Establishing a culture of safety
NFPA Journal®, March/April 2007
At NFPA, we have more than 80,000 members, about 7,000 participants in our standards development process, and millions of others all over the world who look to us to provide safety advice through our codes and standards and our education programs. That universe comprises people from an incredibly diverse range of activities and professions from all across
While all of these varied participants are brought to NFPA by their particular needs, they share something more than respect for the work that NFPA does. They believe that through knowledge we can make the world safer and that all of us can play an important part in the effort to achieve a safer world.
Knowledge is not enough. Part of our challenge is to put that knowledge to use through adoption of codes, changes in the law, and by persuading individuals and organizations to follow our advice.
That is why NFPA must do more than we have previously done to advance our safety mission. We must be more aggressive advocates for change. The development of codes and standards, the broad dissemination of our public education programs, the training that we provide, all have a profound impact and have saved uncounted numbers of lives over the course of our history. Nevertheless, we have to carry this fight to the next level by working to establish a culture of safety. We can make that happen by becoming relentless advocates for safety. Here are some examples.
For the last five years, NFPA has been pushing hard for more concerted emergency preparedness programs for private organizations. The terrorist attacks in 2001 and Hurricane Katrina should have settled the argument that our failure to prepare for catastrophic events, whether natural or man-made, will lead to unnecessary loss of life. But while everyone will nod in agreement when we call for preparedness, too few will actually prepare.
That is why we took the fight to Congress and made sure that the legislation implementing the 9/11 Commission Report recommendations included provisions that will require the Secretary of Homeland Security to use NFPA 1600, Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity, to develop emergency preparedness standards for the private sector. It was not enough to develop a standard and urge that people follow it. We fought to get the support of Congress and the administration for NFPA 1600 by getting it specifically included in this new law. The legislative mandate to follow NFPA 1600 and the development of standards using NFPA 1600 by the Department of Homeland Security will increase exponentially the influence of NFPA 1600 and make it far more likely that organizations will change their cultures to include the basic emergency preparedness planning that we have been advocating for years.
We have used different tactics but the same philosophy of advocacy to establish a national fire-safe cigarette standard. NFPA and other organizations have supported this change for years. But for a long time that support resulted in very little progress, so we see hundreds of people every year in the
NFPA resolved to do more to get this simple but vital change enacted and formed a coalition to harness the energies of all our constituencies and those of our coalition partners to fight fiercely state by state for changes in the laws to require that only fire-safe cigarettes be sold. NFPA had never done anything quite like this before, but we have committed ourselves and our resources to get these laws changed as quickly as we can. Now
And we won’t be discouraged that some of what we are fighting to achieve will not be accomplished overnight. The fight for residential sprinklers, which we have been waging along with our partners in the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, has been long and sometimes lonely. However, as the potential that residential sprinklers have for saving lives and protecting property is becoming clearer through persistent advocacy, significant progress is being made. More and more communities are considering residential sprinkler ordinances and more homebuilders are willing to listen. I am very hopeful that we will see the progress we have made in the use of residential sprinklers accelerate greatly over the next decade, but that will only happen if all of us keep up the fight and continue our advocacy.
We cannot be content to pull together the best people to come up with the best technical answers to fire protection questions. Nor can we be satisfied if the world merely looks to us as the prime source of information on matters of safety, electrical safety, and life safety, although that is what we are. We must commit ourselves to making NFPA an organization that does more than produce valuable information, but is out there every day through our members, those who participate in our process, and the other organizations who share our goals persuading, advocating, and doing the work to achieve the changes that make the world safer.
In this Section:
Fire alarm system wiring insulation
100 years in print
Fire heavily damages store, but firefighters limit exposure loss
Establishing a culture of safety
Looking for signs
Overcoming code misunderstandings
Keeping it effortless
Fire risk assessment as a tool
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