Keystone State Showdown
In Pennsylvania, a family’s fire tragedy and a legislative challenge to residential sprinkler provisions. Plus, new Faces of Fire stories, new sprinkler research, and an antifreeze update.
NFPA Journal®, May/June 2011
By Fred Durso, Jr.
Except for the usual sounds of construction, an eerie quiet permeates the worksite of a new home going up in Loysville, Pennsylvania. There’s no music or workmen banter — only the sound of hammers banging nails into wood or the occasional local woman, food in hand, letting workers know it’s lunchtime.
The somber mood is the result of a house fire that erupted across the street from the worksite on March 8, killing seven of Ted and Janelle Clouse’s eight children, who ranged in age from nine months to 11 years. Only a three-year-old daughter survived. The fire destroyed the unsprinklered structure.
The blaze occurred the day after Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives voted in support of a bill that repeals a mandate requiring sprinkler systems to be installed in all new homes. New townhouses were not included in the repeal.
Now, the Clouse’s new home is being rebuilt for the family by friends, neighbors, and relatives — and it will include an automatic sprinkler system.
Despite this positive step, the legislative activity around residential sprinklers in Pennsylvania doesn’t sit well with Bob Fritz, CEO of Fritz Fire Protection in Harrisburg, which is installing a residential sprinkler system at the Clouses’ new home. On April 13, the state Senate also voted to repeal the mandate, and on April 26 Governor Tom Corbett signed the bill into law. The 2009 edition of the International Residential Code® (IRC®) requires automatic fire sprinkler systems in all new homes. The state’s adoption of the IRC in 2009 required that sprinkler systems be installed in new townhouses last year and in new one- and two-family homes starting this year.
"Janelle heard her kids yelling [for help] the night of the fire," Fritz says. "They didn’t go quietly. That’s one of the frustrating things in dealing with this legislation — people who support a repeal don’t want to hear about what happened to the Clouse family. They want to turn a blind eye to this."
Fritz was made aware that the Clouses would have installed a sprinkler system in the new house even if the state’s building code didn’t require the protection. Fritz’s team will install the sprinkler’s components, which were donated by another company, at no charge, and per NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes.
NFPA launched an aggressive media campaign around the issue, placing ads in local newspapers and throwing its support behind fire officials who urged legislators to uphold the sprinkler mandate.
John Waters, co-chair of the Pennsylvania Residential Sprinkler Coalition, sees a silver lining in the recent legislative events. "Legislators have a constitutional right to make bad decisions, and they’ve exercised that right over the past month," Waters says. "The builders were adamant about keeping [the sprinkler provisions] out of the code, and I’m adamant they’re going to stay in. We’re not done fighting — not by any stretch."
Role Models: Faces of Fire
Tonya Hoover, the acting state fire marshal for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, is using her state’s success story to convince legislatures in Pennsylvania and elsewhere that home fire sprinkler code adoptions are feasible.
As one of NFPA’s newest featured spokespersons for our Faces of Fire campaign, which champions home fire sprinkler provisions through actual stories of people who have been affected by fire, Hoover is touting California’s adoption of the 2009 IRC, which took effect this year in her state and includes requirements for home fire sprinklers.
"The impact on this code change won’t be immediate because we still have a lot of existing housing stock that needs to be sprinklered," Hoover says in a video at firesprinklerinitiative.org/faces. "But long term … we can make the biggest impact on life safety and firefighter safety. We in California can show it’s very possible that you can do this when people think you can’t, that in times when the economy is struggling, you can still make an impact on public safety."
Also personalizing the sprinkler debate is Anne Mazzola, another Faces of Fire sprinkler advocate involved in a sprinkler save. Mazzola and her husband were in their Las Vegas home as workers coated their living room floor with a sealant. The flammable material ignited, resulting in a flash fire that filled the room. Sitting in an adjacent area, Mazzola heard the roar of the fire and saw the accompanying flames and black smoke. Almost immediately, the sprinklers activated and doused the fire. There were no injuries.
"The fire official did say that the sprinklers saved my husband’s life because he was trapped in his office and it would have been nearly impossible to get out without being burned from the fire," Mazzola says in a video at firesprinklerinitiative.org/faces. "He also mentioned the sprinklers…protected and saved 95 percent of the house. I could have lost quite a bit that day."
Award winner: HFSC
Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC), a nonprofit that collaborates with NFPA and other coalition members to disseminate information on home fire sprinklers, has received the 2011 Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes Fire Safety Leadership Award.
Presented by the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF), the award recognizes organizations for their outstanding contributions to firefighter health and safety. Gary Keith, HFSC board chair and NFPA’s vice-president of Field Operations and Education, accepted the award during a CFSI banquet April 7 in Washington, D.C.
"The fire service has always been our most active and most important partner," Keith says. "They have the desire to increase fire protection in their communities, but they rarely have all the resources necessary to do that. HFSC has worked with fire departments to provide them with the free materials they need. We look forward to partnering with them for the next 15 years."
Sarbanes, the award’s namesake, is the retired U.S. senator from Maryland who drafted the legislation that established the NFFF, which honors fallen firefighters through scholarships, programs, and commemorative events.
"HFSC’s focus is on [residential] sprinklers, and that’s a big challenge for the fire service," says Bill Webb, CFSI’s executive director. "Since sprinklers are such an important component of firefighter health and safety, the selection committee felt they were very deserving of the award."
Water watch: Sprinkler research
The Fire Protection Research Foundation is undertaking a new study to assess the community impact of water consumption in sprinklered and nonsprinklered properties.
The study examines the prevalence and structure of fees and other policies implemented over the past 30 years in certain municipalities that are aimed at recovering costs for water used from fires in sprinklered buildings. These fees are typically not related to sprinkler fire flows or the amount of water required for general firefighting operations, which are not metered and not accounted for in conventional water cost recovery methods. Water consumed by fires at unsprinklered facilities, by contrast, typically aren’t subjected to fees or metered at the hydrant.
"With the growing adoption of residential sprinkler ordinances in communities across the country, it is appropriate to assess the relative community aspects of water consumption in sprinklered and unsprinklered properties," says Kathleen Almand, the Foundation’s executive director.
Researchers will analyze up to five communities with fire flow fees and a mix of residential, commercial, and industrial buildings, both sprinklered and unsprinklered. Also being reviewed is existing literature on water consumption by the fire service in residential and commercial buildings, including the Foundation’s recent report, Residential Fire Sprinklers — Water Usage and Water Meter Performance Study. The new study will be completed by the end of the year.
CODES + STANDARDS
Better, Stronger, Faster
A primer on new regulations for NFPA’s codes + standards process.
By Fred Durso, Jr.
How can NFPA make its codes and standards development process more user-friendly while using the latest technology?
That was the question posed to technical committee members and others through a series of surveys and analyses of NFPA’s standards development process. The feedback led NFPA’s Board of Directors to approve new regulations last year that take advantage of Web-based tools while retaining the key components of NFPA’s code creation and revision process. The changes will take effect during standards reporting for the Fall 2013 revision cycle. Here are the highlights:
"We previewed the new system to attendees at NFPA’s Conference & Expo last year, as well as during several chair training forums, and the members are really excited about the changes," says Amy Cronin, division manager for NFPA’s Codes and Standards Administration and Standards Council secretary. "The new system will make the process easier to understand, increase efficiency, and make proposed changes easier to view in context."
For more information on the new regulations, visit nfpa.org/codes.
AUTOMATIC FIRE ALARMS
No Cause for Alarm
NFPA co-hosts summit to address unwanted alarm problem.
By Jon Palmer
What is the scope of the unwanted alarm problem? What is the impact of the problem on stakeholders, especially the fire service? And what can be done about it?
Those were some of the key questions addressed by the Fire Alarm Response and Management Summit (FALARMS) held on May 3 in Fairfax, Virginia. The event, co-sponsored by NFPA, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), and the United States Fire Administration (USFA), was designed to bring together alarm manufacturers and members of the fire service and the codes and standards community to discuss the issues surrounding unwanted alarms.
"It’s extremely valuable for all of these different groups to come together and move the conversation forward," said Kenneth Willette, division manager of NFPA’s Public Fire Protection Division.
Responding to automatic fire alarms that are not triggered by actual emergencies made up about one in ten calls that fire departments across the nation responded to in 2009, Willette said, calls that cost fire departments time and money. Eighty percent of those calls were related to automatic fire alarm systems, according to NFPA’s data. "These are mechanical systems with electronic components, and they need to be properly designed, installed, and maintained," says Willette. "Sometimes, those requirements are not met in the manner the manufacturer intended, which can make the systems susceptible to unintentional activations."
In February, the IAFC released a study detailing the efforts of Tualatin Valley, Oregon, to quantify the non-emergency calls issue. Looking at data from 2003 to 2007, during which the department responded to 10,206 commercial automatic alarms, the study found that "approximately 99.6 percent, or more than 10,150, of these calls were false alarms or incidents with no hazard or fire."
After viewing the information from this and similar studies, IAFC leadership called for the FALARMS summit to address unwanted alarm response. Changes to fire alarm policy will be presented to the technical committee for NFPA 72®, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code®, Willette said.
Willette stresses that, despite the unwanted alarm problem for automatic fire alarm systems and the issues it raises for fire departments and other stakeholders, automatic detection systems are a valuable asset in preventing injury, loss of life, and damage to property due to fire.
"When we talk about unwanted alarms, it can allow people to marginalize these systems," he said. "But these are truly life-protecting systems. The question now is, how do we maintain the credibility of these systems? NFPA is committed to maintaining this partnership approach to prepare an action plan and to go forward in maintaining the trust of the public in fire alarm systems."
More on the subject of unwanted alarms, including details from the FALARMS summit, will be covered in the July/August issue of NFPA Journal.
Prepping for this year’s wildfire education conference in Denver. Also, partnering with Canadians, and leadership award winners.
By Jon Palmer
NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations Division is sponsoring the 4th Backyards & Beyond Educational Conference in Denver, Colorado, October 27–29, 2011. The conference features Firewise® concepts and brings community leaders and residents together with the nation’s leading wildfire specialists in order to spread information on how to prevent loss of life and property due to wildfire.
"It’s a really varied group that comes together," says NFPA’s Michele Steinberg, manager of the Firewise Communities Program. "It isn’t your typical fire conference. There will be community planners, elected officials and leaders, and people from our recognized Firewise Communities/USA® sites. There are many points of view."
The conference will feature educational sessions made up of one-hour presentations on a variety of wildfire-related subjects. Conference tracks this year will include Firewise Neighborhoods & Developments, Research (Physical & Social), Environment/Ecology/Landscaping, Technology, Policy & Communications, and Fire & Emergency Management.
A new feature of this year’s conference will allow more members of the wildland fire community to attend Backyards & Beyond. In the past, those who otherwise couldn’t make the trip could apply for scholarships in order to attend. Now, Steinberg says sponsors of the conference will pay to send select people to the conference. "Not only does someone get to attend who otherwise wouldn’t," she says, "but they’re also provided with resources and information from the sponsor."
For more information visit firewise.org.
MOU signed with Canadian group
NFPA has announced a formalized partnership with the Canadian organization Partners in Protection (PiP), an Alberta-based multi-disciplinary partnership representing national, provincial, and municipal associations, and government agencies responsible for emergency services, land-use planning, and forest and park management and research. NFPA and PiP recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that lays the groundwork for cooperation in the delivery of wildland–urban interface education and wildland fire risk mitigation programs.
"Joining together with PiP to expand the outreach of wildland fire safety information and initiatives throughout Canada is a fantastic opportunity to unite our organizations and work toward a common goal, which is reducing the losses associated with wildfire," said NFPA President Jim Shannon.
PiP is committed to raising awareness, providing information, and developing forums aimed at reducing the risk of fire losses and enhancing safety in the wildland-urban interface.
Leadership award winners named
NFPA’s Firewise Communities program has named the winners of the 2010 Firewise Leadership Awards, created to honor the most significant local efforts in safeguarding people and communities from the threat of wildfire.
The regional winner was the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County, California. State level winners included David Yegge, fire fuels program coordinator for Big Bear Lake Fire Protection District in California; the Florida Division of Forestry Mitigation Specialists; and the Texas Forest Service Prevention and Mitigation Department. Local level winners included Melissa Yunas of the Florida Division of Forestry; Seth Sommers, a volunteer firefighter with the Hector Volunteer Fire Department in Arkansas; and the Diamondhead community, also in Arkansas.
"Our honorees are excellent examples of the countless individuals and groups working to do their part to help save lives and reduce their communities’ risk of wildfire damage," said Program Manager Michele Steinberg.
ANALYSIS + RESEARCH
Firefighter Deaths Fall
A preview of the 2010 Firefighter Fatality Study
In 2010, 71 firefighters in the United States were fatally injured while on duty, the lowest total since NFPA began collecting national data in 1977, and a sharp drop from the 82 deaths in 2009 and 105 deaths in 2008. There has been an average of 95 on-duty firefighter deaths per year in the United States over the past 10 years.
Those are some of the key findings in the 2010 U.S. Firefighter Fatality Study, written by Rita F. Fahy, Paul R. LeBlanc, and Joseph L. Molis of NFPA’s Fire Analysis and Research Division. Other preliminary findings include:
The complete report on the 2010 fatalities will be presented at the NFPA Conference & Expo in Boston in June and will appear in the July/August issue of NFPA Journal.
NFPA mourns the deaths of two influential friends
Vincent Bollon, a 20-year member of NFPA’s Board of Directors and former New York City firefighter, died on March 28 at the age of 77.
Bollon not only served one of the longest tenures in NFPA Board history, but was also the second-longest-serving principal officer with the International Association of Fire Fighters. His career with the fire service made him a well-respected participant in NFPA’s codes and standards development process, and he played a key role in establishing NFPA 1500, Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program. Bollon was re-elected NFPA’s Board treasurer last year before announcing his retirement.
"Vinnie believed in NFPA and its system of standards development, and devoted thousands of hours to making NFPA the respected organization it is today," says NFPA President James Shannon.
Another influential NFPA supporter, Bill Scott, considered a champion for the disabled, also died in March, at the age of 66. He was the chair of NFPA’s Disabilities Access Review and Advisory Committee, which identifies existing needs and emerging issues in the disabilities communities. Scott also served on NFPA’s Fire Safety for People with Disabilities Task Force, dedicating his time to committees, groups, and organizations to improve fire and life safety for this population. Scott was founder and president of Abilities Unlimited, Inc., a disabilities issue consulting firm based in Glendale, Arizona.
"Bill’s passion, quick wit, gentle demeanor, incredibly positive attitude, and unfailing devotion to making life better for all people will be forever remembered by his friends and colleagues," Shannon says.
— Fred Durso, Jr.
NFPA and UL Offer Electrical Seminars
NFPA and Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (UL) have joined together to offer new workshops for electrical inspectors, installers, and engineers. The seminars will cover topics related to NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code® (NEC®); NFPA 79, Electrical Standard for Industrial Machinery; and UL’s 508a, Standard for Industrial Control Panels.
A one-day seminar, the National Electrical Code for Photovoltaics (NFPA 70, 2011 edition), advises attendees on the installation, inspection, and design principles of these systems. Anyone who registers for a one-day seminar by the end of the year will receive six free months of access to necplus®, the online subscription to the NEC. Attendees will also receive free seminar materials, including a copy of the 2011 NEC and a seminar workbook.
The seminar will be held on May 10 in Nashville, Tennessee; June 21 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; November 15 in Las Vegas, Nevada; and November 29 in Dallas, Texas.
A seminar on NFPA 79 will be offered on its own or bundled with the UL seminar on UL 508a and Short-Circuit Current Ratings (SCCR).
This NFPA seminar reviews industrial machinery and electrical safety, while UL’s covers the installation of industrial control panels and how to establish their short-circuit ratings. Seminars will be held September 12–15 in Quincy, Massachusetts; September 19–22 in Ann Arbor, Michigan; October 10–13 in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey; October 17–20 in Brea, California; October 31–November 3 in Raleigh, North Carolina; and November 7–10 in Northbrook, Illinois.
Continuing Education Units will be offered for all of these seminars. To register, visit nfpa.org/catalog.
In this Section:
CSB and OSHA join forces to further shape NFPA’s industrial dust hazard safety codes.
A toothsome assortment of education session highlights at this year’s NFPA Conference & Expo promises something for every taste.
|The Great Boston Molasses Flood
The bizarre tale of a deadly wave of molasses that decimated a Boston neighborhood and spurred nationwide construction safeguards.
|Boston's Fire Trail
A walking tour of notable Boston fires and disasters.