AUTHOR: Mike Puzzanghera

With Memorial Day and the summer months approaching, NFPA offers safe grilling tips and recommendations to prevent fires and injuries

Often considered the unofficial kick-off to summer, Memorial Day weekend typically includes lots of celebrations and cookouts, often with outdoor grilling as a focal point. As the holiday and summer months near, NFPA reminds everyone of basic safety tips and precautions to grill and celebrate safely. NFPA data shows that from 2014-2018, fire departments responded to an annual average of 10,600 home fires annually involving grills, hibachis, or barbecues. This includes 4,900 structure fires and 5,700 outside or unclassified fires. These fires resulted in an annual average of 10 civilian deaths, 160 civilian injuries, and $149 million in direct property damage. The peak months for grilling fires are July (18 percent of grilling fires), June (15 percent), May (13 percent), and August (12 percent), though grill fires occur year-round. Leading causes of grill fires include failing to clean the grill, the heat source being located too close to combustible materials, leaving equipment unattended, and leaks or breaks in the grill or fuel source. A yearly average of 19,700 patients went to emergency rooms because of injuries involving grills. Nearly half (9,500 or 48 percent) of the injuries were thermal burns, including both burns from fire and from contact with hot objects; 5,200 thermal burns were caused by such contact or other non-fire events. Children under five accounted for an average of 2,000 (39 percent) of the contact-type burns per year. These burns typically occurred when a child bumped into, touched, or fell on the grill, grill part, or hot coals. NFPA offers these and other tips and recommendations for enjoying a fire-safe grilling season: For propane grills, check the gas tank for leaks before use in the months ahead. (Watch NFPA’s video on how to check for leaks.) Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill. Place the grill well away from the home, deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches. Always make sure your gas grill lid is open before lighting it. Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grilling area. If you use starter fluid when charcoal grilling, only use charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire. When you have or are finished grilling, let the coals cool completely before disposing in a metal container. Never leave your grill unattended when in use.   For more spring and summer fire safety information, visit www.nfpa.org/publiceducation.

New fact sheet highlights updates to NFPA 30

In January, NFPA released the 2021 edition of NFPA 30 Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code which includes changes to the nomenclature used throughout the code and revised sections addressing warehouse and tank storage, as well as piping. To highlight some of these changes, a new fact sheet has been developed. Changes in Terminology The nomenclature adjustments were made to reduce the confusion caused by various governmental definitions by emphasizing the existing liquid classifications tied to ignitible liquid properties. Changes will also help to reduce the perception that fires involving combustible liquids pose lesser fire hazards than those involving flammable liquids. Changes to Storage Requirements The code now reflects updated storage requirements of ignitable (flammable and combustible) liquids, based on the results of recent fire testing.  The application of NFPA 30 container requirements apply to any consumer product containing water-miscible ignitable liquids that are greater than 20 percent by volume ignitable liquids instead of greater than 50 percent by volume. Also included are six new storage designs for containers storing all classes other than Class IA (IB, IC, II, IIIA, IIIB). Storage options for protected general-purpose warehouses are also reflected in the updated code. NFPA 30 is now available in NFPA LiNK™ - the association’s new information delivery platform with NFPA codes and standards, supplementary content, and visual aids for building, electrical, and life safety professionals and practitioners. Check out how LiNK allows users to utilize dynamic search functionality, bookmark, share, and collaborate with others to save time, and get the job done right by visiting nfpa.org/LiNK.

Stories of gasoline hoarding raise fire safety concerns

With the Colonial Pipeline, which supplies 45% of the East Coast’s gasoline, being shut down since a ransomware attack on May 7, gas prices on the East Coast of the US have risen above three dollars a gallon and continue to rise. Because of this, many people are scrambling to fill up gas tanks in their cars, and to even fill up unsafe containers in case the shortage continues. To be clear, gasoline should never be transported in a vehicle or in anything other than a listed, labeled, and approved container with a cap. The sealed container eliminates vapors from escaping and potentially connecting with an ignition source and causing fire or an explosion. Last week a Hummer in Florida went up in flames after the owner fueled up at a gas station; the incident is currently under investigation but four five-gallon containers full of gasoline were found in the back of the Hummer. If gasoline must be transported in a vehicle, follow these required safety practices for use and storage of flammable liquids: Transport only a small amount in a listed gas can that is sealed. Keep a window open for ventilation. Gas cans (or propane cylinders, for that matter) should never be transported in the passenger compartment. Drive safely to avoid an accident. These same precautions should also be used when gasoline is stored at home. These same listed, labeled, and approved containers with a cap are the only suitable way to store gasoline in garages and sheds. Do not store gasoline in the living space of a home. And never store these containers in areas where an open flame – like those associated with a natural gas water heater or furnace – would be located. Should a vehicle catch fire, while transporting gasoline or otherwise, keep NFPA Car Fire Safety practices in mind, which state, in part: Pull over as quickly as it is feasible, using your signal as you make your way to a safe location off the road such as the breakdown lane or rest stop. Once you have stopped, turn off the engine. Get everyone out of the car. Move everyone at least 100 feet from the burning car and well away from traffic. Call 9-1-1. Never return to a burning car for anything. The latest version of the Educational Messages Advisory Committee (EMAC) Desk Reference contains information and guidance on ignitable (flammable and combustible) liquids, in general. It recommends the following: Store gasoline in a tightly capped container that has been listed, labeled, and approved for gasoline. Store the container outside the home in your garage or garden shed, never in your basement. Do not store hazardous liquids near any source of heat, sparks, or flame. That includes electric motors, which can spark when they switch on or off. Never dispense gasoline into a portable container while it is located inside a vehicle or in the bed of truck. Never bring gasoline indoors, even in small quantities. NFPA 1 Fire Code prohibits the dispensing of gasoline and other flammable liquids into containers that are not listed or approved for such use. These containers are designed, constructed, and tested to ensure their closures prevent leaks of liquids and vapors. Like the aforementioned safety recommendations, The Fire Code also requires the container to be properly marked with the contents, and not fueled while inside any vehicle.

With Home Fire Sprinkler Week fast approaching, now’s the time to brush up on the facts of this lifesaving technology

Home Fire Sprinkler Week (HFSW) approaching quickly, it is a good time to review some residential sprinkler myths that NFPA has debunked in the past. Last July, NFPA released an episode of The NFPA Podcast that addressed some of these home fire sprinkler myths with a former fire chief who retrofitted his home with sprinklers. Check out the episode, “Debunking Home Fire Sprinkler Myths,” on The NFPA Podcast here In addition to the podcast, NFPA ran a blog series in 2020 called Mythblaster Monday. This series tackled the myths surrounding home fire sprinklers, such as total water damage from sprinklers (which is much less than fire damage) and the importance of sprinklers even with the presence of smoke alarms. The Mythblaster Monday series, as well as other NFPA Fire Sprinkler Initiative (FSI) blogs, can be viewed here. Home Fire Sprinkler Week runs from May 16-22 this year, and marks 25 years since the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition was founded. A collaboration between the Coalition and the Fire Sprinkler Initiative, each day of the campaign NFPA will share blogs, resources, and related information to raise awareness of the life-saving benefits of home fire sprinklers. Read more about HFSW here. So brush up on the facts and please join NFPA in sharing valuable, life-saving information during Home Fire Sprinkler Week. For additional information, visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Fire Sprinkler Initiative.
Gas range

NIOSH releases fact sheet on odorant fade

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH, released a fact sheet on odorant fade in natural gas and propane, an important issue that requires firefighters to be aware of it so they can operate safely around natural gas and propane. Odorant is a liquid added to natural gas and propane that releases a smell in case of a leak. The smell alerts anyone nearby about a leak since natural gas and propane are naturally odorless. The odorant, mercaptan, can fade over time through absorption or oxidation as the leaking gas runs through soil or concrete. Drywall, plywood, and new piping can also strip the odorant from natural gas and propane. The NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program (FFFIPP) released recommendations for firefighters responding to natural gas and propane incidents. They recommend the following: The use of gas detection equipment in these events, and not relying on their sense of smell to determine if there is a leak of natural gas or propane Understanding that odorants from natural gas or propane can fade Being trained on the proper calibration, maintenance, and use of gas detection equipment to determine if a potentially explosive atmosphere is present Recognizing that a lack of odor can result from natural gas or propane contacting soil, concrete, and a wide variety of building materials such as drywall, wood, and new piping storage tanks The fact sheet noted an incident from September 2019 where a firefighter in Maine was killed and six others were injured when propane gas ignited at a newly renovated office building. NIOSH FFFIPP investigators identified odor fade as one of the key contributing factors in that tragedy. In 2020, an explosion in Baltimore killed two people and highlighted the need for fuel gas detection. NFPA 715 Standard for the Installation of Fuel Gases Detection and Warning Equipment is currently in the early development phase. The new standard will cover the selection, design, application, installation, location, performance, inspection, testing, and maintenance of fuel gas detection and warning equipment in buildings and structures. Additionally, the Fire Protection Research Foundation, the research affiliate of NFPA, recently released a report on combustible gas detection (CGD) placement. The research looks to use modeling work to justify requirements in NFPA 715 for the best location of CGD in order to ensure early and accurate detection of leaks. The Research Foundation hosted a webinar on the topic earlier this month too. For more information on odorant fade, check out the fact sheet here.  
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