Strength in Numbers
A new study correlates firefighter crew size and rescue times in high-rise buildings
NFPA Journal®, May/June 2013
By Fred Durso, Jr.
A six-person crew responding to a simulated fire on the 10th floor of a commercial high-rise building can complete the bulk of its operational tasks in under 40 minutes, on average, while a three-person crew responding to the same fire takes more than an hour to perform similar duties.
The disparity is one of the highlights of a study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) that pinpoints how various crew responses impact firefighter operations and safety in high-rise settings. The study’s recently released report, “High-Rise Fireground Field Experiments,” includes data from 48 field experiments last year utilizing approximately 6,000 firefighters from 13 Washington, D.C.-area fire departments. NIST partnered with five other organizations to conduct the study, which will likely have an impact on NFPA codes that address firefighter operations.
The study sheds light on a hot topic that has relied heavily on anecdotal evidence following recent budget cuts, fire service staff shortages, and department closures. “We watched decision makers make unilateral decisions in an economic crisis,” says Lori Moore-Merrell, the study’s co-lead researcher and assistant to the general president for the International Association of Fire Fighters, one of the study’s partners. “They were cutting fire department resources with little knowledge of the ramifications of these cuts.”
The high-hazard nature and frequency of high-rise fires added to the timeliness of the project. NFPA’s 2011 report, “High-Rise Building Fires,” states that an average 15,700 fires occurred annually between 2005 and 2009 in the U.S., an average of 43 high-rise fires daily.
NFPA also estimates that 41 percent of U.S. high-rise office buildings are not equipped with sprinkler systems.
As a follow-up to a 2010 NIST study analyzing fire service response in low-hazard residential structure fires, the new study analyzed search-and-rescue times of three- to six-person crews and swiftness in extinguishing a fire based on varying crew sizes. Firefighters’ use of stairs and fire service access elevators when responding to an incident was also taken into consideration. The test facility — a vacant, 13-story commercial structure in Crystal City, Virginia — included fire and smoke simulators. In lieu of actual fire tests, simulated computer models analyzed how performance times affected fire growth and tenability.
Some of the study’s key findings were that occupants being rescued by smaller crews, and crews using the stairs rather than elevators, were exposed to a significantly greater dose of toxins from the fire; search and rescue by a six-member crew on the fire floor was initiated 22 percent quicker and completed nearly 47 percent faster than the same operation conducted by a three-person crew; and a properly engineered and operational fire sprinkler system drastically reduces the risk exposure for both building occupants and firefighters.
NFPA will review all of the report’s findings to help guide future provisions in NFPA 1710, Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Career Fire Departments.
“NFPA 1710 technical committee members have been limited to anecdotal info [on high-rise fires] in the past,” says NFPA regional director Russ Sanders, one of the study’s technical experts. “I can’t overemphasize how important it is that this scientific information is now available to the committee, which will closely review, consider, and implement these lessons learned into this standard.”
For more information on the study and to download the report, please visit fireandemsdata.com.
HOME FIRE SPRINKLERS
A firefighter killed in the line of duty becomes one of NFPA’s Faces of Fire. Plus, a recent sprinkler summit highlights leaders in the field
By Fred Durso, Jr.
On January 26, 2007, Jim and Linda Daughetee's only son Shane, a 24-year-old volunteer fire fighter, died at a home fire after falling through the floor which was supported by engineered wooden I-beams. Lieutenant Eliott Mahaffey was within an arm's distance of firefighter Shane Daughetee, providing back-up while he knelt in the doorway. He suffered burns attempting to rescue his fellow firefighter.
On June 26, 2007, volunteer firefighter Shane Daughetee and his crew from the Highway 58 Fire Department in Harrison, Tennessee, responded to a house fire initiated by a wood-burning stove in the basement. The crew attempted to suppress the blaze, but the floor they occupied was supported by engineered wooden beams and was no match for the intense flames. The floor collapsed, sending the 24-year-old Daughetee plunging into the fully involved basement. Crews attempted to rescue him, but a subsequent collapse of the main floor forced them to stop further rescue efforts.
Daughetee’s death is detailed in a new video for NFPA’s Faces of Fire Campaign, which highlights people impacted by fire and demonstrates the life-saving benefits of home fire sprinklers. Sharing details about the tragedy are Daughetee’s parents, Jim and Linda, and Lt. Eliott Mahaffey, his partner at the scene of the fire that took Daughetee’s life.
“If there had been sprinklers there [at the house], he would be here today,” says a tearful Linda Daughetee in the video. “He was our son, and we miss him, and I’d give anything to have him back.”
View the video at firesprinklerinitiative.org.
More than 100 fire safety advocates convened in Chicago on April 16 during NFPA’s Bringing Safety Home Fire Sprinkler Summit, which outlined efforts and strategies promoting the installation of sprinklers in new one- and two-family homes.
Among the 10 presenters at the one-day conference was Eileen Byrne, a 16-year registered nurse who has spent the past five years as burn community educator for the Burn Center at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, New Jersey. “You don’t want to be where I work,” she told summit goers. “From the medical perspective, we don’t understand why this [requirement for sprinkler installations in homes] hasn’t been taken care of already.”
Another all-star in attendance was Tom Lia, executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board. Lia received NFPA’s inaugural Home Fire Sprinkler Champion Award for his role in promoting the installation of these systems. Since 1999, Lia has participated in more than 325 side-by-side fire sprinkler demonstrations across the country. NFPA’s Fire and Sprinkler Burn Demonstration Kit was developed from a model produced by Lia, whose efforts have also resulted in more than 80 Illinois communities adopting NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes.
For a complete recap of summit events and video interviews of presenters, visit firesprinklerinitiative.org/2013summit.
New details emerge about Colorado’s historic Waldo Canyon fire. Plus, NFPA partners with South Africa to strengthen wildfire mitigation efforts, and a best-practices guide for wildfire-prone areas is released.
By Fred Durso, Jr.
The Fire Adapted Communities (FAC) Coalition has released a new report and companion video underscoring how a decade-long push to implement wildfire safety programs in Colorado Springs, Colorado, affected the damage and response to the state’s costliest wildfire.
The report, “Lessons from Waldo Canyon,” outlines the preventative measures in place as the Waldo Canyon Fire last year forced the evacuation of more than 30,000 residents and destroyed 345 homes. Following the fire, FAC representatives toured the area’s most heavily impacted neighborhoods for three days and noted their findings in the report. “The mitigation tools used by the Colorado Springs Fire Marshal’s Wildfire Mitigation Section mirrored, to a large extent, the recommendations of the FAC program,” says Pam Leschak, wildland urban interface/FAC program manager for the U.S. Forest Service. “The report’s findings conclude that the damage to the city would have been far more widespread if these practices weren’t put into place.”
Download the report and watch video interviews of FAC’s assessment team on the scene at fireadapted.org.
The Wildland Fire Operations Division recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with FFA Non Profit Company in South Africa, which has developed a program modeled after NFPA’s Firewise Communities Program.
FFA works with public and private sectors, as well as donor and government agencies, to address wildfire safety concerns in South Africa.
The MOU signed with NFPA builds on this partnership by exchanging the lessons learned on wildfire mitigation and supporting international relationships that tackle global fire. NFPA will support FFA’s efforts to further develop their FireWise Programme, which is similar in scope to NFPA’s Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program.
In 2011, NFPA signed a similar MOU with the Partners in Protection, a Canadian nonprofit also focused on reducing wildfire loss through its FireSmart recognition program.
“Seeing the Firewise Communities program being successfully applied to such a different landscape shows the program’s strength and flexibility,” says Molly Mowery, NFPA’s program manager for Fire Adapted Communities and International Outreach. “Not only are we sharing our lessons from the U.S., but we’re also learning the successes from South Africa’s unique and sometimes challenging context.”
Rules to live by
Wildfire safety regulations sound good in theory, but how does a community go about implementing them?
Addressing this question, NFPA has developed “Community Wildfire Safety Through Regulation,” a best practices guide for planners and regulators considering the implementation of tools aimed at addressing the risks of living in the wildland/urban interface (WUI).
The guide lists the benefits of regulatory implementation, the various scales of implementation (community, neighborhood, individual property, and structure), the WUI tools that best fit specific communities, and examples of the successes and challenges posed to communities who have adopted regulations. Download the guide at nfpa.org/wuiguide.
Federal, state, and local organizations all have their methods of collecting wildfire data, but imagine the possibilities if this information was consolidated to paint a clearer picture of wildfire risk in the United States.
This idea was what prompted NFPA and the U.S. Fire Administration to recently bring together 18 organizations responsible for wildfire data collection. The meeting’s attendees shared information on current data reporting and identified next steps in improving the completeness, accuracy, and standardization of reporting. A follow-up meeting is scheduled for July.
“We want to share the latest developments in this critical arena and forge relationships where there may have been gaps in the past,” says Hylton Haynes, associate project manager with NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations Division.
Download the meeting’s report at nfpa.org/wildfiremeeting.
Salt Lake City hosts wildfire conference
Registration is now open for NFPA’s Backyards & Beyond® Conference, November 14-16 in Salt Lake City, Utah. More than 50 breakout sessions divided into five educational tracks will underscore best practices and safety issues for reducing wildfire risks. The pre-conference workshop, “Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone,” offers insight into fire behavior and structure ignition by wildfires.
For registration information, visit nfpa.org/backyards.
Picking Up the Pieces
Arrests are made in a deadly Brazil nightclub fire.
By Fred Durso, Jr.
As discussions proceed on how Brazil could adopt NFPA codes to address the country’s fire problem, arrests have been made in connection with the deadliest fire in that nation in more than 50 years.
In early April, prosecutors charged four people with manslaughter for their role in the January 27 fire at the Boate Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria, in southeastern Brazil, which killed 241 people. NFPA has identified the blaze, which reportedly began when flares used by a band ignited combustible interior finishes, as the third-deadliest nightclub fire in history.
Club owners Elissandro Spohr and Mauro Hoffman, band member Marcelo de Jesus dos Santos, and show producer Luciano Bonilha were officially charged on April 2, according to news accounts. De Jesus dos Santos and Bonilha were responsible for igniting the flares during the band’s performance.
The fire occurred just days before the tenth anniversary of the Station nightclub fire in West Warwick, Rhode Island, in 2003, when pyrotechnics used as part of a band’s stage show ignited combustible interior finishes. The fire killed 100 people. The band’s tour manager, as well as the club’s two owners, were sentenced to prison for their involvement in the fire.
Prosecutors in Brazil also discovered additional oversights and safety irregularities at the Boate Kiss club. The unsprinklered club was overcrowded and had only one exit — contributing factors in the Station fire as well — which hindered patrons’ escape after the fire was initiated by the lit flares, which were intended for outdoor use. Many of the victims were college students who succumbed to smoke inhalation. “[The accused] ignored what could have happened to these people for financial reasons,” prosecutor Joel Dutra told Reuters.
Jim Dolan, NFPA’s director of the Fire Code Field Office, traveled to Brazil shortly after the Boate Kiss fire to meet with fire authorities around the country and discuss how NFPA can help the country update its fire protection and life safety codes. Discussions are underway regarding the possible adoption of NFPA 1, Fire Code, by the state of Rio de Janeiro. “NFPA 1 would give them all the tools they need for the enforcement part of the job,” says Dolan. “It’s all there.”
Efforts to further safeguard the country’s public assembly occupancies and nightclubs come at an opportune moment, as the 2014 soccer World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics will both be held in Rio de Janeiro.
BY THE NUMBERS
What Cost Really Costs
Findings from NFPA’s The Total Cost of Fire in the United States report
- Total cost estimate of fire in the U.S. in 2010: $328 billion
- Percent of GDP: 2.2
- Total cost estimate of fire in the U.S. in 1980: $237 billion
- Percent of GDP: 3.3
- Reported civilian fire deaths in 2010: 3,120
- Reported civilian fire deaths in 1980: 6,505
- Percent of the 2010 total cost of fire represented by “core total cost,” including building construction for fire protection, local career fire department expenditures, net fire insurance, and economic losses including property damage: 33
- Rank of economic losses compared to the other components of core total cost, out of four: 4
- Estimated economic costs due to fire in 2010: $14.8 billion
- Percent of 2010 economic costs resulting from direct property damage: 89
- Percent change in economic loss as a result of fire from 1980 to 2010: –29
- Cost of career fire departments in 2010: $42.6 billion
- Percent change in fire department expenditures from 1980 to 2010: +182
- Estimated monetary value of donated time from volunteer firefighters in 2010: $140.7 billion
- As percent of total cost of fire: 43
For a summary of the report and links to the complete document, visit nfpa.org/totalcost.
— Jennifer Smith
Fire and Life Safety Educator of the Year award
Tracy Koslowski, public education officer of the Drexel Heights Fire District in Tucson, Arizona, has been named winner of the 2013 Fire and Life Safety Educator of the Year.
The award honors fire and life safety educators in local fire departments who use NFPA’s materials in consistent and creative ways and demonstrate excellence and innovation in community outreach.
Koslowski established fire and life safety outreach programs for preteen and teenage fitness and fire preparedness, wheeled sports safety including all-terrain vehicle crashes, and child passenger safety, among others. During her tenure, Drexel Heights Fire District partnered with NFPA’s Safe Community project to create safety fair events that each reach 5,000 residents.
Koslowski has advanced fire safety education programs using NFPA materials, such as Learn Not to Burn®, Risk Watch®, and Remembering When™: A Fire and Fall Prevention Program for Older Adults, for 20 years.
O’Connor Named to Standards Council
NFPA’s Board of Directors has appointed Daniel J. O’Connor to the association’s Standards Council.
O’Connor, of Glenview, Illinois, is the chief technical officer of Aon Fire Protection Engineering. Along with serving as Chair of the Technical Committee on Initiating Devices for Fire Alarm and Signaling Systems (NFPA 72), he is chair of the SFPE Task Group on Human Behavior and co-chair of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitats (CTBUH) Fire Safety Working Group. He earned his Master of Science degree in fire protection engineering at the University of Maryland and is a registered professional engineer in Illinois.
The 13-member Standards Council oversees NFPA’s codes and standards development process. O’Connor’s term runs through December, 2013, and fills the vacancy left by the late David Demers.
New Tip Sheets on Young Firesetters, Outdoor Electrical Safety
NFPA has released new tip sheets addressing children and firesetting, as well as outdoor electrical safety.
The young firesetters safety tip sheet offers parents advice, such as firmly establishing that lighters and matches are tools for adults only and that all fire-starting devices should be kept out of children’s reach. While children can be naturally curious about fire, it is recommended that parents get expert help if they note any unusual fascination with fire on the part of their child.
NFPA has also released a new tip sheet on outdoor electrical safety, since home exteriors possess a distinct set of potential hazards.
Safely storing power tools indoors and away from children is advised, as is regular inspection and replacement of extension cords. As recommended in all NFPA electrical safety sheets, only qualified electricians should be brought in for any electrical work, and only qualified tree-cutters should prune around electric wiring.
For more information on these and other safety topics, please visit nfpa.org/safetytips.
DVD Highlights Resident–Firefighter Partnership in Wildfire Preparation
NFPA has released a new video emphasizing the importance of partnerships between the fire service and residents in reducing communities’ wildfire risk.
Before the Smoke! Preparing Your Community for Wildfire (Strategies for Small & Volunteer Fire Departments), offered on DVD by NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations Division, features local fire departments in Arkansas, Colorado, and Minnesota, and contains interviews with residents and firefighters as they prepare their homes against the threat of wildfire.
Communities in the wildland/urban interface (WUI) can be left vulnerable by budget cuts and limited fire suppression resources. Against this backdrop, the video highlights each community’s struggles and successes as they undertake the strategic identification of at-risk homes and create defensible space, steps that can result in less structural damage in the event of fire and less reliance on costly suppression. The video shows how the departments are able to leverage their resources to focus on areas with the most critical need.
The DVD is available at no charge through nfpa.org/catalog, in the “Wildfire Safety” section.
EV Safety Training Program Adapted for Canada
NFPA is partnering with the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) to adapt its first-responder training program for electric vehicles (EVs) to better suit Canadian needs and policies.
The increasing number of electric vehicles on North American roads made it apparent that a standardized training program was needed, according to John Walter, chief executive officer of the SCC. The NFPA program, designed for first responders in the United States, was seen as a valuable training model that could be readily adapted for Canadian needs.
The safety training is designed for fire service, police, emergency medical services, tow truck operators, and other first responders called upon to handle emergency situations involving EVs.
A committee will evaluate the NFPA program with the conditions and requirements of emergency personnel in Canada, with training packages available by mid-2013.