Topic: NFPA Codes & Standards Process Updates

Fire truck in Mexico City

The Mexico City Subway Station Fire Raises Questions About Maintenance and Updating

Here in Mexico City, where I am based for my role as NFPA development director for Latin America, there is significant buzz about the fire at the Buen Tono substation of the Mexico City Metro.A female police officer died when she fell during the incident, and the subway system that typically, during non-COVID times, serves 4.6 million commuters daily was severely disabled. Saturday’s incident has frustrated commuters and is raising important questions about necessary maintenance and upgrades. Given that I am charged with advancing government responsibility, fire and life safety infrastructure, code compliance, and emergency response strategies (among other safety considerations) in Mexico City, I, too, have a lot of questions including the obvious one, “how did this fire happen?” According to news reports, the fire broke out in Mexico City’s downtown substation and persisted for nearly 12 hours. It damaged six service lines including three of the system’s oldest and busiest lines which reportedly may not be repaired for three months. In addition to the police officer that perished, more than 30 people, including Metro workers, on-site police and a firefighter went to the hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation and other concerns. Mexico News Daily reports that a former director of the Metro said the substation had not been modernized in the last 20 years. “These installations should have been replaced 20 years ago [or] at least changed gradually [but] that wasn’t the case,” Jorge Gaviño said in a television interview. “They’re old, obsolete systems that definitely have to be given adequate maintenance to avoid … risks to passengers.” The news outlet quotes Gaviño as saying the Mexico City Congress will ask the Metro system’s management to supply the maintenance records of the substation so that they can be analyzed to determine why the fire broke out and how a similar event can be avoided in the future. NFPA research shows that between 2014-2018, fire departments in the United States responded to an estimated 1,100 fires per year in or at rapid transit stations. Since 1983, NFPA has produced NFPA 130 Standard for Fixed Guideway Transit and Passenger Rail Systems to help jurisdictions address some of the very design, maintenance and safety requirements that I suspect may be identified here in Mexico City.  A Fixed Guideway Transit Systems Technical Committee was first formed in 1975 and began work on the development of NFPA 130 with one of the primary concerns centered on the potential for entrapment and injury of masses of people who routinely use mass transportation facilities. During development of the document, several significant fires occurred in fixed guideway systems. The committee noted that the minimal loss of life during these incidents was due primarily to chance events more than any preconceived plan or the operation of protective systems. So, they focused on developing material on fire protection requirements to be included in NFPA 130. In 1988, the standard was expanded to include automated guideway transit (AGT) systems – fully automated driverless transit systems which are automatically guided along a guideway. In subsequent years, new chapters on emergency ventilation systems, egress calculations in accordance with NFPA 101® Life Safety Code®, and protection requirements that address emergency lighting and standpipes were factored in. In other words, as new incidents, issues and best practices arose, the standard changed and so, too, should have the design and maintenance of the Metro station in Mexico City to ensure passenger safety and business continuity. Over the years, NFPA has served as a safety resource for organizations like the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in the United States. In 2015, NFPA staff offered safety insights to NTSB when an electrical malfunction filled the busy Metro subway station in downtown Washington, DC. That incident produced thick, black smoke and left many riders stranded after their train stopped in a tunnel. When all was said and done, a woman was dead and nearly 70 others were sent to the hospital. According to The Washington Post, authorities believed a train, which had just left the L’Enfant Plaza station, came to a halt about 800 feet into the tunnel because there was “an electrical arcing event” that occurred about 1,100 feet in front of the train. The event filled the tunnel with smoke because the arcing involved cables that power the third rail; arcing is often connected with short circuits and may generate smoke. There did not appear to have been a fire during that incident but nonetheless, questions about ventilation and maintenance were brought up in the aftermath of that incident, just as they will and should be brought up now by authorities in Mexico City. I also learned this week that the issue of train safety will be the subject of an NFPA Journal in Compliance column that is scheduled to run next month, and  my colleagues at the Fire Protection Research Foundation explained that although they do not have research on this topic, others do, including: NIST – Fire Safety in Passenger Rail Transportation Brandforsk/RISE: Model Scale Railcar Fire Tests Victoria University - Fire Development in Passenger Trains (Thesis) International Association for Fire Safety Science (AFSS) As the former Metro director of the Metro Jorge Gaviño said to the media, “We have to find out if … this regrettable accident was foreseeable or not.”  I stand ready to help Mexico City authorities if they need NFPA insights to get public transportation safely back on track. This blog is also available in Spanish.

2021 Edition of NFPA 30 Flammable and Combustible Liquid Code Features New Naming Nomenclature

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has published the NFPA 30 Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code since 1913. Every three years its requirements are revised based on input from industry and government sectors. This blog highlights the major changes for the 2021 edition. The new code includes a significant change in its nomenclature along with revised sections addressing warehouse and tank storage, as well as piping. A flowchart was added in the annex to assist users interested in navigating chapters that pertain to container storage [including intermediate bulk container (IBC) storage], tank storage, piping, processing, and dispensing. What’s in a name? The 2021 edition of NFPA 30 introduces and emphasizes the term “ignitible liquid” compared to “flammable and combustible liquid.” The terms “flammable and combustible liquid,” have been changed to “ignitible (flammable and combustible) liquid”. This revision does not affect existing code requirements, only the nomenclature used to describe the liquids. The nomenclature was changed for two reasons. The first is that transportation and workplace codes use different flash points for the terms, “flammable” and “combustible.” Different definitions can create user confusion, potentially impair a user’s understanding of a liquid’s fire hazard and impact decisions made to protect against ignitible liquid fires. To clarify the potential for a liquid to produce ignitible vapors, the 2021 edition emphasizes the use of Liquid Class (Class IA, IB, IC, II, IIIA, and IIIB), which are tied to closed cup flash points, or in the case of Class IA and IB liquids, are tied to both the closed cup flash point and the boiling point. The term “flammable liquid” is now defined as a Class I liquid and a “combustible liquid” is defined as a Class II or III liquid. The second reason relates to the potential misconception that the term, “combustible liquid,” implies a lesser fire hazard than compared to fires involving flammable liquids. Full scale fire testing demonstrated that combustible liquids can generate fires that can approach the intensity of those generated with flammable liquids. What’s new in storage? Storage requirements for various ignitible liquids have also been revised. One notable change is that the exemption for beverages, medicines, foodstuffs, cosmetics, and other consumer products containing water-miscible ignitible liquids was lowered from greater than 50 percent by volume to greater than 20 percent by volume. Fire testing on consumer products with greater than 20 percent water-miscible ignitible liquids demonstrated that these commodities are not adequately protected using fire protection measures in NFPA 13 Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems. Therefore, these products are required to be protected under NFPA 30 requirements. Chapters 12 and 16 were revised based on fire testing with Class IB, IC, II, IIIA and Class IIIB liquids. NFPA 30 Table 12.8.1 which addresses the Liquid-Container Combinations Permitted in a Protected General-Purpose Warehouse was extensively revised. Fire testing demonstrated that the criteria in Chapter 16 of NFPA 30 can effectively control fires involving eight new liquid/storage combinations listed in Table 12.8.1. Six new Chapter 16 fire protection design tables specify requirements for new combinations of liquid classes (or liquids), containers, and storage configurations. Some of these tables reference new Fire Protection Schemes “D”, “E”, and “F” that introduce new storage and sprinkler layouts. What’s going on with tanks and piping now? NFPA 30 now indicates that either water or product can be used for ballast to protect against flooding to provide more flexibility in protecting tanks when a flood is expected. The 2021 edition also specifies the conditions under which anchorage of API 650 tanks is required to prevent sliding or overturning. Two design standards were also added to the list of atmospheric tank standards recognized by NFPA 30 to assists code officials and users. UL142A applies to special purpose aboveground oil and day tanks, while UL 2258 applies to nonmetallic tanks for fuel oils and other combustible liquids.  A new section in the code provides requirements for metallic/nonmetallic composite piping that references two standards. UL 971A covers hybrid composite systems (pipe and fittings) for underground use and UL/ULC 1369, a new standard, addresses above ground pipes constructed with metallic, nonmetallic or composite materials. This summary reflects some of the revisions in the 2021 edition of NFPA 30. As with all NFPA codes and standards, a consensus process was employed so that NFPA 30 is addressing the needs of professionals who deal with ignitible liquids. 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. NFPA LiNK subscribers will have convenient, digital access to new editions of 300-plus NFPA codes and standards (as they are released/uploaded), previous versions of codes, as well as updates on new helpful features and functions. More information about NFPA LiNK, a timeline of additional codes and standards that will be added, and an introduction video can be found at  

Are You Up to Speed on Warehouse Fire Safety? Download the New Fact Sheet and Find Out

NFPA has created a downloadable Warehouse Fire Safety Fact Sheet that provides statistics, safety benchmarks, and best practices for keeping storage structures, contents and occupants safe from harm. The piece was developed following last month’s popular NFPA Considerations for Warehouse Fire Safety webinar for contractors, installers, engineers, facility managers, and code officials. E-commerce, and the subsequent need for fulfillment facilities, has surged in recent years. This trend combined with large-scale, large-loss fire incidents at a Beirut, Lebanon shipping port, an Amazon distribution center in Redlands, California, and a recycling facility in South Carolina have spurred greater interest in warehouse fire safety today. NFPA research shows that warehouse fires happen at a frequent rate with an average of 1,410 warehouse fires, two deaths, 20 injuries, and an estimated $159.4 million in direct property damage annually. The new at-a-glance warehouse safety fact sheet draws on the guidance found in NFPA 13 Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems and covers: Warehouse Fire Data Responsibility for Safety Commodity Classification Sprinkler Design Management of Change Inspection, Testing and Maintenance Fire Prevention Measures Importance of ITM Download the Warehouse Fire Safety Fact Sheet and check out the wide arrange of NFPA resources related to warehouse fire safety including the recent webinar,incident data, reports, suppression related research, and new information on Early Suppression Fast Response (ESFR) sprinklers which are often installed in warehouses to avoid installation of in-rack sprinklers. Buybox:Title:Featured training|OLS1322SPR

“Team” Features Highlighted in Final Installment of NFPA LiNK Digital Platform Video Series

This fall, NFPA introduced the launch of a video blog series highlighting the key functions and features of NFPA LiNK™, the newest digital platform for building, electrical, and life safety professionals and practitioners. We discussed the dashboard and publications features, bookmarks and MyLiNK functionalities, as well as the search and share functions. In this, our last video in the series, we’re putting the spotlight on the “team access” feature that can assist you and your staff on the job. We all know in the workplace you are often working with a team of people. Maybe you’re in the engineering department designing systems and equipment or mapping out plans for a new hospital. Perhaps you’re in the field installing equipment in a new school. Regardless of your role, it is likely you are collaborating and working with others to complete your tasks. This is where NFPA LiNK can help play a part. With a teams or enterprise subscription, users have the ability to create collections and share notes. So as the supervisor you can now flag key areas to prepare your team for their next project. You can group together common questions and provide clarifications with your personal notes so your team has access to the information they need to be the very best at their job. Another great feature for managers includes the ability to put together collections on important topics to assist with training new hires or updating teams on the latest changes. Team members can also create their own team notes and collections to share peer to peer, as well. As your team grows or changes you can easily add and remove users by simply updating their email address in the administrator’s team management section. Invite a team member and they will receive an emailed invitation to join your team. A few clicks later they will able to take advantage of all the features available to them through NFPA LiNK. Learn more about team and enterprise subscriptions in the video below:     There’s so much about NFPA LiNK you don’t want to miss. Whether you’re a manager or team member, there are so many functions and features within NFPA LiNK that will keep you connected and informed with everyone you work with. Learn more about how NFPA LiNK can elevate your work and help you accomplish your goals. Purchase or try NFPA LiNK today by visiting the website.  Find more information about the platform, a timeline of additional codes and standards that will be coming to NFPA LiNK, and a product introduction video at 

NFPA Offers Digital Badging to Help Learners Emphasize Their Professional Credibility

NFPA is now offering digital badges to help stakeholders promote their professional achievements. Learners will earn a digital badge upon successful completion of select NFPA online learning and be able to share their badge(s) on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest or add a link to email signatures, resumes, and HTML cards. In short, digital badges demonstrate competency in a visual, shareable way. They verify that someone has successfully developed a certain skill or met an educational requirement that adds value for their current role or career aspirations. In recent years, the popularity of digital badging has grown significantly among students, professionals and practitioners. Employers looking to identify viable candidates and retain existing talent by offering opportunities for staff to upskill and potentially fill new openings are also embracing badging. To help those that take NFPA training project a competitive edge, three badge levels have been created, including: A Bronze Badge (Awareness) that demonstrates successful completion of a learning program and fundamental knowledge of facts and ideas A Silver Badge (Knowledge) that shows successful completion of a learning program and application of acquired knowledge, facts, techniques and rules A Gold Badge (Analysis) that emphasizes successful completion of a learning program and the ability to analyze content, present opinions or make judgements about the information based on a set of criteria Four NFPA online training courses currently offer badging with two more to be added soon: Swinging Fire Door Inspection 2021 NFPA 3000: Active Shooter / Hostile Event Response 2019 NFPA 241: Safeguarding Construction, Alteration, and Demolition Operations Construction Site Fire Safety Fundamentals Fire and Life Safety Operator (coming late 2020) Fire Prevention Program Manager (coming February 2021) NFPA is using Badgr to make digital badges available. After successfully completing one of the online courses identified above, a badge will appear immediately in the learner’s NFPA Training Portal and will be available via within 24-48 hours of earning the credential. Registration for a free Badgr account is required to access all digital badge functionality, including validation and sharing capabilities. Not familiar with digital badging? In the early 2000s, big names like Microsoft Xbox 360, social media site FourScore and even the Boy Scouts began using online badging to engage audiences, according to Chief Learning Officer. In the years since, higher-education institutions and forward-thinking organizations have offered and welcomed the informative icons because they help to tell the story of work experiences and learning achievements in a way that is more dynamic, detailed, and portable. NFPA training and education continues to be regarded as the gold standard for fire, electrical, building and life safety learning; and recently introduced a wide array of new online learning, live virtual training, and Certification Learning Paths to meet the demands of today’s busy, tech-savvy workforce.

Building & Life Safety: How Do I Apply the Provisions for Rehabilitation to Work at My Building?

An outdated and stained floor covering requires update and replacement, a new office tenant requests a reconfigured office space, a new commercial stove and oven is needed for a cafeteria, or a hotel guest room is converted into extra storage space.  Buildings are always undergoing work to maintain their systems and features in good working conditions, and to reconfigure and upgrade their space.    So, when work is being done to a building, how does the Life Safety Code apply?   Prior to 2006, editions of NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, required all modernizations, renovations, additions, and changes of occupancy, to the extent practicable, to comply with the requirements for new construction. Often, however, building rehabilitation is not undertaken because of the perception that unwanted or unwarranted upgrades will be forced on the building owner. Chapter 43, added in 2006, was written to encourage the adaptive reuse of compliant, existing structures. The former philosophy of “that which you do must meet new” is relaxed. Now, with the detailed provisions contained in Chapter 43, only those requirements necessary to achieve the intended level of life safety are mandated in lieu of requiring strict compliance with the requirements applicable to new buildings.   Chapter 43 presents provisions based on a set of concepts including the following: During a rehabilitation project, a building must meet the base level of life safety required by the Code chapter applicable to the existing occupancy. The rehabilitation work must maintain or increase the level of Code compliance. Rehabilitation work in existing construction elements or building features is held to a lower standard than rehabilitation work in new elements or features. Upgrades are typically required only in the rehabilitation work areas, not throughout the entire occupancy or building. What if my building requires corrective actions as a result of a Code deficiency?   Let's say you are planning to renovate an entire tenant space to in your existing office building. However, it is determined that your existing office building exceeds the maximum allowable travel distance.  The provisions of Chapter 43 are to be used once the existing building is brought into compliance with the appropriate occupancy chapter requirements applicable to that existing occupancy.  Work done to correct a deficiency is not subject to the provisions of Chapter 43.  Once your existing office building is compliant the additional planned work to the tenant space will use Chapter 43 to determine the provisions that apply to that work. Your existing office building undergoing the renovation is held, as a starting point, to the same requirements that apply to any other existing business occupancy building.  Some of the occupancy chapters have requirements that supplement those of Chapter 43 and impose the requirements for new construction on existing buildings that are being rehabilitated, including those situations in which the use is changed to increase the occupant load. For example, mercantile occupancies are further subclassified as a Class A, Class B, or Class C mercantile occupancy, based on the floor area used for sales purposes. After determining that Chapter 43 applies to the work in my building, what determines compliance with new or existing requirements?   Establishing a level of Code compliance uses a stepped approach to mandate requirements. Minor levels of rehabilitation must meet minimal requirements; major rehabilitation projects must meet more significant requirements. Chapter 43 defines seven categories of rehabilitation work: repair, renovation, modification, reconstruction, change of use, change of occupancy and addition. Understanding and properly defining these seven categories are a key concept of this chapter for achieving the objective of proportionality of work. That is, the more work that is proposed for the rehabilitation project, the more work that might be required by the Code in terms of upgrading existing conditions.  Incorrectly defining the category/categories of work on a rehabilitation project can result in over- or under-applying critical fire and life safety requirements from the Code to your building. Identifying the category of work being performed will then determine the extent to which the Code is applied to that work.  Any building undergoing rehabilitation will comply with the requirements of the applicable existing occupancy chapter plus any additional requirements for the applicable new occupancy as called out specifically in Chapter 43. For example, a simple repair, such as replacing a few ceiling tiles in an office that were damaged due to a water leak, would be required to use like materials and result in an installation no less conforming than it was prior to the repair (existing).  Reconstruction work, such as gutting an entire floor in an existing hotel building to create hotel guest suites from individual guest rooms individual guest rooms, requires a more extensive and detailed application of Code requirements for the work being performed. Among other requirements, newly constructed elements, components, and systems are required to comply with the requirements of other Code sections applicable to new construction. What are some other considerations when applying Chapter 43 to a rehabilitation project? Chapter 43, with the exception of the provisions for reconstruction, does not mandate improvements or set minimum acceptable standards for spaces that are not undergoing rehabilitation.  Incidental work in other areas of the building may be required depending on the extent of the work (for example, extending a fire alarm system may require upgrades to the fire alarm panel that are outside the original rehabilitation work area but are necessary as part of the project.) A single work project may have more than one rehabilitation work category (for example, a reconstruction may also result in a change of occupancy)  The provisions of Chapter 43 should not prevent the use of equivalent designs, systems or approaches if deemed acceptable by the AHJ.  Work mandated by any accessibility, property, housing, or fire code; mandated by the existing building requirements of this Code; or mandated by any licensing rule or ordinance, are not required to conform to Chapter 43. Construction, alteration and demolition operations that may accompany rehabilitation projects must comply with the provisions for NFPA 241.  Both new and existing occupancy chapters now contain pointers back to NFPA 241 for this work.   Interested in learning more about the specifics of rehabilitation work categories and compliance options for applying the building rehabilitation requirements in NFPA 101 to real world examples?  This December we will be offering a 2-hour virtual, live training on this topic!  Be on the lookout in the NFPA catalog at soon for more details and registration information.   And finally, if you found this article helpful, subscribe to the NFPA Network Newsletter for monthly, personalized content related to the world of fire, electrical, and building & life safety.   Thanks for reading, stay safe!
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