AUTHOR: Susan McKelvey


For schools working to protect students, staff and visitors from acts of targeted violence, NFPA 101 now allows for second releasing operation when retrofitting existing classroom doors

Over the past few years, the NFPA 101, Life Safety Code Technical Committees repeatedly learned of schools' efforts to protect students and staff that, in many cases, were imperiling safety. It was determined by the Committees that a cost-effective door lock/latch combination utilizing a second releasing operation was needed so that the Code would continue to deliver a high level of safety to students, staff and visitors and, at the same time, minimize the need for well-intentioned but dangerously misguided applications. A newly issued tentative interim amendment (TIA) to NFPA 101 now enables existing classroom school doors to be retrofitted with secondary hardware, which might include items such as a thumb turn lock. This option can be used in lieu of single operation hardware, which combines a latch and lock together, if a school finds the single operation hardware solution cost-prohibitive.  Prior to the TIA issuance, schools were required to use lock/latch sets utilizing a single releasing operation when retrofitting classroom doors, as required by the 2018 edition of the Code. Because this requirement reportedly has been considered cost-prohibitive for schools, many resorted to solutions or installations involving barricades, door wedges, rope, and other contrivances as cheaper alternatives. These devices and applications pose significant risks to occupant safety and also present potential challenges and hazards to teachers on a daily basis, as well as to first responders who need to quickly gain access to school classrooms and other student-use spaces during emergencies. Regardless of the approach taken to retrofitting classroom, engaging and disengaging the lock cannot require special knowledge, strength, or any other unique abilities. Performance requirements related to these locking devices include the following criteria: The door must be lockable without having to open it. The lock cannot require special knowledge, a key, or tool to engage or disengage from the classroom side of the door. The two releasing operations must not be required to be performed simultaneously to unlock/unlatch the door. The lock must be installed at an acceptable height - between 34 to 48 inches above the floor. The door must have the ability to be unlocked and opened from outside the classroom with the necessary key or credential. The staff must be drilled in the engagement and release of locks.  Earlier this year, NFPA released a school safety and security update document for schools and code enforcers to help answer questions and concerns around safe door locking and related issues. With the issuance of the TIA, an updated version of the resource has been made available. For more information about NFPA's efforts to address building security and safety, visit 
Christmas tree removal

Parting may be such sweet sorrow, but it's time to take down the Christmas tree!

As I was driving home last night, I was a little surprised to see how many homes still have Christmas trees inside. I get it – it's tough to say goodbye to the season and pack away the decorations. But there's good reason to part ways with your Christmas tree once the holidays are over: One-third (33 percent) of U.S. home fires that begin with Christmas trees occur in January. Christmas trees are combustible items that become increasingly flammable as they continue to dry. The longer a tree is in the home, the more of a fire hazard it becomes. Sure, all Christmas trees can burn, but a dried out tree can become engulfed in flames in a matter of seconds. The tragic Christmas tree fires that have occurred in recent years, which have resulted in deadly consequences for multiple family members, including young children, gravely bare this out. NFPA statistics show that Christmas tree fires are not common, but when they do occur, they're much more likely to be serious. On annual average, one of every 45 reported home fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in a death, compared to one death per 139 total reported home structure fires. NFPA recommends using the local community's recycling program for tree disposal, if possible; trees should not be put in the garage or left outside. We also offer these tips for safely removing lighting and decorations and storing them properly to ensure that they're in good condition the following season: Use the gripping area on the plug when unplugging electrical decorations. Never pull the cord to unplug any device from an electrical outlet, as this can harm the wire and insulation of the cord, increasing the risk for shock or electrical fire. As you pack up light strings, inspect each line for damage, throwing out any sets that have loose connections, broken sockets or cracked or bare wires. Wrap each set of lights and put them in individual plastic bags, or wrap them around a piece of cardboard. Store electrical decorations in a dry place away from children and pets where they will not be damaged by water or dampness. For more information on home fire safety all winter long, visit “Put a Freeze on Winter Fires,” a winter safety campaign NFPA promotes annually with the U.S. Fire Administration.

“This is Us” got smoke alarm messaging right, but slow cookers wrong; slow cookers are not a significant fire safety hazard and can be used safely!

If you're one of the few people who doesn't watch “This is Us”, here's an update on what's been happening with the show and fire safety. "This is Us" is a highly popular, one-hour program on NBC that's brought quite a bit of attention to two fire safety issues. In a recent episode, viewers learned that a lead character died in home fire as a result of smoke alarms with missing batteries. In the latest episode, it was revealed that the cause of said fire involved a slow cooker. Showing that smoke alarms need to have working batteries in order to protect you, and more pointedly, dramatizing the deadly consequence that can result when batteries are missing, is an incredibly powerful message. The show was able to reinforce the potentially life-saving importance of making sure smoke alarms are always equipped with batteries, which has immeasurable impact on the show's millions of viewers. Unfortunately, the show missed the mark in representing a realistic cause of home fires. While cooking is, in fact, the leading cause of U.S. home fires, slow cookers do not play a significant role in them. Between 2011 and 2015, an annual average of 70 cooking fires involving slow cookers resulted in two civilian injuries, no deaths and $3.3 million in direct property damage. This data shows that slow cookers are a statistically insignificant factor in the home cooking fire equation and can be used safely. So the next time you're planning to use your slow cooker or small appliance in the kitchen, consider the following action steps: Inspect plugs and cords to make sure they are not frayed or broken (and replace if necessary), which will help keep electrical fires at bay Keep the slow cooker (or other small appliance) away from the edge of the counter so hands and elbows don't push it off the edge causing burns or scalds from the hot liquid and food inside Follow the manufacturers' instructions for proper and safe use of the appliance Follow instructions for recipes carefully using the right amount of liquid and heat when preparing your meal to prevent overheating For additional cooking fire safety tips and data on cooking fires, visit

Every firefighter needs an annual physical: how to make it happen and why

John Sullivan, deputy chief of the Worcester Fire Department/vice chair of the IAFC health and safety section, discusses why it's so important for firefighters to get physical exams each year.The average age of a first heart attack for the general population is 66. For the fire service, it's 49. It's a sobering statistic that underscores the critical importance of annual exams for firefighters.The presentation, “Every Firefighter Needs An Annual Physical: An Interactive Discussion on Why and How to Make It Happen” at NFPA's 2017 Conference & Expo in Boston, underscored the potentially life-saving difference annual exams can make by monitoring and/or detecting health issues as early as possible.Strategies for ensuring that all firefighters get an annual exam, as well as the challenges for doing that, were addressed by David Fischler, JD, CFO, with 28 years of experience at Suffolk County (New York) Fire Rescue; Dr. Michael Hamrock, who practices internal medicine and addiction medicine at Elizabeth's Medical Center; and John Sullivan, deputy chief of the Worcester Fire Department/vice chair of the IAFC health and safety section.Most fire departments require a physical in order for firefighters to get on the job, but it's not clear how many firefighters actually receive annual exams thereafter. According to Chief Sullivan, many factors play into whether a fire chief places a priority on annual exams.While NFPA 1582, Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments, is considered the gold standard, Sullivan notes that not all fire departments have access to it.With those limitations in mind, Dr. Hamrock says that primary care physicians need to be trained about firefighter health issues and the unique risks associated with the job so that they understand why firefighters need comprehensive physicals.To learn more about the importance of annual exams for firefighters, listen to the full audio of this presentation. NFPA Conference & Expo attendees and NFPA members also have full access to ALL the 2017 NFPA C&E education session audio & video files. Browse the full list of education sessions with attached audio/video.
Weymouth Fire

NFPA 241 ensures fire safety throughout the construction process

BREAKING NEWS: On Thursday, September 14, a fire broke out at an apartment building under construction in Weymouth, Massachusetts. According to local news reports, the structure has been destroyed. Multiple large-scale fires have occurred at construction sites in 2017, resulting in multi-millions dollar losses - both in direct property damage and losses beyond the structure of origin. Many, if not all, of these incidents could have been prevented with the safeguards included in NFPA 241, Standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alteration and Demolition Operations. The requirements in NFPA 241 are not optional. They are required in every state that has adopted NFPA 1, Fire Code®, NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code®, the International Building Code® or the International Fire Code® (IFC), regardless of a construction project's size. Unfortunately, many people aren't aware of this requirement. Building owners, contractors, installers, insurance companies, facility managers, system designers and code officials all carry some responsibility for ensuring fire safety throughout the construction process. Each plays a role in following and implementing NFPA 241: Code officials must know and enforce the requirements of NFPA 241 on the building owner. Fire chiefs must be involved in the creation of a pre-fire plan and train all personnel on that plan. Building owners and facility managers responsible for a building under construction, alteration, or demolition must have a fire prevention program manager (FPPM) per NFPA 241. Contractors and others working on a job site must follow NFPA 241 and the direction of the FPPM. To learn how NFPA 241 can help prevent damage to construction sites and adjacent buildings; help keep workers, civilians, and first responders safe; and help avoid potential work stoppages, delays and costly fines, sign up for our new online NFPA 241 training series, which is targeted to anyone responsible for building fire safety. Completion of the three-hour online course series allows participants to qualify for .3 CEUs, which have been approved by the American Institute of Architects (AIA). You can download our NFPA 241 bulletin, which provides an overview of NFPA 241 and the reasons why construction sites present increased fire risks.
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