NFPA Member Al Gray
A profile of NFPA leadership
NFPA Journal®, March/April 2008
By Lisa Nadile
On March 20, 2003, at an emergency meeting and hearing of NFPA’s Technical Committee on Assembly Occupancies, one NFPA member rose to speak. Al Gray, a fire and life safety official with the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, had a prepared statement, but instead spoke from the heart about his son Derek, who died at The Station nightclub four weeks earlier on February 20. His words, along with the other speakers, galvanized the meeting.
For Gray, it was the beginning of an odyssey he never thought he’d begin and wouldn’t wish on anyone. In the five years since the death of his son at age 22, Gray has spoken often at government and community hearings and to the media, whether it be radio, newspaper, or television.
"I do a lot of training, and I do a lot of speaking when I train, and if there is anything I can do to help people try to understand the hazards in life—sprinklers, evacuation, home evacuation, fire extinguishers in their homes, carbon monoxide detectors—anything that I can say, I feel that it might put some emphasis on that might save someone’s life. I feel that I accomplished something," Gray says.
His message is poignant.
"I try to remind people what happened, and I ask them if any of them have children. I’m there to remind them, because I think people have forgotten. It’s very hard to get up every day and go to work, but I tell myself if there is anything I can do, I have to do it," he says.
Gray believes NFPA can make a difference and has a challenge for the membership.
"I believe we, as [fire and life safety] professionals, should get together, work together, and get other professionals [in related industries] to work with us. I think NFPA can help with that,"
Gray believes that the networking the NFPA members do is mission-critical, as is connecting diverse groups to make safety a priority. A dialogue among building owners, local governments, fire service, and utilities, especially water purveyers (about sprinkler water fees), is very important.
"We need to work together and invite these other people to our meetings. Whatever it takes, we can do it," he says.