AUTHOR: LisaMarie Sinatra

A stormy sky

September is National Preparedness Month: Is Your Community Ready to Respond to a Severe Weather Event or Emergency?

While the warmer months of the year signal a time when we can indulge in vacations, beach days, and outdoor activities, the summer and fall are also when hurricanes, thunderstorms, wildfires, and other potential natural disasters make their impressive mark across many areas of the United States, often disrupting the rhythm of our daily lives. According to the National Hurricane Center, four systems are currently forming in the Atlantic: Hurricane Earl, expected to impact Bermuda in the coming days, Hurricane Danielle, and two tropical waves. Recent heavy rainfall in Rhode Island, Georgia, and Indiana caused deadly flash floods and thousands of power outages. Out West, excessive heat warnings and heat advisories are in effect across California, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, and Arizona, prompting red flag warnings and the potential for more extreme fire behavior. Hurricane season began June 1 and ends in late November, but according to the National Weather Service, most storms peak in mid-September and October. And it’s not just hurricanes or wildfires that make the news; the Plains and Great Lakes regions often start their battle with freezing conditions and snowfall during the fall months, too. Ready, a national public service campaign, has earmarked September as National Preparedness Month and urges those of us tasked with protecting people and property from fire, electrical, and related hazards, to work together, help educate, and empower the public to prepare for, respond to, and mitigate emergencies before they become tragedies. The theme for this year’s campaign, “A Lasting Legacy,” reminds us that the life we’ve built is worth protecting. Preparing and planning ahead of disasters help keep families safe during emergencies and long after an event has passed. NFPA® has a wealth of information to help guide building owners and facility managers, first responders, health care facility managers, electrical professionals, and public educators, as they prepare ahead of weather events in their area and work closely with communities to develop emergency plans. These resources are free and can be easily shared. For facility managers and business owners: For answers to bigger emergency planning challenges and questions, NFPA 1600®, Standard on Continuity, Emergency, and Crisis Management, is a vital guide for the development, implementation, assessment, and maintenance of disaster/emergency management and continuity of operations programs. Business owners can also utilize the NFPA Emergency Preparedness Checklist, which helps people identify where to focus their emergency preparedness efforts. With the peak of hurricane and wildfire seasons upon us, government agencies and aid organizations may need to shelter potentially thousands of storm and fire evacuees. A recent episode of the NFPA Podcast, Disaster Planning During a Pandemic, introduces two emergency management experts who share lessons learned from responding to past incidents during the pandemic, including several new strategies that will likely remain in place long after the pandemic is over. For first responders: First responders face many hazards when working with vehicles that have been submerged in water, particularly with hybrid or electrical vehicles. The Submerged Hybrid/Electrical Vehicle Bulletin from NFPA breaks down the safety issues to help keep first responders safe when working in flooded areas. A free toolkit is also available for first responders, which provides the information and resources needed to help local residents prepare ahead of weather events. For electrical professionals: Electrical professionals are often tasked with equipment maintenance for electrical, electronic, and communication systems and equipment found in multifamily residential complexes, industrial plants, and commercial buildings to prevent equipment failures and worker injuries. The NFPA Natural Disaster Electrical Equipment Checklist builds off recommendations in Chapter 32 of the 2019 edition of NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance, and provides a useful framework for recovering electrical equipment and systems after a disaster. For health care providers: New criteria require health care providers to have extensive plans in place for numerous types of events including hurricanes as part of an emergency preparedness rule passed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in November 2017. Requirements for emergency and backup power supplies as well as consideration of other logistical needs for long-duration events are an important part of the rule. Find information that can help medical providers with their emergency preparedness needs. In September 2019, an NFPA white paper was introduced to help health care facilities meet the requirements of the CMS emergency preparedness rule. For the public: A fact sheet and related information provide residents and businesses with easy wildfire risk reduction steps they can do around their homes and buildings to make them safer from wildfire and blowing embers. An escape plan activity sheet helps families prepare and practice an escape plan in case of a fire in the home. An emergency supplies kit checklist provides a list of items a family may need in case of an evacuation due to an emergency weather event. A tip sheet provides the facts and steps homeowners can take to safely use portable generators in the event homes lose power after a storm. With so much severe weather happening across the country, the time to start preparing communities is now. Make Preparedness Month the jump start you need to put plans in place. For these and other related information sources, visit the NFPA emergency preparedness webpage.
People putting debris in the chipper

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

In 2019, NFPA began working with seven active Firewise USA® sites in Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin, challenging them to improve their resilience to wildfire. These efforts formed the basis of a two-year pilot program, “Sites of Excellence,” designed to increase participation in active wildfire risk reduction through a more focused approach. Over the course of the two years, the communities concentrated on these goals: To have 100 percent participation of homes within the designated pilot boundary (sites were able to self-identify up to 100 co-located homes in each pilot site). To complete identified mitigation tasks within 30 feet of every home, based on recommendations from individual assessments. At the end of the two years communities reported higher levels of engagement and interest in the Firewise program and wildfire mitigation efforts, and helped prove that community wildfire resilience is achievable. It was challenging work, but according to Michele Steinberg, NFPA wildfire division director, the program underscored the true power and impact of Firewise communities working together to reduce their collective risk to wildfire. A free report and interactive story map are now available. Each provides a view into the challenges, successes, and best practices discovered during the pilot. The findings will be used to help direct future Firewise program changes as well as inform policy that can support increased implementation of risk reduction practices in communities facing wildfire threats to life and property. Download the free report and take some time to navigate through the story map to learn more about the communities and their work. We hope the lessons learned in the program can help enhance your own community’s wildfire risk reduction efforts.
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 National Electrical Code® (NEC®). 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 Mitch Hefter, CMP 15 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.
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