Author(s): Angelo Verzoni. Published on September 1, 2017.

Briefs

BY NFPA Journal Staff

Alabama

Lawmakers have moved to allow master plumbers to legally install residential fire sprinklers in single-family homes in the state. The bill, signed by the governor in July, requires plumbers to take 32 hours of specialized training before installing systems.

Proponents including local firefighters and the state fire marshal say that increasing the number of people able to install sprinklers will lower costs and increase adoption, moves that will ultimately save lives. Sprinkler fitters, however, have argued that 32 hours isn’t enough training to understand the intricacies of modern sprinkler systems and how to install them correctly.

Maine

State lawmakers in August upheld a measure to severely limit the amount of chemical flame retardant used in furniture sold in the state.

Beginning in 2019, all new upholstered furniture must be made with materials that contain no more than 1 percent of any flame retardant chemical. Furniture used in schools, jails, and hospitals is exempted.

Lawmakers overcame a veto and strong industry opposition to pass the measure, which goes further than any other such law in the nation. The fire service and many researchers have long held that the products of combustion from furniture laced with flame retardants is particularly toxic and can lead to higher rates of cancer and other health problems among firefighters. Opponents argue that limiting the chemicals puts lives at risk by making fires more likely to start.

Virginia

Virginia has become the first state in the nation to officially adopt the long-awaited FirstNet communications system for first responders, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced in July.

FirstNet and AT&T will partner to build, operate, and maintain the secure wireless broadband network, which will enable Virginia’s public safety members to communicate during major incidents when networks can become clogged by increased public usage. The concept of a dedicated nationwide communication line for first responders was first recommended in the 9/11 Commission report.

According to McAuliffe’s office, Virginia’s first responders will have immediate access to AT&T’s LTE network and will have the ability to give priority use to responders based on need. Necessary infrastructure improvements to make the vision fully realized are ongoing.

Vermont

Vermont has become the first state to provide first responders with workman’s compensation benefits for mental illnesses.

The law, which took effect July 1, covers treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions that can result from the stresses of the job. Under the law, all mental health illnesses are assumed to be work-related unless the state can prove otherwise. Previously, workers’ compensation was offered for mental health treatment in Vermont only if connected to a physical injury, according to the website VTDigger.

During a news conference, International Association of Firefighters Vice President Jay Colbert praised Vermont for leading the way and predicted that the new law “will break up the bottleneck” and lead more states to cover mental illnesses the same as other workplace injuries.

NIST study applies science to fire injury and fatality rates

Frail populations, primarily people over age 65, are more likely on average to die in residential fires, while adults age 20 to 49 are more likely to be injured in residential fires.

Those are some of the findings of a new study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which analyzed five years of fire data. It’s the first time researchers looked specifically at occupant vulnerabilities and fire fatality rates, NIST said.

The scientific finding that deaths and injuries in fire are drawn from different populations could be used to strengthen community risk assessment modeling and outreach strategies, NIST said. Read the study online.

NFPA’s Remembering When program includes fire safety resources targeted toward older adults.

New online tool and branding for Firewise

NFPA’s cornerstone wildfire risk reduction program has a new look and a new online tool for its participants.

In June, Firewise Communities/USA officially became Firewise USA. It also adopted the tagline “Residents Reducing Wildfire Risks,” as well as a new logo. In August, NFPA and the USDA Forest Service also launched the Firewise Portal, a new online application and renewal system for Firewise sites.

The new portal allows these sites and potential future sites to more easily track their risk reduction activities. It also gives Firewise state liaisons a more active role in managing their state’s program. “This is a game changer not only for people who currently use Firewise but also to attract new sites,” Michele Steinberg, who heads NFPA’s Wildfire Division, said of the portal.

Established in 2002, the Firewise program includes more than 1,400 participating sites in 42 states working to prevent and prepare for wildfires. Firewise USA is co-sponsored by the USDA Forest Service, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the National Association of State Foresters.

All Firewise info can be found online.

Long named new FEMA administrator

Brock Long, the former director of Alabama’s Emergency Management Agency, was sworn in as the Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator in June. Long secured the position after a 95-4 Senate confirmation vote.

“Administrator Long comes to FEMA with almost two decades of emergency management experience, in both the public and private sectors,” a FEMA spokesperson said in a press release. “As director of Alabama’s Emergency Management Agency, he served as the state coordinating officer for 14 disasters. Additionally, Administrator Long’s most recent experience in the private sector adds a unique perspective, as we continue to engage the whole community in our mission.” In the new role, Long will lead an agency of 16,000 employees across the country supporting state and local officials as they prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural and man-made disasters.

Top Photograph: ThinkStock