Q&A with NFPA President James M. Shannon
Two thousand and five was a year of tremendous advances in the fulfillment of our mission. First, we are seeing more acceptance of our codes and standards. We are seeing standards like NFPA 70E, Electrical Safety in the Workplace, being more widely used by industry. We are seeing a greater role for NFPA in homeland security policy making. Our professional development programs have taken on a completely new life and are better attended than ever before. And our public education programs are reaching more people than ever. Across the board, it has been a terrific year for NFPA.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
What are your goals for 2006?
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.