Published on March 1, 2017.

In Brief

NFPA urges safe protective hood practices

As concerns grow over the cancer risks faced by firefighters, NFPA has issued a bulletin on safe firefighter protective hood practices.

While all firefighter personal protective equipment (PPE) is exposed to a wide range of harmful substances, including cancer-causing carcinogens, protective hoods are of particular concern because the face and neck are especially vulnerable to the absorption of toxins into the body through the skin.

With that in mind, the bulletin advises that departments establish a number of practices in accordance with NFPA 1851, Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Firefighting and Proximity Firefighting. The practices include washing protective hoods after each use, regular inspection of hoods for damage, and prohibiting hoods from being taken home or washed at a laundromat.

NFPA is currently working on three research projects related to PPE contamination and cancer. For more information, visit the “current projects” section.

Assessing environmental and economic impact of fires

The Fire Protection Research Foundation has announced a project to examine the feasibility of creating an easy tool for fire departments to assess the environmental and economic toll fires take on their communities.

The project comes at a time when concern for the environment is high. Most fires occur in the built environment, where plastics and other chemical-laden materials are burned. These fires can lead not only to air pollution but also water and ground pollution, as debris and ash flow into bodies of water, sediment, and soil. As serious as these issues can be, little is known about them.

Similarly, from an economic standpoint, little attention is paid to the financial impact of fires beyond the direct property damage reported. Assessing the economic impact by further considering factors such as the cost of insurance, rebuilding, temporary housing, and loss of business could be beneficial to the fire service.

There are methodologies that exist currently to assess the impact of fires in these areas, but they exist separately from one another and require high-level knowledge that most departments don’t have. Establishing an easier way for departments to obtain data in these areas would help communities better understand the value of their fire departments.

For more information, visit the “current projects” section.

NFPA addresses multigenerational homes

NFPA and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission have developed a toolkit of infographics, factsheets, lesson plans, and more for multigenerational households to stay safe in the event of a fire.

The number of multigenerational households, in which at least three generations live under one roof, has doubled in the United States since 1980. Because these households may include the elderly, very young children, and people with disabilities, they can present many fire safety challenges. The toolkit, “Fire Safety for Multigenerational Families Living Together,” builds on general home escape planning guidelines to address the challenges associated with multigenerational households.

For example, smoke alarms can’t be expected to wake children and older adults who may be hard of hearing; therefore, a capable adult in the home should be tasked with making sure everyone is awake and able to escape when smoke alarms go off.

The toolkit is available for free online.

New UAE code for combustible cladding

On New Year’s Eve 2015, a ball of fire raced up the side of a skyscraper in Dubai, until almost all of the building’s 63 stories were in flames.

Combustible exterior cladding was blamed for the rapid spread of the blaze. The material had reportedly been tested for fire containment but not combustibility, as required by NFPA 285, Fire Test Method for Evaluation of Fire Propagation Characteristics of Exterior Non-Load-Bearing Wall Assemblies Containing Combustible Components. A 2014 NFPA report titled “Fire Hazards of Exterior Wall Assemblies Containing Combustible Components” found that while exterior cladding fires aren’t that common, when they do occur, they tend to spread rapidly and cause extensive damage.

In the wake of the New Year’s Eve fire and four similar fires in Dubai since 2012, the United Arab Emirates recently announced stronger nationwide regulations to reduce the combustibility of exterior cladding on its buildings. The restrictions will not only apply to new buildings, but they will also force building owners to replace all non-compliant cladding on existing buildings, according to Abu Dhabi newspaper The National. Those who don’t comply will face prosecution and fines, the newspaper reported.

“We are confident that we’re going to have the safest cladding in the world,” an emergency management official from Dubai told The National.