Topic: Building & Life Safety

NFPA 1: Electrical Fire Safety and Relocatable Power Taps (power strips), #FireCodeFridays

One of the more common code violations with regards to electrical safety provisions in NFPA 1, Fire Code, relates to power strips (referred to as power taps in the Code.)  Just this week I was sitting in a conference room at an NFPA Technical Committee meeting and multiple committee members lost power to their computers at the same time.  Upon further investigation, we found that the power strips were plugged into one another (daisy-chained) to provide a series of power strips to serve computers around the room.  One power strip was accidentally powered off, so multiple strips were affected, a code violation many overlook.  For compliance, each power strip should have been plugged into a permanently installed outlet. Section 11.1 of NFPA 1 provides provisions for basic electrical safety.  Topics addressed in this section include relocatable power taps, mutiplug adapters, extension cords, and the building disconnect. The approval of new electrical installations or approval of modifications to an existing electrical system is a function typically performed by an electrical inspector or other building code enforcement official using the requirements of NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code®. However, in many cases, prior to a building or other facility being constructed or occupied, fire marshals or fire inspectors perform periodic inspections to ensure that the safety systems and features of the premises are in place, are in proper working order, and have not been compromised or adversely modified. Here the requirements of NFPA 1 can provide basic guidance to fire inspectors to assist with identifying proper and safe installations. With regards to relocatable power taps (power strips), Section 11.1.4 of NFPA 1 states the following: 11.1.4 Relocatable Power Taps. 11.1.4.1 Relocatable power taps shall be of the polarized or grounded type with overcurrent protection and shall be listed. 11.1.4.2 The relocatable power taps shall be directly connected to a permanently installed receptacle. 11.1.4.3 Relocatable power tap cords shall not extend through walls, ceilings, or floors; under doors or floor coverings; or be subject to environmental or physical damage. Power strips are commonly used for computers, printers, and other electronics at workstations, offices, and dormitories, where additional electrical power receptacles are needed. During inspections, power taps that are plugged into other power taps (daisy-chained) should be removed, because such arrangement is prohibited. Relocatable power taps are for temporary use and should not take the place of permanently installed receptacles. In addition, power strips should not be connected to extension cords to extend their reach.  Ideally, where extension cords are used for other than temporary purposes, additional permanent receptacles should be installed to accommodate the power strips. Understanding basic electrical safety practices can be instrumental in preventing fires in residences, hotels, dormitories and offices, among other locations.  For additional information, check out NFPA's resources on electrical safety! You can follow me on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA. 
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NFPA 1: How the Fire Code and Life Safety Code work together.

Today I am packing my bags for a week of committee meetings in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  Next week, the Safety to Life and Building Code occupancy Technical Committees will be holding their Second Draft meetings. Eight different committees will meet to develop the Second Draft of NFPA 101, Life Safety Code and NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code.  Just a few weeks back, the committees for the core chapters met at the same location.     Did you know that NFPA 1, Fire Code extracts from NFPA 101 more than any other document?  NFPA 1 extracts from more than 50 NFPA codes and standards, but approximately 100 pages of the 650(ish) page Fire Code are directly from NFPA 101.  The Code includes provisions from NFPA 101 that address occupancy classification, building services, features of fire protection, means of egress, special structures, and occupancy specific provisions for fire protection systems, interior finish, furnishings and decorations, drills, and operating features. Do you know how to recognize if a provision in the Code is "extracted" from another document?     A requirement extracted from another standard will contain a reference to the code/standard number and section in brackets at the end of the requirement in NFPA 1.  The edition of the document being extracted can be found in Chapter 2 of NFPA 1.  When a provision is extracted into an NFPA code, such as NFPA 1, it cannot be modified. So, while my time next week will be spent with Technical Committees developing provisions for the 2018 editions of NFPA 101 and NFPA 5000, the work of those committees will directly impact the 2018 edition of NFPA 1 as well.  Some of the technical issues that will be up for discussion next week that may find their way into NFPA 1 are as follows: occupant load factors for business occupanciesdoor locking for unwanted entry open and enclosed mall structures risk analyses for mass notification systems carbon monoxide alarms grab bars for bathtubs and showers You can follow the work of the NFPA 1, NFPA 101, and NFPA 5000 Technical Committees by visiting their document information pages (www.nfpa.org/##). Off to Fort Lauderdale!  Have a great week! You can follow me on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA. 
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"The cost is so insignificant:" NFPA chats with homebuilder who supports home fire sprinklers

A recent summit hosted by the Missouri Fire Sprinkler Coalition introduced attendees to something of an anomaly--a builder who fully supports home fire sprinklers. Admitting that some of his peers and local homebuilding associations take a different stance, Randy Propst, owner of Loran Construction, has seen the realities of fire sprinkler installation in new homes. He recently spoke with NFPA about his experience with this safety feature and why he's perplexed by the opposition's anti-sprinkler stance. NFPA: Why have you started sprinklering your new homes? I started building homes through a program by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The program gives specific cities a certain amount of money to do with it as they please, as long as it improves affordable housing. In Springfield, Missouri, they've created a “bank” for this money. I borrow money to build these affordable homes. In turn, I have to keep my rent within HUD's levels. Four years ago, we linked up with company Arc of the Ozarks [an organization supporting individuals with disabilities]. The company would rent a home from us for the people they serve and their caregivers. As we started working with them, we realized we're missing something here. These homes need to be universally designed, which means they can accommodate people with various limitations. Concurrently, we got on a savings, energy, and safety kick. From a safety factor, we know we needed to start including fire sprinklers. The last four or five homes have been sprinklered. We'll probably build another five or six this year, all sprinklered. Sprinklers will now be a standard part of our package. We have also tinkered with the idea of building spec homes, and if we do, they will all be sprinklered. I want the competitive advantage. [The insignificant cost of sprinklering a home] won't make or break a home sale, but tell me who else is offering this safety feature. Read the rest of Propst's interview by visiting NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative blog.
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"The cost is so insignificant:" NFPA chats with homebuilder who supports home fire sprinklers

A recent summit hosted by the Missouri Fire Sprinkler Coalition introduced attendees to something of an anomaly--a builder who fully supports home fire sprinklers. Admitting that some of his peers and local homebuilding associations take a different stance, Randy Propst, owner of Loran Construction, has seen the realities of fire sprinkler installation in new homes. He recently spoke with NFPA about his experience with this safety feature and why he's perplexed by the opposition's anti-sprinkler stance.     NFPA: Why have you started sprinklering your new homes? I started building homes through a program by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The program gives specific cities a certain amount of money to do with it as they please, as long as it improves affordable housing. In Springfield, Missouri, they've created a “bank” for this money. I borrow money to build these affordable homes. In turn, I have to keep my rent within HUD's levels. Four years ago, we linked up with company Arc of the Ozarks [an organization supporting individuals with disabilities]. The company would rent a home from us for the people they serve and their caregivers. As we started working with them, we realized we're missing something here. These homes need to be universally designed, which means they can accommodate people with various limitations. Concurrently, we got on a savings, energy, and safety kick. From a safety factor, we know we needed to start including fire sprinklers. The last four or five homes have been sprinklered. We'll probably build another five or six this year, all sprinklered. Sprinklers will now be a standard part of our package. We have also tinkered with the idea of building spec homes, and if we do, they will all be sprinklered. I want the competitive advantage. [The insignificant cost of sprinklering a home] won't make or break a home sale, but tell me who else is offering this safety feature.     What have your installation costs been? When building homes, the city assigns a project manager. He picked the wrong specification to follow. We were following NFPA 13R, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in Low-Rise Residential Occupancies. [NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes, not NFPA 13R, is suited for single-family-home installation.] The sprinklers were costing us more than they needed to. [Matt Klaus, NFPA's principal fire protection engineer and Missouri summit presenter] was a fountain of information. He gave me a clearer picture of how to install sprinklers that I didn't have before. We were putting in backflow valves and overdoing other things. I now can install sprinklers in a new home for about $1,200 or less. They'll cost me about a $1 per square foot.     Prior to these installations, what were your thoughts on home fire sprinklers?Honestly, I hadn't thought about them. I'm friends with other builders. There's one in particular who was opposed to them. Why? His only argument is that it's a conspiracy that the sprinkler manufacturers are trying to force installation just to add another layer of cost to my home. But if it's in the [model building] code, everyone has the same layer of cost. How does it put you at a competitive disadvantage? It's such an insignificant cost factor.     How do we get more builders to agree with your line of thinking?If I decide to build spec homes, what's eventually going to happen is I'm going to put sprinklers in there. I'm going to do things that make this home sellable. Builders are like anybody else. They copy. What was their recipe for success? Maybe we should follow suit if his homes are selling. Granite countertops aren't required in home, but how many people have them in there because everybody else does?     Do you have more peace of mind knowing your tenants are living in sprinklered homes?The last unit I built was [compliant with the American With Disabilities Act regulations]. Three guys in wheelchairs are living there with a caregiver. I see how quickly fire can happen. How am I going to feel if three guys in wheelchairs die in my house from a fire? Or a little kid? And all I had to do is spend a little extra. Interview conducted, edited, and condensed by Fred Durso, Jr., communications manager for NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative.
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When it comes to fire safety in high rise buildings, sprinklers trump!

Having just recently visited the Trump Tower in New York City, the headlines of “Fire Controlled in the Chicago Trump Tower” caught my attention. Perusing just the lower floors of the Tower in New York provided a sense of the size and magnitude of these tremendous buildings and what it would take to respond to a fire on an upper floor.  And though evacuation plans and emergency systems may be in place, in the event of a fire, nothing “trumps” fire sprinklers when it comes to protecting lives and property. The recent press release by the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board points out the glaring difference in outcomes of fires that have recently occurred in Chicago high rise buildings that had sprinklers and those that did not.  And while many cities, like Chicago, are trying to catch up to national model codes, in some cases it may not be fast enough. As customers, buyers, and tenants, we must take the responsibility to protect ourselves through education.  It is vital to know the facts about fire sprinklers and also to investigate if they are installed in the places where we choose to live and stay.  Whether it's a long term residence or an overnight stay in a hotel, we have the power to choose the level of life-safety protection that we are willing to accept. Take a moment to read and share the educational resources that NFPA provides on high rise safety, fire sprinklers, and hotel/motel safety!
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