Q&A with NFPA President James M. Shannon
NFPA Journal®, January/February 2006
|"I am hopeful that in areas where we are seeing explosive growth in the population that we will see more residential sprinkler standards adopted."|
Cigarettes continue to be a leading source of home fires in the United States. Discuss the advancements made to reduce this problem in 2005 and what plans are underway for 2006.
Fire-safe cigarette legislation offers NFPA the best opportunity we have to achieve the next big leap forward in fire protection in this country and 2005 we saw a big step forward with California’s adoption of legislation requiring fire-safe cigarettes. We estimate that 700 to 800 people a year die in fires caused by smoking. Hundreds of millions of dollars in damage takes place every year. Now we have three states that have adopted fire-safe cigarette legislation: New York, Vermont, and California. And we have a new fire-safe cigarette standard in Canada.
The early data offers proof that there would be a tremendous impact on fire protection if there were a national standard adopted in the United States. In New York, which has had the legislation in effect for the last 18 months, the early data indicate that fire deaths are down substantially. We would see the same type of improvements nationwide, so we will be pushing very hard for a national standard.
NFPA has always played an important role in advocating these types of changes. We have supported fire-safe cigarettes for a long time.
In fact, I recently learned that the first legislation calling for fire-safe cigarettes in the United States was introduced in 1929. Now, we finally see some progress being made and I think we are on the cusp of a truly historic advance.
We support the national legislation sponsored by Congressman Markey and Congressman King. But we think the best way to get this done is to support state adoptions of the same standard already in place in New York, Vermont, and California. This will be a priority for NFPA in 2006.
In a post-Hurricane Katrina world, what can NFPA do to assist those tasked with coordinating recovery efforts?
First, we can work hard on behalf of emergency responders. One of the problems is that the emergency responder community does not get the support they need. They don’t have the staffing or the resources to respond appropriately to many disasters. When we have a huge disaster, such as Hurricane Katrina, it is clear how essential it is to have trained people with adequate equipment and support to do their job.
It is vital to fight for the support they need for disasters and terrorist attacks, but also for the more common events such as fires. There has not been enough done since 9/11 to respond to the threat of terrorism. We work hard, along with other organizations, to focus attention on this problem and it will continue to be a priority for NFPA.
In 2005, NFPA reconfirmed the reliability of sprinklers when statistical information showed sprinklers significantly reduce home fires. Discuss the importance of residential sprinklers and NFPA’s role in this area.
We have been very active with the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition. Residential sprinklers are going to be enormously important in protecting lives and property in the future. More and more communities are seeing their value and understanding that they provide a level of protection that is affordable and in increasing demand.
I am hopeful that in areas where we are seeing explosive growth in the population that we will see more residential sprinkler regulations adopted.
The additional language on residential sprinklers in NFPA 101 and NFPA 5000, which requires sprinklers in new residential construction, is very important in getting more communities to adopt residential sprinkler regulations.
Discuss the work NFPA did in 2005 related to people with disabilities and life safety.
We have developed a much closer relationship within the last year with organizations that advocate the interests of people with disabilities. One of the great things about NFPA’s code-making process is our philosophy that anyone who has a contribution to make to the process is invited to participate. That means that people with disabilities and organizations that represent people with disabilities can serve on our technical committees, offer proposals, express their point of view in our system, and have some say in the outcome. We have increased representation of people with disabilities in our process to make sure that their very important point of view is represented when we write codes and standards.
In 2005, NFPA reported on the high rate of heart attacks among the nation’s fire fighters. What has NFPA done to raise awareness of this problem and decrease its impact on the fire service?
Fire fighter safety has always been a priority concern of NFPA. We have several codes and standards that deal directly with that issue. Statistics show that year after year the leading cause of fire fighter deaths is heart attacks. We are working with other organizations such as the International Association of Fire Fighters, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, and the National Volunteer Fire Fighters Council, to develop appropriate standards for fire fighter fitness and to educate the fire service on how to achieve a higher level of fire fighter fitness to protect fire fighters from these often fatal heart attacks.
What are your goals for 2006?
We are looking forward to a very active year in 2006. First, we will continue to work hard on the fire-safe cigarette effort. We have real momentum on our side now. There is no single thing that I can think of that would have such a quick and dramatic impact on fire safety in the United States.
We will also continue the work we have been doing to insure that the fire service has the resources it needs. Now more than four years after 9/11, we are seeing more pressure being put on the fire service to provide more service and yet the national government has not done what it should do to help them. We will continue to advocate in Washington, D.C. on behalf of the fire service and also on the state and local level.
Third, we will work directly with our Technical Committees to insure that NFPA codes and standards meet the needs for Homeland Security.
In this Section:
The importance of competence
Q&A with NFPA President James M. Shannon
Leaking propane ignites in warehouse
Solid shelves in racks vs. shelf storage
Exit signs—Where are they required?
Letters to the editor
Humor helps with serious message
New council is formed
Unified command at structure fires