Topic: Fire Protection Systems

City snowy street

NFPA 25 provides guidance on maximizing fire safety during sprinkler systems restoration process

Over the past couple of weeks, one of the common themes among news stories and social media posts addressing the recent winter storms has been the impact of plunging temperatures on pipes. Numerous videos and images have shown frozen leaks extruding from systems and burst pipes allowing continuous flow of water from plumbing systems, which included all portions of automatic fire sprinkler systems. NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, contains provisions that require protection of sprinkler system from freezing where exposure to low temperatures can be expected. Options for this protection, which have been addressed in previous blogs, include listed antifreeze solutions, the use of dry sprinklers or dry sprinkler systems, and heat tracing. While these are effective solutions when done properly and maintained in accordance with NFPA 25, Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, these solutions are not typically provided in conditioned spaces where the heating system is expected to maintain temperatures above freezing. In the situation where utility outages and rolling blackouts disable the heating system, the water filled pipe in those heated areas can then be subject to extreme temperatures, causing the water to freeze and subsequent failures within the system. This is a situation beyond what the standard normally anticipates. Unfortunately, as those videos and images showed last week, many systems were subjected to record cold temperatures and suffered failures. At that point, the building contains a compromised sprinkler system and is no longer protected at the level that is expected while the system is in service. In NFPA 25, the term for a system that is out of order is an impairment. In fact, one of the specifically identified ‘emergency impairments’ is frozen or ruptured piping. Impairments need to be addressed and resolved as quickly as possible in order to provide the expected level of protection for life and property. If the impairment is prolonged, additional measures need to be taken in consideration of life and property protection. Impairment Program In the time before the restoration of service, NFPA 25 provides details on impairment programs and what they should cover: Determination of the extent and expected duration of the impairment Determination of the area or buildings involved are inspected and increased risks Submittal of recommendations to mitigate any increased risks Notification of the fire department Notification of the insurance carrier, alarm company, property owner, and other authorities having jurisdiction Notification of supervisors in the areas affected Implementation of a Tag impairment system Prolonged Impairments In addition to these steps, what may be the most important or impactful provision is arranging for one or more of the following measures when the fire protection system is out of service for more than 10 hours in a 24-hour period: Evacuation of the building or portion of the building affected by the system out of service Implementation of an approved fire watch program Establishment of a temporary water supply Establishment and implementation of an approved program to eliminate potential ignition sources and limit the amount of fuel available to a fire Restoring Systems to Service When repair work has been completed and the system is restored to service, the following items need to be confirmed: Any necessary inspections and tests have been conducted Supervisors have been advised that protection is restored The fire department has been advised that protection is restored The insurance carrier, alarm company, property owner, and other authorities having jurisdiction are notified that protection is restored The impairment tag is removed The impacts of the recent weather events will be seen for a while, and as weather patterns throughout the U.S. become more extreme, these kinds of incidents will likely become more common. Taking the proper precautions and establishing a plan for handling these types of scenarios well ahead of time can make a tremendous difference in mitigating the impacts of extreme weather on sprinkler systems. NFPA offers a series of online trainings that can help ensure the effectiveness of sprinkler systems in multiple environments, including the upcoming NFPA 13 (2019) Live Virtual Training, which will held on March 8-12, 2021, and theNFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems (2019) Online Learning Course.  
Safety Stand Down

2021 Safety Stand Down Theme Focuses on Rebuilding Rehab

Firefighting puts intense strain on firefighters, both physically and mentally, and yet rehab frequently doesn’t get the consideration it should. Many think simply providing food and beverages to firefighters constitutes a rehab program. Thus, the reason that the focus of the 2021 Safety Stand Down campaign will be “Rebuild Rehab.” During the week of June 20-26, fire departments are advised to suspend all non-emergency activities to conduct training that helps responders reframe their thinking around rehab. In advance of that designated week, fire department leaders and trainers are asked to revisit their rehab program to ensure that post-incident and post-training protocol adequately addresses the health and safety of firefighters. Effective rehab programs evaluate both a firefighter’s physiological and psychological wellbeing and ensure that those on the front line are ready to respond to the next emergency. Rehab programs should encompass all areas of health, including cardiac, nutrition, exposure, mental health, hydration, and heat stress. Fire personnel can find best practices and benchmarks within NFPA 1584 Standard on the Rehabilitation Process for Members During Emergency Operations and Training Exercises. A wide array of topical information, training, and resources is also available at www.safetystanddown.org; the site will be updated periodically with new tips and tools leading up to Safety Stand Down in June so that departments can plan their education and awareness activities. Safety Stand Down is sponsored by the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) Safety, Health and Survival Section, the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The awareness campaign is supported by national and international fire and emergency service organizations, including the Fire Department Safety Officers Association.  NFPA will once again launch a Fire Service Safety Stand Down Quiz this spring to foster a greater understanding of this year’s theme. Everyone who completes the online quiz will be automatically entered into a sweepstakes; 200 randomly selected participants will win a commemorative Safety Stand Down challenge coin. 
Maryland Fire Marshal

Maryland, one of two states that require residential fire sprinklers, reports record-low fire deaths in 2020

The Office of the State Fire Marshal of Maryland released preliminary data from 2020 which showed 51 people died due to injuries sustained in fires last year, a record-low for the state. The previous low was 54 in 2012, and last year’s statistic represents a 22 percent decrease from the 65 deaths in 2019. “Residential sprinklers are in place here in Maryland; they aren’t going anywhere,” State Fire Marshal Brian S. Geraci said to The Garrett County Republican. “We’re saving lives, and they’re clearly making a difference.” Maryland requires a residential fire sprinkler in all new one- or two-family homes across the state. Despite the provision for sprinklers included in all building codes, Maryland and California are the only two states in the US that require residential fire sprinklers, along with Washington, DC and hundreds of local communities. The Maryland law was passed in 2012, and was recently strengthened by the passing of House Bill 823 and Senate Bill 746, which gave the Fire Marshal the ability to enforce the requirements. Maryland law also prohibits local governments from weakening the sprinkler requirement in their jurisdiction’s building codes. According to reports, another key factor in the decrease of the state’s fire deaths is a 2013 law that required replacing 10-year-old battery-only smoke alarms with alarms powered by a 10-year sealed battery. Most people are unaware that smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years. By using long life battery smoke alarms, you greatly reduce missing or dead battery issues. Over the last 25 years, the average annual fire death total in the state was 71. Over the last 10 years, it has dropped to 64. Out of the 51 total fire deaths, 33 occurred in residential properties, a significant decrease from the 52 residential deaths in 2019. This is very good news for the state and another reminder of the life-saving capabilities of residential fire sprinklers and the positive impact they have for citizens and first responders. To learn more about home fire sprinklers and how to get them in your community, visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Fire Sprinkler Initiative.

Firewise USA® sites staying resilient in 2020

Firewise USA® is a program built on the concept of people connecting and working together. What that means to a community was flipped on its head in 2020 as in-person gatherings were not allowed or were greatly limited. Community workdays had to navigate health and safety recommendations that limited size and required additional personal protective equipment. Yet, with all the challenges presented by COVID-19, the participants of Firewise stayed committed and accomplished some amazing local risk reduction tasks. Reviewing Firewise site annual renewal reports, it was inspiring to read how communities adapted and overcame challenges in meeting the annual educational outreach criteria.  They adopted new technology, switching to virtual meetings instead of in-person. One community hosted a drive-thru event to celebrate a newly restored bridge and shared information about wildfire preparedness. Another community hosted a "safari" where residents traveled to different locations to learn about the efforts in their community and gained stamps in their passport (social distancing and masks were required).  These are just a couple of examples of the creative and adaptive solutions people found to keep local focus on wildfire preparedness going. A shift in 2020’s focus was from popular community work days to individual efforts that emphasized the importance of work on individual properties, on the home itself, and the different areas of the Home Ignition Zone. We always say that wildfire does not recognize boundaries, but it does not recognize pandemics either.  Residents across the country stepped up and far exceeded expectations.  2020 Risk Reduction investments by Firewise USA® Sites Included: 2.4 million volunteer hours worked, with more than half of those at the home and home ignition zone level; Over $54 million spent on chippers, contractors, and home improvement costs, etc; In 2020, the combined volunteer hours and project monies spent generated over $115 million. At the end of 2020 we had a total of 1,750 participating communities that were In Good Standing, with 200 of those new to the program.  We at NFPA thank all of you and your local supporting partners for your acknowledgement of the role you play in wildfire preparedness and commitment you show to being a part of the solution.  Congratulations on your continued forward progress. We cannot wait to see what you accomplish in 2021! Is your community ready to take the next step on its wildfire journey?  Visit Firewise.org to learn how you can get organized and become a Firewise USA site. You can follow me on twitter @meganfitz34 more wildfire-related topics. Photo credit: Ken Light, Orinda Firewise Committee members handing out How to Prepare Your Home For Wildfire brochure and other information at local farmers market. 
Houses under construction

Types of Construction and Material Combustibility

It is important to understand how a building will perform in a fire. Minimum construction requirements are established to help maintain structural integrity for the time needed for evacuation or relocation to a safe location in the building. The combustibility of a material gives an indication of how quickly a fire will grow. Both of these aspects are essential to fire and life safety.  NFPA 220, Standard on Types of Building Construction, defines types of building construction based on the combustibility and the fire resistance rating of a building's structural elements. When we talk about fire resistance rating, we mean the time, in minutes or hours, that materials or assemblies have withstood a fire exposure as determined by specific tests.  NFPA 101 requires certain occupancies to meet minimum construction requirements, which can be found in section 1, subsection 6 of any of the occupancy chapter (XX.1.6). NFPA 101 isn’t the only code that specifies minimum construction types, other codes, such as a building code will also specify minimum construction types. Often times the type of construction that the building is permitted to be made out of correlates to how many stories the building will have and whether or not the building will have sprinklers installed.  NFPA Construction Types NFPA 220 breaks down building construction into five different types which relate to the material, each one of these types is numbered one through five (in roman numerals). When codes and standards refer to the type of construction required or permitted there are three numbers in parenthesis that follow the type of construction. These numbers indicate the fire resistance rating in hours of different structural elements that are required. The image below gives an example of how you might see this rating in a document and explains the different types as well as the following numbers.  Type I: Noncombustible (or limited-combustible) construction with a high level of fire resistance, typically concrete construction.  Type II: Noncombustible (or limited-combustible) construction with a lower level of fire resistance than Type I, typically this is steel construction with or without fireproofing.  Type III: Exterior walls and structural elements are noncombustible or limited-combustible materials, and interior structural elements, walls, arches, floors, and roofs are wood that is smaller than what is required for Type IV construction. This is usually called ordinary construction and an example of this is a mixed masonry/wood building.  Type IV: Fire walls, exterior walls, and interior bearing walls are approved noncombustible or limited-combustible materials. Other interior structural elements, arches, floors, and roofs are solid or laminated wood or cross-laminated timber. There are certain dimensional requirements:  Columns – 8in (205mm) x 8in (205mm) if supporting floor, 6in (150mm) x 8in (205mm)  if supporting roof Beams – 6in (150mm) x 10in (255mm) if supporting floor, 4in x 6in (150mm) if supporting roof Arches – Varies 8in (205mm) x 8in (205mm) to 4in (100mm) x 6in (150mm) Floors – 3in (75mm) or 4in (100mm) thick  Type V: Structural elements, walls, arches, floors, and roofs are wood or other approved material. Most residential construction is Type V. First Digit (X00): Exterior bearing walls Second Digit (0X0): Columns, beams, girders, trusses and arches, supporting bearing walls, columns or loads from more than one floor.  Third Digit (00X): Floor construction Material Combustibility Outside of the construction type and fire resistance rating of the structural elements there are also different designations for what is considered a combustible material, limited combustible material and noncombustible material. Noncombustible Material Materials that pass the criteria in ASTM E136 when tested in accordance with either ASTM E136 or ASTM E2652 are considered noncombustible. Also, any inherently noncombustible materials can be considered noncombustible without having to be tested. Although the standard doesn’t explicitly say exactly what is inherently noncombustible the associated annex material goes on to suggest that it consists of materials such as concrete, masonry, glass and steel.  Limited Combustible Material Material that is considered limited combustible needs to meet certain criteria.  It needs to be able to produce a heat value less than 3,500 BTU/lb when tested in accordance with NFPA 259. (For context paper has a heat value of approximately 7,000 BTU/lb, wood is about 10,000 BTU/lb while most plastics are in the 15,000 to 22,000 BTU/lb range) Tested in accordance with ASTM E2965 at an incident heat flux of 75kW/m2 for 20 minutes and meet the following conditions. a. Peak heat release rate doesn’t exceed 150kW/m2 for more than 10 seconds b. Total heat released is less than 8MJ/m2 Either one of the following a. Material has a noncombustible base with a surface that doesn’t have a flame spread index greater than 50 when tested in accordance with ASTM E84. The surface ontop of the noncombustible base can’t be thicker than 1/8th inch (3.2mm) b. Flame spread index is less than 25 when tested with ASTM E84 or UL 723, even if the material is cut.  An example of a limited combustible material is gypsum wallboard.  Combustible Material Defining combustible materials is done so by process of elimination. If the materials don’t meet the definition of limited-combustible or noncombustible then it is a combustible material. A common example of a combustible material is untreated wood.  Ensuring a building remains structurally sound and that materials react to fire predictably is important to overall life safety. Understanding and complying with construction type requirements is the first step in creating a safe built environment. We gave some common examples of each type of construction, what are some other examples? Let me know in the comments below. 

New web version and quarterly print schedule for NFPA Journal

NFPA Journal®, the magazine of the National Fire Protection Association, has launched a new web version and moved to a quarterly print publication schedule as part of a larger plan to expand the magazine’s online presence, extend the association’s global reach, and provide convenient access to a range of content generated by the award-winning NFPA Journal team and the magazine’s many contributors. The new NFPA Journal online site will feature highlighted pieces from the print magazine, as well as breaking news coverage, thought leadership content, a daily feed of national fire service news, and the latest installments of the popular NFPA Podcast and Learn Something New video series. Readers can also view the current issue of the magazine in digital flipbook format and access NFPA Journal en Espanol. Until recently the print edition of NFPA Journal was published on a bimonthly basis. Now, NFPA Journal will be distributed exclusively to NFPA members in February, May, August, and November. The magazine will continue to provide in-depth coverage of emerging trends, codes and standards development, and education and advocacy initiatives to NFPA members. “These changes mark an exciting point in the evolution of NFPA Journal and represent an important part of NFPA’s growing international influence,” said Scott Sutherland, executive editor of NFPA Journal. “Our new and expanded web identity, combined with our new print schedule, will help us reach more audiences around the world with a wider variety of stories on emerging fire and life safety issues.” Visit and bookmark nfpa.org/journal to access fire, electrical, building and life safety news or download the NFPA Journal app for IOSor >Android today.
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