NFPA Today

Preparing for Safe Electrical Disaster Recovery During Hurricane Season Using NFPA 70B

Hurricane season is officially upon us. Although the period can often begin earlier and run later, June 1 through November 30 is  “hurricane season” as defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). When an impending hurricane is expected to reach landfall, the days prior can be chaotic as those who may be affected scramble to protect their homes and businesses as much as possible. Belongings are secured, windows and doors are boarded up to combat strong winds, and sandbags are placed as barriers to the forthcoming inrush of massive amounts of water. Preparedness is clearly the focus in driving the best possible outcome at a challenging time.   After the storm has subsided, the recovery process begins. But planning for recovery can, and should, happen well in advance of the hurricane ever showing up on radar screens. An important area to consider for recovery is electrical systems.   Electrical power is a key component in reestablishing normalcy for many areas recovering from a severe storm. However, before electrical systems can be brought back online, it must be verified that restoring power can be done safely and does not pose any additional risks. A great resource for establishing a plan for analyzing and making any necessary repairs to electrical systems during disaster recovery is Annex K of NFPA 70B, Standard for Electrical Equipment Maintenance. Although Annex K is not part of the specific requirements of NFPA 70B, it is an invaluable resource for those recovering from a catastrophic event. It lists and elaborates on 11 sequential event phases that should be addressed prior to returning an electrical system to operation post-event. Those disaster event phases are broken down as: 1.     Initial event 2.     Securing the facility to limit damage 3.     Mobilization of recovery personnel 4.     Developing a safety plan 5.     Temporary and emergency power generation 6.     Initial damage assessment 7.     Documentation 8.     Equipment 9.     Reenergization of the facility 10.  System commissioning 11.  Project summary Recovery necessity can be driven by natural disasters or human-made disasters. Fire, for example, is an event that can happen from a lightning strike (natural) or from arson (human made).  Natural events consist of floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes. Regardless of the cause of the event, there are commonalities in the types of damage that can occur to facilities. Structural damage is likely to occur during all events, although it may escalate during an earthquake. Water damage is common in floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes. But water damage also occurs regularly in fires where a significant amount of water is used to put the fire out. As is well understood, water and electricity do not mix, so special attention must be paid to electrical equipment that has been exposed to water before attempting to reenergize.   When the onset of an event like a hurricane is inevitable, the preparation leading up to it can influence how much recovery is needed. Securing the facility properly can help offset the amount of damage that is done. Boarding up windows and doors as well as placing sandbags to try and stop water are all helpful and commonly done in preparation. There are also electrical-specific preparation steps that should be considered, such as deenergizing equipment as well as elevating or removing critical equipment altogether.   Personnel to assist with recovery are a key part of the equation, and a plan to engage those who are needed to help must be put in place well in advance. Both in-house personnel and outsourced personnel should be considered as part of the recovery plan. Companies that offer their services for recovery can be contracted with ahead of time in order to ensure they are available when the need arises. It is also important to keep in mind, especially when it comes to electrical work, the need for qualified persons to perform specific work. The determination of the need for a qualified person is based on the specific task being performed. If a particular task requires a qualified person, that need must be met whether or not the laborer is supplied in house or by an outsourced contractor. So, it is important to verify that any company that is contracted with has qualified individuals on staff.   A site-specific safety plan should be in place before any potential disaster occurs. The plan should include typical electrical safety items such as lockout/tagout (LOTO), test before touch, application of safety grounds, and proper personal protective equipment (PPE). Because a disaster can introduce new safety concerns, there are also other safety considerations that need to be addressed and integrated into the safety plan, such as air quality, structural issues to the facility, and any potential chemical or biohazard spill. It is likely that there will be other unique, site-specific hazards that arise that personnel must be aware of, as well as any additional PPE needs that may arise due to those hazards. These additional safety concerns should be addressed as much as possible in the safety plan ahead of time, and necessary PPE should be purchased and on site prior to any potential disaster taking place.   With the loss of normal utility power regularly taking place during a disaster, temporary power is often utilized in order to reestablish critical systems and provide adequate lighting and power to work through the recovery process. Although the power may be temporary in nature, it still must be managed to reduce the risk of shock and arc flash hazards. There should be dedicated personnel in place responsible for temporary power, and all written standards and procedures for that work should be developed in advance. Back-feeding of equipment is something that should be thought out thoroughly and highlighted as part of the plan in order to manage worker exposure to electrical shock and arc flash hazards during the recovery process.    Initial damage after an event must be assessed by a site walk-through to determine equipment and system damage. All pertinent drawings and documentation should be made available to aid in this task. This will also require foresight to have the drawings and documents stored in a location on site where they will remain intact and accessible after the event or taken offsite for safe keeping and use after the event takes place. Creating electronic versions of these documents is also beneficial to ensure continued access as well as being able to share with multiple parties engaged in the restoration process. As a list of necessary repairs is created during the site walk-through, they should be prioritized into the following five categories and examples of equipment: ·      Category 1: medium-voltage equipment including distribution transformers ·      Category 2: low-voltage distribution equipment ·      Category 3: electric motors ·      Category 4: power and control wiring ·      Category 5: balance of the plant electrical equipment As part of the disaster recovery process, it may be necessary to remove electrical equipment or components for reinstallation at a later time, if not replacement altogether. In order to properly manage the process, each modification that takes place should be documented. Some of the steps that should be taken and detailed are tagging equipment, labeling wiring, taking pictures and/or sketching diagrams, and creating a master electrical equipment document.   The disaster recovery plan should be strategic about what equipment is brought back online first. The initial site walk-through, combined with the five prioritized categories listed above, should drive this strategy. Medium-voltage equipment typically serves as the backbone of the electrical power system for the facility and should be the primary focus of the initial recovery activities. Then, low-voltage equipment, motors, and power and control wiring should be attended to, in that order. Finally, any additional plant-specific electrical equipment that was not previously accounted for should be brought back into service.   Reenergizing an entire facility with utility power after a disaster has occurred should be cautiously planned and methodically implemented. It may be beneficial, where possible, to reestablish utility power a little at a time in smaller sections of the building to better manage the process while testing electrical equipment for proper performance. Ideally, utility power should only be restored after all affected equipment has been repaired or replaced to prevent unintended energization of equipment. As part of reenergizing, proper performance and operation of electrical equipment should be validated through a period of monitoring to verify and document that proper operation has been restored.   As a final step in the disaster recovery process, information should be gathered into a summary report that can be accessed for future reference. This information can be vital to reviewing the recovery as a whole to decide what was successful and what needs to be improved upon, in preparation for potential similar events in the future. Examples of useful information that should be documented are: ·      As-found conditions of the electrical infrastructure ·      Listing of equipment repaired or replaced ·      Test results of all equipment tested before and after service or repairs ·      Assessment of individual equipment condition ·      Long-term equipment replacement plan Without question, Mother Nature has a mind of her own that cannot be controlled, and she can unleash her fury at any given moment. However, what can be controlled is preparedness for when that moment arises and having a thorough and strategic plan in place for a safe recovery from disasters, such as hurricanes. American polymath Benjamin Franklin once famously quipped, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” As we embark upon the 2023 hurricane season, the path to a successful recovery is to ensure we are prepared. NFPA® has several resources to help with recovery from natural disasters, including this Natural Disaster Electrical Equipment Checklist, which utilizes NFPA 70B to help determine whether equipment should be repaired or replaced, as well as additional information on emergency preparedness.

Deadly North Carolina Construction Blaze Could Spark Update to State Fire Code to Include More from NFPA 241

Fire safety officials in North Carolina are considering incorporating requirements from the latest edition of NFPA 241, Standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alteration, and Demolition Operations, into the state fire code after a massive, deadly blaze earlier this month. “We do hope that the latest updates [to NFPA 241] will be considered,” Chief State Fire Marshal Brian Taylor told The Charlotte Observer. Currently, NFPA 241 is briefly referenced in the 2018 North Carolina Fire Prevention Code, which is the latest version of the code, but experts say a fuller incorporation of the 2022 edition of NFPA 241 could help reduce the risk of more fires like the one that razed a multistory apartment complex under construction in Charlotte on May 18. The fire left two construction workers dead, while more than a dozen others had to be rescued. A city seldom sees the magnitude and tragedy last week's fire. Over 90 Charlotte firefighters spent hours controlling a 5-alarm fire at a construction site. The radio communication you’ll hear in this video only partially relays the dramatic intensity of Thursday, May 18, 2023. — Charlotte Fire Dept. (@charlottefire) May 22, 2023 Included in the changes from the 2019 edition of NFPA 241 to the 2022 edition were a new section to help authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) with enforcement of the standard, enhanced requirements for creating a fire prevention program (FPP) for construction sites, and a new chapter on large wood-frame construction, among others. The structure that burned in Charlotte was reported to be of large wood-frame construction. “I’m really proud of the latest edition of the standard,” Bruce Campbell, a fire protection engineer and vice president at Jensen Hughes, who serves as the chair of the NFPA 241 technical committee, told NFPA Journal for a 2021 article that explored the changes to the latest edition of NFPA 241. Although the next edition of the North Carolina fire code isn’t set to take effect until January 2025, North Carolina Chief Fire Code Consultant Charlie Johnson told The Observer that changes could be introduced sooner. The NC Fire Code Revision Committee is scheduled to meet next week, the newspaper reported. Rising numbers & enhanced solutions North Carolina is far from the only place in the United States—and around the globe—where firefighters, building officials, construction workers, and other professionals face fire safety challenges at construction sites. According to the most recent data from NFPA®, the number of fires in buildings under construction in the U.S. has been steadily rising since 2014. On average, U.S. fire departments respond to 4,300 fires in buildings under construction per year—that’s nearly a dozen such blazes every day. These fires also inflict an annual average of $375 million in direct property damages, according to the data. RELATED: Read the latest research report from NFPA on fires in buildings under construction; watch a recent NFPA webinar about protecting buildings under construction from fire Some policymakers and fire service professionals have speculated that the rising numbers of construction fires over the past several years could be due to a boom in wood-frame construction for large, multifamily dwellings. “We’re on heightened awareness of these, and especially when they’re in the most populated areas,” Taylor told The Observer about this type of construction. “You’ll see them in downtown Raleigh, downtown Charlotte.” But there have been many examples of non-wood-frame buildings under construction burning, too, and experts say building materials alone don’t change the risk of a fire starting.  “Construction is a vulnerable point in any building’s life cycle,” Jon Hart, a technical lead at NFPA, said in a recent NFPA Journal article. “There can be a lot going on, such as welding and other hot work activities or the use of cooking equipment by workers. In addition to that, you can have piles of combustible debris and fire protection systems that aren’t fully operable yet. All of this creates an environment where fires can start, so it’s critical for building owners, construction companies, and authorities having jurisdiction to ensure proper safety plans and procedures are in place for any project.”  EXPLORE ONLINE TRAINING COURSES FROM NFPA RELATED TO FIRES IN BUILDINGS UNDER CONSTRUCTION • Fire Prevention Program Manager Online Training Series • Construction Site Fire Safety Fundamentals Online Training • NFPA 241 Online Training Series • NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace®, Online Training Series • Hot Work Safety Training Certificate Online Training (also available in Spanish) To establish fire, life, and electrical safety in buildings and other spaces—no matter what stage of development they may be in—it’s critical for jurisdictions to use the most up-to-date codes and standards. In fact, that concept is one of eight components outlined in the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem™, which is why NFPA Vice President of Outreach & Advocacy Lorraine Carli applauded the efforts taking shape in North Carolina to incorporate the 2022 edition of NFPA 241 into the state fire code. “The recent fire in Charlotte was an absolute tragedy, but we hope it can lead to changes that could help to prevent future tragedies like this from occurring in North Carolina and in other places,” Carli said. “Safety exists as a system, where everything from the use of modern codes to employing skilled workers matters. So it’s not just about saying, ‘Let’s use NFPA 241.’ It’s about training on it, implementing it, and ensuring there is proper enforcement.” Visit to explore a variety of NFPA resources aimed at helping to prevent construction fires.  Top photograph: Getty Images

Fire Break

Another Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Is in the Books

On Saturday, May 6, communities across the country came together in different ways to get ready for wildfires. Some focused on outreach, hosting wildfire education or safety days, sharing information, and creating a space to ask questions and get advice. Other communities organized work projects and hosted potlucks to celebrate their hard work. No matter how you participated, we applaud your efforts and encourage you to keep it going!   On this year’s Wildfire Prep Day, I had the opportunity to visit Reflection Lake, a Firewise USA® and Wildfire Ready Neighbors community located in eastern Washington, a little north of Spokane. While the weather was a little gloomy—overcast with intervals of rain—spirits were high.    IN HIGH SPIRITS  Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan (right), who manages the Firewise USA® program at NFPA®, joined community leaders in Reflection Lake, Washington, Saturday, May 6, as the community celebrated Wildfire Community Preparedness Day.  Photo by Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan   The community had a variety of things going on. Some people cleaned up pine needles and other debris in parks or on lakefront areas. There was a large group of people feeding a burn pile near a beach where trees had been dropped, clearing out an access road and removing a hazard below homes (all local burn regulations were followed). A couple of residents helped a neighbor by cutting up and removing trees that had been dropped and that the homeowner couldn’t clean up.   During the tour conducted by my hosts, we encountered other homeowners who were inspired by the organized Prep Day activities to clean up their properties, raking needles and leaves, pruning trees, and picking up downed debris. Thanks to a grant provided by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (WA DNR), the community had brought in two roll-off dumpsters—one for garbage and one for green waste, making it easier for folks to act.   It was so nice to meet with different community members and hear about the support they get from Firewise USA and WA DNR, and what it means to them.  There was a lot of pride—rightfully so—in the different projects they’ve completed over the past five years and hopefulness in moving forward.    READYING REFLECTION LAKE  Reflection Lake residents marked Wildfire Prep Day 2023 in part by clearing and burning debris.  Photo by Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan   Like so many communities across the country, Reflection Lake is trying to change a community that was built many years ago, without wildfire in mind. Leveraging their funds with grants from DNR, they have removed abandoned structures that presented a hazard, opened up access roads for responders, thinned out tree stands, and pushed homeowners to take actions on their homes and property. I look forward to hearing more as they continue on their wildfire journey and hope to visit again. It was such a beautiful area.   While Wildfire Community Preparedness Day 2023 is officially over, the need for action remains. Wildfires can happen at any time and communities need to stay ready.  Use the resources available for free on to guide your individual and community risk reduction strategies year round.

Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Is Almost Here. Get Ready for May 6!

Wildfire Community Preparedness Day (Prep Day) is just around the corner! What projects are you planning to help prepare your home and neighborhood for wildfire? For the ninth consecutive year, NFPA® and campaign cosponsor State Farm® encourage everyone to join together on the first Saturday in May for events and activities that can help make homes and communities safer from wildfire. On Saturday, May 6, 2023, people from across the United States and Canada will take part in projects that increase their safety from wildfire. Take the opportunity to defend your home ignition zone by taking simple, low-cost steps along with your neighbors.   NFPA and State Farm make it easier with a Prep Day toolkit. The toolkit is a wealth of project ideas, safety tips, promotional material, and more. While project awards are not part of the 2023 campaign, Prep Day activities bring tremendous value to your community. For instance, Prep Day work can help Firewise USA® sites meet their annual investment criteria for volunteer hours. Engaging in Prep Day can be an important first step for people who want to be safer from wildfire but aren’t sure how to begin. Use the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Toolkit, videos, social media cards, and other wildfire safety resources at Share them with others in your community to not only make a difference in safety on Prep Day, but to make a difference all through the year as well.

Safety Source

Peer Learning for Fire and Life Safety Education

Those who can … share how they do it with their peers. The NFPA Spotlight on Public Education (SOPE) conference is an exciting and cost-effective way to connect with fire and life safety professionals for learning, sharing, and networking. This “conference within a conference” is specially designed for professionals to educate and empower their communities for fire, burn, and related hazards prevention. Now in its seventh year, SOPE takes place Monday and Tuesday, June 19 and 20, at the 2023 NFPA Conference & Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada. Registration for SOPE includes eight unique fire and life safety–related workshops, access to the Expo floor and General Session, and a dedicated lounge for people to network and grab a snack. SOPE participants also have free admission to the “Community Risk Reduction: Making Neighborhoods Safer” workshop on Wednesday, June 21, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. This year’s workshops cover a variety of topics for learning and skill development, including:   ·      Promoting public education programs: From the firehouse kitchen table to the community ·      Adverse childhood experiences and CRR: Mitigation with evidence-based approaches ·      Fire prevention education programs: Engaging the community ·      Data-driven prevention programs for older adults ·      Demonstrating results: Evaluating your fire and life safety efforts ·      Fire Prevention Week™: Repurposing history to create informed communities ·      Enhancing fire safety education with virtual reality ·      Utilizing community partnerships to save lives   Register for the 2023 Spotlight on Public Education today. At $125, it’s a great value for dedicated fire and life safety professional development and networking in sunny Las Vegas! Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis, Sparky the Fire Dog® on Twitter and Facebook and NFPA on Instagram to keep up with the latest in fire and life safety education.

Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Is Almost Here. Get Ready for May 6!

Wildfire Community Preparedness Day (Prep Day) is just around the corner! What projects are you planning to help prepare your home and neighborhood for wildfire? For the ninth consecutive year, NFPA® and campaign cosponsor State Farm® encourage everyone to join together on the first Saturday in May for events and activities that can help make homes and communities safer from wildfire. On Saturday, May 6, 2023, people from across the United States and Canada will take part in projects that increase their safety from wildfire. Take the opportunity to defend your home ignition zone by taking simple, low-cost steps along with your neighbors.   NFPA and State Farm make it easier with a Prep Day toolkit. The toolkit is a wealth of project ideas, safety tips, promotional material, and more. While project awards are not part of the 2023 campaign, Prep Day activities bring tremendous value to your community. For instance, Prep Day work can help Firewise USA® sites meet their annual investment criteria for volunteer hours. Engaging in Prep Day can be an important first step for people who want to be safer from wildfire but aren’t sure how to begin. Use the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Toolkit, videos, social media cards, and other wildfire safety resources at Share them with others in your community to not only make a difference in safety on Prep Day, but to make a difference all through the year as well.

Fire Sprinkler Initiative

Rebuilt North Dakota Rural Fire Station Now Protected with Fire Sprinklers

As we all know, home fires don’t pick and choose where they strike. They can affect anyone, anywhere, anytime—even firefighters.   Fire stations are a home away from home for firefighters, often with cooking and sleeping quarters. Even though firefighters are the station “residents,” when a fire station doesn’t have fire sprinklers installed and a fire strikes, the damage can be significant, especially when the firefighters are out on a call.   That’s precisely what happened to the Glenburn Fire Department in north central North Dakota on March 6, 2021, when their own fire station burned down. The Glenburn Rural Fire Protection District covers a large jurisdiction, including two small cities and numerous farms and ranches.   The station was unstaffed and by the time firefighters got the call it was too late―most everything had been destroyed. An investigation determined the fire was caused by a furnace failure. Fortunately, no lives were lost, and no one was injured in that fire.   BUILT BACK BETTER   Today, the station has been rebuilt and is protected with installed fire sprinklers. Glenburn Fire Chief Mike Overton said it has been a long two years, but now the fire department is up and functioning. He and department personnel are using their experience to raise awareness about fire dangers and the benefits of fire sprinklers.   In fact, the Glenburn Fire Department received a $500 stipend from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC), which it will use to hold an educational open house in its new, sprinklered station during Home Fire Sprinkler Week 2023 (May 14–20). In addition to sharing information on home sprinklers, the open house will feature HFSC’s 3D virtual reality and other videos, information on smoke alarms, and more.   One of the key messages to be reinforced is that today’s home fires burn faster and hotter than in the 60s and 70s. Back then, residents had up to 17 minutes to escape a home fire. Now, with synthetic furnishings, lightweight building materials, and open designs, that window has closed to just 2 minutes or less. Fortunately, sprinklers activate quickly, controlling and often extinguishing the fire before the fire department arrives.   Chief Overton says members of the community will learn that having both smoke alarms and fire sprinklers cuts the risk of death in a home fire by 82 percent compared to having neither. He also plans to underscore that sprinklers are green, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 98 percent, fire damage by up to 97 percent, and water usage by as much as 91 percent.   When it comes to educating our communities about the dangers of home fires, seeing really is believing. Chief Overton understands this, and the Glenburn open house will go a long way toward delivering the vital messages through meaningful and memorable presentations to the community. WHAT CAN YOUR COMMUNITY DO?   Your community needs these lifesaving messages, too. A live demonstration or a side-by-side virtual reality video will reveal how quickly a home fire spreads without sprinklers, versus how quickly it’s controlled with installed sprinklers. And as Chief Overton is doing with his station, consider sharing personal stories you may have about fire sprinklers, not just for homeowners, but for firefighters as well.   You can tap into NFPA’s free resources, including safety tip sheets, you can download and share. And for home fire sprinkler content, use HFSC’s free turnkey tools that make it easy for you to educate your target audiences. You can also create a space on your website about the value of building new homes with fire sprinklers. Upload videos and other content. Post cards to your social media accounts. Or simply link to (HFSC’s website is free of advertising and all content is free to you).   No matter how you plan your outreach activities, NFPA and HFSC are here to support your efforts. We look forward to hearing about your successes.

Fire Safety Advocates Ready to Amplify Life Safety Messages for 6th Annual Home Fire Sprinkler Week May 14–20

Fire departments and fire safety advocates throughout North America are getting ready to increase awareness about home fire sprinklers using digital media tools and community outreach events May 14–20, 2023. The weeklong digital campaign, co-hosted by the NFPA Fire Sprinkler Initiative project and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC), will amplify key home fire sprinkler messaging with daily themes and turnkey assets anyone can use. Participation has increased significantly since the campaign first started six years ago. During the pandemic, many fire departments were not able to conduct live community events but participated by visiting HFSC’s webpage daily and sending out social media messages. Now many fire departments have planned community events and are using HFSC resources including home fire sprinkler displays, educational banners, brochures, and live fire and sprinkler demonstrations. In addition to sharing our digital messages, many are producing their own short videos. We encourage fire departments to use HFSC’s media resources, like the press releases and radio PSA scripts that can be localized with fire department information. We receive positive feedback from members of the media who visit HFSC’s pressroom and download the broadcast-quality video footage to prepare their own stories. There is nothing more powerful than footage of a living room fire with and without sprinklers. If you have contacts with your local media, make sure you let them know about these high-quality resources. Now more than ever, we need you to participate. In most regions, new home construction is robust, with roughly 1 million new homes projected this year. And a recent survey revealed that 80 percent of millennials would prefer a new home with fire sprinklers once they learned how sprinklers work. That is why public education and community outreach is so important. Please plan to join us this May to populate the digital world with fire sprinkler and safety facts. I think you’ll be impressed with the array of powerful educational tools on HFSC’s dedicated Home Fire Sprinkler Week website. Every day there is a different theme along with corresponding digital content and messaging. You choose which resources to use―or use them all. Whether virtual or in-person, you can customize our digital tools for your audiences and potentially reach new people vital to your community risk reduction initiatives. I look forward to seeing the results as we all work together to spread the word.

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