People putting their hands together

NFPA to host “Community Risk Reduction: Insights into Action,” a one-day virtual event providing solutions, tools, and strategies to effectively identify and mitigate community risks

NFPA will be hosting “Community Risk Reduction: Insights into Action,” an online event that focuses on the issues fire departments and other public safety officials often face in mitigating safety risks, along with solutions, tools, and strategies to address them. To be held on Tuesday, July 20, the full-day 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. “Community Risk Reduction: Insights into Action” will reinforce the critical importance of conducting a community risk assessment (CRA) as the first step in creating a community risk reduction (CRR) plan, the invaluable contributions partners and stakeholders bring to the CRR table, and the value of leveraging NFPA 1300, Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development as a unifying framework, among other issues. Whether you are new to CRR, getting knee-deep into the CRR waters, or are a savvy influencer in the CRR space, attendees will gain vital insights that advance local prevention initiatives in actionable ways. Several of the day’s presenters will speak to the role of risk assessments in developing buy-in from peers and colleagues, building external relationships, and driving effective CRR efforts. Attendees will also hear the challenges their peers have faced in developing and implementing CRR plans - along with the ways they overcame those obstacles - highlighting the positive impact that CRR can have with the right tools, resources, and know-how. Attendees can tune in live to earn up to five credit hours (0.5 CEU) and earn an additional five credit hours on-demand for a total of 10 credit hours (1.0 CEU). Alternatively, the content can all be viewed on-demand for a total of 10 credit hours (1.0 CEU). All programs will be available on-demand for up to a year starting on July 20. Registration for “Community Risk Reduction: Insights into Action” is now open. Check out the full list of sessions to review all the presentations offered throughout the day. Also, find more information about the entire NFPA 125th Anniversary Conference Series at

The Basics of Sprinkler Thermal Characteristics

There are many different decisions that need to be made when it comes to designing a sprinkler system, such as what type of sprinkler system should be installed (check out this blog for more information on that topic), what type of piping should be used, and even which sprinkler should be selected. When manufacturers have well over a hundred different types of sprinklers it can be challenging to know which one to choose. Certain sprinkler characteristics will help determine which is an appropriate type for your specific situation. NFPA 13 Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems identifies a number of sprinkler characteristics including thermal sensitivity, temperature rating, k-factor, installation orientation, water distribution characteristics, and special service conditions. While these are all important, I’m going to focus on two particular sprinkler characteristics, thermal sensitivity and temperature rating. Thermal Sensitivity The thermal sensitivity of a sprinkler measures how quickly the thermal element operates. Perhaps the most common way of measuring thermal sensitivity is the response time index (RTI). Sprinklers are then categorized into fast or standard response based on their RTI. The RTI is typically determined by conducting a plunge test in which a sprinkler is placed (plunged) into a heated laminar airflow within a test oven. Then, the operating time of the sprinkler, the operating temperature of the sprinkler’s heat-responsive element, the air temperature of the test oven, the air velocity of the test oven, and the sprinkler’s conductivity factor are used to calculate the RTI. Additional factors impact the response such as the temperature rating of the sprinkler, sprinkler position, fire exposure, and radiation. Category RTI (meters-second)1/2 [(ft-sec)1/2] Fast Response 50 or less (90 or less) Standard Response 80 or more (145 or more) There are also different types of fast response sprinklers. You may have heard of quick response or residential sprinklers. Both of these are fast response type sprinklers meaning they have an RTI of 50 meters-second1/2 or less, but they are considered different types of sprinklers because although their RTI is similar the performance characteristics and design parameters are different. RTI can also be expressed in (ft-sec)1/2 but the metric version is most common. While this is all important to understand, the real question is, what does this mean when selecting sprinklers? Certain situations require specific types of thermal sensitivity ratings per NFPA 13, but we are going to focus on the broader concept of why you may choose a fast response sprinkler over a standard response sprinkler or vice versa. It should be noted that a number of other factors will impact when and how quickly a sprinkler operates under true fire conditions. Variables such as ceiling height, spacing between sprinklers, ambient room temperature, and the distance the sprinkler is below the ceiling will all impact the time to operation. However, if all these elements are held constant, a fast response sprinkler would operate before a standard response sprinkler. In some situations, such as in a light hazard occupancy this is ideal. Since a low hazard occupancy has a low quantity and combustibility of contents, we expect the fire growth to be relatively slow when compared to other hazard classifications. Therefore, a fast response sprinkler will open earlier and be able to control the fire. In some situations, opening earlier is not ideal and therefore a standard response sprinkler is preferred, or even required. In certain storage applications, where fire growth is much faster, if fast response sprinklers are used additional sprinklers may be opened than the system was designed for. This could result in lower amounts of water and pressure flowing from each sprinkler resulting in less water over the actual fire and ultimately causing the sprinkler system to be ineffective in controlling the fire. If standard spray sprinklers were used, less sprinklers would operate, and this could provide enough time for those sprinklers to control the fire before others operate. Temperature Rating Looking closely at sprinklers with glass bulbs, you may have noticed that there are different color bulbs. The colors identify the temperature rating of the sprinkler. The temperature rating of the sprinkler selected needs to consider the maximum ambient ceiling temperature as well as the occupancy classification. If the maximum ambient ceiling temperature isn’t considered, it could result in accidental sprinkler operation since sprinklers are activated by heat. If the sprinkler does not have a glass bulb, then the frame arm, deflector or coating material will usually have some color indicating the temperature rating. zA Temperature classifications range from ordinary which has a temperature rating of 135-170OF (57-77OC) to ultra-high which has a temperature rating of 650OF (343OC). Typically, ordinary or intermediate which has a temperature rating of 175-225OF (79-107OC) sprinklers are required to be installed unless a certain situation calls for a higher temperature classification. Some examples of situations that require higher temperature ratings are sprinklers installed in commercial-type cooking equipment and sprinklers installed within certain distances of heat sources. Max Ceiling Temperature oF (oC) Temperature Rating oF (oC) Temperature Classification Glass Bulb Colors Color Code 100 (38) 135-170 (57-77) Ordinary Orange or Red Uncolored or Black 150 (66) 175-225 (79-107) Intermediate Yellow or Green White 225 (107) 250-300 (121-149) High Blue Blue 300 (149) 325-375 (163-191) Extra High Purple Red 375 (191) 400-475 (204-246) Very Extra High Black Green 475 (246) 500-575 (260-302) Ultra High Black Orange 625 (329) 650 (343 Ultra High Black Orange Conclusion At first glance, thermal sensitivity and temperature rating may seem like they address the same concern. However, they do not. Thermal sensitivity dictates how quickly a sprinkler will operate while temperature rating is based on the ambient ceiling temperature. In both cases though, it is important that all sprinklers in a given compartment have the same thermal sensitivity and the same temperature rating. Mixing can cause a phenomenon known as skipping. We expect the sprinkler closest to the fire to operate first. If that sprinkler alone isn’t able to control the fire, then we would expect the next closest sprinkler(s) to operate. This pattern would continue until enough sprinklers have opened to control the fire.   However, if different thermal sensitivities or temperature ratings are used, instead of the closest sprinklers operating, you could have a situation where a sprinkler closer to the fire does not operate and a sprinkler further away does. This is known as skipping and can have negative consequences on the performance of the system.     It should be noted that only a mix of ordinary- and intermediate-temperature sprinklers are permitted throughout a building unless a specific situation requires the use of a higher rated sprinkler, such as proximity to a heat source or high ambient ceiling temperatures.

A Better Understanding of NFPA 70E: Comparing Electrical Fatalities in Specific Occupations

Each year I have given a summary of fatalities linked to the electrical industry. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has not yet published the fatality numbers for 2020. My blogs have occasional pointed out that electrical fatalities do not just happen to those in electrical occupations. I decided to look at fatalities specifically due to exposure to electricity in various occupations.  The average electrical exposure fatalities (2011-2019) in construction and extraction occupations (75 fatalities), Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations (34 fatalities) and building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations (20 fatalities) account for a majority (79%) of the 153 annual electrical exposure fatalities. However, these occupations have people working in many sub-occupations. Who are the people dying from exposure to electricity while they are at work? The following chart shows the average electrical exposure fatalities for a specific occupation from 2011 through 2019. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Those who read NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace®, often get hung up on the phrase working on electrical equipment as a reason not address electrical safety in their workplace. Six of these nine occupations do not work on electrical equipment. They typically interact with it and often are not actively interacting with electrical equipment when they become a fatality. Five of these are on the OSHA list of occupational categories of employees facing a higher-than-normal risk of electrical accident. Many people say that, from these nine occupations, only the electrician is required to follow NFPA 70E. Follow that logic. Electricians are the vanguards of electrical safety. Why, then, are electricians being killed by the very thing they are the most knowledgeable about? Statistically electricians are possibly exposed to potential electrical hazards more often than most occupations. However, they are also supposed to know how to prevent their death while performing their work. Based on the starting assumption, they are the only ones who have been trained to recognize electrical hazards, and in the steps necessary to avoid being killed by those hazards. Yet, electricians consistently account for nearly 22% of all electrical exposure fatalities and 37% of electrical exposure fatalities in construction occupations. Another way to look at this is that an average of about 80 electricians die every year at work and about 25 of those deaths come from exposure to electricity. Supervisors at construction sites are often responsible for the day-to-day on-site safety and enforcement. However, eight supervisors per year are electrocuted while at construction sites. These are not good track records for the leaders in electrical safety. A concerning occupation is the grounds worker. It is difficult to fathom electrical fatalities in the occupation with the use of gas and battery powered equipment. Are they hitting electrical wiring not properly protected by the installation, are they using extension cords that are damaged, or are they exposed to outdoor electrical equipment that is not properly maintained? Fifteen deaths a year due to electricity is too many for this occupation. Around 30 people a year are killed by direct contact with an overhead powerline, but I was unable to find specific occupations listed in the BLS data base. However, tree trimmers, roofers and painters are common occupations associated with this type of fatality often due to the use of a ladder, pole extension or boom. In my experience, many HVAC technicians have not taken up the belief that electrical safety applies to them which may account for their fatalities. I expect that the electrical deaths to production workers is heavily tied to lack of proper equipment maintenance. NFPA 70E is written to provide protection for these unqualified workers when exposed to electrical hazards while working. All employers must implement an  electrical safety program before these fatalities are a thing of the past. NFPA 70E is concerned with electrical safety in the workplace for all workers. Regardless of your occupation there is the potential for a fatality due to exposure to electrical hazards. Electricians as well as painters must understand this and not only learn but apply the safety protocols that NFPA 70E outlines. Want to keep track of what is happening with the National Electrical Code® (NEC®)? Subscribe to the NFPA Network to stay informed of new content. The newsletter also includes NFPA 70E information such as my blogs.

Massachusetts lawmakers still seeking reform on hot work after two Boston firefighters died in tragic Back Bay fire caused by welders

Lawmakers, fire service leaders, fire prevention professionals, and NFPA representatives participated in a legislative hearing last week seeking reforms for hot work, cutting, and welding after two Boston firefighters were killed in a fast-moving fire in a Back Bay brownstone in 2014. The proposed bill will better protect people, property, and first responders by ensuring that those who perform hot work have met necessary qualifications and those who have not participated in this program are appropriately penalized.  S.1381 An Act implementing the recommendations of the Walsh-Kennedy Report was initially proposed by Senator Nick Collins (S1554) of Boston. Collins is seeking implementation of the recommendations that were made by a special commission in 2015 after welders prompted a fatal fire in a building next door that killed Lieutenant Edward Walsh and firefighter Michael Kennedy. The commission was charged with determining whether the current state fire code provides adequate protection when it comes to trade workers in the Bay State performing hot work or any work that involves sparks or fires. According to WWLP News, Boston Fire Department (BFD) Commissioner John Dempsey said at the hearing that current fines and penalties for violating cutting, welding, or hot work regulations are “not even a slap on the wrist.” Dempsey said the state needs to implement an initial fine that gets the attention of violators and then institute increasing penalties for second or third offenses. “The fines are so minimal that smaller companies, if they roll the dice, the fine is so little, if they get caught it’s cheaper to pay the fine than it is to hire a fire watch or maybe even pull a permit,” he said. “So, I believe by increasing the fines, this will get their attention.” NFPA research shows that US fire departments responded to an average of 4,580 structure fires involving hot work per year in 2014-2018. These fires caused an average of 22 civilian deaths, 171 civilian injuries, and $484 million in direct property damage per year. Shortly after the Back Bay fire, NFPA worked with the City of Boston and others to create a custom training model based on NFPA 51B Standard for Fire Prevention During Welding, Cutting, and other Hot Work, a well-known standard within the fire prevention community. The training was developed with input from those who would be responsible for implementing and enforcing the new ordinance and features specific content so that the training is relevant, targeted, and applicable in the workplace. Trade workers earn a NFPA Hot Work Safety Certificate after successfully learning about hazards and safeguards that can be applied to limit ignition potential from any planned hot work. Workers’ can then apply their understanding and knowledge when reviewing project plans that include hot work. The model has since become a statewide requirement and can be adjusted for other jurisdictions seeking to collaborate with NFPA on safer hot work practices. Nearly 35,000 individuals in Massachusetts have taken the NFPA hot work classroom training and more than 8,000 have met the requirements via an online program. For more on hot work resources, visit Jurisdictions and businesses interested in better protecting people and property from hot work through an initiative similar to those in place in Boston and the state of Massachusetts, can contact Monique Manning.
Testing and maintenance

Research Foundation webinar on “ITM Data Exchange: New Frontier of Standardization to Support Reliability Analyses”

Fire protection systems are an essential part of a building’s safety ecosystem. The installation of such systems is just the beginning of a more dynamic safety process that requires diligent inspection, testing and maintenance (ITM) efforts. ITM plays a significant, fundamental role in managing facility risks, and ensures that systems will activate as intended, when needed, and ultimately minimize downtime — because down time equates to accumulated risk. There are nearly 70 NFPA codes and standards requiring some form of ITM. In recent years, there has been interest in using ITM activity data to inform decisions related to system reliability, risk acceptability, and ITM frequencies. These data are being captured in thousands of different formats, through hundreds of different approaches, and by thousands of different groups, but one key element has been lacking to date - standardization. This void has restricted the ability to determine sound performance-based inspection frequencies and prevents stakeholders from exchanging and analyzing data that can influence safety and efficiencies. To address this need, a novel approach to standardizing ITM data using concepts of linked data and graph-modeling is being pilot tested through this ongoing Fire Protection Research Foundation project. This webinar will present a proof-of-concept comprehensive, scalable, and extensible ITM data exchange model that can facilitate data sharing from diverse data sources to support reliability analyses and predictive analytics. Guided by the concepts of fair data principles, this case study will demonstrate how graph-modeling and other cutting-edge techniques are being leveraged to collect and consolidate data to enable further analysis, reporting, and sharing of ITM data for the needs of various stakeholder groups. Register for this webinar today. When: Tuesday, June 29, 2021, 12:30 P.M. Eastern Time. Presenter: Bart van Leeuwen, Netage BV This webinar is supported by the Research Foundation 2021 Webinar Series Sponsors: APA – The Engineered Wood Association AXA XL Risk Consulting Johnson Controls Reliable Automatic Sprinkler Co., Inc. Telgian Engineering and Consulting The Zurich Services Corporation Visit for more upcoming NFPA & FPRF webinars and archives.
Parking garage

RFP now open for FPRF Project: Electric Vehicle Hazards in Parking Structures – Full-Scale Testing

Vehicles have changed significantly over the years. They now incorporate larger quantities of combustible materials (e.g. fuels, plastics, synthetic materials, etc.) into their designs, but there has also been significant advancement in the use and development of alternative fuels for the drive engine. Globally, battery electric vehicles (EV) are seeing significant growth because of their minimal impact on the environment, advancement in the vehicle technology, and government incentive programs. EV sales are expected to increase from 2.5 million in 2020 to 11.2 million in 2025, then reaching 31.1 million by 2030. The Fire Protection Research Foundation recently completed a Phase I project with Combustion Science and Engineering, Inc. (CSE) on “Modern Vehicle Hazards in Parking Structures and Vehicle Carriers” to document the current understanding of the fire hazard modern vehicles present to parking structures and marine vessels. The findings of the study indicated that the spread of fire between cars in a garage, especially from the initial to the second and third vehicles, is critical in determining the extent of the fire and the ability of the fire department to successfully control and extinguish it. Full-scale testing with a range of configurations was identified as a necessary next step to evaluate the spread dynamics and critical parameters that influence electric vehicle fires. Our next step is to continue working with CSE and a testing contractor (to be selected via this open RFP process) on a follow-up project to fill some of the identified knowledge gaps – namely quantifying the fire spread hazards of electric vehicles in parking garages settings and the impact of fire sprinklers. The full scope of this FPRF project is provided here. The intent of this RFP is to solicit proposals from organizations with large-scale fire testing capabilities who can accommodate the proposed vehicle fire tests specified in this RFP. The open RFP seeking a testing contractor is available here, and on the Foundation’s website. Note the full scope of work, including both the testing and the engineering and analysis portions to be carried out by Combustion Science and Engineering, is available here, for reference. Please submit your proposals to Victoria Hutchison by July 2, 2021, at 5 p.m. EST.
High-rise buildings in the city

REMINDER: Final days to sign up for “Keeping You Informed: The Big Wide World of Building and Life Safety” on Tuesday, June 22

On Tuesday, June 22, NFPA is hosting “Keeping You Informed: The Big Wide World of Building and Life Safety,” a one-day program addressing some of today’s leading building and life safety issues, opportunities, and challenges. 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. “Keeping You Informed: The Big Wide World of Building and Life Safety” will cover a wide range of topics that facility managers, AHJs, building owners, code officials and enforcers, among others, are facing - from construction site fires, remote virtual inspections (RVI), and potential fire risks posed by facilities that grow, process, and extract cannabis, to emerging technologies like drones and 3D printing. Additional key sessions will provide updates to the new 2021 editions of NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code® and NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities Code. The day will also include industry roundtable discussions, networking events, and live chats with industry experts and NFPA staff. Attendees can tune in live to earn up to five credit hours (0.5 CEU) and earn an additional five credit hours on-demand for a total of 10 credit hours (1.0 CEU). Alternatively, the content can all be viewed on-demand for a total of 10 credit hours (1.0 CEU). All programs will be available on-demand for up to a year starting on June 22. Enter the promo code BLS125 during checkout to register yourself for $98 and to register a friend at no cost. Check out the full list of sessions to review all the presentations offered throughout “Keeping You Informed: The Big Wide World of Building and Life Safety”. Also, find more information about the entire NFPA 125th Anniversary Conference Series at
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