FEATURED ARTICLE

Research: Tell Us What You Need

If you are a firefighter, have you ever wondered how the industry is attacking the increased rates of cancer among firefighters or how to safely extinguish an electric vehicle fire? As a fire sprinkler designer, do you ever wonder how the tables in the storage chapters of NFPA 13 are continuously evolving to push the limits to protect more diverse commodities and taller storage arrangements? Or how “they” figure out whether I need to install a sprinkler above my cloud ceiling? As a building owner, or someone who works in the electrical word, what are the appropriate fire mitigation solutions for photovoltaic systems installed on building roofs? These examples are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the challenging problems the fire protection community faces daily. Fortunately, many issues are often analyzed with resolution through the NFPA research affiliate, the Fire Protection Research Foundation. So how is the Fire Protection Research Foundation aware of fire protection industry concerns?  Each year the Foundation reviews project ideas that are submitted by YOU and others who share in interest in protecting people and property! Research requests do not need to be tied to a specific code or standard. In fact, here are a few examples of requests and affiliated reports that are not directly related to a code or standard: Literature Review on Spaceport Fire Safety Wildfire Risk Reduction: Engaging Local Officials Hazard Assessment of Lithium Ion Batteries used in Energy Storage Systems (ESS) Bear in mind, no project is too small (literature reviews, code comparisons, loss summaries) or too large (full scale fire testing). We take on large and limited projects - and anything in between! Not sure what research needs to be done, but you feel something must be done. Maybe a workshop (research planning meeting) can help? So please, if you have any research needs to thread the needle or solve a problem, simply submit a project idea form here by December 31, 2020!

NFPA Today

Sprinkler Supervision: What Does it Mean?

Automatic Sprinklers have proven to be highly effective over the years. Recent statistics show that sprinklers operated 92% of the time in fires that were considered large enough to activate sprinklers. The leading cause of sprinklers failing to operate is because the sprinkler system had been shut off. In fact, that is the reason cited in three out of every five incidents where sprinklers failed to operate according to the U.S. Experience with Sprinklers Report. One way to prevent shut-off of sprinkler systems is through sprinkler supervision. What is sprinkler supervision and why is it necessary? A sprinkler system has a number of control and isolation valves which allow portions of the system to be shut down for things like maintenance, testing, or rehabilitation work. These valves allow for the rest of the system to remain operational while the necessary work is completed in a specific area. It isn’t uncommon to see a main control valve which controls water to the entire system as well as a floor control valve on every floor. This way, if rehabilitation work is happening on the second floor, the isolation valve on the second floor can be closed and that portion of the system can be worked on. The system would remain operational on the remaining floors. While the benefit of being able to isolate certain parts of the system is obvious, there can be risks associated with it. Valves can remain shut after the work is complete, or, valves can be accidentally, or intentionally, shut thus rendering portions of the system useless. This is where sprinkler supervision is important. Sprinkler supervision is intended to ensure the overall integrity of the piping system by providing a method to verify all control and isolation valves are fully open. What does supervision mean in NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems? NFPA 13 provides the designer with options of how to monitor the isolation and control valves. The options are: Electrical supervision that reports to either Central station, proprietary, or remote station signaling service Local signaling service that will cause the sounding of an audible signal at a constantly attended point Valves locked in the correct position Valves located within fenced enclosures under the control of the owner, sealed in the open position, and inspected weekly as part of an approved procedure If you want to learn more about NFPA 13 and sprinkler supervision, check out this article. Any of the above means of supervision is acceptable per NFPA 13 for all valves except floor control valves in high-rise buildings and valves controlling flow to sprinklers in circulating closed loop systems. In those two special cases, NFPA 13 requires that those valves be electrically supervised. What does supervision mean in NFPA 101, Life Safety Code and NFPA 1, Fire Code? The Life Safety Code does not provide the designer the same options for supervision that NFPA 13 does. Instead, the Life Safety Code requires that all supervised sprinkler systems be electrically supervised. The supervisory signal must be reported either at a location within the protected building that is constantly attended by qualified personnel or at an approved, remotely located receiving facility. It is important to note, that there are instances where the Life Safety Code does not require electrical supervision and instead permits supervision in accordance with NFPA 13. In these cases, such as what is seen in the extinguishment requirements for existing mercantile occupancies, the Life Safety Code requires an “approved automatic sprinkler system” in specified locations. Since the word “supervised” is not included, the electrical supervision requirements specific to the Life Safety Code do not apply, and the sprinkler system is permitted to be supervised in accordance with NFPA 13. Since the Fire Code extracts the automatic sprinkler system provisions from the Life Safety Code, the same requirements for electrical supervision apply to any sprinkler system that is required to be supervised by the Fire Code. Why is there a difference? Not all Codes require electrical supervision like the Life Safety Code and Fire Code do. For instance, NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code, only requires electrical supervision when specifically called for, otherwise any form of supervision permitted by NFPA 13 is acceptable. The electrical supervision required by the Life Safety Code is a vital component. In many cases, by providing a supervised automatic sprinkler system, other modifications to building design are permitted. For example, in most occupancies, a sprinklered building is permitted to have a longer travel distance and a longer common path of travel when electrically supervised. Other trade-offs include different allowable construction types or reduced fire resistance rating of fire barriers. NFPA 13 also recognizes the improved reliability of electrically supervised sprinkler systems through trade-offs like the Life Safety Code does. One example is that, when determining the water supply duration requirements for hydraulically calculated systems, the lower duration values are permitted to be used where the waterflow alarm devices and supervisory devices are electrically supervised. This means that for an ordinary hazard occupancy, the water supply duration for an electrically supervised system would be permitted to be 60 minutes instead of 90 minutes. These types of allowances found in NFPA 13 and the Life Safety Code, are based on the assumption that the automatic sprinkler system is going to perform as expected. To increase the probability of this occurring, electrical supervision is required so that any time a valve is closed, somebody, either a qualified person on site or an approved remotely located receiving facility is made aware of the system impairment.
Reconditioned equipment

Three Key Questions Facility Managers Need to Address to Help Assess Whether Electrical Equipment Should be Reconditioned or Replaced

Electrical equipment has been a staple of U.S. manufacturing since the early days of the industrial revolution. Along with the early adoption of electric light and power in America came the early adoption of fixing broken equipment. We have all heard the quote that the only two guarantees in life are death and taxes, right? Well, that quote might have been made a little too early in our country’s history. I think we can agree that a third guarantee is that inevitably, electrical equipment will break down at some point. Whether we are talking about a motor with lots of moving parts or a busway that just carries electrons from point A to point B, electrical equipment eventually wears out. So, what do we do when this truth eventually comes to pass? Well, we can certainly tear out the old equipment, bring in the latest and greatest shiny new contraption that engineers have built and be back up and running in a jiffy, with all new state of the art electrical equipment that has us meeting production once again. New replacement is certainly an option to consider but the first question to ask ourselves is, is it the best option? I can’t answer that with certainty, but I do know I follow up the question with, “Is new equipment the only option?” The answer I hear is most often a resounding “No!” One option that has been the subject of a lot of discussion lately is the option to have broken or worn equipment sent out to an outfit that specializes in restoring equipment to its original “new” condition. This option is what has been referred to as “reconditioned equipment.” Now, I put the word “new” in quotation marks because it isn’t actually a new piece of equipment. Here is the definition from Article 100 of NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code® (NEC®) that helps us understand what “reconditioned” really means: Electromechanical systems, equipment, apparatus, or components that are restored to operating conditions. This process differs from normal servicing of equipment that remains within a facility, or replacement of listed equipment on a one-to-one basis. (CMP-10) Informational Note: The term reconditioned is frequently referred to as rebuilt, refurbished, or remanufactured. So, the concept is, the equipment, which has either become non-operational or is about to break down, is sent off to a vendor who will go through it and essentially bring everything back to as close to original as possible. This is a different process that another option, which would be to contract a company to come into your facility and find out why the equipment no longer works, what parts are broken or worn, replace those parts, and turn it back on. That option would be more of a normal servicing of the equipment that fixes it in place. The second question we need to ask is, “When would a facility choose reconditioned equipment as the answer?” In true NEC fashion, the answer is, it depends! There are a lot of variables that go into deciding if reconditioned equipment is the best route to go or even if it is permitted to be installed. A facility might choose to install reconditioned equipment for a multitude of reasons, such as: the existing equipment is no longer available as new the existing equipment is a part of the aesthetics of the building the reconditioned option is more cost effective to the project These are just a few examples of why someone might choose reconditioned equipment. There are certainly many, many more reasons out there to pick from should you ever find yourself in that position. The third question a facility must ask is, does the NEC permit a reconditioned version of whatever your broken equipment is to be installed? This was the focus of much of the discussion around the 2020 NEC revision cycle. In fact, I had a chance recently talk to a great friend and CMP-6 member, Christel Hunter, who was on the front lines of the reconditioned discussions, about what the revisions to the 2020 NEC mean to the electrical world, and the revisions centered around what can and cannot be installed as reconditioned equipment. Watch the video on our NEC Facebook page.      For facilities, this helps provide some insight to what types of equipment will be allowed for installation, which then helps them decide whether to replace what they have with new equipment, used equipment, reconditioned equipment, or some other option. The last thing to take into consideration here is the understanding that we are no longer dealing with a new piece of equipment once it has been reconditioned. Because it is no longer new, the NEC is going to require that a label or marking is affixed to the equipment that identifies the outfit that performed the reconditioning, and if the original equipment carried the mark of a third-party listing agency, that mark must be removed. This then opens the discussion around whether a field evaluation is now required. In many cases, the AHJ is going to require that if the original equipment was required to be listed, the reconditioned equipment be evaluated as well. This also points to the importance of using credible reconditioning companies. The field evaluation body is also going to want to know that the equipment was rebuilt by a company with the qualification to do such work. It is inevitable that legacy equipment will fail at some point and the owner of this equipment might be faced with an issue where they can no longer procure parts to fix the problem. It is important that these facility owners fully understand the ins and outs of what is required for safety when it comes to utilizing reconditioned equipment. The safety of their employees, business, and bottom line might just depend on it. The good news here is that there are many resources out there to help in this process. In addition to NFPA, organizations such as UL and the Professional Electrical Apparatus Reconditioning League (PEARL) have resources at the ready to help guide this decision-making process. To follow this evolving conversation, subscribe to our newsletter and select the “electrical” topic as an area of interest. You’ll get all the latest NFPA news related to electrical safety, which in turn will help you stay connected to safety. After all, it’s a big world, let’s protect it together!

Fire Break

HIZ Class26 TX 2015

FEMA's Fire Prevention & Safety Grant to support creation of a digital wildfire risk reduction program

To meet the needs of homeowners and business owners at risk from wildfire, and the fire departments that serve them, NFPA will develop a digital wildfire safety hub containing online learning modules, 3D simulations, educational videos, and other essential resources, all thanks to a generous FEMA grant. The Fire Prevention & Safety Grant was awarded to NFPA for a two-year project to transform its classroom-based wildfire risk reduction training into a comprehensive digital learning experience that reaches millions of Americans living and working in the wildland/urban interface (WUI). While the past few years of devastating wildfires in California have captured national attention, it's not only California communities that are vulnerable. The recently released Wildfire Risk to Communities data shows that 24 states, nearly half outside the Western U.S., have a significant risk to homes.With nearly 44 million properties identified as vulnerable to the impacts of wildfires nationwide, the potential for future structure damage and loss is enormous. NFPA chose a digital experiential approach to ensure the widest possible dissemination and implementation of critical wildfire mitigation measures to these high-risk areas. The project will be conducted in partnership with the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), an independent, nonprofit, scientific research and communications organization, and overseen by a technical advisory panel of experts. NFPA will develop three curricula: one each for homeowners, business owners/property managers, and fire service and public safety personnel. Each will provide the appropriate knowledge for each audience regarding WUI fire mitigation practices, using interactive web-based training and engaging simulations in a 3D virtual environment. The experiential training modules and additional tools will be readily available, along with NFPA's rich wildfire safety content, on the planned website hub. NFPA believes the courses and tools we will build with the support of this grant will help spur much needed risk-reduction measures at the property and neighborhood levels, buoying the voluntary efforts of residents and firefighters who engage in fire adaptation including NFPA's Firewise USA Recognition Program and its annual Wildfire Community Preparedness Day campaign. Image: An in-person classroom training, Assessing Structure Ignition Potential from Wildfire. The new training and resources will use the information and knowledge this class is based on to expand NFPA's wildfire safety education to millions of Americans through digital delivery.

Revisiting the home ignition zone: the intermediate 5-30 feet

The home ignition zone (HIZ) is the foundation NFPA has built its wildfire preparedness programs and resources on.  A concept coined by retired USFS researcher Dr. Jack Cohen, the basic premise of the HIZ is that the condition of the home (what it is made of and its state of repair) and the vegetation surrounding it, out to 100 feet, have the biggest influence on whether or not a home will ignite from a wildfire.  It is broken down into three areas of concern, the immediate, intermediate, and extended.  Previously we learned about the immediate 0-5 feet, today we'll cover the 5-30 foot zone. The Intermediate Zone is 5-30 feet from the furthest exterior point of the home.  While the 0-5 foot focuses on eliminating combustible material, this area is all about spacing and maintenance, making sure there isn't continuous vegetation all around the home.  It uses landscaping and breaks (areas of non-combustible materials such as dirt, cement, or rock) to help influence and decrease fire behavior.  When looking at a home or group of homes, here are items to consider:       Are there fuel breaks such as driveways, walkways/paths, patios, and decks? Are lawns and native grasses maintained? General recommendation is a height of 4 inches. Is vegetation in this area spread out? It is recommended that trees and shrubs should be limited to small clusters of a few each to break up continuity; trees should be spaced to a minimum of 18 feet between crowns. Have ladder fuels (vegetation under trees) been removed so a surface fire cannot reach the crowns?  Have trees been pruned? General recommendations are up to 6 to 10 feet from the ground; for shorter trees, do not exceed 1/3 of the overall tree height.  Are plants, trees, and lawns watered to keep them from becoming dry?  There is potential for a lot of work needed in this area, but don't get overwhelmed.  Take stock of what you have, prioritize tasks - maybe put some easy wins first, and keep chipping away.  Our preparing homes for wildfire page has excellent tips to help you on your way. This intermediate zone presents an opportunity for overlap with adjacent properties.  As you work on projects, consider reaching out to your neighbors to collaborate and leverage resources.  Sign up for NFPA Network to stay up to date with the latest news and information on key wildfire issues. You can also follow me on twitter @meganfitz34 more wildfire-related topics.   As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA's response to the coronavirus, pleasevisit our webpage.

Safety Source

A fire and cup of hot chocolate

Engaging your Community to Prepare for Winter Fire Safety

On Monday, November 16, the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) hosted a live Facebook event featuring ways for Fire & Life Safety (FLS) Educators to reach their communities with life saving winter fire safety information and resources.  Promoting winter safety isn’t anything new, however the impacts of COVID-19 have created new challenges in connecting with our communities.   Moderated by Michael McLeieer of the Michigan State Firemen’s Association, the event focused on key fire & home safety risks during the winter months and innovative ways to connect communities with education and resources.  From cooking to heating to electrical to candles and decorations, I along with co-panelists Teresa Neal, Fire Program Specialist of the US Fire Administration, and Blaise Harris, Fire and Life Safety Educator of the Rocky Mount Fire Department in North Carolina, answered a variety of questions related to how FLS educators can package and promote fire safety.  “One thing is for sure,” says Harris, “this virtual environment isn’t going anywhere. Even when we are able to be in a room together again, we will still be using technology.”  Getting comfortable and partnering with those who have the skills using the various platforms is key to staying relevant and staying connected.  “Reach out to your day care and pre-schools,” suggests Neal, adding, “this is a great way to send home materials like home safety checklists, home escape planning sheets and other materials.”  While many schools and organizations may be closed to the public, take advantage of what is still operating to partner and use as a vehicle to deliver your educational messages. “Collaborate and learn from each other,” says McLeieer, promoting participation in the Fire Life Safety Educators and Coordinators Facebook Group, an open forum to share, ask, and learn.  Taking advantage of local and national webinars and virtual conferences for professional development will continue to a need and the norm for FLS educators to keep up with a changing world. Other ideas generated from the conversation included: Partnering with your local library to host virtual education sessions and support outreach, Partnering with local take out and deliver services to incorporate educational materials for home safety, Use of all social media platform – YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to both create repetition of messaging and reach a variety of demographics in your community, Use good, credible resources like those from NFPA and USFA to assure up to date, relevant and accurate information, Use the NFPA Educational Messaging Desk Reference A recording of the event is available for those who missed it.  Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis and follow NFPA on Twitter, Facebook  and Instagram to keep up with the latest from the Public Education Division at NFPA.

Keep fire safety top of mind when preparing your feast this Thanksgiving, the peak day for U.S. home cooking fires

Keep cooking safety top of mind when preparing this year’s Thanksgiving feast! According to our latest Home Cooking Fires report, Thanksgiving was the peak day for U.S. home cooking fires in 2018; the day before Thanksgiving was the second-leading day (tied with Christmas Day). Cooking is the leading cause of U.S. home and home fire injuries year-round, and the second-leading cause of home fire deaths.   Between 2014 and 2018, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 1,630 home cooking fires on Thanksgiving Day, three and half times an average day. Unattended cooking was by far the leading cause of associated fires and fire deaths.  Thanksgiving often involves cooking multiple dishes at once, which can be particularly tricky with lots of distractions in and around the kitchen. From getting ready for guests and managing family needs to entertaining when everyone arrives – these types of activities make it all too easy to lose track of what’s cooking, and that’s when cooking fires tend to happen. Because of the pandemic, many people will likely choose to celebrate the holiday in smaller groups, which may mean more kitchens being used to cook Thanksgiving meals. Regardless of group size, there will still be lots of the usual cooking and distractions that contribute to a sharp increase in cooking fires on and around Thanksgiving. NFPA offers these tips and recommendations for cooking safely: 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, or other items in the oven, stay in your home and check on it regularly. Set a timer on your stove or phone 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 away from direct contact with the cooking area. Avoid long sleeves and hanging fabrics that could 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 a grease 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 three feet away from the stove and areas where hot food or drink is being prepared or served. Steam or spills from these items can cause severe burns. In addition, NFPA strongly discourages the use of turkey fryers, as these can lead to severe burns, injuries, and property damage. For a safe alternative, NFPA recommends grocery stores, food retailers, and restaurants that sell deep-fried turkey. Share our Thanksgiving safety tip sheet with your community to help minimize the likelihood of home cooking fires and visit our website for additional Thanksgiving statistics and resources.

Fire Sprinkler Initiative

MM13

Mythblaster Monday 13: Mythblasting Roundup

We know that new homes are commonly made with lightweight construction and modern, often synthetic furnishings that can lead home fires to create a toxic environment and burn more quickly than in the past. Home fire sprinklers protect occupants and property by controlling the fire before first responders arrive, but misinformation can keep people from taking advantage of them. Over the course of our Mythblaster Monday series, we have combatted several different myths and shared resources highlighting the features, facts, and advantages. A recent report on home structure fires found that the presence of sprinklers lowered the death rate for home fires by 85 percent, compared to home fires without an automatic extinguishing system (AES), and in 90 percent of cases, one sprinkler is enough to control the fire. This benefit to fire & life safety cannot be overstated and increasing home fire sprinkler installations requires a combined effort from first responders, developers, local officials, and other stakeholders. Here's a breakdown of all the myths we have blasted away, in case you missed it: Myth 1: I have smoke alarms, so I don't need home fire sprinklers. Truth: Smoke alarms detect, sprinklers protect. Myth 2: Home Fire Sprinkler installation is too expensive. Truth: Average fire sprinklers cost $1.35 per square foot of sprinklered space in new construction Myth 3: The fire department will be able to put out the fire and save my things. Fact: Fire departments may not be able to get to your home for 9-12 minutes—plenty of time for a fire to grow to be deadly and cause massive damages. Myth 4: Sprinklers don't benefit the environment Fact: Fire hoses, on average, use eight-and-a-half times more water than sprinklers do to contain a fire. Myth 5: Water damage from sprinklers is worse than fire damage Fact: Sprinkler flows are 10-26 gallons of water per minute. Sprinkler damage is a fraction of typical losses from an unsprinklered home fire. Myth 6: Smoke alarms cause fire sprinklers to activate. Fact: Home fire sprinklers are only activated by the high temperature of a fire surrounding the sprinkler. Myth 7: Home fire sprinklers require costly inspections and maintenance. Fact: It's easy--a flow test should be done a couple times a year. Myth 8: Sprinklers will leak. Fact: Sprinkler mishaps are generally less likely and less severe than home plumbing system problems. Myth 9: My insurance rates will go up. Fact: Most insurance companies reward customers who protect their homes with fire sprinklers Myth 10: If a community doesn't require home fire sprinklers, we can't ask builders to put them in. Fact: Even without a code requirement, local jurisdictions can work with developers and builders on many possible incentives for including home fire sprinklers in construction. Myth 11: If one sprinkler goes off, they all go off Fact: Sprinklers activate independently; only the sprinkler closest to the fire will activate Myth 12: Sprinklers will freeze in winter. Fact: The national installation standard provides guidance for proper installation in cold regions so that sprinklers don't freeze. This series works as an introduction to the assets available to home fire sprinkler advocates. Be sure to visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Fire Sprinkler Initiative to find further materials regarding installation incentives, educational resources for the public, AHJs, and more.
winter home

Mythblaster Monday - Put the Freeze on this Myth about Home Fire Sprinklers in Winter

Throughout our Mythblaster Monday series, we have pointed to resources that identify the benefits of home fire sprinklers and help combat the misinformation that surrounds them. Last week we debunked a myth frequently perpetuated by Hollywood, the idea that when one fire sprinkler goes off, they all do. Today, we acknowledge a concern that advocates may hear more often as we move into the colder months of the year. Myth: Sprinklers will freeze in winter. Fact: The national installation standard provides guidance for proper installation in cold regions so that sprinklers don't freeze. Homeowners in colder climates are no stranger to the risk of freezing pipes, but they should not refuse the protection of home fire sprinklers based on the false assumption that their sprinklers will freeze. Home structure fires are more common in the cooler months, and recent research found that almost half (47 percent) of home structure fires and 56 percent of home structure fire deaths happened between November and March. NFPA 13D, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes, does not require sprinklers in certain areas of a home that might be prone to freezing pipes, since fires in those areas statistically do not lead to a large number of deaths or injuries. Additional information on freeze protection in sprinklers can be found on a dedicated page of the Fire Sprinkler Initiative. There is specific information for homebuilders. These fire service resources are hands-on tools that can also help communicate the facts to residents. While smoke alarms offer the early detection necessary to tell occupants to get out, home fire sprinklers begin controlling a fire as soon as one is detected, which is an invaluable benefit, especially for high-risk populations like children and older adults. As you consider outreach opportunities, take a look at these community tool kits, which make it easy to break down many of the major advantages of home fire sprinklers, with infographics, op-ed templates, and more. Looking to work with more news outlets in your area? Then you won't want to miss these practical tips for working with the media that include helpful talking points talking points. For more resources, visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Fire Sprinkler Initiative online.

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