AUTHOR: Susan McKelvey

Fire doors

As buildings re-open, fire door and opening protectives ITM is critical to occupant safety

During the pandemic, many ITM programs were put on the back burner as facilities worked to keep building occupants safe from the virus, which included implementing social distancing strategies, meeting the demand for hand sanitizer, and more frequent cleaning, among other new requirements. As buildings begin to transition back to normal operations, it’s a critical time to re-examine and revamp fire door and opening protectives ITM programs to ensure adequate levels of occupant safety, including compliance with NFPA 80, Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives. NFPA 80 requires that fire doors and other opening protectives such as shutters and windows are operable at all times. Operability of these systems includes opening, closing and latching. Fire doors must be kept closed and latched or arranged to provide automatic closing during the time of a fire. In addition, blocking or wedging of doors in the open position is prohibited, as it violates the required operation and closing feature of the door. These requirements are particularly important to consider as buildings begin to re-open while continuing efforts to keep people safe from the coronavirus.  In the beginning of 2020, when the threat of COVID-19 was growing but buildings hadn’t shut down yet, there were reports of doors being propped open so that people wouldn’t have to touch them. As occupancies begin to open, it’s conceivable that these types of scenarios may occur once again. This is a serious concern, as interfering with fire door operation can have grave consequences during a fire. In addition, allowing fire doors to be held open runs a risk of this becoming an accepted practice in the building for any number of situations. Building residents and staff should be taught code-compliant solutions and not get into a habit of overriding fire safe practices. Anything that could prevent the door from closing and latching properly during an emergency condition such as propping the door open with objects, taping the latch, using wood wedges or kick-down door stops, or overriding the closing device, is a violation of the standards. If they are to be effective, fire doors must be not only closed but also held closed. Building fires are capable of generating pressures sufficient to force fire doors open if they are not held closed with enough latching force, thereby rendering the doors incapable of protecting the opening in which they are installed and potentially allowing the fire to spread to an adjacent space and beyond the compartment of origin. To learn more about what’s required to ensure adequate levels of safety around fire doors and opening protectives, sign up to attend “Re-Vamping Your Fire Door and Opening Protectives ITM Program” on Tuesday, June 22, 4-5pm EST. Hosted by Shawn Mahoney and Jen Sisco of NFPA, this session is part of “Keeping Your Informed: The Big Wide World of Building and Life Safety”, a full-day program covering a wide range of issues, challenges, and opportunities facing today’s building and life safety professionals and practitioners.  Register by June 18 using the code BLS125 and receive a free, full-day pass for a friend.
Cannabis growing facility

FINAL REMINDER: Application deadline to serve on the NFPA 420, Standard on Fire Protection of Cannabis Growing and Processing Facilities Technical Committee is June 15

The NFPA Standards Council recently approved the development of NFPA 420, Standard on Fire Protection of Cannabis Growing and Processing Facilities. Originally proposed in response to serious fires that have occurred at cannabis facilities in recent years, the new standard will provide clear guidance on fire protection standards for facilities that produce, process and extract cannabis. If you would like to submit an application to serve on the NFPA 420 Technical Committee, remember that the deadline is June 15, 2021. To learn more about the primary fire and life safety hazards at cannabis growing and extraction/processing facilities, as well as best practices to safely run these facilities, NFPA is hosting a two-hour Fire and Life Safety Hazards in Cannabis Cultivation and Processing Facilities presentation on June 22, 10:30-12:30 EST. Presented by Kristin Bigda and Val Ziavras of NFPA, the session is one of several online presentations that day addressing timely issues facing building and life safety professionals and practitioners. Learn more about all this and the wide array of sessions planned in support of the NFPA 125th Anniversary Conference Series at www.nfpa.org/conferenceseries. Use the BLS125 code to attend the full-day conference and get free, full-day access for a friend. Visit the NFPA cannabis fire and life safety page to access and/or download a wide range of information and resources on fire protection at cannabis facilities.

Four key recommendations can help significantly reduce the risk of construction site fires

In the U.S., a fire occurs at a building under construction every 90 minutes, on average, according to NFPA data. Construction sites are notoriously rife with fuel, including piles of trash and excess building materials. Combine that with no shortage of ignition sources, ranging from heating and cooking equipment to welding and other hot-work activities, as well as the fact that fire protection systems like sprinklers may not yet be active. These factors contribute to an environment primed for a devastating fire. But in most cases the risk for these fires can be reduced with the proper planning and provisions in place. During a recent NFPA webinar, a panel of fire and life safety professionals discussed the factors that frequently contribute to construction site fires, offering key insights that can help minimize associated hazards and risks. Create a fire safety plan Having a fire prevention program is a central element of NFPA 241, Standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alteration, and Demolition Operations and is critical to ensuring safety. However, every building construction site is unique and presents its own set of challenges. No matter the scope of the job, there are different variables that can impact fire prevention and safety. Having a plan that spells out how these issues will be addressed and lays the groundwork for minimizing risks during each phase of the project. It’s important to note that while NFPA 241 does not spell out all of the specifics of the fire prevention program; it does provide the framework for the project-specific information that a fire prevention plan must include, including the required provisions to ensure that everything on site is done correctly and safely. Designate a fire prevention program manager Designating a fire prevention program manager, or FPPM, who is responsible for carrying out and enforcing the plan and other applicable fire protection standards, is paramount to minimizing risk. But the FPPM is not a one size fits all role; the needed qualifications depend on the scope of the project. It’s the project owner’s responsibility to designate a FPPM and to remain involved in the project through completion, as the owner is ultimately responsible for loss prevention. Anyone who wants to be more prepared and knowledgeable as an FPPM should get the needed training. NFPA 241 doesn’t prescribe specific qualifications needed to be an FPPM, but it generally covers the issues that an FPPM needs to speak to and their overall responsibilities and expectations. You may come from many different backgrounds with different knowledge bases, to serve in the FPPM role. Understand construction site fire hazards In order to reduce the risk of fire hazards at a construction site, it’s up to the FPPM to understand the leading causes of fires while a building is under construction, such as hot work and the accumulation of combustible wase, and the ways those hazards can be minimized. While an FPPM is sometimes perceived as creating hurdles that can slow down the construction process, by implementing the proper planning, many of those issues can be relieved. Communicate with all parties Communication among all parties is critical to the success of a project.  The more authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) and all other parties communicate and collaborate, the more efficiently things can be accomplished. The full webinar was held in April. Hosted by Matt Klaus, Director of Technical Services at NFPA, the discussion included the following participants: Jim Begley, PE, FSFPE, CFM, Principal at TERPconsulting; Matthew Bourque, PE, Director of Fire Protection and Construction Operations at WS Development; Dick Davis, PE, FSFPE, Sr Engineeering Technical Specialist at FM Global, AVP; and Nicholas Dawe, Division Chief/Fire Marshal at Cobb County Fire and Emergency Services.  The full discussion is available to listen to here. In addition, NFPA offers a series of resources around buildings under construction, including a Construction Site Fire Safety Fact Sheet, to help contractors, building owners and managers, code officials and enforcers, and AHJs better understand the requirements and guidelines within NFPA 241, and to ensure that all parties involved in the construction process have the tools and support to adequately adhere to them.
2021 FPW theme art

NFPA announces “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety” as theme for Fire Prevention Week 2021

As the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week™ for more than 95 years, NFPA has announced “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety™” as the theme for Fire Prevention Week 2021, October 3-9. From beeps to chirps, this year’s campaign works to better educate the public about the sounds smoke alarms make, what those sounds mean, and how to respond to them. According to the latest NFPA “Smoke Alarms in the U.S.” report, working smoke alarms in the home reduce the risk of dying in a reported fire by more than half. However, almost three out of five home fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke alarms (41 percent) or smoke alarms that failed to operate (16 percent); missing or non-functional power sources, including missing or disconnected batteries, dead batteries, and disconnected hardwired alarms or other AC power issues, are the most common factors when smoke alarms fail to operate.   People tend to remove smoke alarm batteries or dismantle alarms altogether when the alarm begins to chirp as a result of low batteries or the alarm is no longer working properly, or when experiencing nuisance alarms. These behaviors present serious risks to safety that can have tragic consequences in the event of a fire. This year’s Fire Prevention Week theme, “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety,” helps people better understand the reasons smoke alarms may sound and provides the know-how to effectively address them. The campaign also addresses special considerations for the deaf and hard of hearing, along with information about carbon monoxide alarms. Key messages for “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety” include: When a smoke alarm or carbon monoxide (CO) alarm sounds, respond immediately by exiting the home as quickly as possible. If your alarm begins to chirp, it may mean that the batteries are running low and need to be replaced. If the alarm continues to chirp after the batteries are replaced, or the alarm is more than 10 years old, it is time to replace the alarm. Test all smoke and CO alarms monthly. Press the test button to make sure the alarm is working. If there is someone in your household who is deaf or hard of hearing, install bed shaker and strobe light alarms that will alert that person to fire. Know the difference between the sound of a smoke alarm and a carbon monoxide alarm – three beeps for smoke alarms; four beeps for carbon monoxide alarms. For more information about Fire Prevention Week, October 3-9, 2021, and this year’s theme, “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety,” along with a wealth of resources to help promote the campaign locally, visit fpw.org.

As remote inspections become more common, NFPA to host one-hour session addressing its possibilities, advantages, and potential risks

Remote inspection (RI) has emerged as an effective alternative to on-site inspection, enabling one or more parties to remotely perform an inspection of a building or building component. While RI is currently used in select jurisdictions across the US, it remains new to many. Becoming familiar with its benefits and limitations can help jurisdictions make informed decisions about how and when it can best be applied. A common misconception about RI is that it serves as a less complete version of an on-site inspection. In truth, remote inspection can be used to achieve the same or even enhanced results as an on-site inspection. It may also be able to accomplish critical and emergency permit work that is still underway. yes.Over the course of the pandemic, with code officials, enforcers, and inspectors unable to enter buildings and conduct on-site inspections for extended periods of time, the value of RI has continued to become more widely recognized and valued. Just like traditional on-site or in-person inspections, RI is typically assigned within a jurisdiction’s permitting process, the project, or contract schedule, and needs to be approved by the AHJ.  Although no formal standard currently governs the use of RI, NFPA 915, Standard for Remote Inspections is currently being developed. I, a one-hour session that will explore remote inspection through multiple lenses, including an AHJ’s perspective, potential challenges for contractors, and overall risks and rewards. The potential use of NFPA 915 for the performance of periodic inspections required by other NFPA standards will also be discussed. Presenters for this session are Jim Muir, chief building official of Clark County Washington, and chair of the NFPA 915 Technical Committee (TC), and Terry Victor, senior manager of industry relations at Johnson Controls, and an NFPA 915 TC member. “NFPA 915 - Remote Inspections, Where They Are Today and Where They May Go” will be one of multiple sessions hosted during “Keeping You Informed: The Big Wide World of Building and Life Safety”, a full-day online program on June 22 addressing some of today’s leading building and life safety issues, opportunities, and challenges. Ten hours of educational sessions and resources can be viewed that day and also accessed on-demand for one full year. The program is part of the association’s virtual 125th Anniversary Conference Series, which replaces the traditional in-person 2021 NFPA Conference & Expo and runs from May 2021 through March 2022. To attend “NFPA 915 - Remote Inspections, Where They Are Today and Where They May Go”, register for “Keeping You Informed: The Big Wide World of Building and Life Safety” today! For a limited time, NFPA is promoting a BOGO free offer: Enter the promo code BLS125 during checkout to register yourself for $98 and a friend at no cost. Meanwhile, NFPA offers resources that provide information and guidance on RI, including “Conducting Remote Video Inspections,”a white paper developed by NFPA’s Building Code Development Committee (BCDC) that covers key elements of an effective remote inspection, including setting clear expectations, selecting appropriate technology, conducting location verification, and establishing sign-offs/follow-up. NFPA’s RVI fact sheet, which is based on the white paper, provides guidance on how to effectively conduct a remote inspection.

Summer is almost here. NFPA offers five key tips for keeping it fire-safe

As the world opens up again and people make plans for a season ahead full of outdoor activities, use of outdoor fuel-based equipment like grills, fire pits, and campfires will surely increase substantively. While these types of equipment do present potential fire hazards, by following these five recommendations, associated risks can be minimized: Make sure your gas grill is working properly Leaks or breaks are primarily a problem with gas grills. Check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. If your grill has a gas leak detected by smell or the soapy bubble test, and there is no flame, turn off both the gas tank and the grill. If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again. If the leak does not stop, call the fire department. If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and do not move it. If the flame goes out, turn the grill and gas off and wait at least 5 minutes before re-lighting it. Never leave equipment unattended Make sure to closely monitor food cooking on the grill. Turn the grill off promptly when you’re done cooking, and let it cool completely before returning it to its original location. For campfires, fire pits, and chimineas, always have a hose, bucket of water, or shovel and dirt or sand nearby, and make sure the fire is completely out before going to sleep or leaving the area. Keep equipment a safe distance from things that can burn Place your grill well away (at least 3 feet) from anything that can burn, including deck railings and overhanging branches; also keep them out from under eaves. Keep portable grills a safe distance from lawn games, play areas and foot traffic. Keep children and pets well away from any type of equipment in use. In areas where campfires are permitted, they must be at least 25 feet away from any structure and anything that can burn. Also make sure to clear away dry leaves and sticks, overhanging low branches and shrubs. Use fuel and fire starters properly If you use a starter fluid to ignite charcoals, use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire. Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources. Never use gasoline or other flammable or combustible liquids on firepits, chimineas, or campfires. For electric charcoal starters, which do not use fire, make sure the extension cord you are using is designed for outdoor use. If a fire breaks out, call the fire department For any type of outdoor fire that can’t be quickly and effectively extinguished, call the fire department immediately for assistance. For more information, visit our grilling safety page at www.nfpa.org/grilling.
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