Fire truck responding to a call

Research shows progress and problems since "America Burning"

"The striking aspect of the Nation’s fire problem is the indifference with which Americans confront the subject. Destructive fire takes a huge toll in lives, injuries, and property losses, yet there is no need to accept those losses with resignation. There are many measures--often very simple precautions-that can be taken to reduce those losses significantly.” Nearly 50 years ago, these salient words were reflected in the opening pages of America Burning, the historic report written in 1973 and revisited in 1980. Over the decades since the landmark account was published, I have heard countless people cite America Burning findings, point to the recommendations within, and talk about what the findings did for fire protection, fire prevention, and responder safety. I whole-heartedly agree that America Burning was a groundbreaking tool in our arsenal and yet, today, in arguably the most advanced nation in the world – nearly 3,000 people still succumb to house fires, not to mention in other occupancies. On the same page of that report, the authors wrote, “These statistics are impressive in their size, though perhaps not scary enough to jar the average American from his confidence that “It will never happen to me.” And therein lies the problem. Complacency. It’s a killer of people, of property, of perspective, and of progress. But as has often been said, knowledge is power. NFPA has spent the last 125 years, believing this tenet to be true and furthering understanding in the interest of safety. Our vision of eliminating death, injury, property, and economic loss due to fire, electrical, and related hazards is not merely a cliché, it is at the core of everything we do, everything that the America Burning report touched on back in the 70s and 80s, and served as the impetus for a new seminal report from NFPA and the Fire Protection Research Foundation, our research affiliate. The Fire in the United States Since 1980, Through the Lens of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem Report shows the progress we have achieved in reducing loss in certain structures; the strides we’ve made with fire protection technologies such as smoke alarms and sprinklers; the success that we have achieved through public education; and the positive effect that mandated codes and standards have played in altering the fire experience in our country. Today, we rarely see people perish in healthcare settings or hotels. Children are less likely to die from playing with fire. Fires in apartment buildings and hi-rise buildings have decreased. Our schools and the children, educators, and staff that occupy them are significantly safer. These are all positives that, in many ways, point to the components of the Ecosystem that we have been talking about for three years now. Yes, at NFPA, we look at safety through the lens of the Ecosystem – not because we developed this framework a few years back but - because after more than a century of championing safety, two America Burning studies and this new research from NFPA – it is abundantly clear that fire safety requires a holistic, purposeful approach, and unwavering accountability. That holistic, purposeful approach and unwavering accountability is what it’s going to take for us to move the needle on the most pressing fire safety issues of today. The new research reminds us: We need all the elements of the Ecosystem working together on Community Risk Reduction (CRR) strategies so that we can decrease the number of elderly dying in home fires. With roughly one of every three fatal home fire victims being 65 or older, more research and resources are needed to protect our most vulnerable citizens. That’s why our Data, Analytics and Research team and the Research Foundation work to inform our Remembering When program which educates communities on older adult fire and fall prevention. States with higher fire death rates have larger percentages of people who have a disability; have incomes below the poverty line; live in rural areas; or are populated by African Americans, Blacks, Native Americans, or Alaskan Natives. There is more work to do to reach those at greatest risk. We must stem the trend of wildfire-caused human and property losses. Wildfire is becoming the dominant type of fire that causes catastrophic multiple deaths and property destruction in our country. In fact, 7 of the 10 costliest fires in the US were fires in the wildland/urban interface. We launched our new Outthink Wildfire™ policy campaign to advocate change around where and how we build and to bring together policy-makers, the fire service, and the public to work with all elements of the Ecosystem, so that we can redraft history and change the narrative. “Each one of us must become aware – not for a single time, but for all the year – of what he or she can do to prevent fires,” President Richard Nixon said in 1972. (The quote can be heard in the latest NFPA Learn Something New video about the new research.)   I urge you to use the knowledge in this new report to power your fire prevention and protection steps so, together, we can rewrite history.

NFPA Today


When are Sprinklers Required in Elevator Shafts and Machine Rooms?

Elevators are found in almost all new buildings that are greater than one story. While they certainly provide a convenient and accessible means for traveling up and down through a building they also create vertical openings in a building, increasing the potential for the spread of fire and smoke. There are many fire and life safety code provisions that mitigate this risk and permit elevators to be used without increasing the risk to occupants. This blog will focus on one aspect of this fire protection; whether or not fire sprinklers are required.  NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems is based on the general principle that sprinklers must be installed throughout a premises. This contributes to the standard’s purpose of providing a reasonable degree of protection for both life and property. However, there are certain concealed spaces and special situations, such as elevator hoistways and machine rooms where sprinkler protection can be omitted. The need for sprinklers is addressed for three different locations; at the bottom of the pit, at the top of the hoistway, and in the elevator machine room, machinery space, or control room. The images below demonstrate hydraulic elevators and traction elevators and show the different locations where the need for sprinklers must be evaluated. Note that sprinklers are shown in the pit and machine room of the hydraulic elevators as those are always required but the top of the hoistway for hydraulic elevators and the pit, top of hoistway, and machine room for traction elevators can also require sprinklers. Elevator Pit  Sidewall spray sprinklers are required to be installed at the bottom of each elevator hoistway at a maximum of 2 ft (600 mm) above the floor of the pit. The exemption to this is for hoistways that are enclosed, noncombustible, and do not contain combustible hydraulic fluid. This means that the majority of hydraulic type elevators will require this and traction type elevators need it only where the construction of the shaft is of combustible or limited-combustible material.     Top of Shaft  Sprinklers are permitted to be omitted from the top of the shaft where the hoistway is noncombustible or limited-combustible and the car enclosure materials meet the requirements of ASME A17.1, Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators. Any hoistway not meeting those requirements must have an upright, pendent, or sidewall spray sprinkler installed at the top.   Additionally, where elevators utilize combustible suspension means such as noncircular elastomeric-coated or polyurethane-coated steel belts, sprinklers must be provided unless the suspension means provide not less than an FT-1 rating when tested to a vertical burn test of UL 2556 and specific criteria are met.     Elevator Machine Room, Machinery Space, Control room, Control space  The machine rooms for hydraulic type elevators are required to be provided with sprinkler protection. For traction type elevators there are a number of provisions that can all be met in order to omit sprinklers from these spaces. These include the installation being in accordance with NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code® or the applicable building code as well as the space being dedicated to elevator equipment only, protection by smoke detectors or other automatic fire detection, separation from the rest of the building by construction with fire ratings specified by the applicable building code, and no materials unrelated to elevator equipment being stored in the space.     Other Consideration  While the provisions highlighted here from NFPA 13 are relatively straightforward there is added complexity of elevator codes as well as local amendments in many jurisdictions. ASME A17.1 does not permit water discharge in elevator shafts until electrical power to the elevator cab has been shut down. This situation necessitates some special arrangement, such as a shunt trip or a preaction system, to make sure that water does not flow in the elevator shaft until power shutdown has occurred.   Some jurisdictions will have special provisions that modify power shut down provision or they will not permit sprinklers at all out of concerns for first responders utilizing the elevator during a fire. It is also important to note that the discussion above is for buildings that require sprinkler protection per NFPA 13. If the building code does not require sprinkler protection based on occupancy, constructions type, size, or height then the elevator is also not required to be protected.    
Hatem Kheir, NFPA Board of Directors, Jim Pauley, NFPA President

Remembering NFPA Board member Hatem Kheir of Egypt and his contributions to life safety

“NFPA, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and the world have lost an incredible safety ambassador with the passing of NFPA Board member Hatem Kheir this week,” NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley said. “Hatem was the consummate safety professional. His mechanical engineering background, passion for reducing risk, professional collaborations, commitment to educating the young and at risk, and his quest to offer in-language solutions to stakeholders were unmatched. We are eternally grateful for his contributions over the years.” Hatem passed away this week, at the age of 62, after a brief illness. Hatem joined the NFPA Board of Directors in 2016 and was serving his second term at the time of his death. During his tenure, he was a member of the Governance & Nominating Committee and the newly formed Corporate Development Committee.   NFPA Board Chair Amy Acton said, “Hatem was interested in being an NFPA Board member because he felt it would help him serve Egypt and other developing countries to better understand the importance of fire protection. He embraced the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem™ and the opportunity to discuss safety with a long list of connections in the international marketplace.” Hatem was the owner and general manager of the Kheir Group based in Cairo, Egypt, a firm that specializes in supplying pumps, pumping services, and maintenance. He devoted 22 years to the standards development process, serving as a principal member on the Fire Pumps (FIM-AAA) technical committee that is responsible for the development of NFPA 20, Standard for the Installation of Stationary Pumps for Fire Protection.  Hatem was passionate about the proper use and application of NFPA codes and standards. With that in mind, he pioneered the first translation of NFPA documents into Arabic and worked to ensure that language was not a barrier to understanding and applying codes and standards. He believed wholeheartedly that we all play a role in safety and traveled all over the Middle East educating fire protection system users, firefighters, consultants, and engineers on how to select, install, test, and service fire pumps. He also devoted time to training and informing young engineers on the role that codes play in society and developed a study and education program for school-age children to help raise awareness of fire prevention and protection strategies.   Hatem helped launch the Egyptian Fire Protection Association so that government officials, companies, and workers were working holistically in the interest of safety; and until his death, served as Chairman of the Confederation of Fire Protection Association – International.  He worked with chamber of commerce leaders (American, British, Egyptian, and German), economic minds, fire protection industry groups, industrial engineering professionals, and those interested in culture development efforts throughout his career and was a founding member of the NFPA MENA Advisory Council.  Heartfelt condolences go out to Hatem’s wife Iman, his children, in-laws, grandchildren, and all who loved and admired him. His legacy will live on in the work that we do each day to reduce risk. 

Fire Break

A wildfire burning at night

Maintaining vigilance through the 2021 fire year

The 2021 fire year is halfway through, and it has been a busy one so far. As of today, the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) reports over 32,000 fires had been reported, burning over 1.6 million acres.  Communities have been threatened and homes have been lost. Looking forward, the National Interagency Fire Center’s (NIFC’s) Predictive Services newest National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for July, August, September, and October 2021 shows much of the west above normal wildfire potential. This is setting up for a volatile situation. While the main objective of NIFC’s outlook is to improve information to fire management decision makers for proactive wildland fire management, thus better protecting lives and property, reducing firefighting costs and improving firefighting efficiency; it can also be of use to wildfire preparedness practitioners and residents. The outlook reminds us to be proactive, dedicating time throughout the year to improve your home's chances of withstanding a wildfire. Here are a few actions you can take: Clean out leaves, needles, and other debris from your roof and gutters Move any flammable material away from wall exteriors – mulch, flammable plants, leaves and needles, firewood piles – anything that can burn. Remove anything stored underneath decks or porches. Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating Create space between plants, trees and shrubs in the 5-30 foot zone from the house, limit to small clusters of a few of each to break up the continuity of the vegetation across the landscape. For more ideas on what steps to take around your home and property visit our Preparing Homes for Wildfires Page.  You can also order a package of our Reducing Wildfire Risks in the Home Ignition Zones Poster checklists to share with your friends and neighbors.
A wildfire in the hills

Just the facts: fireworks pose special dangers this holiday season

Americans celebrate July 4 with many traditions, including fireworks, to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence by representatives of 13 British colonies to break away from England and form a new nation. We love and cherish our holiday traditions, but unfortunately, conditions in many states make our use of fireworks especially dangerous and deadly this year. Deaths and injuries from consumer fireworks occur every year, and so do brush, grass and forest fires. The challenge is clear. Hot, dry weather and ongoing drought in many states add up to an ominous outlook for wildfire ignitions this summer. As one of my favorite Founding Fathers once said, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." John Adams, first U.S. vice-president and second U.S. president, wasn’t referring to the statistics related to fireworks, but his words certainly apply when confronting our national wish to celebrate as usual in the face of overwhelming evidence of the risks to people, lands, and property. Did you know that the 4th and 5th of July are the peak days for wildfire incidents? Local fire departments respond to more than 7,000 wildfires on those days, on average. NFPA’s latest Brush, Grass, and Forest Fires report show annual averages for July 4 incidents at five times the daily average.  In addition, a recent fire science study on the impacts of human-ignited wildfires on U.S. homes notes the singularity of early July in terms of human-caused wildfire. The report concludes that, “People are starting almost all of the wildfires that threaten our homes.” In addition to wildfires that threaten lives, property, and challenge the ability of firefighters in drought-stricken regions to readily suppress them, fireworks do damage every year to people – one-third of whom are children. In 2018, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 9,100 people for fireworks-related injuries. More than a third of those injuries were to the eye or other parts of the head. Sadly, in 2020, fireworks injuries sent an estimated 15,600 people to the hospital, with more injuries seen last year than in the previous 15 years. Many fire scientists and land managers are so dismayed by these facts and the severe current wildfire conditions that they are circulating a sign-on statement pleading with the public to forego fireworks this July 4th. NFPA’s position has long been that the use of consumer fireworks is inherently unsafe. Recent changes to laws which have loosened the restriction on sales of more powerful pyrotechnics to the public intensifies our view. Get the facts, as well as fun alternatives to fireworks to celebrate our nation’s birthday this coming week on NFPA’s Fireworks page. Help your family enjoy the celebration while staying out of the emergency room and keeping your neighbors safer from accidental wildfire ignitions.

Safety Source


Fireworks education remains a priority all summer long

NFPA’s stance on fireworks is clear and to the point – “Leave fireworks in the hands of the professionals.” Whether or not your state/province allows the use of consumer fireworks, fireworks pose too significant a risk to use them “safely.” Many people will ask, “but what about Sparklers – they’re safe aren’t they?”  And the qualified answer is “No.” Consider that water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius), and that Sparklers reach nearly six times that - 1200 degrees Fahrenheit (649 degrees C)! A new report from fireworks-related incidents in 2020, compared to 2019. Highlights from this 2020 special report include: At least 18 people died from fireworks-related incidents in 2020, compared to 12 reported for the previous year. About 15,600 people were treated in hospital emergency departments for fireworks injuries in 2020. There were about 10,000 ER-treated fireworks injuries in 2019. Firecrackers were the biggest source of Emergency Room treated fireworks injuries (1,600) followed by sparklers (900). Approximately 75 percent of the victims were treated at the hospital emergency department and then released. An estimated 21 percent of patients were treated and transferred to another hospital or admitted to the hospital. What does that mean for 2021?  As the month of July wraps up, it is important for Fire & Life Safety (FLS) educators to continue to educate on the dangers of consumer fireworks and promote alternatives that are safe and fun to enjoy the summer months that won’t cause burns, injuries, and trips to the hospital. NFPA’s Fireworks Safety Education page contains infographics, social media cards, videos, and relevant messaging to support your fire and burn prevention efforts and promote safe and healthy communities. Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis and NFPA on Twitter,  Facebook, and Instagram to keep up with the latest from the Public Education Division.

There’s a lot to learn from our peers for how to have a successful Fire Prevention Week!

Join us for the free Fire Prevention Week (FPW):  Kickstart your 2021 campaign! Webinar, Thursday, July 29th from 2:00 – 3:15 p.m. Eastern Time to learn all about this year’s FPW theme “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety” and how you can engage your community in fire & burn prevention.  Learn from the experts – your peers in Fire & Life Safety (FLS) education - the keys to a great social media campaign, and how you can plan for transitioning back to in person/hybrid learning. Get updates on smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarm technology, proper messaging, free resources, and how to assure inclusion of people who are deaf and hard of hearing into this year’s FPW efforts. The webinar features: Andrea Vastis and Kelly Ransdell with NFPA Monica Colby, Fire & Life Safety Educator, Rapid City Fire Department, SD Brene Duggins, Fire Prevention Coordinator, Holly Grove, NC Fire Department and media coordinator of the Oak Grove High School in Davidson County, NC Ashley Rodrigue, Public Affairs Director, Louisiana State Fire Marshal's Office This year’s FPW campaign, “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety!” works to educate people about the different sounds the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms make and to insure they know what to do when an alarm makes a “chirp,” or alarm sound.  Check out to download our toolkit with pre-formatted social media cards, innovative ideas, FPW logos, and so much more! Register Today! for this valuable, free webinar to support your Fire Prevention Week efforts! Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis and NFPA on Twitter,  Facebook, and Instagram to keep up with the latest from the Public Education Division.

Fire Sprinkler Initiative

Sprinkler heads

Sustainable Home Improvement Magazine Article Emphasizes Value of Home Fire Sprinklers

House fires today are becoming increasingly dangerous and deadly, highlighting the necessity of home fire sprinkler units. According to an NFPA “Fire Loss in the United States During 2019” report, there were about 1.3 million fires requiring a response from a fire department. These fires led to approximately 8,800 injuries and 3,700 deaths. According to research, if someone reports a home fire, they are 15 percent more likely to die than they were 40 years ago. Today, fires burn faster and kill quicker in large part because “the contents of modern homes (such as furnishings) can burn faster and more intensely,” Richard Bukowski, a senior engineer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, was quoted as saying in Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) fact sheet. Fire sprinklers have been proven effective at controlling fires and would halt the growth of these statistics if they were widely used in homes. In a recent article from Rise, a leading online authority in sustainable home improvement, Sheri Koones wrote about why fire sprinklers are so effective. “When there is a fire in the house, a sprinkler can respond almost immediately, reducing the amount of damage caused by the fire and potentially saving the lives of the residents,” she said. This is extremely important as she noted later in the article that “it usually takes the fire department between five and 10 minutes to arrive at the home.” HFSC states that fire flashover takes place within the first three to five minutes of the fire based on national averages. Fire sprinkler systems can control a fire even before firefighters arrive on the scene. According to the graph below from NFPA,  the death rates from fires in homes with a sprinkler system is significantly lower than those without. However, from 2010-2014, fire sprinkler systems were only found in seven percent of all home fires, according to NFPA. Even though fire sprinkler systems have been proven extremely effective, people still have many misconceptions about them. In her article, Koones lists some of the most common ones and disproves them: Smoke will activate fire sprinklers. Koones is quick to show that this is false, writing that “the sprinklers are activated by heat, not smoke.”  When there is a fire, all the sprinklers in the house are activated. “Only the sprinkler closest to the fire is activated by the heat,” Koones says. “This localized activation confines the water to just the area where the fire is raging.” The sprinklers may not look aesthetically pleasing. “Home fire sprinklers are far less conspicuous compared to older commercial sprinklers. You can install pendants or concealed sprinklers on the ceiling or a wall. Concealed sprinklers have a plate. Some can be panted by the sprinkler manufacturer to match the room’s colors,” Koones states. To read the full article, visit Also, visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition website to get information and resources to help you in your efforts to communicate the value of sprinkler technology and the need for more home installations to save more lives.
Dr. Joe, burn survivor

Phoenix Society Brings Burn Survivor Voice Forward to Advocate for Fire Prevention and the Life-Saving Benefits of Fire Sprinklers

Today, fires in one- and two-family homes are more dangerous than ever, and the latest statistics prove just how frightening the situation is: 1 fatality in a U.S. home fire every 3:10 hours 65 percent of fire deaths are in home fires 8,800 civilian injuries $6.4 billion in direct property damage 67 percent of firefighter injuries are the result of fighting structure fires Firefighters are 11 times more likely to be injured fighting structure fires (than any other call they respond to) Add it all up and the picture becomes clear: home fire sprinklers can and must play a key role in saving lives and reducing property loss. But it takes more than just statistics to move people to action. Behind all the data and numbers are real people whose lives have been forever changed because of a tragedy due to fire. It’s these stories that bring into view the full impact of what fire can do to an individual, his/her family and friends, and a community. Joining Lorraine Carli this week in an interview for the HFSC 25th anniversary video series to discuss the emotional and human side to the fire story is Amy Acton, CEO of the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, whose organization is committed to the sprinkler issue. “The best treatment of a burn injury is preventing it in the first place,” says Amy, herself an advocate for fire sprinklers. “When the Phoenix Society first got involved in prevention work it made sense to bring the survivor voice forward. While data gives us the “why,” it’s the survivors and the loved ones of people who have suffered or perished in a fire who bring that “why” home in a deeper and more emotional way. We want people to understand these injuries are devastating not only physically and emotionally, but financially, too.” The Phoenix Society works with first responders and members of the fire service, researchers, burn care professionals, burn survivors and their families, all of whom are committed to empowering the burn community by sharing their experiences and stories with us. Amy and Lorraine both agree that burn survivors have been instrumental in advocating for the need for home fire sprinklers to prevent home fire tragedies from happening to others. “Burn survivors learn early on about perseverance,” Amy continues. “I think we bring a lot of perseverance to this effort. Survivors feel a sense of purpose from their experience; they’re committed to working on prevention with others. Together we can move the needle forward on change.” Listen to this engaging interview with Amy and Lorraine to learn more the Phoenix Society, its work with burn survivors, and their support of HFSC:  In the past few years, the Phoenix Society and NFPA have collaborated on many important initiatives that speak to the personal side of fire. Learn more about them: Faces of Fire campaign, which features stories of people impacted by fire and demonstrates the need for home fire sprinklers. Faces of Fire/electrical campaign, which shares stories of people impacted by electrical incidents and demonstrates the need for continued education and awareness about electrical hazards both on the job and at home. The Survivors, a multi-part podcast series that takes an extensive look at a Wyoming family who experienced the unthinkable when a home fire killed two of their children. Please join NFPA, the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, and the Phoenix Society in advancing this important life safety message. Free materials about the benefits of home fire sprinklers are available to download and use> for outreach efforts. Visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition website for more If you missed any of the previous interviews, find the full 25th anniversary video series on HFSC’s website.  

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