NFPA Today

Fire Safety for Electric Vehicles and Other Modern Vehicles in Parking Structures

In spite of the global supply chain issues and loss of vehicles in the Felicity Ace cargo ship fire, the sales of electric vehicles (EVs) has been on the move, hitting 6.6 million in 2021, which is more than triple their market share from two years earlier. While this might be good news for our environment, it also brings unique fire challenges to both first responders and fire protection designers. The lithium-ion (or similar) batteries inside of these vehicles fail and burn in a much different way than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. When lithium-ion batteries fail, they go through a process called thermal runaway, where a single cell failure can cause the production of heat and oxygen as well as flammable and toxic gasses. This then spreads to adjacent cells causing potential rapid fire growth or explosion. To give us some perspective about the size of this issue, it is estimated that there are around 16 million electric cars on the road worldwide, and studies have identified nearly 300 EV fires globally between 2010 and 2022. Compare this with ICE vehicle fires and we find that EV vehicle fires are less common of an occurrence, but more complicated of an event, since EVs fires can last longer and have the potential for electrical shock and reignition. While a majority of vehicle fires occur on the road, it’s the fires that occur in parking structures that lead to large economic loss as evidenced by recent fires at Liverpool’s Echo Arena (UK) and at the Stavanger Airport (Norway). What makes a parking garage or parking structure unique? Parking garages, often called parking structures in code books, are a unique type of occupancy. They can be located underground or above ground and are usually located in congested urban areas where large open parking lots aren’t feasible. They can be public or private and store anything from motorcycles and cars to trucks and buses. There might be access for each vehicle to enter and exit or there might be vehicles covering the entire floor area. RELATED: Read a 2019 NFPA Journal feature story about the risks introduced to parking garages by modern vehicles  There can also be several different types of technology integrated into parking structures, such as car stackers or automated parking systems which store and retrieve vehicles without a driver. These types of technologies increase the efficiency of the space being used but also increase the potential hazard by placing vehicles closer together. With all of these variables already existing in parking structures, the introduction of electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging stations adds more considerations that need to be made when designing and protecting these occupancies. What do the codes say? What do the current codes and standard say about electric vehicles in parking garages? While they don’t go into much detail, there are some requirements in NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code® (NEC®) and NFPA 88A, Standard for Parking Structures, that address certain safety concerns. The NEC is the go-to code when looking to protect people and property from electrical hazards and so, as appropriate, it has requirements for installing EV charging stations, or “Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment,” as they call it in the code. When conducting service load calculations, Article 220 requires EV Supply Equipment to be calculated at either 7,200 watts or the nameplate rating of the equipment, whichever is larger. This is to ensure the electrical supply will be able to handle the extra load put on by EVs charging. Most of the other requirements for electric vehicle charging stations are going to be located in Article 625, Electric Vehicle Power Transfer System. While this article contains many requirements, some of the highlights include requirements for EV charging equipment to be listed, to have a disconnecting means, and for charging coupling to be a minimum distance above the ground. The other major standard that addresses EVs in parking structures is NFPA 88A. Similar to NFPA 70, it requires the charging stations and equipment to be listed but it gives more details into the exact listing standards it needs to meet. -        Electric vehicle charging stations need to be listed to UL 2202, Standard for Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging System Equipment. -        Electric vehicle charging equipment need to be listed to UL 2594, Standard for Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment. -        Wireless power transfer equipment needs to be listed to UL 2750, UL LLC Outline of Investigation for Wireless Power Transfer Equipment for Electric Vehicles. Impact of modern vehicles The introduction of EVs into the ecosystem isn’t the only thing to consider when looking at how to properly design and protect parking structures. The fire characteristics of modern vehicles are also changing to include more plastics and other combustibles than ever before. While this benefits the fuel economy and lowers vehicle price, it increases the fuel load and fire growth we see in parking garages. A recent Fire Protection Research Foundation report dives into details about the fire hazard modern vehicles represent to parking garages and marine vessels. In addition, there have also been updates to various standards in response to these increased fire hazards found in parking garages.    The 2022 edition of NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, for example, has changed to increase the recommended hazard classification for parking structures from an Ordinary Hazard Group 1 to an Ordinary Hazard Group 2. The effect is a 33 percent increase in the design density, moving from 0.15 gpm/ft2 to 0.2 gpm/ft2. As of January of 2021, FM Global data sheets have also increased the hazard category for parking garages and car parks from a Hazard Category 2 to a Hazard Category 3. New to the 2023 edition of NFPA 88A, all parking garages are now required to have sprinkler systems installed in accordance with NFPA 13. Prior to this edition, sprinklers didn’t have to be installed in open parking structures. Conclusion While technology is constantly evolving, so are NFPA codes, standards, trainings, research, and other resources. The ever-growing presence of lithium-ion batteries in our day-to-day lives are changing the fire characteristics of our built environment. Fire protection professionals need to be able to stay on top of these changes to ensure the safety of people and property. For more information on the resources NFPA provides relates to electric vehicles, check out nfpa.org/EV.

Winter is Coming. Is Your Facility Protected?

As the seasons change and temperatures cool down, the impacts of freezing weather should be on the top of everyone’s mind—even for those who historically did not have to worry.    In February 2021, for example, a cold snap brought frigid temperatures to Texas, leading to some 250 reported deaths. In January, Florida battled record freezing temperatures, with millions waking up to unprecedented temps in the 20s on some mornings.  Weather like this can affect any industry, from chemical, manufacturing, and construction to oil and gas. Any facility that has outdoor piping, storage, or cooling towers can be at risk. While most colder regions have facilities equipped to deal with cold weather, many central and southern locations are not adequately designed and protected for such low temperatures. Extreme weather events can create conditions that could lead to failing components, if proper protocol is not followed. Failure can depend on equipment exposure to the elements, weatherization, and the combination of cold temperatures, moisture, and precipitation.  We need to realize that a lot of facility equipment can be in danger of extreme cold temperatures. Some chemicals can expand when they drop below their freezing points, which increases the likelihood of their containers rupturing. There could also be damage to the substances themselves, making them harder to use. Some chemicals can even become more volatile due to the cold or cause ingredients to separate. Lines can become permanently blocked when chemicals that typically are pumped throughout the facility become cement-like due to exposure to freezing temperatures. Even though ice problems are rare with natural gas and propane pipelines, they can still exist from alternate sources.   There are multiple NFPA codes and standards that address how to protect equipment and processes from freezing temperatures. A few of those documents—and the relevant requirements found within them—are listed below.   NFPA 2, Hydrogen Technologies Code (2020 edition) Components shall be designed, installed or protected so their operation is not affected by freezing rain, sleet, snow, ice, mud, insects or debris [10.3.1.1]  Pressure relief valves or vent piping shall be designed or located so that moisture cannot collect and freeze in a manner that would interfere with the operation of the device [8.3.1.22.1 and 7.1.5.5.6]   NFPA 51, Standard for the Design and Installation of Oxygen-Fuel Gas Systems for Welding, Cutting, and Allied Processes (2023 edition) Generators shall be protected against freezing. The use of salt or other corrosive chemical to prevent freezing shall be prohibited [8.4.1.3]  Where (acetylene gas holders) not located within a heated building, gas holders shall be protected against freezing [8.4.3.3]  NFPA 58, Liquified Petroleum Gas Code (2020 edition) All regulators for outdoor installations shall be designed, installed or protected so  their operation will not be affected by the elements (freezing rain, sleet, snow, ice, mud or debris) [6.10.1.4]  NFPA 86, Standard for Ovens and Furnaces (2023 edition) Coolant piping systems shall be protected from freezing [8.14.10.2]  If pipeline protective equipment incorporates a liquid, the liquid level shall be maintained, and an antifreeze shall be permitted to prevent freezing [7.3.6.3]  Pressure relief devices or vent piping shall be designed or located so that moisture cannot collect and freeze in a manner that would interfere with operation of the device [21.3.1.2.5.6]  While we cannot always predict if an extreme cold event will occur, we can prepare. As we enter the time of year when we get colder temperatures, ensure that your facility is identifying past and future extreme cold weather events. Research cold events that have happened in warmer regions and identify what NFPA codes and standards can be applied to ensure that your facility is prepared. Inspect your facility to detect and document any deficiencies in cold weather preparedness for equipment. Lastly, when planning, make sure to check out NFPA 1600, Standard on Continuity, Emergency and Crisis Management, for more information. 

Fire Break

Lessons learned on wildfire communication and community initiatives

Isabeau Ottolini is a PhD candidate from the Open University of Catalonia (Spain) and the European project, PyroLife. She is researching Community-based Wildfire Communication, and has recently done her research stay at NFPA’s Wildfire Division. In this blogpost, she takes us along her visit across the USA, and shares lessons learnt on communicating about wildfires. Recently NFPA hosted me for a research stay to allow me to learn first-hand about community initiatives on wildfires, and specifically NFPA’s communication activities in the USA. I started my journey in California, with Bethany Hannah - founder of The Smokey Generation and the American Wildfire Experience. Together, we visited recent wildfire sites such as the 2021 Caldor Fire and the KNP Complex Fire; met the Division Chief of Prescribed Fire and Fuels at Yosemite National Park to learn how prescribed wildfire is used in one of USA’s most emblematic national parks; and observed the impact of the recent wildfires in the Sequoia National Park. At the IAWF Fire & Climate Conference in Pasadena, Bethany and I also presented together on Fire Stories: a case for Community-based Communication. Creating viewscapes across Yosemite with the help of prescribed burns. Photo: Isabeau Ottolini   In Colorado, Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan and Aron Anderson from NFPA’s Wildfire Division took me on field visits to Boulder and Colorado Springs. We visited the Sites of Excellence site, Red Rock Ranch, as well as diverse other Firewise and Wildfire Partners communities, to learn which wildfire prevention and mitigation activities are happening at the community level. We also visited diverse areas affected by wildfires in the past 30 years (from the Berry Fire in 1989, the Waldo Canyon Fire in 2012, to the most recent Marshall Fire), to learn how ecosystems and communities are impacted and recovering after wildfire disaster. Lastly, I had the great opportunity to present her research at the NFPA C&E in Boston. Here I shared Lessons from the US and Europe on Wildfire Communication with Communities at Risk. During my last days in the US, I partook in the day-to-day of the NFPA office, and together with Michele Steinberg visited a recent wildfire-affected area in the Blue Hills as well as the Six Ponds Firewise community in Plymouth. Lessons learned On my visit, I crossed the USA from west to east, observing very different fire landscapes and being inspired by many great community-based wildfire initiatives – including Firewise, the Sites of Excellence, Fire Adapted Communities, and Wildfire Partners – that make wildfire mitigation and prevention possible on the community level. Here are four lessons on how to communicate about wildfires and support community-based wildfire initiatives. There are no silver bullets nor quick fixes to prevent and mitigate wildfires. Wildfire communication needs to be adapted to local contexts, and this requires actively engaging with communities, listening to them, and reading the room. For instance, if a community has just lost homes to a wildfire, it is likely not the best time to talk about good fire. As wildfire communicators, we need to meet people where they are at. Take the time to first learn about their needs, knowledge, and interests, and then jointly develop wildfire actions that are most feasible, relevant and rewarding for each community. Sharing responsibility: the wildfire issue is too big to be addressed only by certain groups, like the fire service or public administrations. Experience shows that community-led initiatives can achieve so much in mitigating and preventing wildfire disasters, so it is crucial to involve and empower them to take action. In addition, recognizing and celebrating community achievements helps maintain motivation, such as by making visible their efforts (e.g. by putting up Firewise signs, sharing success stories in the media, etc.) as well as providing support (e.g. how to get grants for fuel reduction efforts). Lastly, it is essential to build trust and mutually beneficial relationships between communities, fire departments, public administrations, etc. Especially in informal settings, people can genuinely listen to each other, understand each other's challenges, find ways to help one other, and build great collaborations. Because at the end of the day it is all about building this human connection and working together on creating a more hopeful wildfire future.
People putting debris in the chipper

“Sites of Excellence” Pilot Program and Report Highlight Challenges, Best Practices, and Recommendations for Firewise USA Sites

In 2019, NFPA began working with seven active Firewise USA® sites in Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin, challenging them to improve their resilience to wildfire. These efforts formed the basis of a two-year pilot program, “Sites of Excellence,” designed to increase participation in active wildfire risk reduction through a more focused approach. Over the course of the two years, the communities concentrated on these goals: To have 100 percent participation of homes within the designated pilot boundary (sites were able to self-identify up to 100 co-located homes in each pilot site). To complete identified mitigation tasks within 30 feet of every home, based on recommendations from individual assessments. At the end of the two years communities reported higher levels of engagement and interest in the Firewise program and wildfire mitigation efforts, and helped prove that community wildfire resilience is achievable. It was challenging work, but according to Michele Steinberg, NFPA wildfire division director, the program underscored the true power and impact of Firewise communities working together to reduce their collective risk to wildfire. A free report and interactive story map are now available. Each provides a view into the challenges, successes, and best practices discovered during the pilot. The findings will be used to help direct future Firewise program changes as well as inform policy that can support increased implementation of risk reduction practices in communities facing wildfire threats to life and property. Download the free report and take some time to navigate through the story map to learn more about the communities and their work. We hope the lessons learned in the program can help enhance your own community’s wildfire risk reduction efforts.

Safety Source

Thanksgiving turkey

Reduce the Risk of Home Fires in Your Community This Thanksgiving, the Leading Day of the Year for Home Cooking Fires

Each year, anywhere from 3 to 4 times as many home cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving Day as on a typical day, making it by far the leading day of the year for home cooking fires. This annual spike can largely be attributed to people cooking multiple dishes at once, along with other distractions that can make it easy to lose sight of what’s cooking on the stove and in the oven. Year-round, cooking is the leading cause (49 percent) of U.S. home fires, with unattended cooking serving as the leading cause. Fortunately, these factors shouldn’t put a crimp in anyone’s Thanksgiving plans. Following simple safety precautions and guidelines can go a long way toward ensuring a fire-safe holiday. As Thanksgiving nears, fire departments, public safety educators, and advocates are strongly encouraged to promote the following tips and recommendations, helping ensure that households prepare for and celebrate the holiday with fire safety in mind: Never leave the kitchen while cooking on the stovetop. Some types of cooking, especially those that involve frying or sautéing with oil, need continuous attention. When cooking a turkey, remain at home and check it regularly. Make use of timers to keep track of cooking times, particularly for foods that require longer cook times. Keep things that can catch fire like oven mitts, wooden utensils, food wrappers, and towels at least 3 feet (1 meter) away from the cooking area. Avoid long sleeves and hanging fabrics that can come in contact with a heat source. Always cook with a lid beside your pan. If you have a fire, slide the lid over the pan and turn off the burner. Do not remove the cover because the fire could start again. Let the pan cool for a long time. Never throw water or use a fire extinguisher on the fire. For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed. Only open the door once you’re confident the fire is completely out, standing to the side as you do. If you have any doubts or concerns, contact the fire department for assistance. Keep children at least 3 feet (1 meter) away from the stove and oven. Kids should also stay away from hot foods and liquids, as steam or splash from these items could cause severe burns. NFPA® strongly discourages the use of turkey fryers, as they can lead to severe burns, injuries, and property damage. Grocery stores, food retailers, and restaurants often sell deep-fried turkeys, which can serve as a safe alternative to frying one at home. Visit our Thanksgiving fire safety page for more information, data, and resources, including social media cards and tip sheets, that can be shared with your community.

Fire Prevention Week Was a Resounding Success - Thanks to All Who Participated

At its core, Fire Prevention Week™ is a grassroots campaign that delivers potentially life-saving impact to communities through thousands of fire departments and safety advocates who promote its messages at the local level. Each year, their hard work, enthusiasm, and creativity bring the campaign to life and actively engage the public in home fire safety and prevention. Alongside these efforts, NFPA® works with groups and organizations that share our goal of reducing the public’s risk to home fires, helping maximize the reach and influence of Fire Prevention Week. Here are some ways we collaboratively promoted and celebrated the 100th anniversary of Fire Prevention Week and this year’s theme, “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape.™”: On Tuesday, October 11, NFPA sponsored the USFA Summit on Fire Prevention and Control: State of Science, which was held in support of Fire Prevention Week. Hosted in Emmitsburg, Maryland, the live-stream event featured virtual remarks from President Biden along with presentations to the president by fire safety leaders, including Jim Pauley, NFPA president, and Michele Steinberg, director of the NFPA wildfire division, who shared their perspectives on the most pressing fire and life safety concerns facing our world today. NFPA President Jim Pauley (far right) participating in the fire safety summit. For the 15th year, NFPA and Domino’s teamed up to implement a joint smoke alarm safety program in support of Fire Prevention Week. Nearly 130 fire departments across the United States collaborated with their local Domino’s to conduct smoke alarm inspections for randomly selected customers. To kick off the program, an event was held at the Flint Fire Department on Wednesday, October 12, where 41 local first graders learned about home fire safety followed by a pizza party and a visit from Sparky the Fire Dog®. Amy Acton, president of the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, and Kevin Sehlmeyer, Michigan state fire marshal, also attended in support of the program. Sparky joins the Flint Fire Department and local Domino's delivery specialist for the program's inaugural smoke alarm check and pizza delivery. From left to right: Amy Acton, president of the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors; Fire Chief Ray Barton, Flint FD; Sparky; Michigan SFM Kevin Sehlmeyer; and Deputy Fire Chief Carrie Edwards-Clemons, Flint FD help kick off the 15th annual Domino's smoke alarm program held in coordination with NFPA. State Farm generously donated a total of 4,300 Fire Prevention Week toolkits to fire departments in 48 states throughout the country, helping spread our materials and information nationwide. Organizations like vipHomeLink, NextDoor, and Legoland actively supported Fire Prevention Week, sharing our home escape planning and practice messages among their audiences through digital platforms and live events. NFPA staff attended events in support of Fire Prevention Week, including the Operation Save a Life program, a partnership of Kidde Fire Safety, Home Depot stores, and local ABC affiliates that promotes the critical role smoke and carbon monoxide alarms play in home fire safety, as well as the Cause for Alarm program, which is also sponsored by Kidde. NFPA's Meredith Hawes attended and shared opening remarks at the Cause for Alarm event in Bronx, NY. NFPA's Kelly Ransdell (left) attended the Operation Save a Life program held by Kidde Fire Safety, an ABC affiliate, and The Home Depot. To see many more examples of how Fire Prevention Week 2022 was celebrated this October 9–15, visit our Twitter, Instagram, and NFPA and Sparky Facebook pages, which showcase the widespread passion and dedication brought to this year’s campaign.

Fire Sprinkler Initiative

Work from home

Fire Sprinklers: A Life-Saving Solution Remote Workers Can Feel Right at Home With

Covid changed everything. Will it leave a lasting impact on fire safety too? Before the pandemic, only about 5 percent of full-time employees with office jobs worked primarily from home. According to a recent Forbes article, that figure is likely to settle at 20 to 30 percent in our new normal, varying across occupations and industries. Many workplaces and offices are protected by fire sprinklers; NFPA included, I’m happy to say. And wise business travelers select sprinklered hotels when they’re on the road. Great. But what about all the people working at home now? The work-at-home trend has many positives for many people, but it also heralds a concern for remote workers – unsafe homes. And remote workers aren’t the only ones at risk. Home is where we want to feel safest, but that comfort is often misplaced. For example, smoke alarms were present in three-quarters of reported US home fires, but three out of five home fire deaths happened in homes without smoke alarms or with non-operational alarms (NFPA 2014-2018). And a recent NFPA survey showed that just one in three American homes had and practiced an escape plan. Making matters worse, just 7 percent of US homes have installed fire sprinklers. Today’s home fires can become deadly in less than two minutes. That’s justification for better home fire protection, especially home fire sprinklers. Having smoke alarms just isn’t enough. First, smoke alarms need to be working – all of them, all the time. Everyone in the home needs to recognize the alarm and know what to do. And everyone needs to be certain they know how and where to escape, from every room in the home. That requires a plan with an escape strategy for everyone in the household. Yes, smoke alarms are essential. But they can only alert us to the presence of smoke. Uniquely, home fire sprinklers go beyond that important task, controlling a fire when it’s still small and often extinguishing it. That curbs the growth and spread of deadly smoke, and gives families precious time to safely escape, regardless of age or ability or personal action in response to the alarm. As lifestyles keep evolving and more people of different ages are living together and working remotely, homes are being occupied for longer hours and used in new ways. Every new home built without fire sprinklers is substandard from day one. That impacts the entire community, including the fire service. What can you do? Make home fire sprinkler education a permanent part of your community risk reduction work. Focus outreach on local officials, builders and developers, and of course consumers, especially those folks planning to build or buy a new home. You are their trusted resource for information about home fire safety. As always, NFPA is here to help you. Tap into our free resources. And for home fire sprinkler content, use the free turnkey tools from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) that make it easy for you to educate all your local target audiences. Create a space on your website to offer facts about the value of building new homes with fire sprinklers and link to the HFSC website. Upload videos and other content, and post cards to your social media accounts. When it comes to home fire safety, these and other related activities are a great way to raise awareness of the life-saving technology of home fire sprinklers. Find this and other related information at HomeFireSprinkler.org where the site is free of advertising and all content is free to you. 

Home Fire Sprinklers Overcome Many Challenges, Improving Communities for Life

In Millersville, TN recently, growing concerns about fire department emergency response times and gaps in fire hydrant spacing led to an ordinance requiring fire sprinkler installation in new construction of single-family and townhome structures. This small, suburban city’s decision will improve public safety on many levels for decades to come. It deserves to be replicated. This latest ordinance also shines a light on just one of the fire service challenges home fire sprinklers can overcome. Emergency response can be a problem for departments of all sizes and types, rural and urban. In most communities today, fire service personnel are all-hazard public safety providers. On any given shift, they may be responding to false alarms, motor vehicle accidents, hazardous materials, and medical calls. Regardless of how many apparatus or personnel a department has, firefighters can’t be in two places at once. And however good a department’s typical response time is, that time can be dragged out by unforeseen circumstances ― think flooding, train derailments, even apparatus crashes. Home fires are a significant problem in every community. Three quarters of all civilian fire deaths occur there. Installed home fire sprinklers are game-changers for any fire department. In an unprotected house, flashover can occur in as little as two minutes or less. This kind of life-or-death emergency demands full-scale fire department response. And considering the damage after just two minutes, their response will include putting water on the fire with lines that spray 150-200 gallons per minute. A house fire with sprinklers is different. The sprinkler closest to the flames responds automatically, controlling the fire and smoke or even extinguishing it – with a fraction of the water required for an unsprinklered house fire. That fast and automatic action prevents flashover from occurring and limits the amount and spread of toxic smoke. If the home is occupied, fire sprinklers provide people and their pets extra time to escape safely. The fire department still responds to sprinklered home fires of course, but a controlled or extinguished fire can be properly managed with fewer personnel, freeing up others to address emergencies elsewhere. Ordinances like Millersville’s are occurring slowly, but steadily, and for good reason. Scottsdale, AZ’s home fire sprinkler requirement set the bar more than three decades ago. It proved then, and continues to prove today, that fire sprinklers save lives. It’s also shown there’s really no downside to requiring sprinklers, as more than half the homes in Scottsdale are now protected with fire sprinklers. The bottom line? Home fire sprinklers are one community risk reduction strategy that can help any fire department in any community. Sprinklered homes protect against emergency response time challenges as well as common residential challenges today, like greater density and closer proximity, lightweight new-construction material, limited rural water supply, steep grades, narrow roads and limited fire service personnel, to name a handful. And while we’re at it, look beyond public safety to the ways home fire sprinklers help protect the environment. When sprinklers are present in a home fire, they cut greenhouse gases, reduce water usage and minimize pollution. In fact, since 2010, FM Global calculated that home fire sprinklers would have reduced gas emissions by 97 percent. So kudos to the City of Millersville. And kudos to you if you’re working on an ordinance in your own community. Free educational resources on a range of home fire sprinkler topics are available to you on demand from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.   

Latest Articles