their various stakeholders and end-users. This goes for NFPA's wildfire standards as well and their current revision process is underway. This process includes a consolidation effort, review of term definitions, and technical updates. Below is an overview of that current process by Barry Chase, NFPA Standards Lead for Emergency Response and Responder Safety. Barry is also the Staff Liaison to the NFPA technical committees on Wildland Fire Management and Wildland and Rural Fire Protection. He explains the consolidation effort and technical changes the committee are examining. Their process is public and you can both learn more about their deliberations (narrative below) and submit your own comments for official consideration (steps described at end). Barry shares, "By far, the largest and most obvious change in this revision cycle is the consolidation of four wildland standards: NFPA 1051, NFPA 1141, NFPA 1143, and NFPA 1144 into a single, new document, titled, NFPA 1140 Standard for Wildland Fire Management. This consolidation is part of a larger plan to eliminate redundancy and align content across all of the emergency management, emergency response, and responder safety standards. The consolidation will also simplify the standards-buying experience, which is something that our stakeholders have requested. I should mention that NFPA 1142 Standard on Water Supplies for Suburban and Rural Fire Fighting and NFPA 1145 Guide for the Use of Class A Foams in Fire Fighting are also being revised at the same time, but they will remain as separate, standalone documents. One area where the consolidation of four standards into one will have a noticeable impact is the definitions of terms. Because the four standards were developed by different groups of people at different times, the definitions for several key terms were not consistent across all four books. Going forward, we will have a single definition for: defensible space, fire hazard, fuel, incident action plan (IAP), jurisdiction, risk, slope, wildland fire, and wildland/urban interface. While most of the focus has been on editorial adjustments and technical alignment of the consolidated material in NFPA 1140, some topics that could see significant technical changes include the following: [Note: These are shared with the standard number, followed by its referenced chapter] Building separation and setback distances [1140: 12.2] Automatic protection of one- and two-family dwellings and residential apartment buildings [1140: 14.1] Planning for physical space as an element of the community's emergency operational plan [1140: 17.7] Planning for backfill costs as an element of the wildland fire response plan [1140: 20.2] Building construction design and materials specifications [1140: 2.2] Guidance on air operations for wildland fire incidents [1140: Annex J] Minimum water supply and delivery rates [1142: 4.6.1] Water availability studies [1142: 7.1.7, along with several new definitions] Water supply strainer clearance [1142: 8.5] Guidance on the use of floating submersible source pumps [1142: E.5.5] Class A foam mix tables [1145: 4.2.1] I encourage anyone with an interest in wildland fire management to review and comment on the first draft reports by following the "submit a public comment" option. The comment period ends on October 9, 2020.” Photo Credit: Firewise USA Photo Library As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA's response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage. Follow NFPA's FireBreak blog and you can also follow me on twitter @LucianNFPA for more international wildfire and policy related topics.
Posted: August 6, 2020, 12:00 am
Each year in June, NFPA honors various professionals working in different ways to reduce loss in our world. These individuals are raising awareness of persistent challenges, addressing hazards in new, innovative ways and helping to raise the bar on safety in proactive, progressive ways. Paul D. Martin, retired Deputy State Fire Administrator with the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Service's Office of Fire Prevention and Control, is the winner of the 2019 James M. Shannon Advocacy Medal. The award was established in honor of Jim Shannon who served as NFPA president for 12 years; he proactively championed key changes that reduced fire hazards and was a passionate proponent of home fire sprinklers. Paul Martin started his fire service career more than 40 years ago, and has been an advocate for campus fire safety, both on and off campus. He served as a director of the non-profit Center for Campus Fire Safety for more than 12 years, (six years as president) and led efforts to launch a Campus Fire Safety Awareness Day at dozens of campuses throughout New York. Martin was also instrumental in New York becoming the first state to pass Fire Safe Cigarette requirements, essentially paving the way for other states to do so too. Additionally, Martin served as co-chair of Prevention, Advocacy, Resource and Data Exchange (PARADE), a program the United States Fire Administration designed to exchange fire-related prevention/ protection information and resources between federal, state, and local levels of government. The Standards Medal is the most distinguished award given by the NFPA Standards Council. It recognized and honors outstanding contributions to fire safety. Peter J. Willse is the 2020 recipient of the Standards Medal. Willse began his professional career as a field engineer for Industrial Risk Insurers (IRI) and moved on to U.S. and international roles for several years before IRI became GE Global Asset Protection Services (GAPS) and ultimately XL Insurance, where he became the director of research. Willse oversees relationships between GAPS, NFPA, the Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF), the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE), and Underwriters Laboratories. He is responsible for the publication of GAP Guidelines manuals and teaches in areas of building construction, combustion controls, natural hazards, and special hazards. Willse has also authored articles on Exterior Insulation and Finishing Systems (EIFS) and fire walls and has revised chapters for multiple editions of NFPA's Fire Protection Handbook. A firefighter/ EMT in Connecticut, Willse serves as an advisor for fire cadets and acts as deputy fire marshal. A former NFPA Board of Directors and Standards Council member, Willse sits on several other NFPA committees today, as well as on the FPRF Board of Trustees and Worcester Polytechnic lnstitute (WPI) Fire Protection Engineering Advisory Board. The Research Foundation Medal recognizes one Fire Protection Research Foundation (Foundation) project from the previous year that best exemplifies the Foundation's fire safety mission, commitment to overcoming technical challenges and collaborative approach. An awards committee comprised of representatives from the Research Foundation Board, Research Advisory Committee, and NFPA technical staff reviewed 24 project summaries, along with staff assessments. They selected Digitized Fuel Load Survey Methodology Using Machine Vision which addresses the need to provide reliable fuel load data to quantify design fires for buildings as the winner. The availability of fuel load data has been hindered by the lack of an efficient building surveying method, but this project developed and applied a new digitized methodology for fuel load surveys using machine vision that can facilitate the collection, storage, and analysis of fuel load data for a variety of building occupancies. Negar Elhami-Khorasani, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering at the University at Buffalo (NY), Thomas Gernay, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Systems Engineering at Johns Hopkins University (MD), and Juan Gustavo Salado Castillo, Esther Saula, Timothy Josephs, and Gauhar Nurlybekova, students in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering at the University of Buffalo (NY) are the recipients of this award. Maria Bostian, public education and information officer for Kannapolis (N.C.) Fire Department, has received the 2019 Fire and Life Safety Educator of the Year Award, as well as a $1000 honorarium for her and $1000 to support public education activities in her community. Annually, NFPA confers this award on a dedicated educator who works for a fire department of fire marshal's office in the U.S. or Canada and uses NFPA materials in consistent and creative educational ways. She teams up each year with her community's local pet supply store to stage a Pet Fire Safety Day; and elevates safety awareness by using NFPA's Learn Not to Burn® preschool program and NFPA's Remembering When™ program for older adults. In 2019, Bostian visited a preschool classroom with the Fire Prevention Week theme of “Not every hero wears a cape. Plan and practice your escape.” She emphasized the importance of knowing two ways out of every room in the event of a fire and reinforced this key messaging with customized handouts for the children. This decision proved to be lifesaving for one of the preschoolers; who after the lesson experienced a house fire and got her siblings and herself to safety. Bostian also promotes fire safety through two children's picture books she authored – underscoring vital safety information found within NFPA's Educational Messaging Advisory Council's Desk Reference. The 2020 Harry C. Bigglestone Award is given annually to a paper appearing in Fire Technology that best represents excellence in the communication of fire protection concepts. The award honors the memory of Harry C. Bigglestone, who served as a trustee of the Fire Protection Research Foundation and was a fellow and past president of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers; it comes with a $5,000 cash prize from NFPA. “Should We Leave Now? Behavioral Factors in Evacuation Under Wildfire Threat” by Jim McLennan, adjunct professor, school of psychology and public health, La Trobe University; Barbara Ryan, senior lecturer, school of arts and communication, University of Southern Queensland; Chris Bearman, associate professor of cognitive psychology; Queensland University (Adelaide campus); and Keith Toh, deputy dean of learning and teaching, RMIT University is this year's winner. Congratulations to this year's impressive winners!
Posted: June 18, 2020, 12:00 am
At its April 1, 2020 meeting, the NFPA Standards Council approved the committee restructuring for the NFPA 1, Fire Code project. The Fire Code has a very broad scope which addresses a variety of hazards. Following issuance of the 2021 edition of NFPA 1, the project will be developed by three technical committees (Technical Committee on Fundamentals; Technical Committee on Building Systems and Special Occupancies; and Technical Committee on Special Equipment, Processes and Hazardous Materials) and a correlating committee (Fire Code Correlating Committee). The new, multiple committee structure allows for more focused engagement by industry experts. NFPA is currently accepting online committee membership applications for these new committees. The deadline for submission of applications to be reviewed at the December 2020 Standards Council meeting is August 28, 2020. Anyone wishing to apply should first review the approved scopes and responsibilities below before submitting application: Technical Committee on Fundamentals (FCC-FUN): Submit online application Committee scope: This committee shall have primary responsibility for documents on the basic goals, objectives, performance requirements, classification of occupancy, general safety requirements, building services, fire department access, and definitions for the purpose of providing safety to life and property from fire and explosion. Responsibility: NFPA 1, Fire Code, Chapters 1-11, 15 and 18 NFPA 1, Fire Code, Annexes A-D and Annex Technical Committee on Building Systems and Special Occupancies (FCC-OCP): Submit online application Committee scope: This committee shall have primary responsibility for documents on building fire protection and life safety systems, construction operations, occupancy fire safety and definitions for the purpose of providing safety to life and property from fire and explosion. Responsibility: NFPA 1, Fire Code, Chapters 3, 12-14, 16-17, and 19-39 NFPA 1, Fire Code, Annexes A and E Technical Committee on Special Equipment, Processes, and Hazardous Materials (FCC-HAZ): Submit online application Committee scope: This committee shall have primary responsibility for documents on special equipment and processes in buildings, the storage, use and handling of hazardous materials indoors and outdoors, and definitions for the purpose of providing safety to life and property from fire and explosion. Responsibility: NFPA 1, Fire Code, Chapters 3 and 40-75 NFPA 1, Fire Code, Annex A Fire Code Correlating Committee (FCC-AAC): Submit online application* Committee scope: This committee shall have primary responsibility for documents on a Fire Prevention Code that includes appropriate administrative provisions, to be used with the National Fire Codes for the installation, operation, and maintenance of buildings, structures, and premises for the purpose of providing safety to life and property from fire and explosion. This includes development of requirements for, and maintenance of, systems and equipment for fire control and extinguishment. Safety to life of occupants of buildings and structures is under the primary jurisdiction of the Committee on Safety to Life. Responsibility: NFPA 1, Fire Code NOTE*: Typically, correlating committee membership is limited to people with technical committee experience. If you are interested in serving on the correlating committee but have never served on an NFPA technical committee we encourage you to first apply to a technical committee. The Council notes that the current committee responsible for the development of NFPA 1 is to complete its work through the issuance and effective date of the current processing cycle. Council anticipates the disbanding of the current NFPA 1 committee and appointing the initial roster of the new committees at the December 2020 Council meeting.
Posted: May 13, 2020, 12:00 am
NFPA Develops Additional Guidance for Health Care Facilities Working to Establish and Maintain Adequate Levels of Fire and Life Safety during COVID-19 Pandemic
When health care facilities are operating under the conditions like the ones the U.S. health care system is facing right now, stressors are placed on everything, including physical space, staffing levels, available supplies, and the level of care being provided. Everyday code-based solutions simply will not work in many circumstances. With that understanding, NFPA has released a new resource as we continue to provide guidance to health care providers working to establish and maintain adequate fire and life safety levels during the COVID-19 pandemic. Compiled from input received by various sources including NFPA's Healthcare Interpretations Task Force (HITF), the latest white paper, “Considerations for Temporary Compliance Options in Health Care Environments During COVID-19” reflects feedback from authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs), federal, state and local officials, health care industry professionals, and others who have identified multiple compliance challenges and issues that health care facilities are currently facing. The paper discusses ongoing challenges not only in purpose-built hospitals, but also in the alternate care sites such as convention centers and hotels. NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities Code and NFPA 101, Life Safety Code include a range of requirements that are primarily applied through the prescriptive criteria contained in each document. However, each document also permits the use of equivalencies to determine if the level of prescribed safety can be achieved with other means or measures, including the use of risk-based approaches, performance-based approaches, or other concepts. The new white paper provides an overview of these compliance options. It also uses portions of NFPA 550, Guide to the Fire Safety Concepts Tree, highlighting the fundamental “decision tree” that can be used to achieve the fire safety objectives of a building, structure, or process under virtually any configuration or scenario imaginable. The examples of compliance challenges and considerations for addressing these issues can help provide the level of fire protection and life safety intended by the prevailing codes and standards, as well as the broad guidance put forth by CMS. While they don't satisfy all of the provisions that are normally required, the intent of the document is to make sure that these safety issues are not overlooked during the accelerated construction phase related to the current public health emergency. Overall, our goal has been to help facility managers, engineers, designers, AHJs, and others assess the common scenarios and challenges they are seeing against what is normally required, recognizing that each situation has its own unique variables. We will continue to provide resources and support for health care facilities as new information is put forward. As soon as the pandemic begins to subside and facilities return to a normal level of care, these interim or temporary measures should be withdrawn, and facilities should resume their normal operational processes and procedures. Also, check the NFPA website for additional key resources and information that address emergency planning, building, fire and life safety issues as the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Posted: April 14, 2020, 12:00 am
NOTE: This blog was originally posted on NFPA Today in October, 2019, and has been edited. As spring and summer months approach, the topics of durable medical equipment, patient safety, and their relationship to natural disasters is once again, a timely one. As so often is the case when you work in building and life safety, and strive to bring attention to potential hazards, a tragic incident has occurred to underscore the concerns and opportunities noted in this blog. Newsweek reports that, a 67-year old, oxygen-dependent Northern California man with COPD and congestive heart failure,died when a utility company cut power to his home. His medical equipment required power to deliver the needed oxygen. Within 15 minutes of PG&E turning off electrical service in the area due to the threat of wildfire, local first responders received and responded to an emergency call from someone on life-saving medical equipment. Despite their rescue attempts – while using flashlights - the man died. Durable medical equipment (DME) is the term used for medical equipment that patients use in the home to maintain optimal health. In recent years, there has been a paradigm shift in health care placing a greater emphasis on controlling patient health and the transitioning of health care from hospitals and doctors' offices to patients' homes and mobile devices. Given this shift, it is safe to say that the use of DME will increase in the future. The use of DME makes sense for health care organizations looking to reduce overhead and operational responsibilities; insurance industries interested in paying less in premiums; and patients hoping to save some money on medical expenses. Some studies show that patient healing is also enhanced while being treated or recovering in familiar surroundings. The thing is, those that use DME including oxygen concentrators, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines, ventilators, IV infusion pumps, suction pumps, electric beds, and various other pieces of equipment, rely significantly on a dependable power source to ensure their safety and well-being. Most DME is electrically-powered, therefore if there is a loss of primary power to the home, patients could be at grave risk if there are no alternate power plans in place. Power loss can stem from a natural disaster, power grid issues, or intentional controlled power outages (sometimes referred to as a “public safety power shutdown”), like those being considered in areas of Northern California by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). PG&E power lines have been responsible for some recent wildfires in their market, including the 2018 Camp Fire that killed 86 people, so the company is hoping to reduce or eliminate potential ignitions from its power lines by initiatingcontrolled power outages in areas where there might be a high risk of a wildfire occurring. According to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness & Response, approximately 2.5 million people covered under Medicare in the United States use some form of DME, thus the reason it is essential that we have a resilient power supply infrastructure in place to ensure that DME is fully powered for proper use. The number of DME users covered by other programs such as Medicaid, private pay insurance and VA programs are unknown. Some DME may be equipped with back-up battery power, but that source will typically only last a few hours. Ensuring the safety of patients reliant on DME should be a priority among emergency managers and those responsible for policy planning too. Jurisdictional emergency plans should include a way to identify the most vulnerable residents who rely on DME. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) program,emPOWER, which uses the Medicare claims database to identify patients that utilize DME, can help with that effort. Emergency plans, for example, might call for the evacuation of the patient, if possible, and relocation to a health care facility that has a back up power system in place. Other plans may call for the patient to be checked on, if they have a generator or other means that enable them to defend in place. The latter option may be a better strategy, in some cases, if relocating the patient is impractical due to the patient's condition, environmental conditions, resources available at the time, and logistics associated with moving the patient and multiple pieces of DME. Beyond evacuating and defending in place, the emPOWER database can also be used to help utility companies prioritize power restoration efforts and emergency managers to focus their response resources. In June, NFPA staff members joined representatives from theMeridian Institute,Clean Energy Group, the health care industry, energy sector,U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and several other organizations at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts to discuss today's resilient power supply system and potential issues for patients that use DME. Two common methods of supplying back up power – generators, and combination solar/energy storage systems (ESS) – were considered. Generators, it was noted, have their limitations as the equipment must be maintained, refueled, can be noisy, and are likely to produce pollutants. Solar and battery storage systems may be a good option, it was determined, but the cost can be prohibitive, especially for low-income patients. Key findings were shared in theMeridian Institute report, including recommendations that solar and ESS options be further researched to see how patients can affordably access and pay for potentially life-saving alternative energy solutions. NFPA recognizes there is also a need to address resilient power for DME in its codes and standards. To that end, theNational Electrical Code(NEC) Correlating Committee is currently forming a task group to examine how the current requirements in the NEC should be managed for DME. The objective will be to determine if changes need to be made to the code to address the interface criteria between alternate power sources and the distribution system for the DME. Additionally, the newNFPA 855, Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems and NFPA 110, Standard for Emergency and Standby Power Systemsmay also play a role in addressing DME resiliency; those documents will need to be reviewed to see how their requirements can further support the infrastructure for DME. NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities Code already contains requirements for patient care, electrical appliances, and equipment, however, the current application of NFPA 99 excludes home health care. Therefore, there are currently no requirements for DME in NFPA 99. The correlating committee on Health Care Facilities is meeting in Phoenix, Arizona next month to complete their work on the 2020 edition of NFPA 99. The topic of DME will be on the agenda and dialogue about whether DME should be factored into the standard in the future is expected. Addressing the resiliency aspect of DMEin emergency management protocol, via forward-thinking collaborations and in the codes and standards that provide benchmarks for safety, will help to ensure that the most vulnerable members of our community are safe the next time power is compromised by weather events, power outages, and forced shutdowns.
Posted: March 11, 2020, 12:00 am
The 2020 NFPA Standards Directory is now available for download. The directory contains standards development information, including: an overview of the standards development process; the Regulations Governing the Development of NFPA Standards, Technical Meeting Convention Rules, and other procedures; members of NFPA's Board of Directors, Standards Council, Advisory Committees, and Committees (with scope and responsibilities); and additional contact information and resources. One of the most notable features of NFPA's standards development process is that it is a full, open, consensus-based process. "Full consensus" means that anyone can participate and expect fair and equal treatment because safety is everybody's business. The NFPA Standards Directory is your guide to NFPA's standards development process - download it for free today!
Posted: March 5, 2020, 12:00 am
New Video Interview Highlights Collaboration Around Key 2020 NEC Change: Exterior Emergency Disconnects
It's not often that the National Electrical Code (NEC) gets a requirement aimed at protecting an individual exposed to electrical hazards under the most extreme worst-case scenario. After all, the purpose of the NEC is the practical safeguarding of persons and property from the hazards arising from the use of electricity; practical safeguarding meaning that the NEC isn't really intended to protect in the event of something like a natural disaster or other unforeseen emergency situation. Then came the 2020 edition of the NEC and the new section 230.85. It requires an emergency disconnect to be installed in a readily accessible location on the outside of one- and two-family homes. This new requirement is really the product of multiple electrical industry experts coming together to solve a problem. And, it's one of the best examples I've seen in recent years of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem in action. I had the great opportunity to sit down recently with Matt Paiss, the International Association of Fire Fighters principal representative on Code Making Panel 4 and the driver behind this specific change. We were joined by NFPA Board of Directors' member, Kwame Cooper, a retired assistant fire chief of the Los Angeles Fire Department. Watch our interview below. As you listen, you'll see how this change came to be, how this revision process truly demonstrates the essence of the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, and brings the true meaning of collaboration, to light. In case you weren't aware, this change was actually recognized during the 2017 revision process - there was a problem with the current standard of practice when it came to emergency responders who were responding to emergencies at dwelling units. Mainly, the issue revolved around how best to kill power to the building to begin dealing appropriately to the emergency, such as a house fire. The options were: Pull the meter Wait for the utility company to come disconnect the power Leave the power on and try to be careful All of these options have their own drawbacks for emergency personnel. For most emergency responders, the thought of pulling the meter on their own was out of the question as most responders lack the qualification to safely perform this task. Plus, even after the meter is out, there are still exposed live parts on the line side of the meter that still present a shock hazard. So, in many parts of the country this option was not an option. This left emergency personnel, such as firefighters, with just two options. Either they could take their chances and start the process with the wiring system still energized, or wait for the utility company to show up. However, electrical utilities do not have the same response time requirements and often can take hours to be on site to disconnect power. If a home is on fire, every second counts and by the time the power company arrives, the home could be a total loss. This left many emergency personnel with the only realistic option of doing their job while still being exposed to electrical hazards. The approach that was originally proposed as a part of the 2017 revision cycle was to require the service disconnecting means to be installed outside of the home or some other way to remotely operate the service disconnect from the outside of the home. This was met with very strong opposition and skepticism as many felt that requiring the service equipment to be outside would not be viable in certain parts of the country, and, a remote operating device might not be operable when needed, for instance, if the control wiring were to be damaged in the fire. This led to the various sides of the discussion being brought back to the table in between cycles to figure out a way to address the concerns. It was also important to find a way that emergency responders could safely disconnect the power from the home and do their job without fear of being shocked. I'm really pleased to say that the final outcome of all of these discussions has left installers and home builders with solid options of how the process can be done. It's also our hope that it'll bring peace of mind to the emergency response community. As this requirement evolves over the next few cycles, it will be interesting to track the data and see the positive impact on the safety of first responders that this revision brings to the table. After all, we depend on this community every day to keep us safe from a whole list of hazards; it's time we return the favor and do our part to protect them.
Posted: January 27, 2020, 12:00 am