Topic: Building & Life Safety

NFPA has received a $225K grant from General Motors to deliver free online electric vehicle training to 12,000 volunteer and underserved U.S. fire departments

NFPA has received a $225,000 grant from General Motors to deliver its electric vehicle (EV) training for free to 12,000 volunteer and underserved fire departments throughout the U.S. The funding comes at a critical time, as more EVs continue to enter the roadways but many fire departments remain untrained in effectively mitigating associated incidents. “While firefighters have had more than 100 years to learn how to handle incidents with internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, they’ve had very little time to understand and train for those involving EV and hybrid vehicles,” said Andrew Klock, emerging issues lead manager at NFPA. “As electric vehicles increasingly dominate our roads in the coming years, ensuring that fire departments are adequately trained and equipped to deal with them is critically important.” A 2020 report published by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) states that the U.S. fire service is not prepared to fight electric vehicle fires. This issue is more prevalent among volunteer and underserved departments, which often don’t have the resources to receive the needed training; about two-thirds (67 percent) of U.S. fire departments are served by part-time or volunteer firefighters, according to NFPA data. Through the General Motors grant, NFPA will work in coordination with U.S. fire service organizations and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Clean Cities Coalitions to conduct outreach among targeted audiences to maximize participation in the NFPA Electric Vehicle Safety training program, which will be provided online at no cost for one year. Fire departments that would like to register for the course can do so via the NFPA catalog and apply this coupon code: gmev1 (not case sensitive). “Providing free access to our training plays a pivotal role in helping ensure that volunteer and underserved fire departments are adequately trained and prepared to handle EV incidents,” said Klock. “Thanks to General Motors’ generous support, we’ll be able to provide the needed training to thousands of fire departments that otherwise would not be able to access it.” NFPA is an ANSI-accredited national codes and standards developer for emergency responder qualifications, equipment, and tactics. Over the past 12 years, the association has worked to develop and refine its EV safety program in collaboration with NTSB, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), the National Highway and Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA), the National Institute of Standards Technology (NIST), and numerous national research laboratories. These and associated efforts have earned NFPA widespread recognition among the major fire service organizations in North America as the leading EV safety training program for first responders. NFPA also serves on the SAE J2990 Committee for EV Safety and continues to engage with the U.S. DOE, DOT, and NHTSA to conduct testing and determine new methods to combat EV incidents.
A house burning

America Burning: Honoring the Anniversary of the Release of a Landmark Report

Much has changed in the nearly five decades since the pivotal America Burning report was issued in 1973 and revisited in 1980. Today, as we honor the anniversary of the report’s initial release, we’d like to share some information about a recent Fire Protection Research Foundation report, Fire in the United States Since 1980, Through the Lens of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, that examines the current state of fire safety in the U.S. -- where progress has been made and what needs to be done today. The number of fires and fire deaths in the United States has reduced dramatically and that progress has unfortunately led to fire safety taking a back seat to other societal concerns that seem more pressing. To understand the headway that has been made and the challenges that remain, NFPA commissioned the Fire Protection Research Foundation, the association’s affiliate, to examine the current state of fire safety in the United States. The new seminal report, Fire in the United States Since 1980, Through the Lens of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, is expected to be a key document with valuable insights that will help to advance fire and life safety. The report references success in several occupancies such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and hotels and really zeroes in on residential fires because they account for the largest share of reported structure fires and most of the civilian fire deaths and injuries. And although there have been fewer fires in the U.S. than in past decades, statistically, if a home fire is reported, occupants are more likely to die today than 40 years ago. In fact, research shows that: Every 24 seconds, a US fire department responds to a fire somewhere in the country Nationwide, a civilian dies in a fire every  3 hours and 10 minutes In the US, a home fire injury occurs every 43 minutes The 63-page Fire in the United States Since 1980, Through the Lens of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem report shows, in part, that: The most successful recipe for fire safety in the built environment has been the implementation of fire safety technologies through mandated codes and standards NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem™ elements – government responsibility, development and use of current codes, and an informed public – have had an obvious impact on the fire experience Approaching fire safety as a system, and not individual bits and pieces, provides an opportunity to unravel the complex and ongoing fire safety challenge for society Smoke alarms are a huge success story Cooking remains the leading cause of home fires and injuries Smoking has the been the leading cause of home fire deaths for roughly four decades Fire deaths of children under fire have dramatically declined, but there has been little change in older adult death tolls States with higher fire death rates correlate with larger percentages of people who have a disability; are current smokers; have incomes below the poverty line; live in rural areas; or are either African American, Black, Native American, or Alaskan Native Wildfire is becoming the dominant type of fire that causes catastrophic multiple deaths as well as large losses The new study analyzed fire data and other research from the past 40 years to provide a snapshot of what has influenced safety. Additionally, catastrophic multiple-death fires and fires in the wildland/urban interface (WUI) were looked at because they have the potential to cause significant human loss. As the report name suggests, the new benchmark research was conducted with the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem in mind. NFPA introduced the Ecosystem in 2018 so that professionals, practitioners, and the public had a framework that identified the key elements that play a critical role in fire, life, and electrical safety. The eight components are government responsibility, development and use of current codes, referenced standards, investment in safety, a skilled workforce, code compliance, preparedness and emergency response, and an informed public. When all the Ecosystem elements work together, the result is a fully functioning system that can benefit everyone. If one or more of the components fails, the system breaks down and tragedies can occur. To download the full report today, visit here and be sure to check for related content and resources in the months to come.

Atrium Design Considerations

The use of vertical openings within buildings is a common design feature. Large spaces, typically in the center of a building, created by vertical openings through floors and ceilings are commonly referred to by architects as an atrium. Atriums are desirable to some building designs because they allow for light and ventilation within a space and allow for many parts of a building to feel connected with each other. However, atriums and other vertical openings pose some unique fire protection and life safety hazards that must be considered such as limiting the spread of fire and the products of combustion throughout the building. The base requirement in NFPA 101, The Life Safety Code, states that every floor that separates stories of a building must be constructed as a smoke barrier. If there are openings in the floor, these openings must be enclosed with fire barrier walls that extend from floor to floor or floor to roof. These two main base requirements apply to all occupancies unless a specific occupancy chapter provides an alternative option. This base requirement of separating stories exists to minimize the number of occupants that are exposed to the effects of a fire. There are exceptions that permit unprotected openings within floors that separate stories. The following protection packages are outlined in NFPA 101 and are permitted to be used under certain conditions: communicating space atrium partially enclosed two-story opening convenience opening When selecting an unprotected vertical opening protection package, the first thing to consider is the number of stories that are open to each other. If the opening connects three stories or fewer, then you will need to look and see if you can meet the requirements of a communicating space or convenience stair opening, if the opening connects 4 stories, then the space will need to meet the requirements for an atrium or convenience stair. If more than 4 stories are connected, then the requirements for an atrium will need to be met. For a deeper dive into types of vertical openings take a look at this blog. Let’s assume that the vertical openings within the building need to be protected as an atrium. Section 8.6.7 of NFPA 101 provides the requirements for an atrium, which include: an engineering analysis for smoke layer development separation from other spaces exit access requirements permissible contents sprinkler protection and if provided, requirements for a smoke control system (smoke management system) In this blog I am going to focus on the engineering analysis for smoke layer development and separation requirements. Where atriums are used, there is a need to minimize the risk of occupants on other floors being exposed to untenable conditions, such as low visibility, heat, and dangerous concentrations of smoke and toxic gases. To ensure that occupants are afforded tenable conditions, an engineering analysis must be completed to confirm that the smoke layer will stay at least 6 ft (1830 mm) above the highest walking surface within the atrium space for a period that is equal to 1.5 times the calculated egress time, or 20 minutes, whichever is greater.  It should be noted that the requirement for an engineering analysis does not mean that a smoke control or smoke management system is required in all atriums because there are cases in which tenable conditions can be maintained without a smoke management system. The engineering analysis should include the following elements: Fire dynamics, including the following: Fire size and location Materials likely to be burning Fire plume geometry Fire plume or smoke layer impact on means of egress Tenability conditions during the period of occupant egress Response and performance of building systems, including passive barriers, automatic detection and extinguishing, and smoke control Response time required for building occupants to reach building exits, including any time required to exit through the atrium as permitted in NFPA 101. If the engineering analysis shows that a smoke control system (smoke management system) is required in the atrium to keep the smoke layer at least 6 ft (1830 mm) above the highest walking surface then the system will need to be designed and installed in accordance with NFPA 92, Standard for Smoke Control Systems. NFPA 92 allows for different design approaches to smoke management including natural smoke filling, mechanical smoke exhaust, gravity smoke venting, and opposed flow to prevent smoke movement. For more information on smoke control systems take a look at this blog. To protect the occupants in adjacent portions of the building, NFPA 101 requires that atriums be separated from adjacent spaces using one of the following methods: Fire barriers with not less than a 1-hour fire resistance rating. Any number of levels are permitted to be open directly to the atrium based on the results of the engineering analysis. Glass walls and inoperable windows can serve as the separation provided they are protected with closely spaced sprinklers on either side of the glass. Want to learn more about atrium design? Want to see all the referenced requirements within the codes and standards? Take a look at our atrium design situation in the DiRECT feature on NFPA LiNK. This situation goes into more detail on design requirements as well as sprinkler system and fire alarm system design considerations. For more information on how to access NFPA LiNK with a 14-day free trial on your computer or mobile device go here.
Worker looking at a laptop

NFPA LiNK Empowers Users to Quickly and Easily Navigate Digital Codes and Standards

Did you catch the first free one-hour webinar educating users on our revolutionary digital platform, NFPA LiNK®? If not, don’t worry, it won’t be the last. At the March session, hosted by me, prospective and current NFPA LiNK subscribers from all over the world gathered virtually for an interactive discussion. I presented a complete demonstration of all features and content within NFPA LiNK followed by a Q&A session. Below are some key features that were demonstrated for our webinar attendees: Complete access to all NFPA codes and standards: NFPA LiNK houses the latest edition of every NFPA® code and standard, as well as a growing library of legacy editions for the organization’s most referenced publications. Subscribers also receive early access to newly released editions and can favorite their most cited publications for easy reference.  Enhanced publication navigation: Once a publication is open, users can view all enhanced content and collaborative notes. The bookmark feature enables users to save content (both sections and tables), leave notes, add bookmarks to larger collections, and color-code bookmarks. For easy side-by-side viewing of different sections of code, users can utilize the reference panel feature. NFPA LiNK also makes it easy to share sections of code with others (nonsubscribers included) via email from directly within a publication. Comprehensive search capabilities: The search feature within NFPA LiNK allows users to quickly search all NFPA publications by keyword or phrase. Users can also utilize filters to further refine a search and narrow down code content results. Custom MyLink page: MyLink is where subscribers can easily access and search all bookmarked content and collections. Within MyLink, users can create and reference individual collections of bookmarks as well as team collections for sharing and collaboration with others. Additional NFPA DiRECT™ content: NFPA DiRECT allows subscribers to find interactive, industry-specific content through situational navigation. With new content added on a weekly basis, the NFPA DiRECT hub within NFPA LiNK highlights situations and solutions created by NFPA experts to help users better understand requirements in varying situations. Offline Capabilities: The offline feature allows users to store publications, notes, and enhanced content for uninterrupted access anywhere at any time. Team Management Feature: NFPA LiNK’s team management capabilities mean team admins don’t need to contact NFPA or IT whenever they want to reassign licenses among team members. This feature allows users to conveniently invite, add, and remove team members.  Want to see it all in action? You can catch a recording of the session, “How to Quickly and Easily Navigate Digital Codes and Standards,” on our webinar page here.  As game-changing as these features are, NFPA LiNK continues to grow with you. We are constantly listening to and interacting with our users to learn more about the best updates that will help you excel in your daily roles. NFPA LiNK users can expect to see new content and features on a continuous basis—all of which will be shared with users within the “Announcements” section of NFPA LiNK. Stay tuned for more information on the next free NFPA LiNK educational webinar, coming in June 2022. Check here for more details soon. To find out more about NFPA LiNK, including how to sign up for a free trial, visit 
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10 Ways to Make Your Safety Culture Thrive

Safety implications for businesses extend far beyond injury and property damage. An effective safety culture is critical to ensuring that business operations and output continue, and that facilities remain incident-free. Here are ten ways that organizations can invest in a strong safety culture to ensure that people, property, and productivity are safeguarded. Set appropriate expectations – It is important that everyone understands their respective roles and what they are accountable for on the job. Organizations tend to leverage regulatory requirements to guide them in setting expectations, but it is equally important to clarify business priorities. A sure-fire way to improve safety in the workplace is to establish a culture where safety is prioritized over production. Are your workers encouraged to pause work for safety reasons? Do they feel pressured to deliver results rather than keeping safety at the forefront?  Build shared ownership – Everyone should know and own their safety responsibilities. A great way to enrich an organization’s safety culture is by fostering an environment that shares ownership of safety tasks. Taking this tack helps everyone to properly understand how their safety benchmarks meld with others to achieve optimal safety. In the spirit of transparency and collaboration, give workers an opportunity to raise and answer questions as a team. Do your workers spend time sharing their accountabilities and learning more about their peers’ safety responsibilities? Help them believe – More often than not, training is treated as a check-the-box requirement for safety compliance. Real impact training not only helps workers acquire insights and techniques to be safer, it cultivates knowledge, skills, and an attitude that leads to changed behaviors. Without that deeper understanding, employees and contractors may be tempted to bypass or reduce safety steps in the interest of productivity. Have your workers been adequately trained so that they believe in the importance of performing their designated safety controls? Right people, right skills – Workers need the right skills to perform their assigned tasks. Qualifications should be considered prior to delegating responsibilities to personnel. A level of thoughtful consideration is especially important as an individual’s level of accountability changes or increases. How are you ensuring that individuals have the right competence to perform required safety tasks? Make it easy to comply – Cumbersome compliance systems contribute to the complacency that can hurt a safety culture. If workers find permitting to be difficult, then they may seek ways to circumvent mandatory procedures. If workers cannot attend scheduled training due to conflicts with their schedule, then they may skip mandatory learning that is critical for safety. How are you ensuring compliance is simple and feasible for your workers? Part of performance review – Expectations, training, and compliance must be built into regular performance reviews. Supervisors need to purposefully observe and provide feedback to employees about strict adherence to safety policies and procedures. Those same managers must be rewarded and disciplined equally for meeting production AND safety benchmarks. Does your management and workforce receive feedback, rewards, and recognition for ensuring safe operations and compliance? Talk the talk – I once visited an organization that takes time during each meeting to share a safety example or misstep to underscore the relevancy of the company’s policies and procedures. Those weighing in during this discussion hailed from both the operations and business sides of the organization. Beyond having visual cues, such as signage in the workplace, teams should spend time talking about safety. Complacency is the biggest enemy of a safety culture. The more that teams discuss safety, the more likely it will be top of mind as they work. Do your workers have a channel to discuss safety issues regularly? Walk the walk – Take time to celebrate good safety practices and digest poorly executed plans. People learn from both good and bad examples so be sure to debrief incidents, inspect outcomes, and audit situations. Learning does not and should not end with training. Do your workers regularly celebrate successes and learn from mistakes? Encourage curiosity – Asking questions can often be frowned upon with some mistakenly perceiving curiosity as incompetence. Teach workers to know when it is appropriate to question if adequate safety controls are being applied, especially during moments of change management when occupations and usage could be in flux. Managers and workers should have access to internal and external experts for safety-related questions and should be encouraged to keep up with the latest safety practices outlined in codes, standards, and training.  Are your managers and workers encouraged to be curious and to build on their career capabilities? Build partnerships with AHJs – Many people treat audits and inspections as a threat and may withhold information for fear of receiving poor ratings. The truth is that auditors and inspectors are safety culture allies. Their insights help organizations improve safety outcomes, so it is essential for businesses to be honest and transparent during any kind of analysis. Are you leveraging audits and inspections to regularly assess and improve your safety program and culture? It is widely known that codes and standards provide the solid foundation for an organization’s safety infrastructure. For the benefit of business continuity and workplace culture, key managers and workers in an organization should: learn how codes and standards inform safety program policies, procedures, and best practices; believe that everyone plays a role in safety; and  be curious and critically assess potential hazards based on the latest information and training. Investing in an organization’s safety culture and the need for skilled labor are two critical components of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem™.  In a nutshell, the Ecosystem shows us that safety is a system; the framework is being used around the world to facilitate important discussions in the workplace. Find out how NFPA can help your organization improve its safety culture through codes and standards, research, training, certifications, and membership
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