The Shannon Advocacy Medal was established to recognize individuals who have made significant contributions to the fire loss problem through advocacy. The honor was named after former NFPA president James M. Shannon, who concluded his 12-year tenure in June 2014 with an exceptional record of advocacy to reduce fire loss.
Jon Nisja, fire safety supervisor with the Minnesota State Fire Marshal Division (SFMD), as the winner of the 2019 James M. Shannon Advocacy Medal. Nisja has been awarded this year’s medal for his passion and career-long commitment to fire safety. In particular, Nisja played a key role in changing model codes and strengthening Minnesota’s fire code.
Nisja started his fire service career more than 40 years ago. He has since served two Minnesota communities as fire marshal and has been a fire safety supervisor with the Minnesota State Fire Marshal Division (SFMD) since 1990. In his current role with SFMD, he leads the division’s Fire Code Team, Fire Protection Section, Data Team, and previously led the Fire and Life Safety Education Team.
Nisja has used fire loss and fire prevention data to assist with legislative efforts, fire code development, and to bring architects, engineers, and fire investigators up-to-date on fire prevention challenges. Twenty years ago, he was instrumental in implementing changes to the Minnesota State Fire Code for school safety. Nisja used a five-school pilot program in sprinklered schools to reduce student access to smoke detection system’s pull stations.
Nisja has authored chapters in five books, including NFPA’s “Fire and Life Safety Inspection Manual”. His areas of fire protection interest include fire safety history, means of egress, fire protection systems, building construction and using performance measures to show effectiveness.
Nisja has served as the president of the Fire Marshals Association of Minnesota (FMAM) and the president of the International Fire Marshals Association (IFMA). He continues to serve as a FMAM board member and is well-recognized as one of Minnesota’s most influential voices in the area of fire prevention.
About James M. Shannon
Under Shannon's leadership, NFPA considerably advanced its mission of fire safety, better protecting the general public and members of the fire service.
Shannon spearheaded the Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes, which quickly led to every state passing legislation requiring that cigarettes meet a specific fire safety standard. In collaboration with the fire service and others, this initiative will save hundreds of lives including the lives of firefighters who are at risk every time they respond to a cigarette related fire.
Following the success of the Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes, Shannon intensified NFPA’s work to advocate for mandating home fire sprinklers in all new one- and two-family homes, another critical safeguard to enhance public safety and better protect our nation’s fire service.