500 and counting
In the face of a growing wildland fire threat, the Firewise Communities Program reaches a noteworthy milestone
NFPA’s national Firewise Communities® Program has reached a milestone with the addition of its 500th participating community.
"We credit a passionate team of fire and safety professionals and motivated residents from across the country for helping Firewise attain that," says Firewise Communities Program Manager Michele Steinberg. "The program’s growth translates to greater protection for lives, homes, and natural resources that are being protected in advance of the threat of wildfire. In today’s environment, preparation is more important than ever."
Firewise is an interagency effort designed to encourage wildfire safety by involving homeowners, community leaders, planners, developers, firefighters, and others at the local level in the effort to protect people and property from the risk of wildfire.
According to Steinberg, wildfires are burning hotter and faster than ever before, and have on average burned a record 8.2 million acres of land annually in the United States since 2004. "If we don’t act meaningfully now," says Steinberg, "more lives and property may be lost than anyone believed possible. The effects of climate change, more densely populated communities in fire-risk areas, and the difficulty of fighting fires in rural areas are creating the perfect conditions for wildfires."
States, cities, and the public can avoid what Steinberg calls a "here we go again" future of burned homes, commercial buildings, and natural resources, and human lives lost, by learning more about the Firewise Communities Program at www.firewise.org. For information on Firewise communities that have achieved national recognition, and for more on how neighborhoods can participate, visit www.firewise.org/usa.
Nuss named head of NFPA wildland fire effort
NFPA recently announced that Dave Nuss will be promoted to the position of Wildland Fire Protection Division Manager, effective January 4, 2010.
Nuss has been NFPA’s Denver regional manager since October, 1999, and has been involved in the fire-safe cigarette and residential sprinkler campaigns and other code adoption, training, and public education activities. He will stay in Denver, near most U.S. Forest Service operations.
Nuss came to NFPA after many years with the municipal fire service in Colorado and Oregon as a firefighter, fire inspector, fire marshal, and chief officer. He holds a master’s degree in Public Administration.
Nuss’s appointment is part of NFPA’s expanded commitment to fighting the growing global threat of wildland fires. That commitment includes working closely with federal, state, and local officials, along with NFPA’s international partners, to sharpen strategies and bring more visibility to the wildfire issue.
Firewise program featured at upcoming IAFC WUI conference
The Firewise Program will offer its "Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone" seminar as a pre-conference workshop at the 2010 Wildland Urban Interface Conference, presented by the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC).
The two-day session, hosted by the IAFC and NFPA, will take place March 28 and 29 at the Grand Sierra Resort & Casino in Reno, Nevada, which is also home to the Wildland Urban Interface Conference, running from March 28 to April 1.
The "Home Ignition Zone" course is ideal for seasoned fire professionals, as well as those with less experience in the area. The session will be conducted by wildland fire experts Hank Blackwell and Pat Durland, and will cover myths of wildland/urban interface (WUI) fires, the history and context of WUI fire disasters, research and case studies, risk factors, conducting and documenting an assessment, and more. Classroom exercises include performing home ignition zone evaluations and a Q&A session. Participants will receive a certificate of attendance with 1.6 CEUs.
To register and attend at 2009 rates, visit www.iafc.org.
Cigarette threat 2.0
Last August, a fire erupted inside the cargo compartment of a plane that had just landed at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The most likely culprit was a shipment of 1,000 electronic cigarettes, battery-operated devices that function similarly to their paper-and-tobacco counterparts. Though only minimal damage was reported, the incident has called into question the safety of these increasingly popular devices.
Since entering the U.S. market in 2007, "e-cigarettes" have become a $1 million-plus industry numbering approximately two million consumers, according to the Electronic Cigarette Association (ECA). A few hundred companies worldwide—12 are ECA members—produce the devices, which are powered by a lithium-ion battery and include a cartridge filled with a solution that may contain nicotine. Smokers suck the mouthpiece to inhale a vapor produced by the atomizer, or heating chamber, designed to warm the solution. The devices come in both disposable and reusable forms; a "starter kit," where the smoker only replaces the cartridge when needed, can cost up to $100.
The jury is still out on whether the e-cigarettes are any safer than real cigarettes, says Robert Duval, NFPA’s New England regional manager and senior fire investigator, who gave a presentation on e-cigarettes at NFPA’s International Conference on Fire-Safe Cigarettes late last year. "It would be nice to say that e-cigarettes are a safer alternative, but we can attribute at least one fire to these things," Duval says. "From the fire-safety perspective, you still have a heat-producing device. What if you have one in your pocket and it’s supposed to shut off but doesn’t?"
Advocates of fire-safe cigarettes hope the fire-safe technology can reduce the number of fires resulting from smoking materials, and backers of e-cigarettes are making a similar pitch. "There is no open flame or the need to extinguish the e-cigarette at the end of each use," says ECA President Matt Salmon. "There are, however… deaths or injury each year because of fires started by unattended [traditional cigarette] butts, and that doesn’t include the many wildfires that have been caused by a discarded butt."
According to NFPA statistics, there were 142,900 reported smoking fires in 2006, resulting in 780 deaths, 1,600 injuries, and $606 million in property damage.
Duval says a cause for concern is the e-cigarettes’ power source: the lithium-ion batteries that are also found in various rechargeable devices. He notes at least five other incidents where the batteries caused fires similar to the one at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Last summer, the Air Line Pilots Association called for a ban on bulk shipments of the batteries due to their apparent malfunctions.
"E-cigarettes are something fire marshals and the fire investigation community should know about," Duval says. "They may run into these things in the future and shouldn’t overlook them, since they’re battery-powered, heat-producing devices."
The legislative effort for fire-safe cigarettes was enormously successful. Now it’s time for implementation.
Just three years after its formation, the Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes can say that the entire nation is covered by fire-safe cigarette legislation. Or almost the entire nation.
To date, 49 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation requiring that only fire-safe cigarettes be sold, and more than 40 have gone into effect. By this time next year, all of these laws will be in effect, and 99.8 percent of the U.S. population will be better protected from cigarette-related fires.
Only Wyoming has yet to pass fire-safe cigarette legislation.
The focus has now shifted from passing legislation to implementing and enforcing the new laws.
"What is going to be very important going forward is to collect accurate data so we can show progress on the legislation and provide states with guidance on enforcement," says Lorraine Carli, NFPA vice-president of Communications. "Good data will also be critical when we look at whether the legislation, and the standard itself, are effective."
While Carli estimates that substantial data won’t be available for several years, initial reports look promising. At NFPA’s 2009 International Conference on Fire-Safe Cigarettes, Richard Gann, Ph.D., senior researcher at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, revealed a one-third reduction in the number of deaths attributed to cigarette-induced fires in New York state two years after its fire-safe cigarette law took effect in 2004. Taking into account smuggled cigarettes and the fact that retailers were still free to sell noncompliant inventory during much of 2005, Gann estimates that a 50 percent reduction is more accurate.
To keep states from duplicating their efforts, the coalition’s website (www.firesafecigarettes.org) will host best practices and share sample documents.
- Elizabeth Flynn
Sounding the alarm
A new community toolkit can help local fire departments get the word out about smoke alarms.
Smoke alarms are lifesavers in a fire, providing people with an early warning of danger and critical time to escape. Working smoke alarms cut the chance of dying in a reported fire in half. Roughly two-thirds of home fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke alarms or where the smoke alarms were not working.
In order to assist local fire departments in promoting the importance of working smoke alarms, NFPA has released a new community awareness kit, available exclusively online at www.nfpa.org/toolkits. The kit includes customizable press releases, letters to the editor, and op-eds. It also includes a smoke alarm safety checklist, talking points, and fast facts.
"The new kit provides everything fire departments need to start, or to enhance, a grassroots campaign within their communities on smoke alarms," says Judy Comoletti, NFPA division manager of Public Education.
The kit focuses on the primary NFPA smoke alarm messages, including NFPA’s recommendations for smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside all sleeping areas, and on every level of the home, including the basement. For best protection, the alarms should be interconnected so that every alarm sounds when one is triggered. A licensed electrician can hardwire alarms together as long as they’re compatible with one another. Some newer models can even be interconnected wirelessly. Alarms should be tested at least once a month, and all alarms, even hardwired ones, should be replaced every ten years.
The kit also includes important information on the two types of smoke alarms: ionization and photoelectric. Ionization alarms are typically more responsive to flaming fires, while photoelectric fires typically respond quicker to smoldering fires. NFPA recommends that homes have both types of alarms, Comoletti says. So-called "combination alarms" incorporate ionization and photoelectric technologies in the same unit.
For more on smoke alarms, including video and audio on NFPA recommendations, visit www.nfpa.org/smokealarms.
- Richard Parr
A new members-only Web feature kicks off with health care. Plus, a seminar on prepping for the Joint Commission survey.
In January, NFPA will launch a series of free online presentations designed exclusively for NFPA members. The inaugural presentation on January 21 will look at staffing accountability in health care and residential board and care occupancies.
The special Web presentations will feature NFPA technical staff or outside experts discussing a topic related to the featured content in the latest NFPA Journal. The presentations will consist of a talk by a topic expert, followed by a question-and-answer session with participants. The presentations promise to be informative and educational tools that you can use to stay current on important codes and standards issues.
January’s Web presentation, "Staffing Essentials: Enough, Aware, and Able," will feature Robert Solomon, NFPA department manager for building and life safety codes, discussing the fire-safety responsibilities of the staff in nursing homes and board and care occupancies. Among the examples Solomon will discuss are the Greenwood Manor nursing home fire in Hartford, Connecticut, that killed 16 in 2003, and the Riverview group-home fire in Wells, New York, that killed four in 2009. A successful staff response to a fire event in March, 2009, in a long-term care facility in Connecticut will also be discussed. Solomon’s presentation will note the importance of the operating features provisions that include staffing-related details of NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®.
For more information on the Web presentations, visit www.nfpa.org/membership.
Joint Commission survey seminar
If you’re an engineer, manager, safety director, or risk manager at a hospital or nursing home; an architect or designer; an administrator responsible for Joint Commission compliance; or a health care facility consultant, you’ll want to take NFPA’s three-day seminar covering the topics in NFPA 101 that you’ll need to be prepared for your next Joint Commission Statement of Conditions™ (SOC) survey.
The seminar will teach you how to complete the SOC, what surveyors may ask while reviewing SOC documents and touring the building, how to apply the core chapters of NFPA 101 and the occupancy-specific requirements for health care to your facility, how to apply the code to renovations and occupancy changes, and more.
Join us in Houston, Texas, from February 17 to 19; Las Vegas, Nevada, from March 3 to 5; or Baltimore, Maryland, from March 24 to 26, and earn 2.1 CEUs or 21 hours. The seminar is $1,165 for members and $1,295 for nonmembers.
For more information, visit www.nfpalearn.org.
NFPA 1600 receives DHS designation as "Qualified Anti-Terrorism Technology"
NFPA 1600, Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs, along with 14 other NFPA codes and standards that address emergency preparedness, first responder competencies and professional qualifications, personal protective equipment, and specialized tools, have been designated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as "Qualified Anti-Terrorism Technology" (QATT) under the Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act of 2002 (SAFETY Act). This is the first block of standards to receive this designation.
Under the provisions of the SAFETY Act, these standards were also certified as "Approved Product(s) for Homeland Security." Designation as a QATT and certification as an approved product for homeland security provide legal protections for the NFPA codes-and-standards-development process and for the 15 codes and standards as applied to anti-terrorism.
NFPA 1600 is also one of three standards that DHS has announced it intends to adopt for application to the PS-Prep Program, a voluntary private-sector preparedness program designed to improve the ability of private-sector participants to withstand and recover from disasters, including terrorism.