2007 Year in Review
NFPA Journal®, January/February 2008
How would you characterize 2007 for our members?
It was another great year at NFPA. We have had many successes. First of all, we had a very successful NEC® development process the concluded with the issuance of the new edition of the National Electrical Code®. This is always a big event for NFPA. Hundreds of people sit on the code panels that develop the National Electrical Code. I know people wait expectantly for the newest edition to come out. It was a very successful process once again.
Secondly, we have been working very hard on our public advocacy campaigns—specifically, the Fire-Safe Cigarette Campaign. We picked up great support in 2007. We are now moving quickly toward our ultimate goal, which is to have all the cigarettes sold in the United States be fire-safe compliant.
We are very pleased that the rest of the world is following as well. There’s action now in the European Union to adopt the same standard we have been pushing in the United States. I think this could be a tremendous advance in fire safety.
What is the overall plan for 2008 when it comes to the fire-safe cigarettes legislation?
At present we have 22 states that have adopted the legislation and we have had success with R.J. Reynolds announcing that by the end of 2009, all of its manufacturing will be compliant. We will continue to push and we have been urging the other companies to take action and switch all their manufacturing. We will keep that pressure on, but in the meantime, we will continue our campaign to get the rest of the states to adopt the fire-safe cigarettes legislation. We are confident that we will get a number of states next year. There is enthusiasm for the legislation. It is less of an exotic idea than it was a few years ago. As more states adopt the legislation other states that have not acted will become more comfortable with the concept. I think 2008 could be the year that, even if we don’t reach our goal, we will come very close to it.
Please discuss the importance of the announcement by Reynolds Tobacco.
The Reynolds’ announcement was huge. They produce about 30 percent of the cigarettes sold in the United States. We feel very good that they are doing that (manufacturing their cigarettes using fire-safe technology) because it will bring us much closer to 100 percent compliance with the firesafe cigarette standard technology.
I believe the announcement proved the value of our strategy. We said from the beginning, that our goal was to get all the cigarettes sold in the United States to be compliant. The easiest way to have done that would be to get all the manufacturers at the front end to agree to do it. They would not do that, so we said we would go state by state and make it an urgent business item to do it. That strategy worked and Reynolds agreed. We hope that other companies will soon follow suit.
There is no question that the announcement is a big step forward.
One of the things that is at work here that has prevented this from happening has been the competitive concerns of the various tobacco manufacturers. They don’t want to lose market share to each other, so they did not want to act before everyone had to act. The fact that Reynolds has determined that it is in their best interest to act now will have influence on the other companies.
The work to bring fire sprinklers into the home has been a priority for NFPA. In 2008, what can members expect from NFPA on this issue?
The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition has done a tremendous job over the last few years of educating the public and the industry as to the benefits of residential sprinklers. Now we have to begin planning the next step that will move this issue forward.
It is very complicated. There is opposition to residential sprinklers that comes from organizations such as the National Association of Home Builders, but I believe we are beginning to see some changes in attitude there.
Just as we experienced with the fire-safe cigarette, the idea is becoming less exotic. People are getting accustom to the notion of residential sprinklers. There are about 400 communities in the United States that have already adopted residential sprinkler ordinances of some type.
We are now in the middle of analyzing what it will take to get this moving in a big way in the United States. What will it take to get states to adopt residential sprinkler laws? We saw momentum to this issue when NFPA included residential sprinklers in our standards as a requirement for one- and two-family homes. Building on that, we will develop strategies that will get entire states to consider adopting residential sprinkler laws.
This will take a long time. We don’t have any illusions about that. This will not be a quick campaign, but over the course of the next decade we hope to gain momentum. Over the next generation, we will see residential sprinklers play a much prominent role than they are today in fire protection.
The 2008 edition of the NEC is now available. What role does this document play in NFPA’s mission?
The NEC is the project that has the greatest impact on safety. I say that, not because the other things we do are not important. They are all important, but the NEC is so universally followed in the United States and in many places around the world that has an enormous impact on creating a safer environment. It is relied upon by millions of people as the source for electrical safety.
There is no question that new edition of the NEC is always a big event in NFPA’s life and it is at the core of safety mission.
What are your expectations for 2008 and how can members assist in fulfilling those goals?
One of the things we have seen develop within NFPA in the last few years is our membership playing a larger role in our advocacy campaigns. The fact that we were able to mobilize large and important pieces of our membership, such as the fire service and our health care members, behind the fire-safe cigarette has been a tremendous advantage in this campaign.
As we get more of our membership engaged behind our other ideas, such as residential sprinklers, I believe our membership will have an opportunity to play an important role in advancing this advocacy approach we have developed.
It is so much easier to communicate with our members than it ever was. We have the Internet. It used to be that our members would hear from us through the mail. They would read NFPA Journal. They would read our other publications. They still do, but there is a much more instantaneous communication today than there was before. We get more feedback from our members than we have before. This has really strengthened our organization.