AUTHOR: LisaMarie Sinatra

Person jumping into a pool

Know the Risks and Signs of Electric Shock Drowning and Ways to Stay Safe This Summer

Each year as the warm weather approaches we are struck here at NFPA by the number of news headlines we read about deaths related to electric shock drowning (ESD). Most people have never heard about nor are they aware of ESD and the electrical dangers posed in water environments, and each year people are injured or killed from these hazards. As we head toward the July 4th holiday weekend, a time when more people travel to the water’s edge, head out on their boats and enjoy time at the pool, we remind everyone about potential electrical hazards that exist in swimming pools, hot tubs and spas, onboard boats and in waters surrounding boats, marinas, and launch ramps. Electric shock drowning occurs when faulty wiring sends electric current into the water that can pass through the body and cause paralysis. When this happens, a person can no longer swim and ultimately drowns. To help explain ESD in more detail and how to avoid it, NFPA Journal created the following short video:     Swimmers, pool and boat owners can also familiarize themselves with the following information and share it with people they know before embarking on any water activities: Tips for swimmers Never swim near a marina, dock, or boatyard, or near a boat while it is running. While in a pool, hot tub or spa, look out for underwater lights that are not working properly, flicker, or work intermittently. If you feel a tingling sensation while in a pool, immediately stop swimming in your current direction. Try and swim in a direction where you had not felt the tingling. Exit the water as quickly as possible; avoid using metal ladders or rails. Touching metal may increase the risk of shock.  Tips for pool owners If you are putting in a new pool, hot tub, or spa, be sure the wiring is performed by an electrician experienced in the special safety requirements for these types of installations. Have a qualified electrician periodically inspect and — where necessary — replace or upgrade the electrical devices or equipment that keep your pool, spa, or hot tub electrically safe. Have the electrician show you how to turn off all power in case of an emergency. Make sure any overhead lines maintain the proper distance over a pool and other structures, such as a diving board. If you have any doubts, contact a qualified electrician or your local utility company to make sure power lines are a safe distance away. Tips for boat owners Avoid entering the water when launching or loading a boat. Docks or boats can leak electricity into the water causing water electrification. Each year, and after a major storm that may affect the boat, have the boat's electrical system inspected by a qualified marine electrician to be sure it meets the required codes of your area, including the American Boat & Yacht Council. Make the necessary repairs if recommended. Check with the marina owner who can also tell you if the marina's electrical system has recently been inspected to meet the required codes of your area, including the . Have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) installed on the boat; use only portable GFCIs or shore power cords (including “Y” adapters) that are Marine Listed when using electricity near water. Test GFCIs monthly. Join NFPA this holiday weekend and throughout the summer by sharing resources and important information with people you know about electric shock drowning and ways to reduce your risk. For more information about electric shock drowning, please visit nfpa.org/watersafety.

2021 “Ecosystem Year in Review Report” Highlights Successes and Tragedies and Resources Needed to Help Improve Global Community Safety

Fire and life safety deaths, injuries, and losses may be unexpected, but they do not happen by chance, according to the newly published 2021 Ecosystem Year in Review report by the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Policy Institute. The year 2021, says the report, was one of modest improvements and tragic setbacks that included massive wildfires, a fatal collapse of an elevated subway rail, and a hospital fire that all highlight how gaps in our global fire and life safety system can lead to tragedies. These and other examples illustrated in the seven-page report are the product of weaknesses in a community’s Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, a framework NFPA developed in 2018 that identifies the components that must work together to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, life, electrical, and other hazards. A lack of attention to any one of these elements results in greater risks and can create a significant safety threat. If just one element breaks down, people can be hurt. The Ecosystem is a key to understanding how decisions made over time can either exacerbate or control threats to safety. There are many steps to improving safety and more work to be done. But the key to reducing losses in the years to come is starting now to make these changes. Download the report to learn more. This year, the report is also available in Spanish and for the first time since the report’s inception, fire and life safety advocates can read the report in Arabic. Find additional resources and information about the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem on our webpage.  

NFPA Electrical Section Honors Members at Conference & Expo Reception

Against the backdrop of a late spring evening, the Electrical Section gathered for a reception at the NFPA Conference & Expo in Boston on Tuesday to recognize its members, and their dedication and shared commitment to the creation of standards that help guide and protect our workforce and the people who depend on them for their safety. One of the highlights of the evening was the presentation of the Richard G. Biermann Award to Michael J. Johnston, Executive Director of Codes, Standards, and Safety at the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA). Mike Johnston (center) with John Kovacik (left) and Mark Earley (right).  The highly regarded award, created in honor of Richard G. Biermann former chair of the National Electrical Code® (NEC®) Correlating Committee, recognizes an outstanding volunteer who has demonstrated a commitment to actively contributing to the advancement of the NEC by furthering its development and/or promoting its implementation. Johnston is responsible for managing the codes, standards, and safety functions for NECA and is secretary of the NECA Codes and Standards Committee. He is immediate past chair and currently principal member of the NEC Correlating Committee while continuing to serve as an active member of the NFPA Standards Council. He is also a member of and immediate past chair of the NFPA Electrical Section. Johnson received recognition for his work at the NFPA “Stars at Night” Awards Gala on Sunday, which celebrated the brightest starts in fire and life safety.  “Mike has shown incredible dedication and leadership around the NEC project for many years and is a valuable member of the NEC Correlating Committee and NFPA Standards Council in addition to being a former Code-Making Panel member and chair,” said Jeff Sargent, Principal Specialist and Executive Secretary for the NFPA Electrical Section. It is an honor for the NFPA Electrical Section to present him with this esteemed award in support of his continued work to advance safety.” Another highlight of the evening was the recognition of 17 members of the NEC Quarter Century Club. Each was honored for their 25 years of service on an NEC Code-Making Panel (CMP). The awardees are: Steve Campolo, CMP 2 Donald R. Cook, CMP 17 Paul Dobrowsky, CMP 5 Gerald Lee Dorna, CMP 16 Mark Goodman, CMP 14 David H. Kendall, CMP 8 Gerald W. Kent, CMP 6 Edwin S. Kramer, CMP 15 William G. Lawrence, Jr., CMP 14 David A. Pace, CMP 3 William J. McCoy, CMP 16 James J. Rogers, CMP 4 Gregory J. Steinman, CMP 5 Robert C. Turner, CMP 12 Walter N. Vernon, IV, CMP 15 David B. Wechsler, CMP 14 Robert H. Wills, CMP 4 Standards Council Committee Service Awardees, also in attendance, were acknowledged for their hard work, passion, and dedication to activities related to the standards development process. These awards were handed out at the Technical Meeting earlier this morning. They are: Donald W. Ankele – CMP 14 Ernest J. Gallo – CMP 16 Palmer L. Hickman – CMP 1 David L. Hittinger – CMP 1 Richard A. Holub – CMP 14 Randall J. Ivans – CMP 16 David H. Kendall – CMP 8 Robert D. Osborne – CMP 9 Nathan Philips – CMP 5 The Electrical Section also made note of the contributions and commitment of three outgoing CMP chairs. They are: Kenneth Boyce – CMP 1 Keith Lofland – CMP 7 Linda Little – CMP 13 “After the last two years of not being able to see each other in person, we’re extremely pleased that this year members of the Electrical Section could come together to celebrate and recognize our achievements, including completing the First and Second Draft phases of the revisions process using virtual meeting technology,” said Sargent. “We know there is still more to do because the electrical industry is constantly changing, but it’s the collaboration and our shared commitment to safety that makes us feel proud of all that we can accomplish together, and we look forward to meeting future challenges with the energy and passion that our volunteer committee members have always brought to this process.” For more information about the NEC and committee membership, visit the NEC webpage on our site. Top photo: The new members of the NEC Quarter Century Club. From left to right – Steve Campolo, Donald Cook, Paul Dobrowsky, Gerald Kent, Edwin Kramer, James Rogers, and Gregory Steinman.

Sound Policy: A Means to an End of Wildfire Destruction in our Communities

There are 44.8 million homes located in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) in America. According to experts, over the past three years, the nation has seen over 100 fatalities, 40,000 structures destroyed, and nearly $40 billion in insured losses from wildfire in high-risk WUI areas. The picture remains dire, experts warn, and the destruction we have seen in the past few years is not just an anomaly, but a look into the near future. As widespread destruction from wildfire continues, many people remain unsure that what they do will make a difference. During a session at NFPA’s Conference & Expo on Wednesday morning, Michele Steinberg, NFPA Wildfire Division director, Meghan Housewright, NFPA Fire & Life Safety Policy Institute director, and Ray Bizal, NFPA Director of Regional Operations, led a panel discussion to remind attendees the safety of our communities is in our hands and comes through more sound local, state, and federal policy. The panel, who were among a group of experts instrumental in the development of NFPA’s “Outthink Wildfire™” campaign, went on to outline the campaign’s five tenets needed for all levels of government to foster collaboration, enact change, achieve resilience, and enhance protection from wildfire, and highlighted some of the policymaking activity and initiatives already underway in states like Oregon, Colorado, and California. But when it comes right down to it, they said, everyone plays a role in reducing wildfire risk. And just as better policy is paramount, more and continued collaboration is also needed between policymakers, the fire service, and the public if we are to move the needle in a more measurable way. “States are taking action,” said Steinberg, “but there are still obstacles we must overcome. While we have seen a lack of political will and public acceptance about the wildfire problem, we continue working closely with communities and policymakers across the country to help address these challenges.” More information about “Outthink Wildfire” and its five tenets is available at nfpa.org/outthinkwildfire.

Boston Author Examines the Great Boston Fire of 1872 Through the Lens of the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem

Above photo courtesy of Stephanie Schorow The Great Boston Fire of 1872 exemplified the 19th-century conflagrations that were blazing across the United States at that time. The massive fire, which came just nearly a year after the Great Chicago Fire, burned for two days in November. It swept through Boston, leaving the downtown in ruins and a population devastated and in shock. It turned out to be one of the most expensive fires per acre in U.S. history. But most people were unaware of just how close Boston came to destruction. So said Boston-based author, Stephanie Schorow, who took the opportunity at this year’s Conference & Expo to use the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem concept to examine the conditions that led to that fire 150 years ago. Her session, built on the material in her newly published book, “The Great Boston Fire: The Inferno that Nearly Incinerated the City,” took us back to this fateful time in history and helped distill the lessons we can learn from today. “When you examine the fire [from the point of view of the Ecosystem], we can see why it was so devastating,” Schorow told a packed room of attendees, “and why the solution to urban conflagrations has to be multi-faceted.” Disasters, she said can be interpreted as a series of events or a system, rather than one single event. In addition to her research, Schorow, a former reporter for the Boston Herald, the Associated Press, and the Stanford Advocate, and a freelance writer, editor, and teacher, introduced a wealth of archived materials to help tell her story. Items such as period photos, drawings, and maps, gave attendees a first-hand look into the 1872 fire and how it greatly impacted the Boston community. At the start of the presentation, NFPA Fire & Life Safety Policy Institute Director, Meghan Housewright, introduced the Ecosystem concept to help set the stage for Schorow’s story. Stephanie Schorow and Meghan Housewright Following the session, attendees joined Schorow in the 125th Anniversary Lounge where she signed copies of her book. You can learn more about Schorow and the Great Boston Fire of 1872 by visiting her website. More information about the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem is available at nfpa.org/ecosystem. 
GFCI panel at C&E

NFPA Conference & Expo Gives Nod to Winner of the Phillip J. DiNenno Prize with a Special GFCI Panel Session on Monday

Since its inception in the 1940s, Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) have evolved into a series of sophisticated protection devices that have increased the protection of people from electric shock. It has also allowed for greater degrees of safe electrical power usage among numerous applications in all types of environments. Since its introduction in the National Electrical Code (NEC) in the 1970s, GFCIs have saved thousands of lives. This important technology received full attention on Monday during an early morning session at NFPA’s Conference & Expo in Boston. The special panel event paid tribute to the winner of the 2022 Phillip J. DiNenno Prize, Electrical Shock Hazard Protection by Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) Protection. The session introduced Jack Wells, primary associate at Pass & Seymour (P&S) and Henry Zylstra, author and holder of numerous patents pertaining to single-pole, two-pole, and other types of GFCI breaks. During the panel session they shared stories about their involvement in the development and commercialization of GFCI technology. Together with Alan Manche, Schneider Electric, and Steve Rood, Legrand Electrical Wiring Systems, they also discussed and helped review the role GFCIs have played in electrical safety over the years. Both Wells and Zylstra served as legacy presenters of the DiNenno prize at a special “Stars at Night” award ceremony last night at the conference. Widespread installation of GFCI protection throughout the built environment has directly led to significant, quantifiable increases in society’s current levels of electrical safety. And as the panel agreed, GFCI technologies will continue to prevent tragedies attributable to electrocutions even more so in the future. The Phillip J. DiNenno Prize recognizes pioneering innovations that have significantly impacted building, fire, and electrical safety. The prestigious award is named for the late Philip J. DiNenno, the greatly respected former CEO of Hughes Associates, in recognition of his extraordinary contributions to fire safety. Read the full release about the winner of the 2022 DiNenno Prize.  
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